Samstag, 12. Mai 2012

May 12 - Narita Airport, Seoul

Before I start writing about my trip and first day in South Korea there are some more thoughts I'd like to mention:

1) When I twisted my ankle in Japan, it hurt for about 2-3 days. Since then it has been painless but nervertheless it was a step backwards. The flexiblity of the ankle (especially when sitting on my heels in traditional restaurants) has been restricted again.
2) It is unbelievable but I gained about 3 kgs in Japan:-( (even though I ate a lot of vegetables and less meat than usual, but all the sweets were so delicious...:-) )
3) Public transportation in Japan is very expensive.
4) For accomodation I paid between 25 EUR to 60 EUR. I can not really say that the quality always depended on the price. Some cheap accomodation did offer a lot and some more expensive ones were terrible....
5) On my last evening at Yuki's house her mother had taught me how to make green tea (powdered green tea). My Christmas present wish from Yuki is now a green tea beginner set:-)
6) I already have a list what I wanna see or do the next time when I travel in Japan:
- Hiroshima plus red gate that stands in the water (in the water at high tide, you can walk there at low tide)
- Okinawa Island
- the city Uji
- Mt Fuji (maybe climbing up Mt Fuji)
- attending a green tea course
- waterfalls in Nikko
- skiing

When I got up at 6 a.m. I was really tired. The night was definitely too short....At 7 a.m. I took the shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport. For the check-in I had to line up a pretty long time and so I only managed to write 2 postcards instead of 7 (the remaining 5 I need to write in Korea and because I already bought Japanese stamps my friend Yuki has to take them with her back to Japan and post them over there:-)).
Boarding was at 08:55 and the flight from Tokyo Narita Airport to Seoul Incheon Airport took me about 2 hours (09:25 to 11:45, flight KE 706, flight carrier: Korean Air, no time difference between Japan and Korea). I had some really annyoing Chinese guys sitting next to me and was happy, when the flight was over.
Getting into South Korea wasn't a big deal and so I was already at 12:30 in the arrival hall, waiting for my friend Hailey to pick me up. She arrived about 10 minutes later and we were happy to see each other again.

My Korean's friend real name is Hae Won but when I met her in Vancouver in 2005 she introcuded herself as Hailey (Korean people usually have an English name that they choose freely because their real names are often too difficult for foreigners to pronounce and to remember). Since then she has been Hailey for me.
I met her on my very first day at the language school in Canada. When I entered the classroom there was a free seat next to her. I asked if the seat was taken but she denied. I sat down, we started talking, had lunch together und became friends. With Hailey I usually do the exciting and adventurous things, f.e. river rafting, zip trekking and skiing in Whistler etc.
In 2009 she visited me in Germany and now it was time to visit her in Korea.

She had already bought me a transportation card and first thing we did was charging that card at a convenient store. (Compared to Japan public transportation system in Korea is very cheap and convenient.)
We took the airport bus from the airport to Seoul and I checked-in at the "Hi Seoul Youth Hostel" at 14:30 where I was supposed to stay for the upcoming 5 nights (in a 6 people dormitory!)
Unfortunately Hailey has been in a project since January 2012 which is going to be finished at the end of March 2013. During that time it is very difficult for her to go on vacation. Therefore we had decided that I would spend the first week in Seoul and attending the goodwill program.

Goodwill program
I could take part in that program under one condition: staying at that YH (=youth hostel). It was free of charge (of course I had to pay for the nights in the YH, but the program didn't cost anything). High school and university students can apply for that program and their purpose is to meet foreigners and practice their language skills. For the foreigners it is a perfect thing because they are accompanied by locals. Every Korean applicant has to hand in a city tour she or he is going to do with the foreigners. When a foreigner is interested in this program, the YH contacts the applicants and if they have time a meeting will be arranged. In my case it was the best thing to do: I wanted to meet people and learn about the Korean traditions and because I don't speak Korean at all this was the best opportunity to combine both.

After unpacking and arranging my stuff a little bit I went out with Hailey. She wanted to show me her university (where she had studied some years ago) and the area surrounding the university.
One of my first experiences in South Korea was the hot and spicy food. I had already had problems with hot and spicy food in Nepal and I was warned by people about Korean food as well. Hailey wanted to test where "my limit" is and at one of the first sales stalls (Korea is famous for its sales stalls) I bought a MILD meat skewer. After turning red and having tears in my eyes Hailey realized that my limit was very very low....
But thanks to her I never had to starve in Korea. She always managed to find something delicious and not hot and spicy one for me:-)

left side: chicken feet
right side: meat skewer without spices

Then she showed me her former university called "EWHA Woman's university". In Korea there are still lots of universities for women only. Hailey's university was the first one for women and is famous for "the first woman in Korea who...."

Hailey in front of her university

university campus

university campus

pavement in front of the university

We walked around at the campus and the surrounding neighbourhood from 16:00 to 18:00.

my first day in Seoul
At 18:30 we met one of Hailey's friends Jae Ryung (I call her Jae because Ryung is too difficult to pronounce:-) at a famous restaurant, called "Tosokchon". They served chicken cuisine including traditional Samgyetang etc.

in front of the restaurant
Like in Japan you always have to line up in front of famous restaurants:-) But we didn't have to wait for such a long time. It was a restaurant where you had to sit on the floor, but compared to Japan women can sit cross-legged too.

Sitting on the floor: Japan and Kora by comparison
Japan: men sit cross-legged, women sit on their heels
Korea: men and women can sit cross-legged or on their heels

We left the restaurant (after having that delicious chicken and a kind of pancake filled with seafood) at 20:45 and took a taxi to the YH. Then I said goodbye to Hailey (I would meet her in 3 days again) and went to my room. I had the top bed of one of the bunk beds and the bed under me was occupied by a French woman who loves travelling as much as I do. She was about to go to Japan and so we talked for a quite long time about Japan and Korea.
That night the dormitory was full and I couldn't sleep very well. The lights were switched off at around 00:30, one of my roomates was snooring and the last one came home very late and couldn't find the right switch right away. So she turned on one light after the other one and because I was sleeping on the top bed there was a light bulb direct above me. When she turned on the light I wasn't amuzed at all....

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