Thursday, September 29, 2011

Accidents in Korea

Last Thursday (9/22) began like any other.  I went to work.  I came home.  I hopped on my motorcycle and  headed off to see the boyfriend for some dinner and to finish a puzzle we've been working on.  Went to my friend Emily's to get weighed and measured for Pohang's version of "The Biggest Loser."  Pretty standard.  Pretty ordinary.

That is until my ride home when I was thrown 20 feet from my bike in an accident caused by a crazy Korean driver.  It came out of nowhere.  I wasn't driving erratically.  I wasn't drinking.  I was driving through a green light that was turning yellow as I came to the intersection and then "BAM!"  Literally all I can remember is slamming on my breaks, hearing the sound of smashing metal and plastic and being hurled across the intersection.    Cars around me were honking and angrily swerving around me as if me laying facedown and bloodied on the cold concrete was in someway a hindrance to them.  People were stopping their power walking to take a look at the waygook (foreigner) on the ground.  The sound of crunching bike parts and headlights was pounding in my ears.

I was eventually able to do a quick evaluation and apart from a bloody nose, gashed cheek, one hell of a sore leg and scraped up hands and feet I was able to determine I wasn't broken and nothing seemed to be seriously wrong.  I shakily picked up my phone and hysterically called Dan and asked him to come find me.  I couldn't handle dealing with the surrounding Koreans, police officers and paramedics that I knew would be along in a matter of minutes.  He eventually found the lights and the mob of Koreans and accompanied me to the hospital where (a few hours and a million x-rays later)  I was declared extremely lucky and thankfully (though painfully) only battered and extremely bruised.

Upon getting home I realized more than one thing.  I was unbelievably lucky.  So many unforeseen circumstances helped me survive this accident.  A few weeks ago the strap on my summer helmet broke so I was using Emily's full face winter helmet.  It is because of that helmet that I only ended up with a bloody nose and gashed cheek.  Because of the unusually cold weather I was wearing a sweater (that Emily also lent to me that night) and that is the reason I escaped with only a few cuts on my hands and feet.  The bruises on my legs (though painful they were/are) would have been exponentially worse had I been wearing the usual dress or skirt usually worn during those mild September nights.

I immediately called my family, cried myself to sleep and spent the next few days recovering in the capable hands of Dan, the best boyfriend a girl could ask for.  Even though my bike is totaled (there goes $1,000),  my bruises have bruises (I seriously think they've multiplied) and I may have to pay for the damage done to the other car (stupid Korea), I know I was one of the lucky ones.

It could have been so much worse.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Everland Weekend

Last weekend was spent in one of Seoul's must-see destinations for the children of Korea...and myself and Dan. We went to Everland, the world's 4th largest amusement park.  An entire day filled with rollercoasters, spinny rides that make you feel like you want to puke, vendor food, animals galore and more walking than should be allowed.  Right up our alley.  While the actual experience was a walk in the park (excuse the pun), the actual process of GETTING THERE was an endeavor to say the least.

According to all of the online reading I had done about Everland, supposedly the park was a mere hour bus ride from Seoul.  We specifically stayed in Seoul so that we could be closer to the park to get there right at the 9:30 opening.  Should have been a breeze, right? Wrong.  Turns out we needed to do quite a bit of traveling before we could actually get to those golden gates.  First was a subway ride that involved us getting a bit turned around (my fault, I admit) that ended up being about an hour.  Then we ended up at Seoul Station where we were told there was NOT a bus to Everland but a train to the nearby city of Suwon.  Another hour.  We get to Suwon.  Where is the bus?  No clue.  We head over to the tourist information center where we are informed to get on another bus to get to Everland.  Another hour.  We finally arrive to Everland, right?  Wrong.  We then get on ANOTHER bus to take us from the Everland parking lot to the actual gates of Everland.  Before we even get to the park we have ridden a subway, train and two buses.

With a little more than frustration on our faces, we finally walked into the famed park of Everland, where the dreams of tiny Korean children everywhere come true.  This particular park mirrors its decorations from the different holidays in the year.  We had arrived right at the change over from their "Summer Splash" theme to the "Happy Halloween" decor.  With pumpkins, ghosts and cute little goblins everywhere it definitely got me in the right frame of mind for the impending fall that I knew was right around the corner.

Jack o'lanterns galore seemed to be the perfect backdrop
We spent the rest of the day riding (almost) every single ride, taking pictures with every cardboard cutout or funny statue, eating amusement park food and everything in between.  Among others, we (somewhat) successfully rode the world's steepest wooden roller coaster, the biggest viking ship I have ever ridden which included a 75 degree vertical lift and a haunted house ride that would freak out even the most stoic person.

Now when I say that we (somewhat) successfully rode the roller coaster, I mean that Dan successfully rode it while I literally cried like a child for the entire ride to the top of the first drop.  After that first drop, THEN I became successful.  There was something about seeing all that rickity wood, screaming people and swaying pieces that threw me for a loop.  A loop.  See, I can make a joke about it now.  But in all seriousness, take a look at this picture and tell me it doesn't make your stomach flip-flop.

The rest of our day was spent looking at the "Zoomania" section of the park (obviously complete with zoo animals), walking around to take in all the sights, riding every ride we could find and of course taking a million pictures.  To close on this post from one of my favorite places in Korea, here are a few of my favorite pictures from that day.  Hope you enjoy them and if you have the opportunity to visit Everland, do it.  You won't regret it!

We make quite the couple don't we?

Getting ready for a 3D ride

Dan loved feeding these birds.  They really freaked me out.

Ending our weekend with delicious Chinese food in Suwon with one of my
 favorite childhood/college friends, Tristen.  Perfect end to a perfect weekend!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Busan for Chuseok: Part 2


We motivated ourselves to be up and out the door by 12.  Dad, I know.  12 isn't early but it's the best we could do.  Neither of us is quite the early bird that you are. We made it to Gecko's (a foreigner favorite) for a delicious western lunch accompanied by a few grown up beverages (it's 5 o'clock somehwere right) and a coloring sheet (they know us far too well).  We ate ourselves silly with western food and eventually made our way outside where it was raining...again.

Next on our list was the famed Haedong Yonggung Temple (해동용궁사) or known to the foreigners as the "Temple by the Sea." Unlike most other temples in Asia, this particular temple was not built near the mountains but on the edge of the sea.  The beautiful view, shrines intermittently placed along the walk and the grandiose sculptures that pay homage to the Buddhist religion make it a sight to see.  Due to the fact that I also came to this particular temple last year I had a general idea on where to go and which parts Dan would like.  It was a change coming here with just one other person instead of an entire group.  While taking photographs together was a bit harder due to the fact that we had to badger unsuspecting people to take our photos, I enjoyed it in a different way from last year.  This year was quieter and we were able to truly feel the spirit of those that came to the temple to pray.  With the rain falling all around us, the temple was less crowded and gave us a chance to stop and really look at what we were seeing instead of snapping quick photos and moving onto the next shrine.  Here are just a few pictures of what we saw on that rainy afternoon.   

After our afternoon of temple visiting, we decided to take the subway and haphazardly stop wherever we thought looked like fun.  We saw a stop that included the Busan Museum of Art so we thought, "Hey, why not!"  We hopped off our subway and went into one of the most unusual museums I have ever been to.  I am not a self-proclaimed art enthusiast of any kind (neither is Dan) so the majority of the art we saw was a bit lost on us.  Due to the fact that photography was banned in the "contemporary" section of the museum you won't be able to truly appreciate the little gems we saw.  For example,  one "piece of art" was a wall length piece of gray felt that fell to the ground at an angle.  That's it.  No really, that's the art.  No paint.  No different colors.  Just gray felt, at an angle, on the ground.  Another was string that had been stretched from the ceiling to the floor at different angles.  It didn't make a picture.  It didn't make...well...anything.  It was just white string.  Like I said, the "art" was lost on us.  While there were some paintings that we thoroughly enjoyed, it wasn't exactly a museum that  I would recommend to anyone who is not an art enthusiast. 

After our attempt at appreciating art, we took yet another subway ride to a bridge i've been wanting to see since our arrival in Busan.  It is in the University district and is one of those bridges that has the cable archway that stretches across the ocean.  My favorite kind of bridge.  At night, the cables light up in different colors and people come from all around to see it.  Unfortunatley, we weren't able to see the bridge in all its nighttime glory but the afternoon panoramic shot did come out quite nicely.  

A rainy panoramic of my favorite bridge
We were just about ready to call it a day and start the walk back to the subway station when something caught my eye to the left of the bridge.  I saw something circular and huge.  It looked like a ferris wheel but surely the amusement park enthusiasts we were would have known if there was an amusement park near us.  Right?  Wrong.  We had stumbled upon a rinky dink carnival of sorts hidden in the heart of Busan.  During our walk to our little carnival we also stumbled upon something else.  A Coldstone Creamery.  Just looking at the smile on Dan's face was enough to convince me that we clearly needed a waffle dish of deliciousness for our walk. 

A waffle bowl filled with cheesecake ice cream, strawberries
 and blueberries?  I don't mind if I do
We eventually made our way to the amusement park carnival.  It had a ferris wheel, one roller coaster, a scrambled eggs sort of ride, log flume, spinning chairs, drop zone and of course...a viking ship.  We screamed like tiny children as the viking ship became almost vertical with the ground.  Laughed ourselves silly on the spinning chairs.  Enjoyed the view from the top of the ferris wheel.  While it was a itsy bitsy amusement park, "Me World" made our Sunday evening an amazing one.

With our Chuseok vacation coming to an end, we made our way back to our hotel where we found another delicious foreigner dinner, this time mexican food.  We ate ourselves into a food coma, took to the beach with a bottle of Korean wine (our favorite) and talked until our eyes became sleepy.  We talked about our favorite parts of our time in Busan, the upcoming weekend and everything else in between.  

While this Chuseok was completely different from the mayhem of last year, I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I was able to truly experience one of my favorite cities with one of my favorite people.

What's next on our agenda?  This weekend we will go to Everland, the worlds 4th largest Amusement Park.  Get ready for a post filled with rides, amusement park food (hopefully) and the sights of Seoul!

Busan for Chuseok: Part 1

While I look at the hundreds of pictures from Busan last weekend (no seriously, we took 338) I am struck with two thoughts.  We take alot of pictures.  We can really cram culture into a trip.  Even though the rain tried its best to put a damper on our trip, we were able to cross off everything on our to-do-list.  From Friday night to Monday afternoon we were away from work and in one of the most beautiful cities in Korea.  It is safe to say we made the most of it.


American beers
After arriving in Busan a bit later than expected (11pm) we were hard pressed to find a restaurant other than Burger King or a Korean shop that was open.  While Burger King sure is great and Korean food delicious, it just wasn't what we were looking for.   We ended up at the foreigner favorite, Fuzzy Navel, for a few American beers and nachos (the only thing on the menu.)  The music was loud and the place was packed with foreigners who were gathered from every city in Korea to enjoy this long Chuseok holiday.  We enjoyed our little taste of America, strolled around the beach and then back to our hotel for some sleep.

Now for my long-time readers, you already know what I did last year for Chuseok from last years posts and a general idea of what it is.  For my newer readers,  Chuseok is basically the Korean version of American Thanksgiving.  They spend time with their families.  Eat traditional Korean food.  Do not work for two days.  During Chuseok, the streets are emptied and most restaurants or stores aren't open.  Thankfully I had the foresight to get a few foodstuffs last week before leaving for Busan or I would have been one hungry girl when I got home.


After sleeping in a bit longer than anticipated, we were finally out the door and ready for lunch at around 1pm.  With all of Busan's foreigner food available to us it was hard to choose just what we would indulge in first.  We chose TGI Fridays for our first lunch.  While it was one of the most delicious (chicken quesadillas) it was by far the most expensive of our trip with the bill being around $60.  I guess we got a bit carried away in our search for all things American.

A bit overly excited about the guacamole and sour cream

After lunch we decided to get out of our food coma and head to the popular "Centum City" via the subway system.  That's right folks.  We navigated the subway system all by ourselves and I am proud to say that not ONCE did we accidentally go the wrong way.  We were able (for $3.50 a day) to travel to all the parts of Busan we wanted to and never once have to ask for directions.  I credit alot of this to our handy dandy Busan Travel Guide and to Dan for always double checking where we wanted to go instead of doing the patented Jenn "oh i'm sure this is it" way.

Our first stop was right off the subway and one of the biggest landmarks in Busan.  It is called Shinsengae Centumcity Department Store and is in the Guinness World Book of Records as being the largest department store in the world.

No really, it is.

Included in this monstrosity is a department store, a mall (with the same clothing from the department store), an ice rink, multiple food courts, art gallery, book store, movie theater, park located on the roof and so much more.  We walked around for hours enjoying everything there was to see and do.  We quietly made fun of Korean clothing (do men really need glitter on their baseball hats?), watched children attempt to ice skate (we know it's not nice to laugh when they fall), peruse the books in the book store so much more.  If you are ever in Busan and are looking to kill some time, take a few hours out of your day and head to Centum City.  You won't be disappointed.

The view from the 1st floor all the way to the top

After taking a few pictures outside with the random sculptures they had and the rose garden, we were on our way to the heart of the shopping district which included our must-see,
Busan Tower. 

Our last stop of the day was Busan Tower, a must-see for tourists.  It is situated 120 meters above the ground and gives you a birds eye view of the city, complete with bright city lights and the ocean off in the distance.  After hearing it was most beautiful at night, we decided to do just that.  

Temple in front of Busan Tower

Busan Tower all lit up

Breathtaking view from the top

Quick picture in front of the "picture pose" area
A pretty great way to spend the first half of our holiday weekend.  Stay tuned for part 2. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

The past few weeks

To my loyal readers (Mom and Dad i'm talking to you), i'm sorry for not blogging more frequently lately.  With people leaving, people coming, Korean holidays that include mini vacations and everything else that comes with living in has been a bit hectic to say the least.   

So what have I been up to lately?  Well, quite a bit.  I have done a few of the following.....

eaten shabu-shabu, a delectable vietnamese dish

eaten chinese food for the first time in almost 2 years

re-connected with old friends

gone to an open mic night at one of my favorite
watering holes with amazing friends 

spent a long holiday weekend in Busan visiting the
best parts of the city with Dan

...and so much more.  My friends are making sure that almost all of my spare time is being spent catching up with eachother, eating as much Korean food as I can handle and going everywhere I want to go before I leave.  Check in for a longer post on the happenings from Busan.  We spent 4 days in one of my favorite cities in Korea.  It deserves its own post.