18 October 2008

Itinerary Update

While it will be necessary for me to stay put in Seoul for a long while, in order to get real mileage out of my current meditation regimen, it does look like I will need to return to the US briefly before I know it.

While work is functioning fine with only minimal instructions from me by email, it looks like I will be needed in person for about a week or two, for tax paperwork purposes.

When the qi therapy slows down to once a week, I will be able to ask for a break, and fly back to Los Angeles, to take care of this. In addition, if the timing is right, I will get to vote for Obama and against California's teen abortion ban and gay marriage ban after all.

I will also need to go home to swap my wardrobe, so that I will have warm pieces to help me survive the colder winter weather. And I hope that this will include some of my favorite tunic sweaters.

In addition, a change of scenery can never hurt - even if it's between two familiar places that are both suffering from neoliberal economics and McCarthyist politics. By the time I come back to Seoul to resume my regimen, I hope to feel a bit better.

Once I come back to Seoul for the second phase of my meditation, my travel options will also open up a bit more. The current frequency allows me to be away for only two nights at most, but with the reduced frequency, I should be able to take longer trips. This should finally make my road trip to Gyeongju possible, combined with the fact my mother will not be coming back to Seoul this time (to nag me about the lunacy of South Korean driving). Of course, this also means I'm driving alone, and combined with the fact that I will be driving a huge midsize car (size is still everything on South Korean roads) and buying gasoline at $7/gallon, it'll be a budget-killer. But I want to do it anyway. I will try to squeeze this in before the blizzards start coming in.

In addition, I will even consider booking a Taiwan tour, as Taiwan can be visited visa-free, and Taipei is only two hours by air from Seoul. Taiwan is cheaper than Japan, and unlike Japan with its crowding and reactionary nationalism, Taiwan remains a well-kept secret, just like South Korea. This will also give me a chance to look at all the Chinese treasures that I was supposed to see in Beijing six years ago - but couldn't, because the Nationalists took them to Taipei in 1949. A slightly more expensive, farther option that I can also consider is Hong Kong, where language barriers won't be a problem at all.

I'll also be happy to know that all the frequent flier miles I rack up returning to Los Angeles, and coming back to Seoul, will bump me up to elite status at United Airlines; I will become a basic Premier, which is a "Star Silver" level status among Star Alliance airlines. At United, a Premier is eligible to choose a seat in Economy Plus, with extra legroom, for free, as well as checking in two bags for free. Granted, I'll take Asiana back to Los Angeles, and will most likely buy my next ticket on Asiana as well, but any Star Alliance flight is as good as a United flight for elite qualification purposes. If I want to shoot for a million lifetime miles (which qualifies me for lifetime elite status), I must accrue all those million miles on United flights, but I don't think I'll ever get even close to that milestone, so it won't matter. It'll feel good to finally become an elite airline customer, something I've never reached before; it'll also help, as I am about to lose my elite status at Hilton Hotels anytime now.

It's shortly past noon right now. I will try to visit downtown Seoul today - to stroll the grounds of Gyeonghuigung, the only Seoul palace (out of five) that I have never visited, and maybe add the nearby Deoksugung, which I last visited four years ago and which neighbors the City Hall, the UK Embassy, and the US Ambassador's residence. Deoksugung is interesting because it's the only Korean royal palace to feature European buildings and gardens, in conjunction with their traditional counterparts. I have already covered the other three palaces in the past month.