All Aboard the Eastern Dream

We took a ferry from the town of Sakai-Minato, in Japan’s Tottori prefecture to Vladivostok via South Korea. A memorable 2-day journey aboard the “Eastern Dream.”

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In order to reach our next destination we must board a ferry from Sakaiminato which will take us to Vladivostok, Russia, with a 5 hour stop-over in South Korea. Jen and Antoine have taken a night bus from Tokyo and will join us on the ferry and a couple of days in Vladivostok. We meet them at Matsue station, they hire a car and we go for a very brief look at Matsue Castle, a beautiful temple like structure built on a hill overlooking the city. We don’t have long as Sakaiminato is about an hour drive and we are likely to get lost on the way.a

We head off with the idea that we will get close to the port and find somewhere nice for a crabby, shrimp lunch. Alas we fear we’re running out of time so we head straight down to the port to see if we can leave Betty early and go for lunch. The international passenger terminal appears to be deserted. Finally we manage to find the lovely Tatiana, and no, we cannot leave Betty till 3:30. It’s 2:45 so we head back into town to find a supermarket to grab something quick for lunch. Antoine leads us on an interesting drive into town. I fear the French man’s licence is actually just a photocopy of a fake.

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We can’t seem to find anywhere convenient and things are getting desperate so the boys settle for McDonalds. It’s not the way we envisaged our last meal in Japan but now there is no time. We grab some take away and get back to the port, ready to load Betty. I’ve become quite attached to Betty already, I’m sad that we have to part with her so soon. We might not see her again for up to six days while she clears customs in Vladivostok. After some inspections and paperwork, and some brute strength to remove the number plate, Betty is good to go. Phil drives her into the cargo hold, does a fifty point turn park into a very small space, and hands the keys to our baby over to a Korean sailor.

aaA couple of hours later we board the Eastern Dream. Our room has eight beds, the other three are taken by a group of Japanese men who are also taking their car to Vladivostok. They are doing a practise run, driving only to Khabarovsk and back, and will do the full trip at a later date. About five minutes after we board we are told we have 20 minutes before dinner finishes. This seems bizarre as we’ve only just stepped onto the ship! So we run up to the restaurant, load our plates from the delicious buffet and shovel our food down. After a quick investigation of the decks we find a nice table in the ‘Night Club’ (an open space on deck that has night club written on the wall) and then it’s time to crack open the rum and have our first Feverage!

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It’s not long until we’ve made new friends. I think we can credit the rum for this! A couple of Brits, a French couple, and a lone Japanese traveller join the merriment of our first night at sea. They all plan to travel a similar route to us but via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

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There are not many people on board the ferry so the ‘Night Club’ is not very lively. We were expecting the ship to be full of drunken Russians, to our surprise there are very few. After too many rums we hit the sack and look forward to brunch when we arrive in Korea.

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We land in South Korea the next morning. By the time we have disembarked and gone through customs it’s almost 10am. We must be back to board the ferry around midday so this doesn’t leave us long to explore Donghae. We jump in taxis to the centre of town, do some supermarket shopping (always great fun in a foreign country) and then wander around looking for an open restaurant that serves a traditional fried pork dish. We are failing, everywhere is closed, and once again are running out of time. So we settle for an open restaurant and eat a feast of steamed pork and various Korean dishes, and then before we know it it’s time to get back to the port and back on board the Eastern Dream. South Korea was brief but lovely, looking forward to visiting properly one day!

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The passenger numbers seem to double on the next leg, more Russians, more Koreans, the boat seems a bit more lively.  We set ourselves up at our table once again and the rum and games begin! We must be in international waters again by now. But where are the monkey knife fights? We search the upper decks, no monkeys just some drunken Russians. Maybe somewhere below the decks! When the Russians have stopped stumbling past and the Koreans have given up their karaoke, we head off to bed and look forward to arriving in Russia!fr

Our first glimpse of Russia is eerie and cold. It’s drizzling and we are surrounded by cloud. We sail past ships that are docked but can’t see the land beyond. This isn’t the Russian summer we were imagining. I’m worried, my winter clothes are packed in the roof top box with Betty. Let’s hope the mainland is not too cold. The ship arrives around 2:30pm but we cannot disembark until 3:40. It’s a frustrating wait, we want to be on land and Jen and Antoine only have two days to spend with us in Vladivostok. Finally around 4pm we make it through immigration and customs, a relatively easy process it turns out. We find the friendly Svetlana who will be helping us get Betty out, and then it’s on into the beautiful, cloud engulfed Vladivostok for some Vodka and fun!1000988_10100535329158482_482750443_n

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