Korea – Full of Love

To us Korea is not just a travel destination, but also our home. We have been dreaming of meeting up with family, friends and eating all that delicious Korean food.

Our plan is to stay in Korea for 6 weeks, the longest of any country. Spend some time with Hyein’s parents to make sure they are proper sick of us before we leave. This way they will not miss us as much…i’m not sure if this plan will work, but we will do our best.

Speaking of Korean food, i will do a separate post on all the Korean food we tried and why i think its one of the best in the world. Fine, i’m biased but the food is still great.

There will be a proper “Korea overlanding” post, but we have to wait to get out car first. For now, we are staying with Hyein’s family in Seoul.


Funny enough, even though everyone knew months in advance the day we arriving, when we should up at the house…no one was there. It felt weird, walking through, calling out the names and realizing that no one loves you…no one cares. Right? You would expect that you would be greeted with smiles, hugs and tears all around… Nope, we are the forgot son and daughter.

Turns out my self-pity party was unnecessary, Hyein’s mom…i’ll just call her Mom from now on…easier to type, same with Dad. They thought we are arriving much later and went to the store to buy some late minute deliciousness.


Right about the time we got to Korea, my family back in San Jose had their yearly mess of birthdays. You see, my mom (Jania), my step-dad (Andrei) and my sister (Polina) ALL have birthdays within 5 days of each other. If you think this is a great idea…think about all the logistics of celebrating these birthday, with different guests and age groups. My grandmother, my mom’s mom has her birthday on May 12th…so there is that as well.

Anyway, I wish them all a big “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Next year, we will be there to celebrate it with you guys. Love Hyein, Ivan, Mom and Dad!


While in Thailand, we started to contact the family members and friends that we wanted to see to make sure we can plan everything out and not miss anyone.

Hyein’s Mom has 6 siblings and Hyein’s Dad has 8 siblings. Yes, that is 14 uncle and aunts, 28 if you include their partners. Most of them have at least 2 kids…so thats somewhere around 30 cousins. And you thought your family was large.

Now you understand why we started planing our schedule weeks before….

The first day we met parent’s friends and spent a nice day of hanging out, eating and chatting about the travel.


Since Hyein was in charge of scheduling all the events, i felt like a celebrity. I would wake up in the morning, take a shower, have my coffee and listen to our plans for the day. On this beautiful day we went down to south of Seoul to meet with Dad’s youngest sister. Oh and that is Soohwan, Hyein’s brother in the red sweater.


The youngest sister is also Suin’s mom…yay, see we are connecting dots here. And that is Cuin (pronounced Kuin), Suin’s little sister.


Couldn’t resist and called up Suin…not only was it early in Bangkok, but waking up a college student on the weekend before noon should be a crime.


Suin’s mom runs a Pansori (wiki reference – Pansori) academy, where she teaches a traditional Korean singing/story telling art.


But this point in the blog you already know that I’m amazing at anything that I do…almost god like. Unfortunately, singing is not one of them. I personally love singing and do it all the time…just that other people don’t seem to like it that much.

On top of that add my basic Korean and you will see that i’m not much use in the Pansori academy. But I CAN put on some silly costumes and act the part.



Soohwan (Hyein’s brother) reluctantly joining in on the silly play. He, like most of Hyein’s family can sing and sing well, so he doesn’t need to make up for anything by wearing a costume.



Went outside and waved at passing cars…i’m pretty sure no one actually even noticed us. Btw, if you are wondering…that is a traditional Korean backpack that i’m wearing.


Done with the costumes, went to walk around the academy and enjoy the beautiful spring weather.


Same day, more family. In the evening we decided to meet Dad’s older sister and her family – top row, sister, her husband, her daughter and two grand kids.


From their house drove 5 minutes to another sister’s house and met up their family. By this point the elevator is super crowded, people are loud, everyone is laughing and i have no idea what is going on, just trying to capture the moment.


Aaaaah…i get it…we are going outside to take the most North Korean picture ever.


Little bit more serious photo for the memory.


After dinner, where we took up most of the restaurant we went to do the most Korean thing you can imagine – whole family Karaoke, its called Norebang here. Literally translates as Singing Room. You would expect that the younger crowd would lead the way in these festivities, nope – the older sister was in charge, waving toilet paper in the air making sure everyone is singing and having fun. I’m sure we were the loudest group, we danced we sang…and when we were leaving the Norebang workers couldn’t help but smile as they said good-bye to the rowdiest family they have seen in years.

And that was just a small part of the family and only from Dad’s side.


Next up, meeting Mom’s older sister and her family, one daughter and two sons. All of them are married and have their own kids now.


A regular evening with the family turns into a mess of little kids, soju, beer, laughing and crying.


The coolest thing is that the mom and her three kids all live within 10 minutes of walking from each other. They see each other almost everyday…my family is so strewn all over the world that i get super jealous. Maybe my life would have been different if we all lived close to each other…


Aaaah…the famous Korean card game, called Go-Stop. We played it with Mom’s younger sister, who tried to teach me the rules but somehow ended up winning almost everything. Also, she was super funny when trying to explain she would speaker in Korean LOUDER, hoping that the louder she the better i will understand. Doesn’t work that way…


Ivan….okay who are these little kids? Yup, more family – Hyein’s cousin’s two little daughters.


More family? Yes – Hyungjoon, Hyein’s cousin. I swear we spent almost 3 weeks meeting up with just family and we haven’t even covered half of it.

Even by Korean standard, Hyein’s grandparents didn’t really sleep much at night. On both sides – mom’s and dad’s. These days people just have 2 or 3 kids.


Oh….is this another family member?

No, finally starting the friends tour. Met up Miran, who we know from San Diego. She was the official photographer of our awesome San Diego wedding.


Since that beautiful time in SoCal she got married and had a little baby boy – Jongho!



We picked up some baby sized elephant pants for Jongho while in Thailand. They fit like a glove.


When trying to research how to ship our car to Korea, I looked for other people overlanding in Korea and found very little info. There have been many people visiting Korea, but mostly by ferry from Vladivostok or Japan. Some people have managed to fly their motorcycles in and travel around.

So, we thought we would come in, ship our car, write some posts and tell how awesome this place is. Well, we weren’t the only ones with this idea. The legendary LandCruising Adventure have made their way over to Korea just a month before us.

One day out of nowhere we get a message from some guy called Jin. He says that he is hosting the LandCrusing Adventures while they are in Seoul and if we have time and desire he would like to invite us to meet up. Turns out Jin and his wife, Sonna, have been reading Hyein’s blog from the very first post. He knows all the stories, all our happy and sad times.


Not knowing what to expect we decided to go for a bit to meet Jin, Sonna and Coen and Karin of LandCruising Adventures.


Turns out Jin and Sonna are also planning to start their overlanding trip around the world this August in Canada. We were expecting to stay only for a couple of hours…but ended up there well into the night, sharing travel and life stories. You know that the crazy thing is … that someone who is reading the LandCruising Adventure blog is also reading ours. Karin and Coen have been traveling for 13 years….once again 13 years and we are being put in the same category. Man, I look up to them and see myself as a complete newbie.

Jin and Sonna, thank you for hosting us! We wish you all the luck in your travels.

Make sure to check out LandCruising Adventures blog and see what REAL blogging and REAL overlanding is like!


Randomly walking down the street of Seoul, on our way to meet Hyein’s girlfriends and what do we see? A fellow world traveler.

After a minute of talking, turns out he is also Russian…wow what a coincidence…me too! Anyway, Oleg has traveled all over South East Asia and is currently crowd-funding his next leg of the trip from Vladivostok to Europe. Check him out here – https://www.facebook.com/olegmotohomeless

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More silly debauchery with Hyein’s college girlfriends – Sinyoung and Jeongwon.


Oh…and you should recognize this person – our very own, professional Singaporean tour guide and dear friend – Stephanie. This time we met in Seoul, where she actually knew more things to do and eat than us…

I wonder if we continue traveling, that we will meet the same people in different places. Like someone who we met in Seoul, we will magically see when we are in Moscow or Europe? I really hope so, it would be a lot of fun.



Brian, Jiny and Jeongmi all from Hyein’s college, Yonsei, and all of them went over for the one year exchange program to UCSD. They were there when i was trying to convince Hyein to go out with me, they saw all my bad jokes and silly attempts at making Hyein laugh and like me.

But i’m not ashamed, it worked and we are here now.

That’s not coke…Thai menthol sniffers.


Man…everyone we visit now is either married or already have a child. Only we are escaping our responsibilities and traveling the world.

Anyway…this night we met up with Miyon and her husband, Youngsoon. Miyon also went over to US for an exchange program in college.

Turns out Youngsoon is a fellow traveler and an Inspector in Korean police.


This is by far the funnest night i’ve had with a police officer…


The photo in the phone is google search of “mongolian girl with guitar”.


Met up with our former San Diego roommate – Kyungmi. I hope UCSD grad housing doesn’t read this post…because we weren’t allowed to have unauthorized roommates 🙂


Some friends we met up more than once – here are the girlfriends all together. I feel like this is a very “sex in the city” type of shot.


Its a beautiful spring day in Seoul…what do you do at night? Go to the Han river, buy a bunch of beer and fried chicken and invite a friend.


Andrew, is also from Yonsei and also went to UCSD for exchange program…the year after Hyein.

I know this post is not our usual style but we haven’t been “traveling” much lately, mostly meeting up with friends, family, drinking and eating.

Next up, we finally get our car back and do some real traveling in South Korea.

2 Comment

  1. 覃老师 says:


    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says:

      I know, she is the luckiest girl in the world 🙂
      To be honest her husband is the funniest, the prettiest and the bestest!

      Joking aside, thank you very much. Really glad you are following along.
      (ps. ivan wrote this…i cant type in Chinese)

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