A Mongers travelogue to Kiev.
Mongering in Kiev Part 1
The Night Before
Tune going through my head right now, all my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…Cause I’m leavin on a jet plane…. Leavin on a Jet plane is one of my favorite songs and that will be me tomorrow morning, hopefully nice and early ‘As the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn’, heading to, as we say in north London, to the dreaded Gatwick airport, dreaded because it is such a pig shit of a place to get to by road at the best of times.
So god willing, if the bus and the two trains I have to take (to avoid driving on and near the M25 motorway during the weekday morning rush hour) all run smoothly and on time, I should make the 10:30 morning check-in time, hopefully with some time to spare. Okay, for the moment that’s the last time I’m going to say hopefully.
Just wanting to get away and try somewhere new with a little more than just average mongering opportunities, so on the spur of the moment a couple of days ago I booked this; I’m heading out to the Ukraine, to Kiev for 3 nights 4 days and I’m feeling excited. This will be the last chance I will have now for at least 6 months, to just get away on trips like this, because as of next week I am starting a new contract for work. The deal I got by the way was return flights plus 3 nights in a four-star hotel right bang in the City Centre of Kiev, in a superior room, for £268.00 inclusive booked online so to quote that movie the God Father, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse; actually just the thing to cheer me up before I resume my long mortgage paying, bill paying, getting up early commuting to work prison sentence next week.
However, being so close to Easter when businesses all over the continent of Europe tend to close down early and people tend to leave town, together with the predicted weather forecast in Kiev being overcast with the night time temperature dropping to -3 during my whole stay, this trip could easily be a potential disaster for someone who hadn’t done their research properly, something easily done with trips like these booked at the very last minute. Anyway, as well as packing vests with a couple of warm sweaters thrown in, I have prepared my own Kiev Google city map with various landmarks and places pin pointed for reference, a good practical way, by the way, to plan for sightseeing and to find your bearings for getting from A-B in any new unfamiliar place.
Also from what I read, with the Ukraine recently joining the EU economic part, long gone are the days of the infamous old terminal at Boryspil airport where it was the norm to wait up to 90 minutes just to queue and clear immigration and passport control, and, all the taxis in and out of the airport were mafia controlled with inflated prices usually quoted in US Dollars. Apparently what has not changed though is cheap sex.
According to the Wiki Kiev sex guide (it has its uses, I think, but it is not definitive) it says while there is no official Red-light district in Kiev, some people say that the whole city of Kiev is a one huge red-light district as most girls are beautiful and easily approachable by wealthy foreign men, umm nice thought anyway but how about this one just to whet the appetite further, on a site I found called relax Kiev, there are prices and contact details for new girls, prostitutes and cheap girls (no political correctness here) with prices which are almost too good to be true, so, you girls in the Ukraine had better get ready because some of you may still feel my hard warm cock inside of you long, LONG after I return back to the UK. It is very late, have set the alarm for 05:15 so logging off now.
Didn’t oversleep but didn’t sleep particularly well either because I was a little bit anxious about oversleeping and missing the flight. Transport wise everything went smoothly and to plan but had one mishap along the way, just before I got to the first station I realised I had forgotten my spare unlocked mobile phone which I intended to use over there for local calls. I could just picture which room I had left it on charge on the spare socket the night before which was a lot more preferable than having dropped it somewhere but the burning question was should I go back and get it which might have added up to an hour onto my travel time still giving me enough time, but still, still taking a gamble if there was going to be any travel disruption ahead.
Should I stay or should I go now, If I go there will be trouble, an if I stay it will be double
No, up to a couple of minutes before the train was due to pull into the platform I decided to carry on, just forget it I told myself and move on, still I was very annoyed with myself.
Arrived at Gatwick on schedule exactly 2 hours after leaving home, had a couple of hours to kill before checking-in so first things first, treated myself a nice full English breakfast and relaxed for an hour, idly reading the newspaper just one of life’s little pleasures when not having to work. I also needed to get some local Ukraine currency but all the Bureau De Changes in the non- airside part of the Gatwick South Terminal seemed to have run out so my only hope of getting any was in the main departure area after checking-in.
One of the things that impressed me with Ukraine International airlines was that after I had booked the flight online, I was immediately allowed to choose and reserve my seat, again online, for both the outward and return journey with none of the usual messing about of having to first register and log in and create a password. After being automatically taken to the seat plan page by the system, and with just a couple of clicks I reserved an aisle seat for each way with the added bonus, I thought, of choosing a bit more leg room seat by the emergency exit on the outward journey. However, at the check in desk I was told that due to a different aircraft that day my seat number had changed but luckily to still an aisle seat. Despite me being quite large, not the end of the world as Kiev is not exactly long haul.
Once through to departures – and I must say this security business with all the lining up, having to put liquids in plastic bags, having to take your belt off and having to, or not having to take your shoes off, etc., etc., still doesn’t get any easier. Just scratch your nose and the metal detector will go off. On this trip I had only hand luggage with me so what with all my possessions including tablet, phone and charges, toiletries, electric shaver and contact lens fluid all fucking stressing me out (apparently even a small tube of toothpaste poses a security threat) – I managed to get their very last in stock 4,000 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) at the first Bureau De Change I saw at a very poor exchange rate of 29.60 to the £GBP, but at least it was a good mixture of notes rather than just high denominations like 1,000 or 500s.
Leavin on a Jet Plane
Boarding was on time and once at the gate there was no further waiting or hanging around, it was a case of walking straight onto the flight. Greeting me at the aircraft door of the Boeing 737 smiling in unison were two absolutely drop dead beautiful cabin crew blondes. Once inside I was ushered to my seat somewhere in the middle of the cabin by another young friendly attractive hostess who found space in the overhead compartment for my larger than usual hand baggage.
Flight time to Kiev was 3 and-a-half-hours and we departed right on time at 12:20pm, something I cannot remember ever doing at all the other London airports I have used in the past. 3 nights is not a long time to be away enjoying yourself so when everything goes to plan like this with no delays it is an added bonus. Available on board was a good selection of hot food, drinks and snacks which were not free, you had to pay for. At about the half way point somewhere over Poland I had a very nice fresh chicken and cheese roll and my first taste of Ukraine beer for only 4 Euros. Flicking through the inflight magazine I read with interest UIA – Ukraine International Airlines new direct service to Bangkok, a good new stop over option perhaps for a regular or even first time newbie wanting to break their journey somewhere interesting en route on that otherwise long, long-haul flight down to the land of smiles.
Boryspil International airport
After descending first through white, and then darker thick layers of cloud confirming that dull weather forecast to be correct, we landed on time at 5:50pm with 2 hours’ time difference added on. Looking out of the aircraft window at that point in the late afternoon light all I saw was treeless flat plains stretching all the way to the horizon, my first view of the Ukraine. Once the aircraft stopped, a direct walkway linked the plane to the airport terminal, again something I prefer over than having to queue and wait to be ferried by bus to and from the aircraft, a much slower system which is surprisingly still used in a lot of European airports. First impression of Boryspil International airport was large, modern and functional and I must have cleared passport control in well under 5 minutes, down either to good airport management or people being too shit scared to travel to the Ukraine 🙂
Walk The Line
After such a long day I was starting to feel the weight of carrying my hand luggage but at least I didn’t have to wait for my case to arrive on the baggage carrousel. I walked through the customs Green Channel again with no delay while preparing myself for the next task ahead, ie entering the airport public area with all the crowds and touts waiting to pounce with as yet no taxi transfer arranged to get me into town. I had read somewhere that the airport had a taxi desk (somewhere in arrivals) and to get an idea of prices, if you are lucky enough to find a proper official taxi with a meter on the road outside which is free and available, the fare into Kiev costs around 250 UAH. My plan however was to play it safe even if it meant paying the extra dollar or two by using the services of the airport taxi desk. What I wasn’t prepared to do was pay some thug in a leather jacket driving either an old banger or an S Class Mercedes $100 US.
The exit doors opened to reveal people standing around, holding signs in their hands with people’s names, here goes I thought taking a deep breath, then all my experience of travelling in situations like this all over the world kicked in; just keep walking as if you know where you are going, look confident and do not, repeat do not make any eye contact with anyone. Aware of people trying to get my attention and hearing ‘Taxi, you want a Taxi’ in my ear I walked straight past the taxi desk and had to stop and turn around a few times to locate the desk which I eventually spotted out of the corner of my eyes. Due to the amount of taxi touts standing around it was very hard to see the sign and having to squeeze past them first I gave the lady at the desk first the name of the hotel and then having to fumble into my bag to find the details, the address in Kiev which she conveyed to someone by telephone while a tout standing next to me leaned over and listened in, into our conversation in a menacing way which I pretended not to notice.
The cost of the taxi I understood her to say was 600 UAH to pay the driver direct, which was a little more than I wanted to pay but it was a price I accepted. Actually when I thought about it more on the journey in, even with that crappy exchange rate I got, the cost for the 20 or so mile journey into town for someone who was way out of his comfort zone like myself did not seem too unreasonable.
The taxi booking lady then walked me outside past the touts to the driver and car which was a large four by four something. As the car pulled away he driver who looked like an out of work boxer, and, was wearing a leather jacket, asked me very politely in broken English if I would like music from the radio. I was starting to relax again.
Because of the evening rush hour traffic in Kiev itself, the journey from the airport to my hotel in the centre took around 40 minutes. Very soon we joined a wide USA style four-lane duel carriage highway which at one point cut through a forest and then on the outskirts of Kiev we passed a district full of out of town shopping Centre’s, some lit up like fun fairs, and rows and rows of modern high rise buildings which looked not too dissimilar to those condominiums in Jomtein beach near Pattaya. The big road bridge we then went over crossing a very wide river where on the distant bank below I could make out stretches of what looked like a nice sandy beach – was I googled later – the Moskovskyi (Moscow) Bridge which is the main motorway artery into Kiev. Apparently during the summer months those beaches I saw below are very popular with the locals and always crowded.
To be continued….
By Monger Matt.