It was a 6 hours flight from Incheon to KLIA. After watching a comedy on the flight entertainment system, I decided to write this entry as I was not sleepy. I am on my way back home after a week long trip to Korea.
Much had been said about climate change and the needs to reduce carbon emissions. Equally extensive were the calls for renewable energy to prepare the world for the decline of fossil fuels and increasing rejection of nuclear energy. And the answer is here… It is hydrogen !
It is nothing new. In fact it has been around ages ago. Hot air balloons using hydrogen has been in air since the 1700’s. Fuel cell has been introduced as early as the 1800’s and developed to be used by NASA in the 1900’s. It has also been used to propel the German Airship in the early 1900’s. However due to some unwanted events and safety concerns such as the Hindenburg incident in 1937, hydrogen energy has to undergo a long journey of revival.
When combusted in engine, hydrogen produces more energy than hydrocarbons. When used to power fuel cells, it emits nothing except water which can be recycled and reused. It is also quiet. So it is clean, quiet, and zero emission – such a briliant combination. What more do we want? Well of course we want it to be cheap, because we have other options. When the options runs out, hydrogen will surely stand tall.
All the while, it has beed advocated as the fuel for future. And this week, after listening to series of lectures, state of the art reviews, status updates, and highlights on innovations, I am convinced that the future has begun. Yes, it has begun.
That was what I learnt from the conference that I attended for 4 days. The World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC2014) was held in Gwangju, Korea, a city south of Seoul.
We (TATA and I) took Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul, and A KTX train from Yongsan Station in Seoul to Gwangju, with a fare of 370,000 Won for single journey (USD 37). The journey passed through vast rice paddies and ocassionally some small towns. The views were beautiful and soothing. The crop that serves as the staple food for the Korean were recently planted. It was equally spaced thin patches of greens smartly planted by machineries.
The train was mostly vacant and the comfort level was good even for the economy class. Toilets were clean with adequate water supply and convenient delivery system. I noticed the train inspector, but we were never asked to show our tickets – at the stations or on the train – indicating certain level of trusts on passengers. Nevertheless, I think the inspector knew which seat that was supposed to be occupied. We reached our destination after about 3 hours of journey. From the station, we took taxi and the adventure began – they don’t speak English in Gwangju, well except those in the 20’s who struggled to help giving us directions when needed. So, sign language is the most important communication tool.
Shortly after arrival, we spared no time. Out of a habit that I have developed, we immediately explored the city on foot to know the surrounding. From the hotel we followed the green path, nicely made available for pedestrians. And there were many people doing exercises along the way. Since it was late afternoon, the crowd were mostly the elderly above 60’s or so. After a couple of hours of evening walk, we were tired enough to retire for the day.
The efforts paid well since we managed to find a Turkish kebab outlet, not big enough to be called a restaurant, but enough to feed hungry men. The Kebab stall was in the downtown area, adjacent to the pedestrian shopping streets and rows of bars.
The biannual world conference was held at Kim Dae Jung Convention Center, next to the Holiday Inn hotel. Unfortunately, it was fully booked when we tried our luck, and ended up with Prado Hotel, located at a different part of the city. Since it was also far from metro train stations, we had to commute by taxi. The conference was supposed to attract something like 1500-2000 delegates, but the turn out was less than a thousand, perhaps 500 or so.
I came for 3 reasons – to listen to updates of technology, to share my work and to bid for hosting WHEC2020. We were successful in the first two, and were advised to propose again for 2022. That bidding session will be held in Zaracossa, Spain during WHEC2016. It was nevertheless an interesting experience. The idea was mooted by MYCEB 3 months earlier, and after lingering with it for about 2 weeks, we gave them a nod. Amazingly, the team(MYCEB and IHE) did very well in preparing the document during that short period.
Mudeungsan National Park
Mudeungsan National Park is the home for Mudeungsan mountain which has 1186 elevation. It is a wonderful place to visit and it is close to the city. No wonder it was listed No 1 by Trip Advisor as a place of attraction. We decided to dedicate one evening to hike the national park. Taking bus service no 9 from YMCA, we reached the park headquarters after a few minutes.
At the park headquarters, there were rows of shops, all selling branded goods dedicated for outdoor clothing and acessories – columbia, lafuma, millet, northface, fila design, merrel, plus many others, some of which I didn’t recognized such as redface, centrepole, westwood, etc. Now, that’s a detour, wasn’t it.
So, we need to make some adjustment. Finally instead of hiking any of the trails, we settled for an hour of uphill journey visiting the Jeungsimsa Temple, so that about two hours were made available for hiking the stores, a nice experience for a man – window shopping.
Due to currency difference, many of the items were considered a bit too expensive, unless a handsome discount was offered. Nevertheless, due to so many things to buy, it would require an angel not to be tempted. Haha I got myself something to remember.
The offered a selection of trails with different levels of difficulties to suit time availability and level of fitness. Within the area, there were also a number of temples. To get to the summit, a 6 hours is needed, but there were trails that require less time. It was interesting to note that there were more women, either in small groups or alone, both climbing up, or making a descend. No wonder we hardly find any obese individuals in Gwangju, perhaps due to hiking, or perhaps due to the diet they took.
As the conference moved to closure, we departed to Seoul, again by train. We booked a hotel in a place called Itaewon. It can be conveniently reached by subway. In fact Seoul subway system was fantastic with excellent connectivity. But you have to know which exit to take. So, after alighting from the train, we simply looked for the maps or directories that gave us the information needed – which exit to take based on our point of interests.
That evening we got our full serving of rice – a mutton briyani, mmm. Then we went to the only mosque in Seoul. It was located up the hill, and it took a couple of minutes to get there. It was beautiful and I can feel the tranquility being inside. It is suddently as if your imaan has increased significantly. Perhaps it did, since it has been a week of not going to a mosque. The jamaah was multiracial, with significant origin of those from the indian subcontinent.
Within the area, there were also many other halal food restaurant – Turkish, Moroccan, Indian, Pakistani, Arabs etc. But the one that caught our attention was the Halal Korean Food, where we had our dinner the following day.
Seoul is different than Gwangju. If you need help, just ask around since language is more widely understood, especially by the younger generations.