Santo Sisters Take Korea
This is a long post. So long that I feel you need a warning. But I don't write this for you. I write this for me and my very weak memory I've been blessed with. So please, go forth if you think you can make it through the whole thing without dozing off. Otherwise, hopefully my pictures give you enough satisfaction.
W E H A D V I S I T O R S!
My sister and her friend came to visit us for over a week and it went a little like this...
Friday morning, 6/29, they arrived
at our apartment complex via taxi. From the international airport, it was about a 20-30 minute ride - pretty easy. I ran around the outside of the complex looking for them and shouting their name looking like a lunatic. We hauled everything they owned up to our apartment, cooked some breakfast and got filled in on their travel stories from Thailand and earlier that morning. Eventually, we had to leave for work so we showed them around the block, set them up with transportation cards and wished them luck! After work, we woke Ajumma Christy from her nap and took them to a wonderful Welcome-To-Korea-BBQ-Dinner. As expected, it was a hit. The meat, the veggies, the soju, and the whole experience never fails to excite me (even after my 187th Korean BBQ meal)!
Luke and I showed them how to use the inter-city buses on our way to Wolmi Park in Incheon. The park had quite a few different things to see and do. We saw a very old traditional style home that was made for an aristocratic family. There, we played some traditional style games. The park also had a beautiful garden, an observatory that required ~300 steps to get to, a culture center where we dressed in Hanboks, learned about big Korean birthday celebrations, and listened to some traditional instruments being played (through headphones and a computer). The park was much bigger than I expected and we didn't even get to see half of it! It was truly beautiful with mountains and a river surrounding it.
We were all getting pretty hungry and it was VERY hot and humid outside so we headed to the Sinpo International Market on our way back from the park. It was shaded as it's located in two allies and there is street food all around. Luke and I had been once before but this time was a little different as it wasn't crowded at all, and therefore there wasn't as much street food. We walked around for a bit while Sara and Christy got a feel for a traditional South Korean market.
Thank you Monsoon Season.
Unfortunately, Sunday was very rainy...all day long. We played more board games, but then I took Sara and Christy to the Bupyeong Underground Shopping Mall. I have been there a handful of times and still haven't seen all of it. It's HUGE and so dauntingly, mind-blowingly, confusing and wonderful. Filled with Korean clothing stores, K-Beauty shops, jewelry, accessories, odds and ends and of course cafes, Bupyeong has just about everything. There is also a food court and a few other major supermarkets attached. It is one of the cheapest places to go shopping and all of it is underground and connected to the subway! Perfect for a rainy day. That evening, Luke joined us for a visit to Triple Street. Triple Street is technically a huge shopping mall as well, but it's not how you would imagine it. Plus it has so much more than just shopping. There's a movie theater, there's a "Monster VR" with all the VR you could imagine. There's restaurants galore, a batting cage, a "pitching cage" (?) an arcade and more. We tried seeing a 4D movie, but missed our movie time. (Stupid taxis...) However, we ended up having fun at the batting cage and playing arcade games. Christy and I even did a bit of VR! I'd say we did alright for a super rainy unplanned day!
we spent our morning playing board games. We had already pulled out a couple of them over the weekend, but this time we were all awake *cough*Christy*cough* and ready to play. Exploding Kittens, and Gonggi (a Korean "jacks" type game) were definitely the favorites and played...often. After a few board games, we wished them luck with their day and left for work. They adventurously walked around the neighborhood and explored our favorite Korean store...Daiso, like the Dollar General. At a dollar each, they may have bought about 83 games of Gonggi by the time they left Korea. After work, we met them for dinner where we ate ttukbaegi bulgogi - an individual sized version of one of my favorite Korean dishes, bulgogi jungol. There were some minor differences between the two, but it was definitely a great dish all around. With yummy marinated beef and veggies in a hot stone bowl, you can't go wrong!
Tuesday morning bright and early...
...I guided Sara and Christy into Seoul. Having left at 7AM, we arrived around 9:30 and found their hotel. We then spent the rest of the morning walking around parts of the Bukchon Hanok Village - a Korean traditional village with over 600 years of history. It is a residential area so people still live in these homes, but it's often filled with tourists walking among the neighborhood streets. It's a pretty area. Pretty hilly that is! In the mid-morning heat, we made it up to a little Mom & Pop type observation deck. An adorable old couple charged 3,000 Won a person but it included a free drink. They lived just on the floor below and they reminded me a lot of my grandparents. And we saw some gorgeous views! Sara and Christy spent the next three days in Seoul, seeing rest of Insadong (my personal favorite area) and the DMZ to Myeongdong Shopping District, and even hiked Bukhansan Mountain! They gained quite the stories and experiences from just three days in one of the busiest cities in the world. And I think it's safe to say they enjoyed it.
Their return to Incheon
went not so smoothly as they carried four tons of souvenirs and luggage with them on what was supposed to be an hour and a half subway ride, but ended up being about 3 hours. They truly got an authentic experience of what life is like in another country. Transportation is always a bit confusing, even after you lived in the country for 18 months! When we reunited, we had some good ole fried chicken and story time at home.
Friday morning we got ready for work and walked with them around Songdo Central Park and NC Cube. Central Park is one of the biggest attractions in Incheon and it's only about a 15 minute walk from our apartment. It's always so gorgeous to walk through because it has super tall city buildings mixed with huge open green spaces, big walking paths, a river that runs through the middle, gorgeous bridges, and even traditional Korean buildings. On the weekends, it is PACKED. People rent water taxis or small boats to paddle with their loved one or family. But this morning was much quieter as it was on a weekday. It was so peaceful and Sara and Christy expressed how it seemed so calm and happy it was weird! They heard children laughing or music playing in the distance but they ended up going back that day to read their books and just relax. We walked through NC Cube with them on our way to work, but it was more to show them another site that looped them back to our apartment. It's a very cool with shops and cafes, but also a bit pricey. Similar to Luke and I's first time there, they too had a fun photoshoot with some animals and cavemen.
We had jjimdak that night...DELIVERED to our apartment. Thank goodness for the angels that we work with who are so willing to help us do things like this. It successfully got to our apartment and the four of us got to enjoy one of Luke's favorite Korean dishes in the comfort of our home. Woohoo!
On Saturday, we left after breakfast to go to Eurwangni Beach. It was about one hour away. We took a bus near our apartment to the airport, and a bus at the airport straight to the beach. Super simple and wonderful weather! Eurwangni Beach is a very popular beach since it is so close to the airport. Not only conveniently located, but the sand was perfect, and there were tons of restaurants, convenience stores, rides, games and street food so close together! It was beyond crowded though with tents and umbrellas setup about every three feet in order for people to hide from the sun. But all in all, it was a gorgeous and relaxing way to spend their last full day in the country.
Sun-kissed and starving, we were back in town and on the hunt for one more Korean BBQ meal to fill up their bellies. At this particular restaurant, a short fire show ensued when the server came over to char our meat and then fry an egg inside of an onion circle. It's a much nicer restaurant than the one we went to the first night, but every restaurant will have it's pros and cons and will have something different. After dinner, we went to a Hof, a Korean style bar, to have a drink and show them a couple drinking games before heading to...NORAEBANG! The four of us rented a karaoke room for one hour where we sang our hearts out and had a blast!
Sunday was spent tetris-ing their luggage with all of their belongings + souvenirs and debating what to leave behind with us. All four of us did a Korean aloe sheet mask on our faces after being at the beach on Saturday, played another round of Exploding Kittens and Gonggi, and helped them to a taxi. It was so great seeing them and showing them a snippet of our lives over the past 18 months in such a wonderful country! ❤