My Korean trip started last Thursday at 4 am. I arrived at the Tucson airport an hour and a half before my flight like a good traveler. Little did I know that the US Airways ticket counter didn’t open until 5:10 am, and couldn’t check in until just before my flight. From there it was a short flight to Phoenix, then over the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas to San Francisco. When I arrived in SFO, I only had one hour to walk/run about a mile to the International gate, check in, and go through international security. I got to the gate panting just as boarding was starting for the 747. I didn’t need to rush however, as boarding for the world first true Jumbo Jet took over an hour. It’s hard to imagine how large the aircraft really is until you spend five minutes walking to your seat at the back of the airplane past rows of 11 seats and two aisles. The 12 hour flight actually went by relatively quickly with the help of such great movies as, “Eat, Pray, Love” and “You Again” (my personal favorite). Actually the best part of the flight was the meals. Three full meals in addition to all the free pop to steal in the rear galley near the bathrooms.
Once in Korea Derek said it would just be a simple matter of catching a bus to Yongin. All I had to do was buy a bus ticket to a place I had never even heard of and was pronouncing terribly wrong, board a bus that lacked any English signage, and then ride it two hours into the ‘country’. However, the Korean idea of ‘out in the boonies’ is very different than in America. If America is the country of wide open spaces, Korea is the country of high rise apartment complexes…everywhere. When the bus stopped at the Yongin terminal I honestly though I had made a huge mistake, the area resembled more of a large city downtown the size of Indianapolis than anything remotely rural. Fortunately I didn’t screw up the bus and met up with Derek. We went to a blue collar Korean BBQ restaurant. Korean BBQ involves cooking your own food on a stone heated by gas burner. In America this would be an exotic $40 meal, but in Korea it’s pretty common and costs about $5. All of us arm wrestled the owner for Cokes, then went back to Derek’s hometown of Yongji for some drinks and lessons in the very foreign Korean culture of drinking.
The next two days we spent seeing some of the sights in Seoul. The sightseeing involved hours of bus and subway riding and about five meals a day. We met up with a bunch of Derek’s friends each day to see the sights. Seoul and Korea in general is filled with tightly packed mountains and several of these are within the city limits of Seoul itself. It should be noted that in Korea a city is similar to a county in America, so the city of Seoul contains many city centers that are known by their own independent names. On Saturday night we took a bus to the top of one of the mountains in Seoul to get a vantage of the city. The mountain is the romantic spot of the city and it’s tradition to take your girlfriend up there and put a lock on the railing to symbolize your never ending love or something like that. You’re even supposed to take the lock down if you break up so I don’t think this tradition would catch on in America since all the locks would have to be cut off at some point and it would end up just being a guard rail.
On Sunday we toured the Korean national palace that was inhabited by those ruling Korea until the mid 90’s.
Derek and I are both the year of the rabbit (1987), which is a whopping 25 in Korean age.
The actual presidential palace was situated right behind the old palace and was known as the “Blue House”.
I have a lot more blogging to do about this trip as we just got back from a big ski/DMZ trip so look forward to some blogging in the next few days.