Vladivostok to Irkutsk; 3 Days on the Rails
After a quick 2 – hour flight from Tokyo, my Russia arrival couldn’t have been easier; no arrival forms needing completion; baggage arrived quickly, and an efficient taxi dispatcher applied fixed rates for destinations so there was no arguing with the driver about the price. ATM machines worked well so I had some cash to begin my trip. One night in the Zhemchuzhina Hotel (“Pearl Hotel”) then after a 10 - minute walk to the station, I was soon on board the westbound Rossiya.
The Vladivostok railway station is a grand old building, well – preserved in the original motif, situated next to the sea port passenger terminal and was also an important hub for city bus routes. One important feature of the station is that there are only stairways that lead from the waiting room to the tracks below. Passengers need to be prepared to carry their bags down these precarious staircases. As with many of the world’s tourist attractions, Chinese tourists have become the majority of visitors and Vladivostok is no exception. Even on the platform of track number 4, as the Rossiya moved out of town, approximately 25 camera – wielding Chinese tourists capturing the event for posterity. Photographing railways was another new feature of life in Russia compared with the Soviet Union. During my first railway adventure, photographing trains, stations, bridges was strictly forbidden; now it was so easy to just capture any railway scene on my camera.