Hi everyone, how’s it going? Sorry for not posting for so long, but life has been busy busy busy. Hoping to make more posts this year.
My mom and dad came to Korea in March of last year (2017). They stayed in a hotel in Insadong, Seoul for the first few days, then we took an epic road trip around the country during my spring break. As usual, I kept a travel journal of our adventures. What follows is that journal, slightly edited. Of note, my mom’s knees were acting up a bit in January and February, so we were worried how the trip would go for her. My mom is a friggin champ, and she had no trouble getting around with her trusty walking sticks for a bit of help.
Tuesday 3/21 – THEY’RE HERE OMG! YAAAAAY! Got them to Insadong, settled in the hotel, then took the bus home. Why is there so much traffic at 10 pm uggggh.
Wednesday 3/22 – Met up with Mom and Dad for dinner at a great temple food restaurant in Insadong. Dinner comes with a traditional show of temple dances. Most hilarious part of my week was watching them have to sit down to put their shoes on post-meal.
Friday 3/24 – Met up with some of my best friends at a restaurant in Seoul. Lovely evening hanging out together, but in Korea instead of the USA.
Sunday 3/26– mom and dad taxi from Seoul to my apartment, load car, set out. Visited my coworkers on our way to the highway south. Road trip to Jeonju.
Arrive in Jeonju; eat dinner at a little hole in the wall I saw on Seonkyeong longest’s YouTube Channel. Fantastic for 21,000 (about $20) total! Still one of my favorite meals for that price point that I’ve had in Korea so far.
Monday 3/27: Jeonju exploring day. Moseyed our way to the traditional Hanok village, saw dozens of hanbok shops (Korean traditional clothing), had a tour of the shrine to the royal portraits, where we… saw a bunch of portraits. Ate lunch at a Korean beef restaurant which was delicious. Relaxed at hotel, then went to the Nambu market via taxi. Monday night- completely dead. Walked a bit, went back to the hanok village and had bibimbap.
Tuesday 3/28– set out for Gyeongju with a detour to Jirisan park to see a temple because we saw a sign on the highway for it (note: I thought it was Ssangyesa temple. It isn’t. My bad!). Very simple temple. Very few people around. The temple had one large courtyard. There was a family in mourning of some sort, which we didn’t want to interrupt. Everyone we encountered there asked us to join them for lunch. We declined until a monk came to our car as we were leaving and asked us in simple English to join them. Okay- we went back in. Temple “cafeteria” consisted of a self serve counter with bibimbap type veggies and rice. Everyone was super nice to us. Mom and dad sat on the floor! This small group of Korean women were very interested to talk to us, but with my limited Korean we mostly just nodded and smiled.
After lunch we drove to Gyeongju. Uneventful 3 hours, rest stops, moving traffic. Checked into our motel- not as nice as their hotel in Seoul, but it works just fine for the price and location. Ate dinner at a small restaurant in an alley way behind the motel at the manager’s suggestion; amazing meal. We had this dish with steamed pumpkin and beef. I’ve never seen or tasted anything like it.
Wednesday 3/29: Shilla dynasty day! We went to Bulguksa temple (a World Heritage Site) in the morning. Wandered around for a few hours. Gorgeous morning. Ate lunch at the mom and pop restaurant down the hill from the temple. Went to the Seokgoram grotto afterwards. Very windy road. Nice information lady gave us a private 30 minute lecture in great English about the history of the grotto and the mythologies/stories behind it. The guy who built both Bulguksa and Seokgoram did so for his parents in this life (Bulguksa) and his parents in the past life (Seokgoram). Lots of stairs up and down. Mom was a champ. Saw huge groups of school kids on their 6th grade field trip to Gyeongju, which is a trip that every kid in the country takes with their class.
Back to hotel to chill out a bit. Did laundry and the owner was very nice to let me hang it on the roof where she sets her hotel laundry out to dry. Mom and dad wanted a non-Korean meal, so we went to the Ashley buffet at the Kensington resort. Small for an Ashley, but served its purpose well. Nothing amazing… but western was good. Ashley buffets come in various sizes and qualities.
Thursday 3/30: more Shilla! Went into town and to the Gyeongju National Museum. Spent a few hours with audio guides. Great history lesson! Drove into town, parked and had a pork ssam lunch (dwaejiggogi)… good god, that restaurant. Amazing dwaenjang jjigae with homemade dwaenjang paste. We then walked through Tumuli park, looking at all of the ancient burial mounds. We also walked over to see saw the Cheomseongdae astronomy tower. This tower is the oldest surviving astronomy tower in Asia. One of the most hilarious moments of the entire trip had to be mom and dad making friends with this huge group of university students, who were also on a trip to Cheomseongdae, and all dressed in matching pink shirts. So, obviously, they wanted to take a big group photo with us. We stopped by the remains of the old Donggung palace and Anapji pond around 5 pm; I’ve been to this place two times before, once during peak cherry blossom season with my friend Victoria. Unfortunately, we were about a week early for cherry blossoms. I knew this place would look spectacular after the sun went down, but we were pooped and sunset wasn’t for another hour, so we went back to the hotel to rest, then found a Korean restaurant in the neighborhood of the hotel. Again, we sat on floor, had samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng soup) and just another great meal.
Friday 3/31– drove from Gyeongju to Busan. We stopped at the Haedong Yonggunsa temple on the cliffs overlooking the ocean north of Busan, but it was super cold and rainy, and there a zillion steps, so we went down most but not all of the way to the temple. Great views from the side, though. There were dozens of street food stalls near the exit to this temple, most featuring grilled fish and squid on a stick, but we decided to eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant – Korea’s Chinese food is very different than America’s Chinese food. Finally we made it to Busan and headed straight to Haeundae Beach where it proceeded to rain and be cold and miserable. We checked into our hotel really close to the Jagalchi fish market. We wandered around the area outside the fish market and found a really small fish restaurant to eat at, with decent prices. Had a few pieces of fresh fish, grilled.
And I may or may not have tricked my dad into eating seaweed… “I don’t.eat.seaweed.” He says. “Or raw fish!” (Note – he now does both after his epic Asia tour. The sushi, willingly; the seaweed, less so.)
After dinner, dad called it a night, but mom and I wandered into the nightfood market close to the hotel. Because when you’re stuffed full of food, the only choice, of course, is to eat more food!
Saturday 4/1– Busan- took the hop on hop off “jumbo city tour” and went to Taejongdae park. We saw the cliffs, ocean, and dozens of ships waiting to get into the ports in Busan (5th busiest container port in the world). Had a great scenic stroll along this new walkway over the ocean, featuring a few ladies who wanted us to join them in their church and wouldn’t take “please go away” easily, and a paraglider jumping off a mountain in the distance and landing on the beach nearby. Dinner at Jackys seafood in the Jagalchi fish market, which my sister and her boyfriend recommended from their trip a few months previously- then street food with mom and dad to top it all off.
Sunday 4/2 – drove from Busan to back to Seoul. Mom and her bad puns – we almost kicked her out and made her walk. Also, is there a universal rule that rest stops have to sell complete and utter junk that is sure to make a kid say “but I NEEEEEED it!”?
Mom and dad stayed in a hotel near me which looked very fancy, but we soon realized the drawers in the furniture didn’t open – at all! Oh, Korea. We met up for dinner at a restaurant nearby owned by some Americans – not Korean food- and a few of my friends joined us.
Monday 4/3– My parents came to my school, which was great. They’ve seen it on our social media sites, and when they FaceTime me, but seeing it in person was really nice. We went to my favorite restaurant in my neighborhood with my friends, and the next morning they departed for Tokyo.
Stay tuned for Part 2! – where mom and dad take on Japan and China.