March was a somewhat stressful month for me. I was trying so hard to cram the last few sights I hadn’t seen that I would up having something of a travel burnout breakdown. It’s never truly happened to me before – I’m always so full of energy when I’m out and about and I’ve learned a lot of tricks to keep from getting to tired. But, even I have my limits. Additionally, I would head back to the US to live with my parents for a month or so before heading to Iowa. As someone used to living totally alone, it’s been a pretty jarring transition. But, let’s get into what happened in March!
I last left you in Suwon, where I was crying in a cafe as I said goodbye to my close friend. I headed to Seoul, where I would be basing myself for the remainder of my time in Korea. Seoul always feels like a “Hello” and a “Goodbye” at the same time. It’s always at the beginning or the end of a long journey. As I wandered the streets of Myeongdong in the evenings, I agonized over whether I’d made the right choice in going home.
Seoul was full of delicious exploits, museums, and experiences. I went to my second Michelin star restaurant at Mingles, which was much more of the classy experience I had been looking for – what an incredible 2 hours of courses! Additionally, I also focused on visiting as many different foreign food restaurants as I could. I know I’m not going to have the opportunity to get such far flung foods in upstate New York or Iowa. Tunisian, Uzbek, South African, Thai, Turkish, the list goes on. I already miss it – who would have thought I’d ever miss food?!
I also visited tons of museums, which were hit or miss. The Seoul National Museum was pretty good if a tad overwhelming as it takes you through the history of the city. The National Museum is incredible, especially its world exhibits that take you to places many Western museums don’t bother with. Also, their Egyptian exhibit was the best I’ve ever encountered by keeping things surprisingly concise and clear. I’m suddenly in love with all things Egypt and it started at this museum. The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is both very expensive and incredibly boring. I paid 15,000krw for about 15 minuets in one “ok” exhibit. Don’t go.
I loved visiting some of the palaces I hadn’t gotten to before, such as Deokseogung. I loved finding a hot chocolate shop with amazing cocoa in Jongno. I loved the buses, the subway, the busy streets. I’m going to miss it so badly. In a way, my time in Korea has felt expanded by Covid. I was able to explore this country so in-depth, visiting over 46 different places. But Seoul was the true reminder of what I missed out on for the last year, reminding me I hadn’t gotten to experience many of the things I love the most about Korea. The nightlife, the spas, the shows…I loved living in Korea but I wasn’t seeing the Korea I loved on my first trip five years ago. So, I guess I’ll have to go back someday!
Eh. I took a day trip here and it was…fine. The slight Japanese influence remaining in this town is minor and while the Japanese house and Japanese temple are nice to visit, they take you all of 10 minutes to see. Given a flight to Japan would take you only an hour in non-Covid times, I’d recommend that instead. There is a lovely cafe, and it seems like a nice enough town. But I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see this place.
Wow! I was super burnt out and contemplating whether or not to go and I’m glad I did. This is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe Korea doesn’t advertise this UNESCO Heritage site more! It’s a tad confusing to get to, but so worth it. Hundreds of dolmens, or stone burial sites like Stonehenge, a everywhere. Just…scattered about the side of a gently sloping hill. You could easily touch them, and there were hardly any crowds so your exploring was peaceful. The museum is small but gives a good explanation of the different types of burials. There’s also a short hike to a reservoir with rare species to see, but I was too tired to even try. If you’re interested in prehistory at all, Gochang is a must to visit.
Getting home was a *struggle*. It’s like Korea didn’t want me to stay. I had a horrible time getting my Covid test, I needed to have a root canal, shipping some of my luggage home was painful and embarrassing, and the airport made a massive fuss over my ice skates being in my carry on and I basically broke down in the airport. It made leaving a heck of a lot easier emotionally – I still don’t miss it yet. As soon as I got to New York my shuttle bus informed me they had tried contacting me to tell me they had cancelled my ride – while I was on a 16 hour flight. I also still haven’t gotten a refund so GoAirlink NYC does *NOT* have my recommendation. I took a taxi which dropped me off at the wrong train station, and then waited 5 hours trying not to pass out in the waiting room once I finally got to the correct one.
The Amtrak train north in a private compartment was absolutely lovely, though, and I highly recommend.
Despite everything, I know I made the right choice. I’ve already had my first Covid shot! So life is slowly getting back to normal. I’ve had one of my three paths forward close, which is somewhat sad, but now things a perhaps a little more clear.
And that’s it for March! I may decide to combine my April-May posts unless something interesting happens in April. In the meantime, I’ll be job-hunting, walking my dog, and working on this blog! I’m planning a couple big posts on Korea and some reworking of past posts. It’s a goal of mine to get at least a small guide done for each of the places I went in Korea 🙂
Check out my posts this month: