Back from the USSR

Well, I totally didn’t know what to expect when I came to Moscow and I got exactly what I expected… a lot of things I didn’t expect!

There are so many interesting, odd and strange things to report I am not sure I can fit it all into one blog entry.

But, for those who like an executive synopsis, or Coles Notes, the main theme for Moscow is: EXPENSIVE.

And I don’t mean, boy its a little expensive here… I mean, you will go broke if you stay here more than a few weeks expensive!

Okay, lets start at the beginning. First of all, when you arrive in Moscow, you are at one of their 3 airports… but none of them seem to be convenient or easily accessible. I arrived at Sheremetyevo airport at 1am after flying from Dublin to Vienna, and then Vienna to Moscow on Austrian Airlines. It was tough getting any flights from Dublin to Moscow for under $900, which was my first hint of how expensive everything Moscow related is. (there was a flight or two on Poland’s airline LOT for around $400, stopping over in Warsaw, but the times didn’t work for me).

Sheremetyevo airport is quite a ways from downtown Moscow and there is no trains or buses running at 1am so I had to take a taxi. The taxi ride cost me about $50-$60 USD… and it wasn’t like I got luxury for that price… i was in the backseat of a 1970’s era Lada stationwagon.

He took me to my hotel, which was the cheapest one I could find at the time that had highspeed internet access: Novotel. I thought I had actually gotten a decent deal on their website, for what is a cheap Moscow price of $200 USD/night. But when I got there he informed me that doesn’t include all the taxes, which added it up to $270. Then he said my room doesn’t have high speed internet. He said I could upgrade to the executive rooms for $50 extra a night to get internet. I asked him what else I got for the extra $50 and he replied, “it’s a bit bigger…… ….. slippers.”.

So for the price of what my place in Bangkok costs per month, I stayed in Moscow for one night. And boy did I enjoy all that extra room I got for the $50… there was a sort of extra room in the suite, but it was essentially a room with absolutely nothing in it except one standing lamp. I guess it’d be good if you wanna catch up on some reading while standing there.

I decided to leave the Novotel after 2 nights so I wouldn’t have to actually declare bankruptcy, and booked a nice apartment for a good deal of $150/night.

After leaving the Novotel I was walking and looking for a taxi for 20 minutes but never saw one. I later found out from a friend I know who has been living here that all you have to do in Moscow is put your hand up anywhere and within 10 seconds a car will stop and pick you up. They don’t look like taxi’s and half the time it just seems like it is some guy who happened to be driving somewhere, but they’ll take you where you want to go… but again, for quite a price… a 5-10 minute ride is about $20.

As was exactly the same as last year, I have felt like I have been in a fog the entire last two weeks.. something about going East from North America to Europe really just kills me… I am actually writing this on my plane ride from Moscow to Bangkok and I think today was the first day I felt kinda awake and on normal hours… now I am going another 3 hours East so we’ll see how I feel tomorrow… and to answer your question about why I am going to Bangkok: I just miss it… a lot. I really like it there… I’ve been gone 6 weeks and am dying to get back… and it doesn’t hurt that the weather in Moscow for the last few days was near freezing… literally like winter.

Anyway, more on Moscow…

So I met up with a friend who has just bought a place there… he is an ex-broker and is really loaded… he just bought a $1.4m place in Moscow… he tells me I should go check out a club called First Nightclub… he said to get a table for the night there costs $5,000… I laughed and said, “You mean 5,000 rubles ($250)�… he looked at me, “No, dollars.�

Moscow has more billionaires than any other city in the world, and it shows.

It is kinda funny looking at cars here… there will be 6 or 7 1970’s Lada’s in a row, then a Lambourghini… then 5 junkers, then a Ferrari…

And all over town are these super expensive looking black Mercedes, with blacked out windows, and a single blue siren on top… noooooo idea who or what that is all about.

One of the funnier moments was when I was walking down the street, I heard the super loud screetch of what sounded like some totally rotten fan belt, or some sort of belt, on an old car or something… I turned around expecting to see another old Lada on its last legs… it was a 2000 Viper… lol, American piece of crap.

I really didn’t do a heck of a lot in Moscow, I really slept most of my time there… exactly what I did last year in Sweden, Berlin and Greece.. I just jet lagged my way through Ireland and Russia…

I didn’t even make it to that $5,000/table nightclub despite my friend calling me numerous times on Friday night… I passed out at 6pm that night.

The only other comments I have on Russia is that it is incredibly hard to get around. Very few people speak much English and the signage and writing is completely incomprehensible… their writing looks like it uses the same alphabet as ours, but with the letters inside out, backwards, upside down and sideways.

Trying to navigate their metro is literally impossible. I tried many times, and managed thanks to a lot of hard work and a lot of asking around and pointing. Their subway is very communist era too, a clanky old iron beast that flies through the underground… it doesn’t even have any sort of notice before the doors shut… and the doors are big, heavy iron doors that slam shut in 0.5 seconds… I almost lost an ankle in one.

So, in the end, I’d say Moscow is definitely interesting. If you have a lot of money and want to spend a lot, Moscow is for you. Also if you like sub zero temperatures, even in July, Moscow is for you.

In the end I kinda found myself in the same situation as last year in July when I was in South America. It was July and there I was travelling through places that were in the middle of winter, with very brisk temps… it was basically the same this year, with Ireland and Moscow, although there were a few nice warm days in Ireland.

So, rather than travel through some more of Europe as I had planned, I decided to head back to perpetual summer, Thailand.

I was feeling tired anyway, I am either getting old or need to recharge badly by getting back into shape because I was feeling very tired for the last month… plus my allergies, which I haven’t felt in years since I left Canada really hit in Canada over a month ago, and stayed with me right through Ireland and Russia, so I am looking forward to getting back to Thailand to breathe again too.

I am hoping to stay put there for at least a month, and then am pondering a trip to Indonesia. I am also starting to zero in on a place to open a nightclub too… More and more I am thinking to try to find a place that is beautiful, has great beach and also allows gambling… then I am hoping to open a club with also a poker room in it… that rules out a lot of countries though… Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… I think Philippines too… who knows, maybe Cambodia. I think I’d like to stay in Asia, although I will likely take a trip to the caribbean, Brazil and Argentina in Jan/Feb and maybe do something in my other favorite place, Latin America.

Dublin Dublin Dublin…

It has been a long time since my first real update on the blog… there was a 2-3 week period where it was just not working, then for the last week I have been in Dublin, Ireland and never got around to an update.

I am on the plane from Dublin to Vienna, Austria now where I just have a 1 hour stopover and then am on to Moscow, Russia… so here is what I have been up to in Dublin:

I chose to go to Dublin as it is one of the closest areas in Europe to North America, thereby making the flight shorter, which is always a preference for me. As well, I got a very cheap flight from Air Transat from Toronto to Dublin (5.5 hour flight) for less than $300 CDN, so took advantage of that also.

Air Transat has this ridiculous thing they put on their tickets: they say that you are supposed to be at the airport THREE hours prior to departure. I don’t know if this is a typo or what idiot made this rule, but this has to be the most ridiculous rule I have ever seen of any airline (surprise, surprise… Canadian airlines that have ridiculous rules and bad service? Of course, Canada is a communist state and therefore is subject to 3rd class service for all). Anyway, I ignored the rule of course, but wanted to err on the side of cautiousness so still showed up at a ridiculously early 1:45 before the flight, which of course also meant that I was just sitting at the gate for nearly 2 hours for no reason.

However, the point of my ramble is that apparently most of the people do actually show up for Air Transat flights the ridiculous 3 hours before departure, so the whole ‘economy’ class was full by the time I got there, so I got upgraded to ‘economy plus’ which is their business class. I’ll say this much, if this is ‘economy plus’, I’d hate to sit in economy, because their economy plus seats had legroom that anyone above 6’2 couldn’t possibly squeeze into.

Anyway, I could go on criticizing Canada, but will resist. I’ll suffice it to say that I spent 3 weeks in Canada and was literally counting the hours by the end to get out of that country. It was nice to see many of my friends and family but me and Canada just don’t get along.

So, I went to Dublin.

Dublin is nice. Ireland is a very, very small country. The total population of the entire country is 4 million. In China they would call that a cul-de-sac.

I have a friend who is from there and lives there sometimes… I met him in Bangkok and he is a really nice, cool guy. He actually produces music videos… he has done some great work, you can view it at www.scottaltman.com. He may be doing Franz Ferdinand’s next video…

I was in Ireland nearly 6 days, but spent a total of one night and part of one day outside of my hotel room… it was a mixture of wanting to get a lot of work done, and, as per last year, jet lag. Even as I write this at 5pm I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, but I think I am nearly adjusted… but now I am going to Russia, another 3 time zones East, so I’ll likely have a few more days of jet lag to get over yet again.

I went out on Saturday night with Scott… its always nice to arrive in a new place and have a friend who is a total local show you around. We went to some okay places, none of them were all that great really. I will say this though, in general, Irish people are very friendly and nice… quite a bit different than my experience in Scotland where I am pretty sure a few guys tried to pick a fight with me (I am not sure though because I absolutely could not understand one word any Scottish people said). In Ireland though I found I could understand their accent, although it is very strong.

I have heard there are some attractive girls in Ireland, but if there were, they weren’t out on Saturday night… so we ended up cutting the night fairly short around 2am and headed to one of the many casinos there to play poker. I played for about 2.5 hours at a no limit game, starting with 200 euro, and walked out with 750 euro (approx. $700 profit), so a pretty good night. As was the case when I played in Prague, one or two of the guys at my table were older (40’s, maybe 50’s), all tattooe’d out, and had the look of some kind of mafia… as with Prague, I ended up taking most of their money… and as with Prague, I had to massage my way out of there… I actually wanted to leave when I was up around $400, but I had won so much so quickly off them that I did not want to appear like I was just going to take their money and run, so thought I’d play a bit longer… but I just kept winning… I had a few good hands, but in general they played very poorly and were practically just giving me their money. So by the end I was up over $700 and it was 6am and I luckily got called at that time to move tables (there were 4 active poker tables) so I took that as my opportunity to get out before I caused too much more attention.

The whole time I was in Dublin the weather was very nice, so I was really lucky because in general the weather isn’t that nice there. Even on their hottest day of the year though (usually sub 30 degrees) their nights are still quite chilly.

As with most places, it looks quite nice when it is a beautiful 27c sunny day and Dublin did… it looked really nice… it was an enjoyable city to be in. I even made it to the outskirts of the city to go to the Russian Embassy to get my visa and it was even nicer out there.. nice quaint little shoppes, lots of greenery and an overall nice vibe.

And I think Irish guys are basically always drunk, any time of the day or night… I don’t know how many times (many times in the afternoon) I would see a guy walking down the street and just start puking… like it is VERY commonplace there!?!

In general everything there is quite expensive though… I don’t know what it is about the UK & Ireland that things are so expensive there, but they are. It was difficult to find any decent hotel in Dublin much below $125 USD… a meal at McDonalds or Burger King for one person would cost about $10 USD…

And a word of warning if you are coming here, do NOT take the taxi’s from the airport to Dublin downtown… it is only about a 15-20 minute ride but it cost me $45 USD… I later found out the bus is $2 and almost just as conveient and quick. On my return to the airport from Dublin’s city center (O’Callaghan Street) I grabbed the bus. Here is a pic of me on the bus.

So, that’s it from Dublin… a fairly quiet week… looking forward to Russia which I have no idea what to expect (which is always the best way).

Blog Sux0r3d

Hmm, well my blog was pretty much down for the last 3 weeks with a very inexplicable problem… but the good news is, I have been in Canada that whole time so you didn’t miss anything.

Here is the latest though: going to Edmonton on July 8, then Toronto on July 12, then Dublin, Ireland on July 13.

After that, not sure… maybe Norway, Finland, Amsterdam, Russia, Estonia… all possible candidates… will just go with the flow once I get to the land of the lucky charms