On to January 31st, day three of my week-long Korean vacation. Day three was not the best of days.
For starters, some heavy rain forced Chie and I to cancel our planned trip to Gyeongju and spend the bulk of the day indoors. I managed to take advantage of the extra time by sorting the hundreds of pictures I had taken and working on some blog posts. Chie used it to go to the hospital.
Apparently her month-long cold combined with the recent stress of final exams and lack of sleep led to a fairly severe stress rash. A rash which the doctor said would prevent her from accompanying me to Seoul the following day.
During her doctor’s appointment (which was fortunately at a time when the rain had briefly subsided) I took a quick stroll through a really interesting nearby fish market. It was pretty much what you’d expect from an Asian fish market – lots of wriggling bins, lots of stinky smells, and lots of little old ladies yelling out prices.
There were, however, some especially noteworthy items. These were, in no particular order: A man blow-torching pig heads (also shown in my Feb 8th post), skinned eels flipping around in a bowl (reflex action), crabs as big as my torso, and a shop with a menu that included such delicious items as dog, moose, turtle, seal, and whale meat.
The next morning Chie accompanied her brother and I to Busan station to see us off. Because his vacation from the army was ending on the same day as my ticket to Seoul, we decided make the trip together.
Korea’s KTX train, their version of the Shinkansen, perfectly exemplified my description of Korea as an average of Japan and China.
The trains in China had floors covered with regurgitated food, children sitting on overturned buckets, and shredded seats. They cost only a few dollars to go halfway across the country.
On the other hand, Japan’s bullet trains cost upwards of $140 for the mere three hour ride from Kyoto to Tokyo, but are silent, spotlessly clean, and look like airplanes from the future. The seats rotate so that everyone always faces forwards regardless of the direction train is going, and all staff is required to turn and bow to the passengers before entering or leaving a train car.
Korea’s KTX wasn’t dirty but wasn’t flawless, it wasn’t mind-bogglingly fast but didn’t hurt your ears when the brakes were applied, and cost a mere $30 from Busan to Seoul. Just right in between Japan and China. I was especially pleased with the little tune it played when we were about to arrive at the next station.
When we arrived at Seoul Chie’s bro and I said our goodbyes as best as we could before I set off to meet Ming-Kyeong, Yun-Yeong, and Betty. By a perfect coincidence all three of them were there at the exact time as me: Ming-Kyeong and Yun-Yeong were visiting their families, and Betty had come on vacation. The Kyoto Crew was back together…on the other side of the Japan Sea.
Seoul was painfully colder than Busan; even with my two pairs of pants I almost wanted to go straight home without doing any sightseeing at all. You can imagine my surprise when Ming-Kyeong came into view wearing a short skirt. Her dialog for the rest of the evening consisted primarily of “yola chuo!” (“F__ing Cold” in Korean).
So being the kind friends that we are, the group offered to bundle around Ming-Kyeong at every bus stop to keep her and her foolishly unprotected legs warm while we made our way up Namsam mountain to see Seoul Tower and some fantastic night views of the city.
And then it was back to Ming-Kyeong’s apartment for a good night’s sleep before our big day in Seoul. Our goal was to cross off every essential sight in one day: Gyeongbukgung, Insadong, Namsangol, Namdaemun, Digital Park, and one other area whose name I can’t remember.
But I’ll save those descriptions for next time.