Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia – Day 24

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Monday, 20 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the low 80’s and humid with clouds & rain

While underway on the DBS Ferry, I met two Russians at the bar: Alexey, who sells used cars in a city about 100km from Vladivostok and was in Korea buying Hyundai’s, KIA’s and other cars speaking some English and Victor, who’s in his early 20’s with a masters degree in sociology and speaks good English – great having someone to translate. We talked about just about everything including American politics – unbelievable how much people from other parts of the globe know about the US.

It had been a long day for all of us and we each decided to turn in for the evening.

Finally met my roomate after calling it a night at about 10 pm…since the DBS Ferry only provides one key per room & I was batting second, I had to go to the information desk several times to get a crew member to let me in – no sign of him…no bags although he was checked in and had the key.

About an hour after I got settled in the room, I heard the door open and this Russian man who looked to be in his mid 50’s & neatly dressed in a polo shirt and jeans, stepped inside turning the light on. I immediately popped up to introduce myself & asked if he spoke English.

“Very little”, he said with a strong Russian accent and that pretty much ended things for the night although I did ask his name…”Alexander”, he said. Even with a bit of uneasiness sleeping only a couple of feet from someone I knew so little about, I did manage to sleep pretty well…keep in mind I was in 1st Class with 2nd & 3rd Class offering 8 in a room & 72 in a room respectively.

At about 6 am I heard him stir and leave the room…after about 15 minutes or so, I got up for another one of my sponge baths since the men’s shower room was on the second deck and at the other end of the ship…one night without a shower didn’t make much difference to me.

For breakfast, I went to the bar and ordered the “American-style” breakfast…one egg over easy, quartered bread not toasted, some kind of SPAM-type meat lightly fried and lettuce & tomatoes – not quite sure where you might find that kind of breakfast in the US – surely not Waffle House, but it worked being I was out in the East Sea several thousand miles from Nashville.

Headed to a seating area on third deck and saw Alexander with a couple of Korean-Russians and asked if I could join them. Ends up that Alexander has been a truck driver for his entire life making many trips across the Siberian route – he was a huge source of information even with the language barrier. He dis keep smiling and giving me a thumbs up when we talked about my trek across Russia on the bike…I wasn’t sure whether that was a good or bad sign.

The ferry arrived promptly in port at 2 pm local time…I’m now 16 hours ahead of the central time zone by the way. I couldn’t help but think about one of my good friends from home, Chuck, when it came time to disembark the ferry…a mere 3 hours of aggravation to say the least. Given the language barrier and ship security only allowing people off in groups of about 25, it was shear agony. I couldn’t help but to question what I’d gotten myself into with this trip – I absolutely must have been smoking some Dutch Cleanser I thought to myself!

While standing in line, I gave Yuri Melnikov with Links, Ltd a call asking about my next steps on clearing the bike through customs over the next few days…he said he’d have his assistant meet me at the DBS Ferry office once I cleared customs.  Yuri Melnikov can be reached at Links, Ltd at +7-423-222-0887, +7-902-524-3447(mobile) or ymelnik@links-ltd.com

After finding the office and peeking my head inside, a young woman said, “You must be Brad Thompson”, in very good English – and she told me her name was Svetlana. She started by asking a couple of questions and first recommended that I cancel my hotel reservation for one much closer to the docks making it easier to collect the bike especially since she needed to pick me up to visit the customs office on Wednesday afternoon allowing me to complete the necessary documents & payments so I can get the bike on Thursday morning. She also arranged the hotel booking with the Azimut Hotel and drove me and my gear there to check in….are you kidding me, this all would be virtually impossible with their assistance!

Once checking into the hotel, I just sat in the crazy, busy lobby to just unwind…what a day it had been.

Ended up having dinner at the hotel…a buffet-style affair that wasn’t very impressive, but hey, I was hongry and didn’t have to leave the hotel.

Details on my deluxe, economy accommodations tomorrow…yeah, deluxe alright!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia – Day 23

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Sunday, 19 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the low 90’s and hot & humid with partly cloudy skies

Boarded the DBS Ferry, Eastern Dream bound for Vladivostok, Russia departing Dong Hae at 2 pm local time. The boarding process went very well and even had a crew member help carry my gear to my room. The room is a small two-bed cabin that I will be sharing with a Russian although I haven’t met him as of yet – just saw his name on his boarding pass left in the room.

The ferry has all the amenities including a restaurant, bar & night club…just a miniature version of the larger cruise ships most of us are accustomed to.

Was sitting at the bar having Jack Daniels on the Rocks with a tear in my eye to remind me of what it would be like to be home…starting to miss it quite a bit frankly, when a crew member came up to me saying I was needed down on the dock. Guess I was confused by Louis Kang’s instructions to meet him prior to boarding.

Anyhow, I’m not too difficult to spot with gray hair and a go-tee in this part of the world and when I got down on the dock, Louis was there to greet me – he needed me to ride the bike onboard and leave the key. At least now, I am absolutely sure it made it onboard.

Will most likely be out of picket for the 24 hours or so while at sea…I’m outta here!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Dong Hae, South Korea – Day 22

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Saturday, 18 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temperature in the mid 80’s and hot & humid with partly cloudy skies

Last full day in Dong Hae before boarding the ferry to Vladivostok tomorrow which departs at 2 pm local time.  Decided to spend most of the day touring around the city an shopping for some chain lube for the bike…ended up getting 4 small cans of WD-40 as my only option at the local equivalent to a small Wal-Mart called E Mart.  Did check on the net which indicated motorcycle chain lube as one of its uses…it will just have to do for now.

In the E Mart instead of a moving stairway as an escalator, they have an elevated moving sidewalk both up and down between floors…actually is quite convenient for a cart, stroller and the like.

The city has numerous street vendors with most being older women selling fruits & vegetables.  The area is highly westernized with many carrying smart phones, folks  neatly dressed, young people hanging out at fast food spots and families & small kids out & about enjoying the sights of the city.

I read a couple of reviews on the net about Soma Restaurant but it was closed, so I ended grabbing dinner across the street at a small spot called His Cook where I had the Mare Picantee – spicy pasta with squid, octopus, clams & vegetables…quite taste & topped things off with a Cafri beer.

Although it was a warm, humid evening there were people everywhere in the streets of Donghae on a Saturday night and I could not help but to try out some of the street vendor foods…in Korea street food vendors offer a traditional selection of foods that are often better than what you’ll find in a restaurant.

I tried the Fish Cakes on a stick that are cooked in a rice liquid…dip one in soy sauce and you have something yummy! All the street vendors serve Ddeokbokki which are cylindrical rice cakes in a red, chili sauce…quite spicy, but very tasty especially with the CASS beer I had stashed in my backpack!

The sad thing is I’m just starting to get into the Donghae, cultural experience after only a few days in the city; probably so much I’m missing – the city in the evening was becoming my favorite time.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Dong Hae, South Korea – Day 21

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Friday, 17 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hours riding

Weather Temps in the mid 80’s with humid & cloudy conditions. Some light rain

Caught a taxi over to the DBS Ferry yard to uncrate & assemble the bike so it would be ready for the road once clearing customs in Vladivostok…also, it was my first opportunity to see the bike since shipping out of Anchorage last weekend.

When I arrived at the main gate at 10 am, the security police were not allowing me to proceed; however, I pulled my phone out with the contact name & phone number for the person responsible for freight provided by Wendy Choi in Seoul. Without a doubt, if I had not had the information, I would still be standing on the outside. Security talked with Louis Kang and he came over to the security office and cleared things up.  Wendy Choi may be reached at AERO INTERNATIONAL, LTD at +82(0) 17-213-3961 or wendychoi2@gmail.com

I was uncomfortable when the police requested my passport and kept it while I worked on the bike – Louis assured me it would be fine, although it’s one of the rules of travel – never give up your passport!

Louis and I headed our way over to the ferry offices where he told me there would be a fee associated with my trash & crate disposal…here we go! He left me alone for about 10 minutes and returned to take me to the bike…felt as if I was getting ready to haggle with a car salesman. We hopped into a van and drove to where the bike was sitting on the docks outside…it was covered with a tarp, a couple of pallets & some lumber – it obviously had been rained on quite a bit. For some crazy reason I visualized an enclosed structure – like maybe a warehouse.

Louis asked me how long it would take me and I said about 2 hours – he also said he was unable to provide any assistance or equipment to lift the bike to install the front wheel.

Oh well…nothing new to me – have quite a few hours working on bikes and other vehicles in back yards, parking lots…you name it.

Since there were two plastic pallets there, I decided to just unbolt the bike and roll it on its side & cushion with some used shrink wrap. By this time the hot humid weather was taking over and it started to rain – going back to my old search & rescue days, there were a couple of large parts bags that I cut out a hole for my head and arms…of course I did! I guess one of the guys felt a bit sorry for me and handed me a rain coat…just can’t make it up. To make things worse I did cut the palm of my left hand with my Kershaw combat folding knife – bled all over everything until I could finally got it stopped…the knife is razor sharp!

Got the bike back on the kick stand and added the handle bars, cables, windshield and the like…fired it up and took a quick spin – felt terrific to once again be back on the bike.

Louis drove out to where I was working to take me back to the offices to pay my freight & cabin charges for the Sunday cruise…also, $48 US covered my disposal fees – not a bad price since I was given the opportunity to work on the bike.

Can’t tell you how terrific it feels to know the bike is back together& ready to complete this around the world journey…when I see it again after clearing customs in Vladivostok, I can close the book on leg two of the ride!

In the end, Louis treated me very well accompanying me everywhere and calling a taxi to take me back downtown…his English was very good and he engaged in many different conversations…very few things I has to ask – he simply just offered up information.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Dong Hae, South Korea – Day 20

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Thursday, 16 August 2012 Dong Hae, South Korea (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hour

Weather Temps in the upper 80’s with clouds and rain

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog, I had a very interesting evening at dinner after stoping at a local restaurant in downtown Dong Hae. As I walked in to the rather large open room, there were about dozen people eating and enjoying their company with all sitting on the floor…nothing I haven’t seen in other Asian restaurants…as customary, I removed my shoes and said, “one for dinner”.

That’s when they responded, “2 people only” or something close to that…I answered that I was alone and just wanted something to eat in my best English of course. We were at a bit of an impasse when a man got up and explained I was alone and to serve me. The host rather reluctantly seated me and brought water and utensils along with lighting a propane burner. Felt like Bob Seger’s song “Turn the Page” with every eye upon you.

Another few moments passed and the server brought a large pan of fresh bacon or pork bellies that he began to cook at my table…wasn’t sure what, how or when to eat – just sipped my water and watched everyone around the room.

Soon, the server added cabbage and other vegetables to the mixture…the whole process reminded me of cooking out while camping. The dish was delicious and quite spicy and I asked for a beer in my best Korean (had my translator and had seen CASS beer in several spots around town) so I was good to go.

A couple if young women were seated next to me and I notice one was speaking very good English…I couldn’t help but to introduce myself and tell them about my trip. They seemed a bit impressed by my bus ride from Incheon given I knew no Korean. Both were sisters with one from Vancouver, Canada and going to the University of Washington and the other a school teacher in Dong Hae…wished I had gotten their names.

Dinner was about $14 USD with the beer at $3 and the girls told me my dinner was Shioyaki – a Japanese dish…Culturally enriched I am!

During my walk yesterday to the DBS Ferry port I also passed a small beach called Mangsang where a couple of people were surfing and enjoying the holiday…you can see the cargo ships in the distance waiting their turn to unload – probably backed up a bit due to the holiday.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Dong Hae, South Korea – Day 19

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Wednesday, 15 August 2012   Dong Hae, South Korea (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hour riding time.

Weather  Temps in the med 80’s with mostly cloudy skies and humid

First night in Dong Hae and got the best night of sleep since leaving home a couple of weeks ago.  Up about 5:30am and started my laundry in the sink…starting to get pretty good with this handwashing thing….I am getting accustomed all the basic things we often take for granted – sponge baths, hand laundering, limited electronic communications.  I have to beleive there are a many of you out there that have never gone a week, let alone a day, having to do these things – it just takes me back to those days in Alaska when times were tough!

After looking on the net, I located the DBS Ferry site and found out that their offices were south of the city a couple of miles at the Dong Hae port.  I decided to set out in that direction to find the spot…it was quite hot & humid and I got a bit warm, but a great walk along the shore.  Now that I’ve found the ferry port, it will make things easier when I head back that way again to uncrate and reassemble the bike.

Today is a national holiday in Korea similar to our 4th of July, so there was little traffic on the streets and many of the stores were closed.  Many of the people here were flying their Korean flags from apartment building windows, homes & and businesses.

My room at the Hotel Lisa is comfortable and clean; however it took me some time to figure out the TV, air conditoner and lighting – everything is operated from a remote control and being its in Korean characters it took a few attempts…have one english speaking channel which plays movies and TV shows like CSI – Miami & House.  Never watch these show at home, but, hey, I just leave it on for background noise and my only connection with the US at the moment.

As part of my expanding global, cultural immersion program, I found a small local restaurant near the hotel for dinner and I, of course, just jumped right in…it was an experience to say the very least and I will give you all the details in my next blog update with pictures.

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!

Incheon to Dong Hae, South Korea – Day 18

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Tuesday, 14 August 2012  Incheon to Dong Hae, South Korea (0 miles) Total Trip Miles – 4723. 0 hour riding time. Total bus time – 6 hours. Miles – 225 miles

Weather  Temps in the lower 80’s with mostly sunny skies

Woke this morning at 3:30 am local time with a plan of taking a taxi over to the airport without my gear to check on options getting to Dong Hae on the eastern coast of Korea.  Melissa Smith provided me with a couple of suggestions with one being a rental car with a driver; however, after talking with the hostess at the hotel, she mentioned I could get to Gangreung by an express bus putting me about 50k north of Dong Hae.  With that option in mind, I decided to just go ahead and load up the circus wagon leaving the hotel  by taxi at 6:45.

After arriving at the airport, the driver wanted $10 and I offered him $7 which is all I had in smaller bills…he of course pushed back and when I gave him a $20 all he had in change was $5000 won which exchanges to about $5…it was a $15 taxi ride, but well worth it given the amount of gear I carrying.  The language barrier is a constant issue from the hotel hostess, taxi drivers, bus ticket clerk…you name it!  After standing in line for my bus ticket to Gangreung, it was now my turn to make a best effort requesting my Gangreung and it was, of course, not going well until a young lady behind me stepped forwarded and cleared the air…I have found that all the Korean’s have been quite helpful to me during my short time in country.  The cost of the 4.5 hour trip was $26,800 won or about $25…can’t beat that especially since the bus is similar to tour buses you see in the US with large baggage departments below.

Passing through the countryside you see many rice farms, green houses and lush green forests with many mountains even with ski areas towards the east coast…similar to what you’d find in East Tennesse & Western North Carolina.  I was feeling a bit cocky by this time given I was well on my way ot Dong Hae…the cockiness was short-lived shortly ofter I rolled into Gangreung.  The scene was chaotic at the bus terminal with buses transitioning every few minutes and given I’m a bit weak reading Korean characters – believe I actually failed that class, things got interesting.

Being a large facility and carrying five, heavy bags, I just wasn’t quite mobile enough to scout the place out adequately…so I decided to lock my 4 largest bags together at the entrance to the termnal and set out to find out my next move.  As luck would have it, I saw and information booth and stepped inside only to discover both ladies understood little english; however, they made a phone call and after several discussions with a gentlemen on the other end of the line that spoke good english, it was best that I take another bus to Dong Hae.  Again, back on stage at the ticket counter with no one speaking english, and once again, a nice lady stepped forward to assist…the ticket for the hour ride was only $3400 won or about $3.25 USD…what a day of value!

The cockiness was starting to come back when I suddenly realized I had to move all the gear in multiple trips from a second floor platform to the lower level & with no carts in sight…one of the challenges of traveling solo.

Loaded and on to Dong Hae, I still had a nagging suspicion I might be on the wrong bus, but when we rolled into Dong Hae it was clearly marked on the terminal building…but wait, you guessed it – I sitll had to find a cab to make the trip to Hotel Lisa and as I’d faced a few times before, the cabs were lined up about 50 yards from where I unloaded…an do keep in mind, you are responsible for loading and unloading your own baggage on and off the bus.

I’m worn out again just reliving the moments as I type away on the this blog!!

After checking in to Hotel Lisa, I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day and set out to find some reminder of home – and there beckoning me were those 3 letters – KFC…a chicken sandwich and orange Fanta and I was back!!

If you would like to make a donation to give all kids diagnosed with cancer a better chance at living the full life they deserve, please visit Rally Foundation & Rally Around the World or Text “RALLY” to 85944 to give $10 to WIN the fight against childhood cancer. Send this message to 10 of your friends…Be a RALLY 10 to WIN!