When we landed in Seoul the captain did an announcement that it was someone's birthday on board and 'happy birthday' started playing down the speakers and everyone sang and then gave a round of applause!
It was 11pm when we landed and I had noted directions to the hostel I wanted to stay at called Sunrise Hostel which required me to get a 90 minute bus. For once i managed to actually complete that leg of transport successfully and without drama...but then turned up at the hostel without a booking and just prayed that they had a room as it was late at this point (didn't fancy trekking around in the middle of the night to find somewhere to stay). Luckily it turns out there was a whole empty dorm so I had that to myself! The hostel had a common area in the basement which had an exercise bike on a podium and a basketball post ha.
Before I'd left for Korea I had found a free shuttle bus service that was running for tourists and taking them from Seoul to Busan (where Steph and Barry lived). You had to apply in advance and it was pretty much a lottery whether you got tickets or not, but luckily I was issued some which were a great help. The bus left at 8am so I was up at 6.30 to get ready and make my way to the meeting point to catch the bus. In true Sarah style it all somehow ended up in a mad frenzied dash and even though i got to the correct underground station on time, it was big and had a total of 9 different exits - so of course I managed to get out of the wrong one. It was only after about 10 minutes of walking that I noticed something seemed up and realised what I must have done. It was 7.45 by this point so legged it SO fast back in the opposite direction, back underground and though the gates (the security guy couldn't understand what I was saying but I was so dishevelled he just let me through to get me to go away) and out of the correct exit. All with a huge rucksack on my back and another strapped to my front. Aaannnddd.... the bus had gone :(
There was a police station across the road so for some reason I went there and a lovely woman spoke English so listened while I explained the situation and then made some calls for me. Unfortunately they said the only other option to get to Busan today would be to buy a train ticket or to wait for tomorrow and see if there's a no-show on the bus and so i could take their place (not guaranteed). I was so excited to see Steph and Barry that I just went the main train station and bought a £30 ticket and hopped on the next train which was in an hour. It had wifi!! So I messaged Steph online explaining the situation and that I'd arrive earlier than planned. It turns out that Steph had tried to read the message on her phone but it didn't load properly and all she caught were the words 'police station', so ended up loading the message on the projector screen in front of her whole class to read (cos it was connected to the Internet) ha.
Turns out she'd had been given the afternoon off and so could meet me at the station. While I was on train i got an email from the free tourist bus company saying they could guarantee me a free seat the next day! Ahh well. When I got to the station 2 old men approached me and started talking to me about England and asking me what my impressions of Korea were. Seeing as all I'd really seen so far was the inside of a bus, aeroplane and train, I didn't really know what to say. They also for some reason made me list as many tourist attractions as i could think of in London ha.
Eventually Steph turned up and saved me and it was SOOO good to see her :) Just as we were leaving I also saw a cocker spaniel walk past wearing Chinese style booties on its feet - bizarre. Apparently Steph saw a dog a couple days before which had its tail and ears dyed orange and purple! That afternoon we just hung out at Steph and Barry's apartment where I was introduced to Makkoli - a Korean rice wine which is pretty lethal as it's so easy to drink! After an evening of pizza and catching up we all hit the sack and I was on a surprisingly comfy mattress in the kitchen!
The next day we all headed out together to see a temple called "Haedong Yongungsa". It was was right on the coast which was nice and after 4 months of travelling around Asia all temples seem to merge into one, but this was the first that I'd visited which overlooked the sea so made a nice change. We munched on roast chestnuts and I was introduced to a drink called "Pocari Sweat" which tastes kiiiind of like flat lemonade and is meant to replenish vitamins etc after you've exercised or if you're just sweaty ha. Like the drink, everything in Korea seems to have a health slant to it - something Steph warned me about before I came. They turn simple walks into full on hikes, complete with OTT attire - hiking boots, sticks, visors twice as wide as their heads... the lot. Anyway, while they were dressed to the nines for a little stroll, I was super excited just to be able to walk around in bearable heat for once and so fully embraced the chance to wear warmer clothes and so decked out in jeans, a hoodie and UGG boots. Turns out it was the hottest day they'd had so far!
After a short while at the temple we headed to the beach where we met up with a few people who were on Barry and Stephs induction week when they first got to Korea. We stayed here for a while and then decided to head off for a Thai massage. It was pretty expensive compared to ones you can get street-side in Thailand but it was still really good and Steph and I took FULL advantage of the free toiletries in the changing room. To the point of actually using the shower (4 walls of just mirrors which felt odd) and then realising we only had a hand towel each and then 'borrowing' some moisturiser and cotton wool ha. Got to be resourceful when travelling!
We then met back up with everyone who was on the beach earlier and went for food which turned out to be a Korean BBQ. They didn't really understand that myself and another girl wanted just veggie friendly food and in the end one of the others had to get their co-teacher on the phone in order to translate! After a bowl of spicy noodles and kimchi we headed to a bar for some drinks and I spent most of my time watching koreans throw some pretty special dance moves... And At one point the bar opposite had created and put to use a giant skipping rope made entirely out of toilet paper. To be honest the drinks ended up making us feel sleepier rather than in the mood for going out, so we jumped into a cab to go home. Halfway through the journey the driver, who was blatantly lost, pulled over and in addition to using his thick bottle lid glasses he whipped out a giant magnifying glass to see where we were going!
The next day we just had a bit of a lazy day. Barry had lesson plans to sort out so Steph and I did a trip to the supermarket where I took full advantage of all the free testers! We had Stephs tried an tested dhaal for tea which was delicious (S you still need to send me the recipe ;) hehe) and washed it down with red wine and Makkoli. It was an early night as I was headed the next day to school with Steph. In the morning we all caught the bus (Steph and Barry are teaching at different schools) so I hopped off with Steph and attempted to climb the mountain of a hill that leads up to her school. The whole day was quite funny as I think Steph is still a novelty at the school and so to have another white girl show up just threw them completely! Everyone was really kind though and I was given tea, numerous drinks and handmade soap from the teachers who welcomed me in the staff room! At one point a young female student came up to us both in the corridor and went "teacher Stephanie, teacher stephanie" then pointed at me and just went "WHAT?!?" haha. There was a school trip the next day which I tagged along for, even though we weren't entirely sure where we were going ha. We were picked up in the morning by another teacher and taken to "Childrens Park" which is pretty much a giant park with a big lake in the middle. We 'hiked' with a lovely teacher Mr Lee and another man who was a Doctor at the school but I referred to him as the bus driver whoops. After walking around for an hour or so, Mr Lee took us to a cafe for a drinks and snack but then proceeded to buy Makkoli! So we drank rice wine at 11am on a shool trip... brilliant. It reminded me of a time when I was about 14 and I went on a school trip to a pantomime.. My friend Clare was at mine as we were going together and because mum and dad was out we decided it was a great idea to raid the liquor cupboard. We turned up to get the coach at school at night with dads "good work" stamps printed all over our faces and our clothes on backwards. The pantomime was puss in boots and so we bought cat mask souvenirs from the theatre shop and giant blow up saxophones and then fell asleep before it had even started.
Aaaanyway, after a few glasses of Makkoli we headed off walking again and met up with the kids (they seemed to have been taken on a trip but then just ditched and left to their own devices!) They were given McDonald's for lunch and then we spent a while taking pictures and posing with the children. Beforehand they seemed pretty scared of us and kept their distance, but once we'd had photos together they wouldn't leave us alone! That evening Steph and I went to Nampo, the main shopping area close to their flat and she introduced me to Artbox - a kind of quirky stationary shop which is like a mixture of Paperchase and Urban Outfitters (a lethal combination for me..) We seemed to spend over an hour in there just picking up, touching and smelling everything ha! and after all that we left with a big bad of pick n mix which we demolished on the way home and then complained about feeling sick, and i bought some PJ shorts.
The next couple of days I went for bit of an explore around Busan and a couple of times I went back napong and looked at Clothes that I DON'T need and bought stickers and stationary! I also visited a couple of parks and went up Busan tower. On one of the days I set off in search of a sculpture park and bird sanctuary which is situated on a really small island. I caught the train and bus 58-2 (had to get 58 or 58-1 but figured this was close enough..??) but realised that I'd been on the bus for ages and had gone straight through the island and had gone onto the next place. Should have realised when I'd been over about 3 bridges... Thought I may as well commit to the journey and see where I ended up. Got dropped off at an industrial park. Crossed over and found return bus stop and got on 58-1 and hoped for the best.
Turns out I went straight past the stop I wanted again, except this time I realised it and stood up but slightly too late an ended up sitting on the floor of the bus as it pulled out of the stop!! So after all that's did an hour round trip plus bus transfer waiting time all to end up back at my starting point of the subway station! Can I pass that off as a tour? To make matters worse I'd realised by this point that the stop I wanted was the first one over the initial bridge - walkable from the subway station!! So I plonked myself down in a coffee shop and had a drink and caught up a bit on my blog on my phone before setting off to walk to the sculpture park for the second time that day ha. I also bought some rice cakes from a shop and poured over them what I thought was a sauce but turned out to be silica gel... The afternoon turned out such that I found a place to hire bikes from and so cycled around and eventually made my way to the sculpture park. I tried to get to the bird sanctuary too and found a man to ask directions, but turns out the one person I pick to ask has his teeth pretty much wired shut with braces and one of the little elastic bands in his mouth actually pinged off at me while he tried to explain.
A few days later I went back to the sculpture park with Steph as I wanted to show her where it was and the last time I went my camera battery had died and so had no photos. We planned to leave in the morning but didn't actually get out of the apartment until 12.. It was a really nice warm day again so I wore a skirt (with opaque black tights of course mum ;) ) . On the way to the park we came across an outdoor exercise park - ive seen lots of these around Asia but always been too scared to try them on my own and so dragged Steph in wib me. After a few minutes on a cross trainer we found GIANT hula hoops which were super heavy and actually hurt to hula hoop with. We then walked across the bridge and into the sculpture park where we scaled the 3 inch fence in order to pose with sculptures ;) .The whole area was busier than last time, either because it was for some occasion we didn't know about or just because it was a saturday? Either way they had bouncy castles, a screen showing a film and music playing. After taking loads of pics and running riot on the forbidden grass we headed to the place I hired a bike from the other day and this time found segways and mini electronic cars! The man let me do a lap in the electric car (surrounded by toddlers in the same vehicle so I looked oversize in some sort of clown car), before Steph and I decided that a segway each was much more fun than a bicycle! We whizzed off, nipping around roaming toddlers and electric cars (of which grown men who couldn't fit in them were actually steering like giant remote control cars...) There was the sliiight issue of breaks not being 100% effective but we soon resolved that by just crashing into the back of one another if we REALLY needed to stop... We pretty much just spent the whole day in hysterics as we fell off kerbs, held up traffic and ran ourselves over. We returned the segways late but the guy didn't seem too bothered and didn't charge us which was nice of him. After here we ended up heading back to Nampo where I showed Steph some shops i'd found which had western sized clothing and then just went back to her flat and hung out.
It was soo good to spend time with Steph and Barry because I was feeling a bit homesick before I flew over to see them and it was just nice to see familiar faces and family :) But after 10 days of exploring the area a bit, hanging out with Barry and Steph and going into school a few times it was time for me to catch another shuttle bus (uhoh) to Seoul for my flight to Bali. Xx