Saturday, December 13, 2014

Six Things That Surprised Me about South Korea

Oh! Mountains in South  Korea
  1.     Mountains! A whopping seventy percent of South Korea is made up of mountains and uplands. Ulsan and Busan, two cities I visited, are semi-ringed by mountains, making for gorgeous vistas. The majority of South Koreans name hiking as their favorite leisure sport, and now I understand why. Those mountains beckon city dwellers to explore in the fresh, fir-scented air.

  2.    So many coffee shops! I expected tea to be the beverage of choice in Korea, so the number of coffee shops, including chains, astonished me. It’s not unusual in cities like Ulsan and Busan to find four or five within a ten-minute walk. Some chains were born in Korea, like Angel-in-Us, but Starbucks is popular, too. On weekday mornings, coffee shops fill with young moms and babies. In the late afternoon, teens in school uniforms stream in.

Yummy food! 
 3.   Delicious food! I didn’t have a bad meal in Korea. When in doubt, I fell back on soup or soup-like bowls of noodles, vegetables, and some kind of protein. Although Korean barbecue now is popular in the U.S., I hadn’t tried it before my trip. Now, I’ll seek out spots for cooked-at-the-table meats wrapped in lettuce or sesame leaves. Ah,  the tofu in Korea proved a silky revelation. Why can’t I find tofu that good in Texas? It must exist, but I’ll have to hunt for it.
       4. My lack of self-consciousness. My Caucasian face and I didn’t look forward to standing out in a crowd. To my surprise, I had no time to think about how others perceived. Why? Because I was too busy studying everything around me: vehicles, the variety of winter hats, cloth-wrapped packages from stores, red-cheeked children bundled up against the cold, teens in their school uniforms, the variety of book bags, the narrow, soaring apartment buildings, and, of course, the mountains.

5. Public transportation arrives and departs on time. The U.S. does many things well, but public-transport-one-can-set-a-watch-to isn’t one of them. In Korea, my husband and I rode buses all over Ulsan, and we took the KTX—high-speed train—from Incheon to Ulsan and from Busan to Seoul. Everything ran on schedule.

      6.  Drivers in Houston, Texas are sedate compared to those in Ulsan. Pedestrians in crosswalks must proceed with caution even when the green walking man light glows. Small wonder Lonely Planet warns its readers not to be the first or last person in a crosswalk in South Korea.

Outside of the crosswalks, we encountered kind, helpful people. That wasn’t a revelation, but the degree of warmth surprised and charmed me.

Next post: We ferry to Kyushu, Japan, home of my husband’s brother and sister-in-law.


Big news: Lark Howard started this blog and invited me to join it. I jumped on the invite because I like and respect her. (Every woman needs a fashion-forward friend who encourages her to try a boot instead of another pair of black ballet flats.) Lark and I share a love of writing, France, and food. Like me, you’ve missed her here for the past year, but she’s been busy. Now, Lark has a pen name and a three-book contract. Here’s the announcement from Publishers Marketplace: 

Fiction: Debut
Lark Brennan's DANGEROUSLY YOURS, a contemporary paranormal romance in which two sexy power players, each with hidden abilities and agendas, must work together to solve a mystery in the Caribbean islands, and the next two books in the series, to Mary Cummings at Diversion Books, by Becca Stumpf at Prospect Agency (World).

Congrats, Lark! I can’t wait to read Dangerously.




Coleen Patrick said...

I want to jump right into that mountain photo and go for a hike. Sounds like a great trip, Pat!
And big congrats to Lark. :)

Lark Howard said...

Thanks, Pat, for the lovely announcement. It's been a long time coming and now everything is happening so fast! It's fun but I had a moment of panic last week when the marketing guru at Diverson asked me to send her a book blurb, bio and head shot!

Your trip to Korea sounds like it was marvelous! It's never been on my bucket list, but now could be moved to the "someday it may happen" list.

Happy Hols!

Jennette Marie Powell said...

One of my mom's cousins lives in Korea, and your description bears out what she says--it sounds lovely. I'd love to see it some day!

Congrats to Lark on the contract!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen,
I want to go for a hike, too!

Lark lived in the Caribbean for a few years, so count on settings from her so real, you can smell the salt air.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
I'm thrilled for you and for Diversion Books.

Korea wasn't on my bucket list either, but the fact my daughter was there put it at the top of my must-visit list. Now, I'm so glad I went.

You have a lot to celebrate this holiday season. A ta sante!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
Know how once we learn a new word, we see it everywhere? Now that I've visited Korea, I keep encountering others who've done the same. They were stationed there, taught there, worked at a start-up there. I'm glad your mom's cousin likes Korea. It's a gorgeous country.

Karen McFarland said...

Truly Pat, that food looks delicious! I hear that Koreans like it spicy. Is that true? So glad you and your family had a wonderful trip. We had family live there a number of years ago so I do know about the mountains. But for some reason, we don't think of S. Korea as being a mountainous country. It's quite beautiful! And congratulations to Lark! I wish you all the best and look forward to your own publication Pat in the near future! :)