For those of you who didn't know, I just now returned from a 10 day vacation in Korea. It's the first time I've taken a vacation really for just myself, by myself. Since we are so close to Korea, I decided to simply take the ferry over to Busan, and then have a train ride up to Seoul. All in all, the trip took 12 days, and it was a fantastic time. Rather than give you a big ol' update that would be the equivalent of trapping you in my living room to show you slide after slide of photos of the same thing, I'm just going to bullet point favorite moments. I will do a post later this week on the DMZ/JSA/North Korea and reunification later this week.
So here goes, some brief highlights:
-When I got to Busan, it was raining, and I had to walk across a parking lot (a BIG parking lot) to get to the metro. When I was still about 20 yards from the metro, this complete stranger - a Korean lady - came up and held her umbrella over my head. It was completely unexpected and kind.
-I met a Buddhist priest in a coffee shop and he showed me the temple where he works and we talked about New York, which is a place in the US he has been.
-I discovered that my hotel in Busan was, quite literally, across the street from the beach, and that said beach is much less populated in September than in August.
-I found out that Dunkin' Donuts is nearly as popular in Korea as it is in Boston. I think I had it almost every day for breakfast.
-I went on a long hike that ended at a large Buddhist Temple, where I drank water from a mountain stream (and no, I didn't get sick - it was over a week ago and I'm still fine).
-I listened to every single "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me..." and "This American Life" podcast (both GREAT NPR shows) on my train rides around town - I seriously spent that much time on trains. It's actually a good thing because I love riding trains.
-I found a cute little bakery by Haeundae Market that had the most delicious Gateau chocolate cake I have ever tasted. Also in said market, I found socks with Obama's face on them. They made me laugh, so I bought them.
-I saw dolphins - real, live, in the wild dolphins - surfacing in the ocean, while I was riding on a ferry ride just off the beach in Busan.
-I rode on a high speed train through the countryside, going 300km/hr.
-There's a Taco Bell in Seoul. Enough said.
-I got to see the World Cup Stadium (and the field) where the 2002 final was played. It. Was. AWESOME.
-I had delicious Katsu-Don (battered and fried pork served over rice) in a random restaurant I just walked into and sat down.
-I found Harry Potter in Korean and discovered that the books are split up into volumes, so I had to buy two - volume I and volume II of book I.
-I walked in on a private function in the Seoul Art Museum, only because no one bothered to stop me. The museum was actually closed, but I couldn't see that right away (because of the event going on, there were a bunch of people around).
-I discovered that the Korean National Assembly Building is NOT like US Capitol buildings where you can just wander in. Oops.
-I found an English language bookshop called "What the Book?" that played Wilco. It was awesome.
-My taxi driver in Seoul was extremely kind when he realized he didn't know where the hotel was, and pointed me in a direction where I could maybe find it (and I did). We did well for as little English as he knew and the complete nonexistence in my knowledge of Korean.
-At the Korean War Memorial, I met a very nice security guard who took my picture for me.
-I found a cat cafe in Seoul. Yes, it's a cafe where you pay ten bucks to sit around playing with cats and drinking coffee. Uh-mazing.
-I stepped foot in North Korea.
Most importantly, on this trip, I learned how to travel alone, and how to love it. I pushed myself to do more things than I might have done if I was with someone else. I took some risks, and they paid off. It was, all in all, a fantastic trip. I learned a ton about Korea and the Korean war, and the De-Militarized Zone between the two Koreas. It's a very interesting story, one which I hope to tell later this week.
What are some of YOUR favorite vacation moments?