After a hearty breakfast, which included the body-conscious selection of pancakes and condensed milk, Josh and I set off to buy our train tickets to Khabarovsk for the first leg of our journey. After convincing the attendant that we did in fact need two tickets and not just the one (about £21 each for the 13 hour 750 km journey) we were on our way, and had approximately 12 hours to kill. We needed about 12 minutes. It is safe to say that Vladivostok is not going to be winning any ‘jewel of the East awards’ anytime soon, although after a delightful walk through a slum we did happen upon a rather nice coffee shop called ‘5 O’clock’, which was themed in the style of a British tearoom, and amazingly had brochures detailing the best Yorkshire villages, including, bizarrely, a double page spread on Harrogate!
Getting on the train was simplicity itself, and I was genuinely surprised by the comfort and safety of the third (or hard class) seats/beds we had selected. Sleeping underneath me (Josh was to the side) was a Russian woman and her baby, who was being seeing off by one of her relatives, with whom I had this delightfully awkward conversation: ‘Where are you off to?’ ‘Khabarovsk. What about you?’ ‘I’m seeing my relatives off.’ ‘Oh we’ll look after them.’ ‘How?’ ‘By watching out for bad people.’ ‘What kind of people?’ ‘Ermmmm… Americans?’ ‘What Americans’ ‘We don’t like Americans.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because they erm are ah, kind of noisy.’ And so on and so on. Josh and I decided it would be best if I stayed away from conversations for the rest of this leg.