Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My December Trip, part 1 -- South Korea: Seoul and Geochang

I just returned from India and Korea.  I was there for two weeks, half in Korea, half in India.  The first week consisted of hanging out a bit in Seoul and then meeting my girlfriend's parents for the first time in Geochang, a country town.  The second week was to tour India for a few days before my girlfriend started her field work in the eastern region of India (she is a Geologist).  

I'll focus only on South Korea for this entry.  It's been since childhood that I've ever seen snow in Korea (I don't go to Korea too often in winter).  I got to spend Christmastime in Korea, which was cool.  Literally.  It was below freezing temperature.  Luckily, I had my winter jacket, and had packed up my bag pretty tightly.  Ironically, it's fairly warm in India, so I had to move from one extreme weather to another.  

Seoul, South Korea

After about 13 hours in the plane, we landed in Incheon.  13 hours sitting down is tough work.  I think I spent some time watching a Korean movie called "The King's Case Note" in the plane--not bad...a story about a detective king.  I don't remember what the plot was beyond that. I wonder if it's my memory problem or if the movie just wasn't memorable?  We arrived in Incheon airport on Wednesday morning after taking off on Monday night (skipped a day because time is earlier in Korea)

I did some sketches of our ride on the bus to Seoul from Incheon


Bus to Seoul

Yi-Moon, old-shool sullung tong place for breakfast 

First food we ate in Seoul


We took a bus to Seoul from the airport, stayed around Seoul's City Hall area. We walked around Insadong.  Cute little shops there, with some good deals on souvenirs.  I bought some socks and bookmarks. It started to snow around nighttime.  Snow at night sets a good mood.  Drank some teas and little tea shops (some of which have been around since the 50's) and looked at small art galleries of antiques (where we got some free postcards) We ate nakji bokkum for dinner. Quite tasty! 


Peaceful demonstrations are a common thing that happens near city hall.


Insadong

Chestnuts at Insadong


Stopping by for some tea at a traditional tea house.

Insadong at night...and snowing.

We ate some spicy nakji (cuttlefish/octopus) for dinner 

More snow...

The next morning, we hung around Gyeongbokgung, an old Korean "gung" palace, which is also a museum, in Seoul, along with some villages nearby.  Some of the old villages are now inhabited by modern people.  Lovely royal Korean architecture.

Gyeongbokgung is one of the big Korean palaces here.  Also a museum.

Snow!


Villages still keep their old look from the past.


An old style marching drill at Gyeongbokgung

A drill, demonstrating when someone important enters the kingdom

Remnants of the older structures are still around

There are some neat street eateries around the area.


Geochang, South Korea

Around noon, we took a bus to Geochang. Geochang is a city in the countryside known for cow meat and apples. I got to meet my girlfriend's sweet family and ate a ton of good food. The food is all organic and fresh since it all comes from the farmland here.  Some of the grass looked a little dry as there hasn't been much rain in the winter. 

Great eating!  Cow meat is quite tasty in Geochang.

Christmas lights at Geochang at night

Lovely Geochang

Geochang in the morning

A good stroll in the morning

Countrier part of Geochang

A lot of houses are like this here.

Had some time to sketch a bit.

More sketches


Gangnam in Seoul, South Korea

We returned back to Seoul after visiting Geochang.  We had dinner at a dak galbi place called Yoogane with my girlfriend's old college friends at Gangnam.  Good food here!  You eat the spicy chicken being braised on a pan in front of you, then you fry rice on it afterwards.  Not a new concept, of course, but this was particularly tasty.  I wish they had this chain in the U.S.  

For dinner: some seriously great Korean food at "Yoogane"--dak galbi.

Making a X-mas card on the fly for my girlfriend's friend


Apparently my girlfriend owed her friend a Christmas card, so we made one on the fly.  I drew a little picture on the free postcard that I got from Insadong, and my girlfriend wrote on it.  Gangnam got pretty busy at night. 

The more busier part of Gangnam at nighttime.


The next morning was X-mas Sunday.  It rained a lot in the morning.  We ate breakfast at a nearby street corner, had latte, and then checked out a local church nearby in Gangnam--found out a K-pop singer ("Tim") was singing there. In the afternoon, we headed off to Incheon airport to fly to India.  There was a slight delay as it was pretty foggy on the runway.


Slightly less crowded parts of Gangnam


Morning in Gangnam. It was very rainy.

Had some latte in the morning.

Thought this building looked cool.

Taking the flight to India


Korea was a fine experience (last time I was here was about 5 years ago and I didn't get to explore much because I was with family most of the time).  I particularly appreciated how efficiently everything runs here. Technological and well-organized.  This is something I appreciated more when I arrived in India, which is possibly quite the opposite.

How was India?  Both crazy and amazing.  One of those experiences that burn forever in your mind. It probably deserves its own blog post (which I will write about soon).



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