Trip to Korea <- February 2000 <- Japan <- Home

South Korean Trip February 2000

Foundation Day on Friday 11th Feb' gave us another Japanese long weekend and a perfect excuse to go travelling. This combined with time off due to good behaviour (weekend English Camps) got us 5 days off. David, Mackie and I (Kim, David was too lazy to do a write up) decided on Seoul. Mackie and I had been to Korea for Christmas but not made it to Seoul which we felt the need to rectify. David just felt the need to leave the country.

Wednesday 9th Feb'
The flights were all booked up, something to do with a big religious group, so we jumped on the boat. The weather was less than conspicuous, they had actually threatened to cancel the ferry. I got the worst of it and found that grapefruit and chocolate make a decent combination! The other two managed to sleep through the rocky ride. We arrived in Pusan early afternoon, with time to kill until we took the overnight up to Seoul we dropped our bags off and headed for a late lunch. Korean food was a delightful change after the rather bland Japanese cuisine we've somewhat got used to. We then headed for the International Market, with a quick stop to get Mackie a new rucksack. It's surprising how enthralling jars of pickles and peanut M&M's become after time away from home! For tea we abandoned the home cuisine and went for Mexican which is nigh on impossible to find in Saga. Happily full and with a few new CD's we headed back to the bus station to find that the overnight to Seoul had been cancelled due to bad weather. Whoops! We checked into a Love hotel (hourly rates available!) and were treated to excellent sound effects!!

Thursday 10th Feb'
We must have been really tired because we didn't stir until 1pm. We hurriedly organised ourselves and hopped on the bus to Seoul. The six hour trip cost only $26, and this was on the luxury bus!! Arrived in Seoul only to realise that we didn't know where anything was, so we decided to take a trip to around the middle of the Subway route and find accommodation there. For once David made a good decision! After a few problems about sharing a room with members of both sexes we found a nice little traditional hotel for only $10 a night. Heated floors are amazing. Teatime, Mack' and I had had grilled pork wrapped in lettuce leaves last time we were in Korea and were determined to find them again. With little effort we stumbled upon a busy little restaurant which supplied us with mok sal sam kyub sal. You grill the marinated pork in front of you then you take a lettuce leaf in your hand, put the pork on, some chilli sauce and spicy spring onions (sorry can't remember the American), roll and eat. To work off the dinner we took a stroll around the local area which at 10/11pm was still surprisingly lively. We purchased a lot of ice cream and retired to our room where we proceeded to chat until a ridiculous time.

Friday 10th Feb'
Despite the late/early hour at which we got to sleep we managed to get out of bed at a reasonable hour. There was a huge walled park just across the road from our hotel which we decided would be our first port of call. Thus turned out to be Chongmyo, the royal ancestral shrine of the choson dynasty (1393-1910). The juxtaposition of these peaceful royal grounds and bustling downtown Seoul was quite eerie. You could forget where you were until you looked at the skyline, with the towering skyscrapers but all you could hear was birdsong! By 2pm Mackie was thoroughly bored and looking for some retail therapy so we headed out of the park only to be confronted by a protest. Not quite sure what it was all about but we saw quite a few and tonnes of policemen in the little time we had in the Korean capital. For lunch we indulged in Pizza Hut, someone still needs to explain that one to me, I avoid it at home! Then we headed for the arty area, Insadong, where there are a plethora of craft shops enough to tire even the most ardent shopper. We all bought a fair bit our main purchases being a scrolled wall hanging each. David opted for a black and white mountain scene, Mackie some birds and cherry blossom and I got an orchid. These were only $30 compared to $120 plus in Japan, Korea was so cheap and apparently that is nothing compared to Thailand and Vietnam. Previous Jet visitors had recommended a visit to Sanchon, a vegetarian restaurant run by a monk, which offers a performance of traditional Korean dance and music every evening. Inspite of the strange conversations at the neighbouring table and the generally unidentifiable food I think we all had a great time.

Saturday 11th Feb'
Getting out of bed this morning was a struggle after David and I had stayed awake chatting until the sun came up and we realised we really ought to try and get some sleep!! First stop was Insadong again to pick up the tea set I had ummed and aahed about the day before. In the Korean Times the night before David had seen an ad for a Middle Eastern/Indian restaurant and had his heart set on that so we headed for Itaewon, renowned shopping district for foreigners. Much to David's disappointment the Taj Mahal was solely Indian, it was still really good though. We then hit Itaewon for some hard core shopping which was never realised. Itaewon was my idea of hell on earth, crammed with army personnel, Koreans who had undergone a personality change due to the foreigners and tacky merchandise along with over priced sports goods. It really couldn't have been much worse, thankfully the others agreed and we made a sharp exit. In Itaewon's defence it is meant to be the best place to party in South Korea. From here we just wandered through the miasma which is downtown Seoul finally ending up via a Clinique store at a Haagen Daas bar which has to be the opposite of Itaewon for me, comforted by mango and raspberry sorbet we decided to take in a movie (film!). Going to the cinema in Japan costs $18, in Korea it's $5 or $6, it felt criminal not to go. The girls pulled together and despite David's objections we got to watch The Beach, mistake. If you are intrigued by the film don't bother, read the book instead it's far better. Anna and the King is a far better film on Thailand. We then hit TGI Fridays where we had the hugest servings I have ever seen in my life. My salad was big enough to feed a family of four! Time up already! Back on the overnight bus this time the return leg to Pusan.

Sunday 12th Feb'
Sleep deprived we arrived in Pusan just before 7am. In order to refresh ourselves we decided on a trip to the spa. In Japan these places are very relaxed and comforting, in Korea however on a Sunday morning it was a place for all the locals to gather and be very vocal about the neighbourhood gossip. Clean but not necessarily de-stressed we dropped our bags off and headed back to the International Market where we bought M&M's in bulk and gifts for our schools. So soon, the time had come again to get back on the ferry which was thankfully a little kinder to my stomach this time.

David and I were both quite sick after this trip and ended up having another week off work. You have been warned, don't travel with him he's dangerous for your health!

All the photos!


Trip to Korea <- February 2000 <- Japan <- Home