Location: Seoul, Korea (South)
It seems ridiculous that we haven't given an update since the summer. Here's a brief re-cap:
We got home from Bali tanned and relaxed. Some of our souvenirs were destroyed on the plane, but they really didn't cost all that much anyways...
Mom came back to Seoul to help with Danika. She stayed for a few months, and we made a point of seeing her every Sunday. It wasn't nearly enough time, but we took what we could get...
Kate came to visit us for 3 weeks. She came just in time for Chusok, which means we had a week off to take her around. We went to Ijak Island with a bunch of friends and family where we drank, ate lots, and wowed all with our bocci ball skills. We also took her to all the touristy places, hot spots, and shady Korean hangouts. It was an awesome visit!
Now we're counting down the days until we leave. Our final day is the 28th of November, which means we have a meer 8 days left. How amazing is that? We've been here for almost 3 1/2 years -- finally we get to return to the Homeland. Granted, we'll only be in the country for a week. Then, we're off to Mexico for 2 weeks in the sun. Beaches, here we come!!
Location: Bali, Indonesia
After months of anticipation, we finally made it to our ultimate summer vacation -- Bali. We were off to a bumpy start, as Mike's visa re-entry hadn't been activated. A quick stop to the immigration office solved this dilemma. Then, of course, we were informed that our toothpaste and sunscreen surpassed the liquid limit allowed on all Singapore Airline flights. Alas, nothing could bring us down, as we tossed our backpacks onto the conveyor and hoped that we'd see them again in Bali. All was good in the world.
We arrived in Bali to a warm, breezy night, fresh air, and starry sky. The beautiful setting foreshadowed what was to come: an amazing, relaxing vacation. And, to top it off, we arrived at the Inna Putri Bali to discover that they had overbooked the hotel, thus having to put us in an elite, gorgeous garden cottage. You couldn't smack the grins off of our faces!
Our days in Bali were filled with perfection. We relaxed on the beach, swam in the Indian Ocean, and hung out poolside (not to mention frequent visits to the sunken bar). We also managed to make it on two tours. On our first adventure, we hired a driver to show us around the island. We saw some mind-blowing countryside, rice fields galore, a monkey sanctuary, Indonesian palace, market in Ubud, the highest mountain in Bali as well as its active volcano, and a great plantation that grew everything from coffee and tobacco to vanilla and sage. Needless to say, it was a pretty unique experience. Our second adventure was white water rafting. We were afraid that we'd be packed in like sardines in a bus then raft. Much to our surprise, we were picked up in a small van along with one other couple. Chris and Patty, married thirty-odd years, kept us entertained throughout the drive and raft, sharing stories of their many travels throughout Southeast Asia. Gotta love Aussies!
We had booked a couple of other tours, but we couldn't bring ourselves to leave the beach. Bali makes you blissfully lazy! We worked hard (on our tans), and even got away without burns. This was quite the feat for Mike, who usually steps out into the sun and burns immediately to a crisp.
As our pending departure loomed over our heads, we headed for Kuta for some serious bargaining. Mike unabashedly brought dealers down 50 to 80 percent from their asking price, while I played the shocked wife. We've got the market shopping down to a "t".
Saturday, "D-Day", came too soon. We got in as much time on the beach as possible, then headed to Kuta for some last-minute souvenirs. Then we reluctantly headed to the airport and said our goodbyes to beautiful Bali. If anyone is considering a vacation in the sun, this is the place to be. It may be a long way away from Canada, but that long flight is forgotten as soon as you hit Balinesian sand.
Now Mike and I are trying not to get too down, knowing that we're heading back to the daily grind. Luckily, we have some great souvenirs, wonderful memories, and awesome tans to keep the smiles on our faces.
Next stop: who knows? South America? Canada? Europe? ....
Location: Jeju Island, Korea (South)
Finally, after weeks of anticipation, we made it to Jeju Island! Jeju is the honeymoon destination of Korea, and it's no wonder why. The land is covered in trees, the birds serenade you morning to night, and the beaches are to die for!
Our adventure began Friday night when we hopped on the subway and headed as close to the airport as possible. Our goal was to save money by avoiding the airport limousine, while also having a night on the town before our 6am flight. We had some food and drinks, then went in search of a place to crash. Unfortunately, we had great difficulty finding a motel within our price range. No worries though. We eventually found a "classy" love motel with more mood-lighting functions than I've ever had the pleasure of seeing elsewhere!
The next day, we arrived in Jeju tired and giddy. We felt like royalty when we arrived at the Hyatt and were upgraded to a room on the top floor. Sweet deal! Then, we were off! It was a bit overcast our first day, but we didn't let that hold us back. We went for a walk around that part of the island, went for a dip in the pool, and did the whole touristy thing. It was divine!
The next day we were blessed with amazing weather! That bright sunshine blazed into our room at 8am, ensuring that we got a move on as early as possible. We ordered some amazing room service, then we were off! We hung out poolside for a couple of hours, as we had to be out of our room at 1. Then, we headed down to the beach to soak in the rays and swim with the sharks. There were awesome waves and few people, which made it a perfect day!
Around 5, we headed back to the hotel to get our bags and hop on the airport bus. We were sad to go, but happy to have a break from the sun. It seems that no matter how much sunscreen we put on, we always end up burned!
Now, we're back to the daily grind of Poly School. Luckily, it's only 5 more days before we're off to Bali and another amazing adventure. Wish us luck!
Location: Boryeong, Korea (South)
Finally, after weeks of raining, we got a break and the sun came out to play. And it came just in time for the Boryeong Mud Festival! We dragged our sorry butts out of bed at 6am and met Les, Courtney and Neal outside our apartment. After an hour on the subway, we met up with everyone else (Nicole, Scott, Sarah, and 2 Korean girls whose names I don't remember) and jumped on the train unscathed.
5 hours in transit and more food than we could bare, we finally made it to the beach. We swam, we tanned, we hacky sacked... all was great in the world! After the sun wiped us out, we went for some much-needed sustenance: samgyeopsal, seafood noodles, and beer. Then, it was off to the beach for some nighttime exploring. Mike, Neal and I quickly came to the realization that we're getting old, as we only made it til 12o'clock before heading back to our pension. Who knows how late the others stayed out?
The next day, it was more swimming, caking ourselves in mud, and fun! But the inevitable train ride back was looming over our heads. By 5pm we were back on the bus, heading to the train station.
To top the night off best, we headed to Everest in Dongdaemun for some delicious Indian cuisine. Ate too much, but loved it nonetheless. Aint life grande?
Now, Mike and I are nursing mild sunburns and are back to the daily grind. No matter, though. Just 5 more days, then we're off to Jeju Island for more fun in the sun. Woohoo!!! ^^
Location: Seoul, Korea (South)
Well, it seems like forever since the last time I put up a diary entry. Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote.
Mom came down for a quick visit in February and March. I was lucky enough to have a week off while she was here, which means we got to check out the sites together. It was a nice change from when others visited -- April in Busan, Hugh, Mary, and Warren in Seoul -- without a single day off to show them around! Check out some of the cool pics we took of our adventuring! We managed to check out the Namdaemun and Myeongdong Markets, Seoul Tower, Insadong, Itaewon, Yongsan Electronic Market (though that was Mike's idea...), and we took a tour that gave us the opportunity to see a butt load of palaces! My feet hurt just thinking about all the places we walked to!
Mom was also here to celebrate Kayla's big birthday bash. She had a Hawaiian-themed shindig, where are the gals donned grass skirts and leis. Mike and I had quite the workout, trying to keep up with the hyper girls. I think the highlight was teaching them some old sleepover antics. "Light as a feather, stiff as a board", birthday bumps, hammock rides.... I think Mike and I crashed before they did!
Not only did Kayla recently celebrate another year, but Tasha did as well this past weekend. Jamie and I took her out for a birthday supper last night. We went to TGIF, as Tasha had a craving for pasta. Luckily, the staff there are birthday fans, and they pulled up with their guitars and tambourines to serenade Tash with a birthday song. We had no idea what they were saying, but Tasha's face was red enough to make the moment the night's highlight. Unfortunately, we couldn't indulge in our traditional marguerita night, but I guess we'll just have to wait until Tasha pops out the brat later this month. ^^
Well, that's about it for now. Mike and I are making plans to hit Bali for summer vacation. I hope we write again before then. If not, the next pics you see will likely be of us lounging around the white, sandy beaches, getting golden-brown tans. Ahhh, this is the life...
Location: Saigon/Hanoi, Vietnam
Well, we have finally returned to good ol' Korea and are currently enjoying the much clearer skies than those in Vietnam. Also, not fearing for our lives as we cross the streets is another welcomed treat. Here's a re-cap of our trip to Vietnam:
We woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am to head out to the airport. We bundled up as best we could, knowing carrying around our winter coats in Vietnam would be too much of a hassle. We arrived far too early and our plane was delayed by an hour, but that didn't dampen our spirits. After all, we did pass out as soon as we got on the plane.
When we arrived in Saigon we were hit by a massive wave of heat. Unfortunately, we didn't realize Vietnam would be THAT much warmer than Korea, so we didn't have much to change into. Chaff city here I come!
We hopped into a taxi and asked the guy to take us to the only busy street we could find on the map. Luckily, we found a nice couple right after we were dropped off, and they pointed us in the right direction. Our first order of business was finding a decent hostel. Luck was definitely on our side, as we found a nice room in the first place we tried. Then it was beer-time to reward ourselves and celebrate our success.
Our first night was spent scoping out the sites and meeting a few friendly travelers. We immediately connected with a flamboyant Vietnamese guy named Laum that ran the pub across from our place. We ended up hanging out with him every night after the other places shut down.
New Year's Eve was an experience that I doubt any of us will forget. A main street was cut off and 2 stages were erected at opposite ends. From 7pm till well into dawn the streets were packed with tourists, locals, vendors, and bar extensions. Loud music blared from the live entertainment and competing workers yelling at you to have a drink in their bar. The countdown sliced through the air and could likely be heard throughout the city. And the ridiculous amount of streamers, confetti, and balloons polluted the sky and streets for days to come.
The rest of our stay was spent doing the touristy stuff. We did the customary tour and headed out to the Mekong Delta for the day. The sites were cool, but we were unfortunately scammed into going to far too many work factories. We also did a walking tour of the city. If any of you decide to visit Vietnam, I would seriously recommend not going to the War Remnants Museum. That is, of course, unless you want your dreams to be plagued with visions of deformed fetuses, mangled corpses, and eerie, smiling soldiers dangling the decapitated heads of their victims on their lapels. What I would recommend you visit is the cool markets, Hotel Continental (where Graham Greene wrote the great novel "The Quiet American"), and awesome restaurants.
After 4 1/2 days in Saigon, we headed to Hanoi. We made the mistake of choosing to stay in a fancy hotel, which ended up placing us quite far away from the action. As a result, we were swindled out of a great deal of money when trying to get to and from the hotel. Also, the city that won the war isn't nearly as tourist-friendly as Saigon. Trying to see any cool sites was nearly impossible on foot, the markets were exactly like those in Korea, and the spring rolls weren't nearly as good! Argghhhh!!
Luckily, we did escape the city and went on a luxury trip on a junk boat. We were with a very small group (maybe 10 other people), we got to relax, and we enjoyed 6-8 courses at every meal. Needless to say, any weight we lost from walking around so much was packed back on during our two-day Halong Bay excursion!
By day 8 we were all pretty exhausted and Neal was suffering from some serious stomach issues. So, our last day was spent lounging around, slowly checking in the sites, and eating as many spring rolls as possible. We also got around to seeing a water puppet show; unfortunately, we all nodded off after awhile. I guess an hour is just too long for our attention spans!
Once we got to the airport at midnight on day 8, we were all ready to get home and sleep. In fact, we don't even remember the flight! All three of us vaguely recall being awoken for a meal, but that's about it. Aren't vacations grande?
Now, as Mike and I reflect on our trip, we wish we had started off in Hanoi and finished in Saigon. We left with a sour taste in our mouth, but we'll always look back at Saigon with great fondness and memories.
Next up: Bali!!!!!!
Here we are, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam!
We came with no plans, no room, no idea what to expect. BUT, we've found a place to stay, gone to a bunch of the must sees, and will be contiuing our adventure in Hanoi tomorrow morning!
Unfortunately, this computer isn't realy up to par, so I'll have to bid you fair well and continue this later!
Happy New Years EVERYONE!
Mike and Kris
Location: Ejakdo Island, Korea (South)
Ahhh....Clean feet and fresh clothes. Warm bed and fresh coffee in the morning. Mike and I have just returned from a fun filled Chusok and are resting comfortably at home. While we are relieved to be in the comforts of home, we still wish we were back in Eujakdo. Granted, I don't think our livers feel the same way... (sorry Mom) .
We left at 7:30 Thursday morning and hopped on the subway. Knowing we had a long way to go, we came equipped with hot coffee and good books. It took us 2 hours by subway to get to Incheon. Once there, we met up with some people we had met the weekend before. Jenny and Kevin kindly invited us to join them and their friends on a fun adventure.
From there we hopped on a ferry and made our way to the island. We got to know the posse outside: Anna, Brad, Nikita, Alan, Hyena and baby William.
During our first night on the island we stayed at a minbak (homestay) run by a disgruntled Korean man. He obviously had a bad experience with some crazy Americans because he watched our every move, refused to sell us mix for our soju, and wouldn't give us oil for pancakes. Needless to say, we didn't stay there long. Luckily, we met a kind lady who ran a minbak on the other side of the island. We stayed there our second night, and had our bellies filled every three hours. She was very generous and an amazing cook!
Our adventures this past week consisted of hiking, an island tour, fishing, drinking, noraebang, bonfires, and good old fashion hacky sacking. In all, we had an excellent time and met some really great people! If it weren't for the 4-hour commute, I think we'd probably go there every weekend!
Alas, our week off is over. We're heading over to Neal's today for some breakfast burritos. Hopefully we'll meet the new coworker today, then it's back to work tomorrow. We have eleven weeks to look forward to before our next break. =(