In exactly one month I’ll arrive in Beijing and then theoretically proceed onwards to Pyongyang a few days later. I’ve booked my accommodations in Beijing and purchased my travel insurance policy. While the policy covers up to $1 million for emergency medical evacuation, it does not cover a former U.S. President hopping on a plane bound for Pyongyang to negotiate my release if something goes awry. Still, I would really appreciate it if you guys could hold a few candlelight vigils for me if I end up in a North Korean prison.
Things are slowly coming together for a potential trip to North Korea in September to attend the Mass Games. I’ve submitted the necessary documents for my North Korean visa, put down a deposit for the trip, and booked a flight to Beijing (using frequent flyer miles, thank god). So, uh, I guess I’m going, unless my visa is denied. And yes, my parents want to kill me.
Well, here she was in the lobby of a Baghdad hotel, ending a 17-day tour around one of the world’s ultimate danger destinations.
“It had always been on my list,” said Ms. Gilbert, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a cartoon cat and the phrase “Life Is Good.” “If it opened up, I wanted to go.”
Whether Iraq can be described as open is debatable. But Ms. Gilbert is a member of a group, mostly middle-aged and older, that has the honor of being on the first officially sanctioned tour of Westerners in Iraq since 2003 (outside of the much safer enclave of Kurdistan).
Well, WTF. If a 79 year old is hanging out in Baghdad, then I don’t see why I shouldn’t as well.
Just kidding. My mom would KILL me. And much respect for Ms. Gilbert. I hope I am still traveling when I am her age.
I have never been on a cruise and I have absolutely no desire to go on one. I imagine a huge boat filled with drunk people gorging themselves on boring food, playing slot machines, laying by a pool, and occasionally getting off the boat to visit random bars in some port city. Aside from the drinking, that sounds incredibly dull. I think I’d rather be dropped off the coast of Somali, in a rowboat, with a bottle of vodka.
Antarctica, though, is one place that I wouldn’t mind going to on a cruise ship because that’s pretty much the only way to get there. If I’m going, though, I have to do it in true Lindsay style and hop aboard the Kapitan Khlebnikov, a Russian icebreaker:
Yes, that is the Soviet coat of arms adorning the ship’s bow.
Perched high on the ship’s bridge (open to passengers most of the time) you’ll marvel at the ease with which the Khlebnikov crushes a swath through meter-thick ice pans. Where other ships must turn around, the Khlebnikov plows forward through ice-choked waters, taking up to 108 passengers to remote fjords, channels and shores where precious few, if any, people have ever visited. And, with its on-board helicopters and fleet of Zodiacs, the range of possible destinations to explore is expanded even further. Helicopters are used for ice navigation, scouting landing sites, “flightseeing” and to land passengers in out-of-the-way places. Zodiacs whisk passengers ashore to observe wildlife and explore and archaeological and historical sites.
Helicopters! The ship has freakin’ helicopters!
The downside of cruising around Antarctica on this awesome ship is the price, which, depending on the length of the trip, ranges from $13,890 to $22,490 for a spot in a triple cabin. So, basically, the only way I can afford this trip is if I win the lottery (which I don’t actually play) or start saving enough money so I can eventually go when I’m, like, 80 years old. Awesome.
When the new year rolls around, I don’t make resolutions. Rather, I design an elaborate spreadsheet involving vacation days, frequent flier miles, and Marriott Rewards points. It’s got multiple tabs and everything.
One of the few disappointing things about 2008 was that I didn’t have a chance to travel abroad. I had about a month’s worth of vacation accumulated at my old job, but never used it because I literally started my new job the day after I left my old one. Thankfully, I did get paid for all those vacation days and was able to stash that in a vacation savings account that is earning like .000001% interest because the economy sucks.
The first trip I have planned is to Costa Rica in late April. I’ve wanted to go there for a while, but I have always somehow ended up in the waveless former Soviet Union. I’ll be in Costa Rica for a week, pretty much surfing the entire time. I also scored a roundtrip ticket there for 35,000 miles on Continental, saving about $700. Thank you, business travel!
For my second trip, I’m hoping to make it out to North Korea. Yeah, I know. WTF, Lindsay? I can’t really explain my bizarre fascination with the place, but back in 2005 I set a goal to get there by 2010. So if the North Korean government allows U.S. citizens to visit during this year’s Arirang Festival, I’m going to try and make it out there. And yes, I am driving my parents insane with this trip. My mom actually said she would rather I just visit Chernobyl again. (And if you want in on the North Korea trip, shoot me an email.)
7 Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union: Deserted Cities, Buildings, Bases and More and 7 (More) Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union: From Mining Towns to Oil Rig Cities.
I’d really like to visit Neft Daşları (Oil Rocks), located in the Caspian Sea about 45km offshore of Baku, but apparently getting permission from SOCAR is next to impossible.
In particular, this email I received in reference to tomorrow’s flight to Houston:
Continental Airlines is pleased to advise you that you have received your complimentary OnePass Elite upgrade to First Class or Business Class.
But really, who am I to deny this upgrade? After all, this presents an excellent opportunity to continue my research into the habits of the American bourgeoisie.
I wonder, though, will they downgrade me if I show up at the airport in flip flops?
“Where are you going next? And DON’T say North Korea.”
“Uh, China, I think, and maybe a weekend in Pyongyang.”
Despite my dad’s wishes otherwise, I’m still determined to get to North Korea by 2010, as I mentioned a few years ago. For a limited time this year, the North Korean government issued visas to American citizens for three day tours of Pyongyang and the DMZ. I’m hoping this continues in 2008, so that I can end a week/week and a half in China with a trip to North Korea. And while this trip is entirely dependent on the whims of North Korean bureaucrats, there is also the matter of finances and where I will be, say, six months from now. And yes, I do realize that the concept of voluntarily visiting North Korea sounds completely insane to a normal person, which I’ve certainly never claimed to be.
North Korean travel advertisement
Also, my friend Katerina called me a few days ago and declared that she would like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, to which I replied “Dude, I’m totally up for that.” So apparently we will be climbing Kilimanjaro sometime in the next few years…before we’re 30, which is a scary thought in and of itself. In order to climb Mount K, we’ll have to start a training regimen that involves a lot of hiking, or whatever. To accomplish this, I will have to move back to California, because the “mountains” on the (l)east coast are mere hills. Also, I will need to win the lottery or rob several banks à la Point Break to fund this expedition.
A few years ago, when a group of us were planning a weekend trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg, we went down to the train station to purchase our tickets. Somehow we ended up at Yaroslavsky Vokzal, which was across the street from Leningradsky Vokzal, the station with the Moscow-Petersburg ticket office.
Nevertheless, we took a few minutes to scan the list of trains departing for eastern destinations : Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, Vladivostok, Pyongyang…wait, Pyongyang? There is a train that runs from Moscow to Pyongyang? We cracked a few jokes about ditching Petersburg for a trip to North Korea, and then headed across the street to Leningradsky Vokzal, where we should have gone in the first place.
Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of traveling to North Korea, primarily because no one goes there (it’s not exactly a “hot spot” for travel, eh?) and I think it would be interesting to see what it’s like to visit the closed society that exists in the the world’s last Stalinist regime.
Lately I’ve been looking up how exactly you go about visiting North Korea and reading the websites of people who have been there. It seems like you have to go with a group, or, you could go “independently”, but will be escorted by a guide and driver at all times.
The tours leave from Beijing, which is perfect because I’d love to spend a week in China anyways. The only problem is getting a North Korean visa. I e-mailed Simon over at Koryo Tours regarding the visa issue, and he said that Americans are currently unable to get a visa. Damn! If only I had a second passport…a British passport…hmmm…must find British husband.
So, I have a travel goal: IF North Korea starts issuing visas to American citizens again, then I’m going. Of course, that is also dependent on finances and work, however, I’m going to try and get there by 2010. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for wanting to spend a week in North Korea, but if anyone wants in, let me know.
Also, I still want to visit the Chernobyl ghost town of Pripyat (especially after reading this article), but Taline and Crystal were like “Uhhh…no.” Any takers for that one?
My spring break is coming up…March 18 – April 25 (yeah, I know, an incredibly long spring break). I’m trying to figure out where I want to travel. For those of you not at the LSE, the running joke is that it actually stands for “Let’s See Europe” and not the London School of Economics.
To give you an idea of where I haven’t been, check out this map:
See all that gray? That’s where I haven’t been…we need to change this. So, I need some suggestions on which countries to visit. I know many of you have done that “backpacking through Europe” thing, so tell me which cities/countries are “must see”, and any places you hated.
I’ve already got one trip planned…I’m going to Budapest, Hungary from March 19-24. That should be awesome.
I’m seriously considering a week in Egypt…or maybe Morocco.
Anyways, give me some suggestions.