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    August 12, 2017

    Trip To Beijing, China

    August 10, 2017

    I have had a horrible time with trips lately.

    I get all excited, tell people that I’m going, to only have something out of my control cancel the trip.

    As I said previously, I will no longer be announcing my trips.

    I will take it from the old Soviet space missions – report on things after they’re already done, and edit accordingly.

    So, I’m taking a mini-vacation and decided that my journey will be starting and ending in Beijing, China.

    Of course, to compensate for getting scammed all the time, I have to be a frugal as possible in other parts of my life.

    So, instead of paying for a direct flight to Beijing from LAX, I cut my travel costs in half by taking a direct flight from LAX, past Beijing to Changsha and then take another two hour flight back and land in Beijing.

    Thursday night, Professional Debriefer Paul stayed sober enough to give me a ride to the airport; I thank him for his sacrifice.

    Traffic to LAX was great, until we got to the airport – it was nightmare traffic from hell.

    It was so bad, PDP dropped me off at the arrival level.

    I checked in with no problems and was even lead to the “family security line” where I didn’t have to remove my shoes or laptop from my bag and avoided the porno scanner and gate massage.

    The flight was an hour late and I asked the counter person if I would have enough time to transfer to my flight to Beijing – I would have one hour.

    “Oh, no problem,” I was told.

    My flight was rescheduled to leave at 2:40 am, so I ordered six beers at the bar before they closed at 1 am.

    We took off; I had an isle seat next to a very nice Chinese couple.

    I was tired… I mean really tired… travel anxiety, the airport, the 12 beers I had before I left… I just fell asleep.

    I woke up six hours later and looked at how much longer we have to fly; only eight more hours!

    Darkness through most of the flight.

    The Sun was nowhere to be seen; it actually only came up during the last hour of the 14 hour flight.

    All movies have Chinese subtitles
    All the American movies have Chinese subtitles on Hainan Airlines.

    Flight details

    We landed actually right on time, even though we were an hour late in taking off.

    It seemed like it took forever to get my luggage, and get through customs.

    The customs agent was grilling me on why I was there and why I have a Russian visa that expired and I had never gone to Russia.

    “My trip got cancelled, that’s why I came here,” I said.

    By the time I actually got my domestic boarding pass for the next flight, I had 30 minutes before boarding and waiting in the security line I was thinking, “Fuck! I’m gonna miss my flight!”

    I didn’t even have time to exchange my money into Chinese Won.

    I got there right when the flight was to board…

    Beijung delayed!

    Our flight was delayed, and I didn’t know why.

    I met a fellow passenger who needed a connecting flight from Beijing.

    He said, “The Beijing airport sucks; I try and avoid it at all costs. I’m going to miss my flight.”

    Stuck in Changsha

    After two hours, an announcement was made in Chinese over the PA, and then 90% of the passengers left the waiting area.

    The terminal empties

    I asked what was going on to the lady at the desk, but she spoke no English.

    Trapped in Changshaw

    After some time, they brought out an English speaker who said that “All flights have been delayed due to thunderstorms and wind in Beijing; we have shipped our guests to a hotel until the flight will resume.”


    I tried to order a beer at the noodle bar, but they didn’t take American money!

    This was the first time that I’ve ever been to a country where they don’t take American money!

    After four hours, and nobody was back in the terminal, I decided to make a mad dash to the international terminal and exchange my money for RMB.

    So, now I can have a few beers and eat!


    Me with my Budweiser
    They have Budweiser, The King Of Beers, but it has the old pull tabs that get littered everywhere.

    Seven hours late, we finally were given the all clear to board the plane to Beijing.

    We were told, “This will be a bumpy ride, so be prepared.”

    And yes, it was.

    I was sound asleep on the flight when I was awoken by people screaming and noticed that my stomach was in my throat – we were weightless for a few seconds before the plane stabilized and then shook more.

    We landed in Beijing Friday night.

    The long bus ride from the landing to the terminal.
    For some strange reason, we landed way the hell outside the terminal and were bused to pick up our luggage.

    This should be an interesting trip.

    July 2, 2017

    My July Trip Has Been Cancelled Due To National Origin Discrimination!

    My July trip has been cancelled – not by me, but by the tour group that I was going with, simply because I am an American citizen.

    I jinx all my trips:

    2012 – I bragged about going to Albania, only to have the Polish diving base close. I had to find and hire a student from the University of Tirana to complete my mission of diving in Albania.

    2013 – I went diving in Poland, however, Greg, the guy who was suppose to take me diving had personal issues and couldn’t. He turned me over to another diving group – that was no issue.

    OK, I have not been totally honest with the six people who read this blog – I did not want to jinx my trip.

    Yes, it was a trip to Vladivostok, Russia to go diving.

    Well, it also included a six day tour and diving in North Korea.

    So, here’s the story.

    I work in a cubicle, sort of like a jail cell, in the basement of a building.

    Diving in Hawaii or Fuji, just really doesn’t cut it for me.

    I need to go someplace weird, and when I found out last year that there was the first tour group of its kind, open to the public, to go diving in North Korea, I knew that was the trip for me…

    This isn’t a joke – they have diving in North Korea.

    DPRK Receipt
    In September of last year, I put a deposit down and paid the balance in June.

    For almost a year, I heard how wonderful “The Real North Korea” is and how any negative news that I may hear is just “standard banter between the US and DPRK that has been going on for 70 years.”

    I had to jump through hoops to get a Russian Visa ($385), buy a letter of invitation ($45) and I also went out of my way to become PADI certified, as the tour group did not recognize any other agency other than PADI.

    On June 3rd, I received a confirmation email stating that the trip is on and that we were to all meet in Vladivostok, Russia on July 6, 2017.

    Then, the unexpected happened…

    Otto Warmbier In Custody

    Otto Warmbier, who had been held in North Korea for 17 months, was medevaced to Cincinnati the same day Dennis Rodman landed in Pyongyang.

    Mr. Warmbier arrived in a comatose state and died on June 19, 2017 of unknown causes; his family refused an autopsy.

    On March 16, 2016, Mr. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after he was caught and confessed to stealing a propaganda poster from a staff only area in the hotel he was staying at; he was with the same tour company that was taking me SCUBA diving.

    I agree, that is an unusually harsh sentence, but a man in the United States had been sentenced to 25 years to life for stealing pizza and another received a life sentence for stealing a pair of socks.

    What happened to Mr. Warmbier is anyone’s guess, but I personally think he tried to commit suicide and the North Koreans couldn’t revive him.

    American prisoners in the DPRK are too valuable to be tortured and starved or beaten; something else must have happened.

    After Mr. Warmbier’s death, the tour company started getting a lot of bad press:

    Gung-ho culture at tour agency Warmbier used on North Korea trip

    Boozy tours court trouble in the hermit kingdom

    Then on June 19, two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for Russia, I read the headline, Tour group says no more Americans to North Korea after Warmbier’s death

    Well, luckily, I had already booked and paid for my trip, so this was obviously for future trips.

    That same day, I received an email from the tour group…

    “I wish I was contacting you under happier circumstances, but I’m afraid that’s not the case this week. Due to the recent events regarding Otto Warmbier, we have reassessed our decision to bring American travelers into North Korea and have decided we will no longer be coordinating tours for American visitors to the DPRK, starting immediately. This means that we will have to cancel your booking for the upcoming SCUBA diving tour to North Korea.”

    What the fuck?

    I wrote back, “That sucks. I can understand the tragedy with Mr. Warmbier, but it probably would have happened regardless of nationality. Can’t you make an exception since I signed up almost a year in advance? And no, I don’t have travel insurance. It will cost me not to go.”

    I also wrote about my extensive experience in cold water diving and that I would be an asset to the group.

    “Perhaps you need a staff safety diver? I could do that,” I wrote.

    Three days of silence was followed by the next correspondence:

    “I’ve tried talking to management about still bringing you along but they are very persistent about the finality of the decision. So unfortunately we will still have to go ahead with the cancellation.”

    That was it.

    People can go diving in North Korea, but I can’t because I am an American.

    I told my friend Rick, “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against; I now know what it’s like to be black.”

    Rick said, “You don’t know what it’s like to be black, and everyone thought you were a dick face for even trying to go to North Korea.”

    I have ran into all sorts of problems, on every international diving trip that I have planned.

    To be so close, with what would have been the ultimate mark on my diving bucket list, only to be told that since I am American I can’t go but everyone else can, really sucks.

    I became really depressed and it sent me off into heavy debriefing mode for several days, to the point where my boss told me to “switch your cologne because it smells like beer.”

    I did some research on how I could go diving in North Korea now.

    There are currently four tour companies that will still take American citizens, however after contacting them, they are currently “reassessing” their policies towards Americans.

    None of the four tour groups have diving trips to North Korea, however you can go surfing in the DPRK.

    I am not a surfer, I’m just too fat.

    There is also talk of the United States government making it illegal to travel to North Korea, for whatever stupid reason they can make up.

    So in order for an American citizen to go SCUBA diving in North Korea now, a diving crew from either Russia or China would have to be hired and then one of the approved tour companies that still take Americans would have to put the tour together.

    If anyone is interested in such a trip, I would be happy to look into it further, but it won’t be cheap; contact me if you have any serious interest in such a trip.

    Also, anything the United States government does in the way of travel laws could interfere with these plans.

    Thanks to my friend Mirek, who pointed out that someone called Handel On The Law last Saturday with a similar situation; maybe I can find him and we can do a class action lawsuit?

    Handel On The Law

    It cost me almost $1,000 not to go.

    As one of my friends told me, “You failed and have disgraced the SCUBA diving community. You are lucky you aren’t Japanese because you would have to commit Harakiri to preserve your family’s honor.”


    I told him, “If I was Japanese, I would be able to fucking go!”

    I will no longer be announcing trip plans, maybe that is part of the jinx?

    Anyway, that ends the best diving trip that never happened… because I am an American.

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