Great Korean Weekend

The past month has been busy and filled with events, but I’ll get back to all of it in a later post (coming soon, I promise). The topic of this post is a small adventure we took just this past weekend to Seoul, for the May Day holiday (also known as Labor Day in China).

The week preceding our trip was busy as usual and Paul had been really sick, so we left our packing until the very last minute. Friday morning before work we were scrambling to get our bags packed and be ready to catch a cab right as soon as we got out of work. Our ferry tickets were for 5:30pm, even though our flight wasn’t until 10pm. At about 3pm, I got an email from the nurse saying that Paul had his fever back (Friday was his first day back after being so sick), and that I needed to go pick him up.

Amy ended up getting him, but I went home early to make sure he was ok. He was fine, a small fever, but he was so tired from his field day activities that he literally couldn’t be roused from his fevered sleep. I felt bad for him, but I also felt the pressure to get us ready for our journey. So Amy and I forced him into a bath, which made him super grumpy and then he fell asleep on the couch waiting for our car to arrive.

Our driver was late, which added stress to the whole situation, and by 5pm, I was starting to get nervous about missing our ferry. We don’t live that far from the ferry terminal, but when you go to the airport, you have to check in before you can board. So I had Amy scoot Paul up to school while I walked with our luggage, and luckily our driver showed up about 10 minutes after that.

Poor Paul was so sleepy, but we managed to get checked in, through the immigration line, and settle into our seats on the ferry with very little trouble. Paul even perked up a bit after I gave him some snacks and a sprite.

When we arrived at the airport, we had plenty of time to enjoy a meal at our favorite, Pizza Express. So after a quick stop at the Disney Store, we settled in for a comfortable meal. Unfortunately the restaurant was slammed, and through a series of miscommunications, we waited over an hour for Paul’s food, and so I never felt relaxed. They were very apologetic, and gave us the meal for free, but now all three of us were feeling pretty grumpy.

We boarded our flight and set off for Seoul around 10pm and arrived close to 2:30am. We were all very tired, but Kell was an awesome host and came to pick us up. So we piled in the car and headed back to their new place. By the time we’d settled into bed it was close to 3:30-4am and Donnie and Kell stayed up even later, catching up over beers.

The next morning we were all up around 9ish and gathered in the living/dining area to get ready for the day. I enjoyed yummy coffee and Marcela made us a delicious feast for Saturday morning brunch and when all our bellies were full, we made a push to get out of the house.

The weather was perfect, clear, but still cool and Marcela had heard of a beer fest going on at a nearby mall. I didn’t really want to go to a beer fest inside a mall, but when we did some research, we found it was just outside a gigantic shopping center. So we all dressed and walked to the bus stop to start our day (at around 1:30pm).

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When we arrived at the shopping center we found that there was a lot more going on there as well as the beer fest, a food fest, a convention of some sort and it was semi-crowded. We took our time finding the fest and enjoyed a sweet cool milkshake on the walk to the area. This was not just any beer fest, it was The Great Korean Beer Festival. Donnie and I found it ironic that given our love of craft beer, neither of us had actually planned to be in Seoul for this particular fest, but serendipitously had ended up there.

It was great fun! The kids got hats and pretzel necklaces, there was live music, and there were lots of really promising looking breweries. We met somebody else from San Antonio and we toasted together finding the closest thing we could to NIOSA (it was Fiesta week in SA last week).

Also, the beer was really, really good. There were IPA’s and Double IPA’s and some really excellent sours and a few gose beers.

The kids had wandered off into the mall, but by the late afternoon-early evening, they had had their fill of the #GKBF so we decided to head back to their house. The fiesta atmosphere carried on there when Kell brought out HEB fajitas to grill and Marcela made some fresh salsa and pico de gallo.

It was perfect patio weather, so we opened all the doors, put on some Mexican music and continued the party. We feasted on amazing fajitas and then the adults hung out on the patio while the kids flew paper airplanes around the house. It felt like home. Around 10pm we made a push to go get ice cream and walked down the street (they live right in Itaewon) to the Baskin and Robbins. After our fill of ice cream, Marcela and I took the kids home and let the boys go out for a night on the town (an early celebration for Kell’s birthday). I fell into a contented slumber and only woke in the wee hours of the morning when Donnie came and collapsed into bed.

Sunday morning I was up early again and after a cup of coffee, Marcela and I went for a run/walk/hike up to the Seoul Tower. It was another clear, cool day, and the breeze was fantastic. That park is really beautiful and deceptively large. It was an excellent way to get some exercise and enjoy good scenery and company.

When we got back, we dug into the delicious waffles that Ariana had fixed for her dad’s birthday breakfast, and then showered for our day. We had planned on going up into Seoul’s tallest building, but the air pollution was making it a little hazy so we put it on hold while we went out to try some of Kell and Marcela’s favorite Korean treats.

They took us to a dessert place first, where we sampled the wonderful ‘snowflake’ dessert. It’s like shaved frozen milk, but so light and fluffy because it’s so fine. It’s covered with whatever topping you want, but we got berries and then they douse it in condensed milk and top it with a scoop of frozen yogurt. YUM.

From there we drove back to Itaewon and took a small walk through the streets to a place called Baobar. Baozi are a fluffy Chinese (and probably Korean too) bun that are usually filled with meats or veg and then steamed, but this was a twist on the traditional baozi. This small restaurant make little tacos with the bao buns and they were to die for. We ordered a pork belly set and a truffle-garlic set, and wow, it was amazing. We also ordered fried chicken (which is a really popular street food in Seoul), and it was super tasty too. It was surprisingly light and spicy and happily, I found no bones!

We had planned maybe to go up to the Seoul Tower instead of a skyscraper, but Paul was feeling grumpy again, and I really wanted a nap too. So we went back to the Bates’ place for a siesta before going out to eat, AGAIN.

Since it was Kell’s birthday, he picked the restaurant, so around 9pm we set out for dinner. He took us to a little Korean BBQ place, just a short walk from their house and then set about ordering food for us to enjoy. This place had the whole spread of tiny Korean tasters and we ordered beef and bulgogi to grill at the table. I think I’ve used the word yummy way to much in this post, but again, it was sooooo good. We also tried the Korean rice fermented drink, called makgeolli, which we drank out of metal bowls.

Needless to say, I was exhausted, but we still had cake and presents to do for Kell. Ari and Marcela had made a beautiful chocolate cake for Kell, and we all sang to him while he blew out the candles. It was sweet to be a part of the family while they celebrated their dad and husband. I was really thankful to be a part of it.

We finally headed to bed with our alarms set to leave around 9:30 the next day to catch our flight home. I didn’t sleep well, I usually don’t before travel, so I was up early and ready to go as soon as possible. We had some cereal and bid farewell to the kids and Marcela and then Kell drove us to catch the airport shuttle.

It was easy travel home and we were back on our doorstep by 5:30pm that afternoon, ready to relax and prepare for the short week ahead.

I had been really looking forward to this trip, and for good reason. The Bates’ are good people and when I’m with them I feel so comfortable and at home. Their awesome kids take Paul under their wings like a little brother or cousin and we click with Kell and Marcela. We’ve traveled lots of places with this family and every time we do, I’m so thankful for our time with them. It’s a piece of home right here in Asia.

Thank you Kell, Marcela, Ari and Alex for opening your home to us, we had the best, Korean weekend ever.

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