i spent two weeks and two days in South Korea and enjoyed every minute. i'm looking forward to visiting again some day in the future. however, it was time to leave so lunato and i packed our bags and boarded the United airplane heading to San Francisco, USA. lunato had really wanted to visit the Golden Gate bridge so we had arranged our flights so that we could have a 5 hour transit in SF.
immigration was annoying. first we were selected for "extra interrogation" and had to go to their security offices and spent about half an hour there. second, once we were past immigration, the customs officer searched all of my luggage and even went through my laptop. i'm a canadian citizen and have travelled/visited the States more than 5 times in the past 4 years (and each time had to undergo some "extra" checks) but i still had to open my hand carry, my two suitcases, and then log into my laptop and let him search through it for more than 10 minutes. i've no idea what he was doing.. i wasn't allowed to look at the screen >:( finally, when he was done with all my luggage, i started to lift lunato's suitcase so i could put it on the table and open for him but he told me, "It's ok. She can go." bah! canadian citizen vs south korean citizen. oh well, at least we got to see the Golden Gate bridge... and it was really beautiful :)
we took the BART train from the airport to the Civic Center station and then a cab to the Golden Gate bridge. you can see the Alcatraz island from the bridge. the 1996 movie, The Rock featured this prison and since i really liked that movie, i was really excited to see it with my own eyes.
after spending half an hour on the bridge, we barely made it back to the airport and we were the last two to board the airplane :P when we boarded the airplane, we heard the air hostess tell the pilots "ah, they are here!." unforunately, during the rush to the airplane, i forgot to pick up my wrist watch from the small box i had put it in while going through the security checkposts. doh!!
from SFO, we took an Air Canada flight to Toronto and apparently from this flight was considered a domestic flight and not an international one. that is part of the reason we were so late to get to the boarding gate. we were looking for the gates in the International Terminal instead of the Domestic Terminal. so, in case you're traveling between CA and USA through SF, either be smarter than us and ask someone beforehand which terminal you should be leaving from OR remember this post!
hmm.. maybe i really had gained a lot of weight over the past two dozen days in korea. i was invited to go mountain climbing today. i had never climbed a mountain before in my life so i was a little bit apprehensive about it but lunato's nephews told me that they are going as well and that their dad goes every sunday. no equipment is required and it is just walking on a path that winds its way up a mountain. cool!!
but... wow, it was really strenuous. i was exhausted by the time we reached the first summit and wanted to stop for a rest half way up there... but i thought maybe this is some sort of a physical endurance test and i was being tested by the family. gotta go on.. one more step.. and another.. and another. remember, each step brings the destination closer. go go go.. phewh. the climb was extremely tiring and my calves were screaming for a rest every time i took a step... but i made it!!. and the view was breathtaking. we basically started from the buildings you see at the right most corner in the
amatuerly created panorama.
the climb down was easy. losing potential energy is always easier than obtaining it. i am pretty much out of shape as well so it was a good exercise and a good wake-up call as well. however, i really wanted to relax so lunato and i went to downtown Anyang and after food (i laugh in the face of exercise.. hah!) we went to a Karaoke bar. i have no singing ability at all. my allergies, deformed nasal passages, and an almost-ashtma-type condition robbed me of that a long time ago. but this was my first time in a korean karaoke bar so i had to sing and i sang along with lunato and managed not to break any glass :)
we sang a lot of our favourite songs; Eagles - Hotel California, Coldplay - Talk, Coldplay - Yellow, Oasis - Don't Look Back In Anger, and ended the night with Extreme - More Than Words. Amazingly enough, all the songs we wanted to sing were available. Karaoke is a pretty good way to relax and pass the time. Fun!
a saturday is always a weekend and that meant lunato would not be going to work today. we decided to spend the day in downtown seoul, wandering from one mall and shopping centre to another. we didn't have any specific items to buy, the aim was to enjoy rather than spend on things neither of us really need. i enjoy foreign cuisines so we had a bite at a few choice restaurants. yumm.
while passing by the SETEC exhibition place, we saw numerous kids dressed up as anime andcomic characters. the annual Seoul Comic Book World exhibition was taking place today and since we were there already, we decided to visit and see what it is like. i had heard of comic- and anime-cons but had never been to one. this was a unique opportunity to explore and experience this fad.
the tickets were only $5 CDN and they allowed access to entrance area and the numerous halls inside. we took a lot of pictures :)
COEX mall wasn't too far away from SETEC so we visited it again. we went there last time i was in Korea as well. it is a nice mall and a definite visit if you're in Seoul area. there were some interactive games in the mall that lots of kids were playing. a projector was displaying a pool table and a soccer field on the floor and you could interact with the pool table balls and the soccer ball with your feet. it was quite impressive and fun as well. lunato just had to play them.. even if it meant winning against a poor little kid haha.
later at night we had a dinner reservation with lunato's brother's family tonight so after the comic-con and COEX mall, we took a bus that would take us to the yoido district. on the way we saw a Trump World tower.. in Seoul.. Trump is everywhere :P lunato's brother's favourite restaurant was in yodio and we spent about half an hour trying to find it.. but luckily we were on time and didn't keep them waiting too long. mmmm, more good food. i'm going to gain so much weight here in Korea!!
A bunch of random Anyang and Seoul pictures. I finally went for a haircut and was treated like a celebrity hehe. It's not everyday that a foreigner goes to a hair saloon in Anyang. Watched Pirates of the Carribean:Dead Man's Chest at the theatre. The movie ticket is actually assigned a specific seat number so before you even buy the ticket, you know how full the theatre is and you can choose the best available seat. You can buy the tickets online, or through your cellphone as well. Not a bad idea at all.. I hate getting bad seats at the theatre.
Lunato's sister-in-law was going to the temple for an annual ceremony of some sort so I went along with her to see what it was like. The temple was quite big but she told me that it is actually pretty small compared to the bigger and more popular temples in Seoul. I couldn't understand what the monks were chanting, nor what was actually going on in the place but it was a unique experience and I enjoyed the trip.
Met a bunch of lunato's friends in Seoul. Good food + good people = good times. One of the restaurants was named Happy Together... how can one possibly have a bad time there? ;)
Did some shopping at the various malls in the numerous commercial areas. The subway is amazing.. very easy to get anywhere you need to. Spent some time at the library taking care of some work items that had to be taken care of.
And spent a lot of time with the different family members. 5 nephews and 1 adorable niece are a handful and when you put all of them together... sheesh. Lunato's mom expects me to learn Korean in one year! Yikes. I better get started right away!
Lunato's brother's family invited me to accompany them on a short trip to Pyeongchang and Farm Herbnara. They have a 2005 Hyundai Santa-Fe and it can easily seat 6 people. Hello first excursion outside of Seoul.
It took almost three hours to reach PyeongChang and we were pretty tired by that time. We stopped for some food at a traditional Korean restaurant (yumm!) and then spent about an hour in the city. PyeongChange is located at exactly 700 meters above sea level, an ideal altitude for winter sports. The city's nick name is "Happy 700" and because of its ideal location, the city is bidding for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Go Happy 700!!
Farm Herbnara is a famous herb farm located close to PyeongChang. A river runs through the farm area as well and lots of people were out and about; swimming, relaxing, hiking, cooking, etc. We spent a few hours at the farm relaxing in the excellent weather. It was quite peaceful. Sunyul and Kihun swam a lot and tried to get me to join them but I don't know how to swim so I had to decline. I must learn!
PyeongChang is also the hometown of the famous Korean novelist Lee Hyo-Seok who used the city as a background for his masterpiece "When the Buckwheat flower blossom". The Lee Hyo-Seok Memorial was on the way back to Anyang so we stopped there as well and took some pictures of the water mill house.
We had dinner at another restaurant and then took a smaller highway, instead of the main highway which was jam packed, all the way back to Anyang. It took almost 4 hours and it was pretty late at night by the time lunato's brother dropped us at lunato's parent's house.
THe northern part of South Korea is quite beautiful. I would love to visit again. Oh and here is Sunyul playing with his baseball bat: MOV01904.MPG.