Monday, January 14, 2013

Where in the world? Travels in Korea (2012), Part One

This year our family racked up a record number of travel miles.

The Pilot went TDY to the states so many times in the last eight months that it became somewhat of a joke, with varying levels of levity and bitterness depending on my mood, to tell everyone that we moved all the way out here so that the Pilot could spend half his time in the states.

On a positive note, his trips kept me stocked in cookie butter, my favorite coffee, and dry vermouth.

I'm not going to write that the TDYs to the states are over. I never make statements like that. But I'm out of cookie butter, dry vermouth cannot be conveniently purchased, and the Pilot has kept me stocked in my favorite coffee by asking coworkers who visit Tucson a very special favor.

Because it is hard enough to travel with children as the lone adult/parent, I did not venture outside the country with the children save that one harrowing trip to the states in September and back in October. On the one hand, I'm feeling a little like a failure because traveling with two fairly small children sometimes seems more trouble than it's worth, and I thought I was more adventurous than that.  On the other hand, we are saving money and my sanity.

Traveling with children can look a lot like a crime scene:

And that was an easy trip back in November to Seoul where we stayed on post at Dragon Hill Lodge. I returned from the salon downstairs to find this. I took a picture and walked out the door, book in hand, and grabbed a coffee. Our darling daughter does not like to sleep in hotels. This is what happens. In about a week, we leave for Thailand, and we're hoping a relaxing beach vacation will be just the thing.

Do I look like I would ever cause my parents a minute of trouble?

Last year, we set our sights on seeing as much of Korea as possible, and for such a small country, I feel that there is still so much to see. 

I did manage to document trips to Mallipo Beach and Insadong, but I have neglected a squadron weekend in Busan, a nice jaunt out to the east coast and Mount Seorak, and numerous excursions to Seoul, to name a few.

Icheon (not Incheon which is where the airport is), but Icheon where the pottery is made. 
We started out not knowing where to go because that is how we do it. We just set off and find our way. It's a small country, we figure, let's just get on the road. It was rainy that day, and we had little idea where to go once we got there. The main road contained numerous large pottery stores, but we wanted to go to an actual studio. After driving around a bit, we found the ceramics museum, located a map of the village entirely in Hangul (incomprehensible and not to scale), and wandered around some more. 

But we found a studio that looked unpromising, abandoned even, but I insisted. There was something there. I knew it. Then, we saw a group of Westerners and heard some Midwest accents. I practically pointed and yelled, "Look! I think they're from Kansas or something!"

We wandered around and looked appropriately lost until we were asked to join the group, about half a dozen members of a Methodist Church in Kansas visiting another minister and his wife near Seoul. The couple very generously offered to take their friends to the studio of a famous artist, Lim Hang Taek, designated master artist of pottery by the Korean government.

Even more generously, they asked us to join them, kids and all. We walked into a studio where we took off our shoes and were offered watermelon and tea. We watched a documentary about the artist while he decorated a plate.

It was fascinating. And we bought some tea cups and plates of our own. This is what happens when you wander, when you just follow your instinct and let things happen. I'm often a victim of over planning, but I don't ignore my instincts and this time they led me right where we needed to be.

I plan to write a couple of posts devoted entirely to food, but I have to report that the day trip ended with a satisfying palace meal that could accommodate our children. Don't be alarmed by the amount of dishes (though, I admit, I still am)--so much of it is kimchi and vegetables. We love Korean food.


We took the KTX to Busan where we spent some time on the beach, ate and drank, visited an aquarium, ate and drank... It was a squadron trip which presents its own challenges when traveling with children. You want to seem "game" to do things but within the limits of having very small children. It helps when your hotel offers a babysitting service.

While on the beach a hornet stung the hell out of Cora. I had her under a very large umbrella and while telling a very well meaning ajumma that I had smothered my baby in sunscreen (She burn! She burn!), I heard a friend yell, "Lee Anne, bee! Up Cora's leg!"

There was nothing I could do. She was screaming before I or anyone could reach her. A very resourceful airman handed me a cup of ice and instructed me to cool my hand down with a handful of ice and then cup her leg. She ran to get the flight doc who happened to be on the beach at that time, and we determined that she did not have the stinger embedded in her leg. We watched for a reaction (there was none), and I fed her three apple crushers. (Or, I plied her with sugar in the form of fruit mush until she stopped crying.)

In general, the brief vacation went very well, but travel from the train station to the hotel was a bit of a challenge as Busan is quite a bit larger and harder to get to the beach front resorts than one would think. On the way back to the bus station, Gus endured a violent, hour-long cab drive in rush hour traffic only to throw up in his hat about two minutes from the train station. Once his hat was filled, my lap sufficed. Awesome. 

Going back home on the KTX.

On that note, I'll post more later about what we ate in Busan. I look forward to going back later, just the Pilot, the kids, and I, and visiting the fish market.

Up next, I hope: Seoul excursions, East to Mount Seorak, Back to Texas, Christmas photos.... There is so much to tell and so little time to tell it.

1 comment:

Bette said...

The crime scene photo/description made me burst out laughing. So thank you for that.