Archive for the ‘Trans Siberian Railway’ Category

Trumpets are banned in bracing Vladivostok.   2 comments

What a pleasant surprise Vladivostok turned out to be.  Vladivostok became an essential stay to dry out from the rain and repack out gear once dry.

Initially we had rain….so much rain and so thick mist we couldn’t see the city!  Eventually the inclement weather cleared to reveal a city under development, but still full of beauty.  Vladivostok was sealed off from the world, by the Soviets, between 1958 and 1990 due to its steatigic naval base and it became a transit centre for prisoners waiting to be shipped to labour camps.  It’s been described as the San Fransico of Russia and judging by the hills I can see why.  They are even building what looks like their own version of the Golden Gate Bridge with another being built in the distance.  These are to ease traffic during the 24th Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2012.   What was disappointing was that the fanicular railway was closed down, despite Kerry and I hiking it to the very top to catch it.  Having said that the view from the top was stunning.   So the last city in Russia.  St Petersburg to Vladivostok in nine weeks. There really as been so much to see and so much to do.

For Kerry’s Vladivostock post click here

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

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Rain rain go away, come again when we have gone!

After an eventful 6 hour mini bus ride which included sharing our journey with a non English speaking Russian darts team, off road driving where I think I lost a few fillings, our first Russian sheep, cows and wild horses that the minibus driver seemed intent on running down if they didn’t get out of his way, we arrived on Olkhon Island, situated in Lake Baikal.

It is claimed that it rarely rains on Olkhon Island.  It did nothing but rain for half our 6 day stay.  When the sun was out, the difference was incredible.  Quickly the main road lost its Glastonbury look and almost resembled a road (all be it made of compact sand and mud). With all the wooden buildings it felt the most foriegn location we have visited on our entire trip so far.  On one occasion I watched cows being hounded down the mud/sand main street by wild dogs.  You don’t see that in Bingham.  We managed to relax on the beach with the beer bellied Russians (and that was just the women), watch a beautiful sunset and and spend a lovely warm afternoon walking around some of the stunning coastline.

Overall though we found Olhkon island a little dissappointing.   We wanted to get out and about walking and exploring but the weather just conspired against us.  While it was a welcome break from the confinement of the recent train journeys  Nakitas homestead (where we stayed for our trip) was past it’s best.  There was a lack of showers and toilets and the place was smelly.  The Homestead a real hippy commune vibe to it.  The cafe never got our order correct and the staff  at Nakitas were in general unhelpful.  It was a battle to get what you wanted.  The Lonely Planet raves about the place, I wouldn’t.  This may well have been due to the weather.

Anyway, I got some of the best photos of the trip here…………..

Here’s Kerrys post for the Lakes too

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

O.M.G – The Next Generation

This is a joint post with Kerry from our dinner table.  Dinner tonight was an amazing Chinese meal in the hotel’s Chinese resturant.  It was an  interesting experience on two fronts.  Firstly the menu was probably proper Chinese, not what you would get at Young Singh in Bingham.  The Chinese rolls were huge and so were the calamari rings.  We just wanted to keep eating even when we thought we were going to burst. Secondly the restaurant was full of Chinese tourists.  Man they are loud and when they start drinking competions they get louder and louder and louder, but always with a smile on their faces….unlike the Russians.  I am currently watching them toasting one anther by downing wine glasses full of lager.  What was interesting was that the girls all disappeared and left the fellas to thier drunken debauchary.  Now then shall we try some saki?….

image   image

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

O.M.G   Leave a comment

Last stop in Russia.  O MY GOD….after a delayed start to our train journey to Vladivostock (the train station in Khabarovsk was closed and the police barring the way wouldn’t tell me the reason why or the timescale to reopening) we finally arrived in the port city at the end of the Trans Sib Railway.  It was nice short overnight journey of a mere 12 hours.  We arrived to torrential rain with rivers of water flowing down the street.  Despite numerous maps and copious sign languages none of the taxi drivers understood where our accomadation was.  So we decided to walk it in the pouring rain.  We arrived at the grey run down Sovietesque looking Equator Hotel resembling drowned rats still 10 metres underwater!  Here the fun and games really started.
1. The receptionist didn’t speak English.
2. She took 20 minuetes to photocopy our passports, registration docs and immigaration cards.
3. She then spent a further 10 minutes clicking on her PC and talking about us on the phone (I know some Russian by now.)
4. Despite initially being told they had our  booking, I asked if there was a problem.”No all ok.” I was informed
5.  I was asked to pay for our booked accommadation for four nights.  5040 r for the whole stay. Yay I thought progress.
6.  We were them informed it was actually a twin room with shared bathroom and toilet. Not what we booked.  The adjoining room was occupied by a Russian mother and her young baby.  Er alarm bells started to ring!!!
7.  We asked to see the room and were also  offered an alternative on a higher floor to view. Mmmm
8. OMG.  The room we had booked was down a seedy wallpaper stained corridor and the room looked like a drugs den…Sharp exit.
9.  Viewed better alternative room.  On returning to reception we were informed this better room would cost 4300 r PER NIGHT!
10. We unpolitely requested our money back. Braved the torrential rain again and trawled the streets.

We finally finding a smart cheap modern hotel with a balcony view of the bay and Pacific Ocean for 1500 r less than the shitty hotel up the road.  We had read that accommodation in Vladivostock was difficult to come by and generally poor quality but our first choice hotel was just taking the p#*s  Here I now am, showered, in dry clothes, hair quiffed, coffee’d up, tummy full of pizza, free WiFi and watching MTV in the bar.  Funny how a day can turn out.

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

No more Babycham   1 comment

Khabarovsk…out penultinate stop on the Trans Sib.  Day one was spend recovering from the 56 hour epic train journey.  Well Kerry slept and I was glued to Photoshop.  Day two was spent touring the city.  The regional museum of History (containing loads of stuffed animals…Kerry was in geek mode explaining all the features of each animal, snake and butterfly to me), a walk along the river front which as a beach.  Sorry no beach shots folks.  It wasn’t pleasant with fat Russian men in Speedos and old women in bakinis with saggy arses, cellulite and boobs touching their knees….It was bad…roll on gap year students in string bakinis in Thailand!  Well I can wish.  On the whole Khabarovsk is a lovely city.  Really pretty and feeling far less aggressive than closer to Moscow.  We are only 30km from the Chinese boarder and you can tell.  More English speakers and loads of Chinese tourists (they are a tad noisy and do like their tech)

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

Slight miscalculation.   1 comment

Note to self. Check Kerry’s journey time calculations. Our latest Trans Siberian journey wasn’t 30 hours as mentioned in the attached post….It was an epic….wait for it…..56 hours! Yes folks 56 hours. Now I truly know what cabin fever is!!!

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer

Reliving the past   Leave a comment

We spent a couple of days in Irkutsk before travelling to Lake Baikal.  We found a great sushi bar at prices significantly cheaper than Moscow and booked our train from Vladivostok into China.  It’s a busy open city with a huge market.  Its main feature is its wooden houses.  According to Wikipedia

“The cities main claim to fame dates back to the early 19th century when many Russian artists, officers, and nobles were sent into exile to Siberia for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. Irkutsk became the major centre of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city’s cultural heritage comes from them; many of their wooden houses, adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations, survive today in stark contrast with the standard Soviet apartment blocks that surround them.

By the end of the 19th century there was one exiled man per two locals. Different people from the members of the Decemberists’ uprising to Bolsheviks have been staying in Irkutsk for a long time. These people have greatly influenced the culture and the development of the city and it has finally became a prosperous cultural and educational centre for Eastern Siberia.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irkutsk

It was quite nice reliving my old day job and photographing the wooden  houses. Pretty as the houses were in Matlock….they never looked like this!

A selection of my favourite images from this blog are available to buy at stefanpalmer.photium.com

Stefan Palmer