Korea! 
Thursday, September 12, 2013, 07:58 PM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
One benefit of running international renewable energy programs is you get to travel internationally. I was invited to give at talk at the 2013 Energy Tech Insight meeting in Seoul, Korea by the Korean Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) group to highlight my collaborative research project with the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI).

Korea photos are here.

Amanda, a new business development person, and—for a couple days—Bob, joined me on this trip. Amanda and I got into Seoul a day early to explore the city and walk off any jetlag. Our first adventure was getting dinner on Monday night. We headed off from the hotel at around 7:00 and eventually found a place that offered Korean BBQ. Normally, you cook your own dinner on a fine metal mesh over the hot coals that they bring out, but since we didn’t know a single word of Korean, they took pity on us and helped cook our meal of Ox and Pork. The food was delicious with side dishes of Gimchi, small sardine-like fish, lettuce and sauces! You dip the cooked meat in the sauce and roll it up in the lettuce after remastering chopsticks.

Afterward I headed out alone to the Banpo-daero bridge over the Hangang River. The park along the river had a nice bike path and I was surprise to find at 10pm many young people biking and picnicking down by the water. The bikes were nice and fast, and the meals were heavy on the beer/soju. I instantly liked this place.



Tuesday, Amanda suffered jetlag much worse than I did and was up at 3am. With all the free time she did some research on places to visit, so we compared notes and then headed north into the city. We had mastered the subway at this point (absurdly easy) and went to get some food at the open-air market, Namdaemun. After that we went to Sungnyemun Gate, which was first built in 1398 to keep Seoul safe from foreign attacks. I got a little mixed up with directions at this point but eventually we located north and headed up to Deoksugung (one of the five palaces in Seoul). It was a nice grounds with great structures. The curved ceramic roofs of Korea are truly spectacular. We tried to go to Gyeongbokgung but it was closed on Tuesdays, so we wondered through Bukchon Hanok Village for a while and got some big dumplings and a bottle of sojo for lunch. Recharged, we walked to Changdeokgung and took the Secret Garden tour. It was beautiful! Small ponds and dwellings hidden in the forest. You could imagine this area looking nearly the same back in the 15th century when royalty was strolling the grounds. Jongmyo was closed (tues) so we went south to the Cheonggyecheon creek and then back north into Insadong for some shopping and ice cream treats. There was a place with amazing snorkle-shaped cones that they would inject with soft serve. They were so good!







Wednesday, we listened to Steve Chu’s keynote, were wined and dined for lunch, and I gave my smart grid presentation. We meet my Korean partners for an amazing 14 course dinner! It’s Korean culture to leave food on the table at the end of the meal to indicate that one is satisfied; and we certainly left a lot of food on the table but I would describe my condition as closer to immobilization/food coma. It was culinary madness! More food just keep coming and coming! Afterward, our hosts treated the US contingent to a boat cruise on the river. We quietly sailed through the city’s lights and pointed out the Olympic Park, Gangnam (“River South,” a rich neighborhood), and the Namsan tower.



Thursday, we spent some time at the conference, but flew down to Busan and then drove to Changwon. I was suffering from a cold that hit me on Tuesday morning, so I didn’t do much this evening.

Friday, we toured KERI’s labs and explored some of the city: the Seongjusa temple, Seongsan Shell Mound (archaeological site where seafood scraps were found), and House of Changwon (창원의집). After dinner, Amanda and I took a walk around the hotel and got some ice cream. From what I could tell, Korea’s a smoothly operating industrial engine: well-organized, clean, very safe, and I felt completely comfortable walking around at night. I liked this place.




Saturday, my colleague from KERI, Ahn, drove Amanda and I to Gyeongju for some sightseeing. We got to town, and after a little confusion over where to park, rented bikes and struck out to learn about the Silla Kingdom that controlled this region. There actually were 3 kingdoms in what’s now modern Korea: Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje. Gyeongju was the center of this region from 57 BC to 935 AD with the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries holding the most growth and historical artifacts. We first visted the tombs of the Silla (e.g., General Kim Yu-sin) in King Tomb Park and then biked to Anapji Pond to take in King Minmu's reconstructed dreams. We walked through the Gyeongju National Museum but then turned our attention to food. I guided the team on a slightly extended return route along the river and then we found a nice, completely empty restaurant for lunch. Ironically, the restaurant owners were eating McDonald’s and watching MLB.





The highlight of our day was traveling up into the mountains to a couple UNESCO world heritage sites. The first was Bulguksa, the stunning Buddhist Temple. The 2nd was the 8th century Seokguram Grotto, home to one of the best preserved Buddhist statues in Asia.




Ahn drove us down to the ocean to dip our feet into the freezing sea as the sun was setting. We cruised up the coast a short way along the fishing villages and then we decided it was time to find the hotel and dinner. We had stirfried Gimchi and a few bombs (sojo and beer).



The final day of the trip we popped into the Gyeongju Tower and toured the Millinium Park grounds. Ahn, Amanda, and I had a nice brunch in the sun and took the car, to a bullet train, to a train, to a plane, to a subway, to Dolores Park, to another subway, to another plane, to a shuttle, to a car, to my house. Actually, the San Francisco layover (7 hours!) was enough to spend the Sunday afternoon lounging in Mission Dolores Park in the sun and that was wonderful. Way better than sitting in the terminal.


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