Blagoveshchensk (Russia), 29.09.2013
The first day on the road through Russia’s Far East went so easy that it was likely to be a tough second day. I overslept in the morning, but made it on the road by 10:00 starting off with a quick daylight tour through the center of Khabarovsk. The town must have been a small charming outpost in the middle of nowhere a long time ago, in tsarist times. Through the morning traffic I made it to the main highway pretty quickly, and after turning west that stayed my direction for the rest of the day. I crossed the Amur river, that just some weeks ago had flooded vast areas around here, but now flowed peaceful under a long iron bridge reflecting the morning’s sunshine and the deep blue sky.
Khabarovsk (Russia), 28.09.2013
Packing the car and preparing the trip in the early morning took me almost three hours and when I finally sat in the car at 09:13 I was sweating a lot. With 17 degrees Celsius outside and a sun that hadn’t decided yet if to shine or not, I drove through the center of Vladivostok towards the highway. As I passed the WWII heroes monument close to the submarine museum a magic scene appeared. The huge Golden Horn Bridge stood impressively over the bay that reflected the first morning light, colouring the entire scene in a silver light. Above the bridge the sun shined strongly from behind the thick white clouds. Hadn’t I found myself in the middle of a four lane motorway in morning traffic I would have stopped on the spot to admire this beautiful sight and take pictures. Adieu Vladivostok!
Vladivostok (Russia), 28.09.2013
This morning Yuri, my agent, picked me up at the hotel. We drove through grey Vladivostok, there was no sun like on the previous days. We reached a backyard with plenty of containers around and there he was, the brown one with the car inside. Yuri cut the seals open, we untied the car, I connected the battery. The Evoque started right away and slowly I rolled out of the container into the daylight. Finally, we’re back! Continue reading
Vladivostok (Russia), 27.09.2013
Sunshine welcomed me on a wednesday afternoon as I arrived in Vladivostok, the far eastern tip of the Eurasian continental mass and the starting point of my way back to Europe. In the early morning I had left rainy Tokyo, changed plane in Seoul (Korea) and finally arrived here. Formalities were short and uncomplicated, and around 15:30 I stood in the entrance hall of the small but modern airport. Time for a quick check on travel basics. The phone worked (I could call the agent that will get my car off the ship). Email on the Blackberry worked too. The ATM spoke English and German and spit out cash in Rubles or USD without any problems. And my credit card could easily pay the 200 RUB ticket for the airport train. Great! The complications from Japan had disappeared, weather was good, and the train that took me into town even had Free WiFi! Continue reading
Tokyo (Japan), 24.09.2013
Returning to Tokyo after a couple of days in Kyoto and driving overland, I spent several days in town. I had to organise plenty of things, like the Russian and Kazakh visas, the route through Siberia and Mongolia, onward accommodation and so on. During all this time I did several discovery trips through the city and saw various things. Below is a list of impressions, in no particular order. I just wrote down notes as I spent time around. Continue reading
Tokyo (Japan), 20.09.2013
After a day by foot through imperial Kyoto, the next morning I picked up a rental car at the station. And here I a hefty surprise waited for me: two days of car rental costed over 48.000 yen, or 480USD! 30.000 yen were only for dropping off the car in another city. I thought about the news of Japanese tourists being ruthlessly ripped off in my hometown Rome I had read in the paper some years ago. This felt like payback time, although there were several such moments in my time in Japan. Continue reading
Kyoto (Japan), 18.09.2013
Back at the hotel, I picked up my bags at the concierge desk. I handed over my baggage tag to “girl 1”, who passed it to “man 1”, who passed it to “girl 2”, who took “girl 3” and disappeared in the storage room. Then both girls 2 and 3 came out again without bags. Then girls 1 and 3 changed positions, went back into the storage, and came back with my bags. Things take time in Japan, but are done properly and in all order… Continue reading
Tokyo (Japan), 17.09.2013
On this break from the journey through Asia by car, the spectacular beach and sunshine chapter had come to an end now. The next experience was Japan, a country I’ve always wanted to visit for its mix of tradition and culture with futuristic modernity. A couple of weeks back, when I wrote about Bangkok being Metropolis I thought that my judgement would be too shortsighted, since the true Metropolis would be Tokyo. It was not. Tokyo to me was Sim City. Continue reading
Tahiti (French Polynesia), 11.09.2013
The Air Tahiti flight from Raiatea arrived over 1,5h late in Papeete and it was already dark when I showed up at the car rental station. The plan was to drive 1h out of town and find a place for the night. The first car they gave me made it 2km from the airport until I found out it wasn’t driving well and brought it back. The second one, a crappy Peugeot, drove OK but was in pretty bad shape. Continue reading
Raiatea (French Polynesia), 09.09.2013
The moment I boarded the plane in Fakarava I guessed it would be hard to top the experience there. Back on Tahiti I spent a night in the <sarcasm> romantic, comfortable and well wired Tahiti Airport Motel </sarcasm> across the street from the terminal and the next morning took an early plane to Raiatea, in the Society Islands. Madame Emma picked me up at the airport and we drove 15 mins along the eastern side of the island to her pension. Contrary to Fakarava and the Tuamotu atolls in general, where the maximum elevation is just a couple of meters above sea level, the Society Islands are huge rocks in the water surrounded by a reef. Raiatea rises up to 1.017m at its highest point, and most of the time I was there the mountain tops were covered in clouds, giving the place a mysterious look.