Due to China’s unitary time zone, there is a three hour time difference between Harbin and Vladivistok – but only a 12 hour bus ride between them.
I should have checked my sources (embarassing green traveller mistake) so I might have known that my bus did not arrive at 8pm (already on the late side for my lone and still chicken lady traveller instincts.. and filled with the fear of ‘Dangerous Russia’) but in fact after 10pm!
* no city buses running, my planned transport;
* my booked hostel, which one online reviewer had waited three hours to get into (to be explained later) and the same hostel that had not replied to any of my emails, not knowing my arrival time;
* having to find a way to call a cab, in Russian, with no roaming on my mobile in Russia, and everyone saying never to get a cab that’s waiting, always call an official one! Pay phone adventures!
At least I did one thing right and had some currency! Do as I say, not as I do!
If it was not for a gorgeous Russian couple on the bus and their two kids (a ten year old with amazing English and his little brother) asking me my plans… I would have been none the wiser to my predicament! “The bus will arrive very late,” they said, “no city bus.” Gulp!!
These lovely people, clearly as worried for me as I was for myself, arranged a cab for me and put me in it. They let me ring my hostel on their phones – the phone number was invalid!! What?! I decided to trust my gut and used their phone to book a bed in another hostel – they helped with that too. Angels everywhere!
I was so grateful I rang a few days later to say thank you. I was given an inpromptu tour of Vladivistok, loaded with cake, chocolates and cups of tea at their house (and some kiddies books to help me learn Russian) and told if I have any problems in Russia to call them.
My Russian fears dissolved like sugar in hot chai. I was in love!