2007-12-18 Seoul


Arrived in Seoul after a longer flight. The approach was intriguing because there was snow on the ground. Snow! Right before Christmas! At Incheon Airport I openly declared my excessive amount of alcohol being wine from Australia and New Zealand and then some extra VB that I didnt feel like abandanoning. Well, the customs officer spoke enough English to ask me how much booze I had with me. And when I told her, she told me that I wasnt allowedand that was it. She waved me through, I think entirely because she didnt want to have to deal with assessing me duty.


Caught a shuttle bus to the old part of town where my hotel room was. I was expecting nothing but skyscrapers, but the centre is a patchwork thanks to the abundance of palaces, parks and historic buildings. The room was wee and warm thanks to heated floors, but I wasnt there long, because I was off to find food.


The nice thing was that the streets were filled with stalls that, if you squinted, were evocative of a Weihnachtsmarkt. The abundance of lights, including whole buildings dressed as presents or with their windows lit up to look like trees only helped this feeling out. Can you tell that I didnt adapt perfectly to the advent Australia fairweather. The downside was that much of Korean food is rendered in a form that you cant tell what plant or animal it came from. I real challenge for a vegetarian like myself.


My days were spent, as they are often are, wandering all over town. Palaces and parks, but also the giant Lotte store (yep, I have a soft spot for department stores too). I managed to meet Hye-Soo who is a spectacularly busy person in her exciting life. She took me to a vegetarian restaurant run by a Buddhist monk. It was near my hotel, but so deep in an alley that I would never find it myself. Excitingly, we had no less than 35 dishes, all of them veggie! These were small dishes, since Korean meals are usually a little bit of everything, but I was stuffed.


2007-12-20 De-Militarized Zone


Well I wanted to enter the zone to go to the town in the middle, but that tour was closed during my visit due to manoeuvres. I took the lesser tour, which only involved entry to the DMZ underground. There are four known tunnels that were apparently built to funnel thousands of DPRK soldiers under the DMZ. Now one of them funnels tourists the other way. You get to go very far down, under the zone and right up to the DMZs dividing line where there are three blast tunnels in place. I recall the old idea of digging a hole to China and coming up to a whole different world. The mind races at what could be on the other side.


We also went to the viewing tower to look at the DPRK and its massive flag, biggest in the world blowing in the distance. We also saw the border train station built to complete South Koreas rail link to the North. This is all part of a planned trans-continental rail line. As is too often the case in the world, the tour ended at a store, but I left and wandered the business district of Seoul.


2007-12-20 Seoul


That night a friend of Hye-Soo took me out on the town, since Hye-Soo is so busy. We went out to a fairly distant station on the metro map, but wound up in the densest part of the city that Ive seen. City streets packed with lights and people. We went to a tofu restaurant and it was still a challenge ordering food without meat. I was burdened with a cold, boo, which I took with me to the airport, and on the plane for the 11 hour flight home.


2007-12-21 Vancouver


Arrived in Vancouver. Went to the Foundation with Stu. Not much time to do Christmas wandering in Vancouver, but good to head on home to Toronto.