Though technically there are no school breaks in the Fall semester in Korea, there is Chuseok which is in the simplest terms a Korean version of Thanksgiving. It is a harvest festival type holiday marked by traveling to your hometown to spend time with family, visit the graves of deceased family members, and lots and lots of food. This year Chuseok was September 26-29th, which is great for Korean students who use that time to travel and spend time with their loved ones….but for foreigners it is not the greatest. Sunday was actually Chuseok, and I spent that day with friends.
But Monday and Tuesday I had no real plans and had no classes or really any homework to keep myself busy with. Luckily my program organized a trip to Bukcheon Village and the Han River Monday afternoon/evening in order to get us out in the city exploring instead of hiding in our dorm rooms eating food from the convenient store (lots of places were closed for the holiday) and binge watching dramas (hey, it happens).
Bukcheon village is a real amalgam of things–part traditional housing, part residential, part shopping center, part touristy, part falling apart, part modern and extremely expensive. And of course, part dating site *dramatic eye roll.* Maybe if I were actually dating someone Korea would exasperate me less.
I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly from our trip there, but I really enjoyed myself. Especially since it was Chuseok, and the little streets were filled with families and friends, Koreans and tourists, and a surprisingly large number of people wearing traditional Korean hanbok. In typical fashion, I took lots of pictures of random things, but the area was so cute I think you would like to see them.
I think someday I will have to go back, since there were so many cute cafes we passed as we walked along, and I am the worlds biggest sucker for a good, non-chain cafe.
One of my favorite parts about Korea, and actually about basically most parts of the world outside of the US, is how (in a very cliched way) tradition meets modernization. I was surprised to find that Bukcheon Village was only a short bus ride away from my dorm, and that it was actually located in the heart of Seoul–for some reason every time I thought of the traditional neighborhood I thought I would have to travel farther to at least the outskirts of the city. But because of its location, as we climbed the steep streets and made our way to the top of the many hills in the neighborhood, we could look back down the streets and see both traditional houses in front of us framed by modern masterpieces in the distance.
All too soon it was time for us to move on to our next location for the night–Han River.
Unfortunately for us the bus we had to take was packed and I’m pretty sure the driver was competing for most-bumpy-ride-in-Seoul. T_T But eventually we did make our way to the river and to the Rainbow Bridge, in time for dinner and the light show.
Even in my third month in Korea I still can’t wrap my head around why or how “Chi-Mek” became so popular here, or why that is the thing to eat when you go to the river or out with friends. I guess because it is cheap? For those of you that don’t know, “Chi-Mek” is the shortened word for “Chicken and Beer” since in Korean you can use the English word for chicken and the word for beer in Korean is ‘Mekju.’
As soon as we got to the river we were accosted by various delivery people, each vying for the service of the huge group of foreigners. Though the delivery man from the restaurant we chose was probably happy for the business, I’m not sure he was thrilled to have to go and bring back the amount of chicken we ordered >_< But thats what you get when you have 22 starving American students.
For those of you hoping to go to the "Rainbow Bridge" as a part of your trip in Korea….don't. It turned out okay in my pictures, but it was seriously underwhelming, and unless you already plan to go to the Han River I wouldn't bother going out of your way to see it. Honestly I am not sure why it is highlighted in so many guide books, as it seems to be, as so many other things in Korea, just a place for couples to hang out. I dare you to go and take a picture by the bridge without a couple taking a selfie getting in your way.
Anyway. Lots of chicken and attempted pictures later, it was the end of our night. Considering it was the Chuseok holiday, and supposedly a time to spend with your family, it was much more of a success than had I just stayed in the dorm and binge watched a million dramas. For other foreigners who are in Korea, I think finding moments like this with which to spend meaningful time with friends while also exploring Seoul or where you are living is so incredibly important. Yes, wandering around alone or working/studying or getting to know local restaurants and people are all important things, but moments like this stick out and are easier to remember and take with you into the future.
I am so incredibly sorry that I failed so epically at blogging while in Korea. I am sad to say I only have 6 short weeks left…and it has been weeks since my last post T_T BUT I do have other things to share and hopefully over the next few weeks I can update you with what I have been doing with my life here. ^_^
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more adventures!