I was really looking forward to this work trip….because we had made arrangements for the husband to join me after my meeting and we could tour around Seoul for about a week….I had the flights, hotel accommodation, itinerary, dining places all worked out and all that was left was countdown to the day of departure. And then MERS hit Seoul. Wham bam! Just like that plans flew out of the windows….
There were about 2 weeks left to the start of my leg of the trip when MERS started. When it started, our office started to take note of the severity of the situation. The situation didn’t seem that bad in the days leading up to my departure, until 3 days before. Then we were seriously considering cancelling the meeting that we were to host in Seoul. But the scientists in us called upon the logical brains to assess the situation. Most importantly, there were no cases of sustained community transmission in Korea. But we were also aware that the week that we would be in Korea would be a critical week in assessing the Koean’s government ability to contain the virus spread. If the virus was not contained, there is a high chance that we might be quarantined in Korea for 2 weeks or so. So between us, our Korean colleagues and colleagues in the US headquarters, we finally decided that we could still proceed with our meeting in Seoul. The key factors to this decision were the fact that the Singapore government and the CDC in US did not issue any travel advisory to Korea and there is still no evidence of sustained community transmission.
So initially we were monitoring the situation as to whether the husband should still join me afterwards. I was quietly optimistic that we could proceed as planned. For some reason, I thought the Korean authorities would have a firm grip of the situation. However, about 3 days prior to my departure, it seems that the authorities in Korea might not have any grip on the situation at all! So we decided to cancel my husband’s trip and I would head home immediately after my work commitments. To be honest, I was crushed. I had really looked forward to the husband joining me and we would go and check out the My Love from Another Star exhibit before it ends in August 2015.
We only watched this earlier in the year and by then, it had finished its run on Korean tv for more than a year. I recall now that when I was in Seoul last year, there was the same exhibit at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. At that time, I didn’t give a hoot about this exhibit. Now when I am interested, it became out of reach 😦 S.I.G.H Other plans for this trip included a visit to Petite France and the DMZ zone. Oh, and I was debating as to whether we should head to Jeju island while we were there. Oh well, MERS took care of that decision for us. However, when I was in Korea, it appears that some sights were starting to close down due to MERs and the DMZ was amongst the affected sights. Anyway, enough of whining.
So a work trip to Seoul is always not too bad as I would usually stay at the InterContinental. This time round, I stayed at the Grand Parnas Intercontinental. This hotel is just next to the Hyundai Departmental Store and is near the CoEx, which has a underground shopping mall.
Intercontinental was great as always, and I always enjoy the facilities it offers. This is the breakfast buffet.
Whenever I have time off from work, I would make a trip to the CoEx mall and the supermarket at Hyundai Department Store.
So one day, we had a traditional Korean meal. If you are ever going for a traditional Korean meal, please go hungry. The amount of food is staggering!
Towards the end of the our trip, the MERs situation did not get any better. In fact it got worse and seemingly out of control. So it was an understatement to say that we were relieved to board the plane to head home. Then it was 2 weeks of health monitoring to be sure we didn’t bring the virus back to our countries. Such nerve-wracking experience to never be repeated again!