South Korea > I like what they've done with this place

I like what they've done with this place

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: December 5, 2010

Totally different experience from back in the day. Landing in Kimpo in the 90's in summer...vice Incheon in the winter. The airport at Incheon reminds me of Frankfurt. That clean, that sleek, that modern. Kimpo had the 1950's Army Airfield feel to it.

By the time I got my bags, I'd made it maybe 50 feet before a cab driver asked me "What hotel?". I gave him the name and asked the price. "80 or 85 thousand won." No local money yet. "oh 80 or 85 dollars. 80 bucks!" "sold!" It was that simple.

Leaving the airport I was more impressed. The road was top notch construction. I saw new houses alongside the road. Smaller, but very much what you would see in a new development stateside. The ride in was more and more of the same. I could hardly recognize the place.

By the time we hit Seoul proper, traffic was a mess. The driver did have his meter on and the won were ticking away. We had a deal, but I was feeling bad for the guy. He had to make a living. He gave me the price up front, not knowing this traffic would really suck. I decided to unilaterally increase his fare. But I was half wondering if he would renogotiate. He didn't. He gave me a reciept for the stated amount, and I increased it on my own. We were in this together.

Can't say enough about the hotel here, really is a gem. It was built 10 years after I left. I didn't recall there being anything like this when I left, but now, wow. The best place I've stayed since starting this job. Great room, great view and an all world gym in the basement.

The gym is where my Sunday started. I was down there at 6 AM to hit the pool. Perfect water temperature for a bone thin guy like me. I haven't swam since tearing up my left arm about 5 months ago and this was a very comfy way to get back into the sport. Pool was near empty when I showed, but eventually a few of the comely local lasses arrived to fill in the gaps in the lanes. Granted cavorting about in Lycra in front of nubile nymphs is not the kind of thing i relish, but I persevere. After that it was quick dip in the hot tub. Being the first customer of the day it was not quite up to speed. So I hopped in the sauna for half a turn of the sand filled timer they had in the room.

After that it was off to breakfast. As good as any I've had. Three plates full and nothing bad to say. Plus an espresso machine that wouldn't quit. I was full and fully amped. Came back to the room to finish up a pice of writing and then looked out the window. Oh, there is a park across the street! Huge actually...

Figured I could run there and I was right. Was out for an hour solid. Great variety of terrain in the park and no troubles along the way. Loads of locals out there too.

I have to say that I do enjoy the eye contact with the local women. On busy street when moving in packs, they can and usually do keep on with their conversations and casually ignore me. These are my least favorite, group 3 But head to head vs a solo woman on a path, that option is not there. They then fall into two groups. One group bites and goes vertical. They give me the head to tow once over, but somehow never seem to linger as long as they'd like midships. A slight pause and then are toe bound. Finally, my favorite group are those that go horizontal. They adapt a look of total disdain and do a hard eyes left as I approach. I have to think these are the ones who either hate Americans...or know they never reach the toes when they get into the vertical mode. Either way, being actively ignored is a boost. anyone trying that hard to ignore me is a prime validation.

After the run it was time to hit the subways. Been a while there also. I recall them being a little rough looking back in the day. But now, as modern as possible. Glass doors to protect the riders from the tracks and the cleanest trains i've seen on earth.

Walking around town I was impressed time and time again at how much this town has improved. I like to think that the physical improvements are why I like it so much more this time than last. But in truth, the last time I was here there was so much going on in my life that I'd have been miserable anywhere I was. Its just how it was then.

And maybe that is how it is now too...maybe there is no place I can be unhappy anymore.

I'll go off an puzzle on that for a while.

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