My final full day in South Korea was a busy one that would take me from our hotel in Phoenix Snow Park to the Olympic International Broadcast Center, back to Phoenix Park – and on to the Jinbu Station: destination Gangneung.
I begin my day at 8:00 AM at the International Broadcast Center, about an hour away from Phoenix Park, depending on traffic. On this day, as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are wrapping up, there’s no traffic. The IBC is a massive structure, built for the Games, which houses the central broadcast operations for NBC — and all the other networks covering the Games.
When I first arrived at this facility nearly a month ago (to get a bit of pre-Olympic tech training), it was a bustling hive of human activity. Not today. Aside from a few final events and the Closing Ceremony, the Games are at a close — and so is the IBC. We’ve come to deliver our 15-minute feature “20 Years of Olympic Snowboarding” — scheduled to air before the Closing Ceremony.
Here’s the edit bay we’ve been assigned to so we can listen to the final audio mix, make any last-minute tweaks, do some color adjustments — and prep the sequence to roll-in on air. This is a luxury mansion compared to the metal box we’ve been working in for the past month.
Likewise, the NBC commissary at the IBC is a 5-star restaurant compared to our “Kimteen” at Phoenix Park. I got a quality breakfast here to start what would be a long, adventurous day.
NBC is obviously (and deservedly) proud of its Olympic broadcasting history. I’m honored to be even a small part of such a fine tradition. As jobs go, this gig was one of the coolest ever!
Here’s the view outside the IBC. I’ve reviewed the audio mix for our feature — and now it’s up to our editor, Kevin, who knows the NBC ropes. I’m going back to my hotel to meet our executive producer and join him for the rest of my last full day on a journey to the east coast of South Korea.
First, I’ll have to determine which of these shuttles will take me back to Phoenix Park. The drivers speak very little English and I can’t read any Korean, so it won’t be a cinch.
Luckily, I find the right bus. These are no ordinary rides: they’re all tricked out. Every driver seems to have his own decorating style: lots of beads, fabrics and vibrant colors….
…and, of course, CURLING on the shuttle’s TV screen. Koreans seem to love curling just as much as Canadians. I’ve seen more curling than any other sport — and I’m COVERING snowboarding!
After I get back to our hotel, my executive producer, David, and I take a half-hour taxi ride to Jinbu Station — a brand spanking new train hub built to facilitate Olympic traffic.
We purchase out tickets to Gangneung from one of these competent young men. The process is very efficient — and tickets are not that expensive. Our train leaves in 15 minutes. So far, so good.
Here I am on the platform at Jinbu Station, awaiting the train to Gangneung. Will our journey be worth the effort? After a month confined to our Phoenix Snow Park compound — will we finally enjoy a legitimate Korean cultural experience? Our hopes run high.
Of course, like my bright, wonderful grandson — and my dear father before me — I love trains. So, just the sight of these freshly-laid tracks and the tunnel looming ahead fill me with anticipation.
And then — it’s here! Our train! And what a beauty it is. Check it out, Declan. Have you ever seen a cooler, sleeker train? I think I’m gonna love this trip.
We’ve got tickets for Car #6. But first, we’ve got to let the disembarking passengers off.
Here’s my boon traveling companion in his seat — ready for our ride to the coast. This journey was his idea. He has a lot of very good ideas.
Our train ride from Jinbu Station to Gangneung takes less than an hour. Here’s the inside of the terminal at Gangneung. As I said before — so far, so good.
David outside the Gangneung Station. Our plan is to take a tour bus, see the sights, find some tasty, authentic Korean food — and have a true Korean cultural experience.
The Koreans are definitely INTO these Olympics. They line up to have their photos snapped in front of the Olympic rings — flanked by the PyeonChang 2018 mascots.
Across the street from the train station, we find a “pop-up” cultural festival in what looks like a huge plastic tent– featuring everything from high-end cosmetics to hand-dripped coffee. Yes, there are Korean hipsters. And they LOVE their coffee.
Right next to the hipsters serving artisan coffees — these ladies in traditional garb serve tea.
Moving on, we discover a traditional Korean market — and encounter these drum and dance performers getting ready to do their thing. Looks like we’re about to have a real cultural experience…
By the way, Gangneung is a real city. After a month in the remote resort town of Phoenix Park, it’s exhilarating to be in the mix with so many Koreans in an urban environment.
Then we hit the cultural jackpot: this traditional Korean market is about six blocks long and four blocks deep. And there are very few tourists. This is the heart and soul of Gangneung.
Here’s a typical stall at the market. I don’t know what any of this stuff is. But David and I are getting very hungry just looking at it all.
I don’t what this woman was cooking — but just the sound and smell of this boiling pot was exciting. Besides, I thought I glimpsed garlic — and that’s enough for me!
We stopped at the stall on the right and sampled these skewers in a brown sauce. Delicious. We would later learn that they were some kind of buckwheat noodle in a spicy fish sauce.
Those who know me know I’d never eat whatever is swimming around in this pot. (Eeels?) But, once again, it was clear that we were deep into real Korean culture now. Next, we’d go EVEN deeper…
That’s right, folks. You’re looking at boiled ox head. We stumbled on a side street with four boiled ox head establishments in a row. The smell was powerful — the setting was steamy and dramatic. And the taste? Some things are best left a mystery.
After our trip down Boiled Ox Head Lane, we ran into these helpful ladies, there to provide information to tourists. They spoke quite a bit of English — and guided us to a local restaurant.
Not only did our helpful trio lead us to a great, authentic Korean restaurant — they brokered our meal with the proprietor. The haggling went on for about 10 minutes. We were REALLY having an authentic Korean experience now.
Once our menu was determined, the service was fast and attentive. We were the only non-Koreans in the place: just what we wanted.
Here’s our main course. All these veggies and lean beef boil down into a sweet and savory stew, cooked right at our table by the restaurant staff.
It may look like we just ate everything in the restaurant — but the Koreans like to serve a lot of sides: kimchee, rice, soy bean paste (wonderful!) and many other spicy vegetables. It’s glorious. Washed down with beer. (I’ve learned to abandon the white wine thing in Korea.) A wholly satisfying end to our Korean cultural journey. And to our 2018 Olympic adventure. 고맙습니다