Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chuseok in Taean: Life Lessons Learned

Gorgeous beach near our pension in Taean

At the moment, the AsiaVu family is slowly returning to normal after some much-needed time off.  Last weekend (Saturday through Monday) was the enormous annual mid-Autumn lunar festival of Chuseok, which is a sort of Korean Thanksgiving ( but imbued with all of the retail frenzy and media hype that surrounds Christmas in the US.) This year, Chuseok happened to fall very close to Korea's National Foundation Day, which meant a 5-day weekend for many people.  In our case, it is also Fall Break week at the schools Son#2 and I are associated with.  What this means is that the AsiaVu family joined in with about 40 million(ish) others in traveling during the holiday weekend.

In our case, we joined some friends on a trip to Korea's west coast, a beach area known as Taean,  staying in a pension (same concept as in Europe - an inexpensive guesthouse, usually privately owned.) It was an absolutely lovely weekend in every way - good friends, excellent food, gorgeous surroundings - and we are absolutely indebted to our friend, M, for making all the arrangements for us.

MsCaroline has every intention of posting a proper trip review with information and photos, but until she sorts through all 1000+ photos and finishes unpacking and yes she knows it's been nearly a week since she got back gets herself organized, she will simply share a few life lessons learned during her trip to Taean:


  • If you are traveling by car on Chuseok, the difference between leaving 4:30am and 5:00am is huge.  
  • If you are planning on traveling by train on Chuseok, always buy your ticket well in advance.  Otherwise, you will have to stand in a line that looks like the one below and most likely end up standing for the entire duration of your train trip.  (Note:  MsCaroline, whose tickets were purchased 3 weeks in advance, did not have to stand in this line, for which she was deeply grateful:  but let this be a lesson to you.)
Yongsan station, Friday before Chuseok;  the line starts under the green-and-yellow sign on the right and continues out of the photo to your left.  
  • If you are traveling to the Southwest coast of Korea in September, no matter how warm it is in Seoul, do not succumb to the temptation of wearing capri pants and flip flops, or you will end up regretting it.  Do, however, dig out your fleece jacket (unworn since last April) at the last minute "just in case."  You will end up wearing it all weekend.  It will not, however, compensate for the flip-flops, and you will be cold until you get to the pension and have a chance to put on jeans and some socks and shoes, which you will congratulate yourself for thinking to pack.  

Not shown:  MsCaroline's freezing ankles and feet in capris and flip-flops during unplanned stop at Taeanhaean National Park.
  • Always insist on accurate directions when using the GPS.  Otherwise, you will discover that your husband the driver has simply programmed in directions to a nearby national park and expected to find the pension by magic.  Oh, you'll get to see some pretty spectacular scenery that you may otherwise have missed, but if you are freezing to death due to having worn capris and flip flops (see above,) you will not be impressed.
Gorgeous - if unplanned - view of TaeanHaean National Park
  • Do not try exotic new foods when you have had a few drinks, especially in a country whose idea of cuisine differs significantly from your own.  Your normal instincts of self-preservation will be weak and dulled, and when someone offers you raw cuttlefish, you will decide it's a grand idea and put your chopsticks into action before your brain engages.  (As I have said before, coming from a country whose idea of new and enlightened cuisine includes the deep-fried Twinkie, I am no food critic.  But, as a rule, with the exception of some sushi, I prefer to eat my food cooked, especially food that is in the squid family, which requires an extreme amount of chewing before you can swallow it, thus giving you ample time to regret your decision.)  Long-time readers will recall that a similar event took place last year at Halloween when MsCaroline decided that roasted silkworm larvae sounded like a fabulous idea.  Clearly, she is a slow learner.
  • In the same cautionary vein, after those drinks, do not sing in a noraebang (Korean karaoke room) when one of the attendees is your 15-year-old son, who is in possession of a camera with video capability.  It will be bad enough when you discover that he has taken pictures of you getting your groove on to 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road;'  it will be even worse when you learn that he has video footage of the entire thing and that he has no intention of erasing it anytime soon.  
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • No matter how charming and romantic it seems for you and your spouse to spend the night 'camping out' out on the deck of your pension under the Chuseok full moon with the roar of the ocean and the sighs of the evergreens in your ears, always check the weather forecast first.  Extremely low temperatures and unexpectedly high wind velocity can turn what seemed like a fabulous idea into a night of great discomfort.  Furthermore, you will be reluctant to wake everyone else in the house up by dragging yourselves and your bedding into the house in the middle of the night, so you will just huddle together for warmth and deeply regret your rash decision in another one of those shared experiences that have so enriched 21 years of marriage.  (You will also regret having fed the pension's semi-feral resident cat all of those little tidbits of meat earlier in the evening, because you are positive you he is lurking somewhere around the deck, waiting to leap on your face if you go to sleep.)
  • A few poor decisions on your part and life lessons learned simply enhanced a wonderful holiday.  You'll be back.
View from the deck of our pension in Taean.  And yes, it was that gorgeous.


6 comments:

Karen said...

It does look gorgeous and I have taken note of your many warnings....in case I get to South Korea at Chuseok any time soon. I truly appreciate your humorous accounts of all the "little" things that can go wrong when traveling (or not traveling as the case may be). Comic relief is greatly appreciated. Only 2 crises this week (1 for this week and 1 to make up for a crisis free week last week! On the bright side...my back seems to finally be getting better and work is finally calming down after those beginning of the year blues! Long weekend this weekend so I can spend Sat and Sun laundering, shopping and painting bedrooms and then STILL have a day off to relax. Yay!!!
Karen

santamonicachick said...

awesome post! I feel like I learned a lot....

MsCaroline said...

@Karen - You never know when you'll be in South Korea and need some of my wisdom - better safe than sorry! I'm glad the crises seem to be settling down and the year is smoothing out - we have been on Fall break all week and tomorrow I head back - beginning the long haul towards Christmas - no Thanksgiving for the Germans! Enjoy your day off - I'm in 'Sunday mode' and trying to get myself sorted out for the week...

MsCaroline said...

@SMC: Thanks! I like to think of myself as sort of a public information service! ; )

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

Ah these are the kind of posts which make me realise we are kindred spirits: never wearing the right clothes, having GPS cock-ups and, of course, singing when there is a microphone handy.

Thanks for making me chuckle today x

MsCaroline said...

@Trish - kindred spirits, indeed! I will say, though - you do an excellent job of camouflaging your tendencies - you looked completely glamorous at the MADS!