Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Land of the Morning Calm

Sorry for the delay. I was going to write a mini diary during my stay in South Korea, but my cousin's computer had blogger all in Korean so I had no idea how to navigate the menu. Anyways, the first day was definitely the longest day of my life. I got up for a 6:30 am flight to Seattle and waited for about 7 hours to take a 12 hour flight to Seoul. I didn't sleep at all. The flight was actually quite comfortable on Asiana Airlines. The flight attendants service was exceptional (and they were beautiful Korean women too). Each seat was equipped with a LCD screen where I could watch tons of movies, tv shows, or listen to music.

I finally landed in Seoul at 5:30 pm their time. When I came out the gate, my cousin was holding up a sign that said "Arnold." My uncle and aunt were also there and it was a happy moment. I haven't seen them in 21 years and had no idea what they looked like. At the airport, my cousin rented me a cell phone which became very handy during my trip. We headed to a Korean restaurant where I had Korean BBQ. Then, we went to my cousin's apartment and made plans for the next day.

I was going to write some long thing about each day in Korea, but actually I'm quite lazy right now so I think my photo blog will have to do. I will post the Flickr link soon with comments. It will be more visually interesting too.

For now, I will have to say my overall impression of Korea is that it is a really fantastic place to visit. There is so much you can do here including sightseeing, night life, eating, traveling, watching shows, and shopping. The city of Seoul is plain huge. Every corner looks pretty identical with many stores and restaurants with huge bright coloured signs so one could easily get lost. The transportation system especially the subway is exceptional. I'm amazed how easily you can go from one place to the next. I was able to get around using English and asked only the young adults for directions and such. Most were able to help me out.

The air quality is definitely poor so pollution is a big problem. The city is relatively clean and there weren't too many homeless people around which was quite different from what I'm used to in downtown Vancouver. Traffic was the worst and it's almost as if they give out driver's licenses to anyone who can use the gas and brake pedal. Vehicles acted just like people shoving their way in and not looking around. I've seen quite a few accidents and fender benders. Also, people don't get the right of way. I almost saw an old lady get hit by a car as she ran across the crosswalk without looking to catch a bus.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the demilitarized zone. It was a heavily secured area and my passport was checked about 5 times. I got to see the border of North Korea and the guards. I also had the opportunity to explore one of the four tunnels the North Koreans built hoping they could reach Seoul. The first tunnel was discovered by accident and the South Koreans were alarmed to find out there were 3 more tunnels. Apparently, the South Koreans are wondering how deep the North Koreans will go to dig more tunnels in the future if they wish to be undetected since they use dynamite to blast.

There will be some more info within my Flickr blog so look out for that.


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