Departed Sunday, Dec 27, 6am LAX.
Arrived in Seoul Monday, Dec 28th, 9pm.
Welcome to Korea!
Tuesday, Dec 29
Woke up around noon and ate some kimbop at Gail’s apartment. We walked about 20 minutes to her school, and to the bank to exchange some money and pay her bills. Gail wasn’t sure how to pay her bills, so a lady helped us, as she saw that we were struggling. Each bill has a payment side that you put into the atm. You then put in your pin number and it pulls them money from your account and transfers it to the company you are paying. I guess it’s not quite as good as online bill pay, but it amazed me that they are able to have every company who needs to be paid that way have the same format and comply with the bank’s systems. Gail said that people give their account numbers out much more freely here, as then you can just get someone’s account number and transfer money to their account any pay them that way. It has amazed me how technologically advanced Korea is.
We then took the bus to Ilsan and stopped at the Western Dom shopping center. Korea isn’t that cheap, but you can find some things cheap. We found some boots and shoes for $10, but we ended up not getting any of them. We went up to the movie theater (CGV) and purchased tickets for the Sherlock Holmes movie. The theater was pretty similar to an American movie theater, except you get to pick the set where you sit. They show you a chart and it’s kind like a concert where you get to pick your spot. They show quite a few American movies, and they’re in English with Korean subtitles. It surprised me that people here know English that well, or at least really want to know it, so they practice listening to it on TV and movies.
We had some time before the movie started, so we went to dinner at a Thai restaurant called Simply Thai. Gail is helpful in knowing which foods are gluten free 🙂 We had some Pad Thai and Beef wide noodles. Both were very good! After dinner we went over to Lottee and walked around the store. It is like huge department store! It was so expensive though. We found a rack of fur coats that were around $2,000 each! Gail said that Korea’s spend lot of money. They want to have a lavished lifestyle. They greatly care about how they look (I think they’re very beautiful people; It’s said that Korean women are the most beautiful asians), and will go to great costs to look great. Many of them will have surgery on their eyes, in order to have the “double eyelid” look so that they can wear makeup better. I’ve now been looking at everyone’s eyes to see how many people have that! haha. Gail said that when they have a news anchor position available, many girls will have the surgery on their eyes, and their parents are very happy to pay for it, as it’s something that will help them in their career. They consider it an investment for the future. It’s about $1000 and is considered a minor surgery.
After wandering around in the expensive department store, and realizing that the Koreans may be much more materialistic than I am, we went back and watched the movie. We enjoyed it. I realized that I probably haven’t been to a movie theater in over a year! Shows you how entertainment-based my life is 😉
As we got off the bus and walked towards Gail’s house, it started to snow! Just little flurries, but enough for this SoCal girl to get excited! Gail and I read Colossians before going to bed. Yay, finally we got to do it together! We’ve been working on reading different books together, but apart. Now we finally were able to read out loud together.
Wednesday, Dec 30
We took the bus near Gail’s house to Ilsan (the Madu station) and then took about a 40 minute subway ride in to a suburb, or little city (not exctly sure how it works) in Seoul, called Gwanghwamun. We went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. We were able to see the changing of the guards, and they had funny outfits! Gail got a picture right next to one of them. It was pretty cold outside, so we decided to go inside to the National Palace Museum of Korea so that we would know what we were looking at. The museum was a collection of all of Korea’s historical artifacts (think Smithsonian, but not as big). It was helpful to read all the info, especially since I don’t really know anything about Korea. They only had 2 different dynasties for about 600 years. That’s pretty impressive! Then the Japanese came and took over for a short time, before Korea became the Republic of Korea. Many of the things that Gail and I have read about have shown the bitterness towards the Japanese for this invasion. She said that some people still don’t like Japan, but most of the current relations with Japan are okay now.
After the museum we went out and ate at the museum restaurant. It was some pumpkin soup and the soup was poured in to the pumpkin. It was cute, and good. We also enjoyed out kimbop that we had purchased from a little stop earlier.
We then went in to the palaces (only $3 entrance fee!) and got to see the beautiful architecture and painting. The buildings looked like traditional Chinese buildings that you would see in pictures. There were some really neat ones. The place was huge! We walked out one of the gates and saw the Blue House, which is where their president lives. We also went to the National Folk museum, which was very big, and had a lot of historical facts as well. This museum had many more signs in English which was really nice, so we were learn a little more than at the previous museum.
We got booted out of the museum, as it was closing time, so we heard that there were some art museums and coffee shops along Samcheongdong-gil street. We headed over there and saw a sign for special coffee, Kopi Luwak. This coffee is super expensive, as it’s super hard to get. You see, they feed the coffee bean to a monkey, and it poops it out. Somehow they take this then and make it in to coffee. I had heard about it before, and so Gail and I were curious and went inside to check it out (plus it was freezing outside!). If you wanted a cup of pure kopi luwak coffee it was $25 so we opted for the Carmel Mocha with a small portion of the kopi luwak coffee. We weren’t really able to tell that big of a difference with the coffee, except that it was pretty dark and strong (We definitely aren’t coffee connoisseurs). It was a fun experience though! The coffee shop was pretty cute, definitely small though. We headed sorta the wrong direction (we weren’t going anywhere particular, but weren’t planning on going down this street) and ended up at one of the coolest roads I’ve seen. It had cute shops on every side. There were tons of coffee shops, and people studying. These Koreans are hard working students. I definitely would go back to that area. It looked so great to just curl up with a good book there.
We were looking for a specific place for dinner, which Gail had been to before. They have you take your shoes off as you enter the restaurant and then you sit on the ground on little cushions at a short small table. They brought us out Bimibop, which is like rice and vegetables in this really hot cast iron pot, and it continues cooking, and getting crunchy as you let it cook. There’s a special sauce that you mix in to it as well, which was good. They brought us out soup and a few other kimchi foods (which I don’t really like the kimchi that much), but the soup was really good. It’s mostly just flavored broth with onions in it. Gail had some type of beef soup, with vegetables and rice noodles in it. They both were good, and I thought it was fun to sit on the floor. It surprised me that even the older people sat on the floor. That’s just what they’re used to. We walked around some toursity areas, and Gail got a cute green hat.
We were looking to scope out Gwanghwamun Plaza, where we’ll be watching a New Year’s eve celebration go down, but were having a hard time finding it, even asking some people. So we decided to go down in to the subway, and get on our way home, except we found some great shopping down there! That’s where all the cheap stuff is! Haha, We just enjoyed looking this time though, and then headed home on a packed out subway.
2 Funny things happened: We had people trying to speak to us in English all day. One 8-ish year old girl saw us at the Palace and got really excited. She looked at us with a huge smile, and said Hello! Welcome Korea!! haha, it was cute. Another man tried to talk with us at the museum, and then in the subway area, a vendor saw us and stated, “Hello! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Hamburger!” Gail and I laughed so hard. Maybe those were the only English words that he knew. Still, hamburger?! haha!
I also exploded a hard boiled egg in the microwave. It made a huge pop, and Gail thought it was so funny. It made a complete mess, but it was worth the laugh!