Monthly Archives: November 2015

Top-100 Series: The Middle East.

The Middle East is another thoroughly interesting region. Without a doubt its ‘greatest hits’ are of a man-made archaeological-historical nature, comfortably prevailing over its naturally occurring ‘B-sides’. Hardly surprising given that the Middle East is an ancient cradle of civilization (please forgive the banality).

One thing I should mention at the outset here: I only have scant first-hand knowledge of the region; accordingly, there may be a few inaccuracies in this short regional section of my Top-100. If so – help me out! Any mistakes need correcting or additions need making? > the comments section please. I’d be most grateful.

All righty. Off we go…

45. Dead Sea.

An undeniably unique Middle Eastern natural phenomenon. Water so salty… yes, you know, you float in it!… So let me be a little less obvious here: water so salty… just a lick of your wet fingers and you need to down at least two cold beers in one. What better excuse for a little naughtiness? :-) .


info_ru_20 wiki_en map_ru_20 gmaps Photos google flickr

Read on: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia…

Yerevan lectures.

Ladies and gents!

I’m never one to blow too hard on the proverbial own trumpet, but I just have to play you this little bit of proverbial Miles-inspired jazz fusion.

Last week (November 17) I was awarded the Armenian President’s 2015 IT Award for Global Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Information Technology!


Read on: Lecturing hard…

Flickr photostream

  • Beijing
  • Beijing
  • Beijing
  • Beijing

Instagram photostream

Top-100 series: Russia.

Hi folks!

On we go with my journey around what are to me the 100 most beautiful places in the world, all of which I reckon need visiting at least once in a lifetime without fail – so as not to live the rest of that lifetime with regret!

Next up, the world’s largest country!

Russia’s East European Plain doesn’t have anything outstandingly must-see when it comes to natural beauty. Of course, there are beautiful places – and many of them, but none quite make their way onto my Top-100. Then, east of the Urals there’s the West Siberian Plain – a rather plain, er, plain, this time all tundra/taiga/steppe (from north to south, respectively), marshes, rivers, lakes, oil extraction and mosquitoes. Things only start getting Top-100-worthy still further east. But I’ll get to that in a bit. For now though…

39. Red Square and the Kremlin.

Many of our foreign friends who come to visit us here in Moscow tell us that Red Square – with St. Basil’s at one end, the Kremlin to one side and GUM on the other – is the most beautiful spot in Europe, especially at night when lit up. And who am I to argue? I too am a big fan.

Note: St. Petersburg was in the Cities section of the Top-100 series.


info_ru_20 wiki_en map_ru_20 gmaps Photos google flickr

Read on: Shambala, Kondyor, Pillars …

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog

A gaijin’s gauging of Japanese rail.

After yet more non-stop business meets and greets and chats and speeches – this time in Nagasaki – onward we traveled, on a high-speed train in pitch darkness. You’ll never guess where to, but here’s a hint:


Ok, enough intrigue. We sped to the island of Kyushu, namely to the city of Fukuoka (the capital of the prefecture of the same name), specifically – the Hakata-ku district. Curiously, the trains (including ours) going to the Hakata district are designated the ‘trains to Hakata’, not the ‘trains to Fukuoka’. That’d be like having ‘trains to Kings Cross’ as opposed to ‘trains to London’. Unusual.

Read on: A gaijin who knows such places…

Wham, bam, Japan, man.

Phew! For a moment then I thought I was getting too old for all this. But just for a moment :)…

I’ve just completed a crazy quick business trip to Japan. Three islands (Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa) and four cities – some well-known, others not very. Contrary to custom, there was practically no sightseeing on the schedule, only meetings, speeches and interviews. Still, you know me: there’s always something to write about and point a camera at!…

The Japanese market is complex, tricky, demanding, conservative, tough. Business is always good, and numbers of customers and partners grow – but only very slowly. So slowly I need to regularly get myself over there in person two or three times a year – a lot more often than to other countries. Not that I’m complaining. Regular readers will recall I have a soft spot for all things Nippon.

Now, the schedule’s always tight in Japan, but this time was just silly tight. A non-stop marathon of meetings, interviews, presentations and negotiations. It almost got too much physically. So I was naturally looking forward to a nice warm soft bed in the evening back at the hotel. But hey, a not-so warm, hard bed? Even that will do!…


Perhaps what made the trip especially trying was that it was tacked onto the end of a similarly busy working schedule in Beijing. But no, there was no mistaking it when I woke up that morning: I was in one of the most interesting and unusual cities on the planet – and a personal favorite of mine. Clear skies and Mount Fuji as the backdrop (to whose peak I’ve been twice already!). Unmistakably… Tokyo!


Read on: a hectic day…

One man went to MOW, went to SVO connection.

At last, I’ve done it!

A few days ago I had my first ever flight connection in Moscow. I was flying from Geneva to Beijing via SVO (btw, the Moscow to Beijing leg was my 99th flight this year, meaning the one after it – to Tokyo – was my century!).

Something not sound quite right there? Let me repeat: via SVO.

That is, without going home, and simply transferring from one airplane to another at the airport – for the first time EVER (despite flying into or out of SVO a zillion times already). Oh well, seeing as though I was here, might as well see how it compares with other airports…

First off, the main finding: a connection in Moscow is easy and straightforward – almost unnoticeable. Main thing, as least for a Muscovite, is to switch off the autopilot so as not to head towards passport control but instead to ‘International transfer’. Then it’s a matter of a quick X-ray, and some 30 seconds later you’re already in the neutral zone, in among the gates and duty free shops.


Well, that wasn’t difficult. Surprisingly smooth. And that’s in spite of all the inadequacies of Terminal F, the former – infamous – SVO2!

SVO-2/Terminal F is very old (built specially for the 1980 Moscow Olympics), very cramped, and very uncomfortable to use. Everywhere there’s a kinda dirty gray gloom. There is just no way you can compare this place with the likes of other intercontinental hubs like Munich, Heathrow 5 or Zurich – much less shiny new Dubai, Hong Kong, Narita, BCIA, KLIA or Changi. Well, you could, but it’d be like comparing… mincemeat with motorbikes: no point whatsoever :).


Read on: It’s not all doom and gloom…

Sight-see-ing – in Bei-jing.

A couple of months ago I brought up the topic of tourist attractions and other notable holiday occurrences in and around Beijing: Beijing Temples, the Summer Palace, and a military parade.

Well, it just so happens there’s a whole load more of such touristic delights; so many you could spend weeks taking them all in. Ok, I rarely ever have weeks to spare (unless we’re talking Kamchatka:), but at least I am able to fit tourism in between business meetings – which is just what I did recently in the Chinese capital, where I was staying for the second time in as many months. I got the chance to inspect some well-known, and also not so well-known places. Check them out:

1. The Temple of Heaven. A temple complex of astonishing beauty (as are many in the East). Its size is grandly grandiose (even by Beijing standards), the air’s easy to breathe, and it’s most pleasant to walk around. The air’s especially clean on those rare days when a northerly wind blows across Beijing (as happened when we were there): all the pollution and smog is blown away from the metropolis (hate to think where:), leaving the sky crystal clear and blue.


Read on: The ultimate inevitable…

Cracking the code of Chinese tickets.

Hi folks!

For some reason I’m not fully aware of, I tend to keep conference ID badges, and sometimes also tickets to the various tourist attractions I get to see around the world. This hoarding is getting out of hand – I have a big box of ID badges in the corner of my office, and it’s starting to overflow.

How a New York Times journalist who recently interviewed me reacted to them I think sums up the problem: “What is THAT?” he said, pointing at the bulging box, perplexed :). Must get down to some feng shui soon. It’s not as if I’m going to go through them all one day – pics are much better for trips down memory lane… But I digress – before even beginning!…

…So, to begin… During my recent hidden China vacation, I amassed quite a few entrance tickets to national parks, nature reserves, historical places of interest and other attractions.

At first these look like nothing special – just the usual slips of paper or thin card. But when you have a closer look…


Here are my findings in my attempt to crack the code of Chinese entry tix:

Read on: Quadrillion!…