67 hours to Ulan-Ude, capital of Republic of Buryatia; Siberia, Russia

Yesterday here in Vladivostok it was maybe negative 40 degrees Celsius with wind chill, but when I have told people my next stop is Ulan-Ude, a common response from Russians has been, Oh, that is very cold there.

Colder than here?

Oh yes, very.

Ulan-Ude is 67 hours by train. I leave tonight and will travel third-class, which means I'll be sharing a train car with dozens of snoring Russians, all of us sleeping on cots. The ticket cost 3,000 rubles (~$100 USD) and I will have at least one ally on the train: a Dutch guy named Jelle whom I met on the Sea of Japan while traveling from Korea to Russia.

Last night Jelle cooked me a traditional Dutch meal of potatoes, apple, onion and bacon, all mashed together and spiced with pepper and cinnamon. My God, it was good. Its nickname in Dutch is, Hot Lightning. A great winter meal.

Today I have been invited on a day trip to Artyom, which I have been told is 40km from Vladivostok. It is a blue-collar town sadly rooted in coal mining, which means its future is bleaker than its already bleak present.

Yesterday evening I did get around to taking the ferry to Russky Island, but thanks to a comedy of misunderstanding, it was far too mundane to report much of anything. We never even got off the ferry, and thinking it was 90 minutes from start to finish, we were surprised when 23 minutes after our departure we pulled back into the Vladivostok port. It is simply a quick commuter ferry across the bay, nothing more. But it was interesting to be in the belly of the ferry and people-watch Russians who make this trip daily. Plus the trip was only 40 rubles.