More than 2,000 DAYS of unbroken travel / South Korea, country no 177 without flying
Day 2,003 since October 10th 2013: 177 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
South Korea turned out to be massively impressive
As I dive deeper down the rabbit hole I continue to wonder. I wonder if all this work is worth it in the end? I wonder if reaching every country without flying is significant? I wonder if I’ll be able to stay on plan across the pacific? I wonder if anyone knows how much work this has been? And I wonder…whether I’m a good man who sometimes missteps…or a bad man trying hard to be good? I have not been home for a very long time. South Korea is lovely though. And my special guest arrived.
April 2nd 2019 marked 2,000 days since the Saga began. That is a very looooong time to be on the move. Saturday March 30th 2019 I headed to Incheon airport. My youngest sister had flown in from Copenhagen in Denmark via Beijing in China. I picked her up at arrival gate E in what looked to be a very impressive airport. Her name is Tove. We had not seen each other since July 2017 so it was great to be able to give her a big hug. Then we left the airport and made our way back to Seoul where I had just come from. I reached Seoul two nights before and opted to couchsurf which was a good way to get a handle on what type of city Seoul is. If you are not familiar with couchsurfing then it is an online platform where a host offers free accommodation but it is really meant to be a cultural exchange. My couchsurfing host was Maru from Lithuania in Europe. However he speaks Korean fluidly and has been living in Seoul for the past twelve years. He was a really great guy who took his time to show me around and could answer anything I wanted to know.
Reaching Incheon (South Korea) by ferry from China.
Maru my Couchsurfing host!! Amazing guy! :)
Meeting Maru was in a way optimal for getting some perspective on Seoul and South Korea. Maru has been long enough in the country to be considered local and familiar with the culture and customs. Meanwhile he also holds an outsiders perspective and therefore he could relate to my questions and give me meaningful answers. We spent a fair amount of time walking and taking pictures. Seoul is a very impressive city! It is home to ten million people and yet you hardly feel the presence of that many people as the city operates very smoothly. It is not a noisy city. The cars rarely honk their horns and traffic is not dense. The city is very clean in spite of a noticeable lack of garbage bins. It perplexes me how a city can be so clean without having garbage bins everywhere? Lately a lot of people have been telling me that it will also be like that in Japan and that the philosophy is that if you generate waste then you can also carry it away. I once read that Disneyland worked out that on average people will drop waste from their hands after some 20 m (65 ft) of walking. So therefore Disneyland has waste bins every 18 m (59 ft). That may or may not be true but it sounds like it could be? I’m a proud Dane and I will walk to the far side of the moon with a piece of plastic in my hand without dropping it. I have had to walk really far at times within Seoul.
My special guest!! :)
My sister figured that she was not going to “suffer” through my budgets accommodation and booked us a hotel room. Then with her charming smile she said: “it’s your birthday and Christmas gifts from the past six years”. That works for me! My sister and I made sure to see some of Seoul before it got dark. It was ridiculously cold and windy though. We even managed five minutes of snow and we are talking early spring. The Koreans joke that if you don’t like the weather then just wait five minutes. I heard the same joke in Iceland where they proudly proclaim that they can have four seasons in a day. Food is great in South Korea and safe as well. It’s a bit pricy though as South Korea is a very well developed country. In fact they rank as number 11 worldwide when it comes to nominal GDP. Denmark ranks as number 34. Those South Koreas are welcome to travel the world if they want as their passport ranks as the third best in the world! That is on par with the Danish passport and passports from seven other countries. It is a technologically advanced country and free Wi-Fi is basically available everywhere. They have their own taxi app called Kakao T. They also have a social media app called Kakao Talk. Kakao Story is used somewhat like Facebook. They also have various systems to pay with their phones opposed to using credit cards or cash.
Winter came!! Fortunately just for five minutes.
The center of Seoul is often overlooked by those who visit Namsan Mountain.
All men need to do their military service which takes around two years. There however isn’t a feel of a military presence like in Israel. Speaking to people I sense that the separation from North Korea in 1953 is still quite present although not dominant in daily lives. Beauty and style appears to be quite dominant! Many women desire lighter skin and plastic surgery is relatively common. So is fashionable clothing, cool haircuts and having electrical gadgets. Family structure can still be very stringent in many cases which ties the country culturally. Not everyone is happy about it though. South Korea didn’t just go from the Korea War in in 1953 to happy perfect democracy the next year. There were several tough decades before South Korea began to blossom. However from what I can tell it’s a pretty darn impressive country in oh so many ways!
The War Memorial of Korea is very impressive.
My sister and I dropped in on the War Memorial of Korea which is a war museum. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past many years then you would have heard about the Korea War from 1950-53. That war is however nothing compared to all the kingdoms and dynasties which have ruled over the lands the past 3,000 years. Lots of war, lots of blood and lots of destruction has taken place between Koreas mountains and sandy shorelines. The museum is free of charge and I would recommend a visit. However it did get a little heavy after a few hours of this battle and that invasion. The bottom line is that the peninsula has been desired for a very long time. Once the Europeans worked out how to navigate their boats south of Africa the British arrived and so did the French, the Dutch as well as the Russians, Chinese and Japanese. Yup! Everybody wants Korea.
Korean food is great food!!
Gangnam literally means 'south of the river' and is a district in Seoul.
We couldn’t make up our minds whether we should spend time and money heading up to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) or not. We finally decided to spend an extra day in Seoul instead. The DMZ is the border between North and South Korea. It’s historical but it is also very touristic from the southern side. I’ve already been to North Korea and had the chance to see the border from there while staring across to South Korea. I don’t need to stare into North Korea through binoculars. I don’t feel a great urge for visiting one of the tunnels. I’ve been in a tunnel before. And I don’t have an urge to learn more about it. It is in my opinion just a border which has been drawn by the result of a 70 year old proxy war. And I agree with every Korean who has said: “it is time” (to move on). My sister wanted to explore Seoul a bit further. While I visited the Korean Red Cross she went to see Gyeongbokgung Palace which was the first royal palace. Afterwards she came and joined me at the Maersk office in Seoul as I made my 87th presentation of the Saga. I’m not sure how to describe my presentations? They lean on adventure, logistics, fun facts, inspiration, planning, motivation and a few more things I guess. I always promote the work of the Red Cross as well.
A tiny part of Changgyeonggung Palace. Doesn't it look great with the traditional clothing?
So the next day, instead of heading the 60 km (37 mi) north to the DMZ, we visited Changgyeonggung Palace which was built as a secondary palace for the Joseon Dynasty in 1404 CE. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the palace was in use by the royal family until 1872 and remained in use until well into the 20th century. It is a huge complex and well worth a visit. If not for the architecture, the history, the flowers or all the colours then definitely to see all the people who paid extra to dress up in traditional hanbok for the perfect selfies. It simply looks great and when I one day return to South Korea then I will dress up too.
At KNRC with these amazing Red Innovators!
I was very impressed with the Korean Red Cross (KNRC). They had a few surprises for me and were very kind. In fact I find kindness to be a strong trade among Koreans. Hospitality is first class and generally I have found Koreans to have very big hearts. I first met Ms Sumin Park who is an officer of the International Relations Team. She greeted me welcome and showed me into a room where I soon met Mr Jhiyoung Yoon of the same team and Mr Hwang In Yong who is a coordinator of the PR team. I was also introduced to four kind Red Innovators. A Red Innovator is a member of a university student volunteer group which contributes to community's resilience by instilling innovative thinking and action into the Red Cross Movement. They aim to contribute to the expansion of disaster resilience culture in order to build safer and healthier communities. No small thing! They quickly hooked me up to a VR (virtual reality) program and voila! I was suddenly on board a cruise ship being instructed in where the lifejackets and exits were. BOOM! The next thing I know is that a disaster has taken place and the water level starts rising inside the ship. It was unbelievably realistic and really added another element to what a crises on board a ship would be like. I completed the program and ended up in a life raft before talking off the goggles. Impressive!
In front of KNRC with Ms Park. Thank you for everything! :)
I also visited one of several blood donation centers with Ms Park. The KNRC has been around for a very long time. They were founded in 1904 by royal decree and today count 322,000 volunteers nationwide. Blood donations are an important part of the KNRC’s activities as they receive 27 million donations per year! That is no small thing. I could list a lot of their other activities but something unique for KNRC is the inter-Korean cooperation. As one of two National Societies operating on the Korean peninsula, they have mandated programs solely dedicated to resolving humanitarian challenges which span the 38th Parallel (DMZ). One of them is restoring family links between the families who inadvertently became separated during and after the Korean War. A key part of this is organizing inter-Korean family reunions, in partnership with the Red Cross in North Korea, that allows such individuals to meet their loved ones face-to-face…most of them probably for their last time. The KNRC offers support through this special mandate in a great deal of ways. Until now 21 reunions have been conducted, enabling approximately 20,000 people from north and south to meet their families again. For those who have difficulties moving long distances due to health reasons, video meetings have been offered using IT to make connections. Until now, through seven video meetings, approximately 3,800 people have seen and interacted with family on the other side. Let that sink in. It is powerful!
I will be taking the ferry from Busan in the south of South Korea to Japan. So my sister and I boarded the slow train and headed down to where the cherry trees are blossoming. The 400 km (250 mi) train ride took about six hours on the slow train. It’s about half price of the fast train. Before leaving Seoul I secured a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). They make travel in Japan far cheaper than if you buy your tickets once there. And the JR Pass must be bought outside of Japan. We picked it up at Lotte JTB. Lotte is a massive conglomerate in South Korea and they have it all: malls, hotels, ice cream, bread…you name it. You notice the name all over the place. It has been funny to my sister and I because we have a half-sister named Lotte. She is obviously famous in South Korea ;)
A picture speaks a thousand words!! Thank you to everyone at Maesk Seoul for making my day!! :)
I crossed the 2,000 day marker. I can’t believe I have been out of my country for that long. I know a lot of people are away from home for longer periods than that. However hardly anyone else has been reaching a new country every 11th day for such a long period. It is hard in every way. It wears me down physically and mentally. I’m rootless. I never get the chance to settle anywhere long enough to find peace and calibrate. It has been an enormous amount of packing and unpacking. So many beds…just counting the means of transport where I have brought my bags along with me we are looking at: 115 metro trains, 62 minibuses, 38 motorcycle taxies, 311 busses, 189 taxis, 78 shared taxis, 151 trains, 43 boats of various kinds and 17 containerships. We are well beyond 260,000 km (161,557 mi). Whether reaching every country without flying is significant or not there can be no doubt that this is an enormous achievement. Fortunately the support is grand and recently I have been seeing many signing up to become Patreons on the crowd funding campaign. Thank you guys SO MUCH!! Some have been asking if there is no way to pay a single donation instead of signing up for a monthly fee as is the concept of Patreon. That is no problem.
Yechan (from MAersk in Seoul) and Soochan are brothers and invited us out for a bite and a good night out! Thanks guys! :)
I asked Google and found this: How to Make a One-Time Donation
Patreon is designed to be an ongoing donation platform, where creators can continually receive support and appreciation from their audiences. However, if you would like to make a one-time donation, simply sign up by clicking "Become a Patron" on the right hand side of my Patreon home page. When you fill out the information and enter the amount of money you would like to pledge it will be set up to make that pledge the 1st day of the following month. After the 1st of the month comes and you receive an email saying your pledge has been successfully processed, you can simply delete your pledge. This will make your contribution a one-time pledge.
PayPal is by the way an option within Patreon. And for the Danes who find all this “to difficult” I’m pleased to inform that a MobilePay option is almost ready. So if you think I’m doing a good job and you want to support the Saga then it is now possible.
Brie (from Maersk in Seoul) and her boyfriend "Dong" invited us for dinner. We happily accepted and had a great time together! :)
First inspection of Haeundae Beach in Busan. Not bad at all.
Busan is another very impressive city. And in some ways it resembles what Florida is to the USA. There are certainly a lot of elderly citizens as far as my sister and I can tell. We have been busy riding the subway and at times it has felt like we joined the pensioners club. A lot of them are talkative and we have had a few good chats. All of this reminds me that when I first arrived to South Korea and was making my way from the port to Seoul, I received a lot of help from some elderly women at a subway station. I simply asked if the track I was at would take me to Seoul. From that moment on two elderly women became my personal guides (although I didn’t need it). Big hearts, efficiency and modern life! That is how I will be remembering South Korea. Busan is also famous for its beaches but it has still been too cold for us to even consider dipping our toes. Under a blue sky and out of the wind it has been quite pleasant though.
Seokbulsa temple. About 44% of the Korean population has a religion. About 15.5% are buddhist.
We have done some hiking and made it up to Seokbulsa temple. Both in Seoul and in Busan I have found it remarkable how quickly you can step out of the city and into nature. At the palace in Seoul I also completely lost my sense of location. The palace is surrounded by Seoul but it felt like we had travelled far from the city. Seokbulsa temple is a short hike from a subway station. It is a Buddhist sight with some interesting rock carvings. In 1930, when the Japanese colonial period was established, a Buddhist priest named Cho Il-hyun founded it. So it is not super old but it is worth the hike. We followed up by hiking though the forest area afterwards and it was worth every step. South Korea is blessed with its nature and the infrastructure is immaculate. The cherry trees had blossomed and it all just looked amazing.
It generally feels like the workload of the Saga is dropping slightly. That means I’m still working about fifty hours a week but sometimes slightly less. It hasn’t gone up for a while. Now that my sister has been keeping me company I have had to put in a few late nights to make the Saga run smoothly. Emails and social media has not stopped and I still have both research and some preparation to do. I’m clueless in regards to what I should do about accommodation in Tokyo, Japan? I haven’t heard from anyone who can host me and the hotels I have contacted regarding a complimentary stay have all replied that they are full and busy. Japan is super expensive and I’m not in favour of blowing my budget further. So if you know of anyone who can help then please let me know.
At times Busan feels like the Florida of South Korea ;)
Yup, that’s about it. I could have written a lot more but it’s 03:03am and I still have more than an hour left before this entry comes online. I’m thoroughly impressed with South Korea. And I’m looking forward to reaching Japan. Never had I ever thought that my first visit to Japan would see me arriving on a ferry? Japan…isn’t that so far away that you fly? ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - reunited with family!! :)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga