Korea Vacation


That last Thursday I had to check out of the co-op – I had grandiose plans about making my way to Tokyo for a few days before my flight back to the States on Saturday, but that quickly fell by the wayside. Mainly, it was way too expensive, and I was exhausted, both mentally and physically.

So I checked myself into one of the fanciest hotels in Seoul, in one of the fanciest neighborhoods – the Imperial Palace Hotel in the neighborhood of Gangnam. This hotel was no joke.

The Imperial Palace Hotel at night.

The toilet alone (I just realized how much I’ve talked about toilets, but really, they were totally different than anything I’ve experienced before!) was worth it – it was heated, had about 20 different controls, AND had an automatic lid that opened and closed on command. I did NOT take a picture of it. 😉 I promptly passed out for the entire rest of the day, in my luxurious king-sized bed.

Friday was my last full day in Korea, and I did a little test for myself, successfully taking a taxi to and from the Coex Mall, where I did my last-minute souvenir shopping, and generally tried to soak in as much of the Seoul atmosphere as possible.

I treated myself to breakfast at one of the many coffee shops at the Coex Mall. I felt very worldly, sipping my coffee and reading my (English) newspaper.

After I got back to the hotel, I putzed around a bit, flirted with the idea of taking another nap, and found myself down in the lobby area where they also had a coffee/lounge place.

Yummy little pastry that cost me 15 buckaroos…

I spent the afternoon and night with my old Korean tutor Hyejin (love that girl, she is so awesome and rad.) We walked around Myeongdung, ate ice cream, did some shopping, then went to a restaurant in the neighborhood where we sat and ate, and consumed a reasonable amount of soju…

Some stew, I forget the name of it, but it had yummy beef in it and noodles, and was, of course, delicious.

We said our goodbyes at the subway station, and promised each other that we’d keep in touch, and that I’d come back and visit as soon as I could. (which, because I loved it so much, can’t come soon enough, really.)

Oppa picked me up on Saturday afternoon at the hotel, for my evening flight back to California (he accidentally hit the “HELP!” button in the bathroom, so when the front desk called the room asking if everything was okay, I had to lie and say I had accidentally hit the button, sorry my bad.  But who does that?!)

In general, I was trying not to get too emotional, but I was truly sad to leave. The whole car ride there, I found myself staring out the window, and trying to hold back the tears (behind my very large sunglasses so Oppa wouldn’t call me a baby.)

The outside of the 63 Building – the picture doesn’t really do it justice, since the exterior up close is bright gold.

I love this picture, which I took on the way to the airport…it kinda says it all, doesn’t it? Goodbye Mother Land!

I left on Saturday at 5:50 pm, and arrived back in California on Saturday at 12 noon. It felt odd GAINING time back, but I was pretty exhausted after the long flight , so I couldn’t really enjoy the “extra” time that I was given. It felt weird eating American food, and using a fork – I wanted to eat Korean food, and use chopsticks! I also attempted to stay awake until nighttime, to get back myself on California time, but I passed out on the sofa around 6 or so…

And now I’m back, dreaming of Korea, and hoping to go back soon….Stay tuned!

Friday was another action-packed day, starting with the auction the school held at the end of the school day – the mission? To trade and buy items, all conveniently priced under 3,000 won. I don’t know how many times I screamed “Gaga Chuseyo!” (Give me a discount!) at people, but it was a lot….

IMG_1566A few of my Japanese classmates, and my teacher at the auction – the peace sign was an automatic taking-a-picture reaction, and when I told them Americans don’t really do that, they were all flabbergasted.

It was also the last cooking class of the term, and seriously, the cooking class just reiterated to me why I should never be in the kitchen – I not only managed to screw up the entire dish, but I burnt my arm in the process, when the fire from the oven got a little outta control.

IMG_0995May I present – NOT my dish. This was the week prior dish, and I relegated myself to prep work. Spicy chicken = delicious when I don’t make it!

That night I spent with Oppa and my Uncle – we went to a Korean restaurant near Incheon.

IMG_1572mmm, side dishes…

IMG_1574Shabu Shabu…

IMG_1587My Mom pointed out that the statue behind us makes me look like I have wings…what can I say, I’m a total angel.

Saturday I spent with Phil, and we did A LOT of walking, and we saw a lot as well ~ We visited one of the the larger Buddhist temples in Seoul. It was interesting to see such a beautiful, peaceful place, located right in the middle of the very urban, very industrial setting of the city.

IMG_1615Really old tree.

IMG_1625Large Buddha.

IMG_1633‘Cause just one isn’t good enough…

The main, large temple was holding services while we were there, so I was unable to take pictures of the interior, but the complex contained many smaller temples/buildings, all done in the exact same style.

IMG_1627OLD building.

The complex had many peaceful paths that you could walk along, and it was easy to imagine that you weren’t in the busy city of Seoul, but out in the countryside, enjoying the nice weather.

IMG_1630Along the different paths, we saw rocks that visitors had stacked on top of each other – for good luck?

The Coex Mall, located in the wealthy, affluent neighborhood of Gangnam was our next stop – it’s pretty easy to get completely and utterly lost in that place, because not only is it totally massive, with many different wings, stores, restaurants, and food courts, but there are NO maps or directories to show you the way.

IMG_1638Seoul has a ton of Baskin Robbins. Mint Choco Chip OWNS.

We then made our way to this coffee cafe, where for a cup of coffee and 2,ooo won, you could get the Dr. Fish treatment. If you have not tried this before, and you’re not squeamish about fish literally eating the dead skin off your body, I highly suggest this experience. You choose a pool – the large Dr. Fish or the small Dr. Fish (me and Phil went wild and did the big Dr. Fish), wash your feet, then stick your feet in. The fish go crazy, eating/sucking/biting/nibbling the dead skin off your feet. It tickles like crazy, and after fifteen minutes, I still wasn’t quite used to the feeling of 30 – 50 fish going at it with my feet. But my feet DID feel much cleaner.

7230_1227065840500_1344686201_665696_5416959_nPhil took this picture, and while I don’t look particularly happy, most of the time I was trying not to laugh while the fish ate my feet.

On Sunday, I went to church. Oh, but not just any church, but the Yeouido Full Gospel Church, which boasts the LARGEST CONGREGATION in the WORLD.  Each Sunday, the church holds seven services, and the main chapel can accommodate up to 25,000 people. 25,000 people! It was a spectacle in itself, and one I’m glad I experienced. I was shown to the foreigner’s section, where headphones were provided – the service was translated into 8 different languages, so I was able to listen along to the sermon. It was great.

korean_congregationNot my picture – they didn’t allow picture taking, and I didn’t want to burn in hell. But this is what the inside looks like, and believe me, in person, it’s 3 times larger.

Up next – Korea’s Palaces, Finals, and the Beginning of the End.