South Korea, part 2 of 2 (finally)

OK, so here’s the other part of my Korean trip. First off, let me cover some of the crap I had to gloss over last update due to time constraints.
You can see QTVRs of the Seoul Tower and the Emperor’s Palace but they don’t approach the experience of seeing it firsthand (no surprise there).
After the Seoul Tower on Friday we went shopping for memorabilia in downtown Seoul. It was kind of touristy, but I got to check out an arcade and get overcharged for cheap crap. Then we went to a traditional Korean lunch at a place recommended by the bus driver. Traditional means that we sat on the floor, which is not comfortable but I survived. We got Pulgogi which is beef wrapped in lettuce, hella tasty.

Then it was a 3-hour bus-ride across to the country to Kangrung, where my brother’s friend Bryce and I went looking for the PC Bong (cybercafe) that I made my last post from. After that we met for Koreanized Chinese food (as opposed to the Americanized Chinese food I’m used to).
A brief tangent – my mother had been in the country a week before me to teach the first ever doula course in Korea. While she was there they stuffed her full, to the tune of 9 course breakfasts. So when we had dinner at the Chinese place, the food just kept coming and coming.
The most memorable food was a chili sweet and sour shrimp dish, just like our sweet and sour foods but the sauce was hot and spicy. I need to find this stateside. Also, I need to find a bottle of Soju (50 proof and tasty). And Korean beer (OB and Hite) isn’t half bad either. After 10 or so courses of dinner and some of the aforementioned beverages (not to mention the jetlag) I crashed hard.
There was a bus-ride between the food and the hotel, but it was a bit of a blur thanks to sleep, and I fell asleep pretty quickly in the Kangrung hotel. I woke up early (5:30 or 6:00) and went out to discover that our hotel had an amazing view of the East Sea (AKA the Sea of Japan). There was a long beach and a military post where they protected themselves from North Korea.
I wound up going with my Mom, Claire, Charles and Soyoung’s sister Jean to get my haircut. I think a good definition of bravery is getting your haircut in a country where you don’t speak the language hours before your brother’s wedding. Thanks to Jean’s help I got what I like to think is a decent trim.
Run run run and a quick change into a suit puts us at the church for the wedding. The families ate a quick lunch of Korean food (pumpkin soup = tasty!) while Soyoung was preparing. It was worth it, wow. I’ll be posting the pics soon; you should check out her dress – it’s amazing. My parents donned special clothes (a humbul?) for the ceremony that are also worth seeing.
Our family (including Harold) and Soyoung’s parents greeted people and then the western ceremony began. Bryce and I stood with Harold, while Claire and Jean stood with Soyoung. It was kind of a long ceremony, of which I understood zero. I thought at the time that if their marriage got through Harold’s Korean vows, their marriage can get through anything ­čÖé
After the western ceremony we went upstairs for the traditional ceremony. It was steeped in tradition and ceremony, but my camera died after a few shots! I’m going to get some from my Mom to post, but I’ll sum it up saying that there was lots of bowing and the occasional food throwing.
After all was said and done, Harold and Soyoung were married and both families (including the bride and groom) retired to the bus for a 3-hour trip back to Seoul. After checking into the Hotel Lotte (the fancy one) we went out on the city, leaving the newlyweds to fend for themselves.
We headed out of the hotel to get some dinner, passing by a crowd gathered outside the hotel to watch soccer projected on the side of the building. We headed down into the subway where more people were watching soccer on a TV. Back up on to the street and we found ourselves surrounded by restaurants.
My youngest brother and sister were sick of Korean food and wanted to eat at the TGI Fridays; in the interest of group harmony most people agreed to go along for the ride. I said to Bryce something similar to “I didn’t fly half way around the fucking world to eat at TGI Fridays” and he agreed so we decided to find our own meal. As it turns out the rest of the group also wanted Korean food, so we ditched the siblings and went to find a Korean restaurant. Unfortunately there weren’t any open so we wound up at TGI Fridays after all, and I can assure you that their food doesn’t get any better with distance.
After dinner we went shopping in Seoul, which was like something out of Bladerunner. The difference is that there they were selling smoothies instead of noodles and Prada knock-offs instead of cloned animals, but the feeling was the same. After walking up the street we wound up at a mall, which was like a dirt mall rotated 90 degrees.
It was somewhere between a flea market and a mall, each vendor had an 10×4 area to hock his or her wares that they closed with a curtain. There was an escalator in the middle bringing customers up through 5 floors of this to the food court at the top. I don’t remember the restaurants, but I know that I was all too familiar with their logos. Thank the Maker for globalization, the antidote to culture shock (or maybe just culture).
I bought some tchochkies to bring home (and a couple to hang on to) at the mall. We somehow met up with my Dad who was looking at replacements for a broken bag of my Mom’s and then we headed back to the hotel. I somehow found the global edition of the Daily Show on our TV but passed out before it was half way through.
In the morning we got an early start to meet the shuttle to the airport, but Bryce and I delayed it a bit so that he could dump 128 Megs of pictures on his memory stick to my laptop. The bus ride was uneventful, but the seats were more comfortable than any I was about to face in the air.
Airport, checkin, find terminal, wait. To pass the time, I got a genuine American fast food breakfast – I want to experience Korean cuisine but not first thing in the morning. We putted around the airport, occasionally buying overpriced touristy trinkets and passing the time. Finally we boarded our flight to Tokyo and had a couple hours to pontificate on whether the seat backs and tray tables of our souls were in their upright and locked positions.
The stopover in Japan was mildly interesting, they have a Sony store every 10 feet. I initially thought that there were amazing deals to be had until I realized that while 1000 won (Korean currency) is about 1 dollar, 100 yen is the Japanese equivalent. Once I adjusted the prices by a factor of 10, I suddenly was less impressed. Next time I’m out that way I hope to spend at least a couple days in Tokyo so I can make it to the Akihabra(?) district and get some real deals.
Our flight back was about 10 hours, featuring the amazing epic Maid in Manhatten. I opted to read Good Omens, about 10 years after everyone else did I think, but it was still excellent. We passed from day to night back to day, and over the international dateline. Our plane landed at 12:30pm or so on Sunday afternoon, a good 12 hours before I was expecting it to. Next time I’ll pay closer attention to the damn itinerary.
So that puts me back at DTW, which isn’t the most interesting place to be if you live in Michigan. After getting back to our cars, our family parted ways and, uh, a monster came and I fought it and I won and we had ice cream and became friends and fought Billy who’s mean to me.
The End.

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