Well I am here in Seoul. Hopefully you will have seen the photos I have posted. If you haven't, you can check them out on Flickr or Facebook. The trip up itself was great. The flight to Shanghai on Air New Zealand was amazing. I could certainly do Business Class again. Shanghai airport was quite mind blowing. So huge, and interesting. We were unsure how the whole transit thing would go, but it was great. The transit concept, caused a bit of frowning, a call for "the man with the stamp" a stamp, then me being taken to a booth where a woman looked at my passport again, tapped some keys, and I was good to go. Interestingly, Chris, my travelling companion did not have the booth bit. Anyway, once we were past that, our bags were easy find and then it was through customs, which was a simple wave through and we were in China proper.
The whole transit was easy, we simply walked between the two terminals and got our boarding passes and we were good to go. A magnificent bit of cultural experience, when the staff all arrived at the Korean Air counters. They got themselves sorted, some music played and they all stood to attention. A recorded message played, of which the last bit was in English and announced the counters were open.... Fabulous!!! You don't get that at Air New Zealand.
Korean Air is lovely, The Premier class has great seats, lovely food and exceptional service. And of course, the most elegant and beautiful women working on the plane. The plane was very good too. I sat beside the most interesting guy called Ed. Ed is from Columbus, Ohio. He is an architect and has spent the last 15 years doing work in China helping with major projects. They are currently working on a University in Western China, which will be built in 5 years and take 20,000 students. It was one of those weird situations where we had a ridiculous amount in common and could happily chat for 1 1/2 hours having only just met.
By the time we got to the hotel in Seoul it was around 4.00pm and so there was not much time before the dinner at 6.00pm. So, I just showered and then went for a walk in the local neighbourhood. The Grand Hyatt Seoul is on the side of a hill and there is a fantastic little street which runs down from it. I wandered right down to the end and back up again just taking in the sights and smells. Some of the smells were less pleasant than others, but the whole experience really is just amazing. Tiny shops, crammed to the gunnels with stock. A locksmith sitting in his shop, which was only just large enough to fit him inside. No lighting, just sitting there smoking away. This is interspersed with two embassies, an art gallery built into a old two car garage, and various restaurants.
Dinner last night with the INELI crew was great. We had a lot of fun just catching up and generally not quite believing we were in Seoul, South Korea. The food was very Korean and challenging for some, including myself at times. I have now eaten Abalone for the first time. It actually was not too bad, pretty much with not much taste of its own and kind of like a mushroom. Also, the various pickles were not all to my taste. However, the Beef Soup was to die for, and the fish was pretty damn nice too.
After dinner a few of us chatting for a while and learnt one lesson. The currency is odd here and you end up paying thousands for stuff. However, when you convert it back it is not that bad usually. I say usually, because last night I paid $34 NZ for a shot glass of Glenmorangie 18yr..... $34!!!!!!! Needless to say, I won't be drinking at the hotel again...
So after one day in Seoul, I can say I like the place a lot. It's my first time in Asia and while admittedly Seoul is a pretty affluent part of Asia, it still has the essential flavour I was expecting. The city itself is neat, and very beautiful and everything seems quite efficient! I can see I am going to enjoy my week.