Korea is nothing if not, well, Korean. We set off from HK International Airport very early last Sunday and by lunchtime we were in the rather splendiferous Shilla Hotel, fortunately not named after Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller as I don’t think the taxi drivers would have waited whilst you asked for the Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller Hotel. Too much Sturm and Drang. If you have not been to Korea (the Southern bit, I mean) it is one of the most advanced places on the planet in technology terms. Everywhere we went was wi-fi’d and we rented for a measly 8,000Won per day a mobile hotspot. Instant wi fi on the hoof. Less advanced in other areas sadly. We hired a taxi driver, also for a day (150,00 Won), and he acted as translator, guide, advisor and driver. He spoke excellent English. However he insisted on only ever opening the car door for me and never for Mrs. Ha rather than the contrary old-fashioned way in which I was brought up. That however is purely cultural and as many Western firms have discovered you can’t turn thousands of years of history upside down by shouting loudly and waving your arms vigorously. The Brits built an empire on this approach and it worked for a while until the Empress’ subjects realized that they might conceivably be better off on their own. “The natives are revolting”, the Brits cried. They were and they did. Rumour has it another large superpower is currently treading the same path and I fear that too will end in tears. Anyway, should someone be in urgent need of a multi-talented driver in Jeju I can supply Chang’s contact details.
I was struck throughout our 5 day stay just how much the Koreans seem to envelope their offspring with warmth and love. Not unlike the Brits and the empire. Our hotel was full of young couples, doting on the cutest kids you will ever see. Very little grizzling, much to my delight. The kids were well behaved too. We also noted a disturbing tendency amongst the couples to wear his’n’hers outfits. I don’t think anything could persuade me to wear an outfit matching Mrs. Ha’s typical day wear. I draw the line at pashmina and leggings. And I flatly refuse to wear ear rings. I may need something to control the middle-age spread but I won’t be looking in Mrs. Ha’s wardrobe I promise. Several children indeed survived several seconds in a lift with me without bursting into tears so the Koreans are made of stern stuff. Sparta revisited.
The Shilla also provided a lot of entertainment. Western classical musicians were on hand to regale us with everything from Chopin to Scott Joplin even whilst Mrs. Ha was drawing up her Chopin Liszt (ho ho ho). Each evening there was an hour of exhibition ballroom dancing. Always the tango. Maybe that is the only dance they know. It was pretty cool in the evenings and the gals must have been a tad chilly but they soldiered on. Sadly they were followed by a band that seemed stuck in the groove. Each evening they played old Shadows hits but rather less twangy and I don’t think Hank would have felt threatened. Insulted maybe but not threatened. Four nights of the same tunes in the same order with the same ever so slightly off-key chords…….. I suspect the pianist, who accompanied the Tenor each day may have been from the same music academy as she reminded me of Eric Morcambe’s famous quip to Andre Preview: I’m playing all the *right* notes. But not *necessarily* in the right order. Don’t shoot me I’m only the piano player.
I suppose I ought to post a picture or two but I have not processed many yet. Still culling the deadwood. But here are a few to kick off Korea Week.
Now this was not a bird watching holiday but I discovered that there were plenty of birds to be seen around the hotel. This was one. Varied Tit is causing much head scratching in Hong Kong right now as one or possibly two have turned up on our migration magnet, Po Toi. Are the ‘real’ or are they escapes? Are they ship-assisted or did they simply press the wrong button on the GPS. Who knows? The fact is they were ten a penny around fir trees on the cliff path. I spent ages trying to get a decent picture because the longest lens I had was my 200mm F4 although I had sneaked a 1.4x TC in the luggage. But Mrs. Ha was in possession of the SX 50 HS and I had one half decent shot with that.
And that brings us to a close for today. I shall revert with more glittering jewels about the trip to Jeju as soon as I have worked through some more images for you.