|CN Tower, Seoul|
Our full final day in South Korea was to be more about tourism and bonding, than site visits and business.
The CN Tower sits on a hill overlooking Seoul. The tower is not that tall, in itself. But, it sits on a hill and imposes itself on the city. To get to it, our coach dropped us off in the car park near the top of the hill, after a long, winding drive up to it from the hotel. To get to the tower, you have to walk up a wide but steep path.
With Allan in a wheelchair, this part of the tour around Seoul was going to be a challenge. Our hero, Terry, began the test and nobly pushed Allan up a fair way of the hill. Jamie then took over and got from walking speed to a semi-sprint. Impressive considering how little sleep he had had, like the rest of us.
|Walking up to the CN Tower|
The rest of us just ambled up to the area at the top which contained shops, restaurants and a ticket booth for anyone that wanted to go up the tower.
|Will and Mika|
|Love locks at the CN Tower|
There is a local tradition of attaching 'love locks' onto the railings and bushes surrounding the tower. The locks have lovers' notes written on them. Before coming out to South Korea, I saw that the Parisian authorities have now banned this practice and have started to remove them from the bridges over the Seine. There was no sign of that here. Romance is not dead. It is just at the top of bloody steep hill.
Surprisingly, there were not that many visitors on site that day. I asked Sophie about it and she said it was because of the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which had hit the city. Normally, the CN Tower is packed with Chinese tourists. But, a doctor, infected with the disease, had recently returned from the Middle East and had passed it onto some of his patients.
A scare had broken out (which was why so many people were wearing medical masks around the country), and tourist numbers had dropped off as tour organisers cancelled trips to the country. Sophie explained that our tour was her last for a while. All her other bookings were cancelled.
We hardly noticed its impact while out there (Perhaps we would have done so if we had spent any time keeping up with the news. But, we had other interests to pursue). MERS had caused slight panic in the local stock market and the government had stepped in with a change in interest rates to bolster the economy.
With our CN Tower tour completed, getting Allan down the hill safely was going to be fun. Terry and Martin decided it was best done by going down backwards. Having a runaway wheelchair would have been fun to watch but cruel and painful for Allan.
About halfway down, Alan, Mika and Jamie were ahead but looking back up the hill towards the wheelchair party. Alan began singing the song from the film Frozen, 'Let it go, let it go!'.
|North Village, Seoul|
Next up was some lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant a short drive away. Nobody wanted a beer. Our last intake of alcohol was too close in time. Steve Yeung had asked us to have a 'quiet night' before our last night. Unfortunately, we had not obliged. But, coke was a good 'tonic' that lunchtime for us all.
They served us 'Bibimbap', a dish I had had on the plane. But, this was fresher and more delicious. Bibimbap is a rice dish where you mix together the rich with meat, vegetables and a spicy sauce. It is very good.
Our tour was not over. Mika led us off to the Moon Guest House, a Korean cultural experience. The traditional house sat amongst numerous high rises. The family running it sat us down on the floor while the mother explained, in Korean, about some of the traditional costumes, and her daughter translated.
|The mother at Moon Guest House|
Once disrobed, we sat around a long, low table for a calligraphy lesson from the father. He seemed to take an age to set the table up with brushes, paint and paper. He must have been a teacher at one stage of his career. He insisted on teaching the group on the Korean words for each item we were to be using. I, for one, forgot each word instantly.
Meanwhile, the banter around Will Holley looking like a member of 'One Direction' continued. The rather beautiful daughter nearly fell for the gag about Will being the lookalike of Niall Horan. I could sense her excitement building, until she twigged that it was just British banter.
Eventually, we got around to learning how to paint a replicate of a famous painting depicting a clump of reeds. We practiced by painting straight lines, holding our brushes vertically and progressing to curves. I was utterly useless. Allan was rather good at it.
Back to the hotel to pack, we then went out for our farewell dinner at a famous Korean barbecue restaurant in the Gangnam area of Seoul. At the restaurant (after a kip on the bus), we met Chris Kweon from LG who is a senior fellow in the group, as well as Steve Yeung, Mr Kim and Mr Yeung, all of whom had been with us on parts of the trip.
In our private room, the LG team had put a selection of photos on the wall of us throughout the trip. It was amazing to look back at just how much we had done that week with LG. But, before starting dinner, the LG played us a video of the week which showed us photographs throughout the week. I don't mind admitting it; I felt quite emotional looking back at it. We had met in the bar in Terminal 2 at Heathrow as virtual strangers. After a week, we had come together as a band of brothers with LG.
LG had looked after us like VIPs, indeed. The attention to detail and interest they had shown in us was overwhelming.
The barbecue and toasts with soju began. Restaurant staff flurried around us, tending to the meat and keeping us stocked up with beer, soju and food. Korean barbecues are a must-do activity.
We said our goodbyes to the team, thanked Mika, Sophie and Terry for their brilliant work during the week and got back on the coach which took us to a bar called JJs in the Grand Hyatt hotel.
The bar had a live band which consisted of four female singers, who mainly seemed to come from Cuba. The guitarist was, apparently, quite well-known. Nevertheless, the girls were great entertainers, singing a wide variety of tunes and styles with great energy. They had us all dancing. Jody had arranged for a 'shout out' from the girls for us, which created a big cheer.
Terry had come out with us, finally, and joined in the fun. He is lovely chap.
I got to bed at about 2.30am, sharing a taxi back with Jody. Others, by the look of them (you know who you are!) looked as though they had not managed to get to bed the next morning. A fun, final night before our flight home the next day.