Happy New Year 🎉 🍾 from Hong Kong
(Tony’s in his happy place)
The rambling thoughts of a simpleton mind.
Korean drivers take much greater pride in their craft. Gloves, suits, clean and aromatic vehicles. Always aware of their surroundings, directions and destination. The path of travel is well thought out in advance and taken with complete consideration for the passenger, other vehicles and traffic situations. They have a fairly accurate internal compass and sense of direction. We took 2 airport buses and 5 Ubers, all of which I gave a 5 star rating to.
Chinese drivers, not so much. For starters, bathing on a regular basis is optional. Same with proper dental hygiene, attire and staying in your lane. Farting in the cars should be expected and (if enough rides have been taken) graded on a scale from; Do you smell something? -to- How long can you hold your breath? Of the 2 private airport cars and 2 taxis taken around Shanghai, I think the highest rating I could award would be 2 stars and a “what crawled up your butt and died?”
In both countries, the general concept of reaching your final destination is the goal, but the manner in which that goal is obtained, differs greatly. While neither countries have much concern with road rage, they do have an unspoken way about how they change lanes and navigate turns and off ramps. Nobody seems to get bothered with cutting-off or being cut-off. They all obey traffic signals and speed limits, as if they could be arrest for not. But the lane markers are merely suggestions, when other traffic isn’t present as a buffer.
There are two sides of the river that separate Shanghai. One side is the Financial District and the other side is what I call “Old Shanghai”. In the FD, the dining options are limited to nice restaurants, most of which suggest reservations. Prices tend to be higher, $$$-$$$$. On the other side, street vendors, hip bars and a great variety of restaurants are available. Costs range from $ all the way to $$$$. But there really isn’t anything or any cuisine that identified itself as “Shanghai” food.
In Seoul, there is food everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. It’s a culinary adventure and I’m Indiana Jones. Seafood and Pork are the 2 staples here. BBQ is the #1 way of preparing it and they love spicy. Seoul has a food pulse and it’s racing.
The Work Ethic:
The Koreans we met, spoke with, encountered and employed, were all very professional and concerned with their work. Only once or twice did I ever feel that someone didn’t like us or didn’t want to serve us. And in both cases, they were younger people (20ish). The older generation takes great pride in what they do. It didn’t matter if they were drivers, trash men, waitresses, ticket takers or street hawkers. They were honored to be doing what they were doing and it showed.
On the other side of the China Sea, they’re a lot less concerned about their reputation and the level of service provided. Albeit, the hotels were top notch (as they should be). And we received very decent service in most places. But it felt more like American service, when buying or ordering or asking questions. I’m not saying everybody gave off attitude, I’m just saying it felt so normal to us, that sometimes you’d forget you were in China. I just thought I was at a mall in Irvine.
Items of Note:
Ohh, just looked out the window. Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong. This looks fun…
Shanghai is my Paris. I’m drawn to the architecture, the lights, the grand scale of everything, perfectly placed within a postage stamp piece of land. There are large buildings all around the world, but these are larger than life. It’s hard to explain how a 50 story building in Seoul or LA, seem to be dwarfed by the magnitude of a 50 story building here. I can only equate it to a football player. I may be the same height as Antonio Gates, but we’re not the same size. Does that make sense?
Today we visited the 2nd tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower. Last time I was here, it was under construction and the Shanghai World Financial Tower was the big dog. Not anymore. The new Tower literally towers above the old WFC. It’s an amazing feet of human engineering, vision and determination.
We walked over 10 miles today, all around the financial district and the Bund. The weather was in the mid 50’s and cloudy. But a nice change from the sub-30˚’s in Seoul. Laura and I later found ourselves at this cozy little bar, playing Yahtzee, eating dim sum and enjoying some classic blues from Taj Mahal. I ❤️ Taj Mahal. Who knew the Chinese did too?
Also, I would be remised if I didn’t inform everybody that Laura gave me a good old fashioned ass-whoopin today with her 2 Yahtzee’s. (Yes Dear, you’re the best Yahtzee player in Asia).
Tonight, Maddie booked a wonderful dinner (about three months ago) at an Italian place called Mercato. Gotta say, it was pretty darn good. And we had the best table with the most beautiful views of Shanghai. During a short after-dinner walk, we just staggered around in awe of the beauty of this city. Their knowledge of exterior illumination, puts Vegas to shame. You just can’t take your eyes off of it.
On a side note, we rolled the dice and came into China without a visa. They now have a policy where you can stay up to 144 hours, visa free (72 hours in Beijing). All you do is show proof that you have a place to stay and a confirmed flight out. Then bam, they let you in. Unless that is, if your name is Madison Geist. Guess who got pulled into secondary? Yup. It seems that she does not look like her passport photo. All I could think of was that movie, Midnight Express (sorry Maddie 😂).
Well, being an expert now (at being pulled into secondary), I wasn’t concerned a bit. I figured, since I didn’t bring a gun this time, we were OK, right? The Chinese Immigration Officials were actually pretty cool about it all and very helpful. It’s not the same Cold-War China that our parents grew up with. As a matter of fact, we’ve never once felt threatened or endangered or unsafe (in any manner), at any time during our trip. It’s all been pretty benign.
So what is the proper gift for the 26th wedding anniversary? Duh! A brass MasterLock. Right? Well that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
I brought the ladies to one of my favorite spots in Seoul, the North Seoul Tower. We took the quick cable car up to the top and Laura and I placed our love-lock on the fence (next to the million others). I even had it engraved, so time will never fade it, even after we’re long gone. We had done a similar love-lock in the town of Love Lock, NV, a few years ago. We’ve been back once since and found that our lock (which had been written on with a permanent marker), was not so permanent. So a little touch-up was in order.
We hired an Uber driver for the day, found some good grub, paid a visit to the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art, toured the Gyeongbokgung Palace then readied ourselves for a beautiful diner at the JW Marriot.
So long Seoul, you’re a beautiful city. Until next time.
Day 1; raining and cold. Not miserable, but just damp enough to make you want a really good bowl of soup. None of us brought umbrellas, but we’ve got 3 new ones now. The forecast called for rain on day two also, but guess what? Sunshine on my shoulders… for the rest of our time here in Seoul. It’s like the opposite of washing your car. We bought umbrellas and that guaranteed the sun would shine. It’s beautiful out. But with that, the temps dropped at least 10 degrees colder today and another 5 tomorrow.
I have become quite the baby, when it comes to the cold. My blood has thinned and I find myself wearing three layers of clothes. I knew it would be cold here, but it’s difficult packing for 3 separate climate zones, just for the one trip. Seoul is “dead-of winter”. China will be much like San Diego and Okinawa will be like a cool Hawaii. Not complaining, just explaining.
It’s been real easy getting our 10,000+ steps per day. Seoul is a very good walking town. It’s mostly flat in town, with some mild hills and there’s always something to look at. And the shopping……. All this shopping is making me hungry. And the food….. All this food is making me fat. And the walking…. (It’s a vicious cycle).
We’ve spent the past few days eating Bibimbap, Korean BBQ, Vegan Monk, Italian, Irish Bar fare and of course Street Food. It’s all been pretty darn good. There are so many restaurants here. You just look for the ones with the longest lines or, in my case, the best reviews on Trip Advisor. With an open mind, you really can’t go wrong.
Christmas here is a pleasant surprise. You wouldn’t expect to see it celebrated so highly, in a predominantly Buddhist Country. But Maddie did a little research and found that about 30% of the County is Christian (or some faucet thereof). So they really get into the sprint of the holiday. And I gotta tell ya, they do a really good job of it.
Today is our 26th wedding anniversary, so I have a little something special planned for Laura. I’ll post those pix tomorrow. Until then, my official photographer (Madison), took these shots for your viewing pleasure.
Laura has settled in nicely I see. One of the perks of having your own business. Points, points rewards and points consumption, have become an art that almost everyone in our family has learned to master. Why pay for coach class, when everything you do everyday, can award you free first class?
Packing over the past few days was a non-event. We had planned things out pretty well and had plenty of time to prepare. It was nice to be able to use the kids bedrooms as our own personal staging areas. I think Laura started lay-out sometime last week. I start a couple days ago. It’s a Venus/Mars thing.
The hardest part however, was saying goodby to the dogs. They’re all in good hands, but I miss them more than the kids. We sent the Doodles to Intelligent K9 Training, for a 3 week obedience/boarding camp. The owner CJ, met with us, gave a demonstration and the most thorough and detailed presentation I’ve seen, for K9 training. He’s a former Marine and it shows in every aspect of his operation. I fully expect the girls to come back with high and tight cuts and marching in unison. He’s also very smart with his social platforms. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube…. He broadcasts on them all and we’ll be seeing the online post of the girls real soon. I’ll be sure to link it here for a good laugh.
The older girls are staying with a local family in Escondido that we found on rover.com. They have two small kiddos (that LOVE the girls) and 3 mid-aged dogs. For the past several weeks now, we’ve been taking them over for “play-dates”, so that our girls could get used to the surrounding, people and their dogs. It would be the death of Liberty, if we just dropped her into the DMZ, without prior recon. They’re a really great family and we feel very comfortable leaving the girls there. We’re constantly getting pictures of the dogs napping together. I’m at peace with it.
The ride up to LAX was a breeze. We cheated and hired a black car. That was the easiest 2hr drive ever. The airport was very busy and the security line was a mile long. But I’ve never seen anything like that run so smoothly. I was really impressed with the new procedures and technology they use now.
A quick jaunt upstairs to the Sky Lounge for several cocktails, dinner and a celebrity sighting of Phil Keoghan (a good omen), and here we sit waiting to take off. Ahh, the friendly skys (and my Zantac) await.
Laura had a little issue the other day and thought it might be a good idea to visit the dentist, before the trip. Seems something was bugging her teeth/gums. No big deal, she only ended up having a tooth removed today, and new bridge built, a mess of other fixes identified, put on antibiotics AND (the worst of it all), she can’t drink for the next week. WTF !?!?!
The Doc said her mouth could have exploded from the infection, during the airplane flight. (Does that count as terrorism?) I think we should tell ISIS that it does and give them all gum disease. Payback bitches!!! The day of reckoning is upon us.
Anyway, she’ll go back under the knife, for some new choppers when we return. And while that all went down, I got spiffed-out from my boy The Barber Andrew, got some last minute shopping done in hell, and still managed to keep my stress level at a 15 (out of 100). It’s good to be me 😎.
I’ll have the crunchy taco plate and 2 margaritas please. My wife will have the bowl of chicken broth and a glass of warm water.
The blog is back, the travel plans are well laid, and the clock is running. The Griswold’s take Asia, is about to go down.
We don’t actually leave until Friday afternoon, but I’ll take the next few days to sharpen my writing skills and kick the dust off the keyboard. Incidentally, I found out that more than 3 people actually read the last trip blog, so I’m super stoked that we may hit (dare I say) 4 or 5 readers this time?? But I really do appreciate the feedback I received and am glad that you found my writing fun and entertaining.
Ultimately, we’ll get to see Rudy for a week in Okinawa. But until then, Maddie is flying in from NYC and we’ll spend the holidays together eating, drinking and being Merry Americans. It’s what we do.
For now however, so much to do and so little time to do it. TTFN