I actually didn't plan to go to Vladivostok - as much as I wanted to, since I'd always loved the city's name and could remember singing about it in the Skyhooks song Jukebox in Siberia - if you haven't had the pleasure (and can ignore the fact that Vladivostok isn't actually in Siberia), the chorus goes like this:
Jukebox in SiberiaBut I'd actually planned to head up through China to join the railway across Russia in (actual) Siberia instead. However, thanks to the SARS outbreak of 2003, my flight from Perth to Hong Kong was cancelled and I rearranged my plans to fly from Osaka to Vladivostok. With Air Vladivostok. Not a good move.
Pounding out hysteria
Get down get down Vladivostok
Drop a rouble in the slot of that
Jukebox in Siberia
And so it is, that at the moment this passport stamp was punched down in my passport, that I was shaking just a little. My Air Vladivostok flight had not gone well, and after a wobbly landing, the pilot had actually warned us to stand up just a row at a time so we didn't overbalance the plane. I hope something had gone wrong in the translation, but whatever the case I sure was glad to hit the ground at Vladivostok. The surly Russian passport controller examined me way too carefully - I had glasses on, whereas in my passport photo I was wearing contacts, and I think he didn't like that - but he did give me this stamp, and my first Russian adventure began.