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Vladivostok, Russia

Vladivostok is a curiosity, a Russian city with Japan Seas around it. It is also the closest European city to Asia with a Caucasian population. Historically, it was closely controlled by the Czars of Russia and then the Soviet Union; but now it is coming into its own.

Vladivostok has opened its doors to tourists and investors. The early influx was mostly of Chinese, Korean and Japanese, curious about Russia. English-speaking guides took them around sightseeing and shopping. International cruise ships now make a halt at Vladivostok and Americans are visiting increasing numbers, many hoping to adopt babies from here. The Americans prefer to stay at Vlad Inn, a Canadian-owned hotel between the airport and the city set in a park.

The most expensive hotel in town is the excellently located Versailles Hotel. Located in the heart of the business district in Amursky Bay, it is perfect for the business and leisure traveler. It may be forty minutes from the airport but it is within walking distance to rail and bus transport. It is located opposite small market and grocery store and one can walk from here to the waterfront and pedestrian shopping street.

The 42 room hotel has contemporary décor and is kept spotlessly clean. Its elegant lobby also serves as an art gallery. Despite its modern appearance there is an Old Russia ambience about the Versailles with its magnificent dining hall and air of elegance. In keeping with the changing times, the staff at Versailles is multilingual and the menu in their restaurant boasts of Russian, European and Japanese dishes. Bilingual English-Russian menus now the norm at restaurants like Nostalgia and Del Mar. The latter is anew bay view restaurant which specializes in Pacific seafood cooked with New Russian flair. It is run by a Vladivostok woman who has returned after seven years in California.

A popular business hotel is the Hyundai located up the hill. The hotel, a South Korean-Russian joint venture has three floors of corporate offices. With its distinct pro-west bias it has facilities in its rooms that indicate this.

American eco-tourism companies have started to take groups to explore the mountains, forests and nearly empty Pacific beaches of the Primorye region, the neon and twinkling lights signal new shopping centers and a lively night life, transporting the city far from the terrible power shortages of the late 1990's.


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