Faced with a looming weeklong vacation, I was left a little bereft of creativity. Asia, once again, lied before me: wide and open and verdant and filled with noodles of various kinds. Of course, flight costs had begun to skyrocket, friends who I could reasonably pressure into travelling with me were thin on the ground, and most of my belongings were still held somewhere in a port in Shanghai. Stunted for choice, I decided to turn to my old stand-by.
Korea, the site of my growing up, my metamorphosis from boy to manboy. Korea, the current location of a large fraction of my social circle. Korea, land of a lot of food I wanted desperately to ingest. I think sometimes of how regularly I desired to visit Canada, how frequently I had requests to return to the homeland and shower them with my presence. I realized, of course, that Korea had formed another significant portion of my life, and that revisiting it was not out of the question. No, it was actually logical, and something that I hungered for deep in the wanty parts of my spirit.
I booked a ticket, I packed a bag. I went home. To one of my various homes.
Let’s look at it.
One of my first stops was an impromptu hike. I understood Inwangsan in the inverse: descriptions hailed it as the site of interesting ancient shrines accompanied by a minuscule climb, when really it was a moderately difficult climb accompanied by mildly interesting old buildings. No matter: walking down leads you through a maze of rooftiles and wild flowers.
I had been pressured to go and see Bongeunsa a number of times before, buoyed by the claims that it was the baddest-ass of Korean temples and was wedged in fancy-pants Gangnam. Its distance from Incheon was always a major point of avoidance for me: nothing short of free burritos and comets made of free champagne could drag me all the way out to Gangnam. However, being in Korea without a job but with dozens of hours of free time drained me of excuses. Bongeunsa: it’s pretty!
Of course, no journey through the most touristy parts of Seoul would be complete without some vigorous palace-ing. Have you considered spending all day waddling around major royal buildings in a metropolitan megacity? You probably should.
The skilled amongst you may observe that I photograph a lot of doors. You would not be wrong.
Last but not least, let us cast our oculo-globs upon the most important thing in Korea, my greatest, truest friend, and the ultimate reason for my return: Korean food.
Pictured, but not posted: me stuffing nearly my entire fist into my mouth, clutching, as I often do, a wad of meat and petrified vegetables shellacked in ssam-jang and cossetted in lettuce. Two years of my life was spent mostly in that position.
Korea: go there.