So, I went back to Korea. Here’s the story:
Took the ferry (the good ol’ Sunflower & Beetle that you may remember from my previous visit). I hope thats the last time I make that trip. It’s not that bad, its just so time consuming and not actually much cheaper than flying. I flew home from Seoul – Matsuyama and that was much quicker. (Although a bit dramatic – As we were landing the plane suddenly pulled straight up in the air and the pilot comes on and says “we can’t land, bad weather”. I nearly pooped my pants. Fortunately we managed to land on our second try. But then I was strip searched in the Matsuyama airport – I later found out that a JET in another prefecture was arrested for trying to smuggle in marijuana to Japan. All JETs are now subject to full searches, apparently, when we return. Katie & Deandra said the same thing happened when they flew back from Hong Kong.)
We arrived in Busan (or Pusan), and headed to the station to grab the Korean version of the shinkansen to Seoul. We had a pickup from the subway stop by our hostel guy, which was wonderful considering the amount of luggage we all decided to bring. For anyone looking for a good hostel to stay at in Seoul, I strongly recommend BiBim Guesthouse. It’s your fairly average hostel in terms of style, but the two guys working there, Konda & Panda, make it wonderful! It’s the little things, from the personalized homemade breakfast right when you wake up, to the Korean survival guide they hand you when you first come in, that make your trip easier. They booked all our day trips for us, and gave us recommendations on everything. They were lifesavers multiple times. Loved it.
Anyway, Seoul was wonderful. I did some shopping, H&M & Forever 21, something I am so deprived of here in Japan!
But let’s get to the good stuff:
Seoul Tower on Christmas Eve
The night of December 24, we headed up to the top of Seoul tower, to get a nighttime view of the city. The 4 of us (Me, Katie, Deandra, & Gavin) were the ONLY non-couple group. Apparently that was the romanticy-couply thing to do on Christmas Eve! But we embraced it anyway.
View of Seoul from Seoul Tower.
Christmas Day in Korea
In search of a home-style meal, we headed to The Rocky Mountain Tavern where we were able to get a real turkey dinner (!!!!). There needs to be more foreign bars like this in Shikoku.
Christmas Dinner in Seoul.
Visit to the DMZ
Another great Korean adventure was heading up to the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea.
The North/South Korean Border
The best experience here at the border was meeting and chatting with one of the guards. It was at this point, where we were looking into North Korean territory, and taking photos from behind the line, when we almost got into a little trouble.
You are only allowed to take photos from behind this yellow line, as the photo shows. Watson so hilariously exclaims, “Well, if someone wants to climb on my back and take a photo, but from behind the line, is that still okay?” I didn’t think it was such a good idea to test that theory, what with all the armed guards and such, and just as Emma is about to climb on his back, a guard walks up and says, “Hey, so, yeah, I’m just not going to let you do that.” He had a bit of a chuckle to his voice, and a few minutes later says, “Actually, I’ve never seen anyone try that, that’s pretty hilarious.” So we stop and have a bit of a chat with this guy, who we found out grew up in Chicago and goes to university in — (some other state. I cant remember now! I want to say Michigan? Anyway..). Due to his maintaining Korean citizenship, he has to fulfill his mandatory 2 years service (“77 days left!”) before he returns to America to finish his education. As we’re talking to this guard, getting all the details about the Korean army lifestyle, a passerby approaches and says to the guard; “Sorry, I can’t help but overhear. Your English is so good.” The guard laughs, looks at him and says, “Thanks bud, so is yours.” We all cracked up. The funniest part of the trip, and the coolest; nothing like getting the inside scoop from a solider himself! Especially one that, spending the majority of his life in America, can really tell us the differences. Unfortunately we were kept on a tight schedule, and couldn’t talk to him for long.
We also visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The story there is quite sad, as much of the palace was destroyed by the Japanese. But we got a free guided tour in English, saw the changing of the guards, and got our culture fill for the day in. A recommended sight for sure. But we checked our Japan pride at the door this day.
I can’t mention Korea this time around without giving a detailed explanation of the deliciousness that is this country. The food is AMAZING in Korea. Obviously, the best thing is the Korean BBQ. Each table is equipped with a little grill, and you make the meat yourself. Then, you wrap it in a piece of lettuce after dipping it in amazing sauce, and enjoy! We could not get enough of it! They have “Korean BBQ” here in Japan, but as is so often the case, nothing compares to the real thing!
Cooking up the meat and the kimchi and other veggies.
Ready for eating.
WELL. That’s all for now! Next post will be about NYE in Japan! Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays. Wishing you all health, love & happiness in 2013!