A Travellerspoint blog

Nov. 19th

Audra has Seoul

Yes; I saw THE Billy Joel in concert in Seoul. You should be utterly jealous. It was amazing. I went this past weekend with two girlfriends and had a blast - at the concert and in Seoul. Seoul feels completely different than Busan. For one, the gene pool up there is completely different. There are tall people there. I don't know what they eat, but it's something that the people of Busan don't. The men in general are much better looking. Busan really got handed the worst end of the deal. On top of that, everywhere I went there were foreigners. It's not too often that I regularly see a foreigner on the street in Busan, but in Seoul they were everywhere. Plus, Seoul just feels like a city, unlike Busan. It's crazy to think that because Busan has a population of 5 million, but it really doesn't feel like a city. Now I wouldn't change living in Busan to Seoul because Busan has the water and the mountains, but Seoul just has a different feel to it.

Alright, so we left for Seoul Saturday morning on the KTX, which is the fastest train in South Korea. It takes about 3 and a half hours to get there, where as it usually takes 4 and a half to 5 hours to get to Seoul. Right when we stepped off the train, it was three foreign girls in Seoul.

We first decided to hit up Lotte world, which really is a world of its own. It has underground shopping and then once you get out of the subway, there's Lotte world and then more random shops. This place is enormous. The big part has hot air balloons that you can get in and it takes you around the mall, a bowling alley, ice skating rink, shooting range, and loads of other shops. So we decided to go ice skating. And not to toot my horn or anything, but I didn't fall once. However I did play 'dodge the Korean that fell' on more than 20 occasions.
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After ice skating and grabbing a little bit of grub, we then hop back onto the subway. Here is the Seoul Metro subway map: yes it's enormous, yes we missed one of our stops once, and no we were never late for anything.
The key to managing the subway is just to pay attention and take your time. It can be overwhelming, but if you know where you're going and have a map handy at all times it's all gravy. This is also what most every Korean does on the subway: sleep. I've been told to be quiet on the subway on many occasions because apparently the humming of the tracks and the stuffed bellies of kimchi makes people tired.
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While on the subway, being the tallest women we decided to take advantage and show just how tall we really are, in comparison to the women here. The picture shows that there is a good difference, but I'll tell you, Sarah and myself are about 1 1'2 taller than the women here.
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So it started off: Busan -> KTX -> Seoul -> Subway -> Lotte World -> Subway -> Billy Joel

Then the whole reason why we came to Seoul was happening; Billy Joel. I was a little concerned on how reserved it would be because I had heard different experiences from different people on how concerts were dealt here, but people were singing, clapping, standing, dancing, ect. The regular concert stuff. We had a blast and it was so much fun!
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Then it was off to bed so we could do it all again tomorrow.

Sunday morning, got breakfast, wondered around Seoul more, and tried to decide on what to do for the rest of the day and whether or not to head back home Sunday night or Monday morning. Originally there was another concert that I wanted to see in Seoul on Sunday night, but the plans never came together and I could never get any answer. So once we decided that we weren't going to the concert, we then had to make the decision on when to go home. The buses that run from Busan to Seoul run so often that the latest bus left at 2am. However, it wasn't the cheapest. The cheapest train left at 9 and was 20 bucks so we opted for that. We got our bus tickets and then my two girlfriends had their own show to see;Cirque Solis in the afternoon. I couldn't shell out the doe, so yep, I wandered around some more. I ran into some adorable dogs, some men playing some board game, amazingly beautiful scenery, and a garden of cabbage. They do love that cabbage here!
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After the girls saw the show, we met up with some of their friends and headed into Itaewon, which is a popular area in Seoul to go shopping, get different ethnic foods, and not feel like you're in Korea. So... I finally fed the monster craving that I've been having; Mexican food. We went to a restaraunt called Amigos, which for trying to imitate Tex Mex, did a pretty good job. I was wanting tamales, but alas they didn't have any so I opted for enchiladas along with 2 maragaritas. Oh I was a happy camper!

Before our night was coming to an end, we stopped at an English bookstore called Whatthebook. It's a Korean company that offers English books by internet, and their actual store is in Itaewon. So popped in because there was a book that I'd been wanting to buy by Chuck Palahniuk called "Snuff". Got that and then headed to the bus station to go home.

So here we go: Busan -> KTX -> Seoul -> Subway -> Lotte World -> Subway -> Billy Joel -> Subway -> Sleep
Sunday : Breakfast -> Subway -> Wander around -> Bus tickets -> Subway -> Cirque Solis (wander around) -> Subway -> Itaewon and Mexican food -> Book store -> Subway (and this is where the one missed stop happend)-> Bus station

We left Seoul at 9 and got into Busan at about 1:30am. I then took a taxi to Jangsan which put me getting home Monday morning at 2am and it was totally worth it!!

Posted by almchenry 18:51 Comments (0)

Oct. 22nd

So it's almost been 4 months (the 29th is my marker) and I'm still going strong. Lots of stuff has been going on. It seems like every weekend there is something to do or somewhere to go. Fall is very much the celebratory season here. Three weeks ago I climbed Seoraksan, two weeks ago I went to a lantern festival in Jinju, and this past weekend was the fireworks festival in Gwangali. I've also taken up Muay Thai, but I'll get into that later.

You know about and have seen Seoraksan, so I'll start with Jinju. Two Saturdays ago, me and 5 other girlfriends went to Jinju. It's not in Busan, so it's about an hour and a half bus ride for 7,000w. The festival had been going on for a week already so we were catching it on it's last night. It was incredible. Jinju is not a very big city but when it's filled with thousands of people, it sure does get big quick. There's a river that flows thru it which is where all of the lanterns are placed. Then on either side of the river are shops set up from all over South Korea to all over the world. You can buy different types of food to play games or make your own lanterns. It was spectacular, it was also incredibly expensive I imagine. They also had performances by singers and traditional dancers. I tellin' you, this festival is like no other festival I've been to. Since all the hotels were full and there was an opportunity to head home, that's what we did. There was a bus that headed out of Jinju at midnight. Now the thing is, is that it is first come first serve with a 9,000 price tag. And if you got a seat you were lucky. The 5 girls and myself weren't lucky. Four of us ended up sitting in the aisle and the other two stood the rest of the time. I'm not complaining at all though. It was a blast and so much fun! (I've run out of photo space on travellerspoint, so I uploaded them to a flickr account. Here is the link to view some of the pictures from Jinju. http://www.flickr.com/photos/31640083@N06/sets/72157608231071315/)

This past weekend was the fireworks festival in Gwangali which happens to be in Busan. 1.5 million people showed up. People from all over South Korea flock to Gwangali to see the fireworks each year. Typically you get there around 3, set up camp on the beach and wait for the entire beach to be flooded with people. I however didn't exactly go that route. Earlier I headed to a rally to see the third debate, and then went to Gwangali. By the time that we got there, which was around 7:30pm the entire place was a mad house. They had shut down the subway two stops ahead and behind of Gwangali, there were police pretty much everywhere (however they aren't so much police as they are little men holding red batons). There are people shoving and pushing you to move. I told a friend that this really could be the apocalypse. It was insane. However we made it to a rooftop of an apartment building overlooking the bridge and the water. There probably couldn't have been a better place to be. It wasn't crowded and I saw each and every firework that was shot. It was by far the best and probably will be the best firework show that I see. And if you look closely enough, there was a harvest moon in the background. I tried to get pictures of it but they all came out blurry, but in the video you can see it. It was the perfect moon for a night of fireworks. (See flickr for pictures and youtube for videos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/31640083@N06/sets/72157608223339062/ http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=X4XelTwEk74http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=GuhA_uQvu6s)

Then there is Muay Thai. Me and a girlfriend have taken up the Thai kickboxing/martial art. I do it Mon-Fri and it works me over. It's so much fun. It also helps keep me from getting into the shape that so many foreigners get in and that is being lazy, drinking, and eating so much. It's so easy to get trapped in that, so she and I decided to revolt against it. Probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've always been interested in doing a form of martial arts, so I figured that since I'm in the area I might as well go for it.

Other than that, everything is going good. Nov. 15th me and 2 other girlfriends are heading up to Seoul to see Billy Joel and I'm so stoked for that! I think that's the only thing that I have planned so far, but nothing is ever planned in advance here in South Korea. I hope everyone is doing well and I can't wait to see all of y'all! And if you have the opportunity to eat mexican food, please eat some for me, seeing as I'm craving it as I would imagine an eight month pregnant woman would kill for some.

Love

Posted by almchenry 22:19 Comments (0)

Oct. 6th

So I know a lot of you are just about as anxious for this blog entry as you are to hear Palin speak again. I do hope though that you find this as amusing, if not more amusing, than her foreign policies.

On another note, I do apologize for not keeping up with this blog as much as I should. BUT I have lots (or as much as Travellers Point would let me have) of pictures to bribe you into forgiving me. So on we go!

Recently, as in this past weekend, I got back from hiking a mountain. A group of 9 including myself, headed up North (not North Korea) for a long weekend to go trek Seoraksan. We left early Friday morning at 8:40am to ride on a bus for 7 hours to end up in Sokcho. When we got there we ended up getting a hostel, which was the first ever for me.
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We then got dinner and ended the night with the conclusion that we were going to get up at 5:30 and be out the door by 6am to do an all day hike. Next morning, we're out the door by 6am and walking towards the mountain.

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It was all uphill from there. When I first entered Seoraksan the immediate reaction I had was that it reminded me of an amusement park. There are tons of people, stands set up on the side selling everything you might need, and kids running around. It really was nothing like I was expecting.
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And to let you know, South Korean's are huge into hiking. If you were to tell me that hiking is South Korea's favorite hobby/past time activity, I would have said that you're lying.

Once you get past the entry, you first come upon an enormous statue of Buddha which is absolutly breathtaking!

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Luckily for me, there was a woman worshiping and watching her was incredibly peaceful. There was a grace about her that eased my state of mind. Then we were off to hike 10km.
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The highlight of Seoraksan in the Fall is the colors. As I was hiking up this mountain, it seemed as though I am watching the colors change right before my eyes. This place is probably one of the most beautiful places that I've ever been to.
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However, as beautiful and serene as Seoraksan appears it is completely vicious.
Hiking: to walk or march a great distance, esp. through rural areas, for pleasure, exercise, military training, or the like.
Mountain Climbing: The climbing of mountains, especially the scaling of rock faces by means of special equipment and techniques.
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There were points in this hike that I had to use techniques that shouldn't be used in hiking, but maybe that's my own personal opinon. Not to mention that 97% of Koreans use ski/hiking poles to hike up and down the mountain.

It was a good time though. There were a couple of times where I threw my hands up in the air and said forget it, but I pushed on. Out of 9 of us though, only 4 made it all the way to the summit. I wasn't one of the four and that's okay. I made it 3/4 of the way up which for scaling an 80 degree mountain, I figured that was pretty damn good. It was a good time with good people, but I now feel and walk like an 80 year old jewish woman. Oy vey!
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Other than this past weekend, everything has been going great. I recently hit my 3 month mark and it really doesn't feel like it's been 3 months. I'm now syncing in with my enviroment and where I am. I was concerned earlier that I wouldn't get settled and actually feel apart of South Korea, but I have developed some great friends and good times. I knew it was something that I couldn't force and that I had to let it unfold at its own pace, but I'm extremely happy that it finally did. I feel like I'm at a pinnacle right now. I'm sure like any peak though, there is a fall but I think I'll be stable enough to handle it now that I have the support of friends around me.

Being here I have realized that I have taken Fall for granted and not seen the beauty in her. There are so many activies going on during Fall, so that means a lot of updates and pictures. I'll also try to not keep my lovely fans waiting a month and a half until the next entry. Until the next time, I hope that all of y'all (oh yes, I still have the y'all and use it frequently in my classroom) are doing wonderful!

Love.

Posted by almchenry 07:13 Comments (1)

August 23rd

It's around 7pm Saturday night and I'm sitting outside in the lovely, breezy weather that a cold front has brought in. Later, it'll most likely rain, but for now I'm enjoying the breeze.

It's been a productive day that started around 1:30pm. You don't have to tell me how lucky I am; I already know. :) I try to pace myself throughout my day, so being productive early in the morning just seems ridiculous. I digress. I eventually ended up walking to Haeundae Beach, which is the beach that South Korea is known for. From my apartment, it's about a 20 minute walk, which if you have good music and not in a hurry, it can be a very nice walk. Haeundae Beach is the most crowded, touristy beach there is. It's taken me almost 2 months to go, and it's exactly like everyone said. But it does have it's beautiful parts, as you can see in the pictures below.
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After making it through the beach, I headed towards the market. The market really is a site to see. There are about 100 shops set up selling everything from fish, vegetables, meat, to clothing. I was looking particularly for a sarong but had no such luck.

I was on my way back from Haeundae and saw an interesting place to take some photos. As I was asking for the scenery to be a tiger or for it to pout for me, I was interrupted by a foreign woman. She wanted to know how to get to Haeundae beach. I explained to her the way, and eventually it came out that this was her first day here. She was tackling Haeundae on the first day; it took me 2 months. Some people have the spunk, and others do not. The conversation ended with me telling her not to get lost, and then I started back on my way home.
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While on the way back to Jangsan, there is this rest stop that many taxi's chill at. I've always been curious as to why they stop there, so I took the path less traveled, and it really is. It turns out that this mountain/very very large hill has many trails on it. Some trails have stones laid, and others are just run down paths that eventually turned into trails. The amazing part about this monstrosity of forest and mosquitoes are that there are red benches everywhere. It really is a place for inspiration or for finding some zen. Luckily I got both.
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I've done some other stuff too, but like I said, I like to pace my day. I ran into some girlfriends and am now heading to a grab a drink and watch the South Korea vs Cooba (Korean's say Cooba. It's utterly annoying) baseball game. Let's go Korea!

Posted by almchenry 03:02 Comments (1)

Aug. 12th

I've been here roughly a month and a half, and already I'm starting to become Asian. It took me 4 times in class, the other day, to say volleyball. For some reason I was insisting on saying bolleyball, which is how Asians (or at least South Koreans) pronounce volleyball. I about ripped my hair out.

Slowly I've been shortening my sentences, just talking to foreigners. All you need is key words, so why with all the rest of the mumbo jumbo? For instance: "Let's go now." -> "Go now." And it's sad, because all of the foreigners know what you're saying, because they say the same exact thing.

That's all I really have to update on. So if I come back with broken English and pronounce my F's P's, my B's to V's, and just simply making no sense at all, you know why.

Posted by almchenry 06:11 Comments (0)

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