I stayed at the Chocolate Box Backpackers hostel for five more days. I was so tired and burned out that I kept mostly to myself and stayed inside. The weather was still wet and dreary, so I wasn’t missing out on much outside. I read the web, watched some movies, and otherwise relaxed. On Friday, March 2, I flew from Taipei to Seoul, and then a couple hours later I flew to Seattle, Washington.
For Monday, October 24, 2011 Busan I packed my things and chatted for a few minutes with the beautiful Mina, the Korean girl who worked the front desk. Her English was really good. She had taken the job there to practice speaking English because she was engaged to a Welsh man who was teaching English in Busan. I was flying to Japan the next day, so I had bought a train ticket the day before from Busan to Seoul, and had booked a hostel in Incheon, since I was flying out of the airport there.
For Friday, October 14, 2011 Seoul I had heard good things about Jeju, an island off the southern shore, and Busan, a port city on the southern shore, so I decided to spend some time there. I had about ten days left, which would be enough time to do both, so I decided to spend part of the day planning those trips. I bought flights from Seoul to Jeju on Sunday, October 16, and Jeju to Busan on Friday, October 21.
A short video of the highlights from the Korean cultural event that I went to. There are shots of the crowd, but I didn’t see myself. Maybe you can spot me? I was sitting center stage. The signs the people make with their thumb and forefinger or forefinger and middle finger are the letter ‘V’ for victory (I presume from the Korean War). It’s a common pose for pictures.
For Saturday, October 15, 2011 Seoul For several days prior, I had been approached by various people my age on the street and told about a cultural event for foreigners to learn about Korean culture. Mia (the hostel owner) had told all her guests about it as well, so I had decided to go. This day was the day, so I did some laundry and blogged until it was time to leave for the cultural event.
For Thursday, October 13, 2011 Seoul They told me so on the DMZ tour. I had asked Mia (the hostel owner) to book me a Korean DMZ tour. Keren (from Australia) was going as well, so we both left at about 8 AM and were picked up by the tour company. We met another couple along the way, Lexi (from New York) and Graeme (from England), whom we chatted with along the way.
For Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Seoul The night before I had planned to go to Gyeongbokgung palace the next day, since my last attempt hadn’t worked out. As I was preparing for my day out, I met Henry from Australia, who was departing Seoul that afternoon and also wanted to see Gyeongbokgung. I asked him if he wanted to join me, and he did, so off we went. Gyeongbokgung is the most impressive palace that I’ve seen.
For Tuesday, October 11, 2011 Seoul I ran into Charles (from Singapore) in the morning at the hostel and he invited me to join him hiking the Bukhansan mountain that borders Seoul. Not having a plan of my own yet, and since it sounded like something I wouldn’t otherwise consider, I agreed, and we set out. Charles had researched the directions, so I was just tagging along mostly. We took the subway to the right station, exited at the right exit, but the bus we needed to take to Bukhansan wasn’t listed at the nearby bus stop.
For Monday, October 10, 2011 Seoul Having stayed up until 5 AM the night before, I got a late start in the morning. Mia was pretty hung over and stayed inside all day to recover. I left the hostel at 4:30 PM and headed for Gyeongbokgung Palace. I emerged from the subway station and couldn’t see the palace. It could have been two blocks in any direction. For the second time since arriving in Seoul, I realized that my map wasn’t up to the task of orienting me based on street names.
For Sunday, October 9, 2011 Seoul At the start of my first full day in Seoul, I got some lunch at a restaurant down the street with another hostel guest, Charles. I ordered a very tasty kimchi and pork meal. Afterward, we split up, and I looked for a world ATM in the neighborhood and withdrew some more cash, since I had had to pay for my entire stay at the hostel up front in cash.
For Saturday, October 8, 2011 Seoul I arrived in Seoul on Saturday at 5:40 PM. I got through customs and immigration without a problem. It took a few minutes of looking to find a world ATM to withdraw 200,000 in the local currency, the wan. (I love being a millionaire!) I had wanted to look at the options for renting a smart phone and get some touring information, but I was concerned about being late to check into my hostel, so I took the express train from the Incheon airport to Hongik University in Seoul.