Korea: Day One

So, as it turns out, my laptop charger isn’t compatible with the outlets in Korea with their different wattage. Which means that I’m stuck typing out this entry (and other future entries) on my diminutive iPad. First world problems, yes, but I’m more than a little miffed. I did make a promise to take you along for the ride, after all.

Anyways… I’ve arrived. I haven’t yet had time to get used to the different time zone, so that means I’m a walking zombie by mid afternoon.

Incheon International Airport is a beast of a place. As someone who is used to the cramped quarters of LAX and the diminutive scale of Milwaukee’s Dane County Airport, Incheon was (literally) a breath of fresh air.

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There’s connections to all over Korea, from a dedicated airport train that travels from Incheon to downtown Seoul in about an hour to a fleet of busses that will go wherever you’d like them to go. I’d have preferred to take the train – anyone who knows me knows that I adore trains – but two heavy cases of checked luggage put a scupper on that plan.

I took the bus, as pedestrian as that may sound. I saw the sunrise peek out over Incheon bay, as I passed through Songdo and Anyang and finally to Suwon, my family home and my final destination.

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Here’s the thing about Korean apartments: they’re very, very, superlatively tall. And it’s hard to stop staring downwards from the balcony when you’re first confronted with the view of dozens upon dozens of towering concrete blocks, and the ant-like people down there.

I still had the whole day ahead of me, but the jet lag was beginning to take its toll. I took a brief nap and spent the rest of my day outside, touring Hwaseong Hanggung – the ancient fortress that delineated the boundaries of medieval Suwon. I had seen it before on my last visit, but the massive stone structures were awe-inspiring as always. And seeing the numerous cars pass through the stonework was a very curious sensation; two artifacts from different places in time, co-existing – if not harmoniously, then peacefully. It was a weird juxtaposition.

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On my way back, I noticed there was a small farmers market – called sijang in Hangul – outside my apartment. There’s a sort of down-home, comforting atmosphere that exudes from seeing and hearing the merchants hawking their wares, food displayed precariously on plastic tables, and handwritten signs on pieces of cardboard.

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The second day – yesterday at the time of this writing – wasn’t very interesting, as far as blog-worthy moments go. I travelled downtown to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday, then spent a few hours shooting 8-ball with my cousin. The owner was doubtlessly confused when we started jabbering away in rapid English while bent over the pool table!

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Then I went to Insa-dong on a last-minute urge. Didn’t take much pictures – it was getting dark and I didn’t much feel like it – so I’ll probably be back. It’s a traditional arts district, with numerous galleries and artisans. It’s also a popular dating spot, and I was never more keenly aware of my single status.

It’s not very fun to be alone in Korea.

Tomorrow, I start the first leg of my five-day trip around the country. I’ll be stopping by Busan, Andong and Jeonju, as well as other small towns. I’ll update when I can!

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