Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nearly out of here

People who have been reading Samizdata will know that I am presently in Seoul in South Korea. I am on my way home to Australia for Christmas. The reason that I am here is that when I was booking my ticket in January, it turned out that one of the cheapest options was to fly on Korean airlines, and that gave me the option of a stopover in Seoul. As I had never been to Seoul before, and as the idea of coming here had some appeal, I said sure, and booked a five day stopover.

The other advantage of stopping here was that it gave me a chance to fight my jetlag more or less in peace without friends and relatives expecting me to talk to them and/or do other activities at times of day when I was not fully functional. As the jetlag involved a nine hour time shift flying east (to here - ten hours to Brisbane), this was particularly good. That time shift is about the worst possible, as it means that after the journey your body things that you should be going to sleep at pretty much the exact time you have to get up.

There are two ways of dealing with this kind of time shift, and they can loosely be referred to as "forwards" and "backwards". Forwards involves staying up later each day until your personal time is the same as that of the place you are. Backwards involves going to bed earlier. Staying up later is usually physiologically easier, but with a nine hour east shift, it means you have to adjust a total of 24 minus 9 hours - that is a total of 15 hours. Backwards is harder, but you have to adjust nine hours only. Which is great, except that adjusting nine hours in this way is an extremely difficult thing to do.

However, if you only adjust five hours, then you can (say) get up at midday and go to bed at 4am. If you are on a business trip, or if you are visiting family, this is not really practical. On the other hand, if you are on a holiday this can be fine. If you want to sample the local nightlife, it can be actively good. And when you go home at the end of the trip, you only have five hours forwards to adjust, which is an absolute piece of cake.

This is what I did when I went to Shanghai earlier this year, but it is not what I have done on this trip, as on this trip I need to adjust completely in time for a family visit. This is a shame, as Seoul is a city that stays up really late. It is possible to go shopping at four o'clock in the morning. Shops that open at 11am and close at 5am are quite common.

This is no doubt great for a lot of people. However, if you have been leaving your hotel at 7am and then wandering around for the portion of the day where there are few things open, it is not always so good. Particularly when it is winter.

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