In Korea for the Morning

To continue the journey home we flew from Sydney to Seoul, Korea with Asiana Airlines. I always feel like royalty when flying business (using airline points as usual) and it was grand.

Pre-takeoff beverages:

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Dinner:

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Plenty of room for one’s feet and belongings…

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And after such a delightful flight, we arrived in…South Korea.

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Our flight from Sydney to Seoul arrived in the evening. We made our way to our room for the night via taxi, and the help of an iPhone with Korean characters for the address. We had help from our host in our procurement of some deli-store kimbap before heading to bed with tired bodies. The next morning as we took a taxi from our guesthouse to the Unseo station area we were surprised to find…fall. I had forgotten we were north of the equator again and it wasn’t spring anymore.

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We had hoped to do some proper touring of Seoul making use of the advice of a friend who lived in Seoul a few years ago. She had told us about an old fashioned shopping street and a palace that I really wanted to see. Alas, we realized we only had the morning to do anything before we needed to catch our flight back to the United States. Taking the train to Seoul proper and back would have burned at least 2 hours, so we decided to just meander around the island where we were, and enjoy what we could in the short hours we had.

Now, typically, I don’t like to look like a tourist and take pictures of everything that is unusual to me. But this was Asia. And knowing that there was absolutely no way we could even attempt to “blend in” with the locals, I decided to take advantage of the moment and make memories by snapping pictures. Everyone who passed us on the street knew we didn’t live here, and they didn’t even have to take into account that we were carrying basically all of our earthly belongings from the past 3 months with us on our shoulders. It was just…um…obvious.

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So, meander we did. In search of breakfast, mainly. The streets we walked down were basically deserted and we were having a wee bit of trouble deciphering the signs and the hours of restaurants. This sign made us laugh though:

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There were all sorts of sea creatures destined for someone’s dinner in aquariums right on the street, which was fascinating.

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After a nice walk around the block, we found an eating establishment that looked open for business and we wandered in. It was next door to a hotel, and it seemed that a tour group was here for breakfast as well. As we entered, Natasha commented, “You’re right Mom, they all have black hair.” That’s when I was glad it seemed like they couldn’t understand English. Daniel took charge of the situation and ordered some food by looking at the signs with pictures (thank goodness) as well as a calculator for clarifying the price of various dishes.

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We were seated at a low table on a slight step, leaving our shoes in the lower portion. We sat on cushions and arranged our bags around us. The kimchi and rice came piping hot from the kitchen and we ate with gusto. Korean food is truly so good. Ideally, we would have liked to have some bulgogi, but our host from the hostel told us it was more of an evening dish.
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Afterwards we found a supermarket and wandered around some more, looking the most like tourists ever. I snapped pictures of octopus and many legged sea creatures in the refrigerators.

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A kind man saw Natasha investigating the fish, and pointed out the sign and then to which ones were in the tank. I nodded and smiled, but even though he was being so helpful, it didn’t mean a thing to me since Korean characters are not a strong point of mine. Even repeating the names he told me wasn’t working. But smiling is universal and I did a lot of it.

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On our way out, we stopped at a little accessory store. We had some extra South Korean Won that I thought should be “used up” so for Natasha’s souvenir we picked out a glittery gold hair clip. Natasha was thrilled. We try not to buy trinkets at every little store in every little village or country that we travel through, so it was really quite special for us to actually buy something just for her.

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Back outside of the train station, we had a snack of kimbap and prepared to travel once more. This was our last stop before L.A. and it was so bittersweet to be coming to the end of our big adventure to New Zealand.

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Still, I think Korea will see us again sometime. One morning was not enough.

For the next post, I’ll be featuring a special post by Daniel, doing a nice review of the Asiana Airlines lounge in the Seoul airport. Push-ups in the train station were a must before boarding though.

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Out in the Bush

It’s back to the follow-up trip home from New Zealand series, continuing where I left off in Sydney.

:: October 29, 2014 ::

Trains are a wonderful invention. You get on with just a ticket and get off whenever you want and repeat the process to return. No one is fussing over how many bags you’re carrying or how much they weigh. There are no metal detectors and no one searching your stuff a million times.

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So for our day in the bush, we took a train out to the blue mountains. Well, perhaps we were a little naive, but we really were expecting mountains. After just coming from green New Zealand, we expected something similar, with an Australian twist. And since the word blue was right before mountains I suppose we expected something to be blueish in color.

As we rode along in the swaying train car, we watched out the windows as city became suburban and eventually bush. There were ridges, and lots of bushy looking trees or shrubs, but nothing looked blue. And there were no mountains. At least, nothing that resembled mountains to us from the view of our train windows.

The one downside with trains is, they don’t wait. Not for anyone, or anything. So as we were riding along out of Sydney for miles and miles, we listened carefully for the next stops (if they were announced) so we wouldn’t miss our stop. It came then, but we weren’t quite on top of things, and some conflicting instructions to Natasha were not heeded… (“No, we don’t walk around in airports or trains barefoot.” “Yes, it’s a long ride, as long as you’re sitting you can take your shoes off.” “Oh! that’s our stop. Come on! We don’t have time for you to put your shoes on. It’s okay this time…hurry…!” and as I grabbed her and her shoes and stumbled down the second-story train stairs, the doors closed and the train kept moving. We had missed our stop.

Fortunately, there were other parks down the line, and we found another suitable green spot on the map to explore in the little town of Wentworth Falls. After lunch right near the train tracks, we began our hike. The name of the path/walk was called “Charles Darwin Walk”. We did laugh about that since we do not share his world-view in the slightest, but…anyway.

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It was much warmer than New Zealand, but not unbearable and I was simply struck by how very Australian it all was. The landscape was definitely different than green Kiwi land. More brown and dusty and rocky, yet we followed a little creek as it wound around and Natasha even went wading.

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I neglected to add these last couple pictures to our previous post, but back at the apartment at the close of each day, we would fix supper and enjoy food. So at the close of adventuring, we would sit down and feast. The most unusual food item? Check it out:

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A Caribbean Interruption

We interrupt this ongoing (and perhaps never ending) series of New Zealand updates, to bring you a few pictures of our most recent traveling adventure. Last month Daniel and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Daniel planned a short get-away for just the two of us to and my only request was that it might be somewhere that didn’t require me to wear a coat. Puerto Rico has plenty of plantains and weather that doesn’t require multiple layers, so that’s where we landed.

It was a very good choice. We had anticipated it being a LOT more humid than it was, so when we weren’t sweating every moment outdoors it was a most pleasant surprise and relief. We enjoyed it immensely. Still, you’d think we would end up spending hours by the beach laying out, but that just isn’t our style. Old San Juan has a fort about 500 years old, and that’s where we ended up spending a fair amount of time. In the shade of course. I was not  going to return home with a sunburn, and I admit, I’m a little too proud that I was very successful in that resolution.

Our first hotel had an infinity pool, which we enjoyed by moonlight. (Better on my northern pale skin than sunlight…)

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During the day, we did a fair amount of walking (and waiting for buses when we didn’t feel like walking), sight-seeing in Old San Juan, exploring the shady old narrow streets, and sitting to read with the ocean waves crashing nearby.

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We also observed reptiles.

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We didn’t avoid the beach completely; I wasn’t going to return home without getting my feet wet with salty water at least once.

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The old streets were incredibly fun to walk along. Bright colors and fun doors…and all that.

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Just being able to sit and read without interruption until we felt like doing something else, or until we got hungry, seemed like a pure luxury.

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I tell you, it was beautiful.

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San Juan is a busy port for many cruise lines, and watching these giant ships was mesmerizing. IMG_3360

Sydney, Round 2

Still catching up on our travels home from New Zealand back in late September-early October 2014. We flew from Auckland to Sydney where we had a nice 3 day layover, and got to see even more of Sydney. First stop: Angel Place for the birdhouse art display in the alleyway:16-003

We did some actual shopping right around the Westfield Shopping Mall too. I say actual shopping because we truly were looking for tights for Natasha. We found some too, so that was a success, and I felt rich because we bought them at such a fancy location. Even though that’s about all we bought in Sydney other than groceries to cook at our apartment because whoa, stuff is expensive there.

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The above picture taken from a stand-still bus stuck in traffic. We seriously could have walked faster than traffic was moving, however we were tired of walking and once it started moving, it was better than walking because of the distance we needed to travel.

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I didn’t want to leave Australia without seeing the Sydney Opera House and quite conveniently, one can view the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge at the same location.

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After one full day of being in such a busy, upscale part of the city, we were kind of ready to be back in the outdoors with more nature surrounding us, so next post will showcase some of Australia’s bush and outback. This seems so silly, but all I could think of while hiking along was, “It looks so… Australian.”  :)