The land of weird people
20.09.2010 0 °C
Our arrival in Korea was a bit of a blur. We got off the ferry from Fukuoka and after discussing where to stay with the Tourist Information centre we discovered there was an overnight ferry to the island of Jeju leaving in 30 minutes! Having confirmed that there was space available we rushed up round the corner to the other ferry terminal in order to make it in time; fortunately we made it before we had even begun to comprehend what we had let ourselves in for. The ferry was 12 hours which is a long time anyway but then you consider that we had been travelling for 20 hours already...
Being the cheapskates that we are we paid for the lowest class of tickets which meant that we didn't have a bed but just a section of floor and a horrible box thing which constitutes a pillow. We were also the only Western people in this room which could potentially have had 200 people in it! Think there were only about 80 though. We struck up some sort of conversation with the Korean guy next to us which was quite limited in that he had very little English skills. This therefore meant there was lots of gesturing and drawing and general arm waving! We established that he was hitchhiking around Korea as he had very little money. Despite this lack on money he jumped up and disappeared when we asked him about what they drink in South Korea. Leaving us feeling somewhat bewildered he swiftly returned with a green bottle full of something called Soju. This is a slightly foul tasting drink which you drink neat; the best way to describe it is probably as a nicer version of vodka. The other highlight of these conversations was that the guy was ridiculously offended by any sight of Kristian's pants and trust me for him they weren't even on show! It was literally just the band around the top of them! PLus he had massive issues with having our money belt round our waists and down our trousers; his reactions of "no, no no" and shielding his eyes were hilarious - not sure if he thought Kristian was just going to whip it out infront of him or what!!
At some point during this another man with no English skills came over and offered for the three of us to go to his house for breakfast in the morning. The Korean guy kindly accepted for us and so our fate was sealed!
Having had about 4 hours sleep max our new friend woke us up just before 6am so that we could go and see the sunrise. Rather bleary eyed and achey we reluctantly headed out onto the deck to see what turned out to be a spectacular sunrise. There is something so much more impressive about the sun rising than there is when it sets; its just a shame we aren't up in time very often to see it!
We were soon docked and since we were going with this man for breakfast we had to wait for his car. We were completely clueless as to what we were going to do or where we were going to stay on the island so we weren't entirely sure that this was the best idea but we had no way of communicating this without seeeming entirely ungrateful. Kristian managed to find a name of a guesthouse at least and get a map of the island from the "information" centre so we felt a little more at ease.
Having waited at least an hour for this car/van contraption we were on our way to the man's house. The man didn't speak any English which was fair enough but he also didn't seem very happy to be hosting us! It was very strange. He had invited us but we really felt like we were intruding. He made no effort to communicate with us at all nor did he smile at all. It would appear that the Koreans aren't really very smiley people. None the less he gave us a breakfast of instant noodles and kimchee which is this slightly foul tasting chilli cabbage stuff. As you can propbably tell I wasn't much of a fan but the Koreans love it and eat it with anything and everythign no matter what time of day it is! The man then kindly drove us to where the guesthouse was so we were very thankful to him. Still no smile!
The lady at the hostel was equally strange. She had a good grasp of English but it felt like she was just being nice because she had to be. It really felt as if she was laughing at us and not with us and it felt like she had a really dark motive behind her. Can't really explain it was just a feeling. We were too exhausted to try and find somewhere else when we discovered that they only had single sex dorms which was a massive inconvenience for us considering that all our clothes and toiletries are in one bag! We also only have one alarm clock so Kristian had to borrow one... This seperate rooms business would have been okay if the people in either room didn't get massively offended if either of us went into the room of the wrong gender! Kristian was full on accused of being in the wrong place by one man because I was with him - he demanded to see his key and everything before going on to scream at him to take his shoes off. Because that is really what you are thinking about when you are carrying almost 30kgs of luggage and take one step into a room to put a bag down.
We spent this afternoon at the beach but not the one which they had told us was the "best beach". Somehow the lady at the bus station sent us off in the wrong direction so we wound up on the other side of the island but at a lovely little beach where everyone seemed to be having a whale of a time. Strangely the Koreans bathe in the sea fully dressed and with umbrellas; they are obviously afraid of the sun!! We also went into a shop to have a look for a bat and ball to play with and after a minute the lady from the shop started full on shouting at us in Korean and was pointing at the door. Not altogether sure what we did to offend her but she really rattled us with her meaness. The next day we made it to the "best beach" which was by far not as good as the one we had been to by accident! At least we had some sort of opportunity to top up our tans.
Overall we didn't feel entirely satisfied with our visit to Jeju; not only this but I left with a cold and feeling like poo. For some strange reason accross Asia they like to wash pavements and steps at obscure times of day so when we were leaving the hostel I managed to fall down their steps. That was fun as the huuuuuge bruise on my chin is there to prove!! This was while trying to get to the most unhelpful taxi in the World. The driver could obviously see me struggling with all of our bags, however, instead of getting out to help me he drove the car further away for no reason!! Idiot...
We flew back to the mainland instead of ferrying it - for a whole 4 pounds more!! If we'd taken a higher class on the ferry then it would've been more expensive than flying! The journey took a whole 35 minutes; by the time we were up in the air it was time to land again! We booked into a hostel in Busan - which fortunately had a room that we could share - and moped around for the rest of the day to get over this cold thing. The highlight of Busan was some people pushing past us to get onto the metro and then laughing at us. People here really are mean!!
The next day we were on a 3 hour speedy train to Seoul where we were going to stay with Seon-ju. When we rang her she asked where the station was which had us slightly raise our eyebrows but she was soon with us! We met her around the Universal symbol of Mcdonalds and jumped in a taxi for the very short journey to her place. It actually seemed much longer than it was due to the taxi; the station was actually just a five minute walk away! It was really nice to be staying in a home and have a room with space! Its the little things in life...
Seon-ju took us out for an amazing meal which was restored our faith in Korean food. We were all full to bursting and then the man brought another plate of meat to eat!! We took it away in a box and had it for breakfast the following day although we were still full from dinner! The next day was probably definately our best day in South Korea!! Two of Seon-ju's students took us out and about around Seoul to see the National Museum. They seemed to be thrilled about this, or not, because they don't really like museums! Seon-ju was set that they should take us there though...bless them. After spending more than enough time at the museum we headed towards the palace which happens to be closed on a Tuesday. Talk about bad luck! The girls were so cute though as despite living in Seoul for their whole lives they seemed to be clueless about navigating the city and the metro; christ knows how they are going to survive when they get to the UK!!!
Instead we walked along the square heading to the gate and had the opportunity to dress up in traditional Korean dress. Kristian got told off by the lady for jumping in it; fortunately we managed to get one of the best jumping photos of the trip! The girls explained to us how most Koreans are terrified of foreigners which kinda explained a few things to us..goodness knows why we are so terrifying and inspire people to laugh all the time! After the square we took a bus to a market area which was super cool but everything was tres expensive. We graffiti'd our names on the wall along with everyone else so we left our mark on Seoul! Woop woop.
We had a proper sorting out day the next day which involved posting home 10kg of stuff home which cost a whole 15 squids!! We couldn't believe it... After our lazy day we went for a walk up the hill to the Namsan tower. We were cheapskates so didn't pay to go up the tower but the views were pretty spectacular over Seoul none the less. We made it up in time to catch the sunset and see it all lit up which was cool. This is the "love spot of Soeul" where everyone buys padlocks and attaches them to the railings. Pretty different idea and since Seon-ju had left us we thought that we should join the crowds in doing it too! So now our love is sealed by padlocks looking out over Seoul - haha how cheesy huh?
Seon-ju asked us to leave on Friday so we managed to book a ferry to Qingdao on the Saturday as there wasn't one on Friday. We spent Thursday at the DMZ area which was fairly interesting. It was a serious hassle getting there as we didn't want to do a super expensive tour to be able to see it. The woman at the train station in the information centre was a hassle which meant that we missed a train; that would have been fine if there wasn't only one train an hour! The lady had originally told us there were only two trains a day but then somehow there were more so it was really quite frustrating. Anyways we ran for the train, missed it and then had to wait an hour for the next one! Misson...
When we eventually got there we paid 9000 won for a tour to the Dmz which was in comparision to the 77000 it would have cost us from Seoul! Bit of a difference. The tour took us to an observation area where we could look over into North Korea. Kristian almost had our camera take off us for taking photos not behind the photo line - the soldier deleted any such photos! After this little peer over we were taken to a tunnel which was discovered by the South Koreans in the late 70s. It was obviously a tunnel which had been dug by the North which would have been used to invade the South again. Was pretty crazy walking down into the tunnel and along it it was pretty nippy being underground! Here we also watched the worst documentary imagineable!! The voice over was this really excessively dramatic American guy with the background music being all dum dum dum. It was truely cringworthy but we did learn that the DMZ was an area destined to be "peaceful". I have to wonder if the North Koreans would have to say i