Sunday, October 27, 2013

Korean Holiday 2013 - Day Two

Half an hour wait before boarding the plane. Another walk out onto the tarmac. Departed at 1am. At 2am I was woken to see if The Boy wanted his meal and entertainment package (didn't order the ent. package on this leg). Then the missus and I were served our meals.

Something that really gets my goat is when people pay no attention to the "no electronic gadgets" request prior to take-off and the flight crew do nothing about it. If it's not important they why bother? Having said that, some of the crew put the passengers straight so I liked that. And they were very helpful which allowed us to depart early.

I got about three hours sleep before sunrise and then another hour or so after that. Descent into Incheon was quite rough but the landing was very smooth. We filled in our arrival cards whilst waiting for the plane to clear, back in the second last row again, and before we knew it were almost the only ones left on the plane.

Immigration was a bit slow but that allowed us to collect our bags immediately. Spent some time looking for a mobile phone company that had been recommended to us but it turned out that they'd gone out of business. Hire some ordinary phones for W3,000/day without data. The deposit was W700,000 (AUD700) each! Data would have been an extra W6,000/day each on an iPhone.

Had something to eat - not very tasty at all. Liked their sign - "Take an Order". Organised for car hire after going to the chauffeur hire desk first which was at the other end of the terminal - of course. Lots of signing, booking, etc - and we needed the assistance of a local too (my sister-in-law by mobile) for the hire.

Got the car, set the co-ordinates on the GPS to Sorak Park Hotel in Sokcho on the other side of the country. Made one wrong turn, as I wasn't used to the GPS, and missed the expressway that we wanted. Ended up driving through Seoul which was exactly what I didn't want to do.

Pit stop at Gapyeong which was very much required. So many people, so many strange English signs.

Lovely drive through the Seorak mountains. One more wrong turn in Sokcho and drove about three kilometres more than necessary before being able to backtrack.

Our room overlooks the mountains and is on the 8th of nine floors. Free wife wifi is only available in the lobby. Hotel is quite old and in real need of renovation. Bathroom is slippery and of dangerous design when stepping out of the shower.

 Just when we decided to go for a walk, about 5pm, it started raining. Just as it did 15 years ago when we visited this area. No umbrellas packed as we were travelling lightly so we had to make a purchase. Found out Hawthorn won the AFL grand final. My sister-in-law gave me a score update whilst we were driving when my missus spoke to her on the mobile.

Korean Holiday 2013 - Day One

The Boy went to school for the first two lessons today as we had an afternoon flight. I dropped the dog off at the kennel - he was quite happy to be there. Back home and I started packing. Had to pick up The Boy less than three hours later. Lunch was just finishing up leftovers. Made sure the house was secure and took care of last minute packing. Booked the taxi - pick-up time was not guaranteed. Love those automated recordings absolving themselves of responsibility.

And the taxi arrived five minutes early! Trust the missus to leave one bag inside the house and hold us up. Informed the driver that the destination was the international terminal. "Can you direct me?" he asked. Very few taxi drivers seem to know the way. Almost gridlock on the Tonkin Hwy.

Taxi win!

The Air Asia X check-in lady let us have our 1kg excess luggage without charging us for it but warned us that others may not be so generous. Our hand luggage was maxxed out too at the 7kg each as well.

In the Customs and Border Security area, where no mobiles, cameras or recording devices are allowed, I saw one guy take three calls. Nothing done about it either. Quite a few people departing at this time but we were processed quickly though.

Nice seats toward the rear of the plane, second last row in fact, with a wider walkway as there were only two seats instead of three on the window sides. Hired a Galaxy Tab entertainment system for The Boy (watched The Great Gatsby - boring) and the missus (watched Born To Sing, a Korean movie which wasn't bad).

We were served our pre-ordered lasagnas which were quite OK. Very small meal but I'm glad we were served first as they took ages to serve the rest of the passengers who hadn't pre-ordered. That meant taking the orders, calculating the charge, finding necessary change (in MYR no matter the purchasing currency) and serving the meal. Something like about two hours before they came to collect the rubbish. Read quite a bit of my book - On The Trail Of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope.

Had to buy some water - 5 MYR. We didn't have any Malaysian currency but the stewardess would take AUD but not coins which I found very strange. Why not take the exact charge? Toilet break just before commencing decent, with the rush from other passengers beaten, so timing was good.

A Korean stewardess, from Canada, spoke to my missus in English and she couldn't understand her. I found that highly amusing.

KLIA - oh dear. There was a long walk, through oil-smelling air, to get into the terminal. A sign instructed us to go downstairs for transit but there was no obvious way to go. I asked at the immigration point but she just stamped my passport so we had to enter the country and then go back through immigration again. What a complete waste of time and so confusing - and we weren't the only ones. The airport is very much like a country bus station. It's loud, unclean, nothing of quality to buy in the duty-free - nothing at all like Changi Airport. The missus wanted to buy a watch for his sister but it was cheap rubbish or over-the-top quality.

At Cafe Espresso we bought some pre-packaged rolls which were really soggy and didn't taste like real meat. Even the expensive Sports Bar sold the same food. Coffee at Cafe Espresso was served in a dirty cup. They did change it when challenged but didn't apologise for the disgusting service. We entered the waiting lounge at midnight. More like a holding cell.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review - On The Trail Of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope

I saw most of the six part documentary when it aired on the ABC and this really caught my imagination. When the book was released, at Fathers Day, I had to buy it. But I also had to finish Sandakan and The Da Vinci Code before I was allowed to read it.

Tim, quite the adventurer, decided to relive the nomad life and travel on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary, following much in the steps of Genghis Khan and his Mongolian armies, it details a journey of epic proportions in a very down-to-earth style. During the three years it took to complete there were numerous moments of tremendous hospitality, recollections of great moments in history and explanations, bureaucratic nightmares, personal tragedies, illness, accomplishments and introspection. I grew to love hearing his stories and almost felt like I was tagging along. He became one with his animals and, I suggest, a much stronger person along the way.

I love the book and will be asking my son to read it. Anyone with an adventurous spirit will be captivated by it. So much so that it only took a couple of flights and then another week for me to complete. Can't-put-it-down material.

There were some memorable quotations that I'd like to share:

In it I learnt that Genghis Khan tried to curb alcohol consumption - "If there is no means to prevent drunkenness, a man may become drunk thrice a month; if he oversteps this limit he makes himself punishable of this offence... What could be better than that he should not drink at all? But where shall we find a man who never drinks? If however such a man is found, he deserves every respect."

"It is dangerous to rest a horse too long, or a man, for they will soon relax and become weak, lazy, and disobedient." - Kazakh herder.

"The most dangerous wolf of all is that which walks on two legs."

"If you ever have to rush in life, rush slowly." - Baitek and others.

Book Review - The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

My wife bought me The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown for my birthday. It was a special 10th anniversary edition of a book that she'd already read. And she's not in to blockbusters.
I've seen the movie and so I wasn't happy that she'd bought me a fully priced book. Well, that was a mistake. The book is absolutely riveting. I found myself constantly thinking, "How did Tom Hanks get cast in the lead role?" It was so engrossing that I gave up Facebook time and got back to reading on the bus. It meant that it only took something like two weeks to complete reading.

Highly entertaining and well worth reading.

Book Review - Sandakan by Paul Ham

Having read a previous book on the subject, entitled From Hell To Eternity, my mother bought me the book Sandakan, by my favourite author in Paul Ham, for Christmas last year. I have read several of his books and he's an outstanding writer, IMHO.

Probably took about three months to read the first half and then only a couple of weeks to finish it off once I devoted time to it. Actually, it was difficult to put down once dedicated.

Sandakan details the allied soldiers captured in Singapore by the Japanese and transported to Borneo. They were worked to death, subjected to some inhuman torture (that was difficult to read due to the graphic description), starved, beaten and when the allies were closing in they were sent on a forced march across the country.

There is an enormous amount of detail revealed in this book regarding those subjected to terror and torture and those committing it. We learn much about those men and there were many acts of bravery whilst staring down the face of death.

It's a fantastic read, much more detailed than the previous book, and I highly recommend it.

The Sad Passing of the DVD Rental Store

The missus suggested getting a movie (DVD) from the shop this afternoon. Good idea. It's a rainy weekend and we don't watch a lot of TV. We haven't been into the shop for some time, we don't watch many movies either, and just wandering around it gave the appearance that they were closing down. Grabbed an overnight rental, Side Effects, and a weekly rental, 3:10 to Yuma (I've not seen it). The manager of the store explained that as they were closing down we could rent the overnight vid but not the weekly which we would have to purchase. The $3 weekly rent would be turned into $5 to purchase and I couldn't actually rent it.

When I finally understood what he meant by that I was quite saddened. We've used the same shop for over 10 years since we moved to the area. The manager has been in the business for 33 years so I guess he is saddened a heck of a lot more than I. He explained that DVD rental shops had disappeared in Europe already - that surprised me. But, when you think about it, with the Internet as the distribution method it's not altogether surprising.

So, until all of the weekly DVDs have been sold you can still hire overnight vids but once they're all gone it's bye-bye renting movies.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Just Taking the Piss, Mate - Korean Trip Memes

Recently returned from a couple of weeks in Korea on holidays. There was quite a bit of Konglish (Korean/English) on display and a few non-related items that popped into my head. Here are the memes that can also be viewed on Just taking the piss, mate.