April 8, 2018english travel
As I write this, I am in a cafe in Japan having a cheeky French press coffee in a swanky cafe in Tokyo. I feel like I am not in place without a flat cap and loafers, but I’m enjoying relaxing here and thought its would be a good time to reflect and appreciate the wonderful time that I had in Korea. In my last post, I covered my time in Incheon and Seoul. I went to two more cities, and looking back on the trip I had a really great time in Korea. There were difficulties and the trip was very different to my usual trips as most of it was unplanned and ad hoc, but I went to Korea with the aim of meeting up with my three close Korean friends, and I was able to do that, so the trip for me was a resounding success.
After leaving Seoul, the next stop on my journey was Suwon. This was actually an unplanned stay since I was expecting to stay at a friend’s house at that time, but the friend’s unexpected sickness caused my plans to go out the window. All is well now, but there was a hectic time trying to put together a few days of my holiday on short notice. A bit like golf, though, it doesn’t matter so much what path I took to having a good time but more important that I was just having fun, and Suwon was a refreshing change from the big city life in Seoul.
Cherry blossoms in Japan had already come into bloom while I was in Korea, so I was a bit worried that I would not be able to see during my trip.. While walking around Suwon, though, I found a place jam packed with cherry blossom trees, and so this crisis was completely averted. Booyah!
I also met someone in Suwon who was a bit of an interesting character. Apparently she eats donuts 10 at a time and can have 6 meals a day, and yet she is so skinny! Oh, life did feel so unfair, but it was nice to meet someone nice and fun to talk with, and it made me feel like most of the people that I talk with online are surely nice people, but not really fun for me to talk with. I had always had this feeling of guilt that maybe I was too picky when it came to choosing who to converse with, but as I get older and have more experiences like this, I feel like maybe I am actually not picky enough.
I also made sure to stick to Korean food in Suwon, and had more than a few experiences where I would see some dishes on a restaurant window that I knew and felt comfortable that I would not die of spice overload, but when I actually got in the restaurant would not be able to find the dishes on the menu. Things quickly devolved to choosing whatever wasn’t red, which was a bit of a shame but also a good chance to ensure that I was experiencing new things.
I remember almost 10 years ago, about the time that I started studying Japanese, that I had a very close Japanese friend who I did Skype video chats with on a very regular basis. In fact, I did video chats with both her and her boyfriend, and it was really wonderful. When I went to Japan on holiday, I stayed at their house. I felt like this experience was so valuable because it was a chance to see what real Japanese life was like. I thought that it was so interesting to see what things like grocery shopping and mundane things like that were like to see how these things differed to how they are done in Australia. I have lost touch with these friends, and while it is a great source of sadness that we lost touch, I always look back on that time as very important in solidifying my interest in Japan and Japanese culture.
So the next stop on the journey was Yongin, and it was here that I stayed at my close friend’s house. I was so looking forward to this part of the trip because to me it wasn’t just a chance to see my great friend, but it also represented a chance to really get to understand what Korean life is like. While I expected that Korean houses would have some high-tech elements in them, I have to say that I was amazed by some of what I saw, even if they do seem somewhat straightforward in hindsight.
The apartment building has an underground parking area, and when you drive to the entrance the boom gate will detect whether the car belongs to a tenant or not, and will only let people living in the building into the parking lot. We have places in Australia that do metered parking by reading the car’s registration info from the car, but I have never seen it used to regulate entry into a private parking lot before. You also don’t have any key lock on your front door - you type a PIN into a number pad on the front door to unlock the front door. I found that pretty crazy, but apparently it is quite common over there.
We went out to a traditional Korean folk village area and to an old Buddhist temple, which was not too far away and was really nice to see. The surprising highlight of my stay in Yongin was the lime juice served in an army soup restaurant about 10 minutes walk from the apartment. I ended up drinking two jugs of it and gave myself a bit of a stomach ache in the process, but the lime juice was seriously amazing. It probably sounds like just normal juice but it so good. I also realised that drinking Korean rice wine and beer together is not the best idea if you want to have a comfortable time the next day. Ah well, you live and learn.
I got to Japan yesterday evening after a pretty rough trip to the airport. I am also not really good at handling turbulence and it seems like every time I fly into Tokyo I have to put up with five minutes of cocktail glass-like shaking. Anyway, it was worth it in the end because I went out on the town yesterday and got my Japanese drinking on. I’ll touch base again when I have more time but it’s going to be a fun week ahead. In particular, I’m really looking forward to my stay in Sendai in a few days! Can’t wait!