Monday, May 31, 2010

TYMIK: Friday's and Bennigan's

It's been a while since our last edition of "Things You Won't Miss in Korea", but hopefully this post makes up for the long absence.  On our trip to Busan, we came across this gem: a T.G.I.Friday's on top of a Bennigan's on top of a Starbucks.

You can't see it in this photo, but inside the front entrance is a Caribou Coffee, and further back, an Outback Steakhouse.  Somewhere, a bald eagle sheds a tear.

Trip to Busan

We spent the weekend in Busan, on Korea's southeast coast.  The weather was great (albeit a little windy) and the scenery beautiful.  After taking a boat tour of the shoreline, we spent most of Saturday afternoon sweating it out at a spa: sampling various steam rooms like "Yellow Ochre" and "Charcoal", taking nude dips in hot mineral baths (men and women separately), and eating ice cream in between.  It was quite the Korean cultural experience.

The spa was located inside Shinsegae Centum City, alleged to be the world's largest department store (it includes an ice skating rink on the 4th floor), it is also home to a "Water Bar", complete with "Water Advisor" and choice of Salt Water, Deep Sea Water, Sparkling Water, and Functional Water.  They had the most diverse selection of bottled water I'd ever seen.  We tried some deep sea stuff -- it tasted like... water.  At dinner, though, we had a chance to try a brand of soju we'd never had before called "좋은데이" or "Good Day" -- apparently it's the local brand, and tasted better than what we usually get in Seoul (which, really, isn't saying much).

Hopefully we'll have a chance to go back when it's warmer and take a dip in the sea.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One year on

Walking the dogs in Hongdae.

In a little less than a week, Mike and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary of living abroad. It's been a whirlwind experience that has taken us across South Korea and to Hong Kong, Cambodia and Japan. We've tried dozens of new food and pushed our limits in every way. We often find ourselves looking at each other these days and asking "Is this really our life?"

It's been hard, especially early on, leaving our wonderful friends and family behind. I had never been to Asia, let alone Korea, when we packed our bags and left Chicago last year. But I think we've grown and learned a lot more about the world along the way. So here's to a year living abroad... and we hope to see all of our loved ones soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lantern Parade

A Buddha's birthday celebration...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

24 Hours in Gyeongju

We spent a night in Korea's "cultural capital" of Gyeongju this weekend.  It's home to countless artifacts from the Silla kingdom period, which dates back more than 1,000 years.  Highlights from the trip: taking a late night stroll through a park filled with giant, grassy mounds (royal tombs); seeing the pristine Buddha carving at Seokguram Grotto (photos were not allowed, so we had to look twice); hiking up a part of Namsan Mountain, which is littered with statues and stone carvings; tasting Gyeongju's trademark red bean paste-filled breads (of course, we brought home a few).

Even though the city is only a four-hour drive from Seoul, people in Gyeongju have a distinct "southern" Korean accent that's a little more colloquial than the way people speak in Seoul.  That was interesting to hear.  And people were extremely friendly, helping us find our way around mountain trails and directing us to the best spots for sightseeing.  Most people only spoke to us in Korean, too, which was nice for a change.  One woman even told me I must speak English pretty well in order to communicate with my blonde partner here.  Nissa got a kick out of that.