Here is day 4 and 5 of our trip to Korea. Day 5 was just our return journey so nothing special really happened except for one funny story.
We woke up to the sound of catholic music and "Glory Glory, Hallelujah." On repeat. It was annoying. At first, I thought it must have been because of church, but it was a Saturday so there was no church. Unless Korea is different in that regard. I came to find out later that day that it was due to a protest that was to take place outside of city hall.
Anyway, we got ready to meet up with my Korean friend. I met her online through Globalpenfriends.com. It is a website where you can meet people from around the world and become either pen
pals or language partners. We met online and instantly hit it off. We sent IMs back and forth for about a day then we decided to skype. I didn't have a Skype account at the time, so I had to make one just so I could talk with my new friend. She happened to be a Christian living in Seoul and learning English. The first day on Skype, we talked all day/night. For her it was all day, for me it was all night. We started our conversation at 6pm my time. She ate 2 meals in front of the computer talking to me that day. By the time we finished it was 3am my time. We spent several hours at a time on Skype whenever we decided to talk. This was about 7 years ago. We kept in touch ever since. I was excited to finally meet her face to face. She was nervous about my English pronunciation and if she would be able to understand it. I asked her if she was used to watching American TV shows because that was what I sounded like. That actually helped her feel better.
We arrived at the station in Insadeong and waited for her. She sent me a message that she was running late and would arrive when she could. While we were waiting outside the station, a fire had started at a vender and the fire department came, only no one told them where the fire was so they were frantically running around looking for the place. What surprised me was that there never was a crowd of people gathering around to see what was going on. It was as if the people knew that it was an emergency and should stay out of the way.
My friend finally arrived and I was so excited to meet her! One thing I learned immediately, is that Koreans are touchy feely. She hugs me and says she was sorry to be late, then grabs my hand and starts leading the way to Hanbok village. Very surprising to me only it shouldn't have been. I had been witnessing many lively Koreans hanging all over each other at Lotte World. Even guys were doing that. It felt like Koreans were more intimate than Japanese. Americans often touch each other, but Koreans take it to a different level. I still don't know if I like it or hate it. Maybe if I spent more time there I could build a better opinion but for now, let's just call it surprising.
First, she took us to a hanbok rental place. There were so many to choose from! They were beautiful, but cheaply made. They were held together with Velcro. My friend informed me of this before going and she said that if we were to get a real hanbok it would cost hundreds of dollars. Being used to wearing the cheap yukatas in Japan, I was totally fine with wearing a "cheap" hanbok. There were two styles. They had the plain style, which is just one solid, bright color (usually bright pinks and reds), and they had the ceremony style, which has lots of designs and deeper colors with sparkle (usually deep blues or purple). I chose ceremony style and picked a light blue shade because my friend picked a dark blue. I wanted to not look like twins so I picked a lighter colored one. They took us to a dressing room and because it was cold outside, they let us keep wearing our clothes underneath. It was the first time I had ever worn a hoop skirt. I felt like a bell.
After getting dressed, they took us to get our hair braided. They braided really fast, it was over in 2 minutes. Then we picked our purses and hair accessories and paid for a 4 hour rental. Because it was cold, we also made sure to rent scarves and a jacket so all together it cost 27,000 won for Josh and I. Which is $25. Plus, you can get discounts for wearing hanboks at stores, restaurants, or castles. You can go free to any castle wearing a hanbok. After going outside, my friend was embarrassed. Not because she was wearing a hanbok, but because I was wearing one with her. I know this because she said as much. Lol. She eventually got over it and we went walking around.
She is a blogger that has many hits so she was taking 100 pictures of us walking around in our hanboks. She took pictures of everything we did. Many Koreans came up to us to ask to take pictures together. I could overhear so many of them say how beautiful we looked in them and how cute we were. Josh looked silly to me. It was the pilgrim like hat that made me giggle every time I looked at him. We found a vender making honey filled snacks that were really good, but extremely chewy. It hurt my jaw to eat them. (If you subscribe to my YouTube channel youtube.com/jandjinjapan you can see all the things I have written about on my site). The guy was pretty funny. Switching very quickly from Korean to English. Very entertaining.
We spent about an hour just walking around, occasionally going in a shop to look and gaze. She had a hard time finding the old village town and kept apologizing but I wasn't bothered. I was having fun looking at everything. She found a restaurant that served Korean food in the traditional way, which is everyone gets a main dish, then share all the side dishes. They come with a plethora of side dishes. One food item I had
wanted to try while in Korea was bibimpap, which is a rice bowl with various seasoned vegetables mixed in. It is not really spicy to my taste, but there was a very mild flavor. On a Taco Bell hot sauce packet scale, I give
it below mild sauce. Josh got some beef stew of some kind and my friend got kalbi (spicy chicken and rice soup). Everything was so delicious and some of the food was so spicy it was nostril clearing. There were plenty of tissues used during that meal for our noses more than anything.
After we ate, the restaurant owner gave us directions to the old town and we laughed because it was literally just 2 blocks up the road. We would have found it had we kept going. At that point, it felt like a photoshoot because she was having do various poses together in a lot of places. She had to have taken over 100 photos. It was fun tho. I think we walked around for about 2.5-3 hours because we got too cold and needed to return.
After hanbok village, my friend said she wanted to keep hanging out with us until her husband came home at 8pm. (She got married Oct. 31st, 2016. They had a honeymoon in Spain). I asked if Korean women change their last name, and apparently, they do not because they like to keep a record of their heritage. With her, she was lucky because her last name is Kim and so is her husband's. When children are born, they take on the father's last name, not the mother's. Just an interesting fact.
She took us to Myeongdon, which has a famous outdoor shopping mall. It was filled with Japanese people. It was unexpected. She helped me find some skin care products that she likes using and says that it helps her skin. I have been using it every other day since I got back from Korea, and already I can see a difference. My pores are clearing up which is nice because I hated my nasty pores before. It is a natural product made with volcano ash. I have heard that ash helps with your skin because that is a major selling point in Kusatsu, Gunma but never tried it before. If you ever get any products from Innis Free in Korea, I recommend them.
We found a Daiso and H&M so we wanted to go there. On the way there, my friend decided that she wanted to buy some cute socks from a vender. She wanted to pay 1,000 won for 2 pairs and tried to haggle with the lady. The lady refused so we started leaving. Just as soon as we were leaving, the lady changed her mind but my friend was like, "too late." So the lady says 3 for 1,000 won and my friend agreed, but it didn't matter anyway because she didn't accept credit cards. I felt bad for the lady, but haggling happens all the time in Korea. She didn't even look phased by it.
Josh bought some nice shirts and a pair of pants for a really good deal. Korea actually knows what sales are unlike Japan lol. Then we got way more excited than we should have been at Daiso. Daiso is a Japanese
company, but they had it in Korea. I bought so much stuff from there for my students. They actually had cute stickers. Normally Daiso doesn't carry good stickers, but they did this time in Korea! They had similar products, but things were just Korean styled. Koreans are not really into cute characters like Japan is, so there was an entirely different feel when shopping. It felt more like shopping at BB&B.
Josh was hungry so we went to Krispy Kreme first so I could say that I ate at Krispy Kreme in Korea. Each country has their own flavors. I got a glazed doughnut and a Strawberry one with powder and jelly inside. Yes, the doughnut itself was strawberry flavored. It was good. The glazed doughnut was very similar to the US but they must be using something different. Either the flour is different or the oil they use to fry it in is because it was clearly different from Japan, Japanese Krispy Kreme's are not really sweet and taste like soy doughnuts, but Korean ones were sweeter, but some kind of after flavor I can't pinpoint. It may have been the oil they used. It was good tho.
We went to McDonalds next. This one was very futuristic. You place your order at a kiosk then go and pay at the register. It was fun. They even had spicy curly fries. Which were awesome btw. After eating, we talked for a bit more, then needed to head back because we were leaving for the airport at 5:30am and we
hadn't packed yet. We parted ways at the station then headed back to the hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, there were a huge number of police around the hotel. It seemed like every police in Korea was there. They were there because of the protests happening. At city hall, it wasn't large of a crowd. There were more police than protestors. Most people went to Insadeong to do a candle light protest. My friend sent me pictures afterwards and the crowd was massive. They didn't do anything. Just shouted some and listened to some speeches. At 10pm everyone left.
The next day, the peppy tour guide picked us up again and took us to the airport. It was about an hour drive there. She was going to help us check in so I wasn't worried at all. Josh, on the other hand, thought he was going to die because he really needed to pee. REALLY needed to pee. About halfway there. As soon as we got out, he grabs his luggage, and literally runs into the airport. The tour guide jumps back then looks at me as Josh ran past her and I started laughing and said that he REALLY had to pee. I guess she was concerned because she ran after him and pointed him towards the nearest bathroom. Apparently, Josh scared her by suddenly dashing out of the car after driving in complete silence.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our journey through Korea. Remember to be sure to check out my YouTube channel for videos of the week as well as other various occurrences in my life in Japan.