This weekend Grace and I flew to Korea for Joop Dorresteijn & Suna Cho’s wedding and we had a great time there. The traveling itself did not completely go well, but that’s something you get used to in Asia. It started off with the regular two hour delay on the tarmac before take off from Shanghai because of ‘air traffic control’. I lost quite a number of working days already sitting on a plane that does not move. If the airline would just let you wait in the lounge it would be okay, but in that case the flight would be officially delayed and they would get a fine (if the doors are closed before departure time China calls the flight on time…). Anyway, I now already expect delays and normally keep on working on my laptop even if they tell me not to, but the worst thing is that you never know how long it will take.
We arrived in Seoul (Incheon) where everything went fine, except that China Southern had the gate that was furthest from immigration, it was literally a 25 min walk and train ride go get to the exit of the airport. After going through immigration and getting our luggage we went to buy tickets for the bus to Daejeon (3 hours), and found we had just missed it. The next bus was fully booked, so we had to wait another hour… We had a quick dinner at the airport and I checked my emails. My mailbox was flooded with new Twitter followers and at first I did not know why. Turned out Dutch magazine Management Team had put me in a list of the 15 Twitterers that you have to follow (others in the list are a.o. Richard Branson, Tim O’Reilly and Seth Godin). Probably a bit too much honor for me but thanks anyway!
The bus ride to Daejeon was pretty good, the bus has excellent seats (almost similar to business class seats on a plane) and I got a ton of work done on the bus. Around 11 PM we arrived in Daejeon and we managed to find a taxi to drive us to the hotel. At least that was the plan, but the taxi driver did not know how to operate his GPS, so after 10 minutes we decided to get out in the middle of nowhere and try to find another cab. That eventually worked and at 11:45 we arrived in the hotel, where they could not find our reservation. Well, with a bit of patience and by being very determined they finally managed to locate it and right before 12 AM we were in our hotel room. Exactly on time for a conference call that my wife had planned for midnight…
The next morning we had breakfast and then met several of Joop’s family members in the lobby to go to the wedding venue. That was about an hour’s drive from the hotel (Joop had rented a bus for us). Originally the weather seemed to be overcast with a chance of rain, but when we arrived the sun broke through the clouds and within no time most clouds disappeared. A good omen Joop!
Joop and Suna were already completely dressed up for the ritual, and then it was my turn to get dressed in traditional Korean wear as well. The reason was that I was among the carriers (together with Richard Yu) who would have to carry first the groom and later the bride to the altar. An interesting ritual and pretty heavy as well (especially the heavy wooden carriage that the bride uses was quite something to lift!). Very cool to be part of this, thanks for letting me do this Joop!
The wedding ceremony itself was full of rituals, and although I didn’t understand much (it was all in Korean) it was an interesting and impressive sight. At the end of the ceremony Richard and I were asked to be part of the ceremony again, this time to throw live chicken into the audience. People did their best to grab them and later somebody explained to me that the one who catches it can bring the chicken home!
After the ceremony was over we took pictures with the couple and then it was time for a big buffet. It was quiet warm actually so I enjoyed the cold beers in the nice Korean village setting. Interesting is that we among others met a Dutch lady living in Seoul (her husband is an expat in South Korea) who knew all about me because of this blog and Twitter (Hi Esther!), that’s why I love social media! When the lunch was finished we went back to the hotel for a rest or to do some sightseeing, before we would go for dinner. The evening was again in a traditional Korean setting, we had an intimate dinner with family and close friends in a 250-year old Korean restaurant in the countryside outside Daejeon. Very enjoyable, but a dinner can be quite long if you need to sit on the ground with a traditional low Korean table… But we managed and it was a very special evening with some traditional performances, traditional food and of course speeches and presents.
After we got back to the hotel we decided to have an after-party in one of the local Hofs (a kind of German-style bar). And an after-party it was: I even decided not to put the pictures online! Let me say that we had a lot of fun drinking a mixture of local draught beer and shoju wine, that we made friends with other Koreans that loved our performances of Dutch and English drinking songs and that I had a bit of a headache when I got up the next morning!
On Sunday we left Daejeon (Joop & Suna stayed a day longer) and went back to Seoul by the fast KTX train (top speed > 300 km/h). An efficient and not-too-expensive way to travel all over Korea (the 1 hour trip cost about USD 18,-). In Seoul we took a taxi to our hotel, checked-in and immediately left again to go shopping and sight-seeing.
We walked a lot that afternoon and eventually ended up at a sunset Han river cruise. Not very special (there is not a lot to see on the Han river), but still a nice way to end the afternoon. We then had dinner in a good Korean BBQ restaurant where we had a Chinese waitress/BBQ cook, so we finally could communicate relatively easy (not many people speak decent English in Korea). After dinner we went to a nice JjimJilBang (a traditional Korean bath house), the Dragon Hills Spa, to refresh and relax. Very enjoyable, I love this kind of spa (there is one in Shanghai as well, one of the few bathhouses where you can bring your whole family).
Today we did a bit more sightseeing and eventually ended up at Lotte World for a nice lunch and to do some more shopping. In the afternoon we took a taxi to Incheon before flying back to the kids in Shanghai. We missed them a lot, that’s the only down side for this kind of trips: I’d love to bring the kids but they are still too young. We had a very nice time in Korea and a fabulous experience at the wedding. Joop & Suna, thanks a lot for the invitation and all the best in your future together!