Saturday, May 7, 2011

Seven Days in Korea

Striking a thinking pose at Beomosa Temple, Busan.

It is my last evening in South Korea; I fly out of Seoul tomorrow at 12pm sharp. I will be leaving behind bulgogi, bibimbap, pajeon, and multi-flavored ice cream sandwiched by freshly-made waffles. I will be leaving behind blue skies (though the Koreans keep complaining of the yellow sand blowing from China), the ubiquity of password-free wireless networks, and smartly dressed young men and women. I will be leaving behind the society that gave the world the likes of Taeyang, Girls Generation, and melodramatic Korean dramas.
Traditional Korean song, dance, and drum


Upon arrival, I met up with a friend who I had gotten to know in Singapore. Because my iPhone app sorely miscalculated how long it would take for me to get from the airport to downtown Seoul, I was more than an hour late meeting her. With no means of letting her know that I was running really late, I was surprised to find her still waiting patiently at our meeting point. We ended up having a great time going through the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Itaewon district and, a few days later, the beach city Busan.

The kindness shown to me that day continued. I dropped into a random bakery to grab a quick snack on my way to my Couchsurfing host's apartment. After getting your run-of-the-mill butter roll, I asked for a coffee from the older woman working behind the counter. She then refused my payment. Her husband later came over to chat, and as I headed out, he grabbed a bag, tossed a bunch of pastries and bread into the bag, and insisted I take it along with me for the road. For free. Incredible generosity.

I found Seoul to be a fascinating city, but I did not want to stay there for the entire trip. So, on Day 3, I boarded a bus to a sleepy seaside town called Sokcho (in South Korea, you can literally get from any point to any other point in less than six hours). Why Sokcho? It was at the base of Seorksan National Park, a favorite of the Koreans and known for its massive rock formations. The legend behind the formative rock formations is quite beautiful. Simply, an enormous rock answering the Creator's call to create the world's most beautiful mountain arrived too late to be incorporated into the great mountain. However, on its way home, the rock fell in love with the beauty of Seoraksan and decided to stay there. Tear.
Ulsanbawi Rock at Seoraksan

At the peak of Ulsanbawai, I was disappointed to find heavy fog everywhere, minimizing visibility. I sat down on the rock and, thinking that I had the rock all to myself, opened a bag of the airline peanuts. However, I was mistaken. In fact, I was with three of the world's friendliest chipmunks. Observe:

My visit to South Korea was packed with trips to temples and shrines, bumping through bustling shopping districts, and stuffing myself with some of the most mouth-watering dishes. However, in the end, it is the friendliness of the people and of the culture (and of the little animals, hehe...) that I will remember most fondly.

And off I go, back to China.

A few more pictures:
Temples across Korea hang lanterns in preparation for Buddha's birthday.More lanternsTakoyaki - a Japanese snack I found on the streets of Busan. Delicious.
Waited 30 minutes to get my hands on one of these--multi-flavored ice cream sandwiched by freshly made waffles. Worth every minute of the wait.


Terrence said...

i owe you a CS reference. will do. :). korea sounds wonderful, meet me in HK!

Kelly McLaughlin said...

I'm so glad you made this visit! Korea really is a great place.

Angela said...


Rushmore said...