A Recap of Vacation

Friday, July 23rd: For Joel’s birthday, a group of us wanted to go clubbing. The original club turned out to be “Korean only” so we decided on a club in Yawoori called Club Sizi. Initially they didn’t want to let us in either, but after a second try, we got in, and were literally the only ones in the giant warehouse of a club for almost an hour. Everyone was dancing, but I refused. Not that I don’t dance. Later in the night, I did. I just have to be really trashed to even consider it. I stayed for awhile, but I started getting a headache, so I put down some money and went to the Banana Bar. The English guy Steve was there, and he’s always good conversation.

Met some Korean guy I see in there and an Indian guy, too. We left for awhile to see if any other bars were more entertaining, but they weren’t, so we went back to Banana Bar. More people came in the meantime, and it ended up being a pretty fun night. Closed down the bar and went to dinner afterward. Up until then, I was pretty drunk, but the soju with dinner is what really did me in. I don’t strictly remember going home. I don’t really like the term “black out”. I prefer “time travel”.

Saturday, July 24th: Woke up at the crack of noon, slowly backed and had lunch, then made my way to the bus station. Almost all of the day was spent traveling. I got to Seoul around 5 PM, then caught a bus to the small city of Sokcho, which arrived just after 9 PM. Right after I got off the bus, I started looking for a place to stay, and ran into three foreigners sitting on the sidewalk outside a convenience store drinking. They recommended a place called a minbak to stay for cheap, then gave me their number so we could meet up later. Minbaks are basically places that rent out one room apartments like hotels for pretty cheap. For $25, I got a room with a bed, TV, fan and a private bathroom, though it had no hot water.

After I dropped off my stuff, grabbed dinner, etc… I called them and spent maybe an hour trying to track them down. Finding strangers in a strange city is pretty tough. Especially when the guy giving directions blows. Finally managed it, and we spent the night drinking on Sokcho Beach. Group of foreigners and some Korean guys and girls. It was a good time. The last thing I remember it was getting light on the beach. Time travel to next morning…

Sunday, July 25th: Woke up quite suddenly, and the first thing I thought was “where the fuck am I?” Thankfully, in my state, I’d still managed to make it back to my minbak with all my possessions. I got ready and caught a bus to Seoraksan National Park. Spent all afternoon hiking trails, then came back to Sokcho, played some pool at a club and read a little then went to bed early because I was tired and wanted to get an early start on Seoraksan again the next day.

Monday, July 26th: Got up super early, maybe 6:30 AM and headed to the park. Hiked up Ulsanbawi. Ulsanbawi has an interesting legend around it. When the creator of everything wanted to sculpt Korea’s most beautiful mountain, he called for every city in Korea to send a rock to be used in the mountain. Ulsanbawi (Ulsan Rock) was too large and slow, so it couldn’t reach the place on time to be used in the mountain. On its way back to Ulsan, it fell in love with Seoraksan’s beauty and decided to stay. Anyway, I spent all morning hiking, had an absolutely tough time getting to the top, but it was breath-taking up there. Afterward, I went back to Sokcho, took a nap, then woke up early in the evening and bummed around Sokcho. I went to the beach once it was dark and drank a bit by myself. I just looked at the ocean and drank, and after awhile, this policeman came up to me and asked me why I was drinking alone.

He was a really young guy, actually a year  younger than me. As part of his mandatory two year army service, he had to serve on the police force. He wasn’t usually stationed in Sokcho, but during the busy beach season, they sent him to help out. He studied English in college, so his English was pretty good. We chatted for maybe an hour or so, then he got off work. I kind of wanted to hang out more, but when I asked what he did after work, he was just like “Oh, I go back to the station and read and sleep”, so I didn’t bother asking.

Tuesday, July 27th: Got up early again and got on the first bus for Daegu, which was a five and a half hour ride. Once I was in Daegu, I immediately caught a bus to Haeinsa, one of the most culturally important temples in Korea. It’s known for housing 81,000 wood blocks that compose the entirety of some Chinese Buddhist text. I spent all afternoon at the temple. The tiny village I stayed in there was awful though. Everything was either a motel or a restaurant. There was also a bus depot, a police station, and a bank/convenience store. Yes, it was both.

The food there sucked, too. Overpriced as hell and not good. I almost got into an argument with a restaurantess, and would have if my Korean was better. I wanted to order something, but she wouldn’t let me. As far as I could guess, she wouldn’t let me because I was alone and it was a two person course. My train of thought reasoned if I paid for it, it didn’t matter if I could finish it or not, but I guess she didn’t agree. At one point I kind of raised my voice and said “WHY?” in Korean, which I think offended her, and I ended up leaving. Anyway, the rest of my time there I spend reading in my room and eating milk and cookies from the convenience store bank.

Wednesday, July 28th: I had planned on staying in the village half a day more to do some hiking, but it was pouring when I woke up. It just gave me an excuse to leave the awful place earlier, so I took it. Went back to Daegu, then transferred to Gyeongju. It was still raining when I got there, but I spent all afternoon checking out the multitude of various ancient cultural stuff in Gyeongju. Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient Silla dynasty. The Silla dynasty was one of the longest Asian dynasties, beginning in 57 BC, uniting the other two kingdoms of Korea in 668 AD, and continuing to rule a completely unified Korea until 935 AD.

In the evening, it stopped raining and I met some guys at the hostel I was staying at. An American and a Norwegian. We spent all night drinking on the roof of the hostel and just bullshitting as men will do. Pretty decent time.

Thursday, July 29th: Woke up early and headed to Bulguksa, another one of the most important temples in Korea, known for its pagodas and the Seokuram Grotto, which houses a rather large carving of Buddha. Spent all afternoon at the temple, grotto, and hiked a mountain in the area. Met the American again back on the way back to the hostel. He lives and teaches in Busan, and wanted to head home, so I decided to leave with him, as he could show me around Busan.

Got into Busan around 5:30 PM, hopped on the subway and made my way to another hostel. Got settled, then met up with the American again at 9 PM. Had dinner, then went to some bars. At the second bar, I met this Korean guy who was the lead singer for a local punk rock band. He told me his name, but then said his nickname was Molla — Korean for “I don’t know”. Ended up staying out all night with the American, Korean punk singer, and his brother, drinking. The Korean guys were quite amazed and pleased that I was into Bob Dylan. Molla also mentioned that my fingernail biting was “cute” because it’s something only young people do in Korea.

I time traveled a bit, and found myself in a taxi with a Korean friend of the American. We went to some area for him, then he told the taxi driver to take me back to the area my hostel was in. I got out and was pretty much lost. I got in several more cabs and told them where I wanted to go, and they kept telling me yeogi — “here!”, but I didn’t recognize anything. Eventually, I got into another and told him a specific hotel near my hostel, and he figured it out. Made it home all right.

Friday, July 30th: Slept in a little, then went to Haeundae Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Korea. It was really nice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any clothes with me to change into, so I couldn’t go swimming, though I really wanted to. I’ve discovered how much I like the ocean since I’ve come to Korea. I walked along the beach and a little in the water, which was freezing cold. Ended up accidentally finding the Busan Aquarium, which is something I had planned to go to anyway, and went into, spending all the afternoon there pretty much.

Went back to my hostel’s area, stayed in a DnD for awhile to use the Internet, then had dinner and caught a movie at Busan’s Lotte Cinema 11. Apparently, it’s a pretty famous movie theater. They had a whole wall covered in photos of celebrities that had come to the theater for movie openings. I recognized a lot of them, too, and they were A-list stars. I saw Inception, which was an amazing movie. Really original. That’s not something you  can say for most movies nowadays. Went back to the hostel and went to sleep after watching the first episode of the second season of Jersey Shore. Don’t judge.

Saturday, July 31st: Woke up and pretty much immediately checked out and headed to Busan Station to get on the first available KTX home. Got to Cheonan just a couple minutes after 1 PM. I spent all day doing laundry and cleaning my apartment. Just enjoyed relaxing at home for awhile. Went to the Banana Bar last night. Played a lot of pool, and probably the best night of pool I’d had yet. I lost a couple games, but I won much more and played well anyway. I was pretty happy about it.

Unfortunately, I left my bank card there. Luckily, the bartender is a friend of mine who goes to the language group, so I’ll get it back later tonight. Still, when you go to pay for something and your card isn’t there, it’s not the most awesome feeling. Luckily I had enough cash on me. Also, being friends with a bartender is pretty cool. At the end of the night, they only charged me 20,000 won, but I know for a fact that I ordered a lot more than that. I didn’t argue. The only thing that sucked was it was Shin’s last night. He’s the owner of the bar, and a pretty decent guy. I’ve seen the new owner there a lot, Mr. Oh, but I haven’t talked to him much. Hopefully, he’s as cool as Shin.

Anyway, today I’ll just read, study some Korean vocabulary, then go to the language group. I have no idea what I’ll do for the rest of my vacation. Work doesn’t start until Wednesday. I feel like Monday and Tuesday will be really boring.

Konglish in the next post, as this is long enough anyway.

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