11 days in Korea

Dad's first beer in Korea at a chicken hof after getting off the airport bus

Dad's first beer in Korea at a chicken hof after getting off the airport bus

So my dad came to visit not too long ago. I’ve been living in Korea now for a total of more than five years, and he’s the FIRST member of my family to come here! Well it’s about goddam time.

I suck at planning stuff, but there’s no way I was gonna let Dad visit Korea and be bored, so plan I did. Only a couple of things had to actually get booked in advance, but it was good to have a daily schedule of shit to do! And doing all of this stuff with Dad made me realize just how much stuff I myself still hadn’t seen.

Below is a day-by-day summary of our wild & crazy adventures.

Day 1photos

Dad got in on a Thursday night, so I’m counting Friday as his first day in Korea. We got up early and went to Ben & BHYB’s place to borrow Ben’s car, and about 10 minutes after getting on the expressway towards Suwon (a suburb that’s south of Seoul) I promptly drove through an automated toll booth without having an electronic toll thing in the car. Shit. Oops.

Anyway, we visited a Korean Folk Village that showed what life was like in Korea a long time ago. Lots of school kids were there on class trips and they practiced their English with the tall white guy. Afterwards we went to the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. We accidentally walked up to the top of the hill behind the fortress thinking the entrance was up there, which it wasn’t, so we just said ok fuck it we’ll ride the trolley car around the fortress instead. Great idea. It was a beautiful day, nice relaxing ride, and we just cabbed it back to the parking lot where the car was.

Almost showtime at the Korean Folk Village

Day 2photos

My Master Plan had us going to Gyeongju on days 2-3-4, so on Saturday we went to Express Bus Terminal and got on a bus. 4.5 hours later we arrived in Gyeongju but it was too late to do anything (all the tourist shit there closes around 5-6 pm). We just had dinner, wandered a while, and wound up in a nearly empty bar where some guy was singing really old songs that my dad actually knew.

Btw, Gyeongju (aka Kyungju or Gyungju) is filled with old historical shit from the Silla Dynasty back around 700 A.D., plus it’s very scenic and whatnot. So that’s why we went.

If you plan on going there yourself, there’s some night tour you can go on where tourist sites are lit up all fancylike. I think they only do it on Friday and Saturday nights, but you need to book it in advance. Dad and I tried to get seats but it was full.

I could read this guy's mind, he was thinking 'why the fuck am I singing to five people on a Saturday night'

Day 3photos

Sunday was our only full day in Gyeongju so we got on a city tour that I booked the day before by phone. We did “Course 1″ which took us to these places:

Bulkuksa Temple (Buddhist temple)
Silla History and Science Hall
Bunhwangsa (a partial pagoda that’s really old)
Tomb of General Kim Yushin
Cheonmachong (Tomb mound that you can walk into)
Gyeongju National Museum
Anapji Pond
Cheomseongdae Observatory

That’s most of the major shit you’d want to see in Gyeongju, so if you’re gonna do a tour do that one! The tour guide was speaking in Korean only but there were English placards in some places and I had Wikipedia on my iPhone.

The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Concorde which has no A/C (wtf??) but we didn’t really need it because it was still spring. The place is pretty old and it shows, but they do have a nice breakfast buffet! It was included in the price of the rooms, and it was pretty well stocked… scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, cereal, Korean food (of course). I was expecting coffee and donuts so it was a nice surprise.

Dad was mad that he decided against his wide angle lens that day

Check out this kickass 50 yr old radio between the beds at the hotel

Check out this kickass 50 yr old radio between the beds at the hotel

Day 4 | photos

We were departing back to Seoul on Monday, so before leaving we tried to go to some Expo Park that I saw on a tourist map, but it was deserted and possibly closed. Dad took a picture of a weird building and then we tried to go to Seokguram Grotto. That was a mistake. We took a taxi up the goddam mountain (about ₩17,000 just to get up there), it was all windy and rainy so we said ok fuck this and got back in the cab, and then we drove back to the hotel to get our crap and go to the KTX station to get back to Seoul. Basically we spent the entire morning in a taxi that drove us around for like 2 hours.

After getting back to my place, I went and got Terry from Lee’s apartment and then Dad, Terry, and I went for a walk by the river.

Weird building at the Expo thing in Gyeongju

Day 5photos

Tuesday was Seoul City Bus Tour day. We headed up to Itaewon for lunch and then jumped on the bus which picks up right in front of Nashville (across from Hamilton Hotel). ₩10,000 gets you on and off the bus all day so we rode it to Seoul Tower, a couple of palaces, Dongdaemun, and then back to Itaewon.

I tried to talk my dad into going on Disco Jump in Dongdaemun with all the screaming 14 year old girls but he wasn’t interested. Also we could have seen a protest in Gwanghwamun but we were already on the bus and I think being a spectator at riots is more my thing, not Dad’s.

Standing in front of some palace... I think it's Changdeokgung

Day 6photos

Wednesday was designated as Museum Day so we went to the Seoul National Museum which is fucking huuuuuuuge, and then we went to the Korean War Memorial Hall by Itaewon. We didn’t actually make it into the War Memorial Hall because we spent a lot of time inspecting the old tanks, airplanes, and artillery that’s parked outside. We would have gone inside (it’s free) but we had to take off and get to Myeongdong for the Nanta show I had booked a week before.

Dramatic sky above the Korean War Memorial Hall

Dramatic sky above the Korean War Memorial Hall

Not sure if this is the same cast we saw performing Nanta or not

I think this is the same cast we saw performing Nanta

Day 7photos

Thursday was DMZ day! There are two different DMZ tours… one takes you to Panmunjeom, aka Joint Security Area, and the other takes you to see the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel that North Korea dug for the purpose of sneaking 10 billion troops into Seoul. If you have to choose, do the Panmunjeom tour, but I booked us on both in one day.

We did Panmunjeom first and it was ok but the U.S. Army tour guide could have been a lot more thorough with describing shit. If you’ve never done this tour before then you’ll never know what he didn’t tell you, but I went on a tour once before where a lot more trivia was shared.

Things went downhill, literally, at the tour of the infiltration tunnel. When you do this tour during nice weather it’ll be super crowded which means you’ll probably have to walk down a really long tunnel to see the infiltration tunnel. That’s fine, except walking back up really blows, and 72 year old Dad wasn’t impressed by this leg of the tour. I did this once before in the winter when only an idiot would go, so that time I was able to ride down into the tunnel (and back up) in a roller coaster car.

If you’re planning a DMZ tour, think about skipping the tunnel. It’s literally just a giant hole in the ground.

All three of the soldiers had boners, they told me in Korean

Day 8photos

On Friday we went back to the Korean War Memorial Hall since we never got to go in on Wednesday, and that night we went to Noryangjin Fish Market. My label on Dad’s photo album calls it the Noksapyeong Fish Market, but it’s definitely not in Noksapyeong.

We met up with Lee, Ben, and BHYB and then picked out a couple of crabs, gigantic prawns, and some scallops, and then of course one of the restaurants at the market cooked it all up. Dad wasn’t a big fan of sitting on the floor, but he survived.

True story: some lady at Noryangjin Fish Market asked my dad if he was pregnant

True story: some lady at Noryangjin Fish Market asked my dad if he was pregnant

Day 9 | no photos

Saturday was amazing. The Korean parliament held a special lunch in our honor and gave us both medals for speaking English so well, we won a national kimchi eating contest, and then we spotted Kim Jong Il’s dead rotting corpse flipping burgers at Lotteria! Dad forgot to put his memory card in his camera that day so we don’t have any pictures, but all that stuff totally happened.


The memory card got left at home but my iPhone didn’t

Day 10photos

On Sunday we met up with my friend Pat and his wife to see Seodaemun Prison, and then we headed to Gwanghwamun/City Hall to see what was left of the 2012 International Friendship Fair’s food tents. After walking way too long down the man-made river Cheonggyecheon we stopped at Express Bus Terminal to see The Avengers.

Now that's a big flag

Now that's a big flag

Day 11photos

Monday was Dad’s last full day in Seoul so we rode the subway up to Ilsan and got a taxi to take us to the Holt Ilsan Town where I was a resident for a short time when I was a toddler. They don’t really do formal tours but it seems like they will give tours to pretty much anyone who shows up.

We talked with Molly Holt for a while and then one of their staff members took us around to some of the buildings… they have private residences, a small medical center, a school, and facilities for physical therapy since a lot of the residents are disabled either physically, mentally, or both.

It was a nice way to cap off Dad’s epic tour of Korea.

Holt Ilsan "Welfare Town" is a big place

Holt Ilsan "Welfare Town" is a big place

posted by Michael in Culture,Whatever on 5/15/2012 | No Comments