Tag Archives: Seoul

Korea

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.




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Korean Show

I am pretty sure I am the only westerner here!

It is a compact show, but pretty well attended. Unlike London Shimano and Giant bothered to be here, as well as Cannondale, Specialized, SRAM and Campagnolo (and oh dear, what have they done to their entry level groups?)

Visitors on the first day is a good cross section of ages with many riding here (glorious sunny day). Those who did ride don’t do casual bike wear, so it is a bit like a fancy dress party with many people, not just those riding here, wearing Lycra cycling tops.

As this is a local show for the Korean Market what surprises me is just how much effort the distributors are putting in to the brands they have. Many other countries should take note of the ownership that the companies here feel. Our distributor has had large banners printed up. Presentation is generally really good and the quality of booth materials is impressive. Basically it is more Eurobike than most shows, which at times look as if a half arsed Saturday boy has just lifted the contents of the shop floor up and plonked it in an exhibition centre. The newness of the venue helps here too.

As I suspected there is a large array of titanium on show. This Ibis caught my eye as I once fell in love with a Silk Ti riding it in California.

The other trend which is very apparent is that of the ‘Mini Velo’. These are based around 20 inch wheels with a non folding frame. The idea, I think, is that the bike takes up less room in an apartment. Clearly these arent cheap altenatives, as the carbon frames and these 20inch carbon wheels illustrate.

Another thing which caught my eye was bike storage solutions. The Pretty One should perhaps worry as after seeing the bike safe shown below, I now lust after a five bike version.

E-bikes are also on the march here too, although I am told that the price is still putting a lot of people off. Personally I not so sure about that, as I don’t think an e-bike and a standard bike really appeal to the same users. Good to see that as well as Bosch getting in on the act, Mando (who I am told are a large car components manufacuter) where also showing their cards. Those of you who automatically tune out at the mention of electric bikes – you shouldn’t. They will increase the acceptance of cycling in general as they open the door to users who may have previously decided they were too unfit to ride. Think 40 – 60 something golfers, highly paid professionals with money who aren’t the fittest people in the world. E-bikes may get them in the road and thus not in their Jaguars passing you far to close.

On he topic of giving bikes enough room Landlord were displaying their bike lane light. I have seen this concept before and would love to give it a go. Only real problem I see is giving every other numpty a laser to play with – they aren’t good for the eyes if looked at directly.

Unable to communicate enough in Korean to get one to play with though.

Elsewhere in the show there was a good array CNC MTB parts, available only in Korea from the likes of Fierce. I spotted another brand too.

Proving that annodizing and colours are also never out of fashion, or indeed are coming back continued were Chosen:

Another small Korean CNC specialist were there:

On the same booth was this frame and suspension performance recording and logging machine. All done with GPS and sensors all over the bike. Pretty cool, if tuning a frame.

Finally, my friends from Simplon were there with their mobile specification list (see Marketing Bollocks post from a few weeks back).

Any questions relating to any of this, please ask away (preferably here, and not Weight Weenies, because I don’t check in much). I have the brochure from Fierce (If I didn’t leave it in the hotel) and the other CNC people.

Another day, another aeroplane

Spent last night at a friends house just north of Munich on my way to Seoul. With The Pretty One being away it gives me the perfect opportunity to visit my friends, not that she doesn’t get on with them, but that fitting things into our schedules isn’t easy. They are great friends and I feel so welcomed in their home.

On a Lufthansa flight now MUC ICN. Those of you not getting on with the codes, that is Munich to Seoul. There is a local trade show there and there are a couple of reasons for my going.

First off is that the Korean appetite for high end mountain biking equipment is extremely well developed. The numbers have been extremely large and of course good distributors are worth looking after.

Secondly is that the isolated location of he Korean peninsular means that some things happen in this Market which don’t happen elsewhere. It is a simple case of ‘out of sight’ and the close proximity of China across the water, means that plenty of replicas of our products are for sale in the market. The reality of this is that we are facing a losing battle. Legal action stops one source for a limited time, but others will open up in their place. What we can do, however is show that we aren’t taking it lying down. It can perhaps be likened to drink driving. Many people will continue to do it, and laws will not prevent it happening. However many will be put off. I intend to collect information of all distributors, importers and manufacturers which I can get.

Right, better fill out my landing card and customs declaration.

Korea Impressions

So that’s that. My Asian tour is over. I fly tomorrow at 10.30 from Osaka back to Europe. Did I enjoy myself? Well yes, but I am ready to go back to Europe. Business wise, I think it has been a real success. I have found out where all of the World’s titanium production is heading (Korea) and I have had some wonderful food. I feel that I am stagnating though, allow me to explain.

Business travel means for one thing lots of meetings, it also means entertainment in the evenings. Good food, good wine, nice breakfasts, spending the days and evenings with the same people. There is then the catching up with emails when you get back to the hotel and finding the time (literally finding a mutually convenient time) to speak to The Pretty One, who is in London. I feel like I haven’t done anything different forever. Exercise is something alien to me (the swimming and the run being the exceptions).

I have some things that I would like to add about Seoul. The country itself seems quite isolated. Physically they are, but it reminded me of a former Eastern bloc country in some respects. I say this because all of the buildings were high rise (although they were all very new and clean) but more because of the vehicles. Everyone drove a Korean car. European or American, or even Japanese were rare vehicles. This is like being in a former communist country. I am not saying that it was like one of these though. Clearly the economy is a lot better, capitalism is clearly booming.

Japan and Korea were interesting countries. I am glad that I have been to them, but honestly I felt kind of cold having left them. They didn’t have the energy that other parts of Asia have that I have experienced, and although Japan is somewhere where I am sure that The Pretty One and I will visit (we like to do food holidays anyway!) In this respect Japan has a place in my heart, and I will return, but I definitely need to leave the cities. There is a fakeness in the built up areas, which is almost Vegas like. Plants, light, islands! All fake. I need to discover the real Japan.

Pictures are all from Seoul. The views from the hotel, and the worlds best stocked bike shop.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Finding the Soul in Seoul

Well I arrived last night, and have so far found the city to be pretty cool. One downside is with business travel – what do you do when the hotel you book isn’t sufficiently nice? Spent two hours last night finding something where I would be happy to sleep!