|Happy New Year, 17 hours earlier than home!|
On December 29th, we headed out for our long haul trip to Korea. Due to Delta's flight booking shenanigans, it had been *significantly* cheaper to fly to LAX late night on the 29th, stay the night, and then fly to Seattle super early the 30th before a short layover and a flight to Seoul starting around noon pacific time and arriving around 5 PM on the 31st. It was so much cheaper that doing the multi-day trip and paying for a hotel at LAX was a no-brainer even though we knew it would be painful to add the late night/early AM LAX madness to the beginning of the trip. We were right. Our flight to LAX was delayed. We finally checked into our hotel, ate dinner, and did our best to fall asleep by midnight before waking up at 3:45 AM to get a Lyft back to LAX for our 6 AM departure (the hotel shuttle at 4 AM was full and the one after it was already booked, too, there was a waiting list!... crazy holiday travel!)
|Grand Hyatt Seoul's firework NYE firework display.|
We arrived at Incheon and cleared immigration, got our bags and cleared customs without any problems. This was the first time in my life where I've arrived somewhere without a single local word. I didn't even know how to say "thank you." It is humbling to realize what a privilege it is to be born in a country that speaks the world's second language. Bumbling around in English, I finally learned how to say thank you by the last day and I think I can recognize the patterns of Korean to identify it now if I hear it spoken, but that's about it.
|Political art in Seoul on the way to the Gyeongbokgung palace.|
Proud of ourselves for pushing through to the midnight NYE celebrations after some short sleep hours on the plane, we were both very happy to fall asleep immediately after the last firework. But, I woke at 5 AM, bright eyed and bushy-tailed thanks to jet-lag (noon at home on 12/31). So I headed to the gym. I'm not going to lie, I took a little pleasure in being the very first person to hit the gym on New Year's day. Within 15 minutes of my arrival 10-15 other guests arrived, BUT I WAS FIRST! (Also, we've been maximizing our use of Hyatt points so far for this entire trip and *man* is it nice to have a fancy gym every morning!)
|View of the wall and N Seoul Tower as we climbed Namsan|
E & I started the new year with a vigorous early morning hike up Namsan and into the Seoul Tower to get a view of the city. It was *cold* but we worked up quite a sweat. By the end of the hike, I had shed almost all of my layers and I was breathing huge breaths of steam while hiking in a tank top and leggings with my jacket around my waist and my gloves and hat tucked in the pockets (E had removed all his layers and was in just a T-shirt and khaki pants, which interestingly, are apparently not a thing that Koreans wear). The faces on the folks we encountered during this part of the hike made it clear that we were doing our part to solidify the sweaty American stereotype for the Koreans (and other Asian tourists) who were sporting big puffy jackets and furry scarves and muffs.
|In front of Sungnyemun gate, after following the city wall down the mountain|
|We strolled 3 miles along the cheonggyecheong the second day.|
In Seoul, we hiked along the City Wall and the Cheonggye stream as well as hitting up the textile and electronics markets. We viewed the rockwork on the gates to the city and agreed that Peru had taught us that the Incas really did know their shit -- so much more precise than this amazing stuff. Not to say the Korean rockwork and gates weren't impressive -- they are, and it's so cool that they are just hanging out in the middle of such a huge modern city, so well preserved. But the Incan precision is unparalleled for its time.
|Blatant trademark infringement in the Yongsan Electronics Market|
|Fried spicy chicken and whelks in spicy sauce with noodles.|
|One of many aisles of fabric in Gwangjang Market.|
|Dumplings as far as the eye can see deep in the middle of the market.|
In Busan, we enjoyed the views from the Park Hyatt and then did a quick trip to see the sights from the Busan tower before walking through the biggest consumer-oriented fish market I'd ever seen (Jagalchi). Eventually we selected a stall and enjoyed a raw-fish dinner in the local style.
|Look at all those octopus!|
|One of hundreds of stalls of fresh fish.|
And the next morning after a quick workout and raiding the amazing breakfast buffet at the Park Hyatt Busan (points for the win again!) we caught the 8:30 AM bus to the airport and made our way to Taipei.