March 30th, 2018 marks the day that Luke’s cousin and uncle, Grace and Rich, flew into Korea for a week long visit. We still had to work throughout the week but luckily we were able to spend a decent amount of time with them which looked like this. Bear with me, it’s a long one.
They landed at the Incheon International Airport on Friday which was a quick cab ride away from our place. Once they got here they were able to get some sleep and relax while we finished our day at work. We got home as quick as we could and caught up for a bit before heading out to a traditional Friday night dinner – 삼겹살 Samgyeopsal! It’d only been about five weeks since we moved back but it’s always nice seeing familiar faces. We walked around for a while and ended up finding a great place with tons of banchans (small side dishes) and a great price. The guy working was very helpful and spoke good English. 🙂 We think he even told us we seemed like regulars because we knew what we were doing! Heyo! After Grace and Rich’s long travel, a hearty meal, and a small bit of soju, we all came back and passed out pretty quickly.
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early in order to catch the KTX (Express Train) from Incheon to Busan. It would normally take about 5-6 hours by bus, but seeing as though we wanted them to get the most out of their travels, we cut off some time and got there in only 2.5! It was probably the only time we will ever take the KTX since it was twice as expensive as it would have been had we taken a bus but it was well worth it.
Once we got there, we had a full day ahead of us so we started at Gukje Street Market. We tried on some funny hats, strolled by tons of shops with various kitchen supplies, clothes, food and other goods. We got to try a new food! An Egg Bacon Barbecue Roll! It sounded strange, but it also had everything I loved about food all in one. It consisted of a boiled egg wrapped in bacon, then they torched it and covered it in barbecue sauce (spicy or non) and topped it off with some sort of white liquid cheese (I think?) and of course a strawberry for dessert. It sounds strange but was actually so yummy! Here’s a YouTube video someone else has posted that looks almost exactly like what we got (swap the tangerine for a strawberry.)
We hit up Busan Tower next as it wasn’t fully finished when Luke and I were there last year. The flowers everywhere were in full bloom so it was especially gorgeous. We read a few people’s “Shiny Lock” messages where they professed their love for someone on it. The ones we found in English were entertaining. We didn’t feel the need to go all the way to the top because A) it cost money and B) it was already a pretty good view of the surrounding area from where we were, so we just soaked that in for a while.
Next, we headed to the Jagalchi Fish Market where Luke and I have been before. We walked through the inside of the market where you can see hundreds of fish in tanks and bowls just waiting to be chosen. Once picked, the fish is then cut up in front of your own two eyes. We haven’t felt confident enough yet to be able to bargain prices and know exactly what we’re getting for what so we just like to peruse by. Then we went outside and strolled down the next phase of the market, where many fish were already cut up and ready to purchase. Of course there were other things being sold as well.
By this time, we had been walking around for about 5 hours so we decided on a really good Ramen restaurant for lunch, Aori Ramen, located in Seomyeon. (Or as Rich likes to call it…Sum yung guy.) From here, we were practically in a food coma and our dogs were barking so we went to check into our room. When we got to the lobby, there was nobody to be seen. We had dead phones and had issues calling the Korean number left at the front desk so after about 20 minutes of waiting, I decided to just go find our room myself! There were a number of keys left on the front desk so I grabbed one at a time, knocked on that door and checked if it was a 4 bed room with a bathroom. After knocking and looking into the 4th room, I found ours. I hollered for everyone to come on in, they were hesitant but eventually caved 😈 .
After napping for a bit, we headed out to the beach just outside of our room. We grabbed a set of 4 for 10 brewskies at a convenience store, sat on some stairs and people watched. Mostly, we watched a group of about 15 men perform what looked like their own Sumo tournament. They had a blue sash and a red sash that was passed around as guys got thrown to the ground one after the other. This was enthralling, and I wished we had made friends with them! We headed out to grab some street food – a pajeon and mandu (green onion pancake and dumplings) – and enjoyed it out on the pier of the Gwangalli Beach. Since we clearly got soju with our dinner, Luke and I introduced them to some Korean drinking games! Good food, good company and a great view!
Sunday morning we spent some time on Haeundae Beach people watching some more. (I love people watching. But not watching people because that sounds creepy.) A few minutes after we sat down, a street performer began his magic show. He was humorous as he pretended to mess up his tricks and then reveal how cool it actually was. He also pulled up a couple kids in the audience as assistants. First, a little girl who couldn’t quite follow along – but she was so cute! Then, her slightly older brother. Obviously they both got a sucker afterwards. After his performance, we meandered down the streets and ended up eating dwaeji gukbap for brunch. Dwaeji gukbap is a pork and rice soup specialty from Busan that we love! It’s not too heavy and you can make it your own by adding as many or as few side items as you want. This way, Luke can make his spicy while mine is much more manageable for my bland palette. Win-win. Not to mention it’s delicious. Win-win-win!
After brunch, we made our way to the Oryukdo Skywalk for the awesome view of the islands in the distance, but also to put shoe socks over our shoes and walk across a see through platform! It was a bit cloudy so unfortunately we couldn’t see too far, but we were still able to see some of the nearby islands and get some cool photos.
Before going home, we headed back to Seomyeon and went to an arcade. We watched an insane ride that seems almost illegal because kids and teens are spinning around this contraption without a seat belt while it’s also bouncing and kids are both sitting and standing trying to keep their balance and occasionally falling onto each other. It’s crazy! Also, did I mention I want to try it? Regardless, it’s always captivating when we walk by!
Each of us exhausted, we took the KTX back to Incheon and then Monday morning we parted ways as they headed into Seoul for the week.
We saw them again Thursday morning bright and early after we took the subway at 8 AM. It was stupidly rainy – the spitting kind where it’s not enough to require an umbrella, but annoying enough to get in your eyeballs when you look up. Instead of hitting up the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival like we hoped, which is all outdoors, we went to the Kimchi Museum! It wasn’t huge, but for an entire museum to revolve around one type of food, it was pretty cool. It was only 5,000 won per person and there was a lot of learning how to make kimchi, and realizing how many different types there actually are. We did see a huge room that was meant for kimchi making classes but that was only during certain times. It was a neat museum but it would have been even better if we could have joined a class at the same time.
The Kimchi Museum was right at the start of Insa-dong Street which was a perfect next activity. Each time we have been there, it’s been extremely packed with people but this time it was a weekday morning and a bit rainy so it was much less crowded. Insa-dong is an area that I particularly love since it is a sweet, sweet mix of Korea. On one side, there is a traditional Korean village while across the way, there is a very busy street filled with shops and all the touristy goods you could imagine. We walked through some of the shops with them but had to part ways in order to make it back for work at 2:00.
We met up with them again early Friday morning as well – they only had two days left! This time, we endured a minor hike up to the North Seoul Tower. It was mid morning and the weather was that perfectly dreadful mix of Winter and Spring where the flowers are barely out and the sun is trying so hard to appear from behind the clouds, but it’s still a bit dreary and the wind makes it so effing cold! Nevertheless, it was still a beautiful view at each stop along the way up. Once we arrived at the tower, we saw cafes, restaurants and more of those love-professing locks all over the place. It was gorgeous, but I’m excited to go back and see it at night when everything is lit up!
We parted ways once more, but saw them a few hours later back in Incheon. This was their last night in Korea so we had to make some sort of night out of it! We went out and found a new Korean BBQ restaurant where we ordered the Cow Intestine and Stomach BBQ Platter…sounds appetizing, eh? Included was cow intestine, cow heart (bbq), large intestine and not the 3rd but the 4th stomach. Of course there were side dishes as well and lots of veggies but believe it or not it was really good! It tasted especially great paired with the beer and soju 🙂 . After dinner we went to a Makgeolli bar nearby so they could try Korea’s famous rice wine. It was a bit different than the cheap stuff Luke and I are used to and honestly I thought it wasn’t as good. Maybe it’s because I only like the stuff on top of a mountain. 🙂
After a couple of drinks, we were able to drag Rich and Grace to a 노래방 (Noraebang) to show them what Korean karaoke is all about. They didn’t do a lot of singing, but we got Rich and Luke singing to My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas! Or at least they tried. Grace finally broke down and sang Party In The USA with Luke and…they nailed it. Unfortunately, they all had to put up with me trying to rap at least one song. All in all, it was a fun and successful night!
On their last day here, we made some breakfast and coffee in our apartment, they packed up and we headed to Songdo Central Park which is one of the biggest attractions in Incheon. It’s a huge park with coffee houses, many walking paths, a man made lake, and all around gorgeous views. It just so happened that a huge market was happening there that only occurs twice a year! (Korea is all about their markets.) It started out pretty unique with some cool (but somewhat expensive) items, but soon became a used clothing market where I’m sure we could have found some good deals if we looked hard enough but it was so crowded I think we were just all overwhelmed. The weather was amazing that day and we spent hours just walking around outside. Eventually we hit up some food trucks for a legitimate grilled chicken taco!
It was such a full week for them and we had so much fun showing them around the country we have grown to love. We hope they enjoyed themselves and learned a lot too!