Jasmine flowers of Lebanon


Jasmine flowers of Lebanon,
fall softly on dusty streets.
The fragrance soft, enraptures,
stops me dead upon my feet.

Around me buildings crumble,
scars of war so plain to see.
Yet nature’s beauty thrives right here;
this flower has ensnared me.

Soaring, its scent takes me.
Higher, higher still.
Skies, bright blue. Sun, pure yellow.
I’ve nearly had my fill.

But wait, one second longer.
Let me taste its wonder once more.
Savour this moment, this fleeting kiss,
Fair flower maiden, no more.

Toga! Toga! Toga!

Moleskine Entry: April 17th, 2011

Today is Sunday. Last night we threw a fancy dress part and everyone got involved (well, everyone we knew anyway).

— Indian Ben | Toga James —

This was, as you can imagine, quite amusing for the Mongolian smugglers traders on board.

Around midnight Moscow time [4am Mongolian time] we were joined by a couple who had tickets stay in in the Tsar’s Retreat. That’s right, I now no longer have my room to myself. Boo.

The good news is, the couple seem quite cool. One Brit and his American wife. One night of sharing the cabin left ahead and then we reach Mongolia. Well, that’s not strictly true.

We’ll be arriving at Ulanbataar at some point tomorrow. We actually cross the border into Mongolia in a couple of hours. [Hilarious] Russian ticket inspectors are aboard now: two women, late 40s, wearing knee high leather boots, full make-up, bright pink liptstick and a light blue, figure-hugging uniform reminiscent of the flight attendants from the 70s. Possibly the best thing I’ve seen on the whole trip to date.

You wouldn’t believe it. I’d snap a photo if I could but I daren’t. I fear I would be taken outside and shot or worse, taken back and used as a Russian sex slave forced to do their every deed at the crack of a singular, jet-black whip.

I’m clearly still quite drunk.

And still, we’re on a train.

Time Travel

Moleskine Entry 14/411

Moleskine entry: April 14th, 2011

Within the train, we’re on Moscow time. The timetables, dining schedule and bar opening hours are all on Moscow time.

When we get off the train however (at various stations and stops along the way), we’re suddenly on local time, which could be anything upwards of +2/3/4hrs more.

Time travel.

New Friends

Moleskine entry: April 12th, 2011 (cont)

We did a lot today – much I want to cover but first I need to finish off what happened last night – I called the Honcho, Marina, as requested –

Note from the honcho

– and managed to get directions to the restaurant where they were all grabbing dinner. 10mins later (and one short hop, skip and a jump down the late night snowy streets of Moscow) and I’d found them. Awesome.

Two brothers, Ben & Oly (on a vodka-drinking YouTube mission – more on that one on a later date) and two friends, Sally & Mel. The latter pair used to live together and Mel, the Aussie of the group, is on her way back home (Sal’s just along for the ride). They’re a good bunch and I reckon I’ve landed on my feet quite nicely…

We were joined by another group of travellers last night too. This bunch are headed off to Mongolia later today (we may run into them there, but if not then we’re definitely meeting up in Beijing) and they were more than happy to join us for post-dinner vodka and beer.

It was… a late night, a lot of fun and – as first nights in Moscow go – not bad at all.
– – –

Today, Tuesday, we woke up around 10am local time and remembered we’d agreed to go running before breakfast. Ben & Oly were committed (or at least should be) and I joined them. 3.5miles-ish, in total. With our loop point being St Basil’s Cathedral.

Look, I even made you a map –

View Larger Map

Like I said before; Madness.

Post-morning workout we headed out in search of food and – what with it being 50yrs since Uri Gagarin took man’s first step into space – we made plans to visit the Moscow Space Museum (along with pretty much every other resident of Moscow for that matter), but that can wait for another day.

Basically today, my first 24hrs in Moscow, has been fantastic. I’ve got a smile on my face and four new friends to travel with.


Moscow 0.1

En route from Moscow Intl.

Moleskine entry: April 11th, 2011

There’s a larger entry to come later today I’m sure but, it’s 19:50 local time, I’ve been in this taxi for nearly an hour and if the Godzilla Hostel doesn’t actually look like the Japanese legend of old, I am going to be thoroughly, thoroughly disappointed.

That is all.

I’ve been away…

…to sort a few things out.

A few weeks ago I flew to Moscow for a couple of days and from there, caught the train to Beijing (stopping off for a few nights in Ulanbator, Mongolia along the way). The journey itself was perfect and pretty much exactly what I needed.

To put things in perspective: over the past month I’ve jogged around Red Square in the morning snow, galloped across the Mongolian desert in the afternoon sun and – thanks to a midday downpour – got soaked to the skin deep within the Forbidden City. ‘Spectacular’ doesn’t quite do it justice.

There’s much to catch up on [and a fair amount of moleskinerie to write up] but for now, it’s good to be home.