Location: Busan, Korea
Weather: Mild and Rainy (43 F)
안녕하세요 (Hello) from Korea!
Korea is fantastic from the food to the people! The food is amazing (spicy!), the people are friendly and patient, and I am very happy with my decision to start my long trip with a stay in South Korea for two reasons. Reason 1: I have friends here! Kathleen, Candice (one of Kathleen’s fellow teachers), Taehoon, Kim, and their cute little girl Miru (The owners of the school where Kathleen teaches english) have been incredible ambassadors to South Korea. They have all helped me find my way around, given me rides, subway cards, and I owe them a lot of thanks! I will get them all together for a picture so you can meet everyone! Reason number 2: Every amenity I could possibly need is here and after being here for about 6 days, I have seen way more similarities to the US than differences.
There aren’t many English speakers here, but everyone has been incredibly patient with me as I struggle to communicate. I haven’t had anyone give up on me or lead me astray. I will try to take more pictures of the cuisine so I can share some of the great things I have been eating here. I am especially excited about a restaurant we are all going to tomorrow night. It is owned by Kim’s mom and Kathleen says that it is “Delish!”
So what have I been up to? Wow – a lot can happen in 6 days, so I have a lot to share! I may have to blog more often!
I am staying here Busan, which is the second largest city in South Korea with 4.4 Million people. I am staying at a hostel called Indy House. It’s the first time I have ever stayed in a dorm (skipped it in college), so having strangers as roommates has been interesting. I have met some great people, some grumpy people, and some interesting people so far, but no real complaints. For $20 a night, I am easy to please!
I walked over to Kathleen’s school one day and found a beautiful park adjacent to “The World’s Largest Department Store” Shinsegae in Centum City where I encountered some great art, and beautiful scenery. Despite being quite cold that day (23 F), I grabbed a few pictures.
I met up with Kathleen at her school and Taehoon was kind enough to drive us over to Haeundae Beach. When Kathleen first mentioned it, I looked at her and said, “Hyundai? Like the car?” She still laughs a bit when I pronounce it wrong every time.
We then went to an Irish Pub called the Wolfhound. It looked out of place from the outside, and felt out of place on the inside. The Korean bartenders all spoke english, the beer list was in english, they served nitro poured Guiness, and it was the first time I saw other white people. I actually enjoyed the contrast and will try to find an Irish pub whenever I feel a bit homesick. We met up with a group of Irish folks that were also in Busan teaching English and stayed out late celebrating one of their birthdays.
The next morning (Saturday) we headed out to Seoul for the weekend via the KTX train. It goes about 205 mph (310 kph) and gets us there in about 2 hours 45 minutes. The regular train takes nearly 6. It was strange to be moving that fast! Cities literally FLEW by. I tried to get some video, but I don’t think it captured the speed with which we were moving.
When we arrived in Seoul, we started down our list of tourist attractions. When you only have one and a half days in a city as big as Seoul, you have to be organized!
We decided to start by catching the city view from Seoul Tower. So did every other tourist in the city…we waited in five lines: 1. To take the tram to the top of the hill. 2. To buy tickets to go up the tower. 3. To take the elevator up to the top of the tower (no stairs!). 4. To come back down the elevator. And finally number 5: To take the tram back down the hill. So here you will be enjoying what I like to call “Three Hours of lines to get these three photos, should have just bought a postcard.” series.
We grabbed a bite to eat and crashed for the night. We woke up fairly early on Sunday morning and hit the town. We went to the palace area and visited a few palaces, namely Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace. They both sat on beautiful grounds on the north end of downtown Seoul. They are not as old as you would think. Many of South Korea’s most historical sites were destroyed during Japanese occupations or wars and have been rebuilt. However, they are all incredibly detailed and beautiful.
While we were at one of the palaces we started chatting with a nice girl from New York named Jianna who was traveling alone. We invited her to join us for the afternoon – the more the merrier! As we walked around the city, we encountered more monuments. I also wanted to share a few things I associate with home that I saw around the city.
After walking for about 7 hours we found ourselves next to the Seoul History Museum where we were educated on the cultural, social, and infrastructure history of Korea. In addition they had a special display of robots ranging from utilitarian to freaky. I now am afraid of Skynet, but will respect my computer overlords when they decide to take over the world.
We decided to catch a show I had heard about called Nanta “Cooking” which is a kitchen themed Korean version of “Stomp” involving food and knives. The show was AMAZING! We ended up being able to get front row center tickets. I could not take video during the show, but I grabbed a picture of the stage before the show started. Kathleen was brought up on the stage and we both laughed a lot and enjoyed the show. If you get to Seoul – it is a must see!
We left the show in a great mood and walked over to the subway entrance to head back to the train station. On our way, we came across the most crowded ice skating rink I have ever seen. Knowing that we would likely injure ourselves and others, we decided to stay observers.
After watching the skaters for a minute, we returned to the train station and hopped aboard the KTX train back to Busan. We were exhausted, but happy! After a good night’s sleep we woke up to a rainy day. Kathleen went off to work and I came back to my hostel to do some laundry and write this obnoxiously long blog post. I am going to have to blog more frequently or do less.
I hope you enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed seeing all of it! My love to all! Miss you!!
(See you later!)