Sorry for the late update! It’s midterm season and I’ve been studying hard! 🙂
Recently, I was selected to represent Canada as a K-Shuttle blogger. Basically, I get some benefits from K-Shuttle (a new foreigner-only bus tour company operating out of Seoul) in exchange for regularly promoting them online. The point of K-Shuttle is to give foreigners a taste of what lies outside of Seoul; a chance to explore several lesser-known destinations around Korea in a short period of time (three days and two nights).
K-Shuttle’s website is here: http://www.k-shuttle.com/
I heard about this promotion sort of by accident; it showed up in my newsfeed one night on Facebook and I thought, “well, I’m just sitting on my butt watching YouTube videos and not really doing much of anything with my life, why not apply?”. I did, and a few weeks later, I found out I was successful!
I received: one ticket for myself, plus two tickets for friends/family, plus an invitation to a thank-you dinner party with the rest of the K-Shuttle staff and foreign representatives! Pretty cool hey? And all I have to do is do what I do already 😛 Post on blog and review sites about K-Shuttle.
So yes! I was very excited to get in.
I decided to take the Saturday-Monday tour from October 13-15, down the Southwest Coast. There was a bit of a miscommunication though, because I was under the impression that the bus tour was full – really, I was the only one on the bus! Only two other passengers had reserved, but they’d cancelled at the last minute because of sickness. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was still really enjoyable. It was like having a private tour, plus, I got to have a double room all to myself for each night!
A lot of companies would’ve simply cancelled the trip were this the case, especially considering that I didn’t pay anything to take the tour. So obviously that struck me as being very cool.
The crazy thing was that my guide, Justin, had spent half his life in Pitt Meadows (a short distance away from my own hometown in Canada)! He was the same age as me and wants to be a diplomat when he finishes school, also like me. Justin also knew a lot about history, and could speak Korean (mother tongue), English, and Chinese. This was really cool, as he knew a lot about the historical sites we visited.
The first place we went to was the Baekje fortress in Buyeo…
Baekje Kingdom Fortress at Buyeo.
Pavilion on the top of Nakwha-am, a significant place in Korean history. This mountain, which is called “Rock of Falling Flowers”, was the scene of a tragic historical event. 3,000 women who’d been captured by invaders jumped off the cliff and committed suicide, after having been captured, taken from their homeland, and made into comfort women for their captors. The cliff is now called Nakwha-am, or “Rock of Falling Flowers”.
The ferry boat below
Standing on the top of the “Rock of Falling Flowers”
A painting (obviously not the original; it’s been too defaced) which depicts the sad story of the Nakwa rock. On the left, the “falling flowers” jump to their deaths, as their captors chase them to their tragic fate.
Drinking out the famous Nakwa spring water. There was an elementary school field trip there at the time I visited, my tour guide overheard one of the teachers explaining the spring’s legend to the children: “If you drink this water, you will become 10 years younger – so be careful! Only have ONE cup!”. I guess I’m now 9 years old again? Or 11 in Korean age?
Note: Koreans traditionally count age from the time of conception. When you’re born, you’re already “one year old”. I’m born on October 31, 1992. Additionally, when the new year comes, everyone gets one year older. So, right now, I’m 19 Canadian age, but I’m 21 in Korea!
This was a little Buddhist temple at the top of Nakwa. It was very busy as it is the time of the year when many high school students are preparing for the first round of their university entrance exams – a process that is not only stressful for them, but for their parents as well, who’ve likely invested thousands of dollars in their education already (mostly through private academies and tutoring). Many parents flock to temples and churches this time of the year to pray for their childrens’ success in the exams.
About to board the ferry from the bottom of Nakwa to the parking lot.
Standing on the ferry
After visiting Nakwa, we were off to Jeonju. We visited a traditional fortress there, and even saw a re-enactment of the founding of the Joseon (or “Chosun”) dynasty.
Joseon Dynasty re-enactment
Standing with a traditional guard.
Playing a traditional Korean game.
Wearing traditional Confucian ceremonial dress.
All in all, it was a pretty good day. I went back with the tour guide to the hotel in Jeonju after the folk village.
End of the day!
Got all settled in, and joined Justin for some dinner at a Western-style restaurant (in Korea, that means taking some kind of pasta dish and adding some extra sugar and spicy sauce). I picked a spicy seafood noodle soup. However, Justin, and some of the waitresses, were afraid that it would be too spicy for a foreigner. I said I could handle it – to which they told Justin (who translated for me) that in case I couldn’t, they would make me a new dish for free. I insisted I would be fine, and so they brought me the soup. It was rather hot, so I had to wait for it to cool down. I was very hungry at this point, so as soon as I thought it would be safe too eat, I started slurping the noodles away. Sadly, I slurped one rogue noodle too fast and it whiplashed itself into my eye – MY EYE. Yeah, it hurt like hell. However, having worked at a Vietnamese restaurant for 2.5 years, I had already experienced the pain of having black chili oil in my eye (always, ALWAYS scrub your hands thoroughly after refilling chili oil containers!). It’s the kind of pain that starts off small, then in a matter of seconds erupts into the worst kind of burning sensation your eyes will ever experience. The most horrible part of it all? Like the first time being dumped, the pain of the moment seems to linger forever.
This pain, however, went away pretty quick. It was just my ego that was hurting, as I felt as if the stares of everyone in the restaurant were directed towards me – the token white girl, thinking she was SO TOUGH ordering the spicy soup, only to wind up crying like a baby. If you can’t take the heat…
Anyways, as I said, the pain subsided pretty quickly. This was largely thanks to the cup of rice that those thoughtful waitresses had the foresight to give to me with my soup. For those of you who don’t know, water is pretty ineffective at dousing the pain of a really spicy food. Starchy things, like rice, usually work best to mute that scorching hot sensation in your mouth. It did the job, and soon enough Justin and I were laughing about it.
After that, we grabbed some coffee and looked at some cute puppies we found in the window of a nearby pet store!
Aww, what a cutie! Falling asleep in her water bowl ^^
“Angel??? How did you get here??” <- That was my thought upon seeing this little poodle! She looks so much like my family’s dog Angel back home. Complete with the pee spots (yeah, our dog never learned – or maybe it was because we were powerless to discipline that cute widdle girl! Bad idea).
All in all a great day! After that we went back to the hotel room and got a good sleep for the next day.
Day 2 coming soon…
As always, loved reading your blog..you really made the tour come to life..I told Gpa this is what I wanted to do when we come to see you. The pictures remind me of China. Also happy to read that you are studying hard:) Gma