Last week I had a fantastic visit with Brian. We went out in Sincheon to an International party, got sashimi at the fish market and my favorite local restaurant, went through markets and partied the nights away in Itaewon and Haebongcheon. Brian is so easy going and open minded that he fit right in. A little back story on Brian. We used to work together at Gannett where we traveled 2+ weeks a month, usually within the US, but two or three times a year to the UK. Brian has now been there 3 years and can pretty much get away with whatever he wants, and he has the United and Hilton points to do it!
Last Christmas he met me in Vietnam where were traveled to Cambodia and Thailand. He then took the remainder of the month to travel China. This December he audited in England then took a week off to travel Russia. After he left me this trip (where he came from an audit in Guam!) he continued on to Vietnam and Japan. EVen though the job is pretty crappy, boy gets some travel perks! Regardless, after some of the stories about Gannett, I am still TOTALLY happy I left when I did. Wow that was 3 1/2 years ago. How old am I again? Oh right 28 this week....according to Korea.
This week is Lunar New Year (Seolnal). No one except China follows this calendar, but hey, we get three days off school to recognize it, so who's complaining? Brian left early on New Year's Day one. Paul and I didn't have the means to be gallivanting throughout Asia this week (Thailand is in a month!), so we decided to travel local. My roommate Dave took my parents and I down to Jeonju in June where we ate the best bibimbap (veg beef rice mix) in Korea, and drank magkeolli with the locals until our stomachs burst. When ordering magkeolli in Jeonju you get side dishes, I'm talking 20+, soup, rice balls, and seafood pancake. It's definitely the place in Korea to go for food. So Paul and I decide to take a night to feast. And the great thing is, it's only 3 hours by bus.
Wednesday is absolutely gorgeous! It's the first day in months where you don't cringe as you walk out the door! We walk an hour or so across the bridge down to Express Bus Terminal. We arrive 3 pm and look at the departing bus times. There's only one bus going to Jeonju and guess when it leaves. 11:30 pm. That means we'd first, have 8 hours to kill, and second, wouldn't arrive until 2:30 providing there's no traffic, which there will be. New plan. We start looking at other bus destinations and don't really recognize many of the town names. Even if we do, we don't know what's there. So we do what any logical person would do, find the bus that's leaving soonest and hop on. Turns out that bus is to Seosan. Never heard of it, but who cares, it's leaving in 40 minutes!
According to the ticket it's 128 km away, so that should only take an hour or so. Not so. It's a holiday. In Korea. Where 45% of the population lives in Seoul. For the New Year everyone is expected to go home....to the country. We actually got pretty lucky and sat in traffic for less than an hour. After 2 hours on the bus we arrive in sparkling Seosan. From looking at traffic signs, we gather we're south near the west coast, but there's no beach in sight. We passed Ocean Park Resort on the way, but I'm thinking maybe they were just joking. It's just after 6 and quiet. There are approximately 12 taxis per person and a few neon lights for PC bangs. There are, however, motels everywhere. This is a good sign. Motels mean tourist destination, right? RIGHT!? We get a room where I guess nonsmoking is not optional, but I guess we wouldn't know because the women at the desk just kind of grunted at us and pointed to a sign "30,000 won." We pay and go to our smokey room. It's a typical motel, even a little newer and cleaner than I have seen in the past. And the best part is that it's a Hilton. haha you know someone stayed in a HIlton one time, or knew someone that worked at one, and stole 400 Hilton pillow covers for their pillows.
We venture out to explore beautiful Seosan. I know it's a holiday, but this is ridiculous. There's not a shop, convenience store, or restaurant open. We find the local market which is surprisingly bustling. There's not really anyone shopping, but there are a ton of vendors with amazing fish and shrimp for sale. Too bad we don't have a kitchen!! We walk down what I can only guess is main street, and find all the people. They're all, including 2 white dudes (what are you doing here!?), sitting in Holly's Coffee shop. So this is our only option? We continue on to find a little fish restaurant down a back street. We walk in to see if they're open and the 3 people there look none too please to see us. They first tell us they aren't open, then gesture "eating?" and agree to let us in. They walk us to a table very apprehensively. I'm guessing they're trying to close up shop to go home. Well too bad, we're on vacation! We order the only thing on the menu and a bottle of magkolli. What we got was surprisingly delicious.
It was a huge plate of sprouts and fish chunks covered in a thick spicy red sauce. Yum. We finally left, much to the wait staff's sadness, and went to the only other place open in Seosan; Baskin Robbins. Post ice cream we cut our losses and head back to the hotel. We actually had an awesome night of TV, which neither of us have in Seoul. We got to watch Deadliest Catch, Law and Order, and Sex and the City movie part 1. It was a crazy night in Seosan, it was a crazy night...
The next morning and things are no better. There's the market, Holly's Coffee, Baskin Robbins, and luckily, we found a kimbap cheonguk type place. These restaurants are made for quick cheap meals. They're all over Korea and are ideal for the single diner, as most restaurants cook up huge pots of stuff to share. Paul gets the seo (shrimp) chijah (cheese) donkas (pork fried patty) and I get my usual sundubu jiggae (spicy tofu soup). It was all quite good, and good for our budget. We go to the bus station to find a local map. Of course there are none. Whether this is because it's a crappy little bus station, or because there really is nothing to do here, I'll never know because we booked it on the next bus out...to Suwon. Instead of going immediately back to Seoul, we decide to hit Suwon for something new and different. Suwon's only an hour South of Seoul and you can get home via subway. Korea subways are amazing!
Another 2+ hours on the bus, and 40 rounds of 20 questions later, we're in sparkling Suwon. The only good thing to be said about this leg of the trip was the fact the bus station had delimanju (waffle nuggets with custard in the middle). It's pretty dreary out, although warm (5 C), so we walk. Same old Seolnal story. Closed. Closed. Closed. As we walk we see signs for Suwon station (yok). A nice hour stroll and we're on the subway home.
We may not have had the best food in Korea, or seen any exciting sights, but you know what? We didn't spend the night in Itaewon. Or Hongdae. Or any of the usual haunts, and I think we learned a little something about Seoul. We shouldn't complain when there's nothing to do. Because in Seosan, there really is NOTHING to do. And the company wasn't bad either :)