Tag Archives: South Korea

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-ticketĀ 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.