A Chronicle of Amy and Sean's World Travels
Currently Browsing: South Korea

Scenes from Gyeongju

While in Changwon, Sean, Kevin and I braved the Chuseok traffic to check out Gyeongju, a former Korean capital with lots of temples and shrines and the like. Here’s some scenes from Gyeongju:

Family portrait

Anyong-haseo, Asia

So I suppose we technically were already in Asia on this trip when we visited Jordan, but it was immediately apparent upon landing in Seoul that now we were REALLY in Asia.  But we managed to find the proper bus from the airport to the neighborhood where we had booked a hostel, thanks to the South Koreans’ willingness to add English in important situations.  We also managed to get off at the proper stop, but that’s when things quickly went downhill and fast.

Standing on a busy, crowded Seoul street, we realized that the hostel’s directions were less than helpful.  Walk towards the KT building. Um, okay, will do, but where in the heck is the KT building?  I inquired about the whereabouts of this mysterious KT Building with a girl on the street.  She spoke fledgling English, but it was obviously lots better than our Korean vocabulary, which at that point consisted of zero words.  (Our vocabulary now consists of one word – anyong-haseo (hello) – which took us the enter two weeks to learn).  She said she wasn’t sure and we were prepared to continue wandering aimlessly.  But much to our surprise, she whipped out her cell phone and called someone to ask if they knew where the KT Building was.  She told us to follow her, so we did.

Several blocks later, she asked someone else on the street if THEY knew where the KT Building was.  They didn’t.  But out came the cell phones again, this time armed with GPS.  Others joined in the quest to find the building digitally.  At one point, three people were using digital devices to find the mysterious KT Building, despite our assurances that really, it was okay if they didn’t know, we would find it on our own.

Just about the point when I was feeling really bad that we were wasting so much of everyone’s time, a man came by who happened to work at the KT Building.  Phew, everyone could go on their merry way.  He pointed out the direction where we should walk.  We thanked him, and as the light turned, we prepared to depart on our own.  To our surprise, he insisted upon walking with us the whole way there to make sure we didn’t get lost, even after it was obvious we were on the right path.  When he deposited us on the front step of the hostel, he gave us his business card and told us to call him if we needed anything while we were in Seoul.  What do you think that guy wanted? Sean asked.  Was he trying to sell us something? No, I said.  I think he was just being…helpful.  We looked at each other in confusion.  Sure, people had given us directions or helpful information just out of the kindness of their hearts before, but we had never encountered so many people going above and beyond helpful without trying to get us to pay them or buy something from them.

I think this situation sums up our initial impressions of the people of South Korea: (1) People are really, really into digital gadgets, more so than any country we’ve visited (even Japan).  (2) People will go way out of their way to help you.  They do this, depending on who you ask, because of kindness or because they assume Americans are completely stupid. Either way works for me, because we usually were thoroughly confused in our inaugural visit to Asia.

We didn’t stay long in Seoul, and a lot of that time was spent dealing with unexpected jet lag and trying to secure train or bus tickets to Changwon in the middle of the holiday season.  The rest of the time we spent trying to sleep on hard beds, surfing the fastest internet we’ve encountered yet, figure out what in the heck to eat and constantly taking our shoes on and off over and over again practically everywhere we went (no exaggeration, of course).  Here are some pictures of what we did get to see in Seoul for your viewing pleasure:

Seoul, Saturday afternoon

Every country we're in, I always tell Sean their children are the cutest.

Hanging by the river, late Saturday afternoon

Giggle, giggle, we're wearing matching underwear!

Rocking out to some tunes, Saturday night

We wandered into a restaurant, guessed at something to order, and this is what we ended up with: some sort of pork soup.

Sitting on the floor, eating some soup

Always buzzing just like neon, neon

A park in Seoul on a rainy Sunday afternoon

Coolest Sky Ever

Jinghae, South Korea

15 Important Cultural Lessons That You Can Learn From Just One Week in Changwon

We didn’t originally plan to travel to South Korea.  But then our friend Kevin ended up in Changwon, a city in southwest South Korea, for four months for work.  The timing worked out that we could make a quick trip to South Korea to visit Kevin before we travelled to Japan.  We always jump at the chance to visit friends and more important, mooch off them as much as possible (Kevin is actually the brother of our friend Matt, who we visited in Paris when he was sent there for work early in our trip).

Changwon isn’t necessarily a place you would visit as a tourist.  Next to the American navy base, Changwon was planned to take over as the capital if something happened to Seoul.  There are a fair amount of expats and visiting Americans living in Changwon, due to the high concentration of industry present.  If you are American and you are in Changwon, you are either in the military, an English-as-a-second-language teacher or an engineer sent over by an American company for work.

Kevin fell into the latter category.  Staying with friends who are travelling on the man’s dime isn’t half bad; Kevin’s employer was putting him up in an enormous three bedroom, two bath apartment, so we not only got our own room (complete with pink fluffiness and stuffed animals) but also our own bathroom.

Kevin and Sean in the pimp digs

You know you are jealous of our sweet pink room.

The apartment was rather pimped out, with laundry (yay!), a huge television, crystal chandelier, massage chair, and a bedazzled refrigerator.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The refrigerator was bedazzled.


We spent Chuseok, the Korean thanksgiving holiday, in Changwon.  Kevin had off from work all week, so we spent lots of time lazing around Kevin’s apartment, watching NCIS (apparently Koreans love this show, because it was on in an endless loop), eating Mr. Pizza (a Korean pizza company located nearby who has love for women), and periodically venturing outside to go to Lotte Mart (a Korean grocery/department store).

Lest you think we didn’t learn about South Korean culture during our lazy week in Changwon, I present to you the following fun facts about South Korea:

  1. South Korean couples are so matchy-matchy and lovey-dovey, they even coordinate their underwear.
  2. Flavored soju, a South Korean rice wine, tastes much, much better when it is Kool-Aid flavored.
  3. There are call buttons at tables in Korean restaurants.  When you press the button, if you call out “so-ju” in a sing-songy voice, soju will arrive on demand.
  4. At Korean barbeque restaurants, it is possible to receive and give a massage from your waitress, as long as you share your soju with her.
  5. Koreans love gadgets.  Every taxi driver has a GPS that is probably bigger than your television set.
  6. Changwon might be the brightest place on earth.
  7. When receiving a drink or filling the glass of your elders, you must use two hands.  You cannot fill up your drink glass, but don’t worry, as soon as it is empty someone will fill it back up.  If you don’t want to get drunk, you better nurse your drink.
  8. Such good form

  9. If you can’t find a bar, look up.  Bars are located in second or third floors in dingy office buildings, complete with squat toilets in the bathroom.
  10. If you request American rock’n’roll at a bar playing music videos, they will play Thunderstruck by AC/DC, complete with clips of war footage and fighter jets that would make Maverick proud.
  11. No matter where you order pizza from in South Korea, it comes wrapped in a bow.
  12. It is perfectly acceptable to blow through a red light, but don’t you dare turn left unless you have a green arrow.
  13. The workers at the Changwon Cold Stone like it, love it, and gotta have it more than their American counterparts.
  14. If you shop at Lotte Mart around closing on Choesok, they will blare classical music at top volume to get you out of the store.
  15. It may not be possible to find turkey for your Choesok feast, but Lotte Mart does carry chicken (although, as it turns out, ones with orifices too small to insert a can of Hite for beer-can-chicken).
  16. Sean and Kevin's co-worker Ryan look on as Kevin carves the Chuseok bird

  17. The peace sign is alive and well in Changwon, and being taught to the South Koreans at a young age.
  18. Sean, Kevin, Kevin's co-workers Ryan and Luke, and some drunk Koreans on the streets of Changwon

    This is third or fourth picture in a row this girl was subjected to appear in thanks to the insistence of her father.

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