Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Every Third Engineer and Third Mate was able to take Christmas vacation this year, either for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. I was still building vacation time, so I spent the holidays in Korea. I’m looking back fondly at my time on the Jersey Shore, including three weeks of “workcation” (work vacation), even though I was anxious to see the world.
In Seoul on New Year’s Day, I was able to get new boots for work. I was looking for Red Wing boots at their store in Seoul’s Rodeo District, but the boots they sell in Korea are fashion items that are impractical for working. Travelling 300 miles for boots (and entertainment as well) makes me remember how the Red Wings store in Eatontown, NJ was a five-minute walk from the MSC hotel. Timberland was closed for the holiday, but I was able to find boots at an outlet store in Itaewon, the westerner’s district in Seoul. A pair of Cabela’s met the required ASTM specifications.
It was refreshing to get off the ship for the short weekend, especially after a week of working the night shift. I enjoyed the taste of Turkish food and Irish entertainment. I also visited a bookstore called What The Book. They sell books in English. As with my past trips, the bullet train was a pleasant experience. I especially enjoyed the return trip to Pusan, when I had a seat for the entire trip!
If you see movies about the future, you’ll often notice the post-national environment where different nationalities live among each other in the same city. That future is here, in Korea. People from around the world come to Korea, and they commingle in Itaewon. I enjoyed every hour of my weekend. I knew that the ship would soon be in a new harbor, some distance from Korea’s other bullet train line. 
Travelling is quite affordable in Korea: a one-way ticket on the bullet train costs W59,000, or about $55.00 US. In my trips to Seoul, I’ve stayed at the Hostel Yacht and Hostel Izak. Both were good experiences, and I got to converse with English- and French- speaking young travelers. To clarify, I’ve stayed with travelers of all ages, from high school to retiree. You get to spend the night for less than W30,000, or $25.00 US, about one-fifth the cost of the Four Points Sheraton by Seoul Station, a good hotel if you prefer. Cost of meals and entertainment is comparable to a big American city like Washington, DC or Portland, OR.