Korean vacation house

  
I’ve been hard to reach the past few days because I travelled with Bryce and about 12 of his friends to a vacation house on the west coast of Korea. It’s a place with a kitchen and some grills and a couple of bedrooms but it had a unique style- the outside of the building was plastered to look like different kinds of alcoholic containers.

   
 It sat on the ‘beach’ which was really just an enormous mud flat. It was really cool to see the tide change. At low tide I couldn’t see the water all the way to the horizon, but at high tide the water came all the way up to the edge of the property just because the mud flat was so, well, flat. The weekend was filled with lots of drinks and tons of grilled meat. I learned a really great Russian card game that I can’t wait to keep playing.

On the way back from the guesthouse, I joined a couple of Bryce’s friends for a Korean sauna experience. This was awesome- several pools of various temperatures, and steam sauna, a dry sauna, warm rooms, and cool rooms and a great way to really scrub clean. You have to walk around with 70 naked Koreans but after the first few moments of dealing with the strangeness of cruising around naked, you get over it. I totally recommend the experience and can’t wait to see what Japan has to offer along the same lines since bathhouses are extremely popular there. 

Tonight I will head to the airport and snooze there so I can catch my early morning flight to Japan! 

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Chuncheon

  
I’ve been hanging out with Bryce here in Chuncheon. He works during the day so I go exploring and study my Japanese during the day and we eat at night. Bryce’s apartment is great because it’s right on a river here with a really great trail system. I’ve been able to run and ride bike and even use some pull up bars. I’ve been losing weight here actually, despite all the delicious food- I think I’m losing muscle and getting a bit softer at the same time though. 😦 I really miss the ease of working out on a regular routine. 

  
Dakgalbi- a really yummy chicken dish that Chuncheon is known for that gets grilled in front of you. 

  
Awesome part of the trail around the lake here. It’s really well developed and Korea offers beautiful scenery. 

Seoul

   
   
I’m mostly just eating here. I really like Korea, I could see myself teaching English here if it weren’t for Stirling waiting for me at home. I’m realizing Japan and Korea are quite a bit more different culturally than I had thought. I don’t want to get too specific because I would feel like I’m stereotyping so I’ll keep my generalizations general- Koreans seem a lot closer to Americans on the spectrum than Japanese. 

I’ve basically tried to find free stuff to do but I’m still spending over my budget just because that’s how it goes in big cities (plus my daily ice cream habit). I’ve seen a nice museum and some parks and the fortress wall. I tried some great tea at a tea house today but it was about $9…..

  
Tomorrow I travel to Chuncheon to hang out at Bryce’s where I’ll probably just chill and study some Japanese. It feels lame not really getting out and seeing Korea but I want to make sure I can see a fair amount of Japan this time.

South Korea

  
I’ve landed in South Korea today and made my way to the hostel. It feels nice to be in a ‘western’ place again (having just gotten my first free drinking water in over five weeks) but I really felt strange leaving Thailand. Overwhelming feeling of leaving something behind, and despite having little to do the past few days, I still felt like my departure was abrupt. Maybe it always feels like this. On another note, I love public transportation here. The train map is huge and it seems very easy to get around. 

  
English menus are not ubiquitous here like they are in Thailand so I’ve realized I need to prepare before I head out to eat by learning how to say the item I’m hoping to find. 

  
The first place I chose didn’t have pictures so I pointed to some words and luckily it worked out well- tofu soup with plenty of sides. I also found a delicious bakery and plenty of other food places I can spend money at later so it looks like this won’t exactly be a cheap leg of my trip. 

Ghost tower

  
Bangkok holds what I believe is the tallest abandoned building in the world, nicknamed “ghost tower”.  I remember learning about it years ago so it was really great to see it on my trip. Reading online, the place has transformed from a homeless hideout to a pretty popular tourist destination. A group of guys (nobody online knows who they really are) charge an entrance fee these days. It’s hard to call it ‘abandoned’ at that point maybe, but at least you can still call it unfinished. In the interest of honesty, I have a picture of us at the top, and we’re not the only tourists to visit. Of course all the cool looking shots will manage to avoid putting people in them… Oh, the entrance fee was about $13 and there were easily 70 of us throughout the building for the evening so these guys guarding the entrance are wiping their butts with our bills. 

   

 
   

A storm rolled in while we were up there and really added to the coolness of the experience for me. 

I got a Thai massage today for $10 which is a price that really can’t be beat. Now I head to Korea!

The real view of the top:  

Some were even dressed to go straight to the club!

  

Back in Bangkok

  
It was an enjoyable and low-key past few days in Hua Hin. 

  

I met many travelers that were passing through Hua Hin and had many enjoyable seafood meals and evenings on the rooftop of the hostel.  

 

   
 We visited the two beaches in the area, a monkey hill (also the local viewpoint not counting the tall hotels in the area), seeing over 30 monkeys easily, and a pretty nice little jazz bar. The monkeys don’t have a lot of class. We were the first guests of the evening at the jazz bar so the band was just waiting around for someone to show up. It was fun to have them start right as we got seated, it felt kind of like a private party. It really is the off-season in Hua Hin, everywhere we went was pretty dead besides the seafood restaurants. 

  
Originally I was going to return to Bangkok by minivan, a fee of 180 baht-not bad at all. The guys I was hanging out with decided to check out the train prices. 420 baht for a first class ticket (meaning A/C) but just a measly 44 baht for a third class. We couldn’t imagine a five hour train ride that cheap and thought it would surely be terrible but it was extremely pleasant and even ran on time. We also found out that this specific train is free for Thais so it surpassed all of our expectations. 

Now I’ll spend the next couple of days around Bangkok with the friends I made in Hua Hin and then I’ll fly to Korea on the 15th 🙂 at 2 a.m. 😦

Hua Hin and next country(ies)

  
Bye Koh Tao! I wish I could have stayed a little longer but it was a little expensive and I couldn’t do much because of my ears and feet. Both are doing quite a bit better now, but I’m still avoiding the water for a couple more days. 

 
I’m hanging out in a town halfway between Koh Tao and Bangkok called Hua Hin. There isn’t much to do here besides eat and go to the beach but it’s small enough that it doesn’t cost a lot to get around so I decided to stay here a bit. There are a lot of old white men here with Thai girlfriends so I think it’s something of a retirement city with perks for the lonely old guys with a bit of cash. 

I learned something about myself that’s a little surprising- I’m really not a lounge around the beach kind of person, as much as I enjoy swimming and sun. Living in a tropical area wouldn’t suit me as a lifestyle anyway. I’m much more of a four seasons and mountains kind of person apparently. As long as I have a hammock. Having gotten a taste of both by now, it’s much easier to picture myself building a cabin in the mountains than a hut on the beach. If nothing else, at least I answered that question. 🙂

A few days ago I felt like my trip was winding down, and as I was thinking about heading home I realized I might as well stop off for a bit in Korea or Japan since I would have a layover there anyway (and it’d break up some of the flying). I also remembered I have friends there- Bryce in Korea and Nick in Japan. Then I decided to try my luck finding free accommodation by volunteering and a really cool-sounding hostel got back to me and said I could work there for the month of October in exchange for a free bed.  It’s called Matsumoto Backpackers. The work requirements are just a couple of hours of cleaning in the morning. It sounds like a really cool town because it’s situated in the foothills of the nearby mountains as I understand it so I couldn’t say no to the opportunity.

Prior to heading to Japan in October, I’ll stop for about a week in Korea during their thanksgiving. I might like more time there but it’s expensive for my “Thailand budget” so I can’t stay too terribly long if I really want to see Japan.  In the meantime, I’ll spend the next two weeks lounging around Hua Hin and then Bangkok, savoring the last of my delicious and cheap food Thai food. 

I met a German guy who really sold me on a long-term trip to New Zealand but I think I’ll have to make that my next trip because I need money and I need my backpacking gear so I can hike. 🙂