In July 2013, we flew to Korea where Julian was first attending a workshop on the south coast and then giving a couple of talks at an international conference.
This was our first trip to Asia, and our first time crossing the International Dateline. It was also the longest airplane ride we've ever taken.
It was also, and most challengingly, the first time we had ever been to country where we could not read the written language at all, nor could we understand the spoken language, and we most definitely could not pronounce the spoken language. I had bought a couple of translation programs for my iPad; they included audio pronunciation guides, but, well, the sounds you need to make to speak Korean are nothing at all like the sounds you need to make for English -- or for any other language either of us had ever tried.
But we are not easily daunted.
Middle-o-nowhere beautiful, Alaska. Photo of Denali and the Alaska range would have required asking the guy on the other side of the plane to move.
Crossing into tomorrow.
Shin cup and coffee -- the breakfast of Korean students.
Look! We can see Russia from our breakfast table! That's Siberia down there.
The package we had received from the organizers of the workshop and conference had indicated that we would be met at the Incheon International Airport. However, those arrangements somehow fell through, so we found ourselves a cell phone to rent for our stay, and called the students assigned to shepherd us to tell them we would see them in Yeousu the following day.
Then we found a bus to take us to Jeonju, a city about halfway between Incheon and Yeousu, where the workshop was held.
(I have made this sound simple, but it was made more interesting by the fact that only one of the people at the phone rental place spoke any English, and we were encountering, for the first time, our complete inablity to pronounce even the simplest Korean words.
The people at the bus station spoke no English, but we were, thank goodness, able to pronounce jeonju well enough to be understood.)
Catching the bus at the airport near Seoul.
Wherever we went in Korea, we were laughed at for the number of suitcases we were dragging along. In all fairness to ourselves, quite a bit of what we were carrying was holding things like compound microscopes.
The bus to Jeonju stopped for 15 minutes at this rest stop. Julian got himself some Korean fast food. I was holding out for a restaurant in Jeonju, which has the reputation of being the food capitol of Korea.
We checked into The Gung Tourist Hotel (highly recommended -- clean and pleasant, and friendly staff), and headed out to look for a restaurant.
Alas, however, it was past ten in the evening, and Jeonju is not exactly the capitol of nightlife. We were unable to find an open restaurant, and I ended up picking up a sandwich at a 7-11. Ah, irony.
The next morning, however, the hotel staff decided they wanted us to have a traditional Korean breakfast.
This feast turns out to be a traditional Korean breakfast. (Delicious!) And this isn't all of it--there was a fried fish, a large bowl of kimchee, and a bowl of soup for each of us.
We had enough time to wander around Jeonju for some time before we had to catch the bus to Yeosu.
Surely, Korea -- at least South Korea -- has electrical codes. However, they clearly get the most out of every utility pole.
In Jeonju, as everywhere in Korea, if you have even the smallest amount of space, you plant vegetables.
A taxi line on a busy Jeonju street..
Taxis, by the way, were always a challenge in international relations. The driver who picked us up on Jeonju spoke no English, and did not understand what we were saying when we told him, "Gung Hotel." I found the word for "hotel" in one of my iPad phrase books, but it told me, helpfully, that the Korean word for "hotel" is pronounced, well, "hotel."
So we got out our reservation confirmation sheet which had the name of the hotel and the address in both English and Korean, but it was, as previously mentioned, after 10:00 PM, the only light was from the colorful LED billboards, and the print on the confirmation sheet was very small. Our taxi driver tried reading it in his headlights. No luck. He tried reading by his interior light. No good.
There is no shortage of cars in South Korea, but bicycles are popular, too.
The Koreans don't just allow print advertising, they have made an art of it. At night, there are few street lights, but the streets are lit by colorful LED signs. And during the day, ads can be found on any otherwise unoccupied vertical space. And the ads are actually attractive, perhaps because Korean characters are so pretty.
Weddings seem to be big business everywhere in Korea, but especially in Jeonju, which not only had many shops selling wedding apparel (both traditional and Western), but also many places advertising themselves as wedding venues.
Brooms and bike tires in an alleyway.