After a whirlwind trip and the Saturday that would never end... I am safe at home! Rhonda and I left the Vlad Motor Inn at 1:30pm on Saturday 10/25 - Vladivostok time. Since they are 15 hours ahead of Michigan - that's 10:30pm Friday night at home!
The trip was not without it's small hiccups. At the super modern (sarcasm) Vlad airport, there was a "system problem" (all we could get given the language barrier) and Rhonda's boarding pass wouldn't print. They hand wrote her a boarding pass for that leg of the flight and told her to see an agent in Seoul. (However, to add to the mystery, all of the bags were able to be checked under her name!)
Upon arrival in Seoul, we were once again pushed and shoved (and literally CLIMBED over) on the plane by our Russian comrades. That was probably the most odd thing about the trip. I had been warned about this by the fabulous Jesse and Jason (who should, by the way, write a book on travel tips to Vlad as they nailed EVERYTHING!), but it's the most offsetting thing to actually experience. We made it off the plane and were ready to start locating our next gate, when we realized that time was not on our side. We had to do the proverbial OJ Simpson through the airport (and I don't mean holding someone up at gunpoint!) to get to our next gate, which we decided was far enough away to be in Japan, not Korea. We made it in time to get Rhonda's new boarding passes and collapse in our seats.
Touching down in Atlanta was a welcome sight. We dined at TGI Fridays (food!), and the bathrooms actually had TP (more on that later). At the gate, we splurged for the $75 upgrade to 1st class, which turned out to be so worth the money. As we started heading out the runway in Atlanta, we had not quite reached full speeds yet (but almost), when suddenly the captain slammed on the brakes and pulled off the runway. Apparently some warning indicators had turned on, and they wanted to check it out. Thanks Delta! It turned out to be nothing, and while the delay was annoying, it's good to be home safely.
Some general musings from Vladivostok:
1) The city is very cool. Being right on the Sea of Japan, the bay views are amazing. It was foggy there many mornings, although we weren't so sure that some of that wasn't pollution. No EPA there...
For anyone who has traveled in Europe, the city could look like almost any major European city. Lots of apartment buildings that look old and run-down on the outside, but are likely kept up well inside. They max every inch of space!
2) Traffic Devices... or the lack there of! We saw a total of about 4 traffic signals in the downtown area. Now this is a city of 700,000+, not 7000. No stop signs, etc. Road lanes, sidewalks, etc are merely a suggestion.
The trip downtown was probably 15-20 miles, but would normally take 45 minutes to an hour because of the complete chaos on the roads. You want to turn? Just edge out, someone is bound to stop (right?). It's the ultimate game of chicken. AMAZING. And not for the faint of heart!
3) Toilet Paper - my new best friend. You don't know what you've got until you loose it, right? Oh yes! People told me to bring TP on the trip - and I did... but until you experience this, you can't actually believe it. Public bathrooms are lucky to have toilet seats (yes, seats) and NEVER have paper.
4) It's getting hot in here... maybe it's just me because I tend to be scrimpy on the heat in the winter (old house!), but MAN do they like the heat. The baby home was kept at about 80-85 degrees. The Korean air flight had to be about 80 degrees. Same with Scary Tatiana's office. The weather was very comparable to fall here - about 55-65 each day, yet I rarely wore my coat...
More later, I am sure, but I have two kitties who are begging for attention. Roo (the giant beast!) slept with me all night, and I awoke to 7 toys delivered to the side of my bed. It's good to be home!!
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