South Korea

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    • Day1

      The Eastern Dream / Korea

      June 29, 2017 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

      Well it was time for me to go ‘From Russia with love’. The next part of my trip involved taking the once per week ferry from Vladivostock to Japan via South Korea - a journey that takes two days. The check-in at the Marine Terminal was chaotic - lots of Asian folk pushing and shoving to get on the boat first. A large group of Japanese were determined to get ahead, and their leader - I shall call her Hello Kitty - literally pushed folk out the way as she dragged great amounts of luggage into impossible spaces at the start of the queue. I tried to stand my ground but she pulled folk in front and frantically phoned others at the back of the queue to come up and join her.

      It was a lengthy process going through security and passport control. Of course I ended up with Irritable Irena from Immigration - non-smiling, she went through my passport over and over and kept saying ‘you are not here, you are not here’ looking for some kind of stamp. At one point I thought we were going to get the whole panto routine - ‘well if I'm not in Moscow, and I'm not in Ykaterinburg, I must be somewhere else - and if I am somewhere else, I can't be here.’ Next thing I knew two solidly built officials came over (both female), one with a sniffer dog who took some interest in my bag. ‘Sorry, Fido, but the strongest drugs I have in there are paracetomol.’ There was a lot of chat and I thought I heard the word ‘Gulag’ being mentioned, but maybe my imagination was just working overtime. Anyway, apparently Irena had been looking at the Belarus visa and not the Russian one and I was eventually waved through - without a smile. The only consolation was that I had held up the queue for 20 minutes, and Hello Kitty was right behind me - I tell you she was not a happy pussy!

      Eventually I got on board the DRS Cruise Ferry, Eastern Dream. All I can say is that it has seen better days. (Ken, I really don't think it is quite Celebrity Class!). Again I was booked 2nd class, which actually turned out to be a large room with 8 bunks with curtains, reading light and wash basin. When I saw the Economy class accommodation - dozens of Japanese and Koreans camped out on futons on the floor and enjoying picnics and card games, I was quite glad. Although the majority of the passengers were Asian, I noticed an American couple being shown to the Royal Suite. I had a peek in, and I could tell by their faces they were a little disappointed - no sign of canapés on the balcony! . Before we had left dock there was a big barney- two groups of middle aged Asian men and women screaming and pushing each other at the top of the main staircase - a true stairheed rammy! I was going to start clapping and shouting ‘fight, fight’, but I resisted.

      Finally we set sail. There were lots of announcements in Japanese and Russian but I couldn't make out a word until I realised it was the safety briefing on deck, but no one else seemed to be paying attention anyway. The only thing I could understand was Rod Stewart singing ‘I am Sailing’ as we pulled out of Golden Horn Bay and into the Sea of Japan.

      I tried to solicit some information in English at the Purser’s Desk. A drunk Japenese guy overheard me and said ‘Ah, England, England’. He was very animated and might have been on more than the vodka. I called him Super Mario. ‘Well, Scotland actually’ I said. ‘England’ he persisted ‘Manchester United, Liverpool’. I replied meekly ‘Queen of the South?’ and he looked bemused and returned to the bar.

      I had booked dinner in the restaurant and looked forward to a candle lit affair with a glass of wine and friendly banter with the Maitre D’. Sadly you were given a half hour slot to eat as much as you could from the buffet - a sort of Supermarket Sweep type of idea. I found I could not work out what most of the food was, and did not like the taste of anything, so I ended up with some boiled rice, sweet corn and tomato.

      The entertainment on board included a disco, a sauna and a karaoke (which was very popular). I sat on deck for a while watching the sun go down, as the ship sped towards Korea for our calling point at Donghae.

      The crossing was smooth and the next morning the sea was calm as we sailed into Korea. For some reason we all had to vacate our rooms, even if we were travelling on to Japan, and move to a different berth - very confusing, and again no English explanation - the joys of travel!

      Super Mario appeared looking the worse for wear and greeted me with a shout of ‘Chelsea!’ to which I replied ‘Patrick Thistle’ which seemed to shut him up.

      We docked in the South Korean port of Donghae at 11.30. There was the usual scramble to get off, with Helllo Kitty barking orders to her group. Those traveling on to Japan could get off the ship for about 4 hours so I took the chance to see a bit of Korea. To be honest, there wasn't much to see. By the time we got off the ship and cleared passport control (Republic of Korea stamp in my passport - yipee!) we only had about 3.5 hours. When I asked the lady at the desk what there was to see in Donghae she said ‘the caves, the caves’. So off I went to the local underground caves and, while it was interesting, when you've seen 20 stalactites …

      Donghae was a bit of a ghost town, but I thankfully found a brand new McDonalds with an interesting menu and wifi. Well, time to head back before I miss the boat for my next destination - Japan!
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      Sounds a wonderful adventure. Enjoyed reading your blogs Uncle R 👍🏻😊

      Liz Daniels

      Fantastic update, would love to have seen this in action, keep writing. Your commentary has become part of my holiday reading library. Xx

      Jan Higgins

      Very fetching Robert x

      2 more comments
    • Day103

      Donghae - Cheongok Cave

      March 17, 2018 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

      It is a big stalactite cave located in downtown Donghae. It was fun climbing through seeing all the stalactites and stalagmites.

      Die große Tropfsteinhöhle liegt mitten in Donghae. Es hat Spaß gemacht durch die Höhle zu klettern und die ganzen Stalaktiten und Stalakniten zu sehen.Read more

    • Day13

      Donghae port

      April 5, 2018 in South Korea ⋅ 🌫 5 °C

      Docked at 11.30, and we decided to disembark and have a look around rather than staying on the boat until it left again at 6.

      There is a strict order for disembarkation, but the announcements are drowned out by music in the main areas and aircon in the cabins. So rather than joining the scrum we took a viewing point on the top stair and attempted it work it out from the surges and shouts below. It felt like those bits of the olympics where you find yourself watching a demonstration sport you've never heard of, and have to extrapolate the aim and rules from the cheers and boos of the crowd.

      Establishing teams was simple. Team A, in orange shirt and blue jacket - staff; Team B no uniform - passengers.

      Aim of team B
      Get off the boat. This is played individually, rather than as a team.

      Aim of team A
      I Initially made the assumption that this was also to get team B off the boat, but that was an error. It was primarily to get supplies *onto* the boat, with the secondary aim of preventing team B leaving in anything other than very small batches.

      Both teams have to play through the gangplank, which has a maximum load of 10 people at a time, and can operate in only 1 direction at once. Priority seemed to be Koreans getting onto the boat; Koreans getting off the boat; Russian workers getting off the boat; other tourists and transit passengers.

      Tactics and progress of play
      If you are familiar with roller derby, it may help to take as your starting point a 3-level version of that, played on foot, and with the 2 teams moving in opposite directions.

      Team A makes the first move by roping off a section at disembarkation level and stationing 4 to 5 'blockers' between that and top of the gangplank.

      Team B counters by forming a large scrum behind the rope and leaning until it gives way (they initially did this before the initial start of play, and carefully refastened it). The blockers run around shouting and herding everyone back behind the rope.

      This contains Team B, but poor inital placement of the corral means the Team B scrum also prevents the Team A 'runners' reaching the upper levels with their resupply boxes.

      Team A places a chair at the end of the stair rail, to allow their runners to climb over. Team B counters with subscrums on each side of the second set of stairs. Team A dispatches the 'long blockers', to the staircase. Whereas blockers are male, long blockers are female; they neither run nor shout, but are equipped with laminated signs. Team B is not permitted to push or challenge the long blockers.

      With all players now on the pitch, the remaining play consists primarily of loops of the scrum - re-corral manoeuvre alternating with runners breaking for the top level, until all of Team B has escaped. The subscrums are released to floor level once the main scrum diminishes and is unable to block the bottom stairs.

      Additional hazard.
      A rap remix of Adiumus, and a too-fast bebop version of Night and Day, on a brain-melting loop.

      Altogether this took 2 hours, so allowing 2 hours for getting back on board later there was not much time left to walk into Dongae proper. We attempted it, but it's a larger place than it looks on the map. And the only cafe we located didn't do food. Instead we stocked up at a local 7-11 equivalent and headed back, donating our map along the way to 2 lost Russians attempting to find the bus station.

      Despite all that, I quite liked what little I saw of South Korea. Cloud pruned trees lining the streets, cheery patterns on the pavements, lots of cycle paths and pedestrian crossings, and every inch of growing space in gardens used for neat rows of garlic, onions, cabbages and beans.

      And as it turned out, getring back onto the boats was very quick and easy. No queue at the check in desk, and when I peered round the corner of the security an immigration area to see whether it was open I was waved straight in. I'm not quite sure why there were hordes of people waiting and not going through - perhaps there were open for transit passengers but not those joining the boat for the first time.

      The crowd for this leg is very different from yesterday's. That was clearly workers, a fairly even mix of Russian and Korean but almost exclusively men - with just a handful of holidaying Russian friends or families. This is all Korean tourists, mainly in big organised groups. Should have tried the on board onsen yesterday, it will probably be packed tonight.
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      sounds a great game to watch, not so sure about the taking part... You are certainly seeing some interesting places!


      We watched from the safety of the top stairs.

    • Day14

      Gangneung to Donghae

      October 7, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

      I left the hostel in Gangneung with no real idea about how far I would get. I decided to just ride and enjoy the seaside towns that I passed. I took the cycleway to the sea where I watched the sun turn the water to gold. A random cyclist on a really cool MTB stopped to say hello and took a photo of us together. It made me smile and was a good start to the day.

      The rice harvest looks like it is backbreaking work. While it looks like machinery is used to cut the rice, women and men still bundle it up and carry it off the fields by hand. I am impressed by the farmers’ work ethic and strength.

      Once on the coast road I wound my way ever southwards. Navigation was a challenge because I didn’t really want to follow the highway but I also didn’t want to spend all day checking my location on Google maps or Naver. So at first I just followed the signs to the Unification Park where I got to explore a captured North Korean submarine and a massive South Korean warship. A group of young sailors were also touring the warship; one in particular was friendly and keen to practice his English. Nineteen out of the twenty-seven rooms on the ship were open to the public, making the ship a worthwhile stop on the road south.

      I stopped on the side of the road to watch as waves crashed all around. There were warning signs about the potential for waves to break over the road and I imagine at times it could get quite dangerous here if the seas were high.

      Every cove seemed to have it’s own fishing harbour. Small boats proudly flew Korean flags and the salty air was filled with the sight and smell of fresh fish being dried.

      It was mid-afternoon when I reached Donghae and saw the signs to the caves near the centre of the city. I didn’t expect much so was surprised when I was handed a helmet and instructed in it’s proper adjustment. It turns out that you actually do need a helmet in these caves. Unlike so many I’ve visited in the past, there are places where you actually have to get down and almost crawl under low ceilings and dodge your way past real stalamites (or are they stalagtites?).

      I didn’t make it much further after leaving the caves. I rode for about 10km but was still in the city itself so stopped next to a cycleway in a riverside park where I waited until after sunset to pitch my tent.

      Despite the heavy industry humming away across the river, the sunset was superb and I found myself able to relax.
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    • Day9

      Samcheok Beach

      September 12, 2022 in South Korea ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

      Endhaltestelle des Sea Train. Ganz netter Strandabschnitt. Wir mussten dann aber weiter zum südlich gelegen Busbahnhof.
      Südwestlich (unter den Schienen durch) ist bei Google Maps eine Bushaltestelle eingezeichnet (bei leider nicht), von der man bequem mit der 10 nach Samseok hineinkommt. Vorsicht die 20er Linien führen nach Daegu in den Norden.
      Wir waren am Feiertag da und es kam ewig kein Bus, also nahmen wir ein Taxi (~5€).
      Read more

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