I arrived in Valadivostok on Saturday 3rd September via two planes from Magadan a total of four and a half hours flight time. Vladivostok is my final post tour Russian city and I stay here for three days prior to flying back to Heathrow on Tuesday. We left Magadan on a crisp cool clear day with the temperature in the low teens, a few hours later we arrived in Vladivostok which was hot, tropical and humid. Vladivostok is located at the head of the Golden Horn Bay not far from the China and North Korean border. The population is 606,000 and the city is the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet and the largest port on the Pacific Ocean. The name Vladivostok translates as “The Ruler of the East” a name similar to Vladikavkas which translates as “Ruler of the Caucusus” a city I have also visited on this adventure, it was the first Russian city we reached on entering Russia from Georgia way back in June.
The area that is now Vladivostok has been part of many states including Mohe, Bohai Kingdom, Liao Dynasty,Jin Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and various other Chinese Dynasties before Russia acquired the entire Maritime Provence and the island of Sakhalin by the treaty of Beijing in 1860. Qing China that had just lost the Opium war with Britain was unable to defend the region. The Manchu Emperors of China, the Qing Dynasty banned Han Chinese from most of Manchuria including the Vladivostok area, it was only visited by illegal gathered of sea cucumbers and ginseng.
In 1916 the area was given a boost when the Trans Siberian Railway was opened connecting Vladivostok with Moscow and Europe. The main industry in Vladivostok is fishing which accounts for four fifths of the city’s commercial production. Importation of Japanese and Korean cars is also a significant business.
Whilst in Vladivostok, I am staying in a little guest house in one of the main entertainment areas of the city centre. We were all left to our own efforts to book our accommodation way back prior to the start of the tour in May. However I was quickly alerted by Compass Expeditions to book a room ASAP as the week we are all staying in Vladivostok is coinciding with a summit between Russia and Japan being hosted by Vladimir Putin himself and as a result all the major hotels were already booked up. My guest house is pretty seedy but I have been fortunate with my room which is neat, tidy with a double bed and ensuite. I arrived at my hotel past 22:00 hrs, I booked in and then checked out the many bars and restaurants surrounding my temporary home. It felt a little odd being on my own and left to my own devices after being in a group situation for nearly four months, but I must admit it was refreshing and suited me fine. The night time entertainment district was packed with mostly young people, many of them queuing to get into trendy pubs and nightclubs, but the queues were quick moving. Vladivostok is a very western style city that I would guess is 75% populated with European caucasian citizens which surprised me and is similar to the make up of the Magadan population but different to nearly all the other Far-Eastern towns and cities that we have visited which are dominated by Far-Eastern peoples. Putin has declared that Vladivostok is high on his list of priorities when it comes to investing in Russian cities, its strategic Pacific location and its proximity to the western coast of USA makes Vladivostok an extremely important city to the Russian Federation.
My first full day was spent relaxing, writing blogs, editing photographs and sorting out Facebook (I can’t believe just I said that!, but on my arrival back in UK, FB goes on the back burner!) I spent over four hours in a pancake coffee house doing all my laptop stuff. Whilst in the coffee shop hogging a table for four I was asked if I would share my table with a young family. I enquired if they spoke english, which the husband did a little and asked directions to the Submarine Museum which he cheerfully obliged. We got chatting and it turned out my new friend (and now Facebook friend) is a notable Baritone Opera Singer called Dmitrii Nelasov. On leaving the coffee house I came across an antiques shop and was impressed with some Soviet Era flags, banners and medals. The owner was an ex Soviet Marine who hailed from Vladivostok but who spent most of his naval career station in Cuba. I couldn’t resist buying some nicknacks to go into our “Shit-Rivers” micro museum in Abingdon, I got some fabulous stuff, a Soviet Naval flag from 1983 with an embroidered Hammer & Sickle and Russian Red Star, a workers banner again with the Hammer & Sickle, a large silver roundal about the size of your palm with an embossed profile of Lenin and a solid silver military medal with the Russian Red Star, not cheap, but how pleased was I. On exiting the shop, I bumped into David and Pete and we all went to a bar and sank a few pints.
In the evening I met up with Tony, Pat, Ian, Leanne and John, this would be my final meet up with John, Ian and Leanne. We went to the no1 trip advisor restaurant in Vladivostok a oriental fusion place called Zuma. Zuma was very swish, full of the great and the good of Vladivostok. We were sat adjacent to a table of five, three Mafia type guys in their 60’s and two tall willowy model type girls in their early twenties that wore body hugging outfits, we all agreed the two girls were not their daughters! The food and atmosphere was great but Leanne’s main course was served far too late and arrived cold. I caught a taxi back to my hotel with Ian and Leanne, I gave them a big hug and told them I hope to visit them in Melbourne in a couple of years time, however they have agreed to join me at Glastonbury in June 2018.
On Monday I visited the Submarine museum and the Russian Pacific Fleet with David., my featured image is of the torpedo room of a WW2 Sub that destroyed 14 Axis warships between 1943 and 1945. Unfortunately Pete was on crutches with what may be a hairline fracture of his ankle (that would be the third broken ankle on this tour). I am taking Pete to the airport on Tuesday morning.
In the afternoon, I met up with Tony and Leanne so as they could buy two authentic Russian Naval flags, one for themselves and one for Ian & Leanne. Following our purchase we hopped into the bar opposite where unbelievably and by a freak coincidence we met up with some more adventure motorcyclists who had completed a similar journey to ours, (whats the chance of that?)they were from Australia, India and Argentina.
My last night in Vladivostok was spent with Tony and Leanne at a German Beer Garden, we had a great night, I will meet up again with Tony and Pat at the airport, I am going to miss them, but like Ian and Leanne we have vowed to meet up again also probably at Glastonbury, if not at the Australian Moto GP in October 2018.
So, just one more blog, when I arrive home in two days time, I bet you can’t wait!!!