Over the course of just six weeks, I will have traveled to Phuket (Thailand), Seoul (Korea) and Tokyo (Japan). Somebody pinch me!
It’s also been my first Christmas spent away from home, but also the first one spent with my boyfriend, and in winter! And although we’ve welcomed in the new year together a number of times already, it’s the first year it’s been just us two. Aww.
Sat – Mon 16 – 18 December 2017: Phuket wedding weekend
When a family wedding is taking place at a stunning beach resort in Phuket, you make sure you get your butt to Thailand, even if all you can get is one day off work. What an amazing whirlwind of a weekend adventure though!
SUMMARY: Friday: leave from work to fly for 10 hours, arrive at the hotel by 2am Saturday. Sleep a bit, then a reunion with my family after 10 months apart and enjoy a beach and beer day. Sunday wedding, Monday afternoon fly back to Korea, 10 hour transit. Tuesday: rush from the airport at 7am, catch a train home, toss bags and catch a bus to make it in time for school at 8:30am while running on 3 hours of sleep. Done. Not to mention enduring the temperature change from Korean 0°s to Thailand 28°s and back again.
Sat – Sunday: chill time
What better way to catch up with your brothers and parents than drinking beer by the pool? A reunion with family, and my old friend Chang (we met in August, remember?). Quite unreal to suddenly be in shorts and being able to swim again and not be buried under multiple layers and scarves. We went kayaking out to an island off of Kata Beach, swam a LOT, sipped on coconuts, ate Thai green curry, walked along the beaches and paths and ambled through the street markets with my mom.
Sunday: Wedding day
The afternoon came with looming clouds on one side of the sky and sunshine and rainbows on the other, as the 50-odd guests arrived for my step-brother, Simon and Anni’s ceremony. With a 3 piece band playing in the background, the bride and groom were soon standing in front of their beautiful beach backdrop. The reception to follow was just as gorgeous, light-hearted and fun with every bit of amazing Thai hospitality and catering too. The most stunning and special wedding I’ve been to yet. Congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs/Dr Cloete! No pressure for the rest of us siblings…
Tuesday: Hong Kong layover
Getting back to Busan involved reluctant family good byes, an hour taxi ride, two flights and a midnight layover in (an impressive) Hong Kong International. But all I wanted to do was sleep before having to deal with kids in the morning. I also had to do a wardrobe change from a t-shirt back to thermals and a padded jacket.
Saturday 9/12: Dog cafe
Back in Busan… The bucket list frenzy continued. One weekend I got to tick off two more things: going to a dog cafe (for petting, not eating – just to clarify) and getting a Korean manicure/gel nails.
The dog cafe was an interesting experience. We were surrounded by a mixed collection of dogs of different breeds and sizes but all had a rather spoilt attitude. They clearly know everything is centered around them and you’ll find that the humans are the ones desperately seeking attention. The dogs basically amble around with the attitudes of disinterested cats. Until, however, someone new comes into the cafe. Then suddenly there is barking and frantic running to the entrance. This often takes away any of your hard-earned efforts to seduce a pup to come and cuddle with you as they fly off your lap (and sometimes, the table) to inspect the new intruder. We also had a little show by the owner who gave the giant fluffy dog a piggy back around, and later pushed a collection of dogs around on a trolley.
Sat 23/12: Songdo cable cars
With my boyfriend here from Australia for two weeks, it was a good opportunity to tick off going on the fairly new (June) cable cars together. It was worth the effort of the train and bus transfer to get to Songdo Beach, which is scattered with sculptures above the water and a sky walk snaking over the water too.
The queue was almost nonexistent to go in the regular cable cars, while the glass-floored cars had a queue that’d make you consider scrapping the idea. A lovely afternoon date, which I’m sure is even better by night.
Mon 25/12: Christmas
Instead of spending Christmas eve in my little flat, we decided to treat ourselves to a penthouse hotel apartment in Seomyeon with no less than a pool and hot tub outside. We heading out to see the Christmas lights in Nampo-dong but were unfortunately met by hoards of other Christmas-goers and could barely move so we decided to tap out early and go to Galmegi Brewery instead.
Sat – Thur 30/12 – 04/01: Seoul New Years Adventure
Probably the coldest I’ve been in Korea. Man, Seoul was icy and it seemed to enjoy playing in the negative digits, down to -8° often and a bit of snow on the first night. But it didn’t stop us from doing most of our exploring by foot and only catching the subway a couple of times – the advantage of our hotel’s great location near the historic city center.
Sunday: I couldn’t believe my luck to find that The Seoul Illustration Fair fell on the weekend that I’d be in town! A bit of a sensory overload with so many stands of local illustrators with so much cool work to look at and business cards to collect while trying not to want something from everyone.
Highlights: We adventured around a lot and got to see much more of the city than the first time we were here and happened to stumble upon cool spots as we went along.
Places we went: Myeongdong shopping street (in search of the Hello Kitty Cafe – which we found had closed down – sad face), Changgyeonggung Palace, Insadong Art Street (one of my favourite areas), Ihwa mural village and Gangnum Station. We also attempted Lotte World but the lines to the roller coasters and rides were just too long.
New Years Eve: Braving the cold, we left our cozy hotel room at 11:45pm and headed down the street to watch the Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony at midnight. The streets were closed off, there were some performers and large crowds but the countdown was anti-climatic and the crowds dispersed straight after it into a mini stampede.
Friday 05/01: The great depart
(Back in Busan) Goodbyes in a long distance relationship are the worst. But it was also the last one for us in Korea as new and interesting things lie ahead. But for now, it’s another 3 months apart. Meh.