Monday, July 06, 2009

Korea Trip – Day 7: Headin’ up to Sorak

Today was probably the least eventful day of the trip so far. We got an early start out of Seoul, checking out of our hotel for a few days. Our first stop is the Sorak Park Hotel, near a Korean national park, which we’re told is very popular.

We took a bus up here, about a four hour journey with a couple of stops. Let me tell you, Korean buses are not designed for big American bodies like mine. The seats are narrow and the back of the next seat is too close for my legs. For short jaunts around Seoul it’s OK, but for longer trips it’s a bit more difficult to take. I can hardly wait for the 6 hour ride to Busan in a couple of days.

We’re also as close to North Korea as we’re going to get, not really far from the border at all. It’s the closest I have ever been to a country that is actively hostile to the United States. I’m not worried that anything is going to happen, but it’s a slightly uncomfortable feeling.

Along the way we stopped for lunch at a Korean rest area. This time we had bibim bap, basically rice with vegetables. It’s cooked in a very hot stone pot, which stays hot and continues cooking the rice even after it’s removed from the flame. Good stuff, especially for the Korean equivalent of the Vince Lombardi rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike.

We stopped at Seoraksan National Park. We were supposed to ride up to the top of one of the peaks in a cable car, but it was rainy and foggy and we wouldn’t have been able to see anything from the top, so that has been postponed until tomorrow. We did walk through the rain to a Buddhist temple that had an enormous statue of Buddha on it. The statue was maybe 60 feet tall. Underneath the statue, in an underground chamber, was a much smaller golden statue of Buddha. Photographs of this were not allowed because of it’s religious significance, but it was pretty interesting to have a chance to see such an object.

Because the rain was so bad we headed back to the hotel after that. We kind of hung around for a while and relaxed while the kids played with their friends. We did make a trip to a convenience store at the bottom of the hill where we stocked up on some snacks and bottled water. One thing that has surprised us about Korea is how inexpensive food is. A 2 liter bottled water plus some snacks cost us 7,700 won, or about $6.40 US ($1 is worth about 1,200 won). Last night’s dinner with R.’s mentor was only about $30. Where in the US can you feed five people dinner for $30 that doesn’t involve a burger and fries?

Dinner tonight was a buffet in the hotel – pretty good assortment of Korean and Western dishes. We ended the night with a parents chat where we talked about some of the things that we and our kids were experiencing on the trip. The people I have met on this trip are really terrific and I think we have gotten a lot more from the trip traveling with other families than we would have coming by ourselves.

Tomorrow, a trip to a Korean water park! I’ll let you know what it’s like.


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