Adventures in Seoul

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I arrived safely tonight for my short trip to Seoul. It was a bit of an adventure getting into Seoul from Incheon airport (about one hour away). Everything went as planned until I boarded the bus, my directions said take bus 601-2 to the Sungkyunkwan University stop. Now that sounds easy enough, until you realize the the bus driver is not going to speak any English, and that Koreans dont use the same alphabet as us so even showing him the name of the Universtity is probably also useless. Fortunately a fair number of Koreans speak English so I started asking my fellow bus mates. A flight attendant was able to help me, and together we realized that I was on the wrong bus. I was on the 602 bus not the 602-1 bus. Never mind that they have an entire selection of numbers from 1 to 1,000,000 for numbering buses, yet they have to have a 602 and a 602-1 bus both stop at the same bus stop...couldn't have just made on 603? She asked the bus driver what to do and he answered, she told me it would be OK, I could transfer. Now in my mind this meant some sort of bus stop would be involved, and maybe a transfer slip of some sort. Nope, at the next toll plaza I was told ok, quick get off - the next bus will be coming soon. It all happened rather fast, and shortly I found myself sitting at a 10 lane toll plaza in the middle of South Korea at about 8PM, not exactly sure what I should do - bus assuming a bus would eventually know to pick up some white kid on the side of the road. After what seemed like 100 buses went by one did pull up and open its door, and low and behold it was the 602-1. This still left me with a bit of a dilema, mainly how to explain to this bus driver that I need to stop at Sungkyunkwan University. I showed him the words, and attempted to pronounce it and he looked like he knew what I meant and said, yes OK... I sat down still a little paranoid that maybe he was just doing what I do when someone speaks to me in a language I dont understand which is to smile and nod. I asked some other people on the bus, and became the center of attention near my seat. About three people attempted to patch together enough English to understand where I wanted to go, and to relay this to the bus driver. We finally all got on the same page and the bus driver told the others that he was aware of my stop and would make sure I got off. By this point I think the entire bus knew which stop I was going to get off at - and eventually I made it.

Tonight I have been wandering around Korea, my hostel is right in the center of a huge university area so there a thousands of kids everywhere. Its actually a very cool place - with lots of really interesting restaurants, etc.. Unfortunately I dont know how to read Korean and I am alone so I have really just been looking. I did eat some food from a street vendor - some sort of boiled fish cake thing which I dipped in really hot peppers they provide in a bowl (everyone in Korea double dips by the way) I took a picture but I dont have USB at this place so I cant upload.

I am amazed at how westernized Seoul is, for desert I had Smoothie King (I know soooo Korean). I have seen Popeyes, Starbucks, Outback, TGI Fridays, KFC (of course KFC is everywhere) Pizza hut, etc. It is a huge change from Chengdu (and of course from Tibet) as neither of these places is very westernized. I believe Chengdu has a population of around 4 million, and I think I only saw one KFC, and one pizza hut, and not much else.

I have really been paying attention to globalization on this trip and how different places have accepted or not accepted it. I have almost finished this book (The Lexus and the Olive Tree) which I highly recommend if you have any interest in Globalization and how different cultures have and should adapt. I am a strong believer that globalization is a good force - and will result in a higher standard of life for everyone on this planet, but I am little worried about what it is doing to other cultures. At this rate sometime in the not to distant future world travel will be pointless, as everywhere will be the same. Huge global chains like Mcdonalds, starbucks, etc.. will be everywhere, and everywhere will be exactly the same (Chris, if you are reading this far I know this would be Utopia for you). It is something I have really been paying attention to - and you can really see the differences in different countries.

Anyway that is all from for a bit - tomorrow at 8PM I fly to Sydney. I arrive their at 7PM and head for the downtown Hertz location to meet Brendan - we are then heading right out of town for Melbourne for a few days. Looks like I will be flying back to Melbourne around the 27th to check out Sydney for a couple of days and then I head home... I guess I have less than one week left, in many ways time has really flown by, but in part of me feels like I was in Denmark years ago.

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