Korea & Taiwan 2015
- Out We Go Again
- Hwaseong to Gangnam
- Korean Fried Surf & Turf
- The King, the Art, and the Food Stalls
- Myeong Dong Kyoja
- On To Taichung
- Eating All Day Long
- Happy 90
- This is How We Breakfast
- Signage & More
On our last day in Seoul, we stocked up on the various treats from the Korean 7-Eleven.
My breakfast was the “Shanghai Spicy Burger”. Can you spot it?
Then, we took our very last Seoul subway ride, during the morning rush hour, to Apgujeong’s Rodeo Street. We didn’t really enjoy riding the SMRT because getting on and off these things with a stroller was always a pain, but it was in fact a really nice subway system. I had previously noted that it was the world’s largest subway system, and it was also rated among the top in quality and cleanliness. Being in Korea, you’d expect it to have super awesome technological amenities as well… full color digital display in all train cars, 4G LTE and WiFi throughout the entire system? Meanwhile, New Yorkers are happy that they finally got cell phone signals in parts of their subway system…
What I found ridiculous was the station announcements on the subway. Almost every station was announced in Korean and English. The more touristy downtown stations were also announced in Chinese. In theory, this was fail-safe as I knew two of those languages. The reality, however, was that SMRT didn’t bother translating any of the station names. Some, like Dongdaemun, didn’t matter, as any foreign language would have merely pronounced that with an accent. For the stations labeled with more meaningful names – such as the Express Bus Terminal – it was really confusing. When the train announced “The next stop is Express Bus Terminal”, in Korean it naturally sounded like “!#$^@#$*&(*!#$&%*&*!#$%*” in my ears. Then it switched to English and I’d hear “The next stop is &*!#$%*”. Not very helpful!
Anyhow, so we got to Rodeo Street, the Seoul version of Rodeo Drive (that got overtaken by Garosu-gil). It was 9am, and I knew we weren’t gonna see a whole lot of beautiful people with plastic surgeries or celebrities in fashionable outfits. But I didn’t quite expect the neighborhood to be this… dead.
You mean nobody rocking Gangnam Style was around to be seen first thing in the morning?
Galleria Department Store, according to its website, was supposed to open at 10am. But it never did. We left disappointed at 10:20.
I guess this was considered being with family for Christmas?
Xuan’s favorite bear because of its color.
Oh here was an interesting building… guess what it was?
A Johnny Walker store! A whole building dedicated to whiskey!
Lastly, we hung out at this patisserie that Phil had told us about… the “fancier version of Paris Baguette”. Who could be worthy of that title but Paris Croissant?
We returned to Park Hyatt Seoul, packed our bags, and very sadly departed our favorite hotel. The valet people drove us to the nearby City Airport (CALT) where we checked into our flight, checked our bags, got cleared by immigration, and took the bus to the actual airport. Similar to the service found in Hong Kong, this was an incredible convenience to get rid of our luggage before even leaving the city. Being able to clear immigration early turned out to be a huge plus, as well, as we were sent to bypass all the security lines at the actual airport.
Waiting for the airport bus with no luggage to drag around.
The actual bus was quite comfortable, too.
Our main challenge at ICN was to find the right entrance where we could skip all the lines.
Once on the other side of the airport, we used the Priority Pass membership from my Amex Platinum card to hangout at this lounge.
The lounge had all sorts of hot and cold food, but what got people real excited about was the instant noodles.
Ha! A 2.5 hour flight was so easy… eh never mind I take that back.
My parents were on the same flight to Taiwan, so we stayed together until arriving in Taiwan. Before parting at TPE, Hong’s dad arrived from the US and her mom came to pick us up. Having all four parents around meant that we were immediately treated like little kids. They were constantly fighting to help us with our luggage, instructing us on where to go and when the buses were, buying us bus tickets, feeding us, etc. You’d think that having a record of taking our own kids to five countries would’ve earned us the badge of expert travelers, but no, we were still just kids. I thought I would’ve been annoyed but, honestly, it was real nice to have them around.
My parents went back home to Taipei, while the rest of us embarked on our two-hour bus ride to Taichung, where Hong’s 90-year-old grandma lived. At this point, I wasn’t terribly excited about this part of our Asia trip.
In my mind (okay, and in reality), Taichung had always been the inferior city. Even though my mom grew up here, having spent most of my childhood in Taipei meant that I viewed the rest of Taiwan similar to how New Yorkers view New Jersey. My childhood memories of going to Taichung had always been associated with visiting family members that I wasn’t too hot about. And then, when we stopped here during our honeymoon trip five years ago, both Hong and I got terribly sick. The food poisoning was so bad that it scarred us, to the point where we’d cringe when we heard the word Taichung. We were as concerned about coming back here as we were about entering India.
And then, this turned out to be a redemption trip.
First, we checked into Splendor Hotel, one of the nicest hotels in town. In fact, this was the nicest hotel that I had ever stayed at on this island.
It’s no secret that I love shiny, glittery things, so I found the lobby adorable.
After setting our luggage down, I went downstairs to pick up dinner…
McDonald’s in Taiwan didn’t take credit card? What the heck!
1955 American Bacon Burger and Spicy Chicken Filet Burger
Even though I spent my first 15 years in Taiwan, this island felt so foreign now. As soon as we landed and heard people talking at the airport, we giggled making fun of their accent (yes, presumably I used to talk like that too). And then at 7-Eleven and at McDonald’s, twice I had to ask the cashiers to repeat themselves because I could not understand them. Not sure if that was sad or funny.