The Start Of My South Korean Adventure

I am spending 3 weeks in Seoul, South Korea, working with a client on special projects as part of the International Business Development program at Haas. As of this moment, I have been awake for 26 straight hours. It’s 6:57a on Sunday back in Berkeley. But here in Korea, it is already 10:57p. Tomorrow, the work week begins.

After a really terrible experience with United Airlines on the return trip from the Japan Trek, our team opted to fly with Asiana Airlines (formerly Seoul Airlines). I was told that it is one of the highest rated airlines (alongside Singapore and Emirates).

The flight itself was smooth. The food was actually pretty good too, although the portions were way too small. Thankfully, there was in-flight on-demand entertainment. So I didn’t sit there twiddling my thumbs for 11 hours straight. Instead, I watched 5 movies in a row:

1. Green Lantern – Pretty mediocre and disappointing; felt like they were trying to combine 3 movies’ worth of material into one
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Absolutely awful; too much focus on annoying human characters yet gives audience nobody worthwhile to root for
3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Very entertaining from start to finish; loved the new gadgets
4. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Better than the first movie; Rachel McAdams still has a terrible English accent
5. The Descendants – Interesting movie that did a great job capturing pain and anguish of losing a loved one but was overall depressing to watch due to subject matter

After landing, my team attempted to reach the hotel. First, we went to the wrong carousel and had to spend 15-minutes walking around the airport to locate the correct one. Then, we struggled to find a cab. Eventually, we found a minivan that charged about 94,000 won. I’m pretty sure we were overcharged. But I guess when you’re stranded at an airport, your willingness to pay is pretty high.

I’m staying at the Hotel Ibis in Myeongdong. (This is the same chain of hotels that I stayed in during my time in Bangkok, Thailand.) Location-wise, the hotel is excellent — it’s in the middle of a bustling part of town with an active nightlife and is also very close to the client’s office. On the downside, the rooms are really tiny. I feel like there is hardly any space to walk at all. When I turn in my bed, I feel like I’m going to steamroll my teammate. I also have a terrible view. When I open my shades, I see the side of a skyscraper.

It was already pretty late when we settled into the rooms. However, we met up with a different IBD team who are visiting Korea, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Together, we walked the streets and looked at the pretty lights. There are a ton of fancy shops in Myeongdong and the walkways are crowded. The overall atmosphere reminded me of Osaka, except with fewer people wearing face masks.

We were also looking at SIM cards for our phones. However, the vendors all had a policy in which they could sell the physical SIM card, but not activate it on the weekends.

I ended the night with a delicious Korean BBQ meal. It is a lot cheaper than in Los Angeles Koreatown or Oakland. Roughly $15 per person if you include alcohol ($10 if you don’t). Here, the ladies even cut and cook the meat for you and there are more varieties of side-dishes. I walked away very fulfilled. (Alas, I’m still not used to heavy, metal chopsticks.)

Unfortunately, the food in my belly made my eyes droopy. Although many of my classmates extended the evening with beers, I clumsily stumbled back to my tiny hotel room, took a shower, and changed into sleepwear.

I will be waking in about 8 hours to meet my client. So it’s off to bed for me. Please look forward to more posts tomorrow!

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