From Russia with love . . .

So as if I thought Beijing and Tianjin were not cold enough, I decided, well I was told rather, to head to Moscow for a bit of business. Ordinarily one would assume there would be some time to acclimate to the impossible to inhabit temperatures  however the travelling time to and from Moscow all in (35 hours) was more than half of the time actually spent in Moscow (60 hours) so not exactly a lot of time to mess about getting used to the weather!

So what did I learn from this excursion (outside of the productive work that is)?

When you live in a city, like Shanghai, that is completely foreign to you in every way you start to develop an understanding of things without being able to read pretty much anything. This does help you in a city where the signs look like they have come straight out of an Asterix & Obelix cartoon!

Moscow is beautiful, not when its grey, freezing and gloomy, but when the sun is shining (It only comes up at 10am) it really is a great city by day. The buildings have heritage and grace, the scenery is really magnificent for a big city and even the underground stations are based in the most glorious historical stories. The subway trains on the other hand look just like what I’d imagine Soviet Russia to be like!

There is seems to be such strength in the pride of the country and for the history that everything seems to have meaning and a purpose . . .

By night the city comes alive. It is, in the right locations, a world filled with Cristal champagne in every corner. Models, well they pretty much all look like models, on every arm and everything you would expect a cosmopolitan nouveau riche city to be!

This is the right location, overlooking the famous Red Square . . . .

When in Rome . . . you drink VODKA and when you see a giant Faberge egg being sold for the sole purpose of drinking like some kind of Siberian Prince you realize how serious these people are about two things – being exceedingly wealthy and drinking! Fortunately I was prepared mentally and physically for the latter!

There is a fair amount of arbitrary things, this too you seem to get used to living in China, but there were a few prize things that stood out like this tiny glass sculpture in my hotel room of a fat squirrel, rat or whatever type of rodent randomly perched against a mirror . . .

Then a trip to the supermarket gave these two beauties, yes, that is Strawberry toilet paper!

Finally, and without doubt most importantly, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT lose your passports five hours before your plane is going to take you home. This creates an epic F%$# UP for you and everyone around you. No, I am not this stupid, my brother however, decided it was too easy to do things normally and so he let a fair whack of cash and both his passports get stolen, okay he didn’t let it happen but when you dress like a Russian oligarch and carry TUMI everything you are bound to be a target!

If this does happen – here is the checklist of SH1T you will have to go through to travel out of the country!

  1. Go to the SA embassy
  2. Fill out a massive amount of paperwork
  3. Get finger printed by a South Africa (who takes your left hand twice by mistake)
  4. Travel in numerous cars of random strangers (in Moscow you can hail a normal private citizens car down, offer them some money and they will take you wherever you want – this is common practice in getting around the city because the taxis are so corrupt?!)
  5. Go to a police station and explain the situation to get a police report filed
  6. Fill out much more paperwork
  7. Get ID photos taken by a guy who thinks he shoots the Playboy swimwear edition!
  8. Fill out some more paperwork
  9. Wait for South Africa to confirm you are actually who you are (waiting for SA could take until summer)

There are a few more steps from here but fortunately I didn’t lose all of my crap so I left Russia, barely making my plane but for a mad dash from the train. All in all I learnt that if the wine and vodka are flowing not much can upset you! Also you will get to the airport with just enough time to have a smoke, in the bizarre cordoned off smoking section next to the gate and slump into your chair with a glass of Roederer champagne to ease you off to sleep!

That ladies and gentlemen was 60 hours in Moscow, not for the faint hearted!