The more of these business trips I do, the more I become blasé about them. Where as once, flying was a big deal, now it is nothing. Long haul flying, which I had only experienced once before taking this job is now something that although more of a big deal for me, doesn’t have the impact or sense of occasion it once had.
The trip to Seoul was actually not one I was all that excited about. I had not had the greatest experience last time that I was in South Korea. The hotel location wasn’t great, and I was extremely tired after the Taipei show. The first hotel I rejected and the stress of this, worrying about the new hotel and upsetting my hosts played on my mind. While the new hotel was great (rated 7th on trip advisor for Korean hotels) there was very little to do in the surrounding area. It didn’t feel that alive. As such, I thought of Seoul as a rather dull city.
This time, I chose a hotel somewhere else. Actually, it was more that the hotel was chosen for me by being the cheapest non love hotel which I could find within reasonable distance. The area surrounding the hotel I am told is fairly industrial, and actually had lots of small side streets with restaurants and eateries. I was well off the tourist track though, with not a MacDonalds, Starbucks or even an English menu in sight.
On the first evening I just walked around the area. I had bought a new CD at the airport (Annie Mac Presents 2010) and had put it onto the iPod straight away. I love the way that music evokes memories, so this is a new resolution now. Listening to this I pounded my way down streets – completely out of place I might add!
The biggest problem with the travelling is not to waste the opportunity when you are in these countries. For example, it was only the third year of being in Vegas that I actually walked the length of the strip and went to the Hoover Damn. You can go to places without actually seeing them. With that in mind I went into the town on Sunday – plucking up courage to use the underground system. It was late by the time I got to the City Hall, and what I understand to be the city hall gates. I got here just in time to see the changing of the guard. Pretty interesting, and not much effort form me! I was pleased.
After about 20 mins (this was a long ceremony!) I turned and looked around where I was. The G20 is on its way to Seoul, and every effort seemed to be being made to spruce the place up a bit. The square I was in had huge banners protecting the new City Hall being built advertising Korea’s place in the list of civilised nations (or something like that). Smiling to myself, I crossed onto a central square and watched a load of teens playing in a fountain for a bit. Then made my way over to a large patch of grass and tried to make out where to go next in my guide.
I had meant to purchase a guide to South Korea at Heathrow. I had forgotten this, mostly because I went via Munich. I didn’t want a Lonely Planet guide in German either (people might think I was a German) so I decided that TravelWiki was the way to go. Sitting on the grass, while trying to get a wifi signal on my phone, someone approached me and asked if I spoke English and what I was doing here. Now this is one of those things which rarely happens in life. It should, but it doesn’t. A complete stranger was being friendly, decided that I looked a little bit lost and offered to show me around the centre of her city. I jumped at the chance.
The photos here are from that day. We had dinner together too, and I left her company to go back to the hotel well after dark. It was sweet, innocent and completely welcoming. In fact, it puts Korea back on the map of places which I would go to given the choice. My mind was completely changed, and I will look forward to my next visit.