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The morning after the wedding we got up early and left for the airport for Tokyo. Wendy’s mom had bought the tickets for us and luckily they were on United. I was able to get one of our seats updated to economy plus but not the others because they were booked separately, so Tara took her long legs up front. It wasn’t really a big deal since it was only a 2 hour or so flight anyway. The two hour flight ends up being all day of travel though, and we took a bus to our hotel and got there around 5pm. It’s been six years since I was in Japan, and we were really excited for it.

We left for Shibuya to meet Yukari for dinner. Once we hooked up we went into the 109 mall which seemed everything Japanese – total chaos of Japanese girls shopping, competing music from 5 stores at once, hot and stuffy, and tripping over people. It was fun to watch but after 5 floors of it we left and moved on to dinner. The restaurant was made up of small, walled-in booths with blinds at the end. When the waiters would come, they’d pull up the blinds, talk to us, and then pull them back down. They kept bringing different rounds of food, and we chased it was sake bombs. Being in Japan makes you realize how normal the people in Korea are. Besides the obvious Asian side of things, Korea seems a little more Western and a lot fewer crazy trends.

From there we walked around stores in Shibuya. I stopped in front of the Apple store to download email on the iTouch because it’s really hard to find open wireless in Tokyo. In Korea, it was everywhere and really easy to do. The iTouch came in really handy, especially since the iPhone is always looking for a signal and killing the battery. We worked our way over to Roppongi to hit a really smoky bar and then met Yukari’s friends at another bar. By the end of the night the lack of sleep had caught up with me and I was spent.

 

 


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This was the final wedding, and much larger than in the US. Ramon and Wendy had an idea of what to expect, but not much more than that. It took place in two rooms – the ceremony itself was done in a room full of tables with family and closer friends. There was a second larger room with a lot more people that didn’t see the ceremony, but showed up to eat.

Wendy’s high school teacher performed the ceremony. It was almost all in Korean, though Wendy’s cousin translated some of it over a microphone. The rest of the time, Ramon stared at the teacher while he spoke for a long time in Korean. They exchanged rings, bowed to the parents, and then cut a really tall fake cake that nobody ate. Ramon was laughing while doing it, because they gave him a good-sized sword to do the cake, and it had two candles like a birthday cake. Then the smoke machine and bubble machine kicked in, the wedding ended, and everyone went to a really good buffet of typical Korean food and sushi.

After the wedding, we went out to a bar with Wendy’s friends and kept drinking, which at this point has become the norm to get hammered every night. Apparently it’s tradition to do a shochu (Japanese vodka-ish alcohol) shots with the groom, and while Ramon walked around talking to everyone he ended up having to do a bunch of shots. Once we left the bar, he was done.

 

 


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Day 5 was the wedding day, so while Wendy and Ramon went to the spa so Ramon could get scrubbed down by hot men, we went to the Korean Folk Village with Ramon’s mom and Justin. It was an area that focused on Korean history and different types of housing and culture and was really interesting. It was packed with school kids and they all wanted to talk to us, so they could practice saying “What is your name?” Wendy’s dad arranged for a friend to pick us up in a cab, and we weren’t sure it was the right guy until he got on the phone and was holding his hand over his head talking about tall people. Even once we were in the car we weren’t sure we were in the right one because he went a totally different way and dropped us off at a restaurant to meet everyone else. He spoke no English, but it all worked out.

Wendy’s dad took us all to his favorite restaurant where we cooked beef on the grills built into the table. It was a perfect lunch to lead into the wedding. The wedding was only a few blocks from their apartment, so we walked over there to chill and get ready for the wedding.

 

 


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More shopping in Seoul before heading back to Suwon for the afternoon. One of the things you see a lot of is tanks full of the fish / crab / other stuff that is alive until you eat it. Check out the video of the mud fish in the bucket as you walk into the mud fish restaurant, it’s in the slideshow.

We got back for one of Wendy’s mom’s awesome 20-course meals for dinner, which naturally included finishing a bottle of scotch before heading out to a German pub with some of Wendy’s friends. The pub served beers in mugs made out of ice, and when you’re done your beer you throw it at a target to try and win a prize.

 

 


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Day 3 was all-day shopping in Seoul. Most of the places we ate in Seoul had some form of grill built into the table where you cook the food yourself. Most restaurants serve one main kind of food everything is very communal. If you like spicy, Korea is the place for you. After 2 days here we learned pretty quickly we’d be screwed without Wendy to translate and show us around, Korea would be really difficult on your own if you’ve never been there.

Day 3 highlights:

  • Massive flea market mall
  • Toy museum
  • Scalding, lawsuit-hot Dunkin Donuts coffee. The coffee is this hot everywhere we went in Asia, I could barely carry a coffee with a sleeve on it because it was so hot. You can get coffee with Bailey’s in it at D&D in Korea.
  • Ramon dropping the hammer on the hammer machine, high-fiving drunk Korean dudes beating up a punching bag.
  • Staggering drunks at night. We saw this every night, check the videos mixed into the slideshow.
  • Family Mart for late night snacks, and then Ramon and Wendy hanging out in our hotel room drinking skunky beer until 3:30am or so.

 

 


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After sleeping in, we woke up to Wendy’s mom making a several course breakfast. She stuffed us and then we left to see some of Suwon, their hometown about an hour south of Seoul. The slogan for Suwon is “Happy Suwon” and it’s plastered everywhere. We started by taking a tour of an old emperor’s palace. When we were done there was a long martial arts show, and it was packed with school kids. It seemed like every one of them wanted to say hi and practice some English, because there aren’t too many Americans walking around Suwon. There’s three standard things to speak about: “Hi, my name is ___”, “What is your name?”, and “Where do you live?”

From there we went to a holistic doctor for Ramon. He determined that Ramon was way out of alignment and laid him on his stomach and kicked him in the ass four times really hard, then rolled him over and punched him in the knee a few times which was entertaining to watch. The on to a vegetarian buffet, which had been described as the best vegetarian in Korea. It was the perfect way to get a sense of Korean food because there were so many different dishes, and just about all of them are spicy and get me sweaty.

Then we jumped on a bus to Seoul to stay there for 3 days and kick start the shopping and the drinking. We found a dirty bar named Woodstock with a DJ that takes requests all night. Lots of Sabbath and then pitcher after pitcher came, and we ended up drinking with a Korean news broadcaster and his friends that got pretty rowdy. The bar food here was dried octopus that was really fishy tasting and not so good. Later in the night this really creepy dude looking like a mix between Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow showed up by himself and creeped everyone out. His picture is in the slideshow above.

 

 


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This is the beginning of the recap of 11 days in Asia. We kicked off our trip with a painful 3am wake up to leave for the airport, jumping on a tiny plane in Philly for a 26 minute flight to DC. Since we had a long layover in DC, we got some great chair massages to loosen up for the flight. From there it was straight to Beijing for the next layover. The airport was really nice, but felt like a hundred degrees and really humid.

We were supposed to be in Economy Plus for the long flight, but when we sat down there were three odd rows behind business class that weren’t, and the seats were way too tight for a midget. Tara sprinted back off the plane and got things fixed and got us some new seats, otherwise the 12 hour flight would have been a nightmare.

We flew Asiana Airlines from China to Korea and it’s a huge difference in how nice the travel experience is there’s great service, nice planes, and everything else associated with flying was far from the U.S. experience. The flight attendants are the best, with 60′s style uniforms that look really good.

Everything else went smooth and we hooked up with Wendy and Ramon at the Incheon airport in Korea, jumped on a bus and ended up at Wendy’s parents’ house in Suwon.

Wendy’s mom made piles of food for a late night dinner, and as we expected, her dad looked at us and just said “Whiskey?” After the rehearsal dinner in Philly, we knew we were in trouble with his love of scotch. With bloodshot eyes we could barely keep open we put a few back and went to bed.

 

 

On Memorial Day, don’t forget the 30,000 plus wounded veterans that need to put their lives back together. Go to Homes For Our Troops and throw them a few bucks, it’s a great cause.

 

 

I read Seth Godin’s blog just about every day, pretty often I’m sending someone a link from it to back up some of my arguments. Today I hadn’t checked it yet and get an email from Vin wondering how his head got on there. Amazing. Just last night I pulled two Vin stickers out of my limited stash for my trip to Asia, one destined for Korea and the other Japan…

 

 

Apparently Jenna and Evert have been hitting the pipe, because a ridiculously generous care package showed up on Thursday, followed by another on Friday. This is just a taste from the Thursday batch, knowing my weakness for anything Kinder…