News & Insights 30 May 2006

LYs land on Korean soil

Tuesday 30 May, 2pm (32,000 feet above sea level, Western Europe):
We are cruising over Brussels, at a speed of around 850kph, quaffing a welcome round of bubbling champagne courtesy of Air France. We toast the beginning of our Korean trip, and spirits are high. Not least because Big Momma’s House 2 is being shown on the onboard entertainment system. I have a feeling this tour could be something rather special…

Wednesday 31 May, 8.30am Korean time (Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea):
The Lightyears have landed in South Korea. Our instruments, sadly, have not. Their exact whereabouts remain something of a mystery, which I have to admit is a little troubling. After checking our baggage at Heathrow we were ordered to take the instruments down to Check-In Gate X, which, for those of you who’ve never been there, is rather like turning up in New York and being told to take all your valuables to the Bronx. Check-In Gate X is hidden away at the back of Heathrow Airport and seems to have been abandoned long ago by all facets of civilisation. We asked the steward on duty if he could kindly label our cases with some of those FRAGILE stickers you get at airports, and he looked at us as if we had asked him to put on a dress and dance the Tarantella. It was therefore not altogether a surprise to rock up in Korea 17 hours later and find that our precious instruments were nowhere to be seen. However, after some investigation we learn that, happily, our gear has not been piked by international bandits and is due to be delivered to our hotel within 24 hours.

Shortly afterwards, our driver greets us in the concourse holding a big sign reading “The Lightyears” and this cheers us up no end. He doesn’t speak any English but luckily Tony has done some cramming on the plane and is able to muster a shaky “Anyeong Haseyo” (“Hello”). Our vehicle has tinted windows and a miniature TV screen playing Korean cartoons. Rock and roll.

Wednesday 31 May, 9.30am (Somerset Palace Serviced Residences, Seoul):
Our driver pulls up outside Somerset Palace in Insadong, Seoul, and we take in what is to be our home for the coming week. Let me start by pointing out that the “Palace” part is certainly not misleading. This place is incredible. Eighteen stories of luxury serviced apartments culminating in a landscaped rooftop garden complete with a swimming pool, a fleet of jacuzzis and a jaw-dropping view of the city.

Our rooms turn out to be bigger than my house. Any delusions about throwing the TVs out of the window are immediately dashed because they’re just too massive to lift. Plus there’s six of them. Later we are told that our apartments are costing $1000 a night. Places like this are usually reserved for well-mannered businessmen, but this week they are playing host to the LYs. Our Korean tour has officially been pimped.

Wednesday 31 May, 10.15pm (A restaurant in Insadong, Seoul):
We have been taken out to dinner by our hosts, Amy and Neil, which provides us with an early opportunity to try out our rudimentary Korean on the bar-staff. We thank everyone we meet, profusely, as this is just about all we can say, but it seems to be appreciated. We are actually eating in an Italian restaurant as Amy and Neil have advised us that Korean food is pretty bland and it could be difficult to find anything vegetarian for Tony. From the safe confines of his herbivorous enclave, Tony has challenged us all to try the local delicacy, dog-meat, on the basis that “I would definitely try it if I wasn’t a veggie”. Yeah, whatever. Earlier today we actually saw a restaurateur chasing a tiny dog down the street with a meat cleaver, and that single event put me off the idea somewhat.

After dinner we don our Somerset Palace bathrobes and slippers and head for the hot-tubs. With our combination of shaggy haircuts, jet-lagged expressions and decadent attire we look like four Hugh Heffners out there on the rooftop. Kicking back in a top-of-the range jacuzzi, sipping a cold beer and checking out the mountain temples in the distance, we’re on top of the world. The tour has well and truly begun.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Chris Lightyear

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