Letters from Asia

I’m in Korea and Japan for two weeks on business, and I thought my email home might make a reasonable sort of blog post, so here goes:

I’ve arrived safely and found my way through the usual hassles of getting cash, bus to hotel, checked in, and so forth. Now I’m in the club floor lounge enjoying their free happy hour drinks and fussy snacks, and it’s all so comparable to the Hilton Paddington lounge (but a lot fancier) that it feels like you ought to be here, Mom and V. I’m having a negroni in your honor. I don’t see any orange marmalade, so no breakfast martinis for me…

I’m staying at the Grand Intercontinental in the convention center district, which seems to be a fairly recently developed area, and it’s pretty darned posh. The room is modest in size but luxuriously fitted out; I’ll have to take some pictures for you. It’s more similar to the St Regis in Shanghai, except that the prices are closer to American prices–and no iron in the room means that getting two shirts and a suit jacket pressed is going to set me back about W27,000, roughly $28.

It’s a long flight here–12 hours doesn’t seem that long until you spend it in an airplane seat after several hours knocking around an airport. Food wasn’t great, but we had a decent selection of movies–I watched Family Stone, Geisha, and Rumor Has It. I’m pretty tired, but the good thing about flying to Asia is you get here in the evening, and you feel like crap, so you have a bite and a drink and just go to bed, and jetlag isn’t so much an issue. It’s 5:30am body time but 8:30pm local time.

My seatmate was a pleasant older roundeye woman from LA who is marketing manager for a Korean tourism agency, but she was a bit more interesting than you’d expect from that description: daughter of New Jersey dad, Irish war bride mom, lived here in Seoul for last two years of high school when her dad was stationed here, married a Korean man, knows Korean, etc. She gave me some pointers. Turns out next Friday (my last full day here, with both Thu and Fri to be days off) is both Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday, so it’ll be a big spectacle with parades and all that. I’ll have to summon the energy to take my camera and be a tourist.

My mobile phone doesn’t work here and won’t work in Japan, either, and so far I’ve decided not to rent a phone, so for now email is the best way to reach me. Internet is free in the lounge, though, so Skype turns out to be the way to check my voicemail, call home, etc. If you sign up for Skype you can call me for nothing, assuming I’m online, and in the meantime I can “call” numbers anywhere in the world for about 1¢/min. The call quality could be better, but $2-4/minute for actual telephony makes me care less about that.