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Russia’s Far East

Like much of Russia, Vladivostok is rapidly coming to terms with the adoption of a more capitalist way of life. This bustling city of over 750,000 people is situated on the quite picturesque Golden Horn Bay. The harbour is a constant hive of activity with both commercial and navy vessels making it a very busy port.

Vladivostok Harbour

Two main imports into Vladivostok are immediately noticeable on arrival in this far eastern port city – Japanese second hand cars and Korean tourists.

Typical for Russia, where rules and regulations are up for a variety of interpretations, the cars coming from Japan are all right hand drive despite the fact that all of Russia drives on the right hand side of the road. The Russians are very proud of their near new vehicles and it is very unusual to see a left hand drive car on the streets of the city. Also typical of how business is conducted in this newly commercial society many of the cars come with added extras – not your usual air conditioning and cruise control, but boots and back seats stacked with a wide variety of consumer goods from televisions to small fridges and cosmetics. These are all passed over the wire fence in the full view of all and sundry to waiting “businessmen” before the cars are whisked away by teams of drivers.

Charming boutique hotel

Life for western tourists can be very comfortable and worthwhile in Vladivostok. There are abundant attractions. There is the habour itself, which provides a constant source of activity, many museums, particularly interesting to those who like military history and a lively commercial area where you can buy the latest French perfume or the oldest Russian souvenirs. 

There are organised boat tours of the harbour, popular with the Korean tourists, or if you are a little more adventurous you can take a local ferry to Russky Island, the home of Russia’s Pacific fleet. This ferry takes about 1-11/2 hours round trip – you can get off on the island if you are prepared to negotiate the timetable. Be ready to share the ferry with both the locals and their cars and don’t expect to find a comfortable seat. It is an experience none the less and a cheap and exciting way to see both the harbour and how the Russians do it.

Food is cheap and there are a surprising variety of restaurants. A visit to Studio Coffee is a must to see how the young hip Vladivostok residents live. Mobile phones abound and for a treat order the hot chocolate which consists of a whole cup of melted chocolate.

Vladivostok Ferry

The Russian authorities have worked hard to ensure that the city is safe for tourists. People can feel comfortable walking around the major section of the city even well into the night. The Hotel Vladivostok has floors dedicated to western tourists and views across the water. There are now also a number of very comfortable Russian hotels available.

Access to the city is also now very easy – regular flights from Japan , Korea and other parts of Russia, by sea from Japan and of course Vladivostok is the eastern terminus of the wonderful Trans-Siberian Railway.

For a taste of the new Russia, Vladivostok is a great alternative to the usual Moscow and St Petersburg excursions.

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