From the 13th until the 16th I have traveled to Seoul to pick up an award (International Business of the Year bronze Award).

But there was much more than boosted egos, networking and business PR in that trip:

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Here is a list of anecdotes, places, and other trivia:

Seoul’s Incehon Airport has a movie theater, an ice skate rink, train/subway station, free wifi, and has been voted the best duty free airport in the world. And as soon as you land you realize that Seoul is full of screens (even in bookstores), Samsung phones, and Hyundai and Daewoo cars.

I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the awards ceremony was held. Since it became a Marriott franchise (curiously they have American Standard toilets, but with Japanese style buttons and features), there are some details that really don’t live up to the glamour of past times, but still a nice hotel conveniently located.

The first night I did what I usually do when I travel, particularly if I travel alone: get lost in some small alley and find a nice local restaurant, far away from any tourist-trap. It was fun, particularly the “dancing giant noodles” (see gallery for a video), but all that yummy and very cheap adventure food has a price: no English menu, and ended up dining some spicy rice with seafood, and the more I repeated “no-spicy please” the spicier they made it.

The next day, after a workout at the hotel’s excellent gym and swimming in the pool, I went to a couple places I wanted to visit. Bukchon village is a part of the city where many old traditional buildings are still being used today, for anything from private residencies to shops.

Righ across the street from Hyundai Engineering Corp. headquarters, just as waves of salarymen with crew cuts, white shirts, narrow ties and smoking, right out of Mad Men, came pouring out of the building, I had an excellent oyster and fungi porridge at the first “all porridge restaurant” that I have seen¬† (porridge, like Hangawi’s, sweet NY memories that I’ll never forget).

Then I went to Insadong Street to visit art galleries, antique shops, artisanal workshops, and little shops that even sold Steve Jobs style Kid Robot Munny, Gangnam Style socks (quite appropriate, since my hotel was located next to the Gangnam Station), or poop-shaped sandwiches.

There are many sites devoted to tea, which I love, but the most notable ones were Kyung-in Museum of Fine Arts’ courtyard, which mixed several art galleries and tea shop around a beautiful courtyeard, and Teastory Beautiful Tea Museum.

Surprising to see the number of street fortune tellers by Tapgol park.

I had a very enlightening conversation in broken translated English with¬† a very old pressed flower artist. The moment, life, sadness, energy, love, handcraft, gaze, touch, art… it was beautiful and almost surreal. Too personal to share here, sorry.

Then I went back to the hotel, changed into the “black tie costume”, played my part around business men, dignataries, and executives from around the world, accepted my award, and went to bed. Luckily the flight back was on a new 777-200 via Tokyo and I slept from Tokyo to Alaska. I also had time to watch some movies (12 hour flight, lots of time: To Rome With Love (Woody Allen following his commercial formula), Prometheus (it could have been much better), Moonrise Kindgdom (yes, the story of my life but with a different ending), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (one can not get tired of a movie that is undoubtedly amongst the best in the history of cinema, filled with philosophical references and interpretations).