South Korea. Oh South Korea. For years I dreamed of visiting you, eaten up with curiosity to discover if K dramas were a load of baloney or if you were really as magical as you appeared (any fan of K dramas understands 1001% what I’m talking about). I disembarked from that plane a wide-eyed tourist, and left ten days later a giddy writer with a notebook full of ideas. I mean, you know that it’s going to be an amazing finale when a Swiss Symphony Orchestra is on your flight. Downside was that MC, Swag Master and I had to wait FOREVER for our luggage because of the instruments that were unloaded first. But on the bright side, I had plenty of time to suspiciously eye the helpful/creepy airport robot and finally manage to ascertain that he would not go rogue and try to conquer humanity – I know, you can all breathe sighs of relief.
By the time we got our luggage and made our way through Customs, it was dark outside, so we hiked aaaaallll the way up a hill to get not one but two taxis to fit all of our suitcases plus us so we could arrive at our hostel in one piece. And it is on this terrifying ride that I discovered that Korean streets are about the width of a piece of licorice. For reals, the side streets are, I’m convinced, designed to lure cars in and destroy them. We came to at least one standoff with a car coming the opposite direction, and I’m pretty sure the driver dented his car at one point when he was forced to back up. He was so relieved when we got to the hostel (which was tiny, by the way) he nearly drove off with our suitcases; I had to lunge at the car and pound on the window as I frantically pointed to the trunk. Between all the cab rides and the hostel clerk actually dropping my luggage down the stairs, it’s a wonder I still have any luggage left.
One thing that I learned while in Korea, a lesson that started the next day, is that you don’t mess with Koreans, specifically Korean women. We set out on the subway to explore Seoul (their transportation system is SO MUCH better than ours) and I had a lovely one-sided conversation with a lady determined to talk to me. She wasn’t the least bit deterred by the fact that I could only say, “My name is Kristen” in Korean, and managed to boss the three of us into sit together in the priority seating. Then, at lunch we were emphatically ignored by the restaurant owner when we tried to order something that she didn’t want us to order. And later on that same day we got kicked out of a cafe because, well, we’re actually not sure why:
Swag Master: “I’d like to order blah blah drink.”
Cafe Lady: “Here or to go?”
Swag Master: “Here.”
Cafe Lady: “No.”
Swag Master: “No?”
Cafe Lady: “No. To go.”
Swag Master: “Um, okay.” We sit down to wait for her drink.
Cafe Lady hurries over with drink order. “Here you go. Now, leave.”
Swag Master, MC & Me: “Excuse me?!”
Cafe Lady: “You get discount to go. So go.”
We look at the near empty cafe in disbelief. “We have to go?”
And that was that. Swag Master offered to pay the difference so we could sit and rest our feet, but she wasn’t having any of it. We left befuddled, although I was armed with determination to somehow include this adventure in my next book. SO THERE, CAFE LADY.
There was so much to do in Seoul: we oohed and ahhed some more at the lantern festival, explored dusty nooks and crannies at one of the royal palaces, bought way more socks than we should, and even took a few days to visit Jeju Island (similar to Hawaii). Check out the photos, which speak for themselves:
There was so much that happened, I could easily write five more blog posts about it, but given how long it’s taken me to get all caught up I don’t think that’s a good idea. So, instead I’ll conclude with a list of my expectations and what I learned:
- Korean fashion is 90s inspired – True, and they all look fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. I felt like the Hulk as I tiptoed around them.
- Korea smells of kimchi – False, although maybe it was the time of year that I visited? I’ve been told that America smells like dairy – and given how much ice cream I alone consume I can see that – but I barely got a whiff of kimchi while there.
- Korea is expensive – YES AND YES. My credit card is due this Friday. And I am dead inside. Moving on.
- Korean men carry women on their backs – I never once saw this. Not once. K dramas, you lie!
- Korean driving is terrifying – oh, how this is oh so true. But, to be fair, I find all of Asian driving terrifying, so it’s not just Korea.
- Koreans bow – yup, yup and yup. I have yet to break the habit of doing it, and I was only there for ten days.
- BTS is everywhere – oh yeah. Really, BTS is everywhere in Asia; there were loudspeakers set up in Japan blasting out the group’s songs.
- Koreans eat ramyun a lot – True. It’s not right how much they can eat and manage to stay so skinny.
- There is more to see in Korea than you can fit in just ten days – that is definitely so true.
- It’s an experience that I’ll never forget – TRUE.
And thus concludes JAKOTAKONG. Three unforgettable weeks, oodles of gorgeous photos, and countless memories…huh, maybe I should start writing greeting cards on the side, because I’m getting downright sappy. Needless to say, I know that my writing has been made better for having gone, and I am so grateful that I was able to go!
And thank you for joining in the journey with me, you avid travelers you! 🙂 🙂 🙂
P.S. Those annoying yellow bumper things that were absolutely everywhere? Turns out they are meant to help sight impaired travelers. I finally have answers!