Korea, who knew!?

Unlike my preconceived notions of China, I had no expectations of Korea. I really hadn’t thought of it, hadn’t imagined it. So with no expectations to live up to, for me, Korea was a blank slate.

A couple hour flight from Shanghai, I started to get excited from the view from the plane. Beautiful blue sky and lush, green, hilly coastlines. Dotted with high rises and beaches.

Preparing for landing, with evidence that I’m in the right place for some shipping related meetings.
A closer look – reminded me a bit of Vancouver. Fairly brown after the winter but from the number of frangipani trees, I bet Spring is amazing!
My flight was also delightful due to my discovery of a fruit I consumed for the very first time. Mangosteen – it’s delightful! But those who know me, know I’ve never met a fruit I didn’t like.

 

We arrived mid day and were picked up by a driver to take us to our hotel. A couple hours to get caught up on emails before meeting our colleague for dinner.

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The view from my hotel – Christmas decorations still up in anticipation of Lunar New Year. Notice the cranes on the buildings. They are specialists at building skyscrapers and development is insane at the moment. 

The one expectation I did have of Korea was Korean BBQ. Appropriately so, that was our very first Korean meal.

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Our wonderful host and guide to the Korean BBQ. The large silver pipe sucks up the smoke from the grill on the table. And did you know that chop-sticks are different, depending on where you are in Asia? Koreans prefer the stainless steel ones. 
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Setting the scene for the Korean BBQ. An egg yolk to be whisked into the soy & teriyaki sauce for dipping. Divine. 
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This Californian wine was undrinkable – so off it was pure vinegar. So instead we switched to drinking vodka straight, as you do when in Korea, evidently. 

The marbling in the meat was practically 50% meat/fat. It was heaven! We were told that we consumed twice as much as typical customers. Making our Alberta roots proud!

We headed home with a mild case of the meat sweats. Full day of meetings and engine tours ahead. Oh, and some more food.

There were meetings, trust me. I won’t bore you with the photo evidence. Our colleagues treated us to another authentic meal in a Korean village for lunch.

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The location of the special, traditional lunch. Private rooms inside these mud huts. Shoes to be left at the door. Seating, cross legged, at the table.
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Our private lunch room.
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Side dishes are a big part of every meal here. Kimchi and sardines. Yummy!
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Their specialty.  Duck, roasted inside a pumpkin. Delicious! (We were relieved it was duck. With the Korean accent, we weren’t 100% sure we weren’t being served dog…)
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Our Korean colleagues.

If these meal taught me anything, it was that Koreans have incredible core strength and flexibility. This photo may not reflect it, but the physical feat these gentlemen are pulling off is impressive. This traditional meal is served on very low table where you sit cross legged, legs neatly tucked beneath the table, spine erect.

For many everyone in the room, this was straightforward. For me, not so much. I have a special knee which means I don’t neatly fold up, at all. If I am forced to sit cross legged, because I tell you, I will never sit that way by choice, my knees wing up, far from the ground. So, sitting at this table was a bit of a challenge for me. I tried to sit with legs neatly folded off to the side, demure princess style. That worked temporarily but I was really listing to one side and invading on the personal space of the person beside me. I switched to having my legs straight out in front of me, like I was ready to roll a ball back and forth with a child.

Part way through the meal both my legs were dead asleep from the hip. While everyone carried on with a pleasant meal, I was in constant worry about what to do with my legs. I had hoped this had gone unnoticed by the others until it was time for us to depart. For those with normal knees, that simply involved standing up. For me, it was a little more complex. Having sat with my legs straight in front of me, folding them again wasn’t happening. Instead, I had to flip myself over to an all-fours like pose. Leading with my behind was the only way to coax my legs back into action.

I tell you people, I’m nailing this whole “be classy” thing.

Quick aside, recently my two-decades old knee injury made an appearance again. I woke up with a very swollen knee a while back which did not get better with time. A trip to the extremely efficient, albeit expensive, Swiss medical system revealed the issue. After a humiliating conversation about the possibility of gout, (for the love, this aging is relentless!) we determined it was merely a spontaneous flare up and that the excess fluid could be drained on the spot. Good as new. The fun part is that I got to see my bionic knee for the first time! (Back in 92, the digital access to xrays was limited.)

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A few staples to hold my polypropylene ACL in place. Cool huh!? 

Anyhow, I digress. Other than the humiliation of crawling up off the floor in a downward dog motion, my knee injury did not impede this trip.

Where were we… more meetings and a 1.5 hour drive to visit another engine manufacturer before wrapping up for the day.

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Stopped along the coast for a pretty view at this seaside cafe. I would definitely return here for a vacation…if not for the 12 hour flight. 
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Once back we found a spot for a drink. Fancy hotel lobby…
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…a bit of a miss on the drinks. We didn’t understand the cocktail menu and somehow ended up with these.
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But the view was worth it. The beach in Haeundae beach. (Pronounced exactly like Hyundai)
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The next day we had planned to explore as tourists before heading back to Shanghai. A lovely morning view, down the street from our hotel. 
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Despite the beautiful blue sky, it was chilly! We had to buy toques. (I am slowly trying to educate the world that this is the proper word and that they are not beanies.) 
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Family photo – rainbow style.
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The morning catch – straight to the restaurants and into our bellies!
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Because I will always photograph bikes.
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Street-meat. Yum!!!
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The options were endless. 
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Our first stop as tourists was to beautiful Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. 
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Some old monuments, some new. The black circle was a statue to pray to for safe driving.
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Our colleague was our tour guide so I got to be in some non-selfie photos!
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Such a spectacular setting for the temple. It is a must-see if ever in Korea.
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Beautiful structures.
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Buddha
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The decorations inside the temple.
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Posing with smiley Buddha.
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As we were taking photos a flock of pigeons came and settled to be in our photo.
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How can you not feel at peace with a setting like that?

After the temple tour, we did a bit of strolling and shopping at a local super market.

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Octopus for dinner?
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Or how about a bag of oysters?
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Or perhaps 100 versions of ramen?
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After the shopping and temple tours, we were ready to take in the catch of the day. 
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Some of the amazing side-dishes to accompany our feast. Notice the plastic bag table cloth…this is going to get messy.
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Fresh steamed crab – this portion was for 3 people.
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And here’s the carnage. Plus another empty bottle of vodka. According to Wikipedia “the so-called “Korean vodka” is the most popular alcohol in the world (and, yes, it does come in as many flavors as American vodka). According to Drinks International, Jinro Soju sold 71 million cases in 2014—more than any other liquor brand in the world.”
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Walking off the lunch feast and treated to a late afternoon view. 
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Pretty beach-side scene. 
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We found a better location for our cocktails this time. 
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A stroll through the street meat market in Busan. 
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Beautiful people sharing their generations-old recipes.
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A busy nightlife in Busan.

Street performers, a universal delight. 

The next morning we flew back to Shanghai where we’d take our flight back to Zurich. But not before one last meal.

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Traditional hot-pot. “Spicy” on the left, not spicy for the non-asian-girl. (For the record, the spicy was not spicy for this quasi-mexican.)

As a parting note, one really must mention the amazingness that is a toilet in Asia.

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I didn’t try all the buttons and I certainly can’t tell you what they all do. But some of them are delightful! Some, less so.

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