Friday, January 8, 2010

Just another cosmopolitan city

So a lot of people have asked me what Seoul is like, and honestly, it is like any other large, cosmopolitan city (at least what I have seen so far - keeping in mind I have spent most of my time in a meeting room in the hotel :) ) This morning I went for a walk down Tehran Road (in front of my hotel) and I could have been in any major Canadian city with the exception that I couldn't read any sign on any building. My Korean isn't that strong - okay, how about we say non-existent!

Yesterday morning (after I did my blog), I decided to go to the fitness centre in the hotel to have a run on the treadmill. I figured that if I was up this early, I might as well make some good use of my time and get back into the swing of things. Now the hotel (I am staying at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel) has a great fitness centre complete with a 25m pool, a tanning booth, large lounge areas and a few torture devices in the gym area. They have those belts that you put around your (fat) ass and it vibrates (I didn't try it out - I would have felt like an idiot) and they also had this roller/massage thing that I couldn't quite figure out, nor was I going to try as I figured that I was going to give the group of Korean men in the gym something to talk about anyway. As you all know, God has endowed me well and I think that all of the old Korean men that were in the gym quite enjoyed it! I have never seen so many people warm up and stretch so well around me as I did then! LOL!

Up until this trip I liked to think that I was fairly adventurous when it comes to food, but I have now realized that I like things that are familiar. Yesterday morning we went for breakfast in the hotel and let's put it this way, I don't think pho (vietnamese soup) is for breakfast. Nor do I think that sushi or oyster soup are breakfast items either. I am more of a waffles/toast/bacon type of girl. One thing I have noticed about the Korean diet is that it is high in protein and low in carbs (although they do seem to like their pasteries). Also yesterday at lunch we had Chinese food - go figure - we are in Korea and we had Chinese - today we had Japanese! I was impressed with myself as I ate the shark fin soup that was put in front of me yesterday. It wasn't bad but let's put it this way - I didn't ask for seconds! Tonight we are going out for Korean BBQ and I have made it clear that I won't eat puppy or any "parts". One of my goals this year is to cut back on my Starbucks intake, but I have to admit, I caved this morning. When I was out on my walk I came across a Starbucks and since I hadn't had breakfast, I decided to treat myself. Thankfully they have managed to proliferate everywhere! The menu was pretty much the same although I couldn't order a Venti mocha, nor did they have decaf! They did however had a Honey Orange Latte but given that I am not that adventurous with food, I opted not to have one.

A few things I have noticed over here include a lot of really bad teeth and an absense of dentists. There are also a lot of 7-11s around. Along the Han River coming into Seoul, they seemed to be every 500m or so. Go figure! I have had a hard time mastering international phone calls (although I finally did figure it out) and my ability to use a foreign ATM has been challenged as I have mentioned above, my Korean isn't that strong and many ATMs are only in Korean. Plus, the largest bill that they issue is the 10 000 won which is equal to about $10 CDN, so if you want more than say $50, you end up carrying this big wad of cash.

Tomorrow I should have some better pictures and posts - we are heading out to the DMZ and will also do some touring around Seoul. Until then. . . searching for my Seoul!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Searching for my Seoul

Yah, I know, cheesy title but I think it is kinda cute. :) Good morning from Seoul, South Korea. It is currently 5;30am here on Thursday morning (and 1:30pm on Wednesday in Calgary) I have been asked by a few people if I was going to blog on this trip and I am going to try - that is assuming that I have something interesting to share - and I already do! For those of you who are wondering why I am over here, it is for work and not pleasure, although there will be a pleasure component I am sure. I was invited by some of my co-workers in Houston to join them for some meetings - who was I to say "no"!

Being the eternal planner that I am when it comes to travelling, I researched out my flights to make sure that I was picking flights that had adequate connections in Vancouver and that were Shell complient and I settled on a flight leaving Calgary at 9:15am, arriving at 9:42am in Vancouver. That would give me 2 hours and 10 minutes to make my connection in Vancouver. Enough time to buy a book, maybe a magazine or two and kick back and relax in the Maple Leaf Lounge (and start my blog). Yah, that plan failed. The weather in Calgary yesterday was not very good and my flight that was supposed to leave at 9:15am left about 11:00am, thus arriving in Vancouver at 11:30am. Needless to say when I arrived in Vancouver I was a tad bit panicked as all of my good planning (or so I thought) had gone out the window and my flight that was leaving from the complete oppposite end of the airport was to leave in 20 minutes - ugh! Good ol' Air Canada to the rescue though. . .they had the golf cart waiting to whisk me and about 5 other peoople off to our gate. I have always wanted to do that. . .fly through the airport on the golf cart (or fly as much as you can on a golf court :) ) So I managed to make my flight and surprisingly, so did my luggage. Nothing too exciting on my flight to report other that the super hot pilot, who seemed to be missing a wedding band and/or a wedding band tan line and the 60+ year old lady with the plantinum blond corn rows resulting in a pony tail on the top of her head and botox lips with this awful orange lipstick that matched the trim on her top. Yep - she was a sight. True to my form I wanted to take a picture but unfortunately there was no way of doing that - which is too bad b/c she looked rough!

Flying into South Korea and looking down, it looked cold - winter is definitely here as well. What struck me was the clusters of apartment complexes surrounded by what looks like agricultrual fields. The airport in Seoul is a lovely, very modern and clean airport - kinda reminded me of flying into Toronto. Going through customs and immigration was a breeze, although the guy kept looking at my passport photo and then looking at me - my hair is short in that picture and longer now. I was expecting to see more of a security presence here, but I didn't really see anything. The drive in from the airport took us about 90 minutes and our driver obviously had never used the defrost function in the van before b/c within minutes we were completely fogged up and Bryan, one of my co-workers was having to take over the controls of unfogging us.

My initial impressions of Seoul driving in (keeping in mind that it was dark) was the it reminded me of driving into any big city and then when we got to South Seoul, where we are staying, it reminded me of downtown Vancouver. One thing to note is that they have the biggest intersections I have ever seen! The picture below is the view from my room.

Yep, I know, not my most exciting blog - but it is a start! Not too sure if I will have anything to exciting to update today, but keep checking back. I am here until Sunday (I think) - so between now and then I should have something exciting to say/show you!