Friday, October 5, 2012

Chuseok in Photographs

Last weekend was Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving. I imagine it's similar to American Thanksgiving (or Canadian Thanksgiving) - lots of people travelling, clogged transport, food, family get-togethers, arguments, alcohol, sentiment. For us English teachers it means a few days off work and the last chunk of public holidays before Christmas. Last time we were here we went to Seoul for Chuseok, so this time... we went to Seoul for Chuseok. 

Seoul's actually pretty nice during the holiday as a large portion of the population heads out of the city to visit relatives. I say large portion, I mean 4 MILLION which is pretty much the population of New Zealand. As a result, the streets are clear, the subway is deserted and the transport options are great as everyone else is heading in the other direction.

We caught a train up and tried to check in to our favourite Jongno motel only to find it has turned into a swanky, expensive backpackers. I was more than a little heartbroken as we stayed there almost every time we went to Seoul and had got to know the owners quite well. Nevertheless, we ducked down an alleyway and found another place within our price range (cheap) and it had a circle bed. 

Tom is excited.
Walking back to the subway I had a chance encounter with one of the most dapper Koreans I've ever seen. Jongno is the jewellery district and for some reason it's also populated by swag adjusshis. This guy. I mean, this guy.

We'd made plans to go to a baseball game but before we headed out we went hunting for street snacks. After a tasty chicken skewer we went searching for a place where we'd had really awesome fried fish on the last day we were in Korea last time. The stall wasn't open but a bunch of awesome adjusshis decided we looked alright so they called us over and poured us a few bowls of makkeoli (Korean rice wine.) An hour later and quite a bit tipsier we headed towards Jamsil for the game.

We don't really do baseball in NZ but Koreans go all out. We went to a game last time and this venture was much the same - tickets are a measly 10k, you can buy a tallboy of beer for 2.5k and there's a plethora of fast food joints inside the stadium if you're craving a burger or some chicken. Add to this the amazing atmosphere - the stadium was 70% full of fans who screamed, cheered and danced throughout the match. I think the closest comparision would be a Phoenix game in Wellington - all of the players have specific cheers, everyone bangs their inflatable noodle things together in unison and although I barely understood what was happening I had a fantastic time.

Stocking up
Birds-eye view. Go Twins!
After a stellar evening featuring some great music and cocktails from our favourite Hongdae bar, we rose ... as bright and early as possible.... and made the trek to Seoul Grand Park. The park is a massive stretch of land nestled at the base of a few small mountains. It features a theme park, a zoo, a botanical garden and the Seoul Museum of Modern Art. We opted for the zoo (a little hesitantly) and were pleasantly surprised. Entrance was 8,000 won which included a ride to the gate - 1.5km from the ticket booth! - and chair lift back when we'd wound our way through the grounds. 

This lady and her bitch face, plus we got to feed these deer.

Catching the Sea World-esque sea lion show. 'They're just dog mermaids' - Tom.

Sloth! Super cool. 
Chair lift at sunset.
Sunday night we met with friends and ate an excellent meal followed by a raucous few hours at a great pub. They had an irresistible deal - 15,000 won for 2 hours of cocktails. The score at the end of our time was Anna: 6.5 and Tom: 8, but booze was the victor the next day. Monday brought us hangovers and then to Itaewon where we stocked up on fresh coriander (our patch isn't quite ready for harvest) and some sour cream. Tom had school on Tuesday but I spent the day chilling out, sleeping and trying to shake the cough I've had for about a week. On Tuesday night we had a roof-top barbecue at a friend's place, there's no pictures but I had a wonderful time.

Wednesday was the Korean National Foundation Day so another day off - most schools lump this holiday in with Chuseok, unless your principal is a bastard. Anyway, we had the day to play with and put it to good use. While in Itaewon, Tom managed to procure a cricket bat and thus the Jecheon IPL was formed. 

With the help of a South African and an Australian, Tom taught the American and Canadian contingent how to play and we spend a great couple of hours throwing the ball around... oops.... bowling... and enjoying the autumn sun. Jecheon looked pretty nice that day too - our field was in the middle of the rice paddies and the golden rice looks awesome at the moment.

All and all, it was a fabulous weekend.

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