Seoul and Surrounds on a Beautiful Day!
June 22, 2008 - Arriving in Seoul
Just how does this time zone thing work?
We arrived yesterday afternoon from Beijing without incident. There was about a 20 minute delay for an overflight issue as we waited at the end of the runway, but no big deal. We flew the entire trip at only 27,000 feet. Air Traffic Control said it was for traffic considerations. Our TCAS didn't show us much nearby, but what the heck. The Citation burns a lot more fuel down low, but that is why we've always been conservative on our fight planning, never pushing the range limit of the aircraft when we might encounter traffic problems or lower altitudes like yesterday. The result was that we once again had an ILS to near minimums in haze/fog/smog, but landed with almost half our initial fuel remaining. We realized that we have had an instrument approach in real limited visibility conditions on every single leg since ISTANBUL!
Once again on this early morning on Sunday in Seoul, it is misty and perhaps drizzling outside, we'll have to find out in a few hours when our tour starts.
Blackberry's don't work in Korea! We all feel like we've stepped off the edge of civilization with that development!
IF YOU NEED TO REACH ANY OF US IN AN EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD CALL THE JW MARRIOTT IN SEOUL AND ASK FOR OUR ROOM.
SO, HOW DO WE GET OUT OF HERE?
Many of you have asked about the time zones and how they come into play on the trip home. Here in Seoul and tomorrow in Sapporo, we will be operating on a time that is 13 hours AHEAD of Orlando. When we land in Nome, we will be landing in a place that is 5 hours BEHIND Orlando. Keep that in mind as I go over the plan:
Tomorrow, we go to Sapporo, a fairly short flight. I think Chris and I will then spend the rest of the afternoon on the flight planning for the three legs that we fly "Tuesday #1", the day we will repeat after we've crossed the dateline.
On "Tuesday #1," we go first to Petropavlovsk, an old Cold War fighter base on the Kamchitchka Peninsula of Russia for fuel (and Mercer hopes some cans of caviar!)
Then we fly on to Nome, Alaska, stopping again for about 45 minutes for fuel and catering, then;
Another hour and a half flight from Nome to Anchorage. We don't know yet whether we will do Customs in Nome or Anchorage. If the Nome guy has duty time left, he'll clear us, if not, we stay "sterile" in Nome and fly on to Anchorage and do customs there. Either way, we will be arriving in the middle of the night... just after Tuesday starts in Alaska. I don't try too hard to figure it out on local time. I know that our day will begin in Sapporo at about 5AM get up and it will end at about 10PM Sapporo time in a bed in Anchorage if all works well. That's a long day but doable. Remember also that it will be only two days past the Summer Solstice, so it will not get real dark in Nome or Anchorage at all that night!
We will then sleep in a hotel right at the Anchorage airport, getting to bed at about 2AM Anchorage time for a good 8 hours or so in the sack.
We will then get up late morning on "Tuesday #2" and have "brunch" and take an afternoon flight of about 4 hours to Portland. We will be "losing" another two hours on the way there, so we will land about 6PM Portland time (9PM Orlando time) on Tuesday#2.
Dinner and bed in Portland, again at a hotel near the airport- then a 0730 Portland time (10:30AM Orlando time) departure is planned from Portland on Wednesday morning.
A fairly long flight to Little Rock, landing for fuel and catering and...
A flight of less than two hours from LIT to Orlando. As we "lose" three hours crossing the country and with the fuel and catering stop in LIT- we will land in Orlando just at 5PM (2PM Portland time and 6 AM THURSDAY Sapporo time) for...
OK, you got it? Well, I'm not sure either, but the five of us are going to find out soon enough!
Well, as all you 'foodies' know, it is time I get ready to meet the guys for breakfast and head out to see Seoul. Ta Ta for now. - Bob
June 22, 2008 - Mercer's Seoul
Our guide says there generally are only two or three days a year where the air is clear and you have good visibility. Today is one of them. Crystal clear, bluebird sky and 30 miles visibility. There are mountains everywhere! This country is beautiful.
Yesterday when we rode from the airport to our downtown hotel it was 500 overcast and maybe a mile. This is big time smog and we have seen it in every city since Cairo. Certainly we do our share of polluting in the US but I haven’t seen smog like we have seen on this second leg of our trip since Los Angeles in the 1960’s. The future of mega pollution is in third world developing nations. Clean air is just not on their agenda. Even in Dubai you wonder why they build such tall buildings. Much of the time you cannot see higher than halfway, due to smog and dust. So again, cheer up America! Turn off the TV and feel proud of our great country. Don’t read Newsweek and go see for yourself. Despite our problems we remain the most generous and environmentally conscious nation on earth! At least that I have visited. I don’t want to wax politically and none of us will really know if invading Iraq was right or wrong for many years, but ask the South Koreans if they are happy the good old USA pitched in.
Forty minutes North of Seoul we visited a very nice viewing center where just 3,500 meters away is a country where people are literally starving to death because of a brutal authoritarian wacko that the world politic believes we can negotiate with. I just don’t think you can negotiate with a man that has no conscience. He is playing all of us. I will quit now on this subject before I get too spun up.
Jim and I visited the War Museum. While it is mostly about the Korean War it traces Korean history back to the bronze age. The museum is a tribute to brave men and women who have fought for their country and mostly lost. They came very, very close to losing to the North if it had not been for the monumental efforts and sacrifices of American and Allied forces. Seoul is a very industrial city, very modern and clean except for the air. I think 13,000,000 is the population. Many live in high rise apartment buildings. These building mostly of simple concrete construction are embellished with bright colors and brief ornamentation showing that these are a very proud hard working group of people. They are fun loving and cheerful.
I understand from my retired flight attendant sister-in-law, Cindy Dye that this is the epicenter for good deals. We did not have a chance to shop but Bob and I rushed through the 10 story mall attached to our hotel and I did not see any good deals at Cartier, Tiffany and all the rest high end shops. We did see hundreds of beautifully dress Korean shoppers laden with their treasures. I really like these people. There nature is to be polite and considerate. We learned that the first classes that young children take in school is what they call “Ethical Education”. These are courses all about how to treat your elders, family and friends with respect. It works.
I look forward to coming back someday. On a clear day you can see forever and it is stunning. Off to Sapporo and then the sprint home! - Mercer
June 22, 2008 - Bob's Seoul
We had a hard rain in the predawn hours this morning, watching it out the window, I was not sure we would have much of a tour of Seoul today. WRONG! The weather cleared after sunup and we were treated to the nicest weather day of our whole trip!
We met our guide Bill, who spent 11 years in Chicago as a student and then an interpreter before returning a couple of years ago to his native land. He capped off a truly remarkable group of folks that acted as our guides on this trip around the world. Each and every one of them was at least terrific, a remarkable record!
We told Bill that we were all very interested in the DMZ and the areas where the Korean War ( I can't ever call it a 'Conflict' when so many died here) He took us up to an area called the Reunification Observation Site, a large building on a bluff that overlooks the Yalu River, the DMZ and North Korea beyond. It is pictured below: