With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

No Occupying While Stable

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 11, 2009

May 6 – 9, 2008

All Pictures

The Tian Ren: Panama’s finest!

Goodbye 한국

My next attempt to leave Korea was more successful. I had given myself more than enough time to get lost a couple of times, though I didn’t need it this time. I arrived at the Incheon port with 2.5 hours to spare.

They began boarding about one and a half hours before the schedule departure time of  1:00 pm and the gate closed at 12:30 pm. It took a long time for the boat to get out of the locks at the port of Incheon. It wasn’t until 3:30 pm that Korea could no longer be seen from aboard the ship.

Off to Panama?

It was very sad seeing Korea disappear in the horizon. I felt a mixture of sadness for leaving Korea and excitement for seeing new countries like Vietnam, Mongolia, and Finland just to name a few. Plus I would be seeing my mother and brother. It was almost a year since I saw either of them last.

My Bunk with the curtains closed

Anchors Aweigh! 

According to the boat company’s website the ride lasts 25 hours, but it took about 2 hours longer than that for my ride. I heard from a fellow passenger that his trip over to Korea from China took 29 hours.

On board, the boat has many things to make your voyage across the sea more tolerable. There is a main cafeteria that is open only during meal times. The food is okay and not expensive. You can pay in either Won or Yuan.

There is also a bar/restaurant that stays open later than the cafeteria. The food there tastes less like cafeteria food and more like kimbap shop food.

There was also a DVD room, a norae bang, and a sauna area in the shower rooms. For the kids there was a video game area next to a very sad casino that lacked gamblers.

Aboard the ship I didn’t see much of the people in the bunks next to and around mine. As expected, most people only went to their bunks when it was time to sleep and then they closed their curtains. I did manage to see a turquoise bracelet on a wrist that stuck out of a bunk of a snoring neighbor.

On a boat to China

Back on Solid Ground

I met two guys on the ship, a Canadian, Tim, who had just finished his contracted year teaching in Korea and an American, Brian, who was going back to work in China after vacationing in Korea. We were the only non-Asian people on the boat.

Once we were off the boat our group of three appointed Brian the navigator, and his duty was to get us to the bus stop where we would get the bus to Tianjin. Once on the bus we sat next to a lady with a turquoise bracelet.  As I sat there trying to think why the bracelet looked so familiar, the lady introduced herself.

She just happened to have had the bunk next to mine on the boat from Incheon and recognized me. She chatted the whole bus ride and then helped us get to the train station. The lady was Chinese and married to a Korean. She was on holiday in China to visit her folks. She was a lovely woman.

At the train station in Tianjin our group became a trio again when we said, “goodbye” to Brian. Mrs. Turquoise helped us to buy tickets to Beijing. It was a good thing she was there too. The Canadian, Tim, and I just watched the crowd at the ticket counter in disbelief. It was a mad group of people pushing and shoving to get tickets. I think a couple of burly men were even fighting for real over the last ticket to somewhere. But Mrs. Turquoise took our money and just walked right into the crowd and disappeared.

Tim looked at me and half heartedly suggested that we do something to help her. “Like what?” I asked. As he fumbled for a reply Mrs. Turquoise returned with 3 tickets to Beijing in hand. “These were the last tickets for the next train,” she said. “Did you get hurt in there?” Tim asked. Mrs. Turquoise looked at him as if she had no idea what he was talking about.

We followed her and boarded the train together. It was a nice train with clean bathrooms. I know, because after the bus ride I really had to go. Mrs. Turquoise led me to the bathroom section of the train. There were two unoccupied toilets, so we each took one.

When we got back to our seats some big bald baddie-looking guy and his bigger baddie-looking friend were in our seats. Tim said that he tried to explain that the seats were already taken, but they would not listen. Mrs. Turquoise show them our tickets, but they would not move. The men indicated that we should find some seats somewhere else. “You snooze, you lose!”

Mrs. Turquoise started yelling at them. I have no idea what she said to them, probably something about having their mothers hostage back in her dungeon. Shortly into her rant they shot up from their, umm ours seats and apologized for their huge lapse in judgement. They didn’t even bother with looking for another seat in our train car. They just ran to the next one. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprise if they hurled themselves from the train in fear, shame, or whatever feeling Mrs. Turquoise’s speech stirred in them.

In Beijing Mrs. Turquoise went to her parents’ home and it was just Tim and me. We ate dinner at a Chinese fast-food place and opened our Lonely Planet: China books to look for a place to stay. After discussing our options we picked the Qianmen Hostel near the Qianmen subway station.

This hostel was really nice and the location was very near everything I wanted to see. When I went back to Beijing the following month with my mom and brother, I stayed at the Qianmen Hostel again.

I did not see much of Beijing in May. One of the purposes of going to Beijing at that time was to get tickets on the Trans-Mongolian Express for my mom, brother, and me. But the tickets would not be sold until five days before departure. This was in 2008 and the summer Olympics would be in Beijing in three months. This screwed up a lot of train ticket sales for international journeys.

The next day I had breakfast with Tim and then never saw him again. I was heading down south to Vietnam and then going to Mongolia and he was going up north to Inner Mongolia then going to Vietnam. Unfortunately I don’t remember his real name but he just seemed like a “Tim” so in this blog he will be known as Tim.

Chinese Train

Off to Chongqing

After not getting train tickets to Mongolia, I went to the Beijing West Train Station and took the T9 to Chongqing which took about 25 hours. In that time I ate, slept, read books, and talked with whoever was around that could speak English or was willing to do a little miming.

There is a dining car on the T9, though I didn’t see it. I  completely forgot about meals and only remembered to eat when the lady with the meal cart came by. The meals cost about 30 Yuan and were composed of mostly meat with rice and some sort of vegetable. I usually like the Chinese train meals, although I don’t always know what I’m eating.

No Occupying While Stable?

Is this where I am to have my nervous breakdown?

On the train, I came across the most wonderful sign on a bathroom door. At first I had no idea what  it meant. The train had just pulled into a station and was parked. I really wanted to use the bathroom but the door was locked. I thought that someone was having a really hard time in there, but I was willing to wait. One of the ladies working on the train saw me waiting and she pointed to the sign. “Train stop, no open. Train no stop, open.”

Ahh… I see! Do not use while the train is parked…

All Pictures

Boat From Incheon, Korea to Tianjin (Tanggu), China

How to make reservations:

  • Call: +82-32-777-8260
  • for better English call the Korean Tourist Information line: +82-2-1330. This is for assistance only. The Korean Tourist information line is not associated with the boat company.

When you call they might tell you that you need to come down to the dock in person so they can photo copy your passport, visa to China, and other documents. You can ask them to let you fax or e-mail the information instead, and pay by credit card or bank transfer.

Website for Boat Company (in Korean. Use Google translator)

How to get to the dock:

  • 37°27’53.3″N 126°37’30.4″E
  1. Go to the Dong-Incheon Subway station.
  2. Take bus 23, 24, 17-1, or 3. There is a McDonald’s near the bus stop to get on the bus.
  3. You should get off the bus near another McDonald’s across the street from the port.


  • Schedule
  • Departing Procedure
  • The cost of the ticket depends on which boat you take and the class of your accommodations. I took the cheapest ticket on the boat to Tianjin and it cost a little over 100USD. My Chinese visa cost more than my fair to China.
  • You must have a valid visa before entering China. To get a visa to China while in Korea you must go through a travel agent, not the Chinese embassy.


How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to China.
  • Visas to China are expensive for people of some nationalities.
  • Getting a Chinese visa is not a quick process. Apply as soon as you can.



There is a long list of websites that cannot be accessed while in China. Facebook and parts of Wikipedia are just two of them. As with everything, there are ways around it. There are sites that will let you get to Facebook and other sites for free for about 15 minutes, then you will have to pay.

My advice is to find a few of them and use them for free. Then use them again on a different computer. If you are in China for a long time, then you might want to invest in paying for the service. Ask friends living in China for the best deals.



*These books by Jung Chang are banned in China. But I highly recommend reading Mao: The Unknown Story before going to Beijing.


  • If you want an internet cafe look for this (网吧) on a sign.

About this sound

How to get there:

  • 39°08’16.1″N 117°12’41.7″E (Tianjin Railway Station)

From Tanggu –

  • Take a bus or the train from Tanggu Railway Station or around that area.

I don’t remember exactly how to do it, since I was mostly following someone who lived in the area.

Just ask around.



Tanggu is a small port town on the out skirts of Tianjin. To get the Beijing you will need to get to the main city of Tianjin.


How to get there:

From Tianjin –

  • Take a train, regular or express, to Beijing Railway Station.

I don’t remember exactly how to do it, since I was mostly following someone who lived in the area.

Just ask around.



Click for Google maps

One Response to “No Occupying While Stable”

  1. […] were going so well, I started thinking about signing up for another year at English Channel. I had an around-the-world trip planned, but I was hoping to return to Korea and English Channel when that was done. But, during my […]


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