26 February 2013

Damian & Kirk Do Korea

Earlier this month I was the luckiest girl ever and got to play with two friends from back home for almost two straight weeks!  As some of you know, my best friend Damian (one of the two fellas I was living with before coming to Korea) and his good friend Kirk (they grew up together in Tahoe, we had met a few times and he's pretty much the opposite of Damian and I - so nice and kind and thoughtful) decided to come visit the Land of the Morning Calm a few months ago.  I knew when I decided to move out here that I would, at some point, have to see Damian over the course of my year in Korea.  We had talked about it a bit but never made any concrete plans until around winter time, when they decided to make a date and buy the tickets.  I really can't even explain how special it makes me feel that these two people would stop their lives and pay hundreds of dollars to come halfway around the world just to go on adventures with me and check out this place I call home.

So the Lost Boys arrived in Korea the night of Saturday, February 2nd.  I picked them up (late, of course) at Incheon that evening and we went straight back to Suji.  Since this would be the only weekend night they would have to go out and experience Seoul nightlife while they were here, I decided that I had to talk them into going.  Really didn't take that much convincing, and we were out until the late hours of Sunday morning with some of my friends who live in Seoul.  They were troopers to stay up for so many hours on end, but I think/hope it helped them adjust to the time change.  Or at least that's the story I'm sticking to.

Damian mingling with the locals.

While they were here I had to work my normal schedule, but it ended up being alright because that afforded us time in the day to do whatever we wanted together, then once they felt comfortable enough with the subway and knew my address if they needed to catch a cab back, I would leave them in Seoul and head off to work in the late afternoon.  I tried to get in as many good touristy Seoul sites as I could with them while they were here.  One of our first days we headed up to Namsan Tower.  It was a bit of a bus debacle to get there, but after a failed attempt we found the cable car and headed up.  I had been there once already when Eli came to visit, but we didn't pay to go to the very top of the tower and only stayed at the top of the drop off point for the cable car.  This time we decided to go up and the boys sent postcards home from the "highest post office in the world."

View looking down into Seoul from the cable car.

View from the very top of Seoul Tower. 

I think the next day we spent at a cat cafe in Myeongdong. I've been to dog cafes already (which I love), but I myself hadn't even set foot inside one of these gems since I've been here, so this was an experience for all of us.  They make you take off your shoes and wash your hands, then they put all of your belongings in a plastic bag so they don't get smelly/peed on/covered in hair (I assume).  The cats just wander around and you drink your latte and pet them when they come over.  Big difference between the dog & cat cafe: you aren't allowed to pick the cats up, which I kind of prefer because honestly how obnoxious would it be to have people constantly harassing you and making you sit on their lap all day?  Like, come on.

Kirk's stalker cat.

Kirk is allergic to cats, hence his stance with this creep.

Damian & his favorite ugly shaved cat. He named it Tardy Cat.

The next stop on our week of tourist activities was Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is the biggest/most famous in Seoul.  This was another place I checked off of my own personal Korea bucket list, as well.  The day we chose to go was absolutely miserable - like freeze your fingers off trying to take a photo cold.  We bundled up and made our way into Seoul on the bus anyway, because there was pretty much no getting around the terrible weather.  It was basically below freezing every day they were here.  We had fun anyway though, took some photos and once we had seen enough we got the hell out of there to find someplace warm.  Preferably with coffee.

 This building was surrounded by a frozen lake... it took everything I had in me not to try and test the ice.

Two cuties in front of the middle gates to Gyeongbokgung.

A forward facing photo from the main gates to the palace.  I hated having to tell them that all of the original buildings had burned down during the a Japanese invasion and that these were all restorations and reconstructions.  Regardless, they're still beautiful!

That same day we went to find the Bukchon Hanok (traditional housing) Village, because I knew it was close by.  We came across this tourist building and went in for a bit to speak with a guy who told us where we should walk to see the houses and get a good view of Seoul.  We basically wandered for like seventy hours until we found a good spot to take pictures of the city and then I had to leave them again to go to work.  Chances are they spent the rest of that day breaking into highrise buildings or getting harassed by security guards.

After my work week was over Friday night, we headed out to Busan (Korea's second largest city - located on the SE tip of the peninsula).  We caught the bus after my class ended Friday night along with my coworker, Andrew.  We signed up for a nearly all inclusive 3-day trip (bus, hotel and one dinner) for around $100 each.  This weekend was the 설날 (Seollal/Seolnal) Lunar New Year holiday, which meant I had Monday off from work and we could stay in Busan for an extra day.  We arrived in Busan around 6am Saturday, took a quick nap, and then started our vacation.

Bird's eye view of the beach where our hotel was located, Gwangalli Beach.

We wandered around most of Saturday and ended up stumbling across this awesome amusement park.  As most of you know, I'm not a big 'ride' person, so I opted to take pictures and eat candy.  Shocking.

The one ride I did go on was the ferris wheel, if not simply for the amazing view of Busan.

More terrifying rides.  

Sun setting over Gwangalli beach from the ferris wheel.

On Sunday we woke up relatively late and (minus Kirk) headed out on a bus tour with the rest of the group that we came with from Seoul.  We went to a viewpoint that was supposed to be a nice hike/temple visit, but ended up being more of a weird pathway with little trolleys that carried people to and from the viewpoint site.  Whatever.  We left there and headed to a pretty large and famous fish market in Busan called Jagalchi.  The group split up at that point, with the weak stomached/hungover people opting for shopping and the rest of us going to explore the market.  We walked around forever and finally ended up finding a restaurant that had decent prices for raw fish.  Damian, Andrew and I ate with three other guys from the trip and got to know them a bit better, which was nice.  It's cool being able to see different parts of Korea with other foreigners, and even cooler yet to be able to make connections in Seoul and have friends all over the place.

The sights and smells of Jagalchi.

Realllllly appetizing few photos...

Truly appetizing.  We had two types of fish and about a billion side dishes, one of which was 번대기(bundaegi) - or more commonly put - silkworm pupa.

After the fish market we came back to the hotel and got ready to head out to an area of Busan called Haeundae, which is arguably the most famous beach in Korea.  We had dinner and bar hopped until late that night, when we all split up and grandma (me) came back hours before everyone else.

Four bros at the Wolfhound (terrible food, decent drinks).

Our last day in Busan was spent at  Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which was absolutely breathtaking.  I've been to a handful of temples in Korea and this was by far the most beautiful and unique.  The temple was first built in the Goryeo Dynasty in the 1300's, but reconstructed in the 1970's.
Rear facing view of Yonggungsa.

The four of us and our new friends from the trip.  L-R: Damian, Andrew, Melissa, MaLeah (both girls actually live in the same town I do - crazy!), Eilish, Warren, Melissa, Kirk and me.

Damian taking the shades off to view the Buddha in his full glory.

The rest of the week in Seoul was relatively laid back.  The boys spent most of their time alone touring Gangnam, and we just had a chill couple of days.  Thursday was their last night in Korea, so I rallied a few coworkers and we went out for dinner and drinks in Suji to show the boys what we do on a typical Thursday or Friday night after work.  We took them to a BBQ place and then went out to the best dive bar in Korea, a place called Underground.  That's pretty much the only bar we spend any time in in Suji, because everything else is worthless.

Sara, Kirk, MaLeah, Andrew, Damian, me and the bar owner, our friend Sunny.

Sorry this update is a bit late and maybe haphazard, but it's been a busy month!  Between their visit, my birthday, THREE friend's birthdays, Matt coming back to Korea, and new classes starting this week, things have been a bit hectic.  It was sad to see the boys go home, but I'm so happy that I was able to show them around my new home and have a little piece of my real home here in Korea.  Come back whenever you like :)


  1. No wonder you like sunny's bar. He looks like a lot of fun. Still can't believe you braved a ferris wheel though. Good job!! Mom

    1. Yeah he likes to give out rounds of free drinks and drink with us... not sure he's the best person to own a bar, but whatever!