Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ulsan, South Korea

Bob and I took a quick trip down to Ulsan on September 18-19, 2014.  He had both work and church business to attend to down there, so we decided to drive down together.  The seventh largest city in Korea is near Busan on the southeastern coast of the peninsula.  It is where Hyundai has the world's largest automobile assembly plant and the world's largest shipyard as well.  It is also the home of the world's second largest oil refinery owned by SK Energy.  We arrived Friday evening and met with the new Korea Busan LDS Mission President and his family.  Then we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with President and Sister Barrow at a very nice Korean barbecue restaurant.   What a great asset they will be to Korea and to our missionaries serving down south!

We stayed at the Hyundai Hotel near the shipyard, which was close to where Bob's work meeting was held the next morning. Sight-seeing was limited in the few hours I had before leaving, but I did enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park next to the hotel and a quick walk through the Hyundai Department store. From all appearances, Ulsan seems to be a productive and successful community and a nice place to live.

On our way out, we stopped at Jujeon, a black pebble beach just north of town, so that I could take a couple of pictures of the coast.  From there we drove about four hours to visit the Camp Humphreys Military Branch, who were hosting a farewell dinner party for Elder and Sister Riding, one of our fabulous senior missionary couples.  They will be sorely missed!

The longest part of any excursion from Seoul is the last few miles into Seoul!  It always takes three times as long as it should.  But overall, the drive was one of the most beautiful we have taken through Korea, with Bob commenting that his favorite thing about Korea is the many tunnels burrowing through the mountainsides, and me reaffirming my love of the well-manicured family hillside burial mounds dotting the hills on every side.

Tokyo DisneySea

Returning to Tokyo the afternoon of Wednesday, September 10, Bob and Jack headed to the office for more meetings while I cleaned up for dinner later that evening.  With work associates (who presented me with a beautifully inlaid stone paper weight), we went to a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant - the inspiration for what many of us in the states know as "Hibachi grills", "Japanese steakhouses", or the chain "Benihana". Here, the focus was on quality ingredients and flavors rather than entertainment; and yes, I prefer the original Japanese service and taste.  I was afforded my first taste of genuine Wagyu Kobe beef - a rare delicacy seldom found in the states despite the many claims.  I say afforded, because the cost would generally be prohibitive to my practical nature, at $30-40 per ounce for some prime cuts.  The photo below shows the small cut of Kobe beef next to a regular steak.  You will notice that the Kobe beef does not have a wide band of fat surrounding the meat, but rather, the fat is finely marbled throughout which gives it an amazing texture and taste that literally melts in your mouth.  Wagyu cattle are given beer to drink and daily massages while they listen to music.  Their hair is brushed with Sake and they are often dressed in clothing to keep them warm during the cold months.  It is believed that relaxed, comfortable cows will produce better quality meat.  We sampled both to see if we could detect any differences.  The Kobe beef was unbelievably I delicious and yes, noticeably better.  Just slightly seared on both sides and dipped in a soy and butter sauce, the Kobe beef was outstanding!  I'm grateful to have enjoyed the succulent beef, but if I were not consciously comparing the meats, I probably would not have known the difference; and if I were paying for it myself, I would certainly not order the Kobe.

Finally, Bob got a break from work, and satisfying the kid in me, he consented to spend Thursday - our last day in Japan - together at DisneySea!  I was so worried about sweltering heat and humidity, long lines, and crazy crowds that I almost had second thoughts.  Thankfully, it ended up being an intermittent rainy day (with some pretty intense downfalls a couple of times) which scared away many visitors and cooled the temperatures substantially. What a blessing for us!  I don't think we waited in a line for more than 15-minutes and we were able to ride and see nearly everything that we wished.  Best Disney day ever!

What makes this unique Disney Park so amazing is it's picturesque quality!  At every angle, from every inch of the park was another breathtaking scene. I guess it caters to Asian photographers and bloggers like me.  There are not a lot of "thrill" rides, but the realistic animatronics and elaborate decor create some pretty amazing stages for entertainment and adventure.  The "Tower of Terror" (my personal favorite - and different from other Disney Towers), Indiana Jones and a few others did create a brief adrenaline rush.  And the shows were fantastic!  But I have to mention one other unique feature of this park that we really enjoyed seeing - the Asians themselves!  They are Disney fanatics, and almost all (male and female of every age) come to the park decked out in matching licensed apparel, bows, hats,snack packs and bags.  They are horribly afraid of fast rides and are unabashedly bold in their childlike enthusiasm for anything "cute".   Then there are the selfie photo sticks and requests for snapshots . . .  and did I mention the weird snacks (try peanut butter squid for example)? You've just gotta love 'em!

 Mediterranean Harbor

 Mysterious Island

 Mermaid Lagoon

 Arabian Coast

 Lost River Delta

 Port Discovery

 American Waterfront


 Come discover Tokyo DisneySea for yourself!