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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

South Korea: The Land of Morning Calm

November 9th, 2010 · No Comments

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October 14 dawned as a bright, clear, still morning in the country know as “The Land of Morning Calm.” The weather is an appropriate greeting to welcome me on my first day in this fascinating country.

I have to admit that I had some trepidation as I set forth on this journey. Probably my main concern was being able to get around without knowing even the alphabet of the Korean language.

But after my contact, Margaret Leesong, met me at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport last night and took me to the bus that goes right to my hotel, my mind is at ease. I had met Margaret in Boulder two years ago. She is the director of international business relations for i-SENS, a large manufacturer of blood glucose meters and test strips.

My Hostess in Korea, Margaret Leesong of i-SENS

My Hostess in Korea, Margaret Leesong of i-SENS

Click on the picture above to enlarge

When she visited me in Boulder, I took her hiking on the Fowler Trail in Eldorado State Park, the very trail that I introduced Diana to a week ago.

Margaret said that she had planned to take me to the hotel herself, but she was running late for a business dinner after arriving at the Seoul airport an hour or so late on a trip to a large city in China that she or I had never heard of before (China has a LOT of cities with populations of millions that few people have ever heard of).
Seoul is certainly a large city. With a population of more than 10 million people, Seoul is home to one fourth of South Korea’s population. The greater Seoul area has 23 million residents or about half of the country’s population. This metropolitan area has the second largest number of residents of any city in the world.

The bus last night seemed to take me through a lot of the city on a journey of about two hours. Consequently, almost 24 hours elapsed between the time I left my apartment and arrived in my hotel room at the Seongbuk Holiday Inn.

The View of the Seongbuk District of Seoul from my Hotel Room

The View of the Seongbuk District of Seoul from my Hotel Room

Click on the picture above to enlarge

We all know that the Holiday Inn is an American institution, founded in Nashville, Tennessee. But this hotel has some quite different touches. The first thing I noticed was the toilet. And its heated seat with a full dozen of controls marked in Korean and English. When I have time, I will have to experiment with them.

In fact, all the important signs on the street and in the hotel are in both Korean and English. When I go out in the countryside on my own in a few day, I do expect to be presented with somewhat of a language gap, but I no longer have any trepidation.

The other big difference in my hotel room here comes from the fact that Korea is even more attuned to the Internet than we are. This is one wired country! My room does have Internet access for personal computers. But it’s via an Ethernet cable, and on this trip I brought only my iPad — which doesn’t have an Ethernet port (only wifi or AT&T 3G service, which however can be very expensive when roaming overseas).

The solution was the computer in the room. I am using it to write this message through my gmail account, after a room clerk showed me this morning the special key on the keyboard to switch between Korean and English. He had to come to my room when I blew out all the power in the room by connecting the adapter that I plugged in to charge the overseas cell phone that I had bought for my New Zealand trip earlier this year. The room clerk brought me a loaner adapter and called a technician who also immediately replaced the blown fuse. What service!

Now, down for breakfast. I am looking forward to kimchi, of which I have had only a little so far on the Asiana flight from San Francisco to Seoul. Strangely, kimchi prices have gone through the roof here this year because of the failure of the country’s cabbage crop. I hope they saved some for me!

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