Monday, October 27, 2008

Fukuoka, Japan - NOT Just for a Visa Run!

My list of places to visit is about a mile long, and Japan was always somewhere on it, but never really near the top. It's a 3 hour plane ride from Seoul to Tokyo, and once you get there its just insanely expensive and let's face it - Japan's just a super cool, trendier version of Korea. BUT - this particular opportunity arose and well, its now whetted my appetite for more Japanese travel.

This might be one of my most favorite trips in life purely because of how I get to tell it. So it's Thursday night, and I have plans to go see a late movie with the boyfriend, and as I'm getting ready to walk out the door, said boyfriend calls and cancels because he needs to look up Visa information since his expires soon. If you've had to experience Visa stuff in Korea lately, you know that it's virtually impossible to find any answer to any question. So our solution on a late Thursday night was to hop on board a high speed ferry on Saturday and spend the night in Japan, so he could get rid of his visa.

We do some finagling and some research and sure enough we're on the KTX train at 8am Saturday morning - VIP all the way down to Busan, have a nice fresh seafood lunch at the Jalgachi Fish Market, and then hop on the coolest thing I've ever been on in my life - The Beetle.

What's the Beetle you ask? Well - it's only an insane jet-fuel powered hydrofoil that gets you from Busan to Fukuoka in less than 3 hours for less than 250,000w (fees/taxes included). This thing comes OUT of the water, and skims the top of it going at a sweet 80kmph over some of the roughest seas I've seen. It's just like riding on an airplane too - the announcements are the same, there are "flight" attendants, and really comfortable seats with actual life preservers in them that have a chance of being used (unlike in an airplane where they should maybe supply parachutes instead).

Anyway, we wind up at the port in Fukuoka, go through customs (my first time coming into a country by boat) and then go off to find ourselves a hotel. Fukuoka is a very cute little city - extremely clean, trendy, tourist like. We got in around 6pm, showered and went off to go explore. We found that Asahi beers out of the vending machine were pretty cheap, and found some malls, and temples, and even a little river area overlooking what's basically the downtown area. My only regret is that we didn't get some Japanese food at any point because we just spent too much time walking around and enjoying the great fall Japan weather, BUT we did find a Wendy's, which made our nights. We got up the next day and did some more walking, unfortunately in the rain - only to have to get right back on the ferry to head back to Korea. But overall a great weekend trip - maybe a bit too expensive for 2 days, but hey, you only live once right? The life of an English Teacher... always unpredictable. Pictures Below:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Birthday Fun

Another birthday rolled around, as they do, this year. I turned a nice solid 26 (or a shakey Korean 27, whatever you wanna call it) and it still blows my mind that I spent my entire 25th year in Asia, living in Korea. It was one of those decisions that looking back on it now as a bored 23 year old I can't believe I actually up and did, but after the process of it all, having a 25th birthday and now a 26th birthday with no huge desire to get home any time soon, I still believe it to be one of the best things I've ever done. If anything it has given me immense perspective on so many things such as myself, my friends, home, America, other cultures, other people, and the list goes on.

It was a lowkey birthday overall... a nice night out on Wednesday at the local Exit Bar (which to this day I don't think there's been one Post about Exit - so look for that sometime soon). Saturday was the day of observance since one can't party TOO hard on a Wednesday, and it was spent in Seoul having amazing burgers at Smokey's Tavern, playing games and drinking at Gecko's Terrace, walking around the Korean War Memorial, and spending an evening playing games at The King's Tap. No flash, just an overall good day. It's funny though - I have absolutely NO idea where I'll be spending the next birthday...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Int'l Fireworks Show. THEY LIT THE BRIDGE ON FIRE.

After a really nice night in Wolmido, the following night was spent in Yeouido Park, on Yeouido Island in Seoul for the annual International Fireworks Competition. I attempted to go to this last year but only caught the last 15 minutes or so. This year we did it right.

Getting to the park around 4pm, we laid out a few blankets, secured a big spot, and popped open about a half dozen soju bottles and wine. We had magazines and newspapers and enough stuff to kill a few hours until the boomies started. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Rumor has it that China, Japan, the US, and Korea sink money into this and call it a competition of sorts. Basically - its an hour long firework display with a 10 minute intermission. The first half was what you'd expect from a pretty good show:

The second half did something I've never seen done before. Sure, crazy fireworks of all shapes, colors, sizes, and sounds - BUT - Korea took it one step further. This city has about 20 bridges over the Han River that runs through the middle of it - and it took it upon itself to LIGHT ONE ON FIRE. Traffic is still pretty heavy over this bridge during the show and the next thing you know, its raining fireworks from the bridge into the water along the whole thing (at least a kilometer long). Seriously one of the coolest things done, well, ever.

If you're around next year - make sure you plan this out well in advance.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Trip To Muuido.... err I mean WOLMIDO.. Oops.

Goal: Use three day weekend for Korea's Foundation Day to go to Muuido. The tiny getaway island that's south of Incheon off the Northwest Coast of Korea.

Transportation: Seemed easy enough... take the airport bus to the airport, hop on a local bus, take the ferry to the island.

Accommodation: Beach huts all along a beach where the tide rolls out so far you can't tell the difference between ground and sky.

What actually happened? Well, we did ALL of that, except somehow either wound up at the wrong ferry terminal OR we got there so late there might have been the ferry we wanted and didn't realize it. But the one we took had a nice view of the sunset...

Either way, we wound up at WOLMIDO now MUUIDO. And to the average reader that might not seem like a big difference, BUT Muuido is an island whereas Wolmido is a little coastal wharf town on the mainland west of Seoul. SO we went all the way to Incheon island for nothing really. But it's always random when you pull up and see this:

BUT we ended up making the best of it. Found a hotel (there are only Korean Love Motels in the area, and they were all rather expensive at 60,000w for the night considering they're love hotels), and then went on our way. We walked around the boardwalk for awhile, playing carnival games, and then riding rides (bumper cars being my favorite). This place LOVED its pirate ships, btw:

The hardest part of the evening was finding food. We wandered into a couple of restaurants, hoping for some really fresh seafood, but after getting quoted 80,000W for King Crab (which can be bought in Busan for 20,000W) and then not having any english menus around as far as knowing what we're ordering, we gave up and just went to a bar and had beer and barfood.

It was a quick little trip, just one night really, but definitely a fun thing to do on a weekend evening. And Saturday we just took the subway back into Seoul for a nice lunch. A getaway without really getting away...

Oh and did I mention this place was home to the only Korean drag queen I've seen the whole time?