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Seoul to Vladivostok while avoiding unfriendly neighbours

Korean Airlines burns a lot of extra fuel to stay in friendly skies

semi-overcast 17 °C
View As the Crow Flies Russia 2019 on stevecrownz's travel map.

While David was swanning across the skies in Business Class the rest of the Russia Team were checking in at Gate 235 at Incheon International Airport in Seoul for our two and a half hour Economy Class hop to Vladivostok.

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8k? Seriously? I don't even have a 4K television at home yet but Samsung were advertising a QLED 8k version in the departure lounge. I spent a few minutes watching it but to be honest I could not discern any significant improvement over the 'standard' 4k offerings on sale at home-ware retailers at home - still if you are so inclined to always want the latest and greatest 8k is apparently coming soon.

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Soon we were boarding ...

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As usual John powered off ahead as fast as his massive 6'5" frame would carry him, leaving us mere mortals stumbling on behind in his wake. That's him in the picture below, striding purposely towards the air bridge (probably secretly disappointed that the little lady cutting in from the left is going to beat him onboard.... aghhh first world problems).

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It was a good flight, John and I were seated together. The biggest surprise for us both was the route that Korean Airlines took - going hundreds of miles 'off-course' from the direct route in what could only be explained as a very costly (for them, think of just the additional fuel cost - I believe the A300 burns about 10 tons per hour) effort to avoid the airspace of their missile-loving nutcase to the north. Thank you Korean Airlines, we would rather not be a target for despots.

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Like many are these days, the plane was fitted with a number of external cameras, allowing passengers to select to view such scenes as 'forward', 'straight down', 'from the tail', 'left side', right side', etc. It was through the 'straight down' camera that I soon caught my first glimpse of Russia as the clouds parted and luscious green forest appeared below, followed a few minutes later by the runway at Vladivostok International Airport through the 'Forward view' camera.

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Now I would be lying if I said I expected to breeze through immigration and customs on arrival in Vladivostok but that is exactly what happened. Sure there were long and slow-moving queues at the rather primitive immigration counters in a non-air-conditioned arrivals area but after examining my APEC Card and passport the non-smiling immigration lady stamped my passport and suddenly I was officially IN RUSSIA. Not a word was spoken in the minutes I was at the counter - she just did whatever she did, stamping paperwork, looking at multiple screens etc, in chilling silence.

I was expecting a full going over at customs but the guy on the counter for the Green 'Nothing to Declare' lane did not even look up from whatever he was reading and suddenly I was out, into the cavernous and rather empty main terminal area. All in all, arriving in Russia (or Vladivostok anyway) was easier than doing the same in New Zealand or Australia. Absolutely painless and a pleasant surprise.

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Pretty soon however one of our party, our intrepid "leader" John Carr, got an unpleasant surprise. Being the ever-cautious over-planner that he can be, not wanting any delays when he arrived, John had shipped his 2018 BMW R1200 GSA from his home in Las Vegas to Vladivostok to arrive several weeks before us. No risk of shipping delays for John. On hand to greet him in the arrivals hall was a lady from the local shipping agent that he was using - to politely inform him that his bike had incurred over US$ 4000 in storage charges in the 3 weeks it had been sitting on the wharf awaiting his arrival. John's argument that he had been quoted US$10/day (so US$210 in total) for storage fell on deaf ears and so started 24 hours of very costly clearance processes that ended up costing him about US$6500 or some 5x the actual shipping cost! Welcome to Russia.

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John, with Oleg assisting, arguing with his local shipping agent about the huge storage costs he got hit with.

David and I fervently hope this isn't a indicator of what awaits us when we try to clear our bikes after they arrive on the 27th but our agent, Yuri, is supposedly the best in the business so we are optimistic.

John departed the airport with his shipping agent and pretty soon the rest of us bundled into 'Maxim' cars (sort of Russian version of Uber) for the 50km journey from the airport to downtown Vladivostok and our hotel.

We are finally here, after nearly two years of planning.

Posted by stevecrownz 13:37 Archived in Russia Tagged crow bmw russia immigration customs vladivostok versys carr as_the_crow_flies 1200gsa korean_airlines

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