From my old blog, written February 17, 2011
Well I’m back from my *wonderful* vacation with my boyfriend! It was beyond awesome! SNOWBOARDING!!!
First off, anyone who knows me well enough knows that snowboarding is NOT my thing! I have (or thought I had) the worst balance EVER and I never really played any sports. Boyfriend, however, is Mr.Beach Bum itself. He studied in Port Elizabeth and his apartment was within walking distance of the beach. He went to the beach every single day and spent hours and hours body boarding. I’ve also heard stories of sand boarding and witnessed his first try at wake boarding last year – not too shabby! So naturally when Le Clue said “Let’s change the Ski passes to snow boarding,” I was terrified. You see, in my mind, skiing is like rollerblading and ice skating – which I can manage. Snowboarding is like skater chick gone Kim Yuna. But trying to be a good girlfriend I agreed. After all, something about snowboarding instead of skiing gave me a thrill.
We started our trip in the weeee hours on Saturday morning – boyfriend’s birthday. Thank goodness for the Masan train station’s Ediya Coffee, for a breakfast bagel and a hot choco. We took the *new* KTX from Masan to Seoul and arrived at around 11. Honestly, if you want to travel to Seoul *buy a KTX TICKET*. It might be almost double the price, but it’s half the time.
Anyways, we headed to our Motel, but not before stopping at Lotte first to buy some supplies… like ski gloves, extra stretchy face masky stuff and some chocolate covered sunflower seeds. (cause you never know, hey!) It took us
AGES to find the Amiga Motel in Jongno-o(5)-ga. It’s only 4 stops on the subway, but the motel itself is located in a very narrow alley.
We eventually found it and were quite bummed when we were told that check-in was only at 3pm. We had made a reservation well in advance and they specifically asked us what time *we’d* like to check in. So I arranged for 12pm. Well the little Korean man refused to give us the room until 3… At least they said they’d keep our luggage until check-in, so we decided to find some lunch as we were both pretty much starving! We found a nice little Chinese restaurant about a block away and had some 탕수육 (Sweet and Sour pork), 붂음밥 (fried rice) and made some beer shandies. We had time to kill but sitting around after a yummy lunch just made us sleepy! So we grabbed the map and saw that one of the palaces were only a 5 minute walk from us! So off we went to Changgyeonggung palace.
Changgyeonggung palace served as residential quarters for queens and concubines. It was very pretty with all the snow, but it was -15′C in Seoul and very windy, so we didn’t hang around too long!
We finally managed to get our room and settled in. The rooms at Amiga are small, but really comfortable. The bathroom is a bit weird, since the bathroom door is see-through glass and is connected to the little nook where you take off your shoes before entering the room itself, so a bit awkward. But luckily there is a door separating the bedroom from the shoe-nook, so we just closed that door if one of us went for a shower etc. Still weird.
Wanting to celebrate Le Clue’s birthday, we grabbed our little travel guide and decided on Sinchon area. It’s close to some of the universities and in Korea that only meant one thing – lots of people, lots of good food and lots of nice drinks. We walked around for ages and settled on a small and cozy basement-level Italian restaurant. I’m pretty sure the owner was a … Korean-Italian?? Or it seemed like it! We didn’t wait too long and he made a great fuss.. setting down my handbag for me, taking Le Clue’s coat etc. It was pretty sweet. We ordered some pizza and house wine. Really really good wine from Italy, and it tasted a lot like Nederburg Baronne, which was most definitely enjoyed!
We made our way to a little hidden gem called “Rough Bar”. Lol. Stay with me. Supposedly a “westerner bar”, however we were the only two foreigners. 3 Korean barmen, 1 Korean barlady and a whole lotta Koreans. Le Clue went to get rid of the red wine in his bladder while I ordered our first round of drinks. I also sneeked in an order for a birthday shooter each, which was a bit embarrassing. Why do they give them all such sexual names?! In Cape Town I can just say “What do you recommend?” and the barman would give me a list of 5 stuff that would make a teenager blush. *NEWSFLASH: YOU’RE IN KOREA* “recommend” would have the same effect as saying to the waiter: “Kom ons pak ‘n lekker braaitjie my china.” I *cringed* after saying (without thinking – cause it seems like that’s how I roll) “Are your Orgasms good?” GAH!!
After Le Clue returned (no idea that I feel just about ready to die), the barman came back: “I beliebe itch yor boyprenduhs burpday, so we make fire show, pleadje wait”. So Barman (later introduced as “Larry”) set up our shooters, called Playboy and Playgirl. Dim the lights and start the countdown! The barman did a little flame blowing etc. I bet it beats blowing out birthday candles, hey bf?? We planned on only having one drink (yes, stop judging and “yaaaaa right”ing), since we were being picked up super early to go skiing. I think Rough Bar in Sinchon actually does fireshows every night. They dimmed the lights about half an hour later and started doing a very entertaining show. They were juggling bottles, spitting fire etc – constantly rotating between barmen (and the lady!!). After a few of these rotation they ended up with two perfect cocktails. We were taking videos and photo’s, until I heard 이건 아무것도 아니지만 waygook를 말합니다. Waygook. *cringe* WAY-GOOK. Waygook. Means. Foreigner. Oh boy. WHAT now. Imagine this slow-mo: Waaaay-goooook- koreans-turn-heads-and-staaaaaaaaaares. Gulp.
Barman says: “Hi!”(Mari gives a Hi)
Barman: “Where ah you prom?”
Mari: “Erm, Namagong.” (Thinking: From From FFFFFFFrom dammit!)
Barman: “NAMAGONG!! Worlduh Cappuh!” (I thought we were known for having wild pets.) “What izuh yor boypuhrenduhs neeeeeim.”
Mari: “Le Clue”
Mari: “Le Clue!”
Barman: “Lek- whaaa??”
Mari: “LUHHH KUH-LOEEEEE”
So… after THAT we got one of the cocktails with two straws. We had to down it together. For downing a drink, Koreans often say “ONE SHOT!!” and giggles. So we downed the thing. Now I’m *not* one for being put on the spot, but ah it’s vacation and they’re having fun, so we went with it. Until.
“Now count-uh down annn kiss-uh.. Prench-uh Kiss-uh, pie-vuh second.”
Great. “Is your orgasm good”-girl has to now french kiss her boyfriend while being cheered on by people whose names I can’t even pronounce. (Not that they can say Le Clue very well.. his bank card says “Leuk Keul Leu”) We probably only kissed for 3, cause I seriously couldn’t stop laughing!!
Well there goes the “just one drink” plan. You can’t exactly leave after making a total spectacle of yourself and receiving a free cocktail for doing so! So we ordered yet another round and promised ourselves that it was the last one. We were just about ready to go when the barlady came back. Free Nachos. Seriously woman!? They were yummy but still! We had to leaaave! So… we ordered more drinks. We finally made it out – alive and giggling! Took a taxi home, cause it was just easier. I can’t be giggly AND concentrate on subway stops and transfer stations!
The next morning we were picked up just after 7am. We arrived at the Yangji Pine Ski resort just before 8. Check in is at 2pm. Wait, what!? Yup. Not sure how they arranged our trip and WHY we had to get up before 6am if check in is after lunch!! Our snowboarding lesson was at 1pm… thats also before check in!!! The “supermarket” was a Family Mart, so we ended up having microwave pizza for breakfast. We got our rooms at 12pm (yay!) and had a quick power nap. We got our snow gear, passes and board, and met up with our instructor. Lesson 1?? How to fall so you don’t break your arm or hit your head and die. Charming. We had a two hour lesson where we were taught a “lesson” then each of us got a chance to practice. This means that we went down the slope for maybe 2meters, then stopped. 2m. stop. 2m. stop. lose control and speed down 5 meters, fall, and stop. But it was super fun!!!
We were exhausted by the times our ski passes had expired (around 5pm) and had some chicken for dinner. The dinner options at the resort were super limited. BBQ Chicken restaurant, Family Mart, little Korean cafe’s (more like food stalls) and Family Mart. By 9pm we were snoring.
We had another day of snowboarding. I was so stiff from the previous day that I was exhausted by 3pm! Le Clue helped me a lot, so I decided to take pics instead so he could have a bit of “Falling-girlfriend-free” time on the slopes. We had some Korean dinner and were snoring again by 10pm.
The next morning we left for Everland. One of the famous Korean theme parks. My first impression of Everland? Neverland. See??
Seriously?! Was THIS one of Korea’s best amusement parks?!?!?!!!!
We walked around for a bit. Had the only type of breakfast available – Burgers. (At this point in our vacation my body was screaming… begging me to stop!) We saw loads of animals – those who know me know that I hate zoos. I hate seeing animals in unacceptably small enclosures which aren’t anything like their natural habitat, however I must say, *some* of the animals at Everland really have nice enclosures. Especially the bears and tigers (when you take the safari ride). The vibe also picked up with music playing and the park filling up fast. Loads of kids running around. It actually started looking like *Everland*! We had loads of fun – including this really insane “MYSTERY MANSION” ride where you basically sit in a little cart on a track and play Laser Tag for Dummies. If you shoot at a green light, you activate some kind of movement or sound, like coffins opening, witches laughing, ghosts farting (yes, really) etc. I haven’t laughed so much in ages! The day turned out to be really GREAT!
We got back to Amiga motel and decided to walk to the Cheonggyecheon Stream… (Wikipedia: Cheonggyecheon is a 5.8 km creek flowing west to east through downtown Seoul, and then meeting Jungnangcheon, which in turn connects to the Han River and empties into the Yellow Sea.) Apparently the stream has lights and everything, but … there weren’t any when we were there… But we had a nice walk and ended up eating a proper Korean meal at a small hof. (Real food!!!!!)
On Wednesday Le Clue and I made our way to Itaewon. Western food, western shopping and western people. Yayness! We walked around a bit and planned on going to Pizza Peel for lunch. They are super popular. We were super disappointed to find out that they were closed due to Lunar New Year. We opted for some sushi instead! yum!
Next stop? Deoksugung Palace. Even though the palaces in Korea are all very similar, we took loads of pictures there. I am in love with the ceilings! They are extremely colourful and the details.
We also saw Seogeodang – the only unpainted and two-story building at the palace. King Seonjo moved there during the Japanese invasion. He was concerned about the hardships suffered by the people during the war, so he ordered it to be left unpainted. Later, other kings also left it unpainted to remember his hardships. Pretty cool, hey!?
After that we went to Namsan Park, to go up the N. Seoul Tower! First a cable car takes you up to the tower, then you take the elevators up to the top. It was really pretty, despite bad weather (poor visibility) and dirty windows. We also got a little rubber heart for the Lovelocks wall with our ticket! The love locks are super popular in Korea. Couples who visit some sights in Korea (usually pretty romantic, like Seoul tower, or the top of Lotte in Busan – pretty view places) buy love locks. They write a nice message on them, declaring their love and then secure the lock on the “love wall”.. It’s actually pretty sweet! If you want to know what it says… go find it!
We went to bed exhausted after eating instant noodles with our HANDS because they didn’t have any utensils at the motel. :/
Thursday.. our last day in Seoul… We left rather early and met up with Gertjie, our Saffa friend, at Seoul station. After finding a locker big enough for our biiiig bag, we left our luggage there and went to the Yongsan Electronics market. Bad idea on a public holiday. In South Africa, they make the MOST money on holidays, cause everyone has the day off. In Korea, everyone has the day off. Everyone. = No market.
We went back to Itaewon instead. Had a Strawberry Pinacolada (it was lunchtime, okay?!) at an awesome foreigner bar. After that we had lunch at Poncho’s (If I remember correctly?). It’s a really nice Mexican restaurant in the main street. They have all kinds of western food! I had mexican, Le Clue had battered fish and chips (no, you don’t really get that here) and Gertjie had South African S(e)oulfood… lamb chops. And I have to say, they looked awesome. I would totally pay R140 for 4 chops in this country!
It was time for us to head back home… Time to say goodbye to Seoul. We definitely had the best winter vacation and I know this how? Because we left with our hearts full and our pockets empty.