Monday, July 16, 2012

Kristen and Shawn Visit: Part 4: 韓国スタイル Seoul, South Korea

After Kyoto, we hopped on a plane and flew over to South Korea. I had to leave country to change my visa status to a tourist visa, since my student visa was about to expire, and Kristen and Shawn were all "We want to go, too!"

I don't know why, but even when I'm thinking in English now, I've started thinking of South Korea as Kankoku. Maybe it's because I never really thought about Kankoku before coming to Japan.
Conversations often go like:

American Friend: Ah, you went to South Korea! How was it?

Me: Huh?!? Oh, you mean Kankoku?

That said, it was fabulous!
When we first arrived, we went directly to Loving Hut to eat. There are actually about 5 in Seoul (yay for vegans), and the one we picked was very good, if a little expensive. We met my friend Uri and her boyfriend Patric there.

Uri making me look somewhat like a giant

I hadn't seen Uri in over a year, so it was super awesome to get to hang out! And plus, we have both gotten MUCH better at Japanese since when we met, so we were actually able to talk a bit.
Luckily, though, her boyfriend, Patric, lives in America, so he was able to talk lots to Kristen and Shawn.

After eating and a brief rest, they showed us around a bit.

That thing was really cool, though I don't remember at all what it was. Maybe the dude that founded South Korea.
Apparently we were there at, like, the South Korean independence day or something, so we were happy to stumble upon a little concert (and you KNOW how much I love concerts).

They were all playing these light up drums and dancing around. It was really cool. Afterwards, they invited us on stage to take a picture with them, but I don't have it anywhere.
Of course, it would have been better if we had stumbled upon a punk show, but this was still cool.

Then this big thing was also really cool, so we of course had to take a picture with it. I wanted to get in the water, but I suppose that would have been a bad idea.

We actually got to see the presidential procession pass in front of this building, which was super cool.

And then this little dude is called Haechi, or something like that (do not take my word on that spelling), and apparently he's in front of all the temples in South Korea. He was a mega cutey face.

After exploring, we spent some time in the night market and woke up super early the next morning to go on a tour of Panmunjon and the DMV.

We got really lucky because, even though we weren't on the defactor tour, there was a North Korean defector on the bus with us. We got to ask her lots of questions, and it was really super eye-opening and enlightening.

We learned all about how life was for her in North Korea, why she decided to run away, how she ran away, what she misses. . . it was pretty amazing!

We also got to look through binoculars at a fake North Korean city. It was SO weird because there were all these buildings and absolutely NO ONE there.
Apparently, there used to be fake people made to be looking like they were having fun. But now, I guess, North Korea no longer cares what we think about them.

This train is apparently an old remnant of the war. I don't know more about it than that.

Me and our new friend, Geil, with a guard in front of the train that goes from South Korea to North Korea.

I really thought that North Korea and South Korea had very minimal relations, but apparently there's actually a South Korean factory in North Korea, and every day South Koreans get on a train to go to work (and be paid in American dollars). I was actually really surprised!

Me and Geil trying to reach North Korea

We also went to the DMZ, but no pictures allowed there.
We went to the night market again that night and then, the next morning, after taking a somewhat leisurely morning break (during which Shawn, who does not sleep, walked around), we hopped back on an airplane to head towards Tokyo.
In other news, we were actually WEIGHED to get on the airplane and then given a pen for our troubles. That was a first to me.

Check back soon for the last installment of my travels with Kristen and Shawn!

2 things said:

Kirthi said...

Wow, what a beautiful place! I didn't know South Korea was called Kankoku :D Now I can amaze all my Korean friends, haha :) I'm so glad you're having a great time!

brizmus said...

Thanks for looking at the blog and commenting! I really appreciate it.

Well, Kankoku is how you say South Korea in Japanese, but I'm pretty sure it's actually Hangook in Korean. And the language is Hangeul.

Go amaze your Korean friends! :-)