chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47

Korea // Gyeongju

My Golden Week adventure this year took place in the lovely land of Korea. I have to admit, this trip felt more like an obligation than a vacation. For the past two years, I have been telling myself that I will make the 2 hour flight across the Sea of Japan to the little conflicted peninsula. It would be like living in Buffalo, NY for 2 years and not going to New York City.

Golden Week is notorious for being one of the most expensive times of the year to travel in Japan. My flight from Tokyo to Seoul would have cost around $700 -- over twice the regular price! I got lucky, however, and was able to use points to fly for FREE! Ooooh, yeeeeah.

Melissa decided to come avec moi, along with a cast of characters making guest appearances, cameos, debuts. Here we go:

Friday, April 28th
I woke up early to take the train from Toyama to Tokyo with Melissa, Amber C., and Kyle. Amber and Kyle flew to Seoul in the morning, but Melissa and I didn't fly until the evening. We decided to brunch and lounge in Harajuku before heading out. I sometimes forget that Tokyo is effectively one season ahead of Toyama. While Toyama was chilly and rainy, Melissa and I enjoyed cold apricot tea and croissants at a sidewalk cafe, basking in the glorious sun.

Genki for the Trip!

We eventually dragged ourselves away from Tokyo and made it to Seoul. Our arrival was a bit late for the bus system into the city, so we had to negotiate Seoul's subway immediately. I like how subways are the same everywhere in the world. It's like riding a bike. I don't even pay attention to the process anymore. After our subway ride and walk through dark, foreign streets, Melissa and I found Amber and Kyle at our hostel.

Saturday, April 29th
You'd think that after 12 hours of traveling, I'd be done with it and stay in Seoul. You'd be wrong, my friend. Dead wrong. Okay, actually, just wrong. No one's dead... We hopped on a bus for southern Korea early in that morning. Our destination was Gyeongju, a small city at the opposite corner of Korea (southeast). Gyeongju is sort of like the Kyoto of Korea. It was the base of the ancient Silla Kingdom several millenia ago. We heard about the burial mounds and had to see them for ourselves.


The surrounding area of Gyeongju is packed with historical places, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We spent the next several days hiking around the area.

Emille BellCheomseongdae
The Pond at Sunset
Cherry Blossoms at BulguksaBulguksa TempleSakyamuni BuddhaLet's Enjoy Donald Boat!
Stairing Back

Sunday, April 30th
After climbing several mountains (okay, hills) and experiencing several impressive temples, we sat down and ate the largest Korean feast ever. Ssambab is a dish found in the Gyeongju area, and it consists of not one, but twenty-one dishes! For a moment, it seemed like the server wouldn't stop bringing them out! The tiny plates and bowls held everything from kimchi to fish to pickled beans. You wrap the exotic (and sometimes disgusting) items in various types of lettaces. Very tasty!

Ssambab Feast

After dinner, I decided that it was time we scaled one of the mounds. Sure, it's disrespectful of the guys buried under the hill. Sure, we're probably damaging a World Heritage site. But you know what? It was worth it!

Illegal Climb
Here we are on top of one of the hills. Can you feel the rush?

The next stop on our Korean adventure was the port city of Pusan.
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