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Entries about electronics

A contrast in shopping centers and a Giant Rubber Ducky!

sunny 69 °F

Before I went to bed on Thursday night, I did my usual ritual of getting things recharged. My computer, my phone, my backup phone battery, my wifi router, my camera all need regular attention. About the router - Korea has a similar system to Japan. You rent an unlimited data wifi router that is pocket sized and it provides internet and internet phone everywhere - it's extremely convenient and not too expensive - about $6/day in Korea, a bit more in Japan.

Anyway, I had to use my voltage converter for the first time (Japan runs on 120 v like the US and most places have US-shaped plugs). Plugged it in and pow! the distinctive odor of deliciously smoked circuits. It looked like it had blown out both my voltage converter and my computer power supply (which wasn't plugged into the computer at the time - clever me).

So my first order of business was to find replacements. I googled electronics stores and found out about the Electronics Market - an entire district in Seoul devoted to that kind of stuff. So it sounded like a piece of cake. Off I went, and got on the train in the wrong direction. This turned out to be a good thing because I got off a station adjacent to something called Lotte World Mall. I decided to return after taking care of business. It was about 45 minutes by train and foot to the market. It is a huge hodgepodge of stores .


There are hundreds of small stores, some specializing in things like home security, cabling, LED lighting etc. and a whole lot of stores that all seem to sell iphone covers. Here's a look at one of the indoor corridors and one outside street. These capture less than 10% of the extent of this crazy place.



Add to that dozens of deivery carts, bikes, motorycles, vans and trucks shuffling boxes in at out at breakneck speed, and it's a pretty entertaining place. Unfortunately, not a place where I could begin to figure out who had what I needed. Finally I stumbled upon a computer store that was several stories high and after finding the sales department I worked with a very patient guy and aided by google translate we were able to identify my computer power supply and a converter. To get ahead of the story, the charger was just right but the 'converter' was almost the exact opposite of what I wanted. It performed no transformer function to step down voltage except to two USB ports and was incompatible with Korean outlets - it was designed to allow Koreans overseas to charge their equipment, not the other way around. Fortunately, by juggling my computer's usb ports, I was able to get back in internet road warrior shape later that night.

Headed back flushed with success, I stopped for lunch at a street stand in a small night market (mostly closed during the day). Lunch was mixed tempura of vegetables, sausage, octopus and dumplings with a side dish of two kinds of tofu in a spicy red pepper sauce. Everything was tasty - the sausage was a type of Korean blood sausage called sundae - be warned if you hanker for hot fudge in Korea! Six bucks.


Walked off the meal by retracing my steps to Lotte World Mall.

Talk about the alpha and omega of shopping experiences! The mall opened about a week ago and it is astonishing. Here is the atrium of the 7 floor section devoted entirely to high-end and very high-end everything.


A shot of the cosmetics department


and one of the atrium from the other direction.


And this is only about one third of the place. There is a separate 7 floor section that is much bigger and caters to a wider audience. There is an amazing video display in the atrium of this part that consists of a dozen independent giant led screens that are raised and lowered up and down the atrium and show a coordinated picture across them all as they move. I have some video, but not the patience to convert/trim/upload at the moment. Footage will be available upon return for the price of a beer.... Speaking of which, there is a nascent craft beer industry in both Japan and Korea - I saw craft beer bars in both places, though they tend to only serve one beer of a given basic style. Still, it's a start.

But enough shopping - what about the Giant Rubber Ducky!?!

Wait no longer-


Yes, it is that big! This is the Rubber Duck Project which is touring this critter around the world.


There are hundreds of people taking selfies and other-people-ies and just sitting and admiring the spectacle.


I actually was a bit hungry on the way home and I saw a restaurant near my apartment specializing in pork hocks. sounded interesting, so in I went. Ordered by pointing at random at a menu on the wall in Korean figuring it probably would contain pork hock. And did it!


I ate and ate (some of the condiments include raw hot peppers and raw garlic as well as what I think was raw pork liver in hot peppers-yikes. When I was slowing down, the waiter brought over two diposable plastic gloves - huh? The folks at the next table let me know that protocol was to put on the gloves and then pick up the giant bone and gnaw on it to your heart's content. I then faced a cultural question; is there a doggy bag tradition in Korea? Googling wasn't much help (!) but I did see what appeared to be styrofoam containers near the pork cutting area in the window of the restaurant so with brilliant gesturing I was able to get the staff to box the remainder which will be breakfast for days to come. I probably walked out with 1 1/2 pounds of leftover pork!

In a food-induced coma, I fell into bed.

Posted by tdeits 18:55 Archived in South Korea Tagged shopping seoul electronics Comments (0)


and a word about power

semi-overcast 75 °F

I flew on China Southern from Seoul to Guangzhou and then a long overnight flight to Perth from there. The meals were very good and the seat closely resembled the Korea Air one I showed earlier. Oddly, only about 1/3 of the seats in business class were filled - maybe they don't run an upgrade program? I was able to get some sleep so I arrived in Perth at 6 am feeling vaguely humanoid. My AirBNB host Susanne picked me up at the airport and after a shower I was able to enjoy the day in Perth.

But first a word about power. The single largest practical issue I have faced in my day-to-day life as a world traveler has been power - electrical power - battery power! Getting enough battery power to get through long days on my cell, managing camera power, laptop power, and a backup power supply is a real challenge. Just as an example here's my current (ha!) setup to charge stuff in Perth


Let's see.. . The white gizmo at the bottom is an adapter that connects an Australian plug to the various kinds of plugs found elsewhere- I got that in Perth. Here's a pro-tip; if you go to an electronics supply shop in a foreign country (I tried this in Korea and Australia so it must be true everywhere, right?) and look for an adapter for plugs, they will happily provide you with a device that will allow you to plug Korean (or Australian) things into foreign plugs Of course, what you want is the opposite; a device that will allow you to plug your style plug into their style outlet. That's harder to find, but I managed it. This may be because Australian plugs are so weird (prongs at 45 degree angles) that even Aussies need them for their electronics. So travel prepared and get the gizmo at home before you leave My only excuse is that the one I brought along blew up in Korea.

Anyway, atop the white gizmo is an American-style plug extender that Robin found for me in Japan (many Japanese plugs use the American standard) and that has proved invaluable - thanks, Robin! On the left is a power supply for my cell or my cell backup charger. On the right is a power supply for charging my camera battery. On top is my laptop power supply which, since I had to buy it in Korea, has a Korean plug and so requires another adapter from Korean to American which I happened to bring with me. In a pinch I can also charge some things using the USB ports on my laptop as a battery . Oh, and then why does my camera decide it needs a mini USB instead of a micro USB which means one more cable to lug around? Waaaah.

The only good bit worth mentioning is that most consumer electronic power supplies are happy to accept 120 or 220 volt inputs so you don't usually need to lug a transformer around as well. If you are unsure about whether your device accepts 220, it is probably written on the adapter in print so tiny that you may need a magnifying glass to read it.

Anyway, back to fun. I spent the first day just walking around the neighborhood, Inaloo, and shopping for things like the adapter pictured above. I also had to buy a new rash guard. For those who don't know what that is, it's an elastic long- or short-sleeved shirt designed to be worn in the water. It originated in the surfing/boogie boarding world because folks found that lying on a board all day tended to rub your stomach raw. Hence the name. The other nice thing about them from my point of view is that that the good ones provide SPF 50 protection from the sun. This means you can wear one and not worry about covering your body with sunscreen. That's doubly nice when traveling alone because putting sunscreen on your own back is, to say the least, challenging. To find one I first asked a guy shopping for swim trunks what they were called down here. The answer - 'rashie.' Armed with this lingo I was able to find a store and successfully communicate with a store clerk to complete the purchase. Now I felt ready for a bit of adventure!

I had a frankly mediocre vegetable pasta dish at a restaurant on my walking tour of the area (the first klunker meal of the trip so far) and hit the sack.

Posted by tdeits 19:28 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping perth electronics Comments (0)

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