Thursday, September 18, 2014

2014 South Korea Vacation - Part One - Gwangjang Market with KJ!

Our vacation to South Korea came as a complete surprise especially to me. Rocketman had been mentioning taking a trip for many months but for some reason I didn't want to go this year. I didn't have any strong reason for this feeling. It could have been the memories(nightmares) of our last Korea vacation where Rocketman found himself in the hospital due to a kidney stone and the subsequent surgery. Cherry blossom time (April) is my favorite time of year in Korea. The temperature and humidity is perfect (at least for this Minnesota girl) and doesn't leave you looking like you just got out of the shower as soon as you leave your hotel room.
It could have been that Rocketman now does not travel to Asia like he did in his previous division (for which I am profoundly grateful) and we no longer had business-class upgrades. Fourteen hours in the air in Coach is tough to do. It could have been that for the first time in a long time we would have to pay for the flights which is not cheap to South Korea. Rocketman's lifetime accumulation of 2 million miles on Delta had given us wonderful perks through the years. And along those lines, all the money it costs in airline tickets, hotel, presents, eating out all the time, and shopping. I think it all played into my decision to skip the "Land of the Morning Calm" for 2014.
But fate had a different plan. The first thing that happened was I was out with my sister for lunch and I mentioned Rocketman prodding us to go to Korea this Fall and she told me we should go. Life was too short. Just do it. This was followed shortly with an email from our Korean friend, Hannah, saying she was quitting her job and asking us out of the blue to come so she could spend every day with us (something her jobs had never allowed in the past). The final straw was the very next day getting a Kakao Talk text from Hellena, another Korean friend, telling us she too was quitting her job as a flight attendant, that she was getting married and really wanted us to attend her wedding. As far as I was concerned, the heavens had spoken.  As soon as we had Hellena's wedding date firm, we booked our flights.
Since we would fly out of Minneapolis/St. Paul on Delta, we would first have to fly a leg to Detroit and then from Detroit to Incheon. We also had a ton of luggage(lots of presents). We each had two large checked and each had a carry on. It was brutal. But we were so grateful when our son offered to drop us off and my sister offered to pick us up on our return. We also had Hannah order a large van to pick us up once we arrived in Korea to take us to the hotel.
As we waited for our Incheon flight, we found this little guy flying about entertaining all of us. He was very tame.
The flight went well and we arrived in Incheon the evening of August 29th. As I waited for our luggage after clearing customs, Rocketman turned on his phone only to find a text from Hellena. She was at the airport waiting to meet us! We were shocked and so happy. I mean, she was only getting married in two days so I'm sure she had lots of free time, not! She also had picked up our portable WiFi eggs so that we didn't have to do that before leaving the airport. When I saw her I couldn't believe it and we never let each other go as we made our way through the airport. The driver was also waiting and thankfully had a huge van.
We got to our room around 8 pm and Hellena visited for a few hours while I unpacked and then it was time for bed. Rocketman and I have never been able to sleep on planes. I really admire those that can. We had a busy day planned for Saturday, our first day in Korea so we said our goodbyes to Hellena and would be seeing her on her wedding day that Sunday.

I planned on meeting KJ, my bojagi teacher, at 10:00am at our hotel. I wasn't sure what kind of shape I would be in so I thought it would be safe to have her come to the hotel and if I felt well enough we could go shopping and if not, we could at least visit in our room. Last year, I felt pretty ill the first few days we were in Korea. Luckily, I felt great and I finally got a picture of the two of us after all these years. We headed out to Gwangjang Market to do some bojagi (Korean quilting) shopping. It's one of my favorite places in all of Seoul. Rocketman loves it too for the food vendors.
We stopped at a new ramie shop.
                                        I couldn't decide what I wanted. The ramie was just beautiful.
There is fabric everywhere in Gwangjang Market.
Next stop was a silk thread vendor. He had every color imaginable. KJ helped me to pick out a bunch of colors and the prices were amazing.
The next stop was my underground fabric shop which is near Gwangjang Market. This is where I get that beautiful sheer fabric. This place is always busy so you know it's good.

                      Gwangjang Market along with Dongdaemun is the place to go for hanboks.
Choosing your hanbok fabric is always a family affair. Rocketman took this photo at one of the hanbok shops. I've even seen shops where you must remove your shoes before entering and you sit on the floor.
I am a huge fan of KJ's work. She is truly a talent and before we came to Korea I asked her if I could buy a thimble or two that she made. She made me five and they had chasu (embroidery) done by herself on both sides. I was in shocked and so overwhelmed at her generosity. You have no idea the time that goes into making just one. The thread used in chasu is silk and it takes forever to do.
This is the reverse side of the thimbles. I will treasure them forever.
                                             This is the fabric I came home with.
                                                                And the thread.
And a few presents from vendors. I'm still not done with things we did our first Saturday in Korea. The next post will focus on the food of Gwangjang Market, Rocketman's favorite subject.

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