Thursday, October 20, 2005

Day 4: Tokyo and Day 5: Seoul

Last Tokyo Day

The last few days have been mostly work, but it has still be an experience being in Japan and Korea respectively.

Our actual session with our Japanese customers was on Tuesday and it went very well. That night we went to a restaurant called Tofu-ie had a tapas style Japanese dinner of mostly tofu cooked and served in a variety of different ways. I had to load up on two extra plates of sashimi to tide me over, but all in all it was a very fun, different meal. The next day we had to get up very early to catch the flight to Seoul.

It was kind of sad leaving Tokyo - there is so much else to see and do there. One of the members of our group (who was not going on to Seoul and Beijing) was going to stay at a Japanese inn for the remainder of the week. I kind of envied her, but was looking forward to Seould and Beijing.

Before leaving the Narita Tokyo airport I made it a point to spend all of the loose change Yen I had accumulated. So I bought a bunch of wasabi peas and this really good chocolate called "Dars". Next thing we knew the plane took off and it was time for Seoul.

Travelling to Seoul and my Adventures in the Market

My first impression of Seoul was that is was a very modern, futuristic type city. The buidings all have their own distinct look with weird angles, sculptures, and facades adorning them. I took some pics if anyone is interested. Like Tokyo everything is big. The highway from the airport to the hotel borders a river and as a far as the eye can see are buildings, row after row.

We arrived at the hotel about an hour after leaving the airport. I am staying at COEX Intercontinental. Underneath the hotel is a mall that stretches undergound for a whole city block (at least it feels like that).

Rather than shop and eat there our first night a group of us decided to go see one of the larger markets in Seoul: Namdaemun Market. Here is where I would learn that my negotiating skills could still be a little better.

The market itself was pretty crazy. Everyone pretty much sells the same things: leather products, random toys, t-shirts belts, nice hand and garmet bags ,etc. All of the stores also have the same exact layout and setup. Intermixed between all of these little stores are food vendors who are also selling the exact same things in the exact same layout: live octopus, skinned snake, squid, silk-worm larvae ... all stuff that you don't readily find at home - there was also chicken and beef too, but thats not as exciting. I steered clear of all of these goodies, but it was great just seeing this sort of stuff up close.

So I have never owned a leather jacket, and my goal on the trip was to buy my mom one but I am also not a fashion expert . While looking for one for my Mom I stumbled upon a Kenneth Cole jacket that was almost identical to a real kenneth cole leather jacket I had tried on at the kenneth cole store at Union Square one day. I really wanted the jacket that day but the 400$+ price tag kept me away.

This jacket was so soft, it was calling me. I asked the guy how much and he says 280$. I kind of wince, say no, and continue to admire the leather (it really is super soft). I take it off and hand it back to him. He says how much you want to spend. I say 120$ (i have nothing to lose right). He kind of laughs, says the jacket retails for 750 (which it doesn't) and "ponders" (I put that in quotes because these guys are for sure just acting a certain role). He comes back with 230$ ... I counter with 190$ (which I really didn't want to spend) and he just rolls his eyes at me. I give him the jacket back and we leave. At this point I was kind of bummed, because I really wanted the jacket, knock off or not, the leather was real, and it was just like the one I had tried on before about a year ago.

I go to a few other vendors ( my two coworkers in tow - thanks Doug and Shawn) and I cannot find Mr. Cole's jacket anywhere. Hunger was calling us so I decided oh well and went searching for some food. We knew that we did not want to eat at one of the many stands -- we wanted to eat some good Korean food (not that the stands did not have good korean food). After walking out of the market we came upon a huge 12 story mall. The whole 10th floor was restaurants.

Only one of the restaurants was Korean food - we went in and sat down. All 3 of us ordered this prime rib dish where you cook the beef on this burner that is surrounded by a trough where a sauce/broth and the vegetables are cooked. We had three orders of this between the three of us (they said it is usually 1 order for 2 people) -- so we were hungry. Also served is an array of vegetables - Kimchi (sp?), a very spicy radish, a garlicy spinach, and a variety of mushrooms. It was very good. I also had some Korean wine which happens to be the first disappointing food item of the trip so far. It was the cheapest brand though. I was hoping it would be like sake but it wasn't.

After chowing down (and chow we did - so good) we schmoozed with our waiter and learned a little about how big brothers and little brothers talk to each other in Korean. Little brothers (or younger people) address older people by appending the word Hyong (sp?) to the name. For some reason getting us all to speak like this with the waiter around was pretty comical, but I guess you had to be there.

Dinner ended and we made our way back to the subway. Along the way I stopped back into the leather shop that had the jacket. The man immediately went to the rack it was on pulled it out, hung it up, and continued a phone conversation he was having -- I didn't have to say a word. I tried it on again waited till he got off the phone and told him I would buy it for 170$ (probably too much money, but like I said I would learn something about bargaining).

He kind of sneered at me (again an act) and said something like 190. I was a little more bold this time and kind of took it off and said I might come back tomorrow. This is where it gets interesting. I leave and he comes back out and says how much do you want to pay. I say "Ideally 140" (I felt the jacket was easily worth that). He says 160$. At this point I am thinking that he could have had me for 170 and then would have been it. I should have turned and walked away and gotten it down to the 140-125 range, but instead I accepted his offer.

So I am out 160$ bucks, learned a little about bargaining, but have a great looking Kenneth Cole (or at least ken cole knockoff) jacket.

He placed the jacket in a bag for me -- i promptly put it on and we rolled back to the hotel where we had a beer and listened to a Philipino (sp?) cover band request songs.

More updates as I explore more. Today was a work day and we met the Korean Autodesk Employees. i don't think (or I know) I will not have as much time to check out Korea as I did Japan, but will try to get some more sightseeing in.

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