Sunday, July 28, 2013

Good for the Seoul

I planned to have bookend trips to Seoul, South Korea on my way home this summer.  Reason being: 1) I love Korean culture; 2) My flights usually go through Seoul anyways, might as well stop for a few days and enjoy it; and 3) I had been to Seoul, as you might remember, in December, but it was too cold to actually go out and see/do much of anything and I wanted to see the city in the summer time.

For the front part of the trip I didn't really have much planned, which, to me, is a fun way of traveling.  It opens itself up for all types of possibilities.  I knew I wanted to explore a little of the city, meet some nice locals, and gorge myself on as much Korean cuisine as possible, all of which I did with great success.  The first place I decided to explore was Namsan Tower (better known as Seoul Tower).  I could see it from near my hostel and it didn't appear to be too far off so I decided to just walk in its direction until I arrived.  Using the giant landmark as my compass I continued down any street that appeared to be heading its general direction, and eventually navigated myself into a park, which looked promising.  With the tower still in sight I walked around that park for almost an hour, constantly backtracking trying to find a way up to the tower with no success.  Finally I decided to use my limited Korean to ask this nice Korean girl for directions.  My luck was with me and not only did she speak English, but she herself was looking for how to approach the tower as well.  So now I had someone to accompany me in being lost!  However, she eventually found the way and we walked to the top together.  At the top it provided a great view of the city and was a nice quiet place away from all the urban noise.  An extra bonus of this adventure was I now had made a friend who showed me other parts of the city and introduced me to some new Korean foods!

Other places I visited during this front end of the trip were: the Han River (major river flowing through Korea), a few popular markets, and Cheonggyecheon River (an underground man made river that cuts through the heart of the city).

After a five week trip to the U.S., I returned to Seoul for the back end of my vacation to South Korea, this time only for four days.  This time I had tentative plans.  I wanted to visit one of Seoul's nearby islands one day, and most importantly, I REALLY wanted to watch a Korean baseball game.  Through a social website, I was able to meet a very nice host who wanted to not only arrange these events for me, but also attend with me.  I am so thankful for this girl who really went out of her way to make sure I had a fun trip.

The island we went to was called Seokmodo, and the threats of rain had apparently scared off all the tourists, which is nice because it didn't rain and we practically had the beach and island to ourselves!  We rented a pair of bikes and rode five miles or so to the beach, which provided the opportunity to take in the beautiful landscape of rice fields sandwiched between mountains and the sea.  It was a very nice and relaxing day trip that offered another view of Korea aside from the busy city of Seoul.

The next day was the day I had tickets for the baseball game.  It was the Kia Tigers v. the LG Twins.  According to the worker at my hostel, this was a highly anticipated match.  Unfortunately though, it was absolutely pouring for the entire day and, according the hostel worker, Korea doesn't play their games in even the slightest bit of rain.  Feeling dejected, I was hesitant to make the 45 minute subway commute to the stadium for what I assumed would be a canceled game.  Miraculously, however, a couple hours before the game the rain stopped and hope was once again restored!  With no cancellation officially posted on the website I took my chances and headed to the stadium.  Reaching the stadium it became very clear that there would be baseball tonight.  I got swept up in the excitement.  Seeing almost every person in either a Tigers or a Twins jersey I decided  that I too needed to display my allegiance for all to see, so I sought out to buy me a jersey.  Wanting to support the home team (although the crowd was almost a 50/50 split) I bought a Twins jersey.  When the vendor asked whose name and number I wanted I instructed her to give me whoever was the best player.  She gave me #16, Jeong Seong-Hoon.  Expecting to see his number scattered throughout the crowd, I was a little worried when I couldn't see anybody wearing his jersey, besides me, that I might have been duped by the jersey vendor and given the jersey of the teams worst player.  However, when he came up to bat I saw that his stats were actually quite good and decided that I would just become his biggest fan and wear his number proudly!  The game itself was an amazing experience.  Totally different than I had ever seen baseball before.  Yes, the rules and strategies were the same, but it was the atmosphere that was different.  This was not your typical relaxing and social American baseball experience.  The best way to describe what goes on inside a Korean baseball stadium is to say it like watching baseball at a European soccer match.  Non-stop singing, chanting, and cheering the entire game!  It is hard, if not impossible, to not get swept up in the excitement and have a boring time.  In the end, my LG Twins came through with a 13-3 victory and my trip in Korea came to an exciting and memorable end.  I feel fairly confident that this will not be my last trip to Korea.

Namsan Tower

Kid's drum performance in the middle of one of the markets

Cheonggyecheon River

Han River

Ferry to Seokmodo Island 

Go Jeong Seong-Hoon!

Self explanitory

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