Hello from Seoul

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djrez4
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Hello from Seoul

Postby djrez4 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:10 am

We arrived here this afternoon after two weeks in China. It's nice to be back in a civilized country. Seoul is a beautiful city.

China was like Mogadishu, but with smart phones instead of guns. It seems like the sole purpose of much of the population is to separate you from your money. (It's difficult to counter that when your wife feels like it's charity to give them more than something is worth. ¥70 for two crappy fans?) To be frank, the haggling can be tiresome. Imagine the fatigue of negotiating for a good deal on a car, but extended for your entire stay across every encounter you have with another human.

Taxi meters are optional. Heck, if you're not Asian, chances of a cab even stopping on the street are slim. If you do get one and ask if they will run the meter ("Da biao?"), chances are it's "broken" and you'll be negotiating a fixed price to your destination. If you don't know how far you're going, prepare to be hosed.

Google, Twitter, YouTube, and other normal social media sites are blocked by order of the government, though accessible via VPN. Lane lines are not even treated as suggestions and horns are the universal sound of "Hey, asshole! I'm right here!" Cross walks? Meaningless if a car, scooter or bike is in any hurry. It's the Wild West.

Major cities are shrouded in smog. Farmers burn their fields. (I'm not sure why.) Factories belch smoke. I imagine it's much like the U.S. of the early 20th century, robber barrons and lax regulation, with profit to be made in a raping the land.

There are amazing sights: the Great Wall, the terra cotta warriors, Hua Shan, the Bund, the Forbidden City. China's history is long and relatively well preserved. And, individually, the people can be wonderful. But, the entire country smells like smoke and urine.

I'm glad we made the trip, and I may even consider returning to see the south half of the country. But, the following anecdote is telling: we encountered Wharton B-school admissions staff in the check in line at PEK and they told us Turkey, our next stop, would be like a mellow paradise compared to China. I can't wait.
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MemberSince99
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Postby MemberSince99 » Mon Jun 16, 2014 1:05 pm

The difference is, if you are a bad enough robber baron there, you get executed by being shot, unlike here where you get a bailout and a bonus to boot.


Anyway, good to hear from you. That sounds like an amazing trip. I'm sure they have built in ways they screw you there, but then again we have an awful lot of those here too, you just are used to them and don't notice them they way you notice theirs.


Stay safe and have fun!

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djrez4
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Postby djrez4 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 11:05 am

Now we're waiting for a bus from Istanbul to Goreme.
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kcm7
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Postby kcm7 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:43 pm

Your trip sounds pretty much like my bucket list, verbatim. :)

Out of curiosity, what's American card acceptance like in the places you've visited? I mostly do cash-only when I travel out of the US (except for stays at major hotels), but I'm always curious to know if certain parts of the world are becoming American-plastic-friendly.
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PlyrStar93
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Postby PlyrStar93 » Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:39 pm

kcm7 wrote:what's American card acceptance like in the places you've visited?

In China:
In large cities like Beijing, Visa/MasterCard (and many occasions American Express) issued outside of China can be used in large supermarkets, bookstores, department stores, medium-high end restaurants, hotels etc. Locations with strong non-Chinese people presence usually accept Visa/MasterCard.
A lot of places accept credit/debit cards but usually only accept UnionPay cards, if attempt foreign issued Visa/MasterCard the transaction cannot go through. This typically happens in some restaurants, bookstores, etc. that are not as high end. Under this occasion you can always use a Discover card to let the transaction go through, as long as the merchant agrees to swipe the card. Discover cards can be used on UnionPay network.
More often, the merchant accepts cash only. Many fast food restaurants including KFC and McDonald's fall into this category.

Generally, foreign issued cards (except Discover cards) can rarely be used, but indeed can be used in a few locations.

kcm7 wrote:I mostly do cash-only when I travel out of the US (except for stays at major hotels)

I would understand doing so usually avoids foreign transaction fees.
Citi Forward Visa $5000 10/2012 | American Express Blue Cash Everyday $8000 2/2014 | Discover it $7000 5/2014
Chase Freedom Visa Signature $7000 6/2014 | Citi ThankYou Premier Visa Signature $5000 1/2015
All EMV.

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djrez4
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Postby djrez4 » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:13 am

Pretty much. Decent card acceptance in the big cities, slim to none in small towns.

Turkey is a bit more advanced in that regard. No issues with card acceptance in Göreme and the surrounding areas, but they like cash better. I'm sure Istanbul will be card friendly outside of the bazaar. We head there tonight.
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