Trip Start Sep 26, 2004
Trip End Jan 15, 2005

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Flag of United States  , Georgia
Saturday, January 15, 2005

January 15, 05

Shanghai is the  largest city in China. Beijing
is the 2nd. Shanghai is a much different place. It's a new city with
shining structures, modern shopping and entertainment centers all over.
There is really no old section of the city as in Beijing. I only came
here to get to Seoul, so two days is all I spent. I found a nice Hostel
near the city center, and confirmed my onward travel. I could have
spent more time here as it's a safe and clean city. The boat I wanted
to take to Incheon, South Korea only operates once a week during the
winter, so I decided to fly to Seoul. I didn't really want to spend
38 hours on the water anyway. Maybe another time. I found out after I
booked my flight that the boat offered many things to do. It has a
workout room, bar and nightclub and different levels of dining. Sounded
interesting. I got to Seoul late afternoon and found a backpackers
hotel.  This
place was half way between the city and the airport. I wasn't sure how
long I would be in Seoul, so it seemed like a good spot. Luckily it was
close to a few Korean restaurants. I walked in to the first
one,(recommended by the hotel) and saw that removing your shoes was
proper etiquette. I sat down on a throw pillow on the floor in front of
a very low table. It had a small stove in the center. I looked at the
menu which was in Korean. Being the only foreigner in the place I got a
few looks from the other diners. The owner came over and said in pretty
good English that they only had one item on the menu. I said "Sounds
good" I thought I would get one main course. Wrong! They brought out
two bowls of meat first. One had chicken the other beef mixed with tofu
and onions. Then came a soup followed by 8 dishes of various veggies
and salads. This would have easily fed three people. I did my best to
do as much damage as possible. Even though I didn't know some of what I
was consuming, it was one of the finest meals I had during my whole
journey. After I ate as much as I could, the owners wife came to chat.
She spoke no English, so I just listened until her daughter came over
and said she wanted to know where I was from. I told her, and there
were smiles all around. Seoul is expensive so I headed to the airport
earlier than planned. When I got there I was told I needed to make a
connecting flight in Tokyo. I argued that my ticket was non-stop to
Atlanta from Seoul, but I lost and was put on the plane to Japan. They
gave me a 90 day visa and I would have liked to stay, but I was ready
to come home. I had about 8 hours, so I took a city bus from the
airport and saw a little of the area around Tokyo. I'll be back another
time for a closer look. The 12 hour flight home was the longest time
I'd ever been on a plane. I watched 4 movies, read, had a few adult
beverages and didn't sleep at all. It was good to see Atlanta and touch
down on U.S. soil. This has been a long and difficult, but very
rewarding journey. I saw a lot and met some wonderful people. I could
have written so much more about all I saw and experienced. There are a
few countries I would like to return to if possible. Vietnam is at the
top of the list. Although parts are already teeming with tourists
(Halong Bay, Sapa) Most of the country is just now finding the tourists
dollar. If you want to go, do it soon. Vietnam will be like Thailand
before long. I met people who had been just five years ago, and they couldn't
believe the changes in that short time. It is a wonderful country with
warm, happy and self reliant people.
I'll probably visit China
again, maybe on the Moscow to Beijing railway. India......No! Japan,
yes. Maybe even a few of the others. We'll see.
It is good to be
home. I didn't sleep in the same bed for more than three nights in a
row for almost 4 months. It gets a little tiring packing up and moving
every few days. I need some recharge time. Not sure what my plans are
for travel in the future. There is a lot of world out there.

Happy trails everyone!
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