Categorized | Expat Life, Korea, Korea, Seoul, Travel

New Years Weekend

New Years weekend was a busy one for me. I took it easy on New Year’s Eve, then hit the road for a few day trips over the weekend.

Friday a couple other teachers and I took off for a day trip to Seoul. I had been wanting some new shoes, and since I wear a size larger than most, it is very difficult to find shoes for me in Korea. Seoul has an area that carries larger sizes in Itaewon. So we set off on the KTX train on Friday morning. The KTX is the high speed train in Korea. This was my first trip via train, and I have to say I love it. The seats were comfy and roomy. The trains left on time, and it was such a smooth ride the entire way. It took just under 2 hours to travel from Daegu to Seoul, and the cost was around $75 roundtrip. The train goes up to 300 km/hr (which is around 185+ mph for everyone in North America). It was simply a great way to travel.

After arriving in Seoul we headed off toward Itaewon for some quick shopping. Since we had only planned to be there for the day, I only got to see a small portion of the city. The first thing that comes to mind is the city is HUGE! Seoul has just under 10.5 million people (this is the city proper) which puts it 8th in the world, but the metropolitan area is the 2nd largest in the world behind Tokyo with just over 20.5 million people. It was overwhelming to say the least, and I only got to see a small section. Itaewon is a popular foreigner hangout so everywhere we walked we saw foreigners which was strange. We had breakfast (it was really an early lunch) at a great Irish Pub that our Scottish teacher we went with knew about. I wanted to try something new so I got a Toad in the Hole. It was amazing. It is sausages inside Yorkshire pudding over the top of mashed potatoes and gravy. It is not something I would normally eat, but I really enjoyed it. You can see a pic of it below.

After eating we headed out for some more shopping in Itaewon. I was able to pick up some much needed shoes (a pair of Merrels). It was pretty cold so I grabbed a scarf and we headed out looking for more goodies. I have only met one person who lived in Seoul prior to going. He used to work at the school I am at and he came down for Christmas. And wouldn’t you know it, we ran into him when we were there. In such a big city it was very strange running into the only person I know who lives there. Anyway, after finishing up our little shopping spree, we headed off for another part of town Insadong. This was a really neat part of town. It was more or less just a street lined with shops. There was a lot of tea shops and other tradition Korean shops. We went looking for a specific tea house to grab a drink and try to warm up, but as fate would have it on this holiday weekend, it was packed. We went back a few times trying to find a seat but to no avail. So we decided to head back to Itaewon to decide on dinner. We had originally planned on going for Thai food, but we were still full from our early lunch so we decided to head back to Daegu and try to do dinner at Outback Steakhouse. We got back a little late for dinner at Outback (around 10ish) so we decided to hold off till the next day.

Saturday was a great day too. I headed to Haeinsa Temple with 3 other teachers. Haeinsa is one of the most important temples in Korea. Haeinsa is the home to Tripitaka Koreana, which is a complete composition of Buddhist scriptures carved into 81,258 wooden printing blocks. It is truely a national treasure here in Korea.

We got to the temple late in the day after the 70 min bus ride, but it was worth the wait. It was truely an amazing place. Hidden high up in the mountains, the temple has a very peaceful environment. It was raining lightly and the sun was going down so the mountains had a strange but beautiful hazy effect. The temple was built in 802, and no I didn’t forget the 1 in front of that. The architecture and colors are simply stunning, and to think they built all of this up in the mountains far away from anyone is simply amazing. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the area that I didn’t get to see everything. I missed out on the carved blocks because I was taking too many pictures and that part of the temple closed before I got to it. Of course, this just gives me a reason to go back and visit again.

So after a long but great day at the temple, we hopped back on the bus to Daegu and decided to hit up Outback. I haven’t really eaten much beef since coming to Korea. The beef here just isn’t the same as what I can get back home. I usually choose pork or chicken over beef everytime here because frankly the beef for the most part scares me here. Outback had beef from Australia and it wasn’t too bad. I had a ribeye steak which for a ribeye back home would be a pretty bad steak, it was really good for Korea. Another reason why I don’t eat beef here is that it is very expensive. My steak here, which was about 10oz, cost almost $30. Yes that’s right $30. It definitely filled the need for a beef fix, but it wasn’t good enough for the price to go back very often. Believe me though, when you eat the amount of beef I was used to back home, you will do what you can to get your fix, and here it’s Outback.

Anyway, after a long Saturday I took it pretty easy on Sunday. I didn’t do much other than go check out a movie that night. We walked all of maybe 3 blocks to Dong-A, the big department store. They have a movie theater on the 8th floor, and a nice one at that. We went to see Sherlock Holmes, and I have to say I enjoyed it. What I enjoyed even more was the fact you could get caramel popcorn. I was so hungry I ate a whole tub of it, and it was good. I love caramel anything, but put it on popcorn and it’s magic.

Well that was my long weekend after NYE. I have been giving a lot of thought to what I want to accomplish this year, being it is time for resolutions and all. So look for that in the next few days as I sort more things out. Now a few pics from my recent trips. Enjoy!

‘Till next time,

These are only a few of the pictures I took. You can see more of the temple here.

That is me with the mountains behind me and part of the temple complex below me.

I don’t know why I like this one so much. It just screams peaceful to me with the lack of color and the mountains in the distance.
While waiting for the bus we ventured into a nearby market only to find whole fried chichens.

And pigs heads. As we were taking pictures of them, the man inside the shop was giving us a thumbs up.

Seoul Station at night.

About Eric Bynum
I taught ESL for three years in South Korea and now I am looking to set out on a new journey after just finishing my teaching certification in the US. I hope to continue teaching and traveling and you can follow his journeys here.

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2 Responses to “New Years Weekend”

  1. AnnaI says:

    Hi there!
    Just got over here to you through Candice’s tweet.
    Either that toad in the hole looks totally x-rated, or my mind’s in the gutter tonight.
    cheers from Japan!

  2. esbynum says:

    Thanks for making your way over. The Toad in a Hole does look a little ummm different.


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