South Korea (in one post)

South Korea (surprisingly) rocked our worlds.

What started out as a 2 week trip to visit our pal, Phill, turned in to a serious desire to stay a month! Or 2! Or 3! I’m not sure if it was the clean, COOL air minutes after landing, or the orderliness of the subway, or the fact that I could run (or actually go anywhere and feel totally safe) or the fact that we were with our friend, or had a mini pig in our hostel, or what – but either way, Korea turned out to be everything we could have hoped or more. Without question we will be going back to explore the rest of the country sooner rather than later.

The pics below will be totally out of order, but will at least show you a small glimpse of what life was like…

1) We went to a Jjimjilbang (Korea spa)… 7 glorious floors stocked full of varying degreed water tubs, sweating rooms/sauna, open-air ginseng baths, a seawater bath, a salt room, an ice room, a huge outdoor swimming pool…all for $11. It was my first experience having to “drop trou” and get totally naked with a bunch of strangers, but truthfully, I found it pretty liberating and overall pretty damn natural (For the record, there was a man side and a lady side – apparently after talking to my dad, this wasn’t totally clear :)) We stayed for quite a few hours – and it was glorious. Before you enter the baths, you need to scrub until you’re raw, and I opted for a “full body scrub” which literally left me laying in a pile of brown/grey balls of skin after a 20 minute scrub down. It was unbelievably disgusting, but damn if I didn’t feel smooth as a baby’s butt when I was finished. Again, glorious.
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There were also common areas (where clothing WAS mandatory) No photos allowed inside the gendered baths (again, naked people) but here as you can see, is pretty great. There were also other cool common areas like the Ice room, the charcoal room the jade room and a bunch of others that you could sit and hangout with your family or whomever else in…you can trust me when I say, worth every penny.IMG_1383
2) Kevin went to the LOL (League of Legends) Championship tourney which was hosted in the World Cup stadium and left him surrounded by hot chicks and nerdy nerds. I can’t speak much of it besides to say it honestly did look awesome (even though we’re supposed to be a DOTA-only family – blasphemous to even suggest otherwise! :))IMG_1312
The winning team (I love this picture).IMG_1322
3) We ate some pretty bomb street food. One of our favorites “egg bread” (Gyeran Bread)  was right outside our hostel and was perfect for late night snacks…IMG_1280
Not street food – but a strange one just the same: Pig Trodders (feet) and Blood Sausage (and of course, Soju :))IMG_14364) We hiked Mount Bukhan (a bit of it anyway). We were even given these fancy-dancy badges for our hike! (Due to security reasons, we had to check in with our passports and could not take photos towards North Korea (which was on our left side the whole way up). About 6,000 steps later, we made it.IMG_1259IMG_1265IMG_1262
IMG_1256IMG_12755) We saw some super cool graffiti
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6) There were exercise machines everywhere to help you walk off your dinnerIMG_1243
7) We discovered Makgeolli (fermented rice wine); how to mix soju and beer AND that we could do all of the above right outside of 7-11 (or any other convenience store). For travelers on a budget, this was a pretty rad way of people watching and partaking in a delicious beverage!IMG_1246
8) Highlight or not (depending on who you ask) there was MEAT. and LOTS of it. Seen below: Mountainous (Sandeomi) Bulgogi (when it arrived both of those giant stacks of meat were on top of each other – and it was ONLY for us) – not to mention the 12 banchans that went along with it…..IMG_1248
IMG_13919) Scary picture of all of us – but! We went to the Norjangjin Fish MarketIMG_1223IMG_1215
10) And visited a few themed cafes (Dog Cafe, Banana Cafe, Hello Kitty Cafe)IMG_1230IMG_123311) Grilled lots of fun things with friends (Phill and Jinnie were honestly the best tour guides ever)

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12) Tried Bingsu – shaved milk dessertIMG_1205IMG_1207

13) THERE WAS A MINI PIG NAMED HAMLET AT OUR GUESTHOUSEIMG_1129
14) The streets were alive….with the sounds of viiideeoogammmessssIMG_1164
15) Besides the impressive subway, Seoul was a ridiculously walkable city. Cheonggyecheon was a 7 mile long paved trail that followed the river out to the river. It was full of artists and friends and lovers.  IMG_1177
16) Top highlight: Phill was there, being all cool and shit.IMG_1143IMG_1152IMG_1194
17) We went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and had a chance to stand in North Korea for a few minutes. I didn’t realize what a big deal it really was until we where there – surrounded by guards who are literally “on alert” 24 hours a day guarding the border. You can see the guards looking across to N. Korea and a guard on the N. Korea side looking back with binoculars at the S. Korean side. Pretty crazy. After checking out the Korean War museum, we had an opportunity to see where high-level military discussions happened on both the N. Korea and S. Korea side. IMG_1396
We had about 1 minute to take a photo towards the N. Korea side before our cameras had to be put away- here’s us with our badges.IMG_1398Table where mmilitarytalks are held.IMG_1402

IMG_139518) I could run along the beautifully paved Han RiverHan River
19) Did I mention we had a PIG?!IMG_1123
20) One day, Kevin and I got up and walked probably 15-18 km around the city (we had no idea where we were going short of we needed to get over a main bridge to check out a bridge river light show – which never happened) but we DID get to see this – pretty magical (although the pics don’t do it justice!)IMG_1432

21) Eating our way through the Tongin Market (with these cool little tokens!)

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22) * Going to the AMAZING Gyeongbokgung  Royal Palace and walking around the grounds (and awesome museum) and having our first glimpse of the fall colors

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Other highlights not pictured (because I forgot my camera on multiple occassions 🙁 ):

* Having a dinner fit for a King (and Queen!) with Phill’s Dad

* Checking out the Flea Markets with Jinnie and Phill

* Dancing in Gangnam

* Eating squid in a PC Bang while Kevin played DOTA with his keyboard accidentally set in Korean

* Visitng the Ewha Women’s University

* Listening to K-pop in the grocery stores

* The girls kickin’ butt in pool in the wee hours of the night at the Blue Monkey

* And the list goes on….

Needless to say (again!) Korea, see you SOON.