Tuesday, September 1, 2015

South Korea and Japan

Well, I spent all of 97 hours, including flights, traveling from Chicago to Japan, South Korea, China, and back last week. I'm still recovering from it.

It started off with a three hour delay because the entertainment system on our new 787 was not working. After three hours of working on it, they decided we weren't going to wait and we took off, unfortunately I didn't know they did not fix the system until we were 30 minutes into the flight and I just could not get movies to play, and they announced it did not work. Oh well, I brought two books, my laptop to do some writing, and my iPhone to listen to music. The flight was otherwise uneventful. 

However, once we landed in Japan Tuesday night we had missed our connecting flight to South Korea, so they gave us a hotel room and meal tickets until the next available flight, Wednesday night. A whole free day in Tokyo! You're kidding me right?

Thanks to jet lag I woke up at 4 AM Japan time, spent an hour figuring out what to do, then I went for a five mile run on the back roads and even on a rail trail of sorts near our hotel, the Excel Narita Hotel, 45 miles outside of downtown Tokyo.
Random Street in Downtown Tokyo
I first hopped on a bus to go to the Narita airport, and then on another bus, for $8, to go into Tokyo Central Station and then I walked down to the Tsukiji Nippon Fish Port Market, which was closed for a "regular holiday" so I walked back to the Imperial Palace.
View From the Imperial Palace (Driveway)
Unfortunately you can't really see much but about half of the roof of the Imperial Palace because the Imperial family still lives there. Fortunately it is surrounded by a nicely taken care of garden with many well kept trees. Tokyo isn't actually that dense of a city. After being to Hong Kong in 2012, Tokyo felt kind of empty. For comparison, in Dubuque there might be 1-4 people waiting to cross the street at a downtown intersection, in Tokyo, Boston or New York there might be 5-20 people, in Hong Kong, the one time I was there, there were 40-80 people waiting to cross the street at many intersections, it was overwhelming.
Awesome Sushi!
It is surprisingly hard to actually find sushi in Japan. I wandered around for a good 30 minutes until I found a sushi place that wasn't a standing bar, or had a line 50 people long. Fortunately this place fit the bill. 
Delorme GPS tracks of my Tokyo Travels
Finally we flew to Korea at 6 PM.
I don't understand.
Thursday morning I woke up and went for a run on the single track dirt trails behind our hotel. It was stunning to me to see a recreation area this big in the center of Changwon, a place that is quite densely populated.

Hills Behind Our Hotel
After touring three factories and having a number of meetings we went out to eat with our hosts, the main supplier we were visiting for a traditional Korea dinner. 
Traditional Korea Dinner
The way it works is they bring a variety of raw beef and vegetables and you cook them yourself over the charcoals in the center of the table. There was also a large selection of Kimchi, seaweed, noodles, and "salads" to pick from. To be honest, I would have trouble actually telling you what we actually ate. I did have raw beef. They brought it in thing strips, and it was from a certain part of the cow, and I figured, 'well, I've never tried raw beef, I suppose it's worth a try.' Turns out, whatever that raw beef was, it was really good and I would easily have it again.

Friday morning we had one final meeting. The trip went very well, many of the questions we had about processing, and concerns we had were allayed because their processing was better than many American facilities. Certainly still room for improvement, but overall, not bad at all.

We then quickly toured a traditional wealthy Korean "house" consisting of several different houses, like a Spanish Mission in California. It was interesting, much like you might expect. The most unusual thing was that the men and women used to sleep in separate houses, I have not heard of that in any other culture.

Traditional (Wealthy) Korean "Porch"
Then we climbed onto a plane for Shanghai and did not have hamburgers on the flight.
Kimchi, on an airplane?
It took us two hours to get across the Shanghai airport, it was totally inefficient. I arrived at the gate five minutes before we began boarding and the other two traveling with me arrived just as boarding was beginning. Then a simple 14 hour flight back to Chicago, with a working entertainment system on a 777, landing 97 hours after we originally took off. A short three hour drive back to Dubuque and I was in bed at 10 PM, not to wake up and actually get out of bed until 1 PM!

I feel like this isn't a great description of international travel, but it was a business trip, I had very little time to myself. Also, as I grow older I enjoy living in the moment and not documenting every single little thing. I document enough of my life. If you want to experience it, come with me. I mean actually physically come with me. Yes, I realize that is very impractical.

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