It was raining on the morning of April 14. My third trip to Korea and the first time that I was not going all by myself. My first two trips had been during autumn and winter, and this time I was going to experience Spring.
It was also my first time to fly abroad via PAL, and I was extremely disappointed with their service and amenities. My flight back to the Philippines was my worst flight experience yet.
After checking into our separate hotel rooms, my manager Mel and I stepped outside to look for a place to have dinner. It was already past 9pm so we were both tired and hungry, so we walked into the first decent place we saw.
Turns out nobody understood English in there, and it took us about 10 minutes just to place our order with a combination of a few halting words, menu-pointing and hand gestures.
By the time we were through ordering, Mel had a look of total exhaustion on her face.
When our food arrived, I discovered that Mel was picky with her food and totally not as adventurous as me. For the duration of the trip, I became her food taster and she only attempted to eat something iffy after I gave the go signal that she could handle it.
The next day we were at the office early, and after a morning of discussion with our scanners, JiWon and MiJeong, they both treated us to lunch at a Korean restaurant (though Mel asked for Japanese or American, we could not find any along the way).
I had my Korean staple, a bowl of bibimbop, while Mel had beef bulgogi. JiWon told us that it was really warm in Korea these days, and I shot a look at Mel, because the previous night we had been complaining how cold it was.
The afternoon was spent having meetings with more Korean contacts, to whom we gave dried mangoes and tarts.
At night, our site rep MiKyung happily offered to bring us to a mall where we could buy pasalubong.
So we rode a cab to Emart and we spent a good couple of hours scouring the shelves for chocolates and wafers to bring back home. Mikyung bought several packs of candies and said it was her gift for our teammates.
Then MiKyung brought us to another mall nearer our hotel where we had dinner at a Korean-Chinese restaurant. We had some Korean-Chinese black noodles which everyone at the restaurant was having and which, according to MiKyung, was something of a special treat for them during birthdays.
She paid the bill despite Mel’s and my protests. That girl is hospitality exemplified.
The next day, we found ourselves in a huge conference room. I spent both morning and afternoon training Korean originators.
For lunch, MiKyung once again offered to accompany us, this time to Bennigan’s. My favorite restaurant in Korea is not Korean.
We had a long walk, at which point I kept getting left behind because I was always stopping to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.
I insisted on a plate of their country salad, which is honestly the best salad I’ve ever tasted anywhere ever. They also ordered some ribs and club sandwiches. Of course they still had my favorite complimentary bread and fluffy butter cream, and they even packed a couple to go.
This time, Mel and I insisted on picking up the check.
In the evening when it was time to go home, we bid goodbye to our Korean contacts and we walked outside to take a cab to go home. Three cab drivers did not speak English and did not know where Renaissance hotel was. The third one even had us speak to a telephone interpreter but to no avail. We were getting a bit distressed when a Korean officemate came out and offered to help us. We were finally able to catch a cab and she spoke to the driver for us.
After that, Mel said maybe it was not a good idea for us to wander far on our own lest we were not able to go back to the hotel. So after dumping our stuff in our rooms, we took a short walk to a nearby store, looked around some, then had dinner in our own hotel’s Italian restaurant. We had some pizza, pasta, and chocolate mousse that had a strange sour taste.
Then we headed to our bedrooms with the agreement to meet at the lobby at 5am the next morning. I packed all my stuff to ensure that I did not forget anything (the last time I was in Korea, I left behind one of my favorite slacks) then had one last warm bubble bath before diving beneath the comforter for some shut-eye.
The next day we rode the limousine bus to the airport and had breakfast there before boarding the plane that brought us back to our country where it was warm and humid and where everyone we spoke to could understand us. I think this will be my last trip to Korea and it was really fun.