The jump to Vladivostok

Well I am now in Asia. But it still seems like Russia. I think their are more chinese in Melbourne than you see on the streets of Vladivostok.

I have a few hours to fill until I go out to a club to play pool. I am trying to find a balance between living this and writing about it. I know some journalists may not see the problem there but I must try.

I took the night flight to Vladivostok with a stopover in Irkusk, which from the air seemed quite a big city. I'd always imagined it as a village. You know you are being adventureous when the airport has steps up to the plane and you are bussed out across the tarmac. But the flying was normal. So I haven't any horror stories about Russian aeroplanes.

Beside learning the alphabet it may pay for future travellers to learn the numbers. But sometimes it helps not to know. Like when bargaining for a taxi. You say "Skolka?" which means "how much?" and he rattles off a number that you know will be too high. So you write down a number you think is below reasonable. He splutters and says all sorts of things you thankfully cannot understand. You offer the pen to him and he writes something higher. You come back with a number slightly above your first and start saying "Avtobus" and looking for the bus stop. Eventually you get ripped off but not by as much as the taxi driver would like. The taxi driver then acts a though he has been ripped off. Despite this technique I still paid 800 rubles too much.
But I went for the taxi this time and am glad I did as this hotel is in the suburbs of Vladivostok. About 20 minutes on the number 23 Bus. But you need to always remember that Russians have discovered the secret of an efficient public transport system - frequency.

A little beach in Vladivostok

So I have decided to explore suburban Vladivostok during my stay here. It is of course a bit like spending time in Reservoir or some other housing commision estate in the 70's before they went and poshed them up a bit.

Vlad has the usual parking chaos and unrepaired footpaths. Rough are the streets, and steep too, I am impressed at how the high heeled russian girls can maintain their cool and not twist ankles on a daily basis.
The city is a shabby sort of Sydney or San Fransisco. So you can imagine Sydney without a bridge and housing commision flats. A couple of sharp Sydney developers could come in here and have a field day. [Click here for a view] The Melbourne city council could send a crack squad of parking inspectors and sort out the traffic in no time. I'm surprised that with all their junkets to Russia they haven't already done so.

Today was graduation day for the high school students and all the girls were walking around in short black dresses with white stockings and aprons and ribbons in their hair. So they all looked a bit like Benny Hill house maids. It is a tradition all over Russia. Your intrepid traveller actually managed to take photos of this. But I will say the shots were taken with great discretion. I skirted the fine line between tourist and voyeur. Fortunately I happened to be at a location with a good view from a hill top and all these girls came up with doves to let loose and have their photo taken. So I snuck in a few shots - ever so discretely.


One and a half days to go. The trip has been good and one that I will recommend to all and sundry. You do get jet lag each day you arrive at a new time zone but you get over it after a day. So I am hoping not to have it when I return since Vlad is on the same time zone as Eastern Australia. We shall see.


Now I write this on my own computer at home.
I left Vlad by taxi, costing 1,000 rub. To get into Vlad I had to bargain down to what I thought was a normal price. So you see they have a system these taxi drivers. Rook them when they are green and coming in because they'll leave a bit wiser on the journey back out to the airport.

1000 rub is $40 and it is a long drive. Pull out a 1000 rub note at a shop and you get that "Haven't you anything smaller " look you get here with the $100 note. At one time the ATM delivered a single 5,000 rub note. You can imagine the consternation that caused when I tried to pay for something with it. They had go next door to cash it. I don't think anyone had seen one in Tomsk before.

I spent my last 1000 note on a bottle of vodka at the airport. I thought that was a good way to convert a note that was about to become just a piece of paper. But I had forgotten the liquids ban and that bottle is now being drank by security staff in Korea. The bloke did look very pleased to be able to have the opportunity to confiscate it. I was a bit sad as it was a brand that you can not buy outside of russia.

So my remaining rouble notes are of a pitiful amount. But I do have a Moscow metro card with 6 rides left on it. I could give it away and save someone the trouble I went through trying to by such a card for the first time. The cost is 22 roubles a ride which is a little less than a dollar. Although the rides are cheaper when you buy 10 or more on the one card.

It was funny watching the Russian women remove their shoes for security scanning. It was to witness a come down of sorts to see these women shrink and their posture become less erect as they were reduced to wearing plastic bags over stockinged feet for a brief moment as they walked through the scanners.

While sitting in the departure lounge looking at a poster for Australia it suddenly occurred to me that all the cars I had been in in Tomsk and seen in Vladivostok were driven from the right side. They import them from Japan and don't bother to convert them and so have learned to drive on the outer side of the road. However you do see lots of minor car accidents. But even a Russian admitted to me they are bad drivers.

Stepping into the Korean air jet was instantly, in just one step, leaving Russia. Suddenly all my spasibos and horoshos, all the handy snippets of russian that had to be learned were all redundant. The airline staff all spoke good english. The jet was spickier and more spannier than anything in Russia. I had become accustomed to Russian tattiness. I was beginning to see charm in it.

And so I am home. Thanks for reading all this - if you did that is.



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