From Far East to Northwest

Terra Cotta Warrios - Xi'an, China I made it back home after dropping off the grid for about 10 days traveling around China and Korea for work. The business side of the trip was very productive. I kept a dense agenda meeting with colleagues from the three main regions (Japan, China, Korea) in addition to press, customer and partner briefings while in Seoul. The leisure portions were few and far between. After working 12-16 hour days, I generally would return to my room to work an additional 2-4 hours to sync up with my team back in Redmond. There was a lot going on last week with the launch of Expression Studio 2 which we have been gearing up for since MIX.

I found a few hours on a few days to do some sightseeing, take some pictures and get a glimpse of the Chinese and Korean cultures. In fact, I achieved the tourism objectives I set at the outset of the trip. I have added pictures I took of the Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an, the Shanghai skyline, and the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China - Beijing, China As an added bonus to you, my faithful readers, I also recorded some video during my trip using a handy Flip Ultra that I bought from Amazon right before the trip. I’m now a big fan of the Flip. You just can’t beat its combination of price, convenience and video quality. I’ll post some videos from the trip once I’ve finished editing. Stay tuned…

Tiananmen Square - Beijing, China Some unplanned but immensely enjoyable experiences include biking along the Xi’an city wall, dancing until the wee hours of the night in a Sanlitun club, and in Tiananmen Square taking pictures with Chinese couples (and their children) who clearly hadn’t seen a Black American person up close before. The White coworkers I was traveling with had a ball with that last one, walking around telling the locals I’m a famous basketball player. Thankfully, English literacy is relatively low throughout most of China.

Though I’m suffering from some serious jet lag and recovering from the long days, it’s great to be back home. There is so much to catch up on and so much I’ve already missed (a birth and death in the family, for example) making the trip to Asia even more surreal than the countries, their histories and their people. TB left for Chicago early this morning to meet our newest niece, Abria Lynn, born to her twin sister and her husband on Cinqo de Mayo. While being home alone is, generally, no fun, I’ve been around people non-stop for ten days. The peace and quiet is sure to be therapeutic. Speaking of being therapeutic, the Chinese foot Shanghai Skyline massages are amazing. For only $16, you can get a 90 minute foot, leg, back and neck massage at a high-end establishment. I had two in ten days. I fell asleep both times. If you’re ever in Beijing or Xi’an, ask your concierge or tour guide for the nearest “Massage & Spa” franchise—you won’t be disappointed.

So, what about Seoul? It definitely ranks in the top 3 of places outside the States I would like to live—Cape Town, South Africa is still #1. Seoul is a new New York done right. The city uses technology in ways that blow away a techno-gadget geek like me. For example, their automobile GPS/navigation units provide real-time traffic avoidance and display broadcast TV on 7” widescreens…for free…no monthly charges! The units even warn the driver of nearby police cameras to avoid speeding and parking tickets. Yes, the police department scans the streets for parking violations using cameras mounted throughout the city. I must admit, it was eerie knowing our actions were being monitored at all times—there are cameras everywhere in Seoul.

I also had lunch in the touristy Itaewon district home to many American stalwarts including McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Outback Steakhouse, Cold Stone Creamery, etc. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Korean DMZ but I did eat kimchi and partake in an authentic Korean barbecue, as planned. I stayed in the posh Park Hyatt while in Seoul. The service and rooms both eclipse the Tokyo Park Hyatt (reference) in terms of ridiculous opulence. Below is a panorama view of the city I shot from my 22nd floor suite—the highest floor for guest rooms. (Maybe Park Hyatt will hire me to shoot panoramas from all its hotels.)

Seoul Park Hyatt - View from Room 2207 - Seoul, Korea

By the way, I kept running while on the road and have surpassed the halfway mark of the “108 miles in 12 weeks” goal set back on March 29.

Back from the Land of the Rising Sun

I am just returning to Seattle from Tokyo where I was the keynote speaker for Remix Japan. About 1500 people attended the event held at the Tokyo International Forum on Wednesday, September 19. In addition to the 80-minute keynote, I also presented a 50-minute general session for all attendees.

The keynote and general session covered various aspects of Microsoft’s Software+Services initiative and our broad Web platform, tools and services portfolio. Following the 3 hours for the back-to-back keynote and general session I spent another 3 hours in the afternoon doing interviews & briefings with members of the Japanese press.

It was my first time visiting Japan and the trip was too short for me to really take Tokyo and its 12+ million residents in. I spent the morning of Sep 18 meeting with my colleagues in the Microsoft Japan building near Shinjuku station (the busiest train station in the world). We then spent the rest of the day in rehearsals with the various partners and Microsoft staffers who were preparing demos for the keynote and general sessions. I left my hotel room at the Park Hyatt—the hotel featured in the movie Lost in Translation…it’s amazing!—at 9 AM and returned just before midnight. I was in the bed by 1 AM and up again at 6 AM to make it to the venue by 8 AM for final keynote preparations. The keynote started at 10 AM.

Tokyo Panorama from Park Hyatt room 4216
Picture of Tokyo from Park Hyatt
Nikon D200, Nikon 18-200 f/3.5 @ 18mm f/16, ISO 400, 1/80
Panorama captured from room 4216 at the Park Hyatt hotel. It consists of 5 individual, landscape photos taken by hand (no tripod) then stitched together as described in my panorama tutorial.

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