Sunday, June 22, 2014

Aly and Pops Take On Korea!

I am long overdue for a post!  I started blogging to keep people informed about my adventures over here and because I thought I would have a lot of downtime.  Well, in true Betsy fashion, I have managed to fill my time.  Here’s my weekly schedule:

  • Mondays: taekwondo (8-9)
  • Tuesdays: language exchange (8:20-10:20)
  • Wednesdays: badminton with coworkers (4:30-6:00) and taekwondo (8-9)
  • Thursdays: language exchange (8:20-10:20 )
  • Fridays: dinner and drinks in my town with other foreign teachers

The difference between this busy schedule and my busy schedules in the past…this one is filled with fun stuff not work. J

Okay…now onto my post.  This post is all about the wonderful visit I had with Pops and Aly.  They arrived on June 3 and left on June 16.  This is a rather lengthy post, so if you don’t feel like reading everything, just look at the pics and read what catches your eye!  : )  BTW…if you’re Facebook friends with Aly, you will find TONS of photos on her page.

Run down of family visit:

Tuesday, June 3:  Pops and Aly arrive in Ulsan around 8:20PM.  We meet Sam (another foreign teacher) and Ryan (a Korean friend of his) for drinks in my charming town of Guyeong-ri.  Aly discovers a fondness for makgeolli, a yummy rice wine.  Ryan learns of our plans for touring Ulsan on Wednesday and offers to take us around (Wednesday was election day, so many people had off work).  Korean hospitality is truly amazing!!

Aly and Pops with our wonderful
Korean host Ryan!
Wednesday, June 4:  We hit two of the “12 Scenic Sights of Ulsan”  Daewangam Songnim (Pine Forest) near Ilsan Beach and the Bamboo Forest in the middle of town along the Taehwa River.  Very fun and relaxing day!
Hanging out in the bamboo forest.

Thursday, June 5:  Aly and Pops were on their own while I was at work.  They basically took it easy since the weather wasn’t too cooperative.  Thursday evening, they got to meet 6 of my co-teachers (5 of whom were English teachers) over traditional Korean barbecue (Samgyeopsal).  Then we went for coffee…or I should say the Koreans had coffee while we three foreigners had traditional Korean tea.  And of course…dessert consisting of bingsu (shaved frozen milk).  With Koreans, there is never a shortage of food.  We had a great time hanging out and enjoying the company.

Friday, June 6:  We experienced another amazing display of Korean hospitality.  We had planned to depart to Busan and tour that city for Friday and Saturday.  Busan is the second largest city in South Korea.  We were going to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, but there was no need!  One of my co-teachers volunteered to meet us at the train station and be our tour guide for the day.  We visited famous Haeundae Beach and saw some amazing sand sculptures.  Had a delicious lunch of bulgogi before heading to the only coastal temple in Korea: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.  We hit heavy traffic on the way to our next destination.  By the time we got there, it was too late to hike the fortress.  So, we made the most of it by hitting the local college town, grabbing dinner, and having a few drinks.  Okay…more than a few drinks. In fact, our driver (the beautiful Marcelle) had to call a driving service to take us to the hotel where she crashed with the Foy family for the night.

Coffee break with the lovely Marcelle,
our Korean tour guide in Busan.
Saturday, June 7:  Marcelle dropped us off at the Geumjeongsanseong Fortress for some hiking before heading on her way.  We enjoyed walking the trails and taking in a little piece of Korean history before heading to the Jagalchi Market.  This was a unique and fun experience.  It’s a live fish market.  If it lives in the water, we probably saw it (or could have seen it).  This place was HUGE!!!!!  It was really wild to see everything that was there.  After the fish market, it was off to another scenic sight…Taejongdae…before heading off to dinner and an early evening at the hotel.  After all, we had an early departure for Tongyeong the next morning.

Night view of Tongyeong

Rocky coast of Geogje
 Sunday, June 7 and Monday, June 8:  We toured two islands: Tongyeong and Geoje.  In Tongyeong, we took a ferry tour, rode a cable car, and toured a naval musem.  In Geoje, we saw a windmill at Windy Hill, walked along rocks on the edge of the ocean, and toured a POW museum.  Both had impressive sights, but I think our favorite part was our taxi driver.  He picked us up in Tongyeong, and we were impressed by his English, albeit a little confused when he said his English name was Solro (not sure how that’s English).  We had such a good time with him that we negotiated a price for the next day.  He took us from Tongyeong to Geoje.  Then showed us all around Geoje, and drove us to Busan.  He was with us for about 10 hours, and it only cost us around $120.  It was the BEST way to see Geoje.  We would have struggled without him.  Apparently, renting a taxi for the day is a common thing to do in Korea.  I was proud of my negotiation skills when I learned we got a good price!  : )

The best taxi drive EVER - Solro

Aly and Pops were on their own Tuesday through Thursday and joined me again in Ulsan on Friday night.  We had a low-key Friday and just had dinner and drinks with my friends Shara and Sam.  After all, we had an early morning to head off to Gyeongju for the day on Saturday.

Aly and Pops with
the temple guards
Saturday, June 14:  We toured Gyeongju for the day, which is the old capital of Korea.  Lots of traditional Korean sites here.  We visited a famous grotto and temple, toured an artifact museum, and visited some tombs of famous past kings.  Gyeongju is a very pretty city, and many people rent bikes for the day…something I plan to do with my next visitor (get ready, Karla)!  J  And, once again, we hired a taxi for the day.  That sure does make things easier!
Aly and I rockin' it out!
Saturday night we celebrated our last night together by grabbing dinner and drinks with friends.  Then Pops and Aly got to experience a true Korean tradition:  a noraebong (aka singing room, aka karaoke).  My language exchange partner, Jack, and his friend Ryan were our gracious hosts for that experience.  What a night! : )

Waiting for our norabang (singing room)

Waterfall outside of Ulsan
Sunday, June 15:  Our last day together just so happened to be Father’s Day…how well was that planned (actually, it was just a total coincidence).  We did one final tour, which was a City Bus Tour of the more rural part of Ulsan.  We hiked to a waterfall, toured the amethyst caves, and visited a beautiful temple.  We all agree that once you’ve seen a temple or two, you’ve seen them all.  But…the setting of the temple makes the difference.  The amethyst cave area had a temple carved into the mountain side…very cool.  The other temple we visited was nestled in a valley…beautiful and peaceful!

Temple carved into the side of a mountain

All in all, Pops and Aly made the most of their stay here and really saw a lot!  It was so great to have them visit and get a little piece of home for a while.  I ended up having two extra days off while they were here.  So of the two weeks, there were only four days that I was not with them.  The bittersweet part of having visitors is saying good bye.  It was tough, and there were tears, but it was all worth it.  Nothing beats having family and friends close by even if only for a short visit.  I’m so thankful to have had the time with them!  : )
Aly and Pops upon arrival.

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