Russia Part 6 – Vladivostok

Day 165: August 24, 2018

At 5:30 am our train bunk mates left and two new ones arrived. We slept in not wanting to disturb them as they had laid down to sleep. We had yogurt and cereal for breakfast and met our roommates. They are a younger couple from a town at the border of Russia-Mongolia-China. The guy is a teacher of science in Vladivostok and the girl is studying music to become a conductor.

I watched the end of Orange is the New Black and Danny played another chess match with Sasha. Three hours later he came out the winner. I was so hot and had such a headache.

At 5:00 pm we had sandwiches then we were able to get off the train at 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm for 15 minute stops. It was nice to have some fresh air and escape the heat. I read for a bit then we went to bed around midnight.

Sunset train views
Day 166: August 25, 2018

We woke up and had oatmeal for breakfast. We spent some time staring out the window and catching the breeze in the hallway. I watched some Alias Grace which is a bit heavy for railway riding.

Around lunch time we got off at a stop and bought a meat pie from a babushka. At the bigger stops there always seem to be babushkas selling homemade pies, perogies, chicken and veggies. There are also usually stands with beverages and snacks. There is sometimes beer at the stands as well, although not publicly. We also bought a Fanta because I was craving something cold and refreshing.

Babushka sales

Danny was playing a chess game on his phone and our roommate came in and said, “Play me”. So they played a game. The Russian won this game. The girl told us that my Russian name is Marina and Danny’s is Denis. They were very nice.

Chess with our Russian roommates

For supper we had sandwiches then stared out the window some more. Around 11:00 pm we went to bed.

Day 167: August 26, 2018

I woke up around 3:00 am with major cramping in my stomach. I was then in the bathroom every hour after. Luckily, the bathroom was free all night.

At 11:00 am we rolled out of bed and had some oatmeal. Danny’s stomach was also hurting the night before. We deduced that it was the meat pie. We really should have known better.

We spent the rest of the time on the train looking out the window. The area around Vladivostok was very flooded. Apparently they had 20 days of rain.

View from the train

We had our final drink on the train with the group then at 2:37 pm we finally got off. The 68 hour leg was the worst for me. Being stuck in one car with nowhere to escape and no A/C was hard. At times I felt claustrophobic because there was nowhere to go.

I’m not sure I would suggest others to do the full Trans-Siberian journey. We enjoyed the trip, but it was definitely not our preferred method of travel. We missed being able to stop in the middle of nowhere as most of our stops were in larger towns. It is exciting to say we completed the trip and it was an interesting way to move from our European portion of the trip to the Asian.

Map of our Trans-Siberian Railway trip

We stopped for pictures in front of a train and then hopped in cabs to our hotel. It was so nice to finally shower and clean my greasy hair.

Group photo at the end of the train journey

After showers, we met the group and walked to the main square. There was a car audio show going on that was insanely loud. We went to a souvenir shop where Danny found some Soviet coins. From there, we walked to the memorial submarine S-56 from WWII. It was originally part of the Pacific Fleet and then sent to the Northern Fleet in the polar region. It sunk 10 rival ships in WWII.

Submarine S-56

There was a museum inside then the “command centre” with loads of valves and a periscope. The next room looked like an eating area with a nice photo of Stalin in the corner. The last room had bunks and torpedoes. The museum portion was a bit boring, but the rest made it worth the 100 RUB.

Inside Submarine S-56

Next, we walked passed the Triumphal Arch then through a park back to the Main Street. We walked out to the waterfront and viewed the sunset.

Sunset in Vladivostok

We met the group for a farewell dinner in a very nice restaurant. We had a vegetable stir fry with tongue, a mix of seafood and a deer plate. For dessert we had an assorted plate of four cakes. The food came out very quickly for a Russian restaurant.

We said goodbye to some of the group and went with the rest for some drinks up the street. We enjoyed some vodka shots and chatted. We walked back to the hotel and said goodbye to everyone else.

Goodbye shots
Day 168: August 27, 2018

We woke up at 8:00 am and had breakfast in the hotel. At 9:30 am we met in the lobby and took a taxi with the UK ladies to the airport. They were so sweet to us, real mums. As we said goodbye, they told me how lucky I am to have such a gentleman for a husband. He really is pretty sweet.

Our flight had been moved back so we had to wait to check in. There was a flight to Pyongyang, North Korea checking in. The people in line were all men and all dressed in suits. Right after that one was a flight to Seoul, South Korea.

We sat in a coffee shop until our flight came up. My family had celebrated birthdays including mine the previous day. They recorded some videos and sent them to me. As I was watching, the tears started to pour down my face. There are certain things that are harder to miss than others. My birthday hit me hard. My favourite part of my birthday has always been spending it with family and friends.

We checked in and went through security. The international departures in Vladivostok airport had only three gates. Our flight to Seoul took much longer than you would have expected. When we looked at the map on the plane we understood. The flight went all the way east to Japan before heading back west to Seoul. This was all to avoid North Korean airspace.

We were fed a meal on the flight and there were free movies. Arriving in Seoul was interesting. The airport was shiny and new, the toilets had built in bidets and the people were friendly. They didn’t butt in line and were just pleasant. It was much different than Eastern Europe where everyone comes across as harsh.

We were fed another meal on our flight from Seoul to Ulaanbatar. We arrived and took some cash out of the ATM for a cab. We strategized our cab ride much better than we did in Russia. The cab driver we approached didn’t try to rip us off. He offered us a fair price up front and we agreed. We gave him the phone number of our Airbnb host so he could provide directions. The Airbnb is quite spacious with a bedroom, living room and kitchen.

Leaving Russia was one of the few times where I was ready to leave a country. I enjoyed Russia, but it was time to move on. I was glad to be finished our Trans-Siberian adventure. My mom asked if I would recommend the railway trip to others and I don’t think I would unless you loved trains. The sights were nothing incredible, the food wasn’t that great and the train journey was hard mentally. I am grateful for the people we met.

We were talking with some of the people in our group about Mongolia and it got us very excited about this upcoming leg of the trip. We have some days in Ulaanbatar to relax before we head out of the city for a bit.