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Awards

14 Dec

We thought we would compile a list of awards for the trip, a “best of” and “worst of” of sorts. We came up with a number of different categories and nominations for each. We voted on the winner of each category to determine a winner (denoted by bold type). Most of the categories resulted in three different votes, so we argued and pleaded to narrow it down to one winner (except in two cases). Here goes…

 

THE MOST SURPRISING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Tahrir Square being peaceful and empty when we drove through it in a cab for the first time.

2)  Being split up at the very start of our trip when Typhoon Bolaven “forced” our flight to be cancelled.

3)  Having the exact same itinerary as Dan in Jordan and him offering to drive us through the country.

4)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

5)  When Alan realized Dane and Eric would not be going to North Korea, and he was on his own.

comments:  It blind sided everyone, even Alan a little bit. Nothing else could top it.

 

THE CRAZIEST EXPERIENCE AWARD

1)  Being driven by a drunk taxi driver in India.

2)  Taking the local bus in Nepal with wooden floors that accelerated through the winding mountain turns that hugged cliff faces.

3)  Having to walk past a cobra in an alley in Varanasi.

4)  The overnight trains in India.

5)  Shark diving in Cape Town.

6)  Dealing with altitude sickness on our Everest Trek.

7)  Witnessing the training of young kids to perform at the Mass Games at the Children’s Museum in North Korea.

comments:  There were a number of crazy experiences on our trip, and any number of them could have been chosen as the craziest. We had to go with shark diving, though for the sheer amount of crazy we personally had to have in our own minds to actually go through with the experience, especially since we had seen a youtube video days before which showed a Great White breaching one of the cages.

 

FAVORITE PLACE AWARD

1)  Varkala, India

2)  Cape Town, South Africa

3)  Petra, Jordan

4)  Namche Bazaar, Nepal

5)  North Korea

6)  Mark’s Parent’s house

comments:  This one was unanimous. Cape Town is beautiful and there is lots to do there. We were meant to stay for four days and ended up staying for eight. We could have stayed longer.

 

FAVORITE SITE AWARD

1)  Mount Everest

2)  Taj Mahal

3)  Petra

4)  Pyramids

5)  Table Mountain

comments:  One of the ties. It’s hard to separate these two. Dane voted for Petra number one and Pyramids number two. Eric voted Pyramids number one and Petra number two. Alan wasn’t there, so he voted for the Taj Mahal number one. We had to overrule him.

 

MOST CONTROVERSIAL BLOG POST

1)  A Day in the Life of Alan

2)  India Wrap Up

3)  The post where Eric drank the finger water

comments:  Alan was in no part responsible for this blog, but it caused quite an uprising amongst friends and family because Dane and Eric failed to fully specify that it wasn’t written by Alan and it was a joke. Our bad.

 

THE “WEIRDED US OUT” AWARD

1)  When an Indian man looked into Eric’s eyes as the sun disappeared below the horizon on the beach and lovingly asked, “What are you thinking about?”

2)  Alan telling us he was flying to Australia.

3)  Ram getting jealous when we were interacting with another trekking group on our way up to Everest Base Camp.

comments:  As Eric said, only his girlfriend has ever asked him such a question. So, it was strange for a man who he didn’t know to approach him out of the blue and ask it. It definitely weirded us out. Still does.

 

THE “INCREDIBLE INDIA” AWARD

1)  Trash everywhere.

2)  The constant lies and the constant cheating.

3)  The drunk taxi driver who was allowed to keep driving after paying his fine.

4)  The overly crowded liquor store in Alleppey at 11 am on a Monday.

5)  The seemingly 496:1 ratio of men to women.

comments:  Unpopular opinion alert:  we didn’t absolutely and totally fall in love with India, which everyone else in the world seems to have, especially the other travelers we met along the way. We didn’t absolutely hate it, but we didn’t absolutely love it. That’s why we picked our “India Wrap Up” blog ended up on the most controversial award list. That said, the drunk taxi driver who was let off with a fine and handed his keys to continue driving has to be the most ridiculous thing we experienced in India.

 

THE BEST NIGHT OUT AWARD

1)  Dane’s birthday in Maun.

2)  Eric-Sean 2012.

3)  Long Street in Cape Town.

4)  The umbrella drinks only night in Kovalam.

5)  The braai and bar crawl in Kommetjie.

6)  Sunday night watching Home Alone and drinking beer in bed at our Cairo hostel.

comments:  Lots of food, lots of beer, lots of friends. A wonderful time that slightly edges out the other nights on the list (except #6, it blows #6 out of the water).

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU JOURNEY (SITE) AWARD

1)  Australia

2)  India/Pakistan Border

3)  Dahab

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  We were all there for this one, and it tuned out to be an absolutely amazing experience I would recommend to anyone. There were hype men!

 

THE MOST CHAOTIC PLACE AWARD

1)  Varanasi

comments:  No other place even comes close to making the list. It would be an insult to compare anything else to it. It’s the most chaotic place anyone of us has ever been times 100.

 

THE MOST STUNNING FIRST LOOK AWARD

1)  The Pyramids at Giza

2)  The Treasury at Petra

3)  The top of Mount Everest

4)  Varanasi

comments:  This was a split vote, but again anything on the list easily could have won the top award. The top of Everest is something neither of us will ever forget.

 

THE BEST IMPROMPTU CREW AWARD

1)  The backwater boat tour group

2)  The attendees of Eric-Sean 2012

3)  The A-Team on the first leg of the safari from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls

comments:  There were some great people we met along the way. The A-Team was an odd collection of people that really meshed together. They made the long drives between stops on the safari enjoyable, a hard task to do.

 

THE BEST ALAN REPLACEMENT AWARD

1)  Dan from Jordan

2)  Narelle aka the “oracle” from the safari

3)  Peter from India

4)  Rich from Bangkok

comments:  The chef from London takes this one. It was a heated race, but Peter pulled it out by a nose. He was wonderful company, and it helped that we met up with him days after Alan left.

 

THE BEST RANDOM GAME AWARD

1)  Throwing rocks at other rocks everywhere

2)  Playing catch with minnows in the Okavango Delta

3)  Converting a rugby ball into an American football for a game of catch on the beach

comments:  The reason this idiotic game wins is because we did this in every country we visited.

 

THE MOST DISAPPOINTING MOMENT AWARD

1)  Missing North Korea

2)  Alan leaving

3)  Alan returning

comments:  This one will haunt Dane and Eric. We really wanted a peak behind the curtain, especially after living in South Korea, but it wasn’t meant to be. All we have are Alan’s amazing photos and stories from his time there.

 

THE MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT OF THE TRIP AWARD

1)  Eric and Alan’s one year sleeping in the same bed anniversary

2)  Eric not going on any international vacations without Dane for the last two years

3)  Eric and Dane spending nearly every moment of three months together

4)  Alan flying to Adelaide to surprise his lady love.

comments:  No question.

 

THE WEIRDEST DAY AWARD

1)  The day Alan told us he was going to Australia

2)  Day one of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

3)  Day two of the trip when Eric and Dane were still in Seoul.

4)  Taking the coast road along the garden route and seeing the coast for a maximum of 10 minutes.

5)  Not knowing who the President of the United States was while we were camping in the Okavango Delta.

comments:  The day Alan told us he was leaving was still the weirdest. We went to the southernmost tip of India. It wasn’t worth it, and we were trying to piece together in our mind why Alan was leaving what we saw as a trip of a lifetime. It must be love.

 

THE MOST DIFFICULT DAY AWARD

1)  When altitude sickness hit Eric hard after the second rest day.

2)  The Trek down to Lukla from Namche Bazaar.

3)  23 hours of flight time, not including a four hour layover in Abu Dhabi, on the way back to America.

comments:  For the three of us, the trek down to Lukla was probably the most difficult. It was raining, we were tired, and the distance took us all day to cover. But what Eric went through with altitude sickness has to top it. And he continued hiking!

 

THE BEST OF NEPAL AWARD

1)  Base Camp

2)  Eating steaks in Kathmandu after returning from the Himalayas

3)  Having internet again after 10 days without it.

comments:  An easy choice. It’s where we literally were at the foot of the top of the world. It was the pinnacle of our trek and the reason we went to Nepal in the first place.

 

THE BEST OF INDIA AWARD

1)  The India/Pakistan border

2)  The Taj Mahal

3)  Varkala

4)  The Golden Temple at Amritsar

comments:  There is a reason everyone goes to see the Taj Mahal. It’s beautiful, and it dominates the surrounding sky. If you get the chance, go. You won’t be disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF JORDAN AWARD

1)  The road trip with Dan

2)  Wadi Rum

3)  Petra

4)  the Dead Sea

comments:  Jordan turned out to be a solid destination from top to bottom. We enjoyed everything we did there. But again, there’s a reason Petra is a wonder of the world. It must be visited by anyone who travels to Jordan.

 

THE BEST OF EGYPT

1)  Scuba diving in the Red Sea

2)  The Pyramids at Giza

3)  The Library at Alexandria

4)  Mount Sinai

comments:  Like the first two, there’s a reason people go out of their way to see the Pyramids, and none of them leave disappointed.

 

THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA

1)  Noel’s 75th

2)  Coffee Bay

3)  The drive down to the Cape of Good Hope

4)  Seeing old friends and their families and friends

5)  Kruger

comments:  It was nice connecting with people from Korea and Alan’s old friends and family. It’s always nice to know the locals. They give you the best advice about places to stop and visit and afford you the opportunity to do things most tourists miss out on.

 

THE THING WE’RE MOST LIKELY TO DO AGAIN AWARD

1)  Shark diving

2)  See the Pyramids at Giza

3)  Visit Cape Town

4)  Visit North Korea

5)  Go on safari

comments:  Alan, if he had not been in Australia, would have gone on his second safari already. As it is, we all stand at one. We hope, however, to run that number to at least two. Going on safari is terrific. Seeing wild animals is always fun.

 

MVP OF THE TRIP

1)  Dane

2)  Eric

3)  Alan

comments:  Alan disappeared for part of the trip. It’s as simple as that. He got a nice consolation prize, though, as he and his lady will be spending Christmas together in Ireland.

Farewell (For Now)

14 Dec

Our last day was spent in Johannesburg. Eric and Dane fly out today. Alan flies out tomorrow. So, our trip will end as it began, with the group split apart. This time, however, we’re ready for it. It will be nice to get back home. It will be nice to see old friends again and to be with our families for Christmas. We’re sad the trip is coming to an end. We’re sad to be leaving each other’s company for who knows how long. But it’s time.

Eric:  We’ve been traveling for 106 days. Me and Dane at least.

Dane:  Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Alan:  It will be 109 for me by the time I leave tomorrow.

Eric:  Always trying to one up us.

Dane:  Part of that was spent in Adelaide, though, missing Petra and the Pyramids.

Alan:  I did get a pretty amazing girl.

Eric:  Wow!! What a suck up! You can write that, too. I must say, though, I am happy for Alan and Inyoung. And I’m happy he came back.

Alan:  So am I.

Dane:  So, Alan, what’s your favorite Eric story of the trip?

Eric:  There’s not many good ones.

Alan:  Favorite Eric story? When he drank the finger water.

Dane:  That’s 100% the right answer.

Eric:  Let’s not forget Alan abandoned us and should be the one we are making fun of.

Dane:  Go for it. Favorite Alan story?

Alan:  I didn’t put my foot in my mouth as much as you did.

Eric:  No one does.

Dane:  What about at Noel’s 75th?

Eric:  Oh yeah! When you were asked to say Grace at Noel’s birthday dinner, and you stumbled through it. You looked more nervous than when I talk to women.

Alan:  Now, we have to do Dane stories…

Eric:  Dane is so cool, calm and collected, he rarely does something you can make fun of him for. But, he lost his charm a bit, when he scared away Daisy from Botswana just because she had no shoes. She probably couldn’t afford them.

Dane:  I don’t respect the 47%.

Eric:  Which includes both Dane and myself.

Dane:  Not an ounce of respect.

Alan:  I would be a part of that, too, if I wasn’t Irish.

Dane:  So, it’s sort of the end of an era here. We have all been in Korea/traveling together for the past 2 years and 4 months. It’s been a helluva time.

Eric:  An amazing two year run. Because, yeah, our first trip was together, Hong Kong/Macau, and now, we’ve finished our last trip together.

Alan:  Hopefully not our last trip.

Dane:  When might that trip be?

Alan/Eric:  BRAZIL 2014!!!

Alan:  Or Vegas anytime.

Eric:  Alan’s bachelor party.

Dane:  I’m game. Any final tales of the trip to mention or closing remarks?

Eric:  I’d just like to say thanks to Dane and, even Alan, for everything, for the trouble we got into in Seoul to the drive through South Africa, I’ve enjoyed every second of it!

Alan:  The wolf pack shall be reunited in Brazil. We should tag James Finnie in that statement.

Eric:  Haha… We’re going to need someone to show us around.

Alan:  It really has been an amazing two and a half years. From the orientation class where I asked Dane how the hell does Eric drink like that and still have a smile on his face in class…

Eric:  That’s me, mom.

Alan:  …to being on the soccer team together briefly to the countless barbecues we had together on the weekend, it’s all been good.

Dane:  I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m going to miss you, boys. See you in Brazil or Vegas.

Alan:  Cheers to that.

Down, But Not Out

29 Aug

Bad news has dominated the blog so far, so it was my job to shed some light on a bit of optimism in my writing debut…

I tried to write this last night, but simply could not muster up enough positive energy.  I have wanted to go to North Korea ever since I touched down in Seoul three years ago.  So to be so close to experiencing the infamous North and to have it all come crashing down was pretty disappointing.  Now that’s the last of the negative.

Yesterday, when we got off the phone with Simon and told him we were not going to be able to make it, I immediately suggested to Dane that we go get a beer.  After he told me it was too early (it was after 10 AM at least!) we sat down and discussed our options.  Alan is going to be in Nepal on Sept. 2nd, so we figured we might as well take our newly acquired free time and go somewhere.  We wanted to go somewhere that would make us feel better and take our minds off this missed opportunity.  Naturally, my first suggestion was Las Vegas!  We are hoping to get a lot of money back from the North Korea trip thanks to travel insurance, so why not double down right away?!

Well obviously Vegas is too far, so we settled on somewhere that is cheap, on the way, and a place where we can have a lot of fun!  We are going back to Bangkok!

Dane and I found a cheap, direct flight to Bangkok so we will be headed there tomorrow afternoon.  Its not the mysterious start to the trip that we thought we would have had in North Korea, but we know it will still be  fun and a good way to salvage the time we have before we meet Alan in Kathmandu.  We dont even really have a plan, we are just going to go there, hang out for a few days and try to meet some new people.  If all goes well, we will have some stories to compete with whatever kind of crazy stuff Alan is doing in Pyongyang!!

So, it’s not all bad news. Even though North Korea won’t work out for us, Thailand is always a good time.  We also already received confirmation that we will get our flight to Beijing refunded by the airline, and we are going to apply for a refund for the NK trip and have been told it will almost certainly be refunded.

Things are starting to look up for us and hopefully there will be no more bad news to report from here on out!

-Eric

Still No Good

28 Aug

At 4 PM the day before our flight, Seoul Public Schools canceled the next day’s classes in anticipation of Typhoon Bolaven. We knew our 8:10 AM flight to Beijing would be in jeopardy of being delayed or cancelled. When we were commuting to the airport as the sunlight was creeping over the horizon, however, we felt quite confident that we were in the clear. We were certain our flight to Beijing would depart on time.

Nine hours later we left the airport. The North Korea leg of the trip was over for us before it even began. After the bridges from Incheon to Seoul were reopened, we took the train back into Seoul defeated.

The most frustrating thing about the cancellation of our flight was that it never felt as if the typhoon ever reached Incheon. Every airline that had flights leaving before 9:00 AM got their planes off the ground and to their destinations except one, China Southern, our airline. At 8:10 AM we looked out the airport windows, watching planes zoom down the runway and into the sky. The sun even made brief appearances through the cloud cover. That only made it worse.

Image

A flight leaving from Incheon airport just after 8:10 AM.

Since the other airlines were still sending their planes into the air, we decided we should just buy a flight on one of them, so we could make it to Beijing by 1:05 PM to make our flight to Pyongyang and catch our tour. Unfortunately, all the other flights to Beijing were booked until the next day

We got Alan on the phone and tried to see if we could catch up with the tour the following day. He went to the tour headquarters in Beijing and tried to get some answers for us. The next phone call we got was from Simon, one of the tour organizers, saying that we could catch up with the tour in two days time if we caught a flight to Beijing tomorrow and circumvented Chinese law (you can only stay in an airport in China for 24 hours without a visa; we would have had to be there for 26). Also, we would need to acquire an emergency Chinese visa in Pyongyang for our flight to Nepal for reasons more complicated than they need to be. We needed some time to think through our options, but we didn’t have any. Simon told us we had to make the decision immediately. The flight from Beijing to Pyongyang had been pushed ahead one hour. It now left at 12:05 PM. We backed out, abandoning Alan and our chances to see North Korea.

Shortly after, our friend, Judy, called Eric. The bridges connecting Seoul to Incheon were being closed. We were stuck in the airport with no flight and no ability to get back to Seoul for at least a few hours. We looked out the windows. Rays of sunshine taunted us as they flashed through the clouds.

Alan would get to see behind the curtains of North Korea. We would not. It’s often said you have to take the bad with the good. We’re still looking for the good.

-Dane and Eric

Image

The sky over Incheon when our cancelled China Southern flight was supposed to take off.

28 Aug

The sky over Incheon when our cancelled China Southern flight was supposed to take off.

Every other airline allowed flights to depart at 8:10 AM except for China Southern.

Our Trip Begins

27 Aug

I’m sitting in a cafe waiting for the ice in my cup to melt, so that I have a little more to drink. I’d order another ice coffee, but I’m saving money for a nearly four-month trip, and I really don’t need the caffeine since I’ll be trying to go to bed early tonight in order to wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow to catch a flight to Beijing. This is the usual boring part of long trips on a budget, but I don’t anticipate having to get used to it for this trip. I soon will be fascinated by North Korea, have my breath taken away while hiking Mount Everest, have my senses dazzled by India, be swept up by the history of Petra and the Pyramids, and soak in every bit of Southern Africa. I’ll get to see the last country in the world existing in a truly totalitarian state. I’ll get to see the highest point on Earth. I’ll get to see several world wonders, and I’ll get to go on my first ever safari. Boring will hardly enter into the equation.

Alan left South Korea today. He is going to the Beijing headquarters of the company taking us on a tour of North Korea. Alan is Irish, so the cost of his visa to enter China is far less than it is for me and Eric. Fortunately for us, he was nice enough to take our paperwork with him and file it for us, allowing us to avoid the cost of a Chinese Visa. Unfortunately for us, a typhoon is closing in on Seoul, and it is projected to arrive in full force at about the time our plane is scheduled to depart tomorrow morning.

Of course, the weather won’t really matter if Eric and I aren’t allowed to depart Seoul for Beijing. You are allowed to travel to Chinese airports without a visa if you are catching a connecting flight out of the country within 24 hours (or something like that). We don’t have a visa. We do have a connecting flight. Unfortunately, our e-ticket looks like something a fourth grader made as part of their presentation on airports. It contains no bar code or reservation number. It just lists our names and a flight number for Air Koryo. It looks very unofficial, and I imagine won’t inspire confidence amongst customs officials.

Last night, I received a phone call from Eric. He started, “I know you’re looking for good news, but have you looked at the money Alan got for us?” A few weeks ago we decided to go ahead and buy a chunk of Indian Rupees. Their currency was near an all-time low, so we figured we’d be able to save some money by purchasing as many Rupees as we could then since it would likely rise in value during the six weeks before we arrived. I put down my phone and opened the envelope containing the Rupees. There was money in it. Good sign. I looked at the bills. They were Indonesian Rupiah. Bad sign. Eric went to the bank to try to exchange the Rupiah into Rupees as soon as he could. The bank wanted him to exchange his Rupiah into Korean Won and then into Rupees. He would lose roughly $150 in the process, and oh yeah, the bank didn’t have enough Rupees on hand to make a full exchange, so he cancelled the transaction.

With everything there is usually bad and good. We’ve had plenty of bad so far, so that means there is plenty of good waiting for us around the corner. Things have a way of evening out. The start of our trip already is proving to be anything but boring. Besides, if weather delays our flight out of Seoul, if Chinese custom officials refuse to accept our North Korean e-ticket and Eric and I miss the tour of North Korea and have to meet Alan in Nepal a week later, we can just go to Indonesia for the week. We have plenty of Rupiah.

-Dane