Today is our free day as well as our last day in Korea before heading out early tomorrow morning. Sleeping in late and knowing it’s our last full day here is a little heartbreaking but at the same time I think I’m ready to head back to the States. Busan has definitely been my favorite so far because of the beach area and night life.
My feet are about to fall off from exhaustion, my skin is sunburned, I’m incredibly sleepy, and although I jammed my toe pretty bad to the point where we thought I would be leaving Korea with only 9 toes, I would do it all over again.
Whenever we first arrived it would weird us out a little bit how people would sneak around to take pictures of us because we’re foreigners here, but now we’ve embraced it and instead of looking away, we smile for them. Although I can’t say I’ll miss the Kimchi, I will miss the unexpected adventures of being in a foreign country. My favorite so far was definitely seeing the look on Jacob and Arturo’s faces as they ate a chopped up squid! The trip itself is only a couple of days but the memories will last a lifetime.
Today was not quite the day that we all had hoped for. It’s the first time since we’ve been in Korea that it has rained. Luckily, the place that we were staying at offered umbrellas to take with us. Although it may have been raining, we all still managed to stay semi dry and enjoy our visit to a couple museums.
The first museum we visited was over the history of Busan and how the city came to be the second most populous city in Korea. It was quite interesting and had artifacts dating all the way back to the neolithic era. Personally, my favorite part of the museum was a room that had 21 buttons showing various videos over traditions such as dancing, eating, and numerous festivals.
After the museum, we were faced with the tough question as to whether or not to go to the next museum in the rain. Thankfully, we all decided to brave the weather and take a trip to the trick eye museum. I think this was one of my favorite museums that I have ever been to! You walk around the museum and take pictures with numerous optical illusions. Illusions that you could only see by viewing them through the camera–it was amazing! It is very hard to explain in writing, but make sure you check out these photos! They were hilarious!!!
After the museum we split up and my group went shopping through the market. We spent a couple hours there, then decided to go back to the hostel to dry off and take a “quick” nap for for the night ahead. Unfortunately, we were all exhausted and slept until about 11 PM. Even so, we decided to go out and enjoy the night! We started by eating at a “Guess Who” restaurant where we ate some deliciously expensive traditional pizza. Afterwards, we went out and had a great night of singing and dancing to music that was all from the States. What was most interesting was the locals keen eyes to our dancing. They would look to us for how to dance to the song then dance accordingly. Overall, this day was a true test of our determination to experience Korea to its maximum potential and turned out to be one of the best days and nights that we have had.
Today was somewhat of a calm day compared to the other busy, chaotic days. Our day started at 8:30am as we left the hotel for an all-day tour with Kangsan Travel. Our travel guide, Jung, met us in the lobby of the hotel and showed us the way to our “VIP bus”. He said we were VIP guests for the day which I personally thought was pretty cool.
The tour consisted of visiting the Beomeosa Temple, Gamcheon Culture Village, Yongdusan Park, Busan Tower, lunch, Gukje Market, and the largest Fish Market (Jigalchi) in Korea. The place I enjoyed the most was the Village. Our tour guide insisted on how happy the village people were and how they felt they were in paradise because they have light, hot water, and water fountains. He went on to say how the more we have, the more we want, which I agree with and think is a small problem.
I think the funniest part of the day was when Jacob and Arturo decided to eat some squid at the fish market. At first I thought it was all talk but once the tour guide told the server, I knew it was no longer a joke. Watching them take their first bite was priceless, as both of them had the funniest reactions. I have no idea how they managed to continue eating it, I was grossed out just watching them.
Getting around Busan was amazing thanks to our VIP Bus. We walked so much less but for some odd reason I was exhausted, irritated and just wanted to rest. The more time that passes, the more sleep deprived I feel which is why I decided to stay in today. Aside from all the walking up and down the stairs, I’m tired of Korean food. I’m ready to go home to eat a nice home cooked meal.
After 5 full days of nonstop walking, I was a little too excited about getting to sit on a train for a few hours. The trip has been amazing so far, and we’ve all had a blast, but by the time this day rolled around, everyone’s face looked utterly exhausted. Once we finished hauling our heavy luggage up and down stairs and escalators all morning, every one was ready to get on the train. So surprisingly, the day spent traveling (which you would think we would be sick of by now) was a much needed relief from the constant running around (after the stairs, of course). I can’t speak for everyone, but by now I’m feeling a little homesick. Although, the sight of Busan and the excitement to be in a new city helped to stifle those feelings a little.
Our first excursion out in Busan was to a little slice of heaven: our first non-Korean meal so far. I got a burrito that did not contain any fermented ingredients, nor did it contain rice. Now I love Korean food, but it was nice to feel a little at home. We also got to see a light show on a massive bridge at the beach, which was really beautiful. I think the first day in Busan can best be summed up in one word: relief. Relief from excessive walking, relief from Korean food, and relief from the Seoul heat and chaos.
So far, this trip has been nothing like what I expected. Walking in the heat for several blocks, trying to catch subways, and losing people have all been some of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with.
Though my patience has truly been tested, all of this is nothing compared to the great things we’ve gotten to experience since being here. It took only the first day for us to realize that we would be getting really close to one another. Some of the highlights of the week for myself have been visiting some of the Korean markets, having an awesome adventure that ended at a cat cafe, (you literally go to pet cats), and teaching a nice older lady who spoke no English to play patty cake on the subway.
Today was our last day in Seoul, so naturally we spent it getting lost, getting frustrated, and getting to know things about each other we probably didn’t need to…it was kind of great. I am exhausted, my voice is almost completely gone, and my feet feel like they’re going to split, but we still have another 4 days left of our trip. I should probably be staying in to sleep every night, but I don’t want to miss anything on this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m really excited to see what we will encounter in Busan. And I figure after 4 years of missing sleep during college, I can spare 10 more days. I can rub my feet and be sick when I’m back in the USA.
Since we arrived in South Korea, our schedule has been packed – sightseeing, eating, and navigating the subway. However, this day was a little more laid back.
We left the house around 11 am with Mika, the owner of the house we are renting, to visit a local market. Considering we’ve been leaving the house at 8 or 9 am the past few days, I especially enjoyed the extra time to sleep in. The market was about a ten minute walk away from the house and consisted of one long, covered corridor with various shops. There were shops selling everything from dog clothes to live octopus. The corridor was filled with people walking, riding bikes and even older Korean women on motorbikes weaving through the crowd. We stopped for awhile to look at the various shops, eat, and buy souvenirs (they had a great deal on fun socks, which I particularly enjoyed).
A memorable moment of the visit was when Arturo and Jacob stopped at a seafood shop and debated whether or not they should buy a small live octopus to eat whole as a part of bet. They talked about it for awhile, and the shopkeeper even picked one up out of the water to hand them. They asked Mika to make sure that’s how people typically eat the octopus. Mika said yes, but you have to make sure you chew for a long time so the tentacles don’t get stuck in your throat and kill you. There was no more talk of a bet after that.
We then walked back to the house and relaxed a little bit before leaving for our Korean cooking class at O’ngo. In class we partnered up and prepared mushroom japchae and spicy chicken stew, which were both delicious! It was my favorite meal of the trip so far (although Lauren and Ally suggested it was because I had to work for it – I don’t cook often). Following the class, we walked to a nearby market known for its souvenirs. The market was bustling with people, however I noticed a lot more foreigners than I’ve seen elsewhere. And again, I found a great deal on some socks.
After the market the evening was free time. A group of us went to see the light show at Banpodaegyo Bridge, but unfortunately we arrived too late. We instead decided to visit a nearby ice cream shop before we headed home.
Today was full of adventures; we were able to witness a drum ceremony at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we heard a worship at the Bongeunsa Temple, and we saw the best drum line by the Drum Cats. The Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour was full of rich and cultural information over the royal palace in the Joseon Dynasty. We learned about the different buildings in the palace and a little bit of their history as well. Gangnyeongjeon Hall was the building where the king and queen lived, it didn’t have any furniture because the king was afraid someone would come attack and furniture was a good hiding place for someone to get away with it. The king symbolized a dragon, which explained the significant dragon symbols around the palace.
After the Gyeongbokgung Palace we visited the Bongeunsa Temple, took a tour around it, and learned so many interesting facts about the Buddhist religion that I didn’t know. The temple was decorated with Korean lanterns, some of them were colorful which meant they were for the lives of living people, the others were white, which meant they were for the lives of people who have passed away. We were taught how to properly bow in the Buddhist traditions, Buddhists usually bow 108 times a day. We saw a tea ceremony and were able to have some of the tea as well as learned how to drink the tea properly. We also made more Lotus flowers, they symbolize new beginnings and overcoming hardships. After all this we were able to relax and meditate by praying for good things to happen and all of our wishes to come true.
To end our night, we went and saw the drum line by the Drum Cats. I really enjoyed it! The girls were very friendly and talented of course; they were interacting with the crowd and also taught us a few drumbeats. Another LWL student, Nico, even had the opportunity to go on to the stage and teach us a few of his beats as well. He did a great job and really enjoyed it. Overall, we had a great day! We definitely did a lot of walking but it was all worth it at the end because these memories will stick with me for a lifetime.