Last day in Daegu

Trip Start Sep 28, 2006
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Trip End Oct 28, 2006


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Where I stayed
GS Plaza Hotel

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mandi
Woke at 7:05 - rather horrified because the plan had been to wake at 6:15 to get the shuttle bus in time for the first Keynote of the day. However Gray had changed his mind and decided to bunk. So we had a leisurely breakfast (back in the coffee shop on the ground floor for some reason) and then got a cab over to EXCO (the Conference centre.) We made enquiries about the afternoon tour, chiefly whether there would be English commentary, and booked in to a city tour which included a herbal medicine exhibition which sounded interesting.

Then to an electronics department store place very nearby - three floors of electronics, mostly computer equipment. We found, with some difficulty, a new watch for Gray to replace the old Casio digital that dropped and broke as we left the Kelebek, and it's YTL4 Turkish replacement which stops three or four times a day, and Jen's iRiver MP3 player - you can't believe how small they are. I thought the iPods were small when we bought them a couple of years ago but this is really only the size of a thumb. Sarah's HiFi was easier and looked nice and small when on the shelf but when we'd paid and the box came out poor G got all panicky as he does in these situations and clearly deeply regretted the whole daft business - as well he should have, because he was the poor bugger who had to lug the damn thing two blocks back to EXCO while I went to the next-door department store which claimed to be exclusively textiles. However it would seem that "textiles" means something a bit different here in Daegu, the textile capital of the world. The first floor was things like towels and bed linen, and of course a few places to get traditional dresses made, and the second and third floors both furniture. So that was a bit of a waste.

Next door was yet another of these giant stores which the girl manning the tour stand had said sold clothing (and which gloried in the name "AllBran" - I wonder if they know?) so as I had plenty of time I wandered over there to have a look. It was just clothing and fashion items and I realised I'd probably be able to buy a suitcase to take care of the bloody HiFi, something that G had suggested as he'd staggered off with it bashing against his knees. It was harder than I expected. I found a stand selling those little pink backpacks for little girls and thought I could probably explain to the girl manning it (girling it?) what I wanted. I even dug out my Korean phrase book (which has proved pretty useless so far - the only thing I've used nit for was to establish my shoe size while trying to buy slippers yesterday, namely Too Big) and found the word for luggage. I pointed to it. "Cheem?" she said incredulously. "Yes, si, evet, cheem!" I enthusiastically agreed. She went to find her mate, ("there's a madwoman over there who says she wants cheem, come and see!") who came and said, "cheem...?" even more incredulously. "Yes! Cheem!" No, it didn't seem to be making any sense. So I turned to the blank page in the back of the phrase book and drew a suitcase, which also had them completely baffled until I added wheels. "Aaaah! Cheem!" they smiled, and pointed me down an aisle where I found a whole lot of luggage.

I bought a medium-sized case on wheels that I thought would, at least, be fairly useful afterwards - hopefully it can replace Jen's original suitcase that Gray broke in some rough mining accident and which then was replaced by the backpack that she never used and I am using at present. But what I didn't take into account was that then I would have to spend the rest of the morning dragging around an empty suitcase behind me. Luckily an empty wheeled suitcase isn't immediately apparent as empty so I didn't look like an idiot, just a person with a suitcase.

I then walked around an international photographic exhibition on the forecourt in front of EXCO - some really nice stuff, all built around the theme of water in one way or the other. Printed huge, poster-sized, so you could look at them properly. The only jarring note was that some idiot had written meaningless little commentaries in Chinglish (or Koringlish, or whatever the local variant is called) so you'd have photographs taken by Americans or Canadians with comments like "The river flows on, timeless through familys life. Family has fun at river and flows timeless on. What questions does river ask?" Artists speaking about their own work are usually pretty silly, but not a patch on what this idiot was managing.

Graham
I wanted to listen to Sebastian Thrun's keynote, so I had set the alarm on my palm for 6.15am. Woke at 1am and lay awake for a couple of hours before l could get back to sleep, so either I slept through the alarm, or it didn't ring so I missed the shuttle and the keynote.

After a very ordinary breakfast down in Rosemary's we took a taxi to EXCO where we went to the big electronic emphorium to get some stuff. I hate places like this - multi story glitter. In the end we found an iRiver for Jennie, a mini sony hifi for Sarah, and a replacement W30 watch for me.

The hifi came in a huge box which made me lose my sense of humour, as it will be difficult to travel with. They fitted it with a tape handle and I staggered back to the EXCO. I dropped it off at the service desk and went to listen to a few presentations before lunch - nothing too exciting.

After lunch I was talking to Michael's wife Misty and the kids when Mandi got in from looking at fabric. She had bought a large suitcase on wheels that will probably fit the hifi, if it is not in its box.

Mandi
Finally up to where I was to meet G, with time to have a citron tea before the tour left. There were about ten of us all up, a nice mixture. Almost all Engineers bunking the Conference, but one other wife who had just spent three weeks in China.

We went first to Seomun market again. Sadly, our guide, who told us firmly to call her "Miss Oh" because she didn't like her first name, didn't like the market (she said it was fine for people like her parents and grandparents but young people like her wanted to shop at smart department stores, so I guess we're seeing the last generation of these lovely Asian markets) so she fairly rushed us through. By Murphy's Law she took us to exactly the spaces I'd have loved to find yesterday: all the haberdashery and dress fabrics. I tried to buy some lovely buttons for Jen, but they were W1600 each so a set of six or eight would have been quite an expensive present to be laughed over and then put in a drawer. I did manage to buy some nice earrings, so at least they'll have some Korean ones as well as Turkish. They don't look Korean, but I think they'll like them.

Next to the medicine place. It would seem that Daegu has always been an important centre of herbal medicine (something to do with the mountains surrounding the place) and has some sort of annual medicine festival in the area we were visiting. Not today, though. I bought some ginseng sweets for Ben and Tapp, which seems like an odd gift from a nearly-mother-in-law, but never mind. The exhibition was not much of a thrill. First of all, we were shepherded around by a non-English-speaking Korean woman who explained in extensive detail to Miss Oh, who would look riveted by the exciting things she was hearing, and then turn and say to us, "these things are all minerals. Now she's waiting for us..." and hurry us on to the next case. So we just saw a lot of herbs in jars, very badly stuffed animals, plates of various minerals, and some old charts showing acupuncture points.

She had earlier promised to take us to a nice park, but by then we only had an hour before we all had to be at a different hotel for the banquet, so she asked if anyone wanted to see the jewellers' street which was the last thing on the official itinerary. Unfortunately one or two people said they did, and she said we'd have to stick with the official itinerary, so off we all trundled to see the jewellers' street. After all standing around waiting while someone got his watch battery replaced, (something we'd been doing a lot of in the market, standing around while one person bought one thing) we managed to persuade her that we could be trusted to go off for twenty minutes on our own and find our way back to the bus. It wasn't a particularly exciting area - the jewellers were all just retail shops with much the same sort of stuff in their windows as one another. On the little side-streets around were some hardware shops, electronics (including a whole iRiver shop!!!) and lots and lots of Army Surplus. I thought of buying the lads a Korean Army cap but I don't think either of them is off-beat enough to wear it. Jen might.

Graham
Mandi went off on an afternoon tour and I spent a boring couple of hours listening to talks. Got the shuttle to the banquet venue at the Hotel Inter Burgo where Mandi was dropped after her tour. Left the suitcase and hifi in the box room.

Mandi
Finally back to the smart hotel for the banquet. We managed to check the empty suitcase and the giant box into the luggage room and then wandered off. G's acquaintance Michael was still waiting for his family to get back from the other tour, so we promised to keep seats for them. However when we went in there were seats only in twos or threes at all the unreserved tables, so we chose one which at least had two seats side-by-side and included one lad from the afternoon tour, but it was SUCH hard work trying to make conversation that I was quite glad when the speeches started. They were seriously awful - just little Asian suits reading lists and lists of names of people to thank - and we were hungry and only had the weird Korean wine to drink to help pass the time. Michael and his family (wife Misty, two kids aged about 11 and 9 with weird Welsh names) came in during the speeches by which stage one of the reserved tables had had its reserved sign removed so they sat there, and when there was a decent pause in the speeches and there were waiters moving around so we wouldn't be conspicuous, we moved over to join them and two young French Engineers.

Once the speeches were fiiiiiiiiiiinally over, they served a very good meal: tiny bruschetta, a delicious broccoli chowder, fillet mignon with two prawns, one in a hot sauce and salad, and cheesecake and fruit. What made me a little cross was that Michael had announced when we first arrived that we was going to try to sneak his family in to the banquet, as he hadn't bought tickets for them; once the waiters were circulating they went into a huddle with the maitre d' and had to be brought entirely vegetarian meals - all quite different from what the rest of us were having. The cheek of it!!!

After dinner there was an excellent show of Korean music and dancing: first three women playing those big flat harp things, then a group of eight women in traditional dress dancing, then a group of six male drummers, and finally the eight women dancing again, this time with fans. The last two were definitely the highlights. The women's second dance was very fast and involved a lot of pirouetting so their skirts would billow out - it was so pretty to watch. They also did a lot of business with the fans, making patterns and so on - very effective. But the drummers were absolutely the best. They each had a different drum, from quite big ones down to a very noisy brass pot-lid sort of effort, but what they also had was either a big feather-duster sort of affair, or one of those long ribbons that the Olympic athletes use in one of those funny routines, attached to their hats. By relatively small head movements, they were able to make these whirl around amazingly. The star of the show had a ribbon that must have been five or six metres long, and he did the most amazing things with it. I was so disappointed that I had left my camera in the box-room with all my other junk, saying to G, "we won't need this, you're not getting the Best Student Paper prize!" Misty took a lot of photos and has promised to email them to me once she gets back to the US. I'll add them here, then...

Finally onto the bus back to our own hotel - luckily there were just two spare seats for our two giant new appendages, so we didn't have to stand - or sit with them on our laps, which would have been even harder!

Graham
I had told Michael that we would save a place for him and his family, who were not yet back, but there were no empty tables. Luckily for him they had just removed a reserved sign from a table near the front as they came in, so we managed to sit together in the end.

The first 40 minutes were the most boring speeches I have ever sat through, and it wasn't even helped by the wine of which there was a small bottle of rice variety and one of berry, neither of which were great. The former tasted like some of the poorer stuff we used to make at Mayhem. In the end, after all the speeches, the food was good. We started with a piece of toast with some squares of onion, which was followed by an excellent chowder and an upmarket surf-n-turf.

The highlight of the evening was the dancing. The nerds went wild with their cameras when some pretty Korean ladies danced in traditional dress with fans. However, the most dramatic were duelling drummers, some with tassels attached to their hats and one with a large feather duster. These they controlled expertly so that they whirled and quivered like a battle between a dragon and a feather duster.

Mandi:
I haven't Mentioned the War. We are quite close to the Airport, and every morning we have been amazed by the noise of what sounds like hundreds and hundreds of fighter planes taking off or landing - actually, we think it's probably circuits and bumps, but it's quite exciting to say, "ooh, the North Koreans are invading!" or "there goes the intrepid South Korean airforce!" Also, there are occasional panicky-sounding announcements by some sort of loud-hailer from the street below. We "translate" it to one another, "the North Koreans have launched a missile, you have eight minutes to get to your nuclear bunker!" but as no-one seems to be taking it seriously, it's more likely to be someone saying, "shirts half-price until midnight!" We really should find out what's happening in the world, specifically North Korea, but will probably end up leaving it until we get home anyway.
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