I finally boarded my plane to South Korea on Friday the 23rd of September at about 12:30pm. I blubbed through the airport because I hate being apart from my husband and that’s when the stares started and haven’t stopped since!
24 September 2011
My first flight was 13 hours and 10,686km to Hong Kong. I didn’t see much of HK Airport but it was amazing – they are so much more advanced than us. I got free wifi as I got off, found my gate and boarded my next flight without any hiccups (although, I did stop and ask some random foreigner for help who was sitting at the Help Desk like a special person and then looked at me like I was special!!).
I finally landed in Seoul, South Korea (I had to take a train to my bags?!) and then lugged my suitcase (that weighs about the same as a baby elephant) to finally meet my sister! We made squeaks and squeals and once we’d relaxed a bit, we made our way out.
Now this is when the ‘adventure’ started… My sister is as much of a tourist to Seoul as me, and to get around Seoul, most people use the subway. There are roughly 12 trains on this subway (we’re guessing) that criss-cross all over the place, and the underground tunnels all look the same! We also had my 2-ton bag to lug around – what a nightmare! We couldn’t figure out the lines, took a few wrong trains, missed our stop and finally gave up, headed up and took a taxi to our hotel.
The hotel was really nice though and luckily I wasn’t too jet-lagged because I’d slept on the plane. My sister had planned to take me to a spa though and that required taking the subway again. This time, without the bag and fear, we (as in my sister) worked out the subway and we got to the spa in one piece.
Now this ‘spa’ is amazing. It’s like ‘seven-floors-of-pampering’. You go in to the bathing areas, separated into male and female and literally go back to the days of Adam and Eve (you’re actually a weirdo if you leave your clothing on). After bathing, drying your hair and getting refreshed, you join the unisex area where there are sauna’s, massage chairs, hot rooms (where you just lie on the floor), watch TV or play games. It’s a very social/family-type outing and by the time you come out, you feel like a new person.
We then headed back to the hotel and pretty much died for 9 hours.
25 September 2011
Woke up with a migraine, not sure why, but I felt worse than I should have the previous day after an 18hour trip and dragging ourselves all over Seoul getting lost. Thankfully my sister brought headaches pills and Valoid and after a snooze, I was fine again. Problem was, our train to Masan was at 13:40 and we only got out of the hotel at about 10:00 – that doesn’t leave much time to tour Seoul. We rushed to go view one of Seoul’s sights – the statue of Sejong the Great and some other cool stuff – and then rushed to Seoul Station to try change our train tickets because we wanted to see more of Seoul. All the tickets were sold out, and stopping there actually made us late! By the time we got back to our hotel and caught a taxi, the driver basically told us we’ll miss our train – not cool when it costs so much, it’s sold out AND we have a ten-tonne bag (it gets heavier the more stressed we are). Well I tell you, this taxi driver did South Africa proud. We zipped so fast through the city, we did a 40 minute trip in 20 minutes! As we got on the train, the doors closed and the tain headed off. What an experience! I can tell you this – I hate travelling! I don’t know how people do it alone.
We arrived in Masan late Sunday afternoon and took a bus to Colettes’ little city and headed up to her apartment. After relieving ourselves of my devil-luggage, we departed to go grab some traditional Korean food – samgypsol! All the meals in Korea are very social and the food is really delicious. It looks strange and I keep mistaking their red sauce for tomato sauce, but really, our food is quite bland in comparison.
After dinner, now this is about 21:00, went ‘shopping’ in the city. It’s unreal. You feel like it should be Friday night because the city is so alive and everyone is still working! All types of shops, fruit stands and stalls are open like it’s midday in SA.
Now all the while we’re walking around, locals just stop and stare at us. They don’t have a diverse nation like SA (and now I understand the true meaning of that). Anyone who isn’t Korean is a foreigner and very rare. So when they see us, some just stare like you’re an out-of-world alien, some want to try their English out on you and other get so excited they just giggle to death.
It’s also so safe here – they don’t really have crime. So when we saw some policemen we just laughed because they’re pretty useless and a waste of space. They walk around all important but really, they’re not… Big adjustment from SA.
The locals are also extremely friendly and helpful if they’re not too scared and know a bit of English. They help us on the subways and with directions, and are very kind. This does cease to exist however, when you need to get on a bus! Oh my goodness, the city buses put our taxi’s to shame! While you’re still getting on, the bus pulls off and basically, they own the road and cars need to move! My sister says you just got to grab onto anything to hold and she’s seen old people fall – no pity!
I’ve also found the locals to be so chilled – it’s like Cape Town here. No one rushes, you sleep late, nothing is urgent. But when you need to get on a bus, you need to move. They shove and push to get on the bus and all I’m thinking is, seriously, you’re not going to miss the bus… I am not sure what the craze is there.
In summing up, I’m loving it so far and it’s a wonderful experience. I’ll share more as I go.
(I’ve also written a short post, a summary of keywords, on my experience here. Read it here)