I can finally spell Seoul now, and I've finally been there. Which is weird because I'd already been to Korea two times before that, all in one year.
When I was there, in Seoul, I had the "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier" song by "The Shins" stuck in my head most of the time. Becky was the only one around to hear it, poor thing, and I sometimes tried to add to the lyric: "I'm in Seoul but I'm not a soldier," but it was never as funny as I'd hoped. Hoping that something will be funny is a good sign that it won't be.
To me it's weird to say things like "This is my third time in Korea this year." I'm not a traveling businessman, or rich and retired, or young and trying to find myself, or whatever it is that makes people travel a lot. Although I do like seeing new things and places I'd have to say that I have a below average desire to travel the world, I don't have a "travel bug." But on our trip back from Seoul I was staring at the back of the airplane seat in front of me trying to remember how many times I'd been on an airplane recently, and it was a little fuzzy: China, Jeju Island in Korea, Taiwan, Beijing, Incheon Korea, Seoul Korea. So six times.
But, in case it sounds like I'm bragging too much about how many places I've been, I have a confession to all travel lovers and adventurists: I didn't really do anything in most of those places. I am a terrible, stick-in-the-mud, traveler.
Even I, as I'm typing this, am shaking my head in disgust at myself. All the expense, the preparation, hours of buying tickets online with bad internet connections, sitting in cramped airplane seats, trudging through airports, getting stuck in long security lines with only minutes to spare… and I'm just not motivated to do anything cool when I go places. In Seoul we ate at Outback Steakhouse for lunch, it wasn't very good, and then we ate at Costco and had pizza and a hot dog for dinner, it was delicious! But no Korean barbeque, no Bibimbop, nothing new and Korean. Not even Sushi, which is plentiful in Korea. OK I admit I really regret that last one. I saw someone throw away a partially uneaten tray of sushi at Costco, and it broke my heart.
I should defend our decisions though. Going to Korea is like going a little bit closer to home for us. Korea is saturated with English, some things, signs and stuff, have only English with no Korean. Korea also has things like Costco, Krispy Kreme, Taco Bell. In Korea I can use a VISA card to buy things, that's pretty cool. In Korea they have Google and our Android phones actually work, we can use maps to navigate places!
Of course we don't have Korean, or even American, SIM cards in our cell phones so we were not able to use the aforesaid Google maps without some sort of free Wi-Fi connection. It's actually a little bit puzzling to me that tourist brochures have websites and phone numbers on them when there's a good chance the tourists won't have working phones. Although it might be puzzling to the people who made those brochures that I didn't buy one of those SIM cards that they are selling at the airport. But it's hard to justify buying one when you're only there for such a short time. Next time I think I will though.
But anyway, we were far more excited to be out of China than we were to be in Korea. Let's just say: We miss home.
Even though Seoul Korea has so much English, and is so convenient, we did find ourselves next to a rice patty, with dirt roads leading into it, in the dark, on a pedestrian-less road waiting for a bus. Our phones were both dead, even though they didn't have Internet connections they did have the address to our hotel in case we needed to give it to a Taxi driver or something. Not that we could really get a Taxi because we only had a few dollars left in our pockets, and I wasn't sure how much money was left on our bus cards.
And when I said there's lots of English in Korea, that means on the signs. Bus drivers, and anyone else, get really stressed out when you try speaking English to them, they can read it sometimes but they can't speak it. Maybe I just have a really mean scary face…
We ended up next to the rice patty (did I mention that it started to rain) because we got on the right bus going the wrong direction. It took at least twenty minutes for me to realize that we had crossed too many bridges. Yes, I'm getting a SIM card next time.
But the story has a happy ending, eventually we ended up back at the airport, which was one of the stops on the bus route, transferring to the next bus. We tried swiping our bus cards (or T-Cards as they call them) but the bus driver made an X with his arms indicating that we didn't need to swipe our T-Cards, of course it was too late. Then, after that, we were running through the rain, me in shorts, down a poorly lit street sidewalk that badly needed to be weeded, from the bus stop closest to our little hotel. We even stopped at 7-Eleven, dripping wet, and got some Kimchee to eat in our hotel room.
So it turns out that the Kimchee in Korea, even at 7-Eleven, is really good, so the trip wasn't a total waste after all.