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Archive for 26/11/2014


The Russian Experience

Written by Rano Iskandar. Posted in News, RA News


The Russian Experience 

Things I learnt about Russia during my short visit. I still can’t believe that I made it to Russia despite holding an ICI document (my passport as a PR of Brunei). Knowing that countries like Dubai and Vietnam don’t recognize our ICI document, I was worried if I would trouble in Russia. It’s a great thing that there’s a Brunei Embassy in Moscow which helped us in a lot of ways. My only regret is not staying a few days longer in Moscow after my work duty. I would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for my upcoming Cambodia trip this weekend.

Anyway, below are just some short pointers during my 5 days experience in Sochi and Moscow but more in Sochi, Russia. I shall be updating and editing this content from time to time.

The Brunei delegates representing at the World Robot Olympiad 2014 led by Satinah binti Hj Abang, Student Officer of Science Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre. This photo was taken at Domodedovo International Airport, Moscow, Russia.


My pointers of Russia

It’s a freaking huge country that you will need to take nine hours to fly from Moscow to Vladivostok (furthest end of Russia) according to His Excellency Haji Haini bin Haji Hashim, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to the Russian Federation. It has a population of 144 million and it is the largest country in the world though China still holds the biggest population in the world.

Moscow, the capital city of Russia but I spent more of my time in Sochi which is two hours away by flight. Moscow is way more happening than Sochi.

The area we stayed in near Olympic Park is where the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 took place as well as the Russian F1 Grand Prix. However, after the big events, the Olympic Park area is like a ghost town which reminds me of BSB after business working hours.

Not many of them speak the English language so communication can be very difficult. We were lucky that the Brunei Embassy has Natasha/Natalia who is the Embassy’s translator and she does help a lot especially when it comes to checking in the hotel as well as at the airport.

Do watch for fraudulent taxis and we tourists are already being warned with signages at the baggage claim area of the Domodedovo International Airport, Moscow. For instance, the taxi driver will give you a flat rate then upon arrival of your destination (hotel), you will be charged extra because of the number of luggages you bring or the type of taxi you used or the distanced traveled. Just do look out for the official taxi driver tags that they wear.

You are not allowed to sit down on the floor at the airport. That’s understandable. But I was told off even when I was just sitting down on my luggage. The security told me to find a proper seating area to sit down.

It’s encouraged to pay with their local currency, Rubles, and not in Euro or USD. Unless you are at the airport area, they accept both Euro and USD. Apparently, there is an ATM machine that helps to change your Euro or USD notes to Rubles. If you look out for the green coloured machines, that’s the one and it has English instructions.

The drivers are pretty aggressive in terms of speed. I came across a few ones that would simply drive fast in the hotel area and brake promptly at the entrance of the hotel.

Though I didn’t get to venture out at Moscow, the traffic congestion is one of the worst according to Hanafi. The peak hours starts from 7am to ……. 10pm *lol* Apparently, for the Russians, the traffic flow currently is considered a huge improvement from many years. So I can’t imagine how it was like back then.

The magazines and books are all in Russian language. I couldn’t find anything written in English.

Sochi Town is slightly backwards compared to Moscow. I ventured around and most of the shops reminds me of the early 90s era in terms of clothing and infrastructure of the shops. Yes, they are slightly old school stuff. I couldn’t even find an international brand and closest one I came across is the McDonald’s brand.

My train experience was interesting. I caught the train from Olympic Park (Sochi) to Sochi City which was an hour’s ride. The train doesn’t go as fast as SMRT (Singapore). I’m surprised the train is pretty well maintained and clean too surprisingly. In the train, there was this person pushing a drinking trolley where you can buy canned drinks or hot ones. Interesting. Oh, at each stop of the journey, there will have announcements of the particular stop in English which I truly appreciate.

They have many roundabouts at Olympic Park area (Sochi). Apparently, instead of having junctions, they use roundabouts. I remembered, during one of our bus trips, the driver didn’t go across the road to enter our destination but instead making one big round just to go to the other side of the road because that particular road has a double line.

The roadblocks are carried out at the exit of the roadblocks. The policemen don’t use cones or signs like we do in Brunei. The policemen will use their batons to signal the drivers to pull over. I just find it weird they carry out their duties at the roundabout.

I mentioned before that the drivers are aggressive. Well, that’s one reason why accidents are quite a norm in Moscow and plus they can claim their insurance within a week. This is also another reason why the roads are congested causing long traffic jams.

The immigration does take a long time sometimes. If you are lucky, it won’t have to wait. The immigration officers will check your passport thoroughly. I’m always the worried type since I’m holding an ICI document (like a passport) since I’m a PR of Brunei Darussalam. So if you bumped into a rookie or newbie immigration officer, do have some patience. We are fortunate that we have a Brunei Embassy in Russia and the Russian Federation does recognized our ICI document as means of passport.

The time difference between Moscow/Sochi and Brunei is 5 hours. I would have thought it will be similar to the UK (8 hours). So Moscow is 5 hours behind Brunei.

You can get a simcard for Data which I did – Megafon. It costs about 300 Rubles ($10) which comes together with the sim card and 5 gig of data. The only set back is that when I bought my sim card at Sochi, it doesn’t seem to work universally when I reached Moscow. Maybe it’s the settings. I’m not pretty sure.

 The airports in Moscow and Sochi provide free Wifi unlike the ones in Dubai International Airport unless you go to McDonald’s to get free Wifi.

 The popular souvenirs are the doll known as Matryoshka and also Sochi Winter Olympics merchandises.

I never tried bargaining because 1) the language barrier 2) the Russians have this uninviting presence that you will think twice about bargaining *lol*

Their trademark car is Lada, a local car in Russia which is like their Proton version. I still saw some Japanese and Korean cars too on the road. I even come across a silver Santa Fe, just like mine 😀

The Russians use more iPhones as compared to Samsung.

Though Whatsapp is common everywhere else in the world but not for the Russians. Instead they use Viber to text and they only check Whatsapp once in a while.

In terms of social networking, Russia have two popular local ones – Odnoklassniki and VK (originally known as VKontakte). Facebook is still huge but it’s losing traction against VK as of late. Instagram is also huge in Russia and thanks to the fashion bloggers, and public personalities. The only difficulty for me is understanding the Russian written language on their social network.


Zaitun binti Mohidin, spouse to the Haji Haini bin Haji Hashim, Brunei Ambassador to the Russian Federation, receiving a memento from Sayyidina Umar Al-Khattab Secondary School as a token of appreciation to the Ambassador for the hospitality provided during our stay in Moscow and Sochi, Russia. She’s a former geography teacher in STPRI and also had a short teaching stint in SMJA. She welcomes any Bruneian to pay a visit in Moscow and she will show you all the places of interest too. Thank you for hosting us breakfast and you are down-to-earth person.

I was told off not to sit on the luggage by the airport personnel on duty. Interesting.

This was the furthest I set my foot in Moscow…. outside the Domodedovo International Airport… boohoo.. Maybe on my next trip to Russia.

This is the Burger King in Russia. Too bad they don’t serve taro pie at all.

Their flagship car is Lada. This is the older model and it is still prominent in Russia. Of course, they have much more modern types but still have that classic feel.

The road blocks are conducted at the roundabout area

This is a typical Russian souvenir, a Matryoshka doll




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