last day of travel

we arrived in seoul at 7am.  w did not sleep a wink on the plane, so we checked into a hotel at the airport (very convenient!), as we had an 8 hour layover.  after taking a nap, we left the airport and met up with w's cousin for lunch.  then we picked up the rest of our luggage from my cousin's place and went back to the airport, where we had just enough time to take a nap and quick shower before getting on the plane back to LA.  our 12 hour flight back was brutal, but the food was really good - asiana is awesome, i highly recommend it.

we are now in LA spending time with family before heading to columbus to begin a new phase of life.  i'm jet lagged right now - it's 4am and i've been up since 2:30am.  i'm sleepy all day and then at night i cannot sleep!

the weather in LA is gorgeous.

thailand: day 7

we were exhausted from doing so much the day before, so we slept in, packed our stuff, then went back to the korean restaurant for lunch. we met our friend troy in the afternoon.  troy started a non-profit called speak up, which is something like ijm.  he showed us the university where he teaches a criminal law class, and a new office space for his non-profit near the university.  his vision is to get thai students interested in justice issues and have them work on those issues.  we met one of his students, and his summer intern.

then the three of us went to get middle eastern food.  we ate till we were stuffed.  then we parted ways with troy and went back to the hotel.  from there we took a cab to the airport for our red eye flight to seoul.


thailand: day 6

we got up early and called our friend troy, who lives and works in bangkok.  he gave us some recommendations for the day.  we went to the robinson's food court for lunch, where we ate basil chicken with rice and egg, a papaya salad, watermelon and a taro pastry. 

then we headed for the grand palace, which is where the thai king used to live, and is the national jewel.  bangkok has a subway system, which was nice to be back on after cabs and boats.  we took the train to the river, and took a river boat to the palace.  we noticed all the tourists took a tourist boat that cost 150 baht, per person but w found the boat the locals take which cost 15 baht per person.

the palace is pretty amazing.  it's huge and you could spend the whole day.  we took a quick walk around as it was really hot, then left for lunch.  we ate lunch at the koreatown plaza, which holds about 20 korean restaurants.  it was pretty good.  i was impressed that the korean lady who owned the restaurant we ate at spoke thai pretty well, from what i could tell.

we went home for a nap.  then took off again for siam, where we went shopping at the street stalls of local thai designers, although i found many clothes made in korea.  then we went to mbk, a mall.  we were pretty overwhelmed and didn't end up buying much.  then we went to the suan lum night bazaar, where we ate fish with ginger and walked around - they have traditional stuff there.

i think one more day in bangkok would've been good.  we were exhausted at the end of the day trying to cram everything in.

thailand: day 5

after breakfast at the hotel we packed our bags and got on a speedboat back to ton sai, the main pier on phi phi island.  we dropped off some laundry, ran some errands and picked up lunch.  after getting our laundry back we got on the boat to krabi.  our diving instructor, champ, is thai and he happened to be on the same boat.  w had a good chat with him about life in thailand and his upcoming marriage.

we arrived at the port in krabi, and took a taxi to the airport.  we had time to kill so we got thai massages there.  then we got on a plane to bangkok.  from there we took a cab to our hotel.  we were hungry but too tired to go find food, so we slept early.


thailand: day 4

we had breakfast early and w went diving in the morning to complete his open water certification.  he said he saw a shark and 2 barracudas.  he also learned more skills.  meanwhile, i took a nap, read a book and got familiarized with the area. 

when he returned we had lunch and went snorkeling around the island.  then we went swimming at the pool, went back to our room, washed up and relaxed until dinner time.  we had a pasta buffett dinner and regretted not getting thai food instead.


random trip photos

i finally burned a CD of some of the images.  here are a few...

my favorite meal in korea (icheon, famous for good rice)

sapa, mountain country in vietnam

w picking veggies from my aunt's garden in namhae, korea

i was going to post more but i'm running out of time on the internet.  more later.

thailand: day 3

by now we were wishing we had planned more time in thailand.  the weather is slightly cooler than vietnam, and everything is a little nicer, but still different.  the food is amazing.

we got up early and got on a boat to go scuba diving.  we were to do 2 dives that day in two locations.  i was feeling nervous.  the boat was rocky and i started feeling a little nauseous.  we went down for our first dive.  it was pretty amazing - saw tons of fish and a barracuda.

then the not so fun part began.  we came out of the water and breaked for lunch.  before eating, we were to do more tests: swimming around the boat twice and floating in the water for 10 minutes.  i completed the swim but during the float i started feeling nautious.  i got back on the edge of the boat and began puking.  i puked until all my breakfast came out.  the fish loved it and all came to eat the "food".  sorry, i know this is tmi!

i didn't eat lunch.  i wasn't going to go back down but the instructor encouraged my to go down just for 20 minutes.  i reluctantly agreed and went down.  we ended up staying down there for 40 minutes.  i'm glad i went because that second dive earned my completion of the PADI scuba diving certification.

we got back to the island and chilled.  we ate gelato, did some shopping and ate phad thai.  w went back to the school to continue on with the Open Water certification, which i decided not to get.  this means you can dive alone, but i don't think i'd ever want to go down without a guide.  w loves scuba diving, because he loves animals and you really do get to see a lot of cool stuff down there.

while he finished class i walked around, got some gifts and chilled at a bookstore.  lots of used bookstores here where travelers buy and sell their books.

w and i ate a grilled fish for dinner, then took a long boat to our second hotel, which was about a 30 minute boat ride.

thailand: day 2

we got up early in the morning, had breakfast at the hotel, then got picked up by a truck to head to the port.  from there we took a 2 hour boat to phi phi island.  immediately we headed for the diving center to sign up for scuba diving.

we had classroom instruction while enjoying really good fried rice and pastries from local vendors, and then went into the water for skills learning.  i panicked at first but was able to complete all of the skills.  then we went back for more classroom instruction.

then we checked into the hotel and explored the town.  had dinner (green curry, chicken and papaya salad) at a place called papaya.  the food was really good.  we already started falling in love with thailand. 

we went back to the hotel and went to bed early.

vietnam day 11 / thailand day 1

so the night before we took a van from sapa to laocai.  then we took the night train from laocai to hanoi.  we took a taxi to the airport.  we then waited 5 hours at the hanoi airport for our flight.  i saw 2 rats at the airport.  by this point we were tired and ready to leave vietnam.  we finally got on a plane from hanoi to bangkok.  we waited 4 more hours at the airport, then flew from bangkok to krabi.  then took a cab to our hotel. 

after checking in we went to the night market where we had really good phad thai, mangosteen, honey chicken on skewers and durian for the first time.  we went back to the hotel and went to bed.

already we could see a big difference between vietnam and thailand.  thailand is much more developed and even the street food is cleaner.


vietnam: day 11

we slept in, enjoyed the complimentary breakfast at the hotel.  we lounged around all day and got errands done like booking our bangkok hotel and laundry.  at 4pm our guide and driver arrived to take us down to laocai station.  we had dinner down there.  we ordered a vietnamese sandwich because we hadn't had one yet but it wasn't what we expected - just meat inside the baguette.

we said farewell to our guide and got on the night train back to hanoi.  this time we had australian travelers as our cabin mates.  we exchanged stories and tips with them and went to bed.


vietnam: day 10

after a quick breakfast we took a 3 hour drive to visit the market of another ethnic minority group.  on the way back we stopped by the former house of the king of that group, which was built in a french architectural style.  after lunch we stopped by a pagoda, and outside our guide and driver bought tons of vegetables and fruits.  apparently they were selling at a really good price.

we returned to our hotel, found a local laundry service and dropped off our laundry.  after a nap we went out for dinner at a place called emotion.

i think my stomach is fully recovered now.  w's was hurting a bit but he's getting better too.


vietnam: day 9

we arrived at laocai at 6am.  w didn't get any sleep on the train, as he's a light sleeper, and i got some.  our guide and driver picked us up and drove us up to sapa, a mountain village that contains 5 ethnic minority peoples.  we checked into our hotel, ate breakfast and took a brief nap.

we went to silver falls with the guide, whose sister is on summer break and came along as well, which was nice.  we had some sticky rice which is cooked in a bamboo stick, sweet grass tea and sweet potato at the bottom of the falls.

after another nap, we met up again to visit the village of the black hmong peoples.  they use the indigo plant to dye fabric black or blue, and many of them still live an indigenous lifestyle.

in the evening we walked around the sapa town market, and had hotpot for dinner.

i forgot to mention one very important fact.  the weather is much cooler up here, which is awesome.  i think it's about 20 degrees cooler here than in hanoi.  i couldn't stand 5 minutes outside in hanoi without drenching myself in sweat.  it's so cool here i have to wear a long sleeve shirt!

vietnam: day 8

after breakfast we went to the mall with w's cousin's family.  no one bought anything, we just kind of walked around.  then we went across the street and chilled at a coffee shop.  his family is coming to LA a day before we arrive so we planned out a tentative schedule.

we went home, took naps, and then got ready for the younger niece's end of school concert.  afterwards we went out for dinner.  i had some good rounds of hangman with w's niece.  then we went home, packed, picked up some kimbap and went to the train station. 

we got on an overnight train from hanoi to laocai, which is in northern vietnam.  we were in a 4 person sleeper cabin and grateful to be sharing the cabin with a couple from spain.  i used my broken spanish to communicate with them and we shared travel stories and tips, then went to "sleep".


vietnam: day 7

we had a very relaxing day.  after eating breakfast we took a nap.  then we played some wii with w's nieces, who beat us both in everything.  w's cousin in law called the manicure lady and us 4 girls got our nails done.  my hands and feet were done for $5, including floral designs - very vietnamese.

that night we went to w's niece's end of year concert, where each class performs a dance, song or skit.  it was interesting to see the international school culture.

w's cousin came home from work (he works about 2.5 hrs away from home).  they chatted while i did origami with the kids.


vietnam: day 6

after my stomach ache filled day i wanted to rest so i stayed at the hotel while will went with a guide to see bach ma mountain.  but he returned early due to road closures.  he worked out and got a massage while i read a book.  on the way to the airport we stopped by pho 24 again and split a bowl of pho.  we arrived back in hanoi, had dinner and hung out with will's cousin's family.  they are ending school here in vietnam in a few days so bringing home projects and photos from school.  then we watched korean dramas together and went to bed.

i don't think i mentioned this, but there is a small ex-pat community here in vietnam.  usually the husband works for a company from another country which has been hired to do some major project here in vietnam, like build a factory or a bridge or other major infrastructure.  the wife stays home or works part time and watched the kids, and the kids attend international school.  seeing the kids here makes me wonder what i would be like if i had grown up in vietnam.

vietnam: day 5

we woke up early in the morning and my stomach still hurt, which was not a good thing.  we had been careful about drinking only bottled water and not taking ice at restaurants as we had been advised, but my stomach was uneasy.  we had set up a tour to hue that day so we got picked up early by the driver and guide and took off.  we went to the citadel, pagoda, had lunch and then went to the tomb of the late king khai dinh.  i was not feeling well but had congee for lunch and felt better after that.  it was kind of miserable.  i was stuck in the car, or forcing myself to go out, dry heaving and just in pain. 

we got to the hotel that will's cousin reserved for us.  it was a 5 star hotel.  by then my stomach was feeling much better.  we went swimming at the beach and the pool, and went jet skiing for $20.  then we went out to eat pho and a chain called pho 24.  really good stuff.

vietnam: day 4

still in hoi an, we had a really nice complimentary breakfast at our hotel in the morning that consisted of lots of fruit: dragonfruit, papaya, chinese apple, mango, rambutan and a few others.  then we walked into town and took a one hour ferry ride around the lagoon.  we came back to the hotel, had lunch and then will went to get a massage while i watched a korean drama in the hotel.  afterwards we took a half hour bike ride to the beach and i took a swim.  the water was really nice - pretty warm.  the bike ride was crazy - it gave us a taste of driving in vietnam.  there are no rules driving here.  people drive on the wrong side of the street and the horn is used without restraint to communicate almost every minute.  there are motorbikes everywhere, sometimes up to 4 people on a bike.  will almost got in an accident on the way home.

we cleaned up at the hotel and went out to dinner at cargo, but i couldn't eat because i started getting a stomach ache.


vietnam: day 3

we went to get massages in the morning.  it's for women only but they made an exception and let w get a facial massage.  the place is run by a korean woman and employed by vietnamese women.  the head vietnamese manager there spoke pretty good korean - it seems that most of the customers are korean ex-pats.  i got a 1.5 hour full body massage for $8.  they had jazz style hymns playing in the background the whole time, which tells you how korean this place is.

we went home, had lunch and then went to the airport for our flight to danang, which is a beach area.  we took a cab to our hotel in hoi an.  the hotel is great and $60 a night.  i highly recommend it.  the hotel had free bikes so we rode around all night, got some mangosteen from a street cart, had dinner, bought a tie for will and came back.  it was my first time eating mangosteen.  so yummy!

today was better and i felt more adjusted to vietnam.  also, i like it here in hoi an.  we can get around on bikes or by foot, which is nice. 

my updates in vietnam may be sporadic as i have limited internet access.  nice thing is i have access in the hotel right now.

vietnam: day 2

we got up pretty early and had breakfast at home.  then we went to daewoo hotel to change money, and then to hanoi towers for lunch.  after that will's cousin and wife dropped us off in the old quarters of hanoi.  we walked around a bit, but it was super hot and humid. we went to the ho chi minh mausoleum and tried to go to the museum but it was closed.  so we went back to the old quarter, had ice cream at fanny and then went home.

vietnam was really a shock for me that day.  it is a pretty poor country, so it is very cheap for americans. it was such a change from seoul that it took me a day to get used to it.  also, there's no subway here, so we take the taxi everywhere, and we usually negotiate an amount ahead of time so as not to get cheated.  and the hardest part for me, is that it's really really hot.  i cannot emphasize how hot it is here!  and humid.  it completely drains me of energy.

anyways, after that we went out to dinner with will's cousin's wife and two daughters.  will's cousin works for hyundai out here and his kids go to international school.  i've learned there is a small community of koreans and other internationals in similar situations.  the kids are fluent in korean and english, and the older daughter (12) is very curious about america, and also about bi-cultural identity.  we had a good time talking with them as they opened up towards the end of the evening.  oh yeah, lots of seafood and stuff at dinner - like frog legs and turtles.

korea day 11 / vietnam day 1

we walked over to my uncle's place and had breakfast.  health is a big thing in korea these days. everyone is eating healthier and gyms are popping up all over the place.  we had a really healthy breakfast.  we talked about the world cup, family news and said our goodbyes.

we met up with will's cousin saejong again, and went out to lunch in apgujeong.  i had momil guksu (soba) and donkasu.  we also saw a once famous korean music group, dj doc there.  we rushed back home, and got our luggage.  will's aunt and uncle took us to the airport.  i cried after we said our goodbyes as i was going through security.  i remember i always used to cry when i left korea, and i did it again. 

i had a great time in korea, but i think the trip was especially significant for will.  will had not been to korea in 20 years.  a lot has changed since then.  also, i think the trip was really healing for him on two levels.  first, in terms of identifying as a korean american and being proud of the korean part of himself.  secondly, in reconnecting with his family and gaining a larger perspective on his own family, especially his father.  i feel really grateful for the time we had in korea as a couple, and that i was able to meet his family.  it was very cool to see how great the trip was for will too.


no one in korea could quite understand why we wanted to go to vietnam.  all of our relatives told us it was dirty, really hot, and not much to do.  still, i think i had a bit of a shock when i arrived at the airport in hanoi.  it was a lot smaller than i had expected.  and it was hot.  will's cousin picked us up and we went over to his home.  he is married with 2 really sweet daughters.  we planned a general itinerary and went to sleep.

korea: day 10

we folded up the laundry we had done and started packing our stuff. then we went to shilla hotel for a goodbye buffet lunch with all of will's family in korea.  afterwards we went with sae jong, will's youngest cousin to namdaemun to buy gifts.  he was really impressed with our bargaining skills.  afterwards we rested for about an hour and then met up with another of will's cousins in yaksudong.  we went over to his place and chatted for a couple of hours about will's family history and life in general.  it was some really good conversation.  then we went out for a late dinner at a bok (blowfish) restaurant.  afterwards we went to dongdaemun because will's cousin's wife wanted to buy a gift for will's sister.  slept at 2:30am.


korea: day 9

we got up, chatted with my cousin and then went to namdaemun with w's aunt to get glasses done.  i got mine for about $25.  we also picked up some girly hairpins for will's sister.  then we met up with w's uncle and had lunch at a restaurant in one of his commercial properties, and then visited his office.

we went home, and then went back to namdaemun and got some blankets.  the blankets are different in korea - they are much lighter. 

we quickly went home, changed and then met up with w's uncle, aunt and cousin, had korean style hot pot, and then went to a coffee shop, had coffee, tea, cake and more red bean shaved ice. 

our time in korea is coming to an end.  i'm getting sad about it. :(

korea: day 8

we picked up my aunt from the namhae bus terminal and went back to her island home.  we went outside and dug up some potatoes from her yard, and ate that with breakfast.  the potatoes were really delicious.  we chatted with my aunt some and then went to the art village on the island, looked around, and tried some black garlic (it turns black when steamed).  my aunt took us to the bus terminal and we said farewell to her and to namhae.

we arrived in seoul and quickly changed, then went to dinner at the chinese restaurant at the w hotel in walker hill and went home.


korea: day 7

we woke up at my aunt's house in namhae.  in the morning we made breakfast, ate and will buried the food leftovers from dinner and breakfast in the garden.  people use the leftover foodstuffs to fertilize their gardens, and my aunt packs out the trash and carries it into the city.  oh, i also wanted to mention that all of her furniture is used stuff that her friends were getting rid of, and the appliances like the rice cooker, microwave and such are gifts from friends who have stayed over.  i thought she was very resourceful.

my aunt's street leads up to a hike to a buddhist temple and a mountaintop view, so we took the hike to a little bit beyond the temple and back.  then we went out and ate abalone porridge for lunch.  we learned that they grow the abalones for a year in their tanks, and then let them grow for 3 additional years in the sea.  that is why abalone is so expensive.  we drove around the island, visited a rock in the shape of a male's you know what.  supposedly if you touch it you will be able to get pregnant.  after that we went to sangju beach.  then we went to mijo and ate anchovy stew for dinner.  yum!  ;)

we came back and watched some csi and then went to sleep.  i love island culture.  we noticed lots of elderly people working hard in the rice fields and walking along the roads with packs on their backs in the heat of the day.  it was very impressive.