Sunday, February 16, 2014

What I've been up to: Mungyeong Saejae and Adventures in Seoul

Hello again! It's been quite a busy week on my side of the world.  I didn't have to go to school last week ( because my school is awesome and nice to me), which means I was free to spend time with friends and do some exploring.  It was like having a surprise week of vacation, which was pretty fantastic.

Last weekend my friends from Seoul came to Jeomchon.  My friend Jackie, who I met back in September is sadly returning to Hong Kong at the end of the month, so it was meant to be a farewell celebration for her since she has become friends with many of the Jeomchon people over the past few months.

She came down on Friday night, and then our other two friends, Doug and Ji Young, came down a few hours later.  Saturday we had plans to go to Mungyeong Saejae.  Mungyeong Saejae is Mungyeong's claim to fame.  It was a road that connected Busan to Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty and as such, it was an important destination for scholars, government officials, and those involved with trade markets.  Mungyeong Saejae is one of Korea's famous destinations, so usually when I'm in cities and have to tell people where I'm from I say "Mungyeong, as in Mungyeong Saejae."  People don't typically know Mungyeong, but they typically know of Mungyeong Saejae.

After missing the noon bus from Jeomchon, we eventually ended up getting a ride to Saejae. Our afternoon started a little later than we had planned, but we were fortunate that the weather was nice.  It was rainy in Jeomchon, which made me nervous, but out by the mountains it was just cold enough to be snow, not rain.  Luckily, the temperature wasn't too cool, and although we walked for hours along the trail, and I was never uncomfortably cold.  The snow was fresh and beautiful, which I was happy about because otherwise I'm not sure the barren trees would have provided a picturesque view.  Overall, we had an enjoyable day at Saejae full of fresh air, snow, and good conversation .  I'm really looking forward to going back there in the spring when the trees are full and green again!

After we got back to Jeomchon, we got some dinner and then met up with other friends for some drinks.  In typical fashion, we were out pretty late, which after noraebang, turned into an early morning.  By the time we finished noraebang it was already after 6 AM, at which point our friend Tony volunteered to make breakfast for everyone. Obviously we weren't going to miss our chance for bacon and pancakes, so we went over to his place to end our night/start our morning.  What time did we get to bed? 8 AM.

Naturally we slept most of the day away, but it was well worth it for a night as fun as it was.  The next day Ji Young and Doug had to go back to Seoul, but Jackie stayed in Jeomchon with me because she already finished work and I didn't have to prepare for school the next day.  We had a quiet night of hanging out at my place, eating ice cream, and watching the Olympics.

Monday was also a low-key day.  We met some friends for lunch, then at night we had a movie night at my place with a few other friends.  I FINALLY got to see Frozen. Although I hear it was quite popular back home a few months ago, it just recently came to Korea and my students are OBSESSED. I knew I had to catch up and see what it was all about, and it definitely didn't let me down.

Tuesday Jackie headed back to Seoul because her mom was coming from Hong Kong and she had to meet her at the airport.  This wasn't the end of my activities though--that night we had a birthday party for one of our fellow Jeomchoners.  It wasn't a late night for me though because the next morning I was off again, this time to Seoul to meet up again with Jackie.

Less than 24 hours after she left, I was back with Jackie--this time on her home turf.  Since her mom was visiting, Jackie wanted to do a bunch of day trips, which I was pretty happy about because despite the fact that I've been to Seoul a ton of times, I haven't seen many of the tourist attractions.

Our first destination was Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon.  It was a beautiful day, and we had some great views of Suwon.  Overall, some good sightseeing.  After we finished Ji Young met up with us and we grabbed lunch, then headed to a multibang for some fun.  It was my first time going to a multibang, and it was awesome.  Multibang's are rooms that you can go to to watch movies, play video games, or even sing karaoke.  We spent our time playing wii--Mario,Guitar Hero and Mario Kart.  I hadn't played any video games since college, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting my competitiveness out.  Plus, the free snacks were a definite plus.

We ended our night by getting a few drinks, but left in time to catch the subway back to Seoul.

Thursday was an early morning for us.  We went a bit outside of the city to a tourist destination called Petite France.  Petite France is in the countryside--only a few minutes from Nami Island, where I went back in October.  Petite France is inspired by the book "The Little Prince", and in my opinion is mainly a destination for taking pictures (have I mentioned that Koreans LOVE photo opportunities?)  It wasn't that I didn't like it, it's just that there wasn't a whole lot to do there.  There was an awesome view of mountains in the background though, and I can imagine that the place comes alive a bit more in the spring, summer, and fall when it's warmer outside and flowers are in bloom.

Still, we had a good time, but after a few hours we had seen just about all there was to see, and we headed to our next destination--the Garden of Morning Calm.  This garden contains an abundance of flower displays during the spring/summer/fall, but during the winter they decorate the entire place with lights.  It's really quite clever--instead of losing money during the season, they have found a unique and beautiful way to keep people coming during the cold weather.

The display was really beautiful.  There were tons of people, which really made me glad we weren't there one day later (Valentine's Day) or on the weekend.

After a busy day, we were totally exhausted.  We grabbed some Mexican food (YUM!) then headed home to get some rest.

Friday we slept in a bit, then headed out to Hongdae.  We grabbed some Italian food for lunch (I have to get my western food fix while I'm in the city!), then we went to the Trick Eye Museum.  This is a really cool place where there are different pictures you can take pictures with.  It was really cool, but unfortunately it was PACKED.  We picked a poor time to go because there were tours from Hong Kong, China, and Thailand all there at the same time as us.  So basically, we had to wait to take any pictures, and it was just plain crowded.  By the end I was just really sick of taking pictures and ready to get away from the crowds of people.


Cheese! Oh how I miss eating good cheese. 

Before we left, we also visited to Ice Museum, which is in the same building as the Trick Eye Museum.  When you go to the Trick Eye Museum, you automatically get admittance to the Ice Museum as well, so we figured we should check it out.  The Ice Museum was really small and COLD (go figure!), so we didn't stay there for too long.

After we finished in Hongdae, we headed back to the bus terminal and I caught a bus back to Jeomchon.

Yesterday we had a going away Braai (South African BBQ) at our friend's place since he is leaving at the end of the month. I'm preparing myself for my first round of goodbyes because despite the fact that I want nothing to do with them, they are rapidly approaching.

I'm really exhausted from a solid week of activities, but I'm really thankful that I had time off from school to enjoy with Jackie. She and I became close really quickly, and I think I'm in denial that she's actually leaving.  I can put off thinking about it for a bit longer because on Wednesday she and her mom will be back in Jeomchon, then this weekend we will all head to Busan together.

February has been a really busy month, but as always I'm thankful for the opportunity to do so many cool things with awesome people.

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