This edition of Hello, from takes us to South Korea…
How was the flight over to South Korea?
The flight was extremely long. We left out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport headed to Newark Liberty international Airport, Newark, NJ at 5:45 am on Saturday 7/16. After a 4.5 hr layover, we continued on to Beijing, China which was a 13 hr flight. In Beijing, we had an additional 4.5 hr layover and then continued on with a short 3 hr flight to Gimpo International Airport, Seoul, South Korea. After all the layovers and long flights, we arrived in Seoul, South Korea and stayed the night at the beautiful LOTTE City Hotel before we had a two hour bus ride to our final destination, Osan Air Base, South Korea. Total flight time was 28 hours. We were exhausted!!
What was the first thing you did once you landed in Seoul?
Funny you ask this… we all got Dunkin Donuts at Gimpo International Airport before walking over to the exquisite LOTTE City Hotel. It was so late when we arrived, most everything in the airport and close by had already closed.
Which traditional Korean foods did you try first?
The first full day we were there, we walked just outside the gate of the Air Base and went to a tiny restaurant called Oishi. We had to go up a flight of very narrow stairs off the street to get to the restaurant. There we ordered Kimchi, a traditional spicy fermented cabbage Korean side dish and Bulgogi, a Korean dish that consists of grilled marinated beef with vegetables and covered in bulgogi sauce.
What was your favorite / least favorite food you tried?
First let me say I love to try new things, but, I am going to be honest, I was kind of afraid to go too far off the traditional menu. Especially after tasting kimchi. I suppose that was probably my least favorite thing I had. My favorite wasn’t even a Korean dish after all. We walked to this quaint little restaurant called Heavenly Bread. There, I had the best dish of chicken risotto I have ever eaten with a side house salad which consisted of iceberg lettuce and watercress greens with your choice of dressing, Honey Mustard or Oriental. LOL I chose the oriental which was a very mild vinegar and ginger mixture. The most outrageous things we saw though were in the open street market. There we saw live octopi, eel, clams, sea urchins. The most horrific thing I saw in the market though were cut off fish heads and crispy fried grub worms. Also, they have some kind of fish “slop” soup. Smelled horrible!
As an English speaker, how hard was it to get around?
It really depended on the area you were in. On the outskirts of Seoul and areas where we stayed, they spoke very little English. It was a challenge at times when trying to “price negotiate” in the market place or tell your taxi driver where you wanted to go. We thought we were saying the names of towns we wanted to go to correctly, but, I suppose the English southern accents we have became a language barrier. However, in parts of Seoul, they spoke very good English.
How did you find the transportation system in Korea compared to the States?
I was truly impressed with the transit system there. The buses and trains are always exactly on time. That makes it much easier for foreigners who cannot speak the language let alone read it. The names of the bus stops are also written in English on the outside of the buses. However, the taxi drivers are CRAZY drivers. At one point our driver was driving on the separation line for the lanes on our side of the road.
Tell me about your visit to the famous Namsan Tower.
We decided to take a tour bus to see the N. Seoul Tower which is located at the top of Namsan Mountain. Once you get there, the bus can only go so far, therefore you have to walk the remainder of the way up a very sharp incline. But once you reach the top, the hike is so well worth it. In addition to the tower, Namsan Octagonal Pavilion and the Trees of Love sits at the top. The real beauty though was seeing the city of Seoul at night.
It must have been amazing seeing Seoul from the Namsam Mountain. What was the experience like for you?
It was absolutely beautiful. And to be able to see it with my son made it more special. To be there and think of the history for this city. I have an uncle to fought in the Korean War so thinking of him fighting for this country was an awesome experience.
What was the most beautiful thing you saw on your trip?
The most beautiful site wasn’t in Korea at all. It was during the flight home when we flew over where the Alaskan and Canadian borders meet in the Arctic Circle. When looking out the windows of the airplane you can see Mt. Michelson located in the Brooks Mountain Range, Alaska and Mackenzie Bay in Canada. The beauty of the mountain range with the razor sharp peaks reaching out of the snow was breathtaking.
What was the favorite part about your trip?
My favorite part of my trip was seeing my son. But one of the most interesting things was while we were headed back to the airport, our bus drove along the Han River that flows through Seoul. Along the banks, tents were pitched and the banks were sandy like the beaches we have here in NC. It was dusk so we could see sightseeing boats on the water with beautiful lights strung from front to back.
Thanks so much for sharing, Kimberlee!