Rajasthan here we come...

Saturday April 19 – 11:59PM Seoul Time

More than a few unsolicited observations and random thoughts after spending our second day in Seoul.

• We know that technology advances faster than culture and politics…and see it squared here as the South Koreans grapple with tradition and jarring modernity. You see amazing juxtapositions everywhere here.

• Did you know that streets here have two numbering systems (an old and a new)…ironically, neither of them are practically helpful as our travelers have no doubt found.

• Korea Inc… maybe the world's largest company town. Korea employs 50 million and after USA, Britain, Japan and maybe France, as the most global brands of another global entity. Think: KIA, Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Korean Air, Lotte…Quick, name one Chinese international brand? Thought so…

• The Seoul-Incheon-Gyeonggi area, where we are, is a bustling 24-hour huge mega-city that, after Tokyo metro area, ranks as the world’s second largest with about 24.5 million Seoulites! A lot of people here…• Korea lacks any obvious must-sees (no Great Wall, no Angkor Wat, no Macchu Picchu, no Taj, and no Hollywood sign)…but trying to see it all here is simply not an option...you will miss many essentially Korean must-sees sites, and there are many.

• Bet you didn’t know that Korea was one united country for hundreds of years until it was liberated from Japanese rule in 1945 by USSR and USA troops. It was then unceremoniously split like Germany, into North and South...then the trauma of the pseudo-civil war inspired by Cold War politics…the liberation and the Korean War are the two events that have most shaped modern South Korea’s psyche. After the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement (which ended in a tie neither side really likes…) South Korea was entirely rebuilt from a war-torn landscape in the 1960s, thanks to ambitious urbanization projects in the '80s and '90s. It is amazing what they have built here and Koreans are known for their hard work, long hours and focus….in fact, according to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), they are the people of the world who work the longest hours…according to 2012 data, South Koreans work 44.6 hours per week compared with the OECD average of 32.8!

• Moral and ethical guidelines for science and technology are mostly absent here with the pace of STEM-based modernity and advancements (stem cell research, cloning, genetic therapies, STAP cells, M2M, etc) are ushering a brave new world. It was relayed to me that the dating pool here actually employs blood stereo-typing to find prospective mates! It goes like this: there are positive and negative traits assigned to each blood type. People with Type A are thought to be conservative and punctual, but they can be also obsessive, uptight, and a bit introverted. However, they think that cheating on their romantic partners is wrong and will thus be extremely loyal. People with Type B are a totally different story. While they have some good traits like creativity and passion, they’re also willing to cheat on their partners, lazy, and impatient. As for Type AB, they’re supposed to be cool and under control, but they can be elitist, harsh, and judgmental. Type O means a person is ambitious and athletic. They want big things in life, and nothing is going to stand in their way. On the flip side, they’re pompous and egotistical, but once they decide to commit to a relationship, they’re generally pretty loyal. There’s even a South Korean movie called “My Boyfriend is Type B”, a romantic comedy about a Type A girl who falls for a Type B boy and has to deal with his impulsive nature. So if you ever visit South Korea, you might want to figure out your blood type first—someone is going to ask eventually.

• When you are born her you are one, not zero. Shit, I am 39 again!

• The OECD has declared South Korea as the country with the highest estimated national IQ! Hmmm....one wonders if it has anything to do with the fact that students here study for 12-16 hours a day in school classes, with tutors, and taking supplementary courses. The BBC reports that education in South Korea is the best in the world...people here are their sole natural resources and they are investing a lot of time, energy and cash harvesting those resources…like their yin-yang flag, there is good and bad in that.

• It seems that in the cultural identity confusion, between Japanese occupation, Cold War hostilities and rapid modernity, that the people here have braced themselves with Christianity in big way (26% equal with the more indigenous Buddhists)—which seems to go hand in hand with the implementation of capitalism here (I know, don’t even get me started!) …or maybe it is a collective need to identify with their political/military savior (sorry) America? (Yoido Full Gospel Church might not have the largest building in the world but it definitely has the biggest congregation. As of February 2013, this Seoul-based church had close to one million members….and on any given Sunday (like Easter Sunday tomorrow) over 200,000 faithful will attend one of the seven services…and that’s not counting the additional 200,000–300,000 watching on TV in other buildings and satellite churches!)

• As an unpaid analyst, I would say that the Korean people are caught between a rock (Japan) and a hard place (China) with a half-wit deranged twin brother living down the hall...They are a tad nervous and twitchy, and hyperactive too... preferring I think to keep busy, real busy, rather than dwell too much on their unenviable geopolitical situation.

I regress…so back to the event…Teams all checked in at 10PM in the lobby lounge of our Seoul hotel on this wild Saturday night (one week now into our around the world event), were assigned peer review partners and notified that we were repositioning tomorrow on a 2:55PM flight out of Northeast Asia and mild climes to hot and saucy Southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent…Yes, we are off to meet our reluctant and excited destinies in India tomorrow, Delhi and Rajasthan to be specific.


More later…

Some of the teams are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
 Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

A lot of Traveling Souls in Seoul

Friday, April 18 – 11:15PM Seoul Time

Good evening…a late night report from Seoul after a long, albeit amazing day. I would be hard pressed trying to relive any of our teams action packed days here—and each team would have a different story to tell—but I can try to give you a little sense of what it might be like to be here and participating in The Global Scavenger Hunt.

Having fully over come your jet lag by now and being fully acclimated to your new found reality of being in motion on the road living life to its fullest, you would have arisen early and headed out to the morning Noryangjin Fish market to price check out the biggest prawns you have ever seen while helping the fish monger put the escaping assorted-sized octopi back into their bowls. Next you might hope on the ultra-efficient subway off to witness the morning changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace, posing with the head guards’ rather long spear. Then it would off to the Grand Central station of Seoul, err Seoul Station to catch a 200mph bullet train (KTX) to Busan (Facetiming with their siblings at university) in the south to scout out ancient royal burial grounds of Joseon Dynasty rulers. This would all be done before a traditional Korean BBQ lunch while learning Confucian concepts with a local Korean, taking in a professional baseball game, a sunset and doing a soju taste testing...and your day of site-doing is just beginning too!

Itaewon night life


Busan colors...


One's that didn't get away...


A Happy Travis...


Geo Trekers (Michele & Vincent)...in disguise!


DO NOT mess with this palace guard.


Now that is a prawn...$5.00 a kilo!


Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) & The Wanderers (April & Travis)...plotting and planning


Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) find a media pole...


Always more to eat and more to drink...

It is hard to explain this around the world travel adventure…one former participant may have said it best: it is like being a kid on Christmas morning—excited about opening up an almost endless array of new, bigger, better and more surprising presents….but doing it every day, all day…for 23 straight days! Thank about that. Philosophically, our jobs are to make good day’s great and great days simply unforgettable.

Anyways, every day is different on this magical mystery adventure of a lifetime…and for us the Road Officials too. The geodramas of the event pour over us like vodka on ice. We got a call this morning informing me that someone might have broken their toe on a late night trip (sorry) to the bathroom. Another team misplaced their one and only scavenger hunt booklet, while another had us figuring out how to get their lost meds FedExed to our next secret destination…without them knowing where we are exactly going!? A hotelier who seems to have allowed the government to commodaire (sp?) our fully paid rooms leaving us at the mercy of a local tout. While other travekers have to be daily talked down out of their Shangri-La Syndrome (that naive idealiziation of foreign cultures as magnificently perfect and naively idealize), as they never really fit the expectations burden.

Indeed, a little drama is dood stuff, albeit it a little tricky to address at times keeping all the balls in the air while walking and chewing gum at the same time…they don’t call me the Ringmaster for nothing. As for us, this is just week one and I only know what day of the week it is by looking at my pill box!

And so it is… as they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and we all are all the time.

Everyone is safe and secure as far as I know. And from sitting here posting this blog in the lounge bar while listening to a Korean-version of the Andrew Sisters cum Pointer Sisters, I have seen no less than half the teams stroll by with beatific smiles and mouths agape.

What to look for in the 24 hours? We will see if the top teams stay focused and don’t burn out. We will see if the B Tier teams can push the peddle to the metal a little more efficiently. If the Kings can bounce back against the Sharks. And we will see if that toe is really broken…

Until tomorrow and the 10:00PM check in for leg two, good night.

Some of the teams are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
 Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

Thursday, April 17 - late night edition from Seoul

Annyeonghaseyo to all our friends!

After successfully navigating Incheon International Airport’s (ICN) Fever Scanner Screening stations, we officially entered South Korea. Sadly, amidst a terrible ferry accident that has tragically taken the lives of too many South Korean teenagers. Our hearts are with South Korea today…a truly sad day here.

We are holed up the Grand Hyatt Seoul--trying hard not to be nickel and dimed to death—at the tail end of the now joyless Han River Yeouido Spring Flower Festival (aka the Cherry Blossom Festival). Currently as I look out the window into Yongsan district, it is drizzling mildly, but the city is humming—as it always does.

Here is all the evolving event-related news that I can convey…

Thank you Dan from Team Carry On for explaining that our event videos are being taken/saved in MTS format…and we are still trying to convert them into something uploadable. So they are saved, but currently unusable. (If anyone has any nifty suggestions we are all ears!)

We successfully repositioned today to South Korea after finishing leg one last night in Japan. Teams enjoyed their partial day off and everyone conducted their peer reviews explaining how they did what they say they did. After that the rally leg points were tallied and we have a new leader in the 2014 travel world championship!

It is always interesting to see which teams are competitors and which teams are travelers following the first leg—and I applaud whichever category they find themselves. Because after all, too thy own self be true, right. First off, the Osaka team challenge was won by the defending champion The Ogopogos. They won 100 points for documenting the most animal signs in downtown Osaka—28! First leg placing teams completed a lot of scavenges—between 34 to 51. That is impressive! Personally, I always like that there are a few teams, some repeats, which take pride in finishing last. That said, the top five place teams after the first leg are:

#5 - Heckarewee (Leslie & Dan) with 1,240 points earned;
#4 - Sister Act Two (Emily & Rainey Jr.) with 1,615 points;
#3 - The Ogopogos (Gerry & Phil) with 1,635 points;
#2 - Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria) with 1,880 points;
And the top finishing team after the first leg, are The Global Scavenger Hunt’s former three-peat champs Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey) with an impressive 2,045 points.  Great job Zoe and Rainey…and great job all our teams!

All the top three teams are seasoned travelers and veterans...no surprises here.

My take away is that Bonus points are really important as well as not doubling back between locations. Staying focused and being on the move—thinking and strategizing and adapting on the move while earning points is certainly the key to success—at least for the first leg. Here are the event results today.

Alea iacta est…the die has been cast, and we turn the page and move on to the more difficult second leg of the around the world travel adventure, a Par 4 leg here in Seoul, South Korea.

Teams were explained the new leg’s idiosyncrasies…three Bonus Scavenge limit, mandatory scavenges and a 10:00PM Saturday evening check-in time. They again have about 52 hours to be very busy here in South Korea—from the DMZ to Busan. Soon they too will understand Seoul’s efficiency, modernity and fast-paced life-style ala the now infamous Gangnam-style…enjoy yourself all!

Off to some serious Korean BBQ…a few beers, karoke and some late night revelry—or maybe not.

More later…

Be sure to follow some of the teams that are blogging, enjoy:
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey):
The Odd Couple  (Erik & Casey):
Silver Surfers (Natasha & David):

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

We are repositioning again

Wednesday, April 16 (11:15PM (JST)

A busy day here in Japan: from morning fish market auctions and the ancient city of Nara or history of Hiroshima, to the dazzle of Osaka’s subterranean night life. Today was full of site-doing.

 And the first real leg of the 2014 travel world championship has come to a close. However, we will not have the official results until the peer reviews are completed and we have repositioned ourselves to our new international venue.

All the teams checked-in at 10:00PM in one piece…a tad worse for the last 72-hours of wear and tear physically and emotionally. We have entered Day Three on the road, and that means tomorrow we will be over the hump of shaking off both the lasting ill-effects of our long distance flight and 16-hour jet lag. Teams will, surely by tomorrow, have successfully made the difficult transition from everyday normal life to the devil-may-care hectic life of being on the road. From living with a fridge, closet and schedule…to none of the above. It is not as easy as it sounds and it does take three days to let go and accept that new reality. I know, our silly first world problems.

I would like to report more about the happenings of our teams over the last few days, but having just seen all the teams for the first time since Monday’s starting gate, it is hard to say anything.(And post photos and videos too...but technology issues remain.) I will say that the last couple of teams to return to the hotel were Vin & Michele, Gerry & Phil and Zoe & Rainey. That shows commitment until the whistle blows on their parts, but I think that is where my kneejerk analysis must end. A good night sleep and a 12:30PM flight tomorrow should give us the answers we are all looking for…maybe.

We will reconvene this madcap global adventure tomorrow afternoon in Seoul, South Korea.

Until then…

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!). Thank you!

 

Day Four: Japan

Kangei...Welcome to Japan.

Okay, recap and some tidbits.

We arrived in one piece—more or less—on Monday afternoon around 4PMish. Teams are being housed for three nights at the brand spanking new Osaka Marriott Miyako, which opened March 11th...and is nestled in the tallest building in Osaka, as well as the tallest building in Japan. It took a few special trips to the bathroom to figure things…as we all know the Japanese love their high-tech bathrooms. They are French bidets, not squared—but cubed. Only the Japanese could elevate going to the toilet to high art! Everyone is in reasonable shape…no complaints.
 
Teams were given their Kansai region easy Par 3 scavenger hunt lists at 6:30PM…and told to try and stay awake as late as possible to reset their circadian rhythms. They were told to give a Road Official a quick face time between 8:30-9:00AM Tuesday morning—they all did. And so they are off doing what they do best until our 10:00PM check in time on Wednesday night…so basically 52-hours to be busy proving their travel bona fides.

That said…we have some “one minute videos” with some team members taken over the last few days traveling—if we could only technologically find them?! Hopefully film at 11 very soon…

 

Okay some tidbits…

• All the teams are tied for first!

• I hope teams aren’t too put off by the multicolored, spaghetti junction-style train maps of the Kansai region—that by the way includes not only Osaka, but Nara, Kyoto and Kobe too that is home to over 17 million people —because everything works amazingly well here. In fact, the average train (aka Shinkansen) or subway route always runs on time; but when there are the inevitable delays, you just don't have to worry because those delays average only 18...wait for it...18 seconds! Take that BART, MTA and TTC. I will say though that Osaka has a way of turning the most sophisticated and confident traveler into an anxiety-ridden deaf-mute...good luck all!

• Most travelers’ first brush with Japan inevitably seems to be Tokyo…and this traveler thinks that is a big mistake, as the Kansai region is where it is at: ancient capitals, world heritage sites galore, better  food, more to see and do and thousands of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Zen gardens, palaces and pagodas. There is a lot her e, from conveyor-belt sushi to ninjas, bowing, vending machines, ryokans, Haiku, ramen, karaoke, white-gloved taxi drivers, sumo, tea ceremonies, Yakuza, ancient ways and modern realities, only the Japanese could elevate going to the toilet as high art with their hi-tech toilets... It is a vastly underrated travel destination.

• I am hoping that if any one of our travelers feels inclined to buy a samurai sword—that they don't! Security will be hell for them for the next three weeks…but if they really need to that they have them shipped home!


• Did you know that Kansai International Airport (KIX), sits on the world’s largest artificially made island and is one of only two things visible from outer space...No, the other one is not the Great Wall of China, but in fact the greenhouses of Almería, Spain!

• Our teams will learn very quickly, that in the Japanese language/culture it is considered rude to say the word "no" directly...so they better think of a good strategy to get their questions answered correctly. Japanese culture itself is utterly perplexing...I always thoroughly enjoy being put on edge here floating somewhere in a place where traditions are infinitely rehearsed and refined smashed against unrivaled modernity.

• Green Tea Kit Kat, Strawberry Kit Kat, and Blueberry Cheesecake Kit Kat…what more can you say?

• Question of the day: Why when you go to grocery/pharmacy, do they sell more adult diapers than baby diapers?

So, we are off today to Osaka Castle, the wonderful Osaka Aquarium, to collect a picnic of take away food in the stalls beneath Osaka Station, and track down rare Pokémon cards. Later tonight we will be roaming the Namba and Dotombori areas playing Bartender Roulette, taste testing sake and performing karaoke…Teams? Well, they are off to Kyoto, Kobe and some Hiroshima. Heard someone was going to try and ski Fuji-san—we’ll see about that?!

What will happen? Well, as they say, you can't eavesdrop on the future...only time will tell. More tomorrow…

Please friend/like/follow us on Facebook...we will attempt to add Twitter insight (in 140 characters or less!?) and YouTube-like vines (6 second clips) if possible along the way.  I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces along the way as well. So stay tuned.

Finally, remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers crown in the world travel championship... it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year, to celebrate our event's 10th anniversary, our goal is to fund 10 schools in places that really need them. Co-ed elementary schools at that. So, if you have it in your heart to not eat a lunch out this week and make a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2014 event, we know a lot of kids needing an education that would thank you. Thank you all, because we all know that every little bit helps out a lot. (FYI: All individual donation names will be put in a hat and on May 3rd we will select a winner for a special fun prize—it will be worth much more than your $25+ donation!).Thank you!