|Frozen reflection pond outside National Museum|
The next day I went to the War Memorial. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), so it seemed like a fitting thing to do. I'm not a huge war buff, so I can't say I really took my time here, but it was still interesting. There are letters signed by Joseph Stalin and Gen. Douglas McArthur, and it was interesting to see--in some cases--to see original signatures. One thing I can say is that it's not a place for anyone to go to if they have PTSD. They have really great sound and visual effects that are motion-sensitive, and when you walk in a room, it will set off the light show and gunfire. But there is no warning this could happen, and I fear that a war vet or former POW going to this museum could lose it sometime if he happens to have PTSD. It's a good museum, and I was surprised to see how many countries participated in helping the Koreans against China and North Korea and how may Americans died in the war: over 33000 as compared with fewer than 1000-2000 for any other country that participated.
|Scene from Folk Museum entrance|
That evening I headed to Ulsan on the bullet train. I'd frequently heard that Korean people are really friendly and helpful, and I definitely found that to be the case, even if their English wasn't good. I couldn't find anywhere to put my luggage, and my seat mate looked around the train for a free spot for me, which was really nice because there definitely wasn't space at my seat for all my luggage. I arrived and hopped on a bus that took me close to where Matt and Mischa live; Korea is very much a place for efficiency in public transportation. I spent Friday just bumming around Ulsan a bit but took it easy, and then Matt and Mischa and I spent the day in Busan on the Saturday, going to the fish market and to this tower there from which you get great views of the city. At the fish market, Matt noticed that some of the boxes were labelled as being from Spain, so then we wondered how much of the fish and seafood were local catches! Matt also introduced me to the grossest fish I've ever seen: the penis fish. See the pictures to know why it's called that. It's just so gross. We spent a lot of time eating, drinking coffee, watching episodes of Idiot Abroad that I have on my laptop, and playing hearts. It was good to just relax and laugh and talk and share stories of what it feels like to be ex-pats and what it feels like to come home again.
Generalities about Korea:
1. There are lots of coffee shops, a few for every block it seems, almost!
2. There is no "Gangnam Style" paraphernalia for sale anywhere
3. People seem to like to get everywhere really fast and will cut you off on an escalator or to get through a door
4. There is so much good food! I tried hot pot and BBQ and Korean-style sushi and ramen...I think I was eating constantly there!
5. Matt and Mischa described the concept of "skinship", and I don't know if this was part of it, but we did witness a guy applying eyeliner to his girlfriend in a coffee shop!
6. It is a very nice country to travel in, and I'd highly recommend it!