Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Made in Korea

March 1, 2011 - Tuesday
Jim has a IBA conference in Seoul, Korea for two days this week.
We will be making it a long weekend in Seoul. This area we have never visited. So once again it should be interesting to see if it is a destination we want to return to in the future.
Our flight travels today start early, with a 7A departure to San Francisco, an hour connection, and then 14 hours to Seoul. We should arrive into Korea at 4:30P on Wednesday.

March 2, 2011 - Wednesday

We arrived in Seoul at 4:30P. The flight here seemed longer than others, though it was only 12 hours from San Francisco. After a small lunch, 3 Bloody Marys, and an ambien, it was time for a
long nap to kill the time of the flight. Unfortunately, we were only able to sleep about 2.5 hours.
No idea what the reason was for the short duration. Usually we can sneek in 6 hours.
Movies and reading were the call for the duration of the flight.
We took the airport bus to The Shilla hotel, which took about 60 minutes. The airport is quite a distance from the hotel.
Because we had been up for most of the day, a short nap before dinner was in order.
We decided to have dinner in one of the 3 restaurants, on premise. Neither of us was in the mood for any city adventures tonight.
We stopped at the beautiful hotel bar for a few nightcaps, and called it a night.

March 3, 2011 - Thursday

We had planned to do running this morning out doors. The weather though was a bit to cool for our liking, 25 degrees. We went first thing to the hotel gym, which has all the amenities one could imagine. Three miles on the treadmill overlooking the city was perfect.
The included breakfast buffet, made for a perfect morning start.
Since Jim had the day free until the cocktail reception at 6P, we thought we would venture out and explore Seoul.
Seoul is a massive city. We took a cab (very inexpensive) quite a distance to one of the many street shopping districts. Streets were lined with shops after shop selling all kinds of goods, from purses to jewelry and food.
We stopped in two large department stores, that were high end in prices. Though not at all crowded, there was staff everywhere. The shoe department must have had at least 20 employees milling around. Though none of them were ever idle. Always either looking for a customer assist or straightening up the merchandise.
The weather was sunny but very cold. It is hard to enjoy the scenery with 25 degrees temperatures. We wandered into an underground shopping area where there is a variety of shops, small in size, but literally hundreds of them side by side. Most of them selling similar merchandise. (I wonder how the owners can survive making a living)
Most of the clothing, in our opinion, was quite expensive. Nothing was screaming bargain.
We stopped for a light lunch at a "safe" restaurant that was German themed. As much as we wanted to venture into some of the local establishments, we opted for the other venue.
The brisk air wiped us out a bit, so again, nap time was calling at 3P.
Dinner tonight was at a authentic Korean restaurant, Samwon Garden.
Very bright in lighting, with granite tables that had the grills built. Dinner was cooked at the table by your server. Our problem was the language barrier. Though a manager who spoke a bit of English, helped us through the order process. (Pictures on the menu was very helpful)
We were bought about 10 small dishes of various marinated vegetables and salads to share. Though some were on the spicy side, all were fresh and tasty.
The strip steak and short ribs were grilled in a short period of time and were delicious.
Our entire time spent here was about one hour, very fast compared to out usual lingering.
Back to the hotel bar to finish the evening.

March 4, 2011 - Friday

Jim was scheduled for an all day session at the International Bar Association Conference.
After breakfast I ventured out on my own to check out a different part of Seoul.
My cab ride started out fine for the first few minutes, until a new Hyundai driver decided to slam into us on the road. My belongings got tossed off the seat, but the cab driver and I were fine except for the damage to his cab. After a few minutes my driver hailed another cab and I was back on my way.
I spent the next three hours walking through the streets of Gangnam-gu, south of our location. This area is referred as the new town. It very much reminded be of Hong Kong vs Kowloon, which is a much older area.
I came across many restaurants that looked like possible dinner locations for the next two nights.
The shopping areas in this area are very high end; Escada, Prada, Armani, Cartier etc..
The automobiles here were less Hyundai and more BMW and Mercedes just like in Hong Kong.

Our choice for dinner this evening was Gramercy Kitchen. (Ironically we enjoy the Gramercy Tavern in New York and thought this was just a coincidence in name) We found out the Kitchen is owned by the Westin Hotel. Though the menu is entirely different, they did have some similarities besides the service and quality of food. Individual wrapped and bagged muffins are given to each guest before you leave, for a morning snack the next day. This is exactly what is done in NY. Not quite sure who is involved here, but the brought a fine dining theme to Korea.

March 5, 2011- Saturday

We started are morning early with breakfast at 6:30A., to be ready for the start of an organized tour, DMZ. There were approximately 10 tourists this morning and 2 guides. Jim & I were the only Americans, while the remaining were Japanese. (It was like having our own private tour guide)
It took approximately 45 minutes to reach the DMZ. Security is high, border checks, passport checks and many rules to follow on picture taking.
The highlight (if you want to call it that) was the visitation of Tunnel 3 which was burrowed by the North sometime in the 1960's and was discovered in 1978. We rode down to the tunnel in funicular, the walked the narrow and very low passage to the safe line. (Once this was discovered in 1978, two rooms/walls were built so the passage was further prevented from the North)
Throughout the area you see barbed wire with red triangles hanging. This serves as notification that land mines are still present.
Uniformed Korean and UN soldiers are present everywhere.
As with any attraction in the world, a small food/refreshment stand is available and of course a souvenir shop.
Though I will admit, I was a bit nervous about this trip today, I glad to have have an opportunity to see this area first hand.

1 comment:

ChiTown Girl said...

Oh my hell!!! Do you plan to spend any of 2011 in the good ol' US of A?!? ;-)

Have a safe trip. Can't wait to see the photos!