Now here's a rave from me:
Heading off into Korea, illiterate and speechless, and absolutely relying on the kindness of strangers was the most wondrous experience.
- any foreigner needs help
- each Korean must take personal responsibility for ensuring help is provided to foreigners
- helping foreigners must be delegated to another Korean if assistance is still required
- foreigners waiting in the bus station must be escorted to correct bus, and alerted when the correct bus stop is reached
- the most useful phrase in any language is undoubtedly "follow me"
Home stays and friends who decided we were staying with them/they were our tour guides - a treasure beyond price - we have more family now.
- Song Ahm, Jasmine, Sangmin, MJ, Mi Kyung, Mi Ra, Professor Park, Mr Park:
- Loved those heated floors with the electronic controls
- Thanks so much for volunteering to show us the most wonderful and difficult to get to parts of your fantastic country
- We got major points telling other Koreans where we have been and what we have seen in our time
- Brian in Shineville Resort - thanks so much for your help, and tell your Kiwi ex-manager that we love Korea
- MJ - a miracle of efficiency and helpfulness coping with our last-minute plans and finding us great home stays
- Mi Kyung - love your boys, and your husband does speak English! Thanks for taking us to Yandon Village and small temples off the beaten trail in Namsan,
- Mi Ra - organising at speed onto the right bus to Donhwa Temple, taken all the way from Daegu to Andong and back. Taking caffeine stimulants as you drove through the dark to get us all home.
- Professor Park and Jasmine Jang - volunteering to be our personal tour operator in Jeju and taking us to wonderful places
- Professor Park in Cheongju (not Chungju or Cheongdu - good to get that clear)- going to Beopju Temple on Buddha's birthday was priceless. Still proudly got the Buddha's birthday ribbon.
- Song Ahm and Jasmine - coordinating with Korean efficiency to make sure we had the best time in Seoul
- Song Ahm, Jasmine and Sangmin - great travel planning and advice on Jeju.
- Loved the parties of school kids and their chorus:
- "Good morning" (any time of the day), immediately followed by
- "You're welcome", then
- "Where you from?"
(alright, didn't love them ALL the time, not when 5,000 of them invaded the Gyeongju National Museum when it was raining, nor when 50,000 of them were getting on planes while you're on standby. Note: these numbers are estimates)
Loved Korea :)
The temples, the parks, the special Confucian centres, the buses with the fancy curtains
- The "volunteer" election-promotion ladies at the intersections with the white gloves and the dance moves. How did the local body elections go? It would seem that almost no-one cared
- The terribly polite elevators who finally taught me that the verb goes at the end, and that "imnida" means "is" "Lobby (something) imnida....."
- The shoe thing - shoes off/house slippers on/house slippers off/bathroom slippers on - we got quite good at that. I started to get the hang of turning the slippers so they always face the right way, It's all in the twirl and the shuffle.
- Those slippery steel chopsticks - I am getting the hang of them, really I am. Wooden chopsticks are definitely cheating.
- Kimchi - yep, interesting....Enjoying the deceptively hot vegetables - thanks Jasmine, yes now we really are Korean, even if this was pronounced in a bar in Seoul called "O'Kims"
- And the food! Barbecue restaurants, with the meat sizzling and the fat sizzling and sliding away down the sloped lid of the cooker... And all the vegetables and alcohol - so good for "women's skin" and "men's' stamina"
- The best tofu restaurant in Gyeongju And the feast in Hahoe Village (thanks Nam-i!), and the feast at the restaurant under the fairy lights near Book City..... where Kelly again lost the competition to pay
- And the little hot (hot!) buns with red soybean paste, fresh out of the wee conveyor belt system, straight into a paper bag
- Loved the temples - Beautiful settings, full of colour and texture, religious pilgrims, monks and nuns (and the Buddhist nun in the temple with the cell phone - everyone's got a cell phone, everyone's got high speed broadband) Buddha with his long ear lobes.... and his hand signals Incense, paper lanterns in the breeze. Travelling with Hartmoot and Christine to Haeinsa to see the Tripitaka Military jets roaring low and fast overhead the remote temples.....
- Cunning plan - I took photos of addresses in Hangul - then I could zoom in on the image to show them (New Zealand efficiency!)
- No worries anyway - they phone their local controller who speaks English and translates over the phone - then they phone back to offer any assistance any time
- PS Lonely Planet's maps are too small to read in English or Hangul.
- Taxi drivers all carry magnifying lenses, and of course they programme their GPS in Hangul.
- what an excellent writing system, it is. An example of Korean ingenuity and efficiency.
And what fun to see it assembling itself into the GPS system that everyone has in their cars.
And in Mi Ra's car, being admonished to slow down by some small girl trapped in the GPS
Luckily her electronic enthusiasm remained undiminished every time we approached a slower speed zone. The effect was only enhanced by group giggling in the car, every time she sang out.
- The "love motel" district in Gyeongju:
- They look like mini Las Vegas casinos
- Privacy curtains in the car park entrances? I guess that makes sense.....
- and why did that bus call itself "Toss English"?
- scaling Mt Halla on Jeju and instantly invited to a men's birthday part at the top - chocolate (accepted) and whisky - good for men's stamina - (declined due to precipitous return) and NOT overtaken by any "Ajumma" 아줌마 (scarily fit older married ladies in fluoro hiking outfits with those gloves again).
- Getting a car ride back from the bus stop from a woman who decided that an hour detour was required to get Kelly home safe
- Walking on the beach and served breakfast of fresh cooked sea "creatures" by the lady divers
- Headstand at the "Demilitarized" zone (and that was a pretty cool way to spend my birthday, too). Who knew there was an Amusement Park there?
- "Men eating" silkworm pupae in Insadong market in Seoul - go Kelly and Song Ahm (yes, I had one, but I knew when to stop)
- Arriving at the hotel in Kyoto and immediately surrounded by busloads of Korean monks and women in traditional Korean dress.
- Scoring points by saying "hello, how's it going?" in Korean
To our friends in Korea
We still have big smiles on our faces from the best holiday.
Thank you so much for showing us your Korea.
We feel honoured to have visited with you, stayed with you, been shown your fabulous country.
Mi Kyung, Mi Ra, MJ - we'll be talking on Skype, eh?
Jung-Hwa - you and I will be speaking in English when Song Ahm isn't there do to it for you - no escape!
I'll double my own Korean vocabulary to about eight words.....
Big hug from NZ. Come and see us, come and stay with us.
Best regards to all