The flight to Seoul from Tokyo was a bit over two hours. Thankfully, I filled out all requisite forms correctly, and getting through customs and the baggage area (just to give the agent one of my forms) went quickly. Even finding the correct bus to take into town wasn't too difficult, and a human being was actually selling bus tickets right as you exited the arrivals terminal and walked over to the bus stop. The ride was long, about an hour into town, then another 30 minutes of stop-and-go traffic as passengers exited at their requested stops. I'm sorry I don't have video of the approach to Seoul from the outskirts of town at Incheon International because the city seems to be staggeringly large! There doesn't seem to be one Downtown area, per se. Instead, you see a dozen office buildings here and a dozen there, etc.
It was a quick check-in at my hotel, and of all the fortuitousness, the street is lined with little hawker stands pushing various proteins on skewers, roast corn on the cob, fruit, baked desserts, just everything you need to re-energize yourself in the chilly temperatures. And every block I'm walking around here near City Hall has a ton of restaurants just waiting to serve you. And there's a ton of shopping, too.
Great first impression, so far!
January 18, 2018
"If I get through this visit with great aplomb, does that make me a Seoul survivor?"
January 19, 2018
A Whole Lotte Love
I looked up the new Lotte World Tower last night before hitting the sack and decided to go there this morning with the weather being pretty nice out. Lotte is a Korean-Japanese conglomerate venturing into virtually every business going, i.e.- retail, financial services, I/T, construction, hospitality & entertainment. I was hoping it'd be close enough to walk for me to take in the sights. Alas, online maps showed the building is a solid seven miles away. I wouldn't mind walking that distance if I only knew where I were going. See, I've noticed on this trip that every city, so far, with the possible exception of Taipei, seems to have either winding streets and avenues or roads that end abruptly because some high-traffic boulevard or highway cuts you off and doesn't have sidewalks.
The observation deck was very cool, and one level up had a small section with a glass floor, the highest such feature in the world; my hands still get sweaty just thinking about standing on that glass and looking down. Yeesh!
Attached to the Lotte World Tower is their World Mall, and as I've learned, a high-quality food court or string of restaurants is always located within such establishments. So, I had a very good lunch of dumplings and short rib soup with glass noodles.
The World Tower also has its own concert hall on the 8th Floor. And of all the luck, had I been organized enough when I arrived last night, I would've been able to catch the symphony. And which one? The Warsaw Philharmonic...they apparently were on tour in the Far East; it would've been great to see them last night as they performed Beethoven's 7th Symphony, my very favorite, instead of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony that I saw in Tokyo only three days earlier. Double drat!
I headed back towards the hotel after lunch to walk around some more before it got dark.
Holiday lights on a fountain and department store.
Olympic Park from the Lotte World Tower. The Summer Games in 1988 was the one where Canada's Ben Johnson beat out Carl Lewis in the 100m dash, only to be stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for steroids.
The subway station closest to my hotel. The set of doors at each station keeps people safe and keeps down the noise of the approaching and departing trains.
Dumplings being prepared on a flattop.
The glass floor at the Lotte World Tower's higher level. Whew....
Short rib soup, dumplings, rice, kimchi (pickled vegetables)....the makings of a very good lunch.
January 20, 2018
Without any real plans for the day, I walked over to the nearby Namdaemun Market. It was cool but was much more retail than food...something I'm not really used to on this trip! I also ducked in to a couple of shopping malls and department stores to see what's what.
After lunch, I took a nap because I was still just feeling a tad fatigued from that recent fever and cough. I passed on dinner and rocked some movies in my room while updating the website; one channel actually had Hollywood movies in English, though the more fun station had Japanese action films with Korean subtitles....
A temple nearby my hotel and the Namdaemun Market.
January 21, 2018
"Gack! I'll never get that Food Blog section caught up!"
While I'd like to say the highlight of my day was doing a wash, I had no such luck finding a laundromat. I'd run plenty of searches over the last couple days but without much luck. And unfortunately, it's looking like there aren't any laundromats, at all, in Beijing. Well, doesn't that stink?!
At least I had a very good bowl of congee to stick to my ribs. Gosh, I leave for Beijing tomorrow already!
January 22, 2018
"Seoul long, Korea!"
I checked out of my hotel early in the hopes of getting to Incheon International in plenty of time. Luckily, there wasn't any traffic this morning, so the bus did get to the airport pretty quickly...it took an hour. A worker at the terminal helped me figure out why I haven't been able to use my passport to generate boarding passes at these electronic kiosks. I think the reason is these systems can't seem to parse the order of my first, middle and last names to match what the airlines have on record. I guess it's the case that my online booking doesn't have my full middle name spelled out. Fortunately, the woman gave me a little error card and told me to go to a particular ticket kiosk where they hooked me up immediately.
I didn't get to take full advantage of Korean cuisine while here in Seoul, mainly because one of their staples is cooking barbecue meats at your table, i.e.- it's family-style dining. While I would've loved to grill nicely marinated and thinly-cut ribeye at my table, I wouldn't have been able to eat very much else at a meal like that.
I'm still having a hard time grasping how large Seoul is. As we headed west to the airport this morning, I never saw the Lotte World Tower in the skyline; it was tucked east and south a bit.
I'd love to visit Seoul, again, but would need to do so with someone familiar with the city.
Seoul's City Hall near my hotel.
Lunch #1 at Incheon International Airport.
Lunch #2 at Incheon International Airport.