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F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy

 
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sumantra
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Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 4477
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:39 pm    Post subject: F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy Reply with quote

F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy
------------------------------------
My 2012 trip to the Far East - Korea and Japan, comes in a
four-part form, with the first part
1. F.East'12-1: Inching towards Incheon
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13067.html

This report covers the second part,
2. F.East'12-2: S(e)oulful Korea-graphy
and can be found at the following URL:
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13085.html

This will describe my journey from the Seoul Incheon Airport, and
cover my stay in Daejeon, South Korea. Parts 3 and 4 will follow:

3. F.East'12-3: The Morning Calm, The Rising Sun!
4. F.East'12-4: Arigato Nippon, Sayonara!

Ah...yet another weak pun in the title?
Unfortunately, yes.
The significance of the choreography has a relation with a
traditional Korean ballet I had been witness too, during the
conference banquet. This will come some time later during this
report. And like the runny pun, this was something I wasn't
exactly looking forward to.

05 November, 2012 (Monday).
I had landed up at Seoul's Incheon airport, in my usual
dishevelled state, as I had described in Part 1, above. My
itinerary had been the following:

Set out 04 Nov (Sun) for Seoul from New Delhi
AI 310: Air India (B77L) [Seat: 31K; PNR: Y5Z2P, Class W]
IGIA T3, New Delhi - Hong Kong IA T1 - Seoul Incheon IA, Seoul
New Delhi (DEL) - Hong Kong (HKG) - Seoul Incheon (ICN)
[11:00 pm - 06:15 am; 07:30 am - 11:50 am, 05 Nov (Mon)] {09:20 hrs}

I met and acquaintance on getting into the terminal. He had
flown in from Calcutta, to catch this flight to Incheon. He was
also proceeding to the same conference as I was. I discovered
that he would put up in a different hotel, some distance away
from the place I was supposed to stay in. More about this, soon.
He had managed to get an accommodation in the hotel which was the
most desirable, in terms of cost, as well as location: Hotel
Toyoko-Inn. When my trip finally materialised, I discovered that
there were hardly any options around, except for very costly
ones. Daejeon is one place which does not hit it big with respect
to travel portals and hotel search engines. Whatever options came
out of those websites, all were shown as being booked out. There
would be no other alternative - I would have to book the very
costly Hotel Interciti, and justify this, in my reimbursement
claim. The latter is a very difficult procedure, for those
familiar with rules in Government and semi-Government
organisations.

As we walked from the aero-bridge towards the customs and
immigration, there were body temperature scanning counters on the
way. Immigration and customs did not take much time, and our
baggage came out relatively quickly. The currency `KRW' - The
Won, is not an easily convertible one. I have always been wary of
the conversion joints at airports, since they offer some of the
worst conversion rates ever. I had no choice here. I converted
US$50 to Won, and with the basic cash in my pocket, proceeded to
depart from the airport premises. At the time of my travel, the
approximate conversion rate was something like:
1 Won = 0.05 Re; 1 Re = 20 Won
1 Won = 0.001 USD; 1 USD = 1090 Won
I asked my acquaintance how he would proceed to Daejeon.
He said that he would follow the conference instructions to the
hilt, and go in for the first option.
A bus.
I had worked out an alternate schedule that would take about the same
time, but was much more exotic, as it would get me to the same
destination, but was a three-step process with three trains being
involved. I was specifically interested in the train for the
middle portion of the trip.
What was this bus option? It was a deluxe bus, from the
1st floor (the ground floor, to us Indians), from gate (9D).
A Limousine (Deluxe) towards Chungcheon.
The relevant stations were Daedeok Lotte Hotel, Daejeon
Government Complex, and Dongboo Cross-Country Bus Terminal
Centre. The Daejeon Government complex was the one closest to
his hotel, and perhaps, to mine as well. From there, one could
either take a costly cab, or a subway train. The bus journey
would take between 180-200 min, and there were buses available at
intervals of 20-40 minutes. For instance, the buses to the
airport ran between 03:20 am and 07:10 pm and in the other
direction, from the airport to the Dongboo Cross-Country Bus
Terminal Centre, from 06:00 am to 11:10pm. The fee was KRW
22,100 (night charges: KRW 24,300).
If I had taken then this option, I would have gone in for the
most cost-effective option: a subway train (towards Banseok NOT
Panam), and get down at Yuseong Spa station.

I was the more adventurous kind, though.
I had gone over whatever little information was available on the
Internet (and gladly patronised Google Translate in good
measure). I would do it on rails.
My rail trip from Incheon airport to Daejeon, would be in three parts:
1. Incheon airport to Seoul Station,
by the Airport Express Railroad AREX (this would take 44min, as
compared to a commuter train's 53 min on the same route).
The times and frequencies of this train were very encouraging, for
the budget traveller.
2. Seoul Station to Daejeon station
by the KTX - the Korean Bullet Train. This would be the highlight
of my journey! I had targetted the 12:40pm-01:37pm KTX, which
would cost me KRW 22,000.
3. Subway: Daejeon Station towards Banseok NOT Panam, get down at
the Yuseong Spa station.

It all seemed quite simple.
Yes, there was a language barrier all around, but I found people
to be extremely friendly, and helpful. The signage all around was
superb, with excellent directions at each place, in English.
As I went towards the Airport Express train AREX station beside
the airport, there were two gates on either side. One was for a
commuter train, and the other was for the Express. I naturally
chose the latter, not to be late for my KTX adventure!
However, the booking agent there told me that the next commuter
train would get me to the Seoul station quicker, since the next
Express train was some time away. I followed his advice, and
bought a commuter train ticket for KRW 4550, approximately Rs.226.
As I waited for the train, I switched on the CDMA mobile handset
I had carried from India. One of them, that is - I had another
for Japan. Much to my delight, the ancient handset came on,
showed an ample amount of battery still left - I had charged it
to maximum in India, and I was able to call back home, speaking
to The Wife, my parents, and her parents, and appraised them of a
near 3 hour trip to Daejeon, in three parts.

Satisfied with myself, I boarded the train.
This was the 12:40 pm - 01:45 pm AREX Korail Airport Railroad
commuter train, and looked exactly like a coach of the Delhi
Metro's Airport Express, coming from the same supplier - Bombardier.



The loads were quite sparse, and I enjoyed the ride, which had
two unscheduled stoppages, which made my heart skip a beat. I
just had to take the 02:15 pm KTX train from the Seoul station,
which I had read about to be quite massive! I had not been
exposed to the elements thus far: it was supposed to be quite
cold here at this time of the year, with temperatures ranging from 4
to 9 degrees Celcius. I had a large overcoat with me, so the
temperature part did not worry me too much.
What worried me was the rain.
I had taken no measures for the same.
I had forgotten to carry an umbrella along.
It was deja vu for me - on a 2004 trip to Singapore, I remembered
this aspect as the plane came in over the Changi Bay, to land at
the airport. I had also forgotten to take an umbrella along that
time. I had been incredibly lucky back then, as I had managed to
skirt the rain all along. Would I be that lucky this time, on a
trip across two countries?

I was quite apprehensive, as our train pulled in to the Seoul
station, a bit late. I rushed around, with my luggage in tow. The
signage were quite clear. I ran to the KTX counter, and wanted
to conserve the incovertible currency with me.
I was running out of time, too.
Would they accept a credit card, for this train, at least?
The AREX ticket counter did not accept payment by a credit card.
Thankfully, the KTX counter did.
I took a ticket for KRW 22,000 (this is around Rs.1148), and made
a mad dash for the platforms, where my train was almost ready to
leave. I had not noted my seat and coach number - a helpful lady
on the platform directed me, based on the small print on the KTX
ticket. I was delighted to have got a window seat. I took a picture
of the train from the inside, as I had rushed in. The exhaustion
and effort also did me a world of good, as it was quite cold
outside, and it had just rained there.



From the rain-beaded window, I took an image of another KTX train
at a platform some distance from the one our train was on. The
railway station was just as clean as the train I was on.



What did a seat look like, to a seated passenger?



It had advertising on the head rest in front, and a Korean
language magazine in the seat pocket. The seat pitch was a bit
tight, but I did not mind it much. the tray design was
interesting. The greyish plastic tray slid up along the rails,
and then could be turned in towards the passenger, as it left the
relative comfort of the rails. I could use this to work on my
laptop.

Was there any in-journey entertainment? There was an LCD screen
on the ceiling, which had news programmes, in addition to various
pieces of information about the train, and its route, being
displayed in two languages: Korean, and English. This would be
quite helpful!



It would be here that I would notice the speed being displayed.
I got excited and stood near the monitor, as the speed touched
288 kmph.



My excitement knew no bounds, as the train crossed 300kmph.



The highest speed it would touch on the way, would be 301 kmph.

I was quite amazed at the experience - of a train crossing
300kmph, and me not exactly feeling it. My feeling was something
like what one experiences on India's fastest train, when it
achieves its fastest speed of 150kmph - the Bhopal Shatabdi, on a
stretch between Gwalior and Agra, where the speeds currently have
been lowered a bit, for operational reasons. India, much like
other countries such as the USA and Russia, has very old railway
infrastructure which simply does not support high speeds, even
though India has the locomotives to do a 150kmph plus run.
Second, not just does a bullet train need special rail
infrastructure, it also needs straight stretches. Given the
geography that needs to be traversed in India, very few routes
can claim to have the requisite stretches for a high-speed line,
besides considering the economic viability of the same. Except for
India's `economic corridor' Ahmedabad-Mumbai, it may not make
any sense to have a high-speed railway line connecting two
places, either. France, Germany, Japan, Korea and China are some
countries where a bullet train has seen the light of day. A
bullet train is so called because its top speed exceeds that of a
bullet, and generally, any train that can do 200kmph plus (plus
the bullet-like appearance of the train itself), is
colloquially termed as a `bullet train,' a term first used when
the Japanese train system first introduced the `Shinkasen' in the
1960s. Extremely level lines, welded rails and many other
features contribute to the incredible vibration-free journey in a
bullet train.

What were some other features on the KTX? There was of course, a
buy-on-board, as snack trolleys made their way through the
aisles. I did not see many passengers patronising these services,
other than pick up a mug of coffee. The smells were not very
appetising for me, either. There was high-speed wireless Internet
available for pay-on-use on board the KTX. I was interested in
seeing what one of the toilets on board the train looked like.
There was nothing extra-ordinary about it, except for a foot flush.

At Daejeon station, I got out into the cold weather again, and
discovered that I would have to walk out of the Daejeon station,
and walk into a subway station, that was located quite close to
this. No ticket was given - just a token. This cost me KRW 1300,
which is around Rs.64. No credit cards again, only cash was
accepted. I got down at the Yuseong Spa station, and discovered
that I was quite lost. I had got out of exit 6.

Hotel InterCiti
13, Oncheon moonwhagil, Yuseong gu, Daejeon

Google Maps had listed the some prominent landmarks as being very
close to the Yuseong Spa station, including some other
moderately-priced hotels, which I was able to spot around.
Hotel Interciti was supposed to be a costly hotel, but this was
not searchable on Google Maps. I was to later discover that it
was a new hotel, built on the site of another hotel, which had
some other name. This hotel was actually quite mysterious, and
reviews were a bit on the bad side. The bad side came from the
proximity to a red light area, which was supposed to have seedy
characters on the streets, and loud music blaring across.

I roamed around, asking for directions, but was unable to get
any. I also went around to two other hotels, and asked an
embarassing question regarding a competing hotel. However, the
people at the gate did not have a clue about either the hotel, or
the English language. I was quite tired lugging my two bags and
one backpack along with me, and the skies luckily held fast. It
was cold, and wet all around, but the rain had stopped.
In desperation, I spotted two students close-by.
They were nice to me, and immediately searched for the hotel on
their cell-phones. They cheerfully directed me to cross two
blocks in a particular direction, in broken English.
I thanked them, and took their advice.
15 minutes of some very fast walking gave me that sinking feeling
again. Hotel Interciti was nowhere to be seen, and people on the
street, or in the adjacent shops were not able to give me any
helpful directions.
``Wait, wait''
I heard two voices behind me.
The same two students had come running up to me.
``We are sorry - we gave you wrong directions''
That was music to my ears.
``Come. Come. We take you to Hotel Interciti''
For the next half-an-hour, they took me along a few streets,
crossings, and pointed me out to a landmark which was brought me
a lot of succour. It was Hotel Interciti!
I thanked the duo profusely for taking all the trouble - not just
to track me down the street, they also walked me to my hotel,
going all the way with me for half-an-hour, till I reached my
destination. All this for a complete stranger.
I was touched.

The hotel reception was quite taken aback to see a dishevelled
stranger coming in to a costly hotel. I put my booking printout
in front of them, and handed them my passport.
A smile came over the man's face, as he was able to locate my
booking. A smile spread over my visage, too.
The smile changed to a bit of concern, as my credit card did not
make the swipe test, after a few tense trials. It had quite a few
scratches on it, and I have to often wait for some extremely
anxious moments. I noted the exchange rates at the hotel - they
were quite bad, and I did not want to let go of my hard-earned
foreign exchange. The man soothed my nerves, by telling me that
he had noted the number on my card, and I could pay for the stay,
on my check-out on the morning of 10 Nov (Sat).

After I had dumped my things in the hotel room, I had to make
sure that my conference registration was in order.
The reader may recount my struggles to have the conference
registration fee registered, with the organisers, owing to
mis-interpretations of the Queen's Language.
I dashed out of the hotel, and walked the ten minutes to a bus
stop near the Yuseong Spa station, from where I had alighted onto
the streets of Daejeon. I went to the closest bus stop. I met
many friendly people around, all of them were eager to help, but
the language barrier was simply a bit too much. I had sighted a
tourist centre on my random walks around the place, and went in.
To hear some good English was almost God-sent for me.
I took directions to the conference venue, the Daejeon Convention
Centre. I noted some the bus number, which would take me to the
place. I also noted the address and directions to a close-by
`Home Plus' outlet, a large chain of Departmental stores.
It was easier said than done, as the directions and signage in
this part of the city was somewhat absent.
After standing at a wrong bus stop, standing on the wrong side of
the road, I finally spotted a bus which would take me to the
Daejeon Convention Centre. By the time the helpful bus driver had
asked me to alight from the bus, it was clear to me that the
alight would not be a moment of delight for me.
It was drizzling, it was cold, and I was in the middle of
nowhere. A friendly person on the street understood my plight,
and asked me to walk along for some 10 minutes more, and take a
left turn. Somewhat wet and even more haggard than before, I
came upon the conference site, where I was just in time to
catch the registration desk people.
Luckily, my registration was in order, in spite of the 12 days of
email exchanges, and desperate phone calls. From the name tags, I
also was able to find out some of the people who had put me
through all this misery, but desisted from identifying myself, as
it was simply an unsurmountable language barrier that they were
unable to cross. After having been helped immensely by two
complete strangers, I did not have the heart to let it out at the
registration desk.

A somewhat unimaginatively designed conference bag well nestled
in my backpack, I trudged back to the closest bus stand. It was
now raining quite steadily, as I took shelter under the small bus
stop. I was amazed at the technology all around. Buses had GPS
trackers all around, and bus stops had electronic signboards and
LCD displays announcing arrivals, and where each bus on each
route was, which would serve this stop. All of this was in Korean
however, and perfectly useless for me. A helpful fellow traveller
pointed out that I was just in time for the last bus to the
Yuseong Spa station. The bus was a bit late, as I went inside,
happy to be out from the now heavy pouring outside. I requested
the driver to appraise me of the route, and my stop. The friendly
man did not understand much English, but a fellow traveller
translated my requests to him, and he smiled in appreciation. The
bus was packed to the brim, but I was standing comfortably, and
started day-dreaming. It had got dark by now.

`Daejeon' sounds a bit like my staple food, Digene, partaking of
which is nearly customary after every meal, given my
contradictory situation of being a glutton,
yet having a fragile disposition.
Where would I get something to eat?
The hotel was far too costly to try anything.
I also realised that I was dog tired.
I had some biscuits with me, which I decided to finish as soon as
I got to the hotel. I was in desperate need of a shower, and then
I would head out to look for some food nearby. I had seen some
food stalls on the way, and hoped that they would not close down.
The biscuits and bath behind me, I sat on a chair and...dozed off.
I was not familiar with the ring tone of the new phone I had with
me, which rang quite a few times before I put my tiredness aside,
and lifted the phone, to hear an exasperated The Wife at the
other end. She had been worried as hell, as to why I had not
called back, after reaching the hotel. I came on Skype as well,
using the hotel's free Internet, and sleepily showed her the
room. I had noted that the electricity outlets in Korea were the
two pin French/German/Russian Schiko ones, 220-240V, which my
adapter would do well in. After soothing The Wife's nerves, now I
hit the bed. It would be a long day tomorrow, I thought, as I lay
down to sleep.

There was a free bus service to the conference venue, every day.
My experience with the public transportation system told me that
I would do well to avail of the free shuttle service everyday.
I had made a detailed schedule with regard to where I could gorge
on free food, at the conference. The hotel did not have a
breakfast option. I will write about the conference lunches,
shortly. The first day had a welcome reception.
08 Nov (Thu) had a Banquet, which had us `treated' to a
traditional Korean ballet. This was not really something I was
looking forward to. The accompanying music had one piece which
was very similar to the Raga Vibhas in Hindustani Classical
music, or Bibhasu/Bauli in the Carnatic System. The dance in most
part, did not have much of energetic body movements, except for
some sword-based dancing, where there was a bit of gymnastics.
Sitting most of the day, my back was paining.
When I got back fine, the body will be jet-lagged again.
When my back got fine, I would end up being a no-body.
Random thoughts crossed my mind.
The dance exemplified a Euclidean transformation,
also known as a Rigid-body transformation.
There were Rotations and Translations alone,
No shear/sheer movement!
As Geometric transformations crossed my mind, I thought,
Thank God this was a real performance,
and there was no perspective projection on a screen, else
things would not be (af)fine for the organisers!

I was a bit worried about the presentation I had to make the next
day. I was representing my senior colleague. Here I was
enjoying a nice Korean red wine watching a dance performance,
when I was to face the music the next day. Most presenters had
carried their poster along inside a hollow plastic tube, which I
usually term as a `bazooka'. Mine had been neatly packed much
like a Rumali Roti. To help it retain its freshness, I had not
even opened the pack. I needed to work hard at night, lest I end
up spending sleepless nights, when my colleague would accost me
for non-performance. But wait...I had promised the reader that I
would write about the lunches. The four lunches had been well
thought-of. The spread on the four days, had a Korean one the
first day, a Japanese Bento box on the second, a Buffet lunch
with some Continental options on the third day, and was back to a
sit-down Korean lunch, on the fourth day. I noticed very little
similarity of the type of food the Koreans had, with some items
their western neighbours, the Chinese did. I was eager to try out
the Korean cabbage kim-chi, which turned out to be a dampener.
Was this the fiery dish that Koreans rave about?
For a person who loves the fiery hot Andhra coastal cuisine, this
was quite a damp squib. I must point out to the reader, that love
for it does not necessarily imply that I possess the necessary
digestive power to do justice to my love. It was interesting that
there were some vegetarian options, as well. Most people of
Pakistani origin were seen patronising the vegetarian tables,
since they would not go in for food that was not certified Halal.
The same went for traditional people of Jewish origin, who would
look for Kosher food. Yes, I was intrigued in trying out some
vegetarian items as well. It is not that food from the Far East
is all non-vegetarian. In fact, talking of the different cuisines
that come under `Chinese food', some of the best fare is
available in the high-end `Mainland China' series of restaurants,
which I have been to in Delhi, and Calcutta. needless to say, I
did not sponsor any of these excursions. It is true that we
Indians have turned Vegetarian food into a fine art. I am not
well-versed with the myriad intricacies of Korean dishes and
Korean cooking, but at the end, I was quite satisfied with the
fare on offer, which I saw native Koreans enjoying quite a lot.

Thankfully, the presentation went off well. I had not found any
time to roam around the city itself. My schedule had been quite
tight. Some acquaintances had gone to Seoul for a day trip, and
some had roamed around the traditional markets and eateries
around Daejeon itself. The Daejeon Convention Centre was a nice
place. The following picture show a nice sculpture in the
centre of the massive large open hall, resembling a spaceship.
The combination of colours, and the perspective and sense of
depth that appears when the structure is viewed at certain
angles, makes nice viewing.



And here is a Robert The Bruce moment: a spider, trying to add
its contribution to the World-Wide Web, again and again.



Of particular interest to me, as the Far Eastern concept of the
`shower toilet'. I had long heard of these items, which were
supposed to be the ultimate in electronic mechanisation, of
potty comfort. The hotel had a modern western system, and I only
got a glimpse of one at the conference venue. I was disappointed,
but there were still a sliver of hope, since I was going to
Japan. If my hotel had this, I would get to try the `king of all
toilets'. I was in luck, and I will describe the contraption in
great detail, in the last part (part 4) of this trip report.

A friend and I managed to locate the `Home Plus' on my second
attempt - the first time had seen me go past seedy locations in a
vain attempt to locate the large Departmental store. I had
managed to dodge the rain as well, on this attempt, and managed
to run into a lady employee who spoke surprisingly good English.
I was looking for touristy things, trinkets, fridge magnets,
traditional Korean handicrafts, and other things to carry back.
At this supermarket, I was not in luck. I was not hoping to get
some cheese and chocolates, since in the Far East, milk and milk
products were not exactly high in demand. Unlike China, soy milk
and its products were not that popular in Korea. However, I
managed to find things which were surprisingly exotic - Korean
chocolates! I bought a few types, which were as appreciated by
greedy me in Daejeon, as people back home. I purchased a
traditional Korean perfume as well. Of particular interest to me
was a variety of Korean oranges, which I had absolutely devoured
at the conference, during the beverage breaks, along with a
Korean 3-in-1 instant coffee (coffee+sugar+milk), which I found
surprisingly tasty. Of course, I poured at least two sachets of
the same into one cup, to get it strong and sweet enough, but the
flavour was quite nice, indeed. I had pilfered along two of
these sachets to make me a strong morning coffee, to get my senses
into action, as I set out for the Incheon airport, on the morning
of 10 Nov (Sat).

The journey from Daejeon, Korea to Tsukuba, Japan will be the
theme of the next part of my Far East `F.East' trip report - Part 3,
`3. F.East'12-3: The Morning Calm, The Rising Sun!'

[to be continued in Parts 3 and 4]
---
Links to my 42 trip reports:
https://sites.google.com/site/sumantratrip/
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Aseem
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

great! now I need some time to go through it!
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aseem wrote:
great! now I need some time to go through it!
Thanks, Aseem - it is nice to see you on this section of the site, too! I look forward to your comments.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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vivekman
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice report Sumantra - especially your experience in the "bullet train" and walking on the streets while searching for your hotel!

Good stuff!
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ameya
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WoW ! You seem to have experienced a lot in this trip.. the bullet train, friendly Koreans, nice conference, ballet, wine... endless....

The Delhi airport express metro should have been good if it would have had the seating like the delhi metro - sideways, like in the pic you posted.


Looking forward to the remaining from the series !
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sukritmunjal
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice TR Sumantra Sir. Looking forward to part 3 and 4.

Cheers
Sukrit
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, its a nice and extensive trip report. Paragraphs should be subtitled for ease of going over it. I suppose a bullet travels much faster than 301kmh say 1000 kmh. Perhaps it is called bullet because the engine looks like pointed bullet. Anyway most Koreans as I have noticed are polite friendly character (unlike bongs). Keep doing this good job! Very Happy
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for all the kind words, Vivek, Ameya, Sukrit and Mr. Ganguly!
vivekman wrote:
your experience in the "bullet train" and walking on the streets while searching for your hotel!
Vivek, I am pleasantly suprised to see perhaps India's best-known aviation photographer also patronising the trip reports section - after a very long time! It has almost been ages since we read a trip report from you either on this forum, or A.net. We look forward to more from you!
ameya wrote:
the bullet train, friendly Koreans, nice conference, ballet, wine... endless....The Delhi airport express metro should have been good if it would have had the seating like the delhi metro - sideways, like in the pic you posted.
You did not miss my irresponsible meddling with the evil spirits while I had work at hand, Ameya! The Delhi Airport Express Metro - I do not really mind the side-by-side seating much, as it is in the Hong Kong airport Express Metro for instance, but I guess it has never been patronised that much to be tight on seating capacity.
sukritmunjal wrote:
Looking forward to part 3 and 4.
Thank you, Sukrit, I will try to post the remaining parts in time. I am working on them.
sabya99 wrote:
Paragraphs should be subtitled for ease of going over it.
Thanks, Sir - the reason actually has more to do with my indisciplined nature in real life as well, pouring over into what I write or type. It does not help that I like plain ASCII text so much that I do not use much BBCode apart from the image embedding. I will try to be a bit more disciplined now, and try to organise matter a bit better. I look forward to your continued patronage.
sabya99 wrote:
Anyway most Koreans as I have noticed are polite friendly character (unlike bongs).
Ha ha! Good one, Sir.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sabya99
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, could you please stop calling me Sir. It is very Brit like address! Very Happy Just Sabya will be good enough.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
Sumantra, could you please stop calling me Sir. It is very Brit like address! Very Happy Just Sabya will be good enough.
`Mr. Ganguly' will be a compromise. We are honoured to have very senior members like you, Mr. Pal and Devesh-ji on board!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Finally managed to read through this Epic TR.

Great job you have done there sir, never disappointing.

Good thing you got to get on three different types of trains.

Rail transport feels more and more like a bus ride with modernization. The trains here certainly feel much more 'livelier'.

And a great thing that pretty much anywhere, there's always someone to help you!

I'm surprised a foodie like you didn't like Korean food. Not like I have sampled the original in the first place. But, Kimchi has different variants I think, you should try others when you go there next time!

I am really looking forward to the next one.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Theairplaneguy4ever wrote:
But, Kimchi has different variants I think, you should try others when you go there next time!
Thank s a lot for the appreciation, Adi. Yes, I guess I will be a bit more open-minded the next time with regard to Kimchi Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting this report and I see that you have managed to take a few pictures as well.

I like the fact that you were really adventurous to take the three part train ride to Daejeon in spite of your long flight, but I am sure itís worth the ride. Besides one should try different experiences when you visit foreign locations, especially those where you may not return back as a tourist.

Reading the bullet train ride I have to share with you that the Airport Express line in Shanghai which basically is a Maglev train built by Siemens is the fastest in the world clocking at a speed of 430 Kmph. Every time I am in shanghai I plan to take the train but somehow I end up in a taxi as the train does not take you to the city centre. After reading your journey I am determined to take the Maglev train the next time I am in Shanghai. Here is the official link in case if you are interested. http://www.smtdc.com/en/index.asp

As for the toilets in Japan I am looking forward to your report on it. I must admit one of my reason to transit via Narita to the USA is to use these amazing TOTO branded toliets. All you need to do is press a maryid of buttons and your bottom will be cleaned and blow dried without any effort.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 24, 2013 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good report, awaiting the next parts!

Had a bit of trouble with the pictures, but they seem to be loading fine now.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
I like the fact that you were really adventurous to take the three part train ride to Daejeon in spite of your long flight, but I am sure itís worth the ride. Besides one should try different experiences when you visit foreign locations, especially those where you may not return back as a tourist.
Srinivas, you have really nailed the point home, beautifully. Myriad Government rules often do not allow one any leeway in itineraries, so one has to often make do with a coarse sampling of the sights, sounds (and smells- you know what I mean Razz) of a new area!

sri_bom wrote:
After reading your journey I am determined to take the Maglev train the next time I am in Shanghai. Here is the official link in case if you are interested. http://www.smtdc.com/en/index.asp

Thank you, Srinivas! That has increased my desire to visit Shanghai even more. I just hope I get some official work there. Given my not-so-high position, I guess I have to be often satisfied with what I get, and I must add, that I have been extremely lucky to get trips and lucky breaks to exotic places.

sri_bom wrote:
As for the toilets in Japan I am looking forward to your report on it. I must admit one of my reason to transit via Narita to the USA is to use these amazing TOTO branded toliets. All you need to do is press a maryid of buttons and your bottom will be cleaned and blow dried without any effort.

Ha ha, Srinivas - you have put it beautifully! I had only seen them in Daejeon, but did not get `the right thing at the right time' to experience it. Ditto for Narita. However, Hotel Toyoko Inn at Tsukuba had the said contraption - you have described it beautifully. I will try to match your description, too!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spiderguy252 wrote:
Had a bit of trouble with the pictures, but they seem to be loading fine now.
Thank you, Varun - I wonder why! I put the pictures on Picasa - do you think I should try flickr?
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The train ride would be the highlight for me!
Very adventurous to roam around with 2 bags + a backpack in the cold+rain. I did it once - turned out OK eventually but I understand the 'what the hell have I got myself into' feeling.

Japanese wash/dry toilets ... do tell Laughing
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stealthpilot wrote:
The train ride would be the highlight for me!
Very adventurous to roam around with 2 bags + a backpack in the cold+rain. I did it once - turned out OK eventually but I understand the 'what the hell have I got myself into' feeling.
It is quite the same here, stealthpilot! Yes, with the three pieces of luggage, but if one gets the Bullet Train ride, I gues sit all amortises out!

stealthpilot wrote:
Japanese wash/dry toilets ... do tell Laughing
Yessir - this comes in part 4, complete with pictures Razz
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Loved the TR - thanks for posting. I would have been absolutely miserable to cart around my bags in the rain. I generally use google street view in advance to get a sense of what I need to look for, and cache that area's maps on my phone so I can use GPS and see where I am even when offline. In this case, I think the fact that the hotel itself was not listed on the maps would be a major issue.

I've never been on such a fast train, so quite jealous of your ride on this train. That being said, I would have probably been the lazy one and just taken the non-stop bus service to my destination, and not had to deal with 2+1 bags and 3 ticket counters. So definitely admire your courage on that front.

Those 3-in-1 tea/coffee packets seem to be a south-east-asian menace, I've seen them extensively used in Singapore/ Malaysia as well. I say menace since I never liked them, but there's a certain utility value that is undisputed.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Nimish - for the very detailed comments!
Nimish wrote:
I generally use google street view in advance to get a sense of what I need to look for, and cache that area's maps on my phone so I can use GPS and see where I am even when offline.
Nimish - that is where the major difference between a techie like you, and a tech-challenged scumbag like me, lies. I use an entry-level phone, with MTNL as my service provider, which all but makes your meticulous planning above, a dream for me. Moreover, I cannot really afford to have my phone in an international roaming mode, given my lowly official status. The best I could do was Google Maps, which did not quite help, and as you rightly noticed, the hotel was nowhere on Google.

Nimish wrote:
Those 3-in-1 tea/coffee packets seem to be a south-east-asian menace
Ha ha - good one! I liked the coffee however, though my favourite coffee still remains a strong Coorg/Kodagu chicory-flavoured South Indian filter coffee. It was in Singapore in 2004 that I first came upon instant tea, which was...not quite tea. I think I should sit down and write about some of my trips, when I did not have any electronic camera with me, or did not note down aircraft registrations. I will possibly scan the few pictures I have, and in many cases, simply write down my memories. But first, I have to complete parts 3 and 4 - I will do so, soon!
Thanks once again, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sumantra, nice continuation of your trip!

Reading they way your wife (TW) kept track of your every move, I suggest that it is enough indication that you can't travel alone anymore Very Happy !
You can't go alone to Moscow/China/Korea and take family to CCU! It's not fair Very Happy !

Changing money at a good rate is always a challenge while travelling. And we think countries like South Korea & Japan will have Bureau De Change/ Cambio at every corner but that's not true. I just read somewhere that vast majority of Japanese people still prefer to go to a branch to do their banking rather than doing it online.

BTW, I had few Rupees in my pocket when I landed at LHR last time and just casually I asked a Travelex attendant whether she will give me CAD against my INR, she said yes! Though the rate was horrible but I was happy knowing that INR is convertible outside the countries of India's sphere of influence!

Keep writing Sumantra!
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
You can't go alone to Moscow/China/Korea and take family to CCU! It's not fair Very Happy !
Ha ha, nice one, Sir! No, Calcutta is not exactly common on the family trips - it is more to exotic places in India, and some mundane ones (but family favourites), such as Mumbai.

PAL@YWG wrote:
Though the rate was horrible but I was happy knowing that INR is convertible outside the countries of India's sphere of influence!
This is quite true, I have quite shocked to see the Rupee as one of the currencies `exchangeable' at quite a few places, since the late 2000s.

Thank you once again for your appreciation, Mr. Pal!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here comes Part 3:
43. F.East'12-3: The Morning Calm, The Rising Sun!
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic13108.html
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
Sumantra, nice continuation of your trip!

Reading they way your wife (TW) kept track of your every move, I suggest that it is enough indication that you can't travel alone anymore Very Happy !
You can't go alone to Moscow/China/Korea and take family to CCU! It's not fair Very Happy !

Changing money at a good rate is always a challenge while travelling. And we think countries like South Korea & Japan will have Bureau De Change/ Cambio at every corner but that's not true. I just read somewhere that vast majority of Japanese people still prefer to go to a branch to do their banking rather than doing it online.

BTW, I had few Rupees in my pocket when I landed at LHR last time and just casually I asked a Travelex attendant whether she will give me CAD against my INR, she said yes! Though the rate was horrible but I was happy knowing that INR is convertible outside the countries of India's sphere of influence!

Keep writing Sumantra!


Exchanging Indian rupee in JFK is no problem . Thomas Cook inside the terminal will handle the job but with poor exchange rate. One could get better exchange rate in State Bank of India branches or ICICI.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sabya99 wrote:
PAL@YWG wrote:
Sumantra, nice continuation of your trip!

Reading they way your wife (TW) kept track of your every move, I suggest that it is enough indication that you can't travel alone anymore Very Happy !
You can't go alone to Moscow/China/Korea and take family to CCU! It's not fair Very Happy !

Changing money at a good rate is always a challenge while travelling. And we think countries like South Korea & Japan will have Bureau De Change/ Cambio at every corner but that's not true. I just read somewhere that vast majority of Japanese people still prefer to go to a branch to do their banking rather than doing it online.

BTW, I had few Rupees in my pocket when I landed at LHR last time and just casually I asked a Travelex attendant whether she will give me CAD against my INR, she said yes! Though the rate was horrible but I was happy knowing that INR is convertible outside the countries of India's sphere of influence!

Keep writing Sumantra!


Exchanging Indian rupee in JFK is no problem . Thomas Cook inside the terminal will handle the job but with poor exchange rate. One could get better exchange rate in State Bank of India branches or ICICI.


AFAIK, INR is not fully convertible, I may be wrong but what I am hearing from you, Sumantra and my experience in Heathrow, INR is inching towards full convertibility.

I remember once I had to go to RBI, Calcutta office to send GBP60 to an UK institution! That's quite a while back!
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PAL@YWG wrote:
AFAIK, INR is not fully convertible
It is far from being fully convertible but it is nice to hear a growing acceptability of the INR in many places!
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This, for me, is your best TR yet!
It has the perfect detailed element of someone getting lost.
Obviously, there are reports where a bag-pack tourist would get lost, but this one is unique because, there aren't many 'official tourists' who get lost, anywhere.

Obviously, there is tension among us, when you describe your near-miss in catching the train, complemented by the rain falling: the perfect recipe for an adventure!

Lots of details about the various trains you traveled in sir, I seriously think that we should have a Railways thread in the Non Av part, you and many others can certainly provide a lot of detailed information about the various things in IR, and we certainly would be curious to know more there! Never been on such a quick train, I need to wait and be patient for that!

Congratulations on your presentation, good to know that it all went nicely and according to plan! I do admire your hard work sir, staying all night and finishing something has been a weak point in me so far. The fact that you were jet lagged, having a completely vivid thought process during the ballet, along with the tensions for the presentation, really amazes that you went through this with flying colours!

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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot, Jishnu! The `official' tourist is completely on his own - the office could not care any less. The presentation going well was..completely a fluke, believe me Smile
Cheers, Sumantra.
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