The story I’m about to tell is true, I have not embellished a word or event.
In past lives I routinely traveled on business throughout Europe, South America, and Asia. International travel can be greatly exciting – meeting new people and experiencing new cultures is a wonderful experience however, the first few trips to a new part of the world can be intimidating. One such intimidating experience was the first few trips I made to Asia.
At the time, I had never been farther in the Pacific than Hawaii. Work demanded I begin travel in Asia and South Korea was my first destination. The first trip to Seoul was fairly straight forward. Although I felt much like I imagined Captain Kirk felt when he first landed on the planet Klingon (no Roman language signage, no English root to words), getting from the airport to the major hotel, to my meeting, and back to the airport was straight-forward and simple.
My second trip to South Korea a couple months later was quite different. My second trip took me outside of Seoul to Songtan City, Kyungki-do. The company I worked for that time used American Express Travel to book and manage all business travel however, because of the ‘remoteness’ of where I was going, they were unable to find a hotel within their system. So, I was recommended a local hotel by the party I was traveling to meet -Songtan Hotel.
The hotel picked me up at Seoul airport and drove me approximately 2 hours to the hotel. The driver spoke no English and the three words of Korean I spoke proved worthless. More than once durring the ride I wondered if I were in the right van.
Through narrow streets and at least two back alleys, we arrived at the hotel. It looked nice and the driver carefully unloaded my luggage and drove away. At the counter, I introduced myself and said I was there to check-in. The woman behind the counter said they were waiting for me and asked me to wait to speak with the manager.
The manager of the hotel arrived shortly, a sharply dressed man in a dark business suite, he looked extremely professional. In clear English, he welcomed me to Korea and “his” hotel. He quickly informed me they were overbooked and as such the room I had reserved was not available…no room at the inn. At that moment I was greatly uncomfortable – I had no clear idea where in Korea I was, I had no ready help from American Express, I had no one to call (it was Sunday in Korea and I had no weekend contact information for the people I was to meet the next day), I had no command whatsoever of the local language, and I had absolutely no idea where to go for another hotel. My mood and level of comfort immediately changed with the next words from the hotel manager.