[seoul, korea - asean media people's visit, 21-27 november 2010]

i missed the winter in seoul.

no, it’s not the title of a korean tv drama. literally, i missed the first snow in seoul because i was already on my flight back to jakarta when it started to snow in seoul.

after one week experiencing the freezing weather in seoul, my only hope was to be able to catch the first snow there. but no luck for me that time. so no pictures in the snow for me… despite the 'no snow' situation, i still took tons of pictures everywhere (please check my flickr), even from inside of our tour bus.

some quick snaps of down town seoul

the best thing about visiting seoul this time was that it was not for a meeting, but rather it was more like a group tour and a vacation. plus the weather was extraordinary as it was towards the end of autumn, which means the temperature was varied between -7°c to 5°c. my last visit to korea was in august 2005 for a youth forum in suwon. it was bloody hot with the temperature more than 40°c. so when I had a chance to visit seoul in a cooler weather, i could not and must not resist.

my packing for this visit was rather extreme as i packed-up more clothes than what i usually need for a one-week visit. i always think that layering is the key for the unpredictable weather, as i don’t know how cold or how warm it could be during the late autumn. so I was thinking this time it would be okay if i skip the art of not travel light (not to admit that i have mastered it so far, lol).

i was in seoul for an asean media visit. i had a good time there. meeting nice people, eating tons of kimchi everyday, going to all different places i never had a chance to visit during my previous visits there, and reminiscing of the good old times as we visited those cities/place that i’ve visited years ago: suwon, daejeon and namsan tower.

namsan tower

spectacular view en route to namsan tower

view of seoul city from the tower

love tiles at the namsan tower

locks of love also at the namsan tower

one of the most unforgettable programme during the visit was to see this famous ‘cookin’ nanta’ musical show. this is not an ordinary musical show as the performers were producing their ‘music’ out of cooking utensils. the show was a combination of traditional korea rhythm called 'samulnori' and comedy . all i can say is that the show was very entertaining: nearly two-hours time of loud music, powerful beat, hilarious comedy and buffed shirtless guys. it was a fiest for my eyes. i could not regret any second of it :)

cookin nanta in action
since this visit was considered as 'official', therefore we had chances of visiting 'unusual' places like the korean tourism (KTO) office, samsung electronics, KIA motors plant, korea atomic energy research institute (KAERI), korea forest service (KFS), asean-korea centre (AKC), the gyeongbok palace and the SK telecom ubiquitous museum.

gate of the gyeongbok palace

group photo at samsung electronics

the next quetsion would be: what good travelling be without shopping? but a proper shopping time was a luxury to ask for as our programme was packed. however, i managed to went rush shopping for souvenirs for friends and family on the last day of the visit. the places were insadong, gangnam and myeongdong. actually i went to gangnam almost every single night of my stay in seoul as our hotel was located near gangnam.


myeongdong at night

my stay in seoul was coincided with the shelling by north korea to south korean island of yeongpyong on 23 november 2010. i sufferred a slight panic attack for the first two days, i even have my belongings packed already just in case suddenly the indonesian mission in korea ask the indonesians to flee the country immediately :P... the group closely followed the news on tv and news papers everyday, everywhere. but surprisingly the city was calm and the daily life in seoul was carried on as usual.

i hope that the tension has cooled down now, nothing bad will happen in the future, and all my good friends in south korea are okay. i really wish i can visit korea again in the near future, be it seoul, daejeon, busan, suwon or other city, whether it's in spring time, summer, autumn or winter...


{beijing-shanghai, second conference of asean-china ministers responsible for information, 15-17 september 2010}

(after hours of typing like crazy, writing was so out of question. while more typing was another thing, i was thinking maybe i should try to discipline myself to start taping my story instead of trying to find some time to sit in front of the laptop and type it. it was very rare for me to be able to write my travelling story right away. well, maybe we can’t say ‘right away’ since i could not accessed the blogspot during my time here. but who knows that blogspot is blocked here in china?)
anyway, i was in beijing servicing a ministerial meeting. this was my third visit to beijing. the last two visits were done in 2008. believe it or not, i found that servicing ministerial meetings are less hectic compare to those of working level meetings. the reason being was because ministers usually do not discuss things in details, their meetings are mostly consisting of reading of statements, adopting documents that have been cleared by their senior officials and issuing joint statements. there. 80% of the work was done even before the meeting is started.

images of beijing

in beijing we stayed at the beijing international hotel, a five star hotel located at jianguomennei avenue, a very strategic location at the heart of beijing, not far from the tiananmen square, forbidden city and the famous wangfujing street.

the view from my hotel room in beijing

day one was the meeting day, and it was finished quite early in the afternoon, followed by a gala dinner at the hotel. after that the host took us to see the NCPA (china national centre for the performing arts) orchestra at the beijing concert hall. actually i am not really into classical music, but i must say i quite enjoyed the 2 hours performance of the orchestra. i think the best things about servicing ministerial meetings are staying at five-star/ luxury hotel, good food, and extra activities such as going on city tour or performances like this. things that I can rarely get while attending working group level meetings.

snapshots of collections in the red sandalwood museum

day two started with a short trip to the red sandal wood museum, china’s first and largest private museum. founded in september 1999 by chan laiwa, who was named the richest woman on the chinese mainland by forbes magazine, the museum has more than 300 pieces of precious red sandalwood furniture from the ming and qing dynasties on display. some 2,000 pieces have come from Ccan's workshop next to the museum over the past years. at the end of the trip, the meeting participants were handed a basket of handmade moon cakes. nice.

baskets of handmade moon cakes

in the afternoon the head of delegations were taken to a courtesy call with the china communist party leader at the great hall of people located next to the tiananmen square. and in the evening we flew to shanghai because the host has organized a visit to the shanghai expo on the next day. tired and all, we reached the hotel almost at midnight.

park hotel shanghai

we stayed at the park hotel shanghai, a nice hotel with european and american art deco style. originally built in 1932, it was once the first high building of far east in the thirties. the hotel is located in nanjing road, the downtown of shanghai, opposite to people's park. nanjing road is known as the main shopping street of shanghai. seeing rows and rows of shops without being able to explore it drove me nuts!!

on day three, we headed off to the expo site. we only visited several pavilions and did not have enough time to explore the whole location. i took some pictures here and there and was able to do some shop stops (in a hurry) to buy souvenirs. because of this i was once separated from the group and later received a 'death' stare from our tour leader. haha!

around 4 pm we drove back to the hotel and was given only 30 minutes time to refreshed and changed to formal attire, and then off again to a courtesy call with another party leader at another hotel.

it was only 9 pm when we reached our hotel back from the courtesy call. i was told thatthe shops will close at 10. so i quickly ran up to my room, replaced my jacket with a cardigan, and stormed down to hit the street of nanjing.

nanjing road at night is such a beauty

the city lights was awesome. i loove city lights. the nanjing road is filled with rows of department stores (small ones 'thou), food stalls, souvenir stores, bars and coffee shops. i saw that as the night getting late, more and more people came and filled the street.

i returned to my hotel room nearly at 11.30 pm and had to left the hotel at 04.30 am to catch my 07.40 am flight. the schedule was very packed and i got to sleep for only for few hours everyday. i can feel the energy drained out of me day by day. my flight home was not a direct one. i have to fly through hong kong and stayed overnight in bandar seri begawan. still, it was a great experience to be able to visit china again.