Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Happy Birthday, Buddha!
Vacation days are few and far between in Korea, so when a long weekend comes round we take full advantage of it, however that may be. This past weekend was Buddha's birthday and we had Friday off work so a group of us decided to head up to Seoul. All the expats in Seoul probably look down on us Busanites and think they are much better than we because they live in big old Seoul. That's fine with me, I would never, ever, ever want to live in Seoul. It's colder in the winter, hotter in the summer, I would spend way too much money because there is too much shopping and thousands more more Koreans all crammed together means that the litter problem is 1000x worse than here in Busan (and it's pretty bad here). Plus, they have no beach. Having access to the ocean anytime I want seals the deal on living here instead of hot, dirty Seoul.
...but a weekend there is needed once in a while. As I've mentioned before, when Al and I head up there we do so to escape "Korea". I go to Forever 21 and we eat eat eat all the western food we can get our hands on. No temples, no sightseeing. Once you've seen one temple, you've seen them all and being in my third year of being over here, the novelty has definitely worn off. If I happen to run across temples or traditional buildings of course I marvel in their beauty and really just let it sink in how old all these places are, but I'm really not going to go out of my way to find them anymore. We are both getting pretty jaded about Asia and are very much ready for next April to get here and get here fast so we can park our butts in Europe for a month and then settle into our long awaited, mundane American lives.
Our being blasé about being here doesn't mean that I don't have fun or that I don't appreciate what a simple and carefree life I lead. On the contrary, I have a blast every weekend and I'm very aware that I'm extraordinarily lucky in how I live right now. I don't wish we would've moved home after finishing this last contract, either. There's still a bit more travelling I want to get in before moving home and so we will do that over the next year. We have summer vacation that we will get somewhere or other and then after we're finished we're going to head back to America via Europe as I mentioned above. I believe as long as I get one more Asian country in this summer (China, Vietnam...something) and then hit up a few European countries before moving on to Nashville, I won't be regretting moving home. Right now, I don't have enough travel under my belt to justify settling down permanently, so I'll just have to get through the next ten months with a smile on my face.
That smile starts with long weekends. Happy Birthday, Buddha! You got me Friday off! Thanks dude! Al and I and a few friends plus some new people I hadn't met before wanted a weekend away and that's what we did. The original plan was to head to Tokyo for a few days but it fell through so the next best thing is Seoul. Al, myself and seven other people took the 1:00 bullet train north on Friday to start the weekend off. They all stayed in a hostel in Hongdae but Al and I wanted to stay somewhere on our own so we went to our trusted Vestin Inn in Myeongdong, where we always stay. Myeongdong is central to everything and never seems too many stops or transfers from anything on the subway. First things first, H&M. We have two H&Ms here in Busan but they pale in comparison. (everything we have here is 10x better there) The biggest Forever 21 I've ever stepped into is in Myeongdong but unfortunately it's closed for reno until June so we had to hunt down the other one near Gangnam (heh.). It's much smaller than the other but it served its purpose.
We went with another couple to have some legit Mexican at On The Border for dinner and then headed out to a district called Hongdae, a place that apparently is unbelievably awesome in which to go out. That's where our other friends were staying so we met them there and once we arrived, my immediate thought was, "This looks like every other street in Korea". After further investigation and walking around I did realize that there were many more bars and clubs and people, but all in all it's just a big KSU (where we usually go out here in Busan). Noooooot really impressed. Al put it in the best way: "There's just more of a variety of the same old thing".
We found our friends and started bar hopping and I was done about 4:30. Don't get me wrong, it was sooooo much fun, but no different or anything more spectacular than here. Day 1, done.
Saturday, our full day there, was spent eating broccoli soup and salad for lunch (gasp!) at our favorite terrace restaurant and shopping. Itaewon, the foreigner district, is full of import stores, Taco Bell and Subway it all their glory. I got some super cute earrings from a street vendor (haggled like a boss) and then beelined for the import stores where I stocked up on ranch, mac n cheese, root beer, blueberry muffin mix and even some milk tea imported from Japan (if you've read this blog from the beginning you'll know that's one of my favorite things on earth). It's the little things.
That night we met up with our friends again (our really close friends came up this night instead of with us on Friday) and did it all over again in Hongdae. This time we ended up at the noraebang (karaoke) which is 100% guaranteed to keep us all out until well past sunrise...and no surprise here, we walk outside in the bright daylight and head for Taco Bell.
After getting back to our miniscule room, we slept for three hours or so and then checked out. We headed back to Itaewon for Subway for lunch (tuuuurrkkkeeeeyyyy sandwich), grabbed four tacos at TB for the train ride home and back to the KTX station we go. We slept most of the 2 1/2 hours home so it was a short ride, then groggily made our way through the 30 minutes of subway stops to ours. We wanted to get back sooner rather than later so we arrived about 5:00, plopped into bed and watched four episodes of Game of Thrones. Now that's a nice evening.
Was the weekend fun? Amazingly so. Was it worth the near $1,000 we spent? Proooobably not, but that hint of America I get when I'm up there is definitely needed occasionally.