Ok, before I give you the details of our trip, I have one thing to say:
For a country that never even made my list of places to see, South Korea, and Seoul particularily made QUITE the impression on us both. Really - we have ended up wondering if we picked the wrong country to move to!
Not that I am doubting Japan at all. Japan is an amazing country, but the differences between here and South Korea are immense. The food was AMAZING, and cheap, and huge in proportion; the shopping was cheap and cool; the people were loud, pushy, friendly, and outgoing. Everything was great. I really couldn't have asked for a better trip! One downside - Japan has made us soft....it was SOOOOOO COLD!!!!!! Oh my gosh it was freezing. And thats not just me talking, because I know I am not the most reliable source for describing temperature - even Ian was freezing!!!! It was a nice relief to get back to Nagoya and its spring like weather! Anyways, I guess I will begin describing our adventure with our arrival in Seoul:
I made a great effort to have everything organized for our trip (we had many tours and sites planned) and for the most part I did ok. Except for one minor thing - since our hostle info was in Ian's email and not mine, I failed to print it off. Soooo we spend the first half hour in Seoul searching the airport for an internet connection! We found one and drew a crude map of where we had to go. We hopped on a bus and made it to our stop safely. However from there we were quite confused. We walked a ways and decided we were lost, so we headed back to the station. This next part will summerize what the people were like to us during our entire trip.
We didn't have any change and needed to phone the hostle so we asked a man if he had any. He says yes, wait here, and takes off running! He runs out of our site...who knows where and then comes flying back with change in his hand. He asked us if we needed any help and we told him our situation. He demanded that he phone the hostle, however the number wouldn't work so he phoned the operator. They had no number listed so we had to yet again find an internet station. We tried to pay, and he refused to let us. We found the map, and he says, oh no...its too far. I will take you.
(Ian says) Around this point I was getting pretty suspicious. The guy seemed SO pushy about helping us. I figured he must be up to something... I suspected he was going to ask us for money after showing us the way... kind of an impromptu tour fee. Despite this, we were at a bit of a loss for options...
So off we go, following this guy down the street. He stopped into a few places asking for directions and even bought us each a hot drink. He continued to lead us all the way to the hostle (a good 15 min walk from the station). He barges in, jabbers something loudly in Korean to the owner and they have a good laugh. Then he turns around, shakes Ian's hand, and takes off! We didn't even have time to offer to take him for a drink! The whole thing was hilarous, and the owner of the hostle was just as loud, friendly, and helpful as him.
I was caught speechless. I wanted to at least offer to take the man out for a drink, but he ran off as quickly as he had appeared. He had been so aggressive, but only insisting that he help us.
The next morning we had our first outing. Yoo's Family (the program that teaches us cooking, tea ceremony, and all that) was our first activity. We found our way easily to the meeting spot and headed with one of the family to the house. It was an amazing old house, actually looking more like a compound of houses in a really nice, older area. These first few pictures are from our visit there.
After an introduction and Tea Ceremony, they seperated the girls and boys and had us try on Han-Bok. Here we are, looking our most Korean!
Hey Mom, Tim, Aaron, Aj, and other highschool folks who might read this: do you think the Korean outfit suits me better, or do you prefer the kimono I wore in highschool? As Tim likes to say...I'm really not helping clear up the heritage confusion issue.
This was the group that did the program with us. 7 of the people were from Bangladesh (invited by the government to South Korea), and the other 4 people were a family. The parents, 2 American's, had adopted 2 Korean children, and this was their first trip back, to see their culture first hand. They were really nice, and the kids were so talkative!
Ian looking like Royalty:
I am great.
After we had changed back into our normal clothes it was time to cook!
Our 2 recipies: Kim Chi, and Korean Pancakes.
The first picture is of Ian attempting to make kim chi. It was a messy process, but it was tasty!
Next it was my turn to try the korean pancakes. They were much easier to make than kim chi, and they tasted DELICIOUS!
As things at the Yoo's place were winding down, one of the sisters asked us if we had any free time while we were in Seoul. We said yeah, and she asked us if we wanted to work for a few hours one night! They offered to pay us and treat us to dinner, so we were like...ummm...yes!
It turns out that they own a travel company, and they make english books about Korean history for children. They needed us to edit the books for them, so the next night we headed on over to their office. It was actually really interesting for us, seeing as we got to read about Korea for 2 and a half hours, adding 'a' and 'the' to every other sentence. Afterwards, they took us to Insa-dong, one of the really popular districts for the most amazing meal!!!
Seriously - I have never seen so much food for only 4 people. This is one of the stark differences between Japan and Korea. In Japan, a quarter of that meal would have fed 8. Hahaha.
After the meal, they handed us 2 envelopes with our money, apologizing that it wasn't much, and that they know we get more in Japan. We thanked them and then went our seperate ways. When we looked at what they gave us, we had to laugh. It was 30,000 Won each which is probably about 40 dollars. More than we would make at Nova!!!
Man, the food was soooooooo goood. Apparently, our host only had to pay for the meat (about 4 racks of ribs), and the rest (a variety of salads, rice, noodles, and pickled vegetables) was all included as extra. You grill the meat on a small round barbeque in the centre of the table. Of the many dishes, everyone is encouraged to dig in with their chopsticks and eat as much as possible; so we couldn't help but feel very at home, and welcome with these people. Everything has a delicious burning red pepper spice to it also, which is quite addictive (if you like spicy food... sorry Meaghan, don't go to Korea! Dave...you should probably move there for good) so you just keep eating and eating and ..... mmmmmmm......
Anyways, getting back to our first day activities:
After we left the Yoo's house, we decided to head towards the main castle, Gyeongbokgung. It was really neat to see the differences between a Korean Castle and a Japanese Castle. The Korean ones are much more colourful I think.
Yes, the temples were quite colourful. Meaghan, you would like it....so maybe you should go to Korea, just beware of the food, because you would probably combust. Actually, the Koreans need to cut back on the spice evidently, because they have the highest rate of intestinal illnesses in the world. Seemingly, a direcct result of their lust for spice.
Despite being beautifully sunny out, it was sooooo cold, so unfortunatly we didn't feel like wandering for too long around the grounds, but it really was impressive.
These 4 pictures are just a taste of the outside. I will post the remaining castle pictures on the next post, since this one is already super big.
Keep checking the site though, because there is a ton more to come!! This is only 10 out of over 100!!! (I won't really post all 100, but there will be MORE!!!!!)