The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Following up on my last Asia trip

Two years ago this week, I used a bunch of miles and hotel points to go to Tokyo, and had a great time. That was the week that American Airlines—whose frequent-flyer program had gotten me to Japan—filed for bankruptcy protection. Also that week, journalist James Fallows wrote a blog post about to the ban on using small electronic devices on takeoff and landing.

Well, on my flight to Korea Wednesday, I could use small electronic devices, because the FAA rescinded the ban last month. And right before the flight took off, the U.S. bankruptcy court approved American's merger with US Airways, clearing the way for the airline to exit bankruptcy protection soon. The airlines will consummate their merger on December 9th.

I post this in case you wanted an update about my post from two years ago today. (The post was about American's reassurances to us frequent fliers that, yes, our miles were safe. Yup, they were.)

This is why I blog.

And now that the first glimmer of daylight has appeared, I will now shower and look for coffee. Last night I made it almost until 9pm, and I woke up around 4:30am, so I'm almost adjusted to the +15/-9 hour difference. Almost.

Bukchon and Itaewon

Photos from this afternoon. First, a traditional house (Hanok) in the Bukchon district:

And a traditional set of steamed dumplings not far away:

And, finally, a traditional faux-Irish bar in Itaewon, the expatriate district:

Tonight, I am in search of galbi, and then I hope to stay awake until 10pm. Tomorrow, Panmunjom.

Not everything is cheaper

Remember how I said prices are pretty good in Korea? And remember how I said I forgot my Lonely Planet guide? Yeah, you can connect the dots here.

Lonely Planet: Seoul, December 2012 edition. On Amazon, $17.86. In Seoul, $28.40. That, folks, is a tax on my stupidity. Especially since the Kindle edition is $2.99 because I purchased the print edition. It might have made sense to buy that in Dallas, don't you think?

Also, Guinness is not cheap here at $10 per Imperial pint. That, folks, is an actual tax. At least there's no tipping in Korea.

Random observations from my first 15 hours in Korea

In no particular order:

  • These are the politest people I've ever met, and they all really want to speak English. It's like an Asian Toronto.
  • A single LED by the door with a motion sensor makes a lot of sense. A 5 cm step up just inside the door does not.
  • You can't turn off the automatic bidet; best find out how to turn its heater on ASAP.
  • Why get a hotel room when you can get a little studio apartment, complete with British-style washer-dryer by the sink, for $50 a night less? Across from a 7-11, even?
  • I know now why this trip was cheaper than going to London: it's colder here (-3°C) than back home (-1°C).
  • The won right now is 1,061 to the dollar at wholesale. That means, given a reasonable spread for retail, to convert won prices to dollar prices you just lop off three zeros.
  • Prices here are about the same as home for goods and a fraction for services. Express train from the airport? $8.50. Cup of coffee? $1.50. Flaming-hot ramen noodle cup from 7-11? $1.25.
  • Transitioning 11½ hours (India) is easier than transitioning 15 (here). I do not know why.
  • Being an American, it's completely unsurprising back home when someone who looks nothing like me speaks perfect English. This is normal; Americans look like everybody. But here, when someone who looks just like me doesn't speak a word of English, I find this bizarre. Note that I do not find this bizarre when traveling in Europe. I must think more about this.

I have obtained a map and the location of a large bookstore, so I will now explore the city.

Toronto bike-share program in trouble

First, housekeeping. After my last entry I managed to stay up for about 30 minutes, then slept for almost 7 hours. If you do the math you see that means I was up before 3am. So, even thought it's 1pm on Thanksgiving back home, I did some client work to clear it off my agenda for the rest of the week.

Now the point of this post:

Toronto’s plan to save Bixi transfers the bike-sharing program to the Toronto Parking Authority, turns over management to a Portland-based firm and uses money from Astral Media that was going to be spent on public toilets, the National Post has learned.

The deal, approved at a closed-door meeting of city council 10 days ago, will also see Toronto “eat” the $3.9-million in loan guarantees that the city gave to Bixi, owned by the City of Montreal, according to a source.

The city is negotiating with Portland-based Alta Bike Share, which manages Chicago's Divvy program, among others.

O Seoul o mio

I've been awake for about 22 hours now, and it's starting to show.

But yes, I'm in Seoul. I'm going to bet I'll wake up really early tomorrow as my body has no clue what day or time it is. My experience with really huge time shifts makes me optimistic that I'll adapt in a day or two.

I have not adapted yet, however. I just need to make it until 8pm...

Oh, and sometime after regaining consciousness I'll correct the time stamp on my previous entry.

Seemed shorter on paper...

At this writing I'm just west of the Alexander Archipelago, with 7,093 km left from Dallas to Seoul. We started out at 10,999 km, so this is serious progress.

It turns out, this is the longest flight I've ever been on. I didn't realize that when I booked it; I thought Shanghai to O'Hare was longer. Well, it's farther: PVG-ORD is 11,355 km; DFW-ICN is "only" 11,005 km. But because I'm flying west, this flight will be nearly two hours longer than the one from Shanghai.

Fortunately for me (if not for the airline), the flight has a lot of empty seats. I'm in 33A and I have 33B for my stuff. The person in 32A has reclined all the way back so her seat is almost touching my nose, forcing me to put my laptop on the 33B tray table and type at a 45° angle.

Well, I've had nearly three hours of that, and I'm done. Time to pull out my backlog of This American Life episodes and close my eyes.

All right. It's 7am in Seoul. We land in nine hours...

Only a short flight to go

"Short" in geologic times. I'm at Dallas-Fort Worth, with about half an hour to start diagnosing a production issue. Then I'll be on a plane for about 14 hours.

Here's the plane:

You know how you always forget something when you travel? This time it was my guidebook. Lonely Planet Seoul does no good back home on my bookshelf.

Am I bringing my laptop to Korea?

Oh, you betcha:

On a year-over-year basis, average connection speeds grew by 25 percent. South Korea had an average speed of 14 Mbps while Japan came in second with 10.8 Mbps and the U.S. came in the eighth spot with 7.4 Mbps.

Year-over-year, global average peak connection speeds once again demonstrated significant improvement, rising 35 percent. Hong Kong came in first with peak speed of 57.5 Mbps while South Korea came in at 49.3 Mbps. The United States came in 13th at 31.5 Mbps.

Yes, South Korea has the fastest connectivity in the world. This I gotta see.

Plus, you know, clients.