Monday, April 6, 2015

South Korea day 1

South Korean Day 1

            I selected South Korea for my spring break trip for two reasons.  One, I was intrigued by the Korean  cultural exhibits I saw during my layovers at the Inchon airport, and two it seemed like it was a small enough country that I could see a significant portion in a week.  Oh, and three it is a direct flight from Mongolia.  Now in the course of planning for my trip which I will admit wasn't much, I quickly realized that I couldn't see a significant portion of the country in a single week, and do it justice.   Thus I settled on just visiting Seoul for the week.

            I had a bit of a scare the morning of my flight as originally it was supposed to leave at 9:45 am but then Orbitz told me it was moved to 8:45 am, only to change it back to 9:45 am once I got to the airport.  Now this would not have been a problem, except the notification came at 5:45 am, too late to do anything about it when I woke up at 6:45 am.  I had a taxi coming at 7:45 am and no possible way to call it to come earlier.  If everything worked out perfectly, I would make it just in time.  Sadly my taxi was a no show, but I was able to catch a ride to the airport with a fellow teacher who was incidentally on the same flight.  Now she never got the message about the time change and long story short the flight left at 9:45 am with no problems what so ever.

            My Korean Air flight was actually being run by MIAT, don't ask me how that works.  I was a bit more cramped than on a Korean air flight and the food didn't look as good.  I know these are rather first world complaints and minor ones at that.  Though I did get free headphones to watch the first Avengers movie.  There was some rather annoying turbulence for a good portion of the flight, but again nothing serious.

            Ugh customs, man it took forever (90 min) to get through customs.  Nothing bad mind you just really crowded.  It was then a nice 43 min train ride to the city and a short subway trip to what was supposed to be my hotel.  I did end up in the right part of the city but I ended up having to go to a tourist information booth to get a map and directions to my hotel.  So a bit longer than I wanted, but not too bad and I got to do some shopping along the way.  Insa-dong is a major shopping area for traditional Korean crafts and other souvenir type things.  The shops run the gamut from the kitschy stuff to handmade crafts some of which are quite nice.  So I got a vast majority of my shopping done on the first day.

            The Sunbee hotel has some pretty nice rooms, free Wi-Fi, and three English tv channels (Food network Asia, Tru TV, and Euro Vision).  The bed was very nice and I loved having a real mattress for the week.  Oh and the bathroom had a hot tub or something (not that I could figure out how it worked).

            My first Korean meal was Bulgogi and I love it.  Spicy beefy goodness, with equally good kimchi which was a bit spicier than I anticipated.  About my only complaint was that it could have used some rice.  Oh and as much as I loved Bulgogi it did not love me the next morning.

            In Korean Bulgogi means fire meat, and is typically a grilled marinated meat (soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper), but it does have other preparations.  I also had a soup variety (not a fan) and it can be made into hamburgers (sounds good, but I didn't have any).  My dinner also came with several varieties of Kimchi, but sadly no rice.

            Well the one on the bottom left is some kind of fried tofu, which is actually pretty good.  I knew ahead of time that Kimchi was spicy, but I was surprised by the level of spiciness.  The red one was spicy but good, and the green one, was not spicy and pretty tasty.  I later found out that there are many different varieties of kimchi.  FYI- Kimchi is a fermented vegetable side dish.  It also happens to be serious business in Korea with four major incidents since 1996, two of which were international spats.  In 1996 Korea got into an argument over Kimchi, which could basically be considered a copyright dispute over the name Kimchi.  In 2012 China banned the import of Kimchi from Korea.  According to China Kimchi is actually Chinese and not Korean, and Korean Kimchi has too much Lactobacillus bacteria in it (used in fermentation). 


            Some kind of special tree between my hotel and the restaurant.  I don’t know what the deal is but it has a sign in Korean next to it.