Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blogging from the Airport

Season's Greetings at Incheon.
My smart phone knew that I would be traveling. As soon as I arrived at the Incheon International Airport, I began receiving a series of text messages from my data provider that provided information about roaming data and the like. I mean, I wasn't really sure what the messages were saying, since they were entirely in Korean, but I did recognize a loanword present in every message: 로밍, which is obviously "roaming".

I wasn't really sure about what kinds of charges my phone would rack up during the two weeks I'm going to spend in California, so I went the safe route and temporarily suspended my data plan. While home, I'll only be able to use my phone with WiFi.

Anyway, that's just a roundabout way of saying that I am currently writing this from the Incheon International Airport, one of the best and biggest airports in the world. It really is a gorgeous airport -- very classy, clean, and quiet. It has also been completely Christmas-ified. It is hard to believe that Christmas is only two days away, but this becomes almost believable when you're surrounded by holiday decorations and listening to holiday songs, waiting to board your plane in less than two hours.

So, what did I do this weekend? On Friday evening, I said my goodbyes to my host family and gave them presents. On Saturday morning, I got up before anyone else, quickly packed, and went to the bus station to catch a ride to Seoul. One thing that struck me was that, while it had rained in Changwon on Friday afternoon, only half an hour north, the ground was blanketed in snow. I thought to myself, "Uh oh, I'm not going to be prepared for Seoul". Five hours later, I was in Hongdae and I was freezing. Fortunately, it wasn't unbearable, just a bit unexpected.

The main things I did were get a haircut (and the hairdresser thought I was Korean-American... big surprise there) and then spend the evening with friends from home who were visiting Seoul for vacation. It was lots of fun wandering around Hongdae with Wilson and Jon. I was looking for Christmas presents, they were looking for good street food, and we all found what we wanted.
Jon was eyeing that 호떡 (hotteok) with eager anticipation.
Because we were in Hongdae, I wanted to find that awesome bulgogi restaurant that I had gone to before: 연탄 불고기. It took me a long time to find it again, and I almost gave up, but when we finally got there, it completely lived up to my expectations. Delicious pork and spicy pork barbecue, plus drinks, for only 11,000₩ each. It was more expensive than the last time I ate there, in part because my friends and I ordered tons of food, and also because, for some reason, the restaurant slapped a foreigner tax on us. (VAT세금? Seriously, what is that?) 헐, it kind of sucked. Whatever, though. It was still a great meal, and, as Wilson said, incredibly good value, especially compared to everything they had eaten in Japan, where they had spent a few days before coming to Korea.
Jon and Wilson at the barbecue place. My lens was foggy because it was so cold outside but so toasty inside.
(For future reference... this barbecue restaurant is located in a narrow road and doesn't show up on map applications. From the Hongik University Station, exit 9, turn left to enter Hongdae, then turn right onto the tree-lined pedestrian street until you hit a crossroad. There should be a Starbucks and a Taco Bell on opposite sides of this street; keep them on your right as you cross the street. There are now two parallel streets that head south. The larger one is on the left; take the smaller one on the right, and walk down it for about five minutes. 연탄 불고기 will be on your right, a two-story red building with big windows.)

Anyway, for the rest of the evening, I chilled with Wilson and Jon, shopping and wandering around Hongdae. It was great to catch up with them, and I must admit that it surprised me how paradoxically normal it felt to be hanging out with friends on the other side the world, simply as if we were back in the Bay Area. I like how small the world can seem sometimes.
Wilson, Jon, and me in Hongdae.
So that was Saturday. Today, Sunday, was spent chilling at my hostel (Hongdae Guesthouse 3.0, "Y3llow Submarine") and taking the train to the airport, where I am now, with only one hour left before boarding! So, signing off now, and when you hear from me again, I'll be back in California! Safe travels and Merry Christmas, everyone!


  1. Hmm, is VAT like the TVA in France? Value-added tax or something? I don't see how it's a foreigner tax, though...

    1. Yeah, value-added tax. It's a "foreigner tax" because it's only added to foreign customers' bills! Most restaurants in Korea don't tax at all... only if they think they can get away with it. Does that make sense? ;P

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