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02 July 2008

The Du Randts have left the building or is that left the country?!?!?!

It’s been a very busy last few days in Sydney.  Combinations of work leaving drinks, farewell parties as well as trying to pack up everything ensured that we had some late nights and busy the whole time.

We finally managed to leave our place on Monday around 5pm to go to our friends Ryan and Rachel in Gosford to stay for the night and to take a few things to them to store as well.  It was a welcome relief to get in the car and finally leave, but definitely also mixed feelings to leave our home of the last 18 months.  Then again, one door closing means another door needs to open somewhere…

We spent the Monday night with our good friends and their two kids and also part of the following day.  Ryan very kindly got our flights for us and also our travel insurance (fyi – he is a travel agent and definitely knows what he’s doing).  Thank goodness we had a friend doing our flights as well, because he just happened to ask us if we have proof of onward travel for South Korea.  We’ve got proof of a lot of things, but not for onward travel because we don’t know what date we will be leaving on the ferry.  Ryan thought it might be a good idea to speak to the airline just to make sure if we will have any problems.  (We are flying Malaysian Air)   Low and behold, the airline said that they would probably not allow us on the flight because we will be entering on a one-way ticket.  Ryan suggested booking a refundable ticket out of South Korea, which we did, and then cancel it once we get into Seoul.  First stage of the plan seems to have worked.  We boarded our flight successfully and we are now sitting in Kuala Lumpur airport, waiting for our connection to Seoul.  I think it is another 2-hour wait, and then another 7-hour flight…happy days (maybe not…who said flying is fun??)!!!!

Big thanks also to Jason, who said we could stay with him the night before we left, and also to Brett who let us borrow his van to take the last few things to Gosford.  A very good move by everyone, because it was definitely a lot easier to get to the airport from Sydney instead of Gosford.  Good thinking Jason, and thanks for dropping us at the airport!!!

08 July 2008

Did you know – It is very easy to spot “honeymooners” here, because they seem to wear the same outfit.  Same tops, same pants and even the same shoes sometimes.  When couples are dating, the guy normally carries the girl’s handbag…strange but true!!  We also found out that it is illegal to have tattoos done in Korea because it is a sign of gangsters.

On our way to Busan…

Mandy was just saying to me that it is the first time that we are actually on our own now.  Nina very kindly took us to Seoul station this morning for us to catch the KTX train to Busan.  We spoke to our shipping agent yesterday, and if all goes well, we will be able to pick Pumbaa up this afternoon.  Fingers crossed everyone!!!

It was sad leaving Nina, little Lily-Rose and Zach this morning (just a real shame we couldn’t meet Paul).  You all made us feel so welcome.  Thank you so much Nina for letting us stay with you while we were in Seoul and opening your house to us.  We really appreciate it!!!!

We arrived in Seoul safely, and had no problem coming in on our one-way ticket.  Nina came to pick us up at the airport, which was so nice of her.  It really is nice to know someone in a foreign place.  After a bit of r&r at her place, we went out to do a bit of sightseeing.  The people here are so friendly and everything is so clean.  We didn’t even see any graffiti on the trains, which is normally one of the first places the so-called artists like to express themselves.

We’ve been kind of lucky with the weather.  It’s not raining, which is good, but it’s been very humid and hazy everyday (about 28 degrees).  It is suppose to be the start of the monsoon season.  It made our stay a little bit less pleasant, but not bad at all.

We went to some really nice places and palaces in Seoul, like the Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace and to Seoul Tower for some nice views of the city (albeit a bit hazy and overcast).  Talking about Seoul Tower, the fencing around the viewing platforms is full of hundreds and hundreds of padlocks, big and small, some of which have photos of couples on (must be representing their love for each other..?? – have a look in the photo album)

We also managed to find a place to watch our first Tri-Nations game against NZ.  We thought we would be the only people watching it, but the place was packed when we got there, and it was still 1 hour till kick-off.  By the time the game started, you could hardly move in the place.  It was a frustrating game, not so much because we played absolutely crap and that the Ozzie ref may have been a bit biased in the beginning, but more because we thought we could be back in SA.  As Habana was pinning his ears back going for the try-line, the power went out!!!  Yes that’s right, we also thought that surely it can’t be Eskom’s idiots running the Korean power companies.  This happened a few times, and we later found out someone spilt some beer in one of the fridges and this was causing the blackouts.

The food here is really good as well, but boy do they like garlic!!!!!  A few times while traveling on the train, we felt the need to change carriages because it was getting too much.  We think it is from all the kimchi they eat.  Kimchi is a like a spicy pickled cabbage dish you get with all your meals.  It is really nice though…I think we’ll be stocking up on some 2-minute noodles before we leave Korea

That’s it for now.  If all goes to plan, we should have our car the next time we speak.  Oh yes, before I forget, we are hoping to get the ferry to Russia on Sunday 13 July, but not sure if this will be possible yet.  We still need to contact the ferry company.

11 July 2008

Did you know – You will find fencing with barbed wire along all the beaches in Sokcho.  These are apparently there to keep the spies out.  The local delicacy here in Sokcho is Ojing-eo Sundae (Squid Sausage).  The squid are removed of the intestines.  Then the filling, which is a mixture of tofu, garlic, onion and other vegetables, is stuffed into the squid.  The blend of raw squid and mixed vegetables creates a savory taste that you can only find in Sokcho.

It’s almost 10pm, and it is our second day in Sokcho.  We’ve managed to find a campground with basic facilities (toilets, cold showers and ‘kind of’ a kitchen area) at KRW 5000 per night.  Not too bad.  A very friendly Korean guy just came along and gave us 2 mosquito coils, obviously under the impression that the mosquitoes are biting us.  I must say, the theme so far has been friendliness and curiosity.  A few guys came around this evening to see our set-up, talking away in Korean and all we need to do is nod every now and again and everyone is happy.

We arrived here late yesterday after about 500km of driving from Busan.  We managed to pick our car up from Busan on 8 July (we were running a bit late, and forgot to take a camera to the port…bloody idiots…).  We were lucky to find a taxi driver who could speak a little bit of English and we got the message across to him that we need to go to our accommodation and then somewhere else after that, but quickly!!!  This was at 12:50, and we were supposed to meet with the shipping agent at 1pm.  We got there at about 13:15, which was really good.   After about 5 min in the agent’s office, sorting out the invoice, we were out of there and on our way to the customs office and clearing areas at the port.  The process was really straightforward and very easy.  They just needed copies of the car registration, international license and my passport and that was it really.  We waited for about 30-40 min for them to prepare the temporary import documents and to get insurance.  The original price quoted for the custom clearance was KRW 300,000 and insurance was KRW 150,000.  We managed to get away with paying KRW 100k for the clearance and KRW 83k for insurance.  Apparently the insurance is based on the engine size and they charged us for a 2000cc engine instead of 4200cc.  So not to bad for just mentioning that the insurance is really expensive and they reduced it.  I wonder what it would’ve been if I really started to haggle with them…There was a very brief inspection by the customs officer.  He looked in the front of the car and I opened one drawer half way.  He asked if we had any guns or knives, and that was it.  No real dramas, yet!!!

We are booked on the ferry to go to Russia on Sunday 13 July.  We had to get our paperwork to the customs/ferry office by today so that they can process some of the paperwork for the Russian side, and I think also some of it here.  I think some of the offices are probably closed on the weekend.  It’s been really easygoing so far; no one has stopped us and we haven’t had any problems.  We are however starting to feel a bit nervous about the Russian experience and Russian bureaucracy and red tape.  It really dawned on us when we were at the ferry office and you see the signs are in both Korean and Russian.  Even though we’ve been learning Russian for almost a year, we still have so much more to learn, looking at the different brochures and signs.  It would’ve been great to have our Russian teacher, Marina, with us…(we’ll try and make you proud Marina)

Chris & Ann, I saw you mentioned something on our site re the gas.  We decided to ship some filled gas bottles with us – we did not declare or mention this to our agent.  We had it in the car, and packed it ‘out of the way’, under a few blankets.  In the end, we decided on 4 x 2kg bottles.

That’s most of the news for now.  Hope to catch up soon.

15 July 2008

Just a quick note for today to bring you all up to date.  We left Korea a few days ago and got to Zarubino, Russia, yesterday.  We are now in Vladivostok, staying in a very flash hotel, so that our visa can get registered here (!!!!) with free wireless.  We will probably leave here tomorrow, and will write some more soon.