I’m on day 12 of my 34-day around-the-world trip. So over 1/3 done. 4 cities visited and 8 to go. I’m lucky to have a personal curator for my TiVo while I’m gone. We have barely turned on a TV in 12 days…kind of nice. Just glad that I saw the season finale of Girls before I left.
We leave for Mumbai this evening (Monday). This is one of our 4 long flights and the only one that I was not able to book an exit row on in advance so hopefully I can get that taken care of at the airport. Looking forward to watching a few movies – Korean Air has a fantastic entertainment system on their planes.
I just added two posts – Beijing and Seoul. I also added lots of pictures on my various apps/sites. Check them out here. I wonder if the Gophers basketball team will have a coach when I get back and if the Twins will already be out of the playoff race….
Seoul’s primary airport, Incheon, is consistently ranked one of the best and most modern in the world. The airport and many other parts of Seoul have a modern European feel. It was a great way to transition from Beijing to Seoul.
I went from the worst place in the world for social media to the best. China blocks it and Seoul is better wired than any city in the world (and only censors objectionable material like porn). Free Wi-Fi in the parks and the hotel provided a Jetpack with 4G LTE to carry around the city (for a small fee).
Seoul is much more like Tokyo than Beijing and I believe South Korea is much more like Japan than China. I would say that Seoul is like a slightly more westernized Tokyo but both cities are incredibly clean and fairly orderly. However I have noticed that cars generally ignore red lights if no cars/pedestrians are in the area. This is kind of how I drive ;).
Yesterday (Saturday) was probably the best day of our trip so far. We got up early to go to the DMZ and see North Korea. We happened to be there on the day that North Korea announced it “entered a state of war” with South Korea. So that was interesting. I met several people in our tour group with interesting stories and Kyle and I ended up drinking beer with an Australian couple who live in Jakarta and have traveled the world for the past 35 years or so. Needless to say they had a lot of stories and insight. I went straight from drinks with the Australians to meet up with Carrie’s cousin Joshua in the university/party/young area of Seoul – Hongdae. It was great to meet Joshua and his group of friends and see the Hongdae area – lots of energy. Today I hiked to the top of a hill where the Seoul Tower is located. It was a much steeper/longer climb than I anticipated but was well worth the effort. At the top is a large complex where locals bring their dates/families on the weekends. Lots of local street food and….wait for it…a Cold Stone Creamery.
Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Mumbai. This will be the second of our four long flights. This one is the shortest of those 4 at just over 9 hours. Mumbai will also be the first city that does not require a jacket. Looking forward to wearing something other than a hoodie.
Before we leave we are exploring a few more neighborhoods of Seoul including the Olympic Village from the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. This has prompted me to list the Olympic cities of our trip:
• 1900, 1924 Paris
• 1964 Tokyo (maybe 2020)
• 1980 Moscow
• 1988 Seoul
• 1996 Atlanta (layover)
• 2008 Beijing
• 2016 Rio De Janeiro
I may make it a new goal to visit every city that’s hosted a Summer Olympics. I only need a few more…
Incheon Airport Express:
I’m behind on my blog and am catching up in Seoul.
The Delta flight from Tokyo to Beijing was probably the best flight I’ve ever been on. The flight was empty (nobody within a few rows of me), I had an exit row, had a great meal and watched two movies (Adam and Away we Go). Thought Adam was an insult to anyone on the autistic spectrum (for poor acting if nothing else) but thought Away we Go was a decent flick.
Tokyo and Beijing are similar cities in one way – they are filled with lots of people. But that’s about where the similarities end. Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world with some of the largest and busiest subway stations in the world but there is always a calming sense of order. People queue up in line and incessantly bow to each other. They are polite and follow rules – like standing on the correct side of the escalator. I watched two businesses men bow to each other for around 30 seconds straight and enjoyed the display. Maybe they are the Minnesota Nice of Asia.
In Beijing people are not so polite. Lines mean very little as people simply rush to ticket windows, subways and anywhere else that requires a wait. People routinely stand in the middle of an escalator and at the top of stairs blocking the way. I was also surprised that people standing near the doors on the always packed subway refuse to get off the train and then get back on to let people in/out. In general most social norms of the western world (among other places) appear to not apply in China. Oh yeah, and there is also a lot of spitting and snot rocketing (if that’s a word) going on.
So in summary, Beijing is not a place I would want to live. Little or der, lots of pollution and no Google or Facebook (at least not without a VPN). The pollution was by far the worst aspect of Beijing followed by Internet censorship. And although some food experts say that China has the best food in the world I did not eat that food.
Now that I have that out of the way I will say that the Great Wall was amazing and I wish we would have had more time there. Also, the Olympic Park area is stunning and great to see in person after watching the 2008 Olympics. I’m very happy to visit Beijing but I don’t need to ever go back.
We leave for the great wall today after a long day yesterday of exploring Beijing. More to come later but social media is tough in China. No Facebook, no Google, usually no Gmail…at least not without a VPN. But my VPN also quickly gets disconnected. Bing does work though – so there is a time when Bing is my preferred search provider.
I will post when I can about order. About how Tokyo has lots of it and China has very little. I like order, at least when it’s in the form of common courtesy. Like not standing in the middle of an escalator and being totally unaware of your surroundings….
I’m really hoping this will make it to the Internet upon pressing the “Publish” button…