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Month 2 Roundup

October 27, 2013

_MG_4820Getting close with the camels in the steppes of Mongolia


Days on the road: 61
Distance traveled: 3622.13 miles

  • by plane – 0 miles / 0 km
  • by train – 2363.7 miles / 3804 km
  • by bus – 302 miles / 486 km
  • by boat – 502.23 miles / 808.26 km
  • by car – 454.2 miles / 730.9 km

Number of beds: 13 (Same amount of beds per month, how cool is that?)
Countries visited: Russia, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan
Items lost: 1
iPhone 4 – Jenia, very very sad.
Items ditched: 6

  • Button down shirt – shrank in the wash (Sergey)
  • Tank top – too stretched out (Jenia)
  • Scarf – Jenia
  • Headphones
  • 2 Guidebooks – Trans-siberian, Korea

IMG_2521Sunrise over Incheon, Korea

Items acquired: 10

  • Scarf (replacement) – Jenia
  • Tank top (replacement) – Jenia
  • Button down shirt (replacement) – Sergey
  • Tank top – Sergey
  • 4 pouches for storage of cords and odds and ends
  • iphone waterproof case – for taking baths (when?!) and filming in non-waterproof environments
  • Reusable grocery bag – these are so handy for all sorts of day-to-day!

Postcards sent: 3 (from Mongolia)

_MG_5755Sunset over Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea


Asia is incredibly diverse. Sure you sort of know that/or assume that. But to actually experience it for yourself is quite different:

  • Mongolia is disorderly, definitely not neat – but very fashionable! – and we haven’t really noticed too many rules of any kind.
  • Japan is orderly and neat and follows the rules.
  • China is chaotic, can be messy, and rules are enforced for some, and therefore followed, while others completely ignore them. It’s like futue in the 1990s.
  • Korea is modern! At consumer level way more than Japan – hello smart phone(more like phablets) vs flip phone battle.

And while Korea is certainly clean, rules are broken in unexpected ways – driving and street demonstrations. En masse people are most polite in Japan – but this nation dominated and subjugated quite brutally China, Korea and a big portion of South-East at times.  Fascinating stuff, especially when you see it all in quick succession. And we have only been to a couple of countries so far. The first hand experience of history of this part of the world – the Hiroshima Peace Museum and just a simple question of what do you think of Japanese / Koreans / Chinese to people of these three countries – was a new surprising discovery for us.

_MG_5877Skinning eels at the bustling Jagalchi fish market in Busan, South Korea.

Getting off the path and not having a plan can be rewarding. One day we woke up in Kyoto and instead of doing what we planned we decided to hop on a train and go to Osaka. Osaka is a beautiful place! We found a rose garden, a stream to hang by, canals and neon party district. Plus octopus balls! That same day though we went to Japan’s most famous castle (majority of others were destroyed either by samurai or bombings during WWII) but the majority of it was covered up for renovation – bummer; although we did have a nice (and very uncrowded time) walking around with our English guide.

IMG_2804Trying out a regional specialty – ssambap – in Gyeongju, South Korea.

There is real value in Couchsurfing. Although for Jenia it is important to recharge by being alone in a private environment (close the door, and chill) mixing in CS has been the right way to go at least for us. We met interesting, engaging people who we wouldn’t ordinarily come across either in day-to-day life or by traveling. It’s kind of like an additional eye-opener bonus. In Japan we were lucky to bond with our first host in Hiroshima – Takuma – we learned about his grandfather who was a kamikaze pilot, kickboxing in Japan, and just got a much better feel for Japanese people and culture.

Just because others like it, doesn’t mean you will.

Just because everyone says that they had an amazing time at a place, or the guidebook suggests that something is a star attraction, doesn’t mean that you will like it. We weren’t too keen on Mongolia, despite having seen beautiful nature and incredibly different culture. But we come across people at almost every spot we stay at who say that it was incredible for them. Jenia has some ideas on why, but they aren’t developed enough to share (yet).

_MG_5551Hanging with the guards at the Deoksugung Palace in Seoul, South Korea.

In Gyeongju, South Korea we planned to head over to the Bulgakasa – the start temple attraction, but at the last minute decided that we had seen enough temples. We had two of our best says in S Korea as a result! Rented bikes, explored small villages, big mountain, and rode through the rice fields. It was amazing!

Jenia thinks that Korean and Japanese way of sleeping – on futon mattresses on top of tatatmi mats – is super comfortable. Sergey isn’t all that into it. Yes, we pretty much have a different opinion on all these type of – big or small – things. But one thing that is surprising, we don’t really miss having our own bed. In the past, going on a weekend trip or a bigger jaunt always made us homesick for our bed. Not true now. Maybe it’s all in your mind! Knowing that we aren’t heading home anytime soon, we don’t think about things such as our own beds. (Sergey does miss our big comfy couch, for two reasons: one it is very comfy and two it is our couch, we can just sit there an just be. Sadly, the couch is now gone forever).

_MG_4834Crossing of the animals, somewhere in the wild of Mongolia. 

Big cities are tough for Jenia – not because they are big or overwhelming or noisy and crowde – but because everyone around us is having all of this insider fun, going to the favorite spots, and just enjoying the sh*t out of their city. We only get to peak at it, but not really join. Instead we get to go see temples and monuments and museums (while that’s great) what she really wants to know is where we can get the best bloody mary soju in town, and which park should we go to to hear the drum circle or see a movie on the lawn  hang out with local neat people and do cool things. It’s probably Jenia’s FOMO (fear of missing out). Sergey is perfectly content with things as they, enjoying them for what they are (wise man!).

What Sergey does miss is doing his thing – going to work, hanging out with his friends, in his bars, playing pick up or team sports. Jenia definitely does not miss going to work, or having a routine. Paradoxically, Jenia does like doing the bits of freelance that she has right now (no more than 10 hrs a week).

_MG_5916Performance in Busan, South Korea

We’ve played tourist quite a bit so far – moving every few days, sightseeing, exploring, going to the theater, doing unique cultural things. We are looking forward to slowing down come November and taking it all in at a slower pace (or just taking a bit of a break).

We certainly can’t believe it has been two full months since we’ve been on the road. Just last week, it seems, we were in Brooklyn’s backyard sipping beer and laughing with friends,  but that was in August.

sviyazhsk_20130903_housetolaos_0033Flashback to Month 1: Sergey in Sviyazhsk, Russia

We find ourselves losing track of weekdays – “Where are all the people?” says one of us, “Oh wait, it must be Saturday morning.”


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