Being a young democracy they are
smart enough to emphasize their traditional harmony and serenity from their
Buda and Confucius Temples (even when 30% is catholic so many churches
allover), in the zen-like landscaped gardens. Great nature, on the sometimes Amalfi-like coastline in the southern
islands, or inland (with a good number of ski slopes), especially in the
brown-red-yellow autumn colours. Every household seems to grow their vegetables,
chilli red peppers and rice for their traditional (spicy) dinners, with some
porc or fish thrown in. But in spite this apparent healthy food, lots of older
women seem to struggle with pain in their bones and back, and ‘walk’ with
O-shaped legs or when their backs are too far bend they lean on … buggy-like
words to learn when visiting Korea, hello and thank you, but also won (the
local currency, 1.500 for 1Euro) and certainly a mepke (INCLUDING the a in order to eat NOT too spicy, )
From the DMZ (1950-53 Korean War’s
famous 38th Parallel and Kiwi Hill) you meet friendly, polite, busy
Koreans inland on their rice paddies, or fishing along the coasts or to
UN’slargest War Memorial of the
World,in southern Busan.
Here I was lucky to assist in the 2nd
UN Peace Concert, followed by a candle-lit serene night walk on the very
impressive War Memorial Park.
controls later I get myself behind a real European sweet at Ducheshka Pastry (incl. the Americano
coffee = ½ the price of the cappuccino only at Stockel’s Pain Quotidien), to make a quick tour of this San Francisco
–like city: hilly, no trams, hardly any traffic nor tourists, lots of green
with some very ugly and some very nice-looking buildings/people/bays. Not bad
when viewed in the sun over the bays, but nothing to be really lyric about.
After 200 instead
of the 2000 Rubels asked for welding
my last spare wheel I got enough spare Rubels
left to treat myself also on a russianballade singing lady in a smallscale
carferry from Vladi to this very green island is
replaced by the Golden Horn Bridge.
before Vladivostok Marine HQ on the
parking reserved For Marine Officers Only, 100m from legendary WWII submarine
S56, with the view on 1 of the many bays and on the merchant port and 150m from the
Cruiseferry off to Japan via SouthKorea with 2x +-300seamiles in +-45 hours
incl. the in-between-stop at Donghae of 6 hours. After lengthy negotiations I
get my car across for a mere +1.800USdollar, and myself for another +300USD ALL
to be paid in ‘STRONG’ Rubels.
Siberian cold cannot overtake me cause I reach legendary Vladivostok (but everyone calls it Bladibostok or maybe should I hear Bloody Bostok), after all the
conquerors of Europe have passed here at
this strategic bay, and made room first to the Japanese, then to the Bolshewist
armies, then the USSR Marine, then the ex-soviet mafia and now the occasional (Australian) tourist on his way
to/from the legendary TRANSIBERIAN Railway start/end-station.
50-80km amidst the taiga and autumn leafed forests a barrack or 2 with
sometimes a kafe and/or gas station
thrown in. The good cheap food keeps me going first to Khabarovsk cathedral with a nice setting at the river, before the
lousy roads force me to throw away 1 of my spare wheels, and repair 2 of the
sturdy off-road tires.
To get to
Vladivostok takes from Lake Baikal
exactly 3.869km –luckily in the sun or a bit of rain after the higher hills- on
partly excellent partly very rough tarmac, and unfortunately despite all of Putin’s promises to the contrary still
some 200km of this M55/M58 bad or real bad non-tarmac/in-bad-need-of-repair!
Many trucks, and even more new or very recent Japanese righthandsteeredcars/vans but mainly big SUV’sbeing driven to a happy customer upnorth.Passing nice river-town Khabarovsk with its blue and golden churches.
Szvrazjdvoudje once more, from Russia with Love, on km
290.366 or 30.800km fromthe start
with 007 on big Mercedes G or M or Lexus. In ‘large’ cities such as Ulan-Ude or Vladivostok
the Siberian diamonds and gold fields, and the Sakhali
Island’s ever richer oil fields pay off, at last. No more dissidents or
other convicts in the (still open to visitors) Gulag, although: one might get the impression cause most of the
people you meet in West till East Siberia are on first side either stiff frozen
or ready for jail, and all the +20 year old constructions seem to be kept more
or less in shape by its (fresh) paint only. But all Siberian really are very
friendly, going out of their way to help with a smile also this crazy foreigner
in his old Toy.
From the world’s
deepest freshwater Lake Baikal (not
as beautifulas I expected but still OK)
where I visited also a very derelict Thermal Spa Health Centre, old soviet
His successors made a mess
again of this empire, but joined some Chinese to start from 1640 the later Qing
dynasty, good for 50 years before the same Mongolians had to retreat in todays
borders till the Soviet period ruined all the dreams. Only in 1990 it could get
rid of the Russians, to become in 1996 a ‘democracy’. Only the last years it has
overcome the deadslow economy.
No wonder even today Gingghis is worshippedsince centuriesby all Mongolian for the law and order he imposed, the dream he
realised… so he is today used as the symbol for the local currency, beer, rock
bands and …souvenirs.
And sorry for the Chinese and
Soviets, but the mineral richness’s of Mongolia are kept inside to make more
people richer, (illegally) digging gold or other ore.
Before the winter also there
breaks in let’s move to Lake Baikal, after the equivalent of 40 Euros in local Tegreg to replace 1 of the broken
rearsuspension leafs, hopefully with some nice sun early October.
And to know that all this todays wealth
originated …. with the 12th Centuryfamous Gingghis/Gengis Kahn,
the OCEAN of Wisdom. Not only did he conquer tribes by sword and more elite
troops, but he subdued all populations from Hungary till the farthest part in
nowadays China with hisfair laws for
free trade (hence the Silk road!!), low taxes, free religion incl. shamanism, and
immunity for ambassadors.
Here in its capital Ulaan-Baatar world travellers and
overlanders alike meet on their sometimes epic journeys to/from China for some,
for most Kazakhstan/Russia.
17 Years ago at the end of its
soviet satellite life it was just a huge nothing, with no water, no houses,
just 1 small restaurant, and the remains of the soviet buildings for the
Mongolian to build around their capital. All modern stuff had to be container-imported,
the NGO’s had their hands full with the poor, the sick and or
tuberculosis-dying elderly. Now it is a complete traffic chaos till 10pm, with
luxury cars and hardly any Moskvich/UAZ
left. No scooters, just a few motorbikes, and crowded with hip youngsters and
the occasional oldfashioned elderly. Of course the odd millionaire can come and
buy his Vuiton suitcase, or Hummer or Lexus, no sweat! And women are all-modern,
smoking cigarettes! Just a few kilometres away or even in the backyard of the
new wooden constructions the yurts are still functioning, with the ‘central’
On the Mongolia side of the China border it took a mere 2 hours in utter confusion/chaos, but there
I was driving again, now in the steppes, literally amidst sheep, occasional
yaks in the first autumnsnow, and lots of free horses and yes, even a few
gers/yurts, cause the 700km dust/mud/sand/offroad to its Capital has only 250km
of tarmac and the occasional village of 3 aka city of +10 houses along the legendary
At the bordertown of Erenhot my agency managed to ruin it all
again, and since it proved impossible to get my Toyota out on my own even when
I tried harder, at last I got it finally safely out minus 554Euro!
the Mongolia side it took a mere 2
hours in utter confusion/chaos,
the Drum Tower with a life performance; and the
Lama and Confucius Temples again with a small theatre performance for free.
Finally close to the car was the fine PolyArt Museum with exquisite but few top
And to get the last paper, Beijing gave me 2 days for (re-) visiting the Summer Palace and the
obligatory Forbidden City and Tien’AnMensquare (this time WITH the
Flag-lowering Ceremony). I also threw in a few hut’ungs, a night photosession over the hills and garden of the
Datong is a MUST for its superb
full-colour Buda-grottoes: 50.000 in all size from 10cm till 17m high, some
inspired by good old Shiva (Hindu), and meters high pagodas also hewn in the
rocks. Especially caves 5 and 6 up to 15m high with central pagoda are Kodak-coloured.
Again unfortunately the tourist crap before and after the tour are a real waste