Roadtrip for Rain: Terri’s Vacation Adventures in South Korea

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Before Stephe and I impulsively dived headfirst into Rain’s wide world, I hardly knew anything about South Korea. Of course, I knew of South Korea. I knew that Korea was a country in East Asia, near Japan and China. I also knew that South Korea was the southern part of the country’s peninsula and that North Korea (the northern part—duh), was a place to which I never wanted to go. Still, this interesting little country (which is about the size of our State of Kentucky) is so far away from where I live here in metro Atlanta, that the idea I would ever actually be able to go there never crossed my mind.

Then, in January 2010, Cloud USA was born and, suddenly, South Korea became a place I found myself yearning to explore. I wanted to do this not just because of Rain, but for many reasons. I wanted to learn more about its intriguing culture that was so different from my own.  I wanted to learn more about the people.  I wanted to learn more about its amazingly rich and often tortured history. The country of Korea itself also simply looked like a cool place to visit. The beauty of its mountainous terrain and its temperate weather that, in many ways, is strikingly similar to that of the North Georgia region where I was born, was something I looked forward to experiencing. The thought of possibly spending a little time with nature (which I don’t get to do enough of here) made me smile. Surely, with all of those mountains everywhere, there would be at least one hiking trail to conquer, right?

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I have always loved traveling, but let me tell you, there’s absolutely nothing more humbling than going to another country and not being able to ask where the bathroom is or order food for yourself from a menu because you can’t speak the language. Nothing. As smart as you believe yourself to be, when you find yourself in a place where you can’t even understand the street signage, or talk to a ticket agent at a train station coherently, even the bravest of the brave can falter.

I’ve been in situations like those various times in my life, in many different countries, and there’s simply no way to describe it unless you’ve experienced it. However, that had never stopped me before, and so now I was determined.  There was no way on earth I was going to let anything—not even the fact that I speak Korean like an infant—stop me from visiting South Korea when the opportunity finally presented itself.

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It was nothing short of a miracle that I was not only able to get the time off from work, but also that my nephew was able to take a leave of absence from the U.S. Army and play host for my entire visit. While we were planning my trip, I took his availability as a good sign, and as soon as heard it was a go on his end, I scheduled my vacation from work, booked my flight and prayed like hell that neither of our schedules would be disrupted. Seriously, I breathed a huge sigh of relief only after I was aboard United flight 1275 and was actually on my way to San Francisco, where I would make my connection to Seoul.

My flight across the U.S. was quick and relatively uneventful (except for the usual bad snack). Mostly, I kept to myself, listened to my i-Pod, and watched the scenery out of the window. Most of the way we flew low enough for me to partake of the view.  I took the photos below of the Rocky Mountains on that flight. I love the Rocky Mountains. They are always a gorgeous sight and have always been a signal on my trips to the west coast that my flights were almost over. Always a good feeling.

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My layover in San Francisco was quick. A little too quick. I don’t know why, but every time I’ve flown out of San Francisco for anything, I have had to walk all the way across the damned airport for my connecting flight, regardless of what gate I landed at. I have no idea why that is. Anyway, I was a little rushed and had just enough time to take a quick pit-stop, grab some snacks and make it to my gate for boarding. (This was a trend that was repeated multiple times to and from and in airports and train stations throughout my entire trip, by the way, even for my flight out of Korea, where I was the last passenger to board my plane. And no, I did NOT feel special. Just breathless. And sweaty.)

On the ten-hour flight to Incheon, I mostly remember my seatmate, Danny. Danny was an enthusiastic, twenty-eight year old Korean American from Eugene, Oregon, who was headed to Korea to visit family there. Sadly, one of his grandparents had passed away. So, he was traveling to Korea for the funeral.

He was such a kind and handsome young man and a terrific seatmate, which I was relieved about, because your seatmate in an economy cabin can either make or break a long flight—especially when most of the people aboard speak a language you do not know (except for a few pretty useless K-Pop phrases, that is.).  I was very lucky as Danny was delightful. Although he was obviously grieving, he still showed great excitement when he learned that this was my first trip to Korea. He spent much of the flight eagerly talking about Korea and giving me tips for my trip. He was so sweet to me, and I appreciated that.

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Arriving at Incheon International Airport (without the crowds of fans. :-P)

Finally, though, I had arrived.  Customs proved to be a breeze, which was a little weird, because I had anticipated all kinds of things that never happened–questions about medication I was required to travel with, immunizations, visas, that sort of thing.  Instead, they just stamped my passport and waved me on through with very little fanfare.  As I stepped out into the terminal, of course I began looking for my family members in the sea of people waving and holding up signs.

I finally spotted them waving and walked towards them.  My nephew snapped the photo above and then immediately posted on Facebook that I was finally there—and not dead.  LOL.  Leave it to family to bring you back to your senses.  My “celebrity arrival” moment lasted about two seconds, and then my nephew was hugging me and grabbing my arm and my luggage and saying, “Okay, let’s get the hell outta here.”  And so we did.  :-}

Even though my two weeks in South Korea went by all too quickly, I somehow managed to cross the country and see sights all the way from Incheon International City, northwest of Seoul, to the city of Daegu in the Southeast. So, I didn’t do too badly, eh?  The only thing that would have made it better would have been a Rain concert. But alas, that was not meant to be. Maybe next time?

My nephew, Patrick, and his wife, Gabby, were most excellent hosts, and kept me moving (literally) the entire trip. Let’s just say there is never a dull moment when you are in the company of two 20-somethings who don’t seem to know how to stop—EVER. It was a challenge, but I think I kept up with them pretty well. I had fun trying, anyway. I will say, though, that next time they want to go back out for the night to party somewhere in Seoul? I will definitely be going with them. (You’ll see what I mean when you see one of the photos below.  Sigh.)

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Terri and Gabby on the train to Daegu. Can you tell I was excited?

All too soon, it was time for me to head home, and I again found myself settled on another 767 for the long flight back to my own territory. My seatmate on the trip back was just as nice as the first one. Her name was Ms. Park, and she and her husband were traveling to New York City to see their daughter and son, who are going to a university there. She spoke fluent English. Mr. Park spoke none at all (we nodded and smiled at each other a lot). They own a a porridge shop in Daegu (yes, drama fans, there really ARE porridge shops). This was their first time they had seen their children in three years, and they were extremely excited about their trip. I was excited for them. Mrs. Park and I exchanged e-mail addresses. Hopefully, once their trip is over and they are home, I will hear from her. Her family photos were lovely.

Without further ado, below is a gallery of some of the best photos taken during my trip. I hope you enjoy them. A few of them I posted on Instagram during my trip, but since there may be some of you who didn’t get to see those, I’m posting those again here as well.

I’m so grateful for having the opportunity not only to experience a little bit of South Korea, but also to visit with family I missed terribly. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer and that none of you were with me. Maybe next time some of you will be. ♥

Wishing you many Rainy days,

Terri :-}

~ by Cloud USA on June 9, 2014.

14 Responses to “Roadtrip for Rain: Terri’s Vacation Adventures in South Korea”

  1. Hi Terri, Love your blog and awesome post! Just curious how did you come up with your itinerary, or were you just going along with what your nephew recommended? I’m interested in visiting South Korea soon, but not sure where to start. If you could post a list of suggested places that would be greatly appreciated.

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    • So sorry, Jackson. Somehow I missed your comment earlier, and so I’m just now replying.

      Honestly, we had absolutely no itinerary at all, except knowing that we were going to spend a few days in Seoul. That weekend was, of course, more deliberate, as we had to have hotel reservations and such. But even there, we simply wandered around, explored and shopped, and ate at restaurants that interested us.

      Otherwise, we just relaxed and took day trips out as far as we could from Waegwan (where the military post he’s stationed at is located). He was on vacation too, and so of course some of the things we did were things he wanted to do. (Like the go cart racing. LOL.)

      I would suggest that you choose a city or town that intrigues you and a subject you’d like to know more about, and plan activities related to those things you are interested in. My interests were my nephew and his life there, seeing some of Seoul and, of course, finding Rain stuff and K-Pop.) There’s no way you could do it all, so you do have to narrow your choices down for the time you’re going to have there. I wish I’d had another week and more time in Seoul, now that I’m back home. Seoul is a big city and the few days I spent there were not enough.

      I must say Daegu was an extremely interesting city, though, and I’d like to go back and see more of it. And I would have loved to have done more hiking. Next time I think I’ll plan more of an adventure trip.

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you for your comment.

      Terri :-}

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  2. OMG! Sooooo jealous. Thanks for all of the info. Loved hearing about your trip. LET IT RAIN

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  3. I feel so happy, thank you for sharing Terri, I enjoyed every photo and the writing. Welcome home

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  4. Terri,
    Great pictures! Korea is beautiful. Looks like you had a marvelous time…well, except for the last night in Seoul. That would have driven me over the edge! Forget dignity, I’d still be cursing. LOL! Glad you had a safe trip.

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    • Thanks, Silvercloud. And LOL. Yeah, well, you should have seen me kicking stuff all over the hotel room. Okay, I’m just kidding…sort of. 🙂

      Terri :-}

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  5. Merci pour le partage !
    Cela me donne encore plus envie d’aller en Corée , depuis que je connais Notre Précieux Rain je veux m’y rendre !
    Magnifique paysage ^_^
    J’espère avoir la chance d’y aller un jour !!
    Encore merci

    Like

  6. It was very interesting to read and to look at all these pics. thank you!

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  7. That is Na Young on the coffee.

    Like

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