Microsoft word - feel_free_welt_seoul_eng.doc

Thomas Fuchsberger My best friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s girl friend - a journey to Seoul Jiseon is Myoung’s girl friend, Myoung is Mike’s girlfriend and Mike is the brother of my best friend, Hannes. Why am I telling you this? All will be revealed. I’ve wanted to go to South Korea for ages. To put it more precisely, about 25 years ago my father presented a big Saturday evening show called “Auf los geht’s los”. The winner’s prize was a journey to Seoul in South Korea. They were so enthusiastic about the city and the country that I decided to travel there myself one day. Not long ago I saw a tv report about ginseng root and all its medicinal effects. Diabetes was mentioned so I thought it would be a good topic for the “feel free” journal. Having accrued some air miles with Emirates Airline, having been given a good deal for the Park Hyatt and the Ritz Carlton in Seoul through my travel agent, Design Reisen in Munich and knowing about Myoung’s friend I decided it was time to make the journey. I phoned Mike and asked him to arrange a meeting with Myoung. I’d already checked out a good website which gave me helpful tips about Seoul: Now I sat with Myoung and went through them and she suggested which would be interesting and what to avoid. Even more important was the phone number Myoung gave me for Jiseon who speaks English, lives in Seoul, knows it well and is very helpful. My flight took 5 hours 30 minutes to Dubai and then some 9 hours to Seoul. I can’t really remember much as I slept pretty well on the second leg, thank God. On landing I immediately phoned Jiseon who met me in the arrivals hall. On the first evening she took me to the ‘in’ bar JJ Mahony in the somewhat run down Hyatt Hotel. A live band was playing mainly American rock music for a very international audience. I’d booked a sightseeing tour to Gumsan for the following day. Gumsan is the most extensive Ginseng-growing region in South Korea where, apparently, the highest quality Ginseng is harvested. My tour guide and driver told me that they too were keen on seeing Gumsan since neither of them had been before. The drive lasted 2 ½ hours and took us through delightful countryside. Mountains form 72% of Korea’s landscape. Once we had arrived in Gumsan we had to ask our way. We happened to meet the manager of a brand new Ginseng Center who sketched an adventurous route to a Ginseng expert and a farm. After many wrong turns and diversions we finally reached the farm and Mr Yang Hyun Chul who showed me how to harvest a Ginseng plant. They take 4-6 years to grow, produce only one flower in the fourth year and are worth a fortune. Ginseng is known as “root of life”. Tests have shown that taking Ginseng can regulate and improve blood pressure: if it’s too high, it’s lowered and if it’s too low, it’s raised to a normal level. Likewise Ginseng is said to regulate the level of blood sugar so it’s neither too high nor too low. This would be a massive help to diabetics controlling their blood sugar. Ginseng is also thought to slow down the aging process. It is taken twice daily on an empty stomach (before breakfast and before the final meal of the day) and is supposed to keep one active and youthful for longer, as well as improving liver function In addition, Ginseng is considered to be Nature’s Viagra. Red Ginseng in particular is supposed to rev up male potency. Koreans tell me that a good wife gives her man red Ginseng every day in yoghurt, sweetened with a little sugar. I tried some undiluted red Ginseng juice and it shook me up. As with every really good medicine, Ginseng tastes absolutely ghastly. Thomas Fuchsberger My best friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s girl friend - a journey to Seoul Some surprisingly good results have been obtained using Ginseng in cancer cases. Studies have shown how the growth of cancerous cells could be slowed down in patients taking Ginseng compared with those who did not, suggesting that regular intake of Ginseng could generally offer protection against cancerous changes in cells. The best source of Ginseng is “KT&G”, the Korean Tobacco & Ginseng Company which has a branch in the Duty Free shop at Seoul airport. This company’s Ginseng is state-controlled and of the highest quality. A Korean would never buy Ginseng from a farm or at a market. Other substances may have been added which improve its appearance but not its efficacy. Strangely, the same company which produces Ginseng for the State is also the official Korean cigarette manufacturer. That rounds off the product range nicely, something for everyone – really healthy and really unhealthy on the same list. That isn’t the only oddity in Korea. Even today arranged marriages are commonplace. If a Korean woman marries a foreigner and the marriage breaks down the woman has a problem. No Korean would have anything to do with her. Even her own family would find it difficult to come to terms with such a situation and remain in denial about the divorce or keep it secret from outsiders. What else about Seoul is interesting apart from Ginseng? There are the markets, for example. Namdaemun market has a very Chinese “Greetings from Hong Kong” feel and it is here where I risked buying my red Ginseng; the Dongdaemun night market which doesn’t open until 8.30 pm; Myongdong is a shopper’s paradise where masses of primarily young, trendy Koreans hang out. Seoul’s mantra is shopping, shopping, shopping. Whether in Shinsegae, a huge department store, Coex – an even bigger mall, Cheongdam Dong – an area for fashionistas where Armani, Gucci and their cohorts are based, or in the Hyundai department store which never ceases to astonish. A Mercedes McLaren from an exclusive car dealership will set you back some 900.000 Euros, if that’s not exclusive enough for you, how about a Ferrari, in the showroom window for just a couple of billion Won, that’s about 1.8 million Euros. When I spoke to my guide about these car prices he commented: “Oh the price of a car is the same as for a big house – a house without a john!” Other “must see” attractions include the former royal palace Gyeongbokgung, an elaborately restored complex containing the National Folk Museum of Korea which illustrates Korea’s history very well; the N Seoul Tower – N stands for newly renovated – offers a sensational 360° view over the whole of Seoul; the Rodeo Street strip in the Apkujong neighborhood, lined with all kinds of bars; Itaewon which was created specially for tourists with its saloons, discotheques, karaoke bars and other recreational facilities; Insadong, a mecca for art lovers, where one store after another will melt your plastic; and Hongdae, the student quarter full of great live music clubs and bands with fantastic musicians. Korean girls are up for plastic surgery. Jiseon reported that 80% of Korean girls have their eye area adjusted so they more closely resemble Europeans or Americans. The natural Korean eye, with a narrow, linear opening, is transformed by surgery to an almond shape. All the newspapers carry enormous numbers of advertisements for Korean beauty clinics. Thomas Fuchsberger My best friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s girl friend - a journey to Seoul Koreans love their food barbecued. Beef, very finely sliced, is known as bulgogi. Kalbi are Korean spare-ribs, kkori gomtang is oxtail soup with ginseng and steamed rice. Dolsot bibimbab is rice with vegetables, eggs and meat. Dduk mandu gook is a soup with rice flakes and dumplings filled with pork. For fish lovers there is a fish-noodle soup made with kalkuksu. Have I kindled your appetite? During my stay it was so hot and humid that I ate very little. Even so, my blood sugar levels were not that brilliant as the Koreans unfortunately often use a sweet marinade for their meat. At every meal there are countless little bowls with exotic side dishes. There are vegetables, anchovies, marinated who-knows-what… and rice of course. To prevent low blood sugar I had to accept that my levels would usually be too high for the eight days I spent in Seoul. However, I was extremely active the whole time, it was hellishly hot and humid so I preferred to inject less. As a result, during those 8 days in Seoul my blood sugar only plunged too low once. The only thing I’ve left out is a drink called Soju. It tastes like a light vodka and is delicious drunk ice-cold. I drink a toast with it to my new Korean friend Jiseon, friend of Myoung, the girlfriend of Mike, brother of my best friend Hannes, saying “kahm-sa-hahm-ni-da” which means thank you in Korean. Thank you for the many new impressions and how wonderfully welcoming everyone was in Seoul. Till next time, hope it’s soon!


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