Monday, May 5, 2014

South Korea Part 1

I could probably write a novel about my trip to South Korea, but I'm going to try to just highlight the good stuff.  This first post will be about what I saw, did, and ate.  I'll write a separate post about running and training while there.  Many pictures included.

Thursday, April 24th, I got on a plane for a very long flight to South Korea.  My younger brother, who is 17 now, was born in South Korea.  He was adopted by my mom when he was 5 months old.  My mom always told him when or if he was ready to go visit, we would.  He decided that this was the year he wanted to go, so we went.  We got on a plane Thursday morning at 8:00 in Boston, flew 6 hrs to Seattle, got on another plane and flew 11 more hours to South Korea.  South Korea is 13 hrs ahead of the east coast, so it was Friday night around 7:30 by the time we got there.  Needless to say we were all zombies by the time we got there and went right to bed.

waiting to board the plan at Logan
Mountain poking through the clouds close to Seattle
Flying in to Seattle
Lunch at the airport in Seattle
Back on the plane, Korea here we come!
Saturday we planned to meet up with a friend who is currently living in South Korea teaching English as a second language.  She's been there for a few years and knows her way around.  She offered to show us around for the day, so we obviously took her up on that.  We walked around the city, visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, had our first authentic Korean food experience, did some shopping, more walking, and then crashed early.  Adjusting to the time change was not easy.  It took about 3 days before we were able to sleep past 6am and stay awake past 8pm.  

View from hotel
thank God for Starbucks
lanterns were hung around the city for Buddha's birthday 
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Shopping in Insadong
when in as Koreans do. Peace.
Day 2 we went to the Han River so I could go for a long run.  I'll write more about that when I write my next post.  When we got back from the river we got a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant my mom read was good.  When in Mexican?  Anyways, it was delicious.  

Han River
Trying to find Mexican food
Found it!  Obviously needed a margarita
South Koreans wear matching "couples clothes".
...this was the best we could do
Day 3 we went to an aquarium.  It was inside a mall that was being built.  We took the subway to most places.  Their subway system is really great.  Clean, huge, and easy to navigate even if you don't know how to read or speak Korean.  Most things are written in English as well, which helped us out a lot.  

Dory and Nemo
Hey there 
Day 4 we went to the National History Museum.  When we got there their were a bunch of school boys waiting outside the building.  A few of them approached us asking where we were from.  We told them Boston and their response was "baseball"!  They started telling us they were on the baseball team and talked to us for a few minutes.  They were super cute.  

Day 5 my mom and brother went to the DMZ.  Ryan and I stayed back and walked around Seoul some more, and did some shopping.  We got lunch at a Korean BBQ restaurant, which is really popular.  The tables have burners in the middle of them and they give you the meat uncooked to cook on the burners in front of you.  Included are a bunch of side dishes, which always includes Kimchee (fermented cabbage with spices and sauce, it's sweet, spicy, and they eat it all the time).  Later that day we bought some Soju (very cheap rice wine), which they often drink and I had heard a lot about.  Obviously, I had to try it.  We were pretty tired from the previous days, and took the afternoon to relax in the hotel and drink some Soju until my mom and brother got back.  When they got back we went to yet another Mexican restaurant that was absolutely delicious!  South Koreans definitely know how to eat and have lots of good food available.  

Korean BBQ, selfies, and Soju
Day 6 we went to another palace and toured the (not so secret) secret garden.  It was beautiful.  There are many palaces in South Korea, where the kings used to live.  They keep them preserved and are big tourist attractions.  Later that day we went up to the top of Namsan Mountain, which is really just a big hill.  The views from the top are amazing.  We took a tram to the top, and walked back down.  At the top of the mountain there is Namsan Tower.  We went to the top of the tower, which has 360 degree views of Seoul and South Korea.  It was incredible to see all the buildings and mountains surrounding the city.  Also at the top of Namsan Tower are "love locks."  There's a fence where couples have put locks to signify their forever love. Ryan brought a lock with him to put on the fence for us.  I didn't know he did that until we arrived in Seoul (awwww), it was really sweet.  

walking through the secret garden 
view from the tram
view from the tower
after placing our lock,
you can kind of see them on the fence behind us
Namsan Tower all lit up
Day 7 we went to the Korean War museum.

cheesing in front of the museum

Namsan Tower in the background
Day 8 we went back to the Han River so I could do another long run (again more about that later).  When we got back from the river we met up with our friend again for a late lunch.  She took us to a restaurant to try Samgyeopsal, which is another popular meal where they bring the meat raw, and it cooks on a grill in front of you.  It's typically pork, we also got beef.  They serve a bunch of side plates with it, rice, and lettuce leaves to wrap everything in and shove it in your mouth.  It was delicious!

the Han River was beautiful! 
Sunday it was time to go home.  We got on the plane at 10 and landed 13 hrs later in Toronto.  From there it was an hour and half on another (very small) plane to Boston.  We were very sad to leave, but ready to go home.  The flights didn't seem quite as back coming back as they did going out.  The trip was an amazing experience and one that I am so lucky to have had the chance to take.  

back at the airport, sad to leave
view of the sunset from the plane, when we left Korea it was morning,
we flew in to the night and then back in to the mind boggling
Final notes: Seoul is so different than anywhere I have ever been before.  I was blown away by the number of people in the city at all times.  We looked it up and there are over 10 million people living in Seoul, almost 15 times as many as those living in Boston.  You are constantly bumped in to and weaving around people walking through the city.  It took some time to get used to that, as I'm not a big fan of extra large crowds.  There was no escaping it.  There is shopping everywhere.  There are various different areas throughout the city that are lined with stores, restaurants, carts set up to sell things, and carts full of food.  They have tons of different street foods.  We made the comment that South Koreans love to walk, eat, shop, and repeat.  It was definitely an incredibly eye opening experience that I will forever remember. 

Up next: running in South Korea.        

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Sounds like quite the trip. It's really awesome that you had the opportunity to go there with your family. Seems like you guys got to do a lot of fun stuff and eat amazing food! Can't wait to hear about the running part!!