May 202009

Over the last few years I have been traveling with my ultralight laptop. I’ve always enjoyed having a movie available, or leeching off random wifi to stay in contact and look up information while traveling.  Even though it is lightweight and small, it was still too much for my liking.  This last trip I tried an experiment.   Could my iphone replace my laptop for travel?

Looking up travel info – Yes
Most websites work quite well on the iphone. There are even a number of travel apps popping up that make travel much easier – I had several apps for Busan and Seoul subway maps were quite useful. Google maps are pretty useful when you have a wireless connection available, but the geo-locate doesn’t work outside of the US/Canada (I don’t have 3g with built-in GPS). If Apple ever gets their act together and allows GPS apps with maps, the 3g iphone could be an amazing travel info device.

Email – Yes
The iphone works very well for quick emails. I’m looking forward to landscape keyboard layout with the next OS upgrade though.

Voice contact – Yes
I didn’t have service in Korea, so I used the iphone Skype app to make Skype out to calls to US phone numbers. I had several calls just under an hour and quality was quite good. The iphone gets pretty warm after a while, but stayed stable.

Blog – Yes
I didn’t do much of it this trip, but I was able to write up some quick posts using the wordpress app and upload them when I was near a wireless signal. I don’t think it would be much fun to write a novel, but it might be better with a landscape keyboard layout. The one downside is that any photos I wanted to include had to be on the iphone.

Storing and reviewing photos – No
With my laptop I was able to offload photos and review them each day. This isn’t possible at the moment with the iphone. Reviewing end of day photos helped a lot while I was still learning my SLR, but were also a big time-sink. I would have enjoyed looking the photos over on the fight back, but otherwise I’m glad I didn’t bother.  As for photo storage, I had 14 GB of extreme III SDHC memory cards with me, and that was more than enough.  Had I been needing more photo storage, an image tank would have been up to the job.

Work emergencies – Yes
Occasionally I need to connect to servers at work to bail someone out or fix something. With a laptop I typically establish a VPN connection and then use Remote Desktop to access the server or workstation. In this case, the Jaadu RDP iphone app was up to the job. I wouldn’t want to work on systems for a long time, but it is more than enough for quick fixes or file retrieval. I was able to login to our email server and check the event logs and services while at a cafe in Korea. Very cool.

The verdict – Yes
The iphone worked great for my style of travel.  Other than reviewing photos on the plane I didn’t miss my laptop for a second.  In fact, many times I was doing things that my laptop simply didn’t offer. I’ll be leaving the laptop behind next trip.

May 202009

I’m not much of a steak guy these days. In fact I am usually more likely to order veggie than meat. We spent the night in Chicago yesterday and decided to head out for a good steak in a city that knows steak and steakhouses. I had a 55 day aged beauty of a ribeye and truffle fries at David Burke’s Primehouse. It was the best steak I’ve ever had – buttery, interesting and savory. Aged, cooked, and seasoned perfectly. It was really interesting to see how many different flavors came through after the aging. I don’t plan to make steaks a regular part of my diet, but it was definitely worth doing it right.

May 172009

busan and gimhae busan and gimhae busan and gimhae
Photos of Busan and Gimhae, Korea

Colan and I rode the high speed KTX down to Busan to visit Mike in Gimhae and explore Busan. Much of the country seems to look the same due to identical apartment buildings, but the the smaller cities definitely had a different feel than Seoul. I can see the appeal. More trees, wider streets, and a bit less westernized. Highlights – Climbing Imhosan, crazy monks wanting photos at Heungbuam temple, hiking in Geumjeongsan, and sampling stews with Mike.

May 142009

Danyang Danyang Danyang
(View more photos of Danyang, Korea)

May 4th, 2009 – Bora and Kerey took us on a day trip to Danyang, in Chungcheongbuk-do. The trip consisted of a 3 hour train ride to the South East, and then a taxi and boat tour once we arrived. We first walked through Gosu cave. If you happen to be claustrophobic or obese, this is one stop you want to avoid. You end up being packed in tight tunnels with a lot of other people. The cave itself is interesting, lots of climbing and formations.

After the cave it was time for a quick Namhan river cruise. Danyang is know for its 8 wonders, mostly rock formations. We went by two of the 8 wonders during the boat ride, but I honestly had no idea until I researched more about the area later on. The boat ride was nice, other than stranding myself. Hahah. We docked and an announcement was made in english that the boat was at the dock for ten minutes, and then was returning back. I went to get a drink on board the ferry, but the shop was closed. Figuring I had at least 9 minutes left, I exited the ship and bought some drinks from a vendor. As I was getting my change I heard Kerey yelling from the ship. I turned to see out the shop window that the boat was leaving, not 10 feet away, and certainly not 10 minutes after the announcement. The ship was already too far to jump, but still close enough to talk. I asked one of the crew members if there was another way back and he replied there would be another boat in an hour. No worries, just a hassle.

Our cab driver/tour guide wasn’t too happy about the delay. He came barreling down the stairs from the top deck, yelling at the boat staff along the way. I couldn’t help but laugh, everyone was yelling except me at this point. Apparently he knew someone as the boat was now deciding to dock again. It bounced off the landing and I hopped on. Thankfully everyone seemed to keep in fairly good spirits about whitey missing the boat and referred to me as “troublemaker” for the rest of the ride.

After the boat ride we headed over to another of the 8 wonders, Sain-am, a wedge shaped rock and temple along the river. Our final stop we saw two more wonders, Dodam Sambong – three islands in the river, and Seongmun, a stone bridge formation. Tour complete we were dropped off at the train station where we got liquored up with a bowl of dongdongju (a sweet unfiltered rice wine) for the train ride home. Not a bad day.

May 062009

We are staying in Gimhae, a suburb of Busan. The KTX bullet train to Busan was fast and easy. The bus to Gimhae was not. On the plus side we started to learn a little Hangeul. Our conversations on the bus were mostly trying to figure out if we were going the right way based on the characters. We were, but only managed to figure out a small portion of the stops before the bus pulled away.

May 022009

I’ve been in Seoul for three days. Kerey has been a great guide so far, I feel like we have explored a good chunk of the city. First impressions of Seoul – Parts are much like the rest of Asia, quick buildings and street markets. Some parts feel quite western with malls and the same chain stores. Others feel modern but distintly Asian. The city and traffic can be a bit opressive, but gardens, palaces, and hiking are a quick subway ride away.

The food here has been very good and fairly cheap. Most seems to be pretty heathly as well. I’ve been drinking more tea than water, the vending machines here are making a fortune off Colan and I.

The timing of our visit has been good, Buddha’s birthday and the Hi Seoul festival have made for some great exploring and people watching. Being a minority in a lot of places you are usually people watched right back. Occasionally people with talk with you to practice their english (and finish their homework) or sneak a photo, but most of the time you just catch a lot of people checking you out.

We head out to the east today, I’m excitied to see what Korea is like outside the big cities.