Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 93: Khabarovsk

At the end of the Amur Highway and still only a few kilometres from the border with China stands the thriving city of Khabarovsk, ….. the gateway to Vladivostok in the south. Founded in 1858 as a military town, Khabarovsk was occupied by the Japanese up until the end of the Russian revolution in 1920 and saw fierce fighting with the Chinese as recently as 1969. Today things in the city are much calmer and arrival here comes as quite a shock following days in the wilderness of the Amur.

The last ‘City Experience’ was Chita, .. it was only a few days and 2,000 kilometres away but already it feels like a different time and place. I’m amazed by high-rise buildings and neon signs in a language that I’m now only just beginning to recognise, .. people walking on pavements, .. music playing in the streets, …. traffic and congestion, … traffic lights and policemen, … trolley buses and the general chaos that separates conurb from country.

I ride through the city in search of a room for the night, .. a place to wash away the dust and grime from seven days of off-road riding, seven nights of rough camping and the stench of smoke from the mosquito repelling campfires of Siberia. Hotels here in Russia are expensive and here in the far east, … are also rare. I find the ‘Hotel Tourist’, one of a chain of old Soviet Hotels untouched since their development in the 1960’s and amazingly interesting places because of that. They are also reasonably priced.

I try to check-in but there is a problem, …. in Russia there is always a problem. My visa was last registered on 5th June 2008 and today it is the 9th of July, …. this raises questions. Officially when travelling in Russia you must register your visa in each city where you stay for three days or more. I registered on arrival in Sochi, ….. 5th June. I explain that I’ve ridden across Russia, sleeping in a tent in the forests, .. each day riding a little more and finally now on the 9th of July, … I’ve arrived at this fine Hotel. ‘Niyet’, ….. in Russia always expect to hear ‘Niyet’ (no) at least four or five times before receiving the required ‘Da’ (yes), … it seems to be the Russian way. The receptionist is perplexed, … ‘Nobody travels across Russia in such a manner’. I point to the window where my bike is parked, .. a small crowd of people still admiring the Tiger and wondering when the ‘Crazy Anglian’ will return and allow them to play with a few more switches and pose for more photographs. I explain as well as I can to the now smiling receptionist that most of the guests at the Hotel Tourist probably do not arrive with their own ‘fan club’. She compromises, …. I can stay one night but must leave before 10am in the morning, …… ‘spa-ceeba’
I’m issued with a ‘Ticket’ which I then take to the fourth flour. Here, another ‘Floor Receptionist’ will exchange my ‘Ticket’ for a key. The ‘Floor Receptionist’s Assistant’ will then walk me to my room. This process is repeated every time you leave or enter your room. Seemingly I am the only guest on the 4th floor of the Hotel Tourist, ….. the Floor Receptionist and her Assistant will be replaced by the Night Floor Receptionist and her Night Assistant at 10pm, …. no wonder Russian hotels are so bloody expensive.

On the plus side, .. Hotel Tourist has WiFi. On the downside, …. it’s so slow that I’ll wait until I reach Vladivostok before updating my blog and answering emails etc., … in fact I could probably ride to Vladivostok before I even get a connection.

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