Vacation times and the end of times

Hong Kong, Japan, korea, Travel, weekends

20170819_151659As of writing this I have only have a few days left. I’m in the final stretch! It’s pretty weird really. I will probably do a big run down of my time here but that time isn’t now. That being said I definitely have some very mixed feelings about leaving. It’s been a ton of fun and quite a time that’s for sure. I didn’t expect any of this before I came. So it’s a bit upsetting all in all, but all good things must come to end right?

That out of the way lets talk about the past few trips I have been on. There have been a few of them too! After taking almost  0 vacations all year I loaded them all up near the end. So I went on three all within a couple weeks of each other. I have been pretty occupied because of that! I’m going to write about them in reverse order for no particular reason. First up is Tokyo!

TOKYO:

Tokyo was a city that was everything and at the same time nothing that I thought it would be it was weird. I think the biggest misconception I had going in was going to be the size and cramped space of the buildings. Sure the first picture won’t refute my claims but i’m serious. I expected towering apartments and jammed up cramped spaces. Actually pretty similar to what Hong Kong was. I was expecting something kind of like below. Not exactly that but I was imagining there to be a alot of vertical space to be taken up. Seeing how big it is I think I was looking for something like a hive.Image result for smoggy anime city

Maybe it was just the area that I visited but I didn’t get that vibe at all. Sure things were a bit small and there was definitely some packed aspects to it. There were also your fair share of sky scrapers. What I didn’t see however was the mega apartments that take up the skyline in both Seoul and Hong Kong. Instead there were a lot of 5-6 floor buildings crammed together. Even down some pretty narrow alleys. Though everything seemed to breath better and there felt like more room then there really was just because the scale of all the buildings was quite small.  Nothing ever got oppressive “city” it all seemed kind of spread out.

I’m not the biggest fan of anime and I’m not sure if i’m doing a disservice to Tokyo by saying it but I definitely got some anime vibes. Not sure what it was, but from the art, the buildings, streets, and just pretty much everything it just seemed like there was something I could relate to after watching something. It just felt right I didn’t even watch a single thing there or have I watched an anime in years but after coming back I’ve had a strong hankering to watch something.

Tokyo was awesome, it was definitely one of the best trips I have been on and it blows the last time I was in Japan out of the water. I’m glad I went back and gave it another shot. Something I won’t forget for at least 6 more months.

Lets talk about the trip for a bit though!

I had a flight at around 7AM. So I slept in the very comfortable chairs in one of the many lobbies. When I woke up I shaved away half of my hip from grinding it into those wooden chairs all night.

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I stayed in Shibuya which is on the west coast of the city. It also has a lot to do there. After having a bit of an incident on the train I finally found my way there and exited the station. I had a ton of time to kill before I could even check in. So I got to the station and all I could really do was walk around. I wasn’t looking for it but right there was the scramble. The scramble is the big famous cross walk in Tokyo. When ever you see pictures or a time lapse of people crossing a big busy street that is probably the place. It’s famous for possibly being the busiest cross walk in the world. It is also just kind of cool to begin with. I did a ton of walking and after 3 hours meandered my way to the hostel where I dropped off my bag.

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Dog

I walked along this river waiting for my friend to land in the airport. I ended up taking it way to far and not really knowing where I was. Out of all the possible pictures of the canal this is the one I took. Way to go me. There were way cooler areas trust me. It’s a one way road and most of the way up and around were windy roads with small restaurants, stores and cafes. I’d give it a 9/10 in atmosphere. Then out of all that this is what I take. With none of that in sight! 20170818_15102620170818_154154

Unlike Seoul they kind of added side walks in the back roads like this. Sure it’s still walking on the street but if you look to the left the railing sets a definite walking area. I wouldn’t say this is better or worse than the freedom system here in Seoul but it was nice to see since I haven’t before. However what really made this trip was Saturday and hanging out with friends all day and eating some amazing food. After waking up at a fashionable 11 we got underway and met a friend at the station where we went further in the city to get something to eat.

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We went to a sushi place that was just awesome. I have never heard of a bonito fish before and I never realized it was my favorite thing ever. If your wondering it’s the most normal looking meet on the plate above. What I wasn’t really expecting was how much was going to come.  My previous sushi experiences have all just been a plate or two all which was pretty good but never really anything to write about. This time though there was an entire thing. The plates kept coming and I was surprised every time. I didn’t take pictures of all of them but I think total there were 5 or 6?  All of it great.

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It also was probably one of the most expensive dining experiences that I have been apart of. I give it an easy 12/11 mainly because my zero key is broken.  I would do it again in a heart beat. It was really close to the Imperial palace so we decided to walk on over and take a look. It was as cool as you could get without actually going in the place. Apparently it’s only open like twice a year.  The only thing that really came of it was just highlighting the more European influence. 20170819_15160520170819_153240

Went to Asakusa where it rained a lot. There was a temple or something that I looked at from a far. There were also a bunch of shops. It would have been nicer if I had an umbrella and was trying to dodge the rain the whole time.

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Better yet though we played this drum arcade game that I just love. First played in Taipei and I play it every time I can. 20170819_17491620170819_181733.jpg

Walked around in the rain some more, saw the SkyTree and got something else to eat. The cool thing about the Sky Tree was how the top of it was in the clouds. The two things that I ate to this day had to be the best thing I have had in a while. 20170819_184738

There were 2-3 more plates after this guy. All were great.

Last day we went to a ramen place that was just cool. It was the normal Japanese setup with the U shaped counter and the staff in the middle.

This time though there were private stall the whole way around. So you really didn’t have to see anyone ever. In fact you didn’t have to talk to anyone. You order at a machine then give your slip to whoever is on the side. Hopefully the pictures above give you an idea. Then after you order they put down a flap down over your one “window” so you are even more secluded. The picture below shows it with the flap down. I was pretty excited over having water on tap though.

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The ramen as expected was great. I swear it wasn’t as gelatinous as looks in the picture. You could choose how much of whatever you wanted in it, and how soft or hard you wanted the nooders too. After this we quickly made our way to the Tokyo Dome because we had a date with a baseball game.  20170820_154820

The Tokyo dome is huge. It’s the first time I have been to a closed stadium too. The actual game itself was at a higher caliber than whats on display in Korea. Just the players were better. The Giants which was the home team quickly got out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and sat on it for pretty much the whole game. The atmosphere there was comparable to Korean games but I want to say it was even more rowdy than here.  The chants were non stop and the crowd was just living it up. There were trumpets there were flags there were crazy people. Asia knows how to watch baseball. Well atleast Korea and Japan do.

A few things stuck out to me in the game. One was concessions inside the stadium. This is the norm at home, but it isn’t at all in Seoul. It definitely ads to the atmosphere if nothing else. I didn’t do a whole bunch of snooping but it didn’t seem like anything crazy was really being sold there. Another thing I wish I took a picture of was the beer girls, and how many there were. They were everywhere at every second. Looking down in the lower bowls they looked like bees buzzing around or ants warming around a colony. There were so many of them and they were so busy. That would be a tough job for sure.

Lastly how busy the area around the arena was a bit surprising. Not because it was pack and going crazy but really the lack of anything going on. Arriving at Jamsil stadium you are smacked in the face that a game is happening. There are people and cars everywhere its very obvious and speaking of atmosphere pretty cool. While in Tokyo there was no body around. I easily could have been in the area and have zero idea that something was going down inside.

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Yay baseball!

With the game done we hustled our way to the airport where nothing eventful happened. Besides that we flew!

HONG KONG

Hong Kong in general was what the doctor ordered. It was just a great time and well timed too. Well for the most part. I wen there on a Sunday but everyone I went was going with was already there. So I had to meet them later. My only problem with HK was where we stayed and the lack of signs for the place. I spent a good 40 minutes or even more trying to find it. The only reason I found it was because I followed another white person.

To get it out of the way the weather here was terrible. It didn’t rain but it was humid like no other. Within minutes of being outside my shirt was drenched I can’t explain how sweaty and gross everything I owned got within a few minutes. You could tie your shoes outside and immediately have to go back in for a shower.

I got in pretty late on Sunday so nothing much happened then. The next day we went to the beach which was permanently overcast but nothing happened. Which was really surprising. Either way the beach was great and the water was just as great. We also went Kayaking for a bit too.

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At this point I’m actually a little fuzzy on the order of events so I’ll just talk about things as I see them.

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I had maybe only one bad thing to eat in Hong Kong. It wasn’t even terrible though. Everything else was just awesome. The service tended to be hilarious and the food added even more to the experience. There was nothing lacking in this department. The picture is at a dimsum place we went to on the last day.

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We went to the place of 10,000 Buddhas. We just walked up and up a path with a ton of gold painted statues like in the picture above. There were some pretty weird ones. Also there were a few missing so it wasn’t exactly 10k Buddhas, but we can let it slide. 20170801_13122920170801_131148

This is what to see at the top of the thing.

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Definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip was the all you can eat sashimi place we went too.

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Jesus

 

Hong Kong reminded a lot of home in some ways. It had a classic city feel to it. Also what it is worth noting is how varied the people were. Everyone looked different, there were people from other countries everywhere.  The city was also very crowded the building and apartment situation I thought was the most interesting.

There were so many different kinds of apartments. In Korea there are swaths of identical apartment complexes everywhere. Here there were many apartments but not a single one was the same and it didn’t seem to matter where you were. There were dozens of ramshackle sardine can apartments. Then right next to it would be a super modern 1000 story building. This was happening everywhere. Someone I was with said it the best, the situation was ruthless. It was apartment chaos. Also the AC dripped all over the side walk which I was not a fan of.

 

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With the trip being done, I have some serious reservations about HK express.

JEJU

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My sister came to visit for a few weeks so we went down to Jeju. Compared to the rest of the trips this was surprisingly the most difficult one. We stayed in the middle of nowhere in the south western part of the island which did us no favors. The one upside was that it was right next to Sanbangsan. So we could walk there in around 10 minutes. 20170725_10460020170725_122618.jpg

We spent the majority of the time at Jungmun resort which was not a day wasted. We saw waterfalls, banana milk cafe, and at the time I finally got to go to the beach.20170725_130752

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You have to be careful

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Hi Caroline!

The highlight was probably seeing my friend which was kind of a blast from the past. He was probably one of the first people I have ever met in Korea. I met him when I went to the Fire Festival in the first few weeks I was here. The last time we saw each other was last year when he was in Seoul and we went to a baseball game.

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I look creepy

 

 

He doesn’t even live close but he and his his parents came down and picked my sister and I up and took us to eat around a much cooler area whose name I can’t remember. They then took us to the guest houses they have been working on. My mind filled with regret realizing that we should have stayed here. To be fair I did ask if we could before we even came to Jeju. They eventually drove us back, but it was an awesome time and I’m really grateful for them going out of their way.

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Much nicer

Here are some pictures of what Caroline and I did while she was here!

The last one is worth talking about because, who really wants cheese with mango ice. I mean what? Either way I hope she had a fun time when she was here.


Well that has basically been the last month in a nutshell. It has been a very exciting and fascinating last month or two. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Jeju were all great. Though if I had to rank the trips Tokyo was my #1. I can’t say enough how much it restored in my faith in Japan being a fun place.

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The sun is setting on my time in Seoul

When all is said in done it is Friday here and I have only one work week left here. I’ll be doing my last runs of places and saying my goodbyes for the week to come. So my time is winding down. I’m sad it’s all ending but really it’s a good thing I even had the opportunity in the first. place. Why stop here though? Lets keep this train running!

 

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3

korea, Travel, weekends

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Not to alarm anyone but I have three months left. The pressure is on!

What have I been up to you may wonder. The answer is not much. In the time I have posted I actually have done a few things mostly just exploration, nothing huge. Either way here it is.

I’ll start with Hockey. It’s finally over! Which is a shame because it’s really fun and it also gave me something to do on Sundays.

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Not to discount the season though we did end up getting second place overall. Which is pretty good. We played a tight final but eventually we just couldn’t break through. Which was upsetting but hey I’m totally fine now and hold no grudges at all.

Our team was really good, and I actually got better because of it. Am I good? Probably no, but I found my legs again. I ended up with a total of 9 points with an amazing 4 goals. For comparison I had 0 last year. So a step up I say! Either way the CBHK is a ton of fun, and I’m so glad I found it. I won’t be able to play again because the season doesn’t start till I leave. However It will probably be one of the things I miss the most about Korea.

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There also happened to be an EXO concert going on next door one game.

I also went to Namiseom Island (남이섬 종합휴양지)

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Namiseom is an island shaped like a dumpling shaped island. It has a mildly interesting history but the most fun bit is the “country” status.

Naminara Republic
Nami Island declared its cultural independence on 01 March 2006 and re-named itself the Naminara Republic (Namisun).
The Naminara Republic is an imaginary country, but it has invented its own passport, currency, stamp and telephone card, and has promoted the establishment of Naminara in other countries. A “passport” issued from Naminara is required to enter the Namisum. Korea4expats

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for example

Being an island with no bridges you can’t get there by foot and have to wait for a ferry to take you across the river. It’s very quick and not at all hard to figure out how to do. You can also zip line across to the island if that’s your kind of tea. Once there you can take a few paths to walk around the island. It’s actually quite big and took a bit longer to get around than I thought it would.

If you’re that kind of person you can rent all kinds of things to get around the island. From bikes, to pedal cars, golf carts, and even off brand segways. There are plenty of options to chose from.

It’s all pretty quaint. There are a lot of tree lined paths that can be pretty scenic at times. There are lots of groomed fields and it really just has a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s basically a giant park. It is definitely a couple and or family spot as there are lots of both running around. There are the few sculptures and a decent amount to see. However there isn’t a lot to actually do. At least how I did it, it was way more of a leisurely stroll through the island just looking at things than actually interacting with anything. There are also some animals littered around the park like peacocks, rabbits, and apparently an ostrich but I didn’t see it.

I probably wouldn’t go back there, but I’m glad I went at least once. It was relaxing and for sure a good way to spend the afternoon.

As a quick note, the area around the island is known for chicken I guess so there are tons of chicken places to eat. Choose wisely!

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leaving to the island

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Beyond that I had a cute afternoon exploring some roof tops in HBC. We went to 100 Food Truck which was a bit disappointing. Sure the view is cool but you can get it pretty much anywhere else in the area. I’m embarrassed to say how long I waited to get up there. Just to have a pretty good hamburger that totally fell apart in seconds. Eventually I was just eating a guacamole salad. My issue was mainly with the wait. To be fair we waited for the shade and as far as I know if I went for the un shaded part the wait would have been much quicker.

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view from the top

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I had the green one

Almost forgot to mention I went to Seoullo 7017.

 

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It was an overpass created back in the 70’s. It has since been renovated into a walkway with a bunch of trees and random other points of interest. Here is a link about it if you’re interested.

Moving on from Food Truck we went to a Thai themed rooftop. It was way better. Not only was there no one up there but it was just very chill. Also carried about 90% less pretentiousness the last place did. To make matters better it was on top of a bbq place, what a location! I will go back here again for sure.

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Random picture time!

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So that has been the past three weekends pretty much. The last one was pretty hectic, well with not a bunch of sleep that’s for sure.

I ended up going on a trip this past Sunday to some places i’m not really sure of between Chungju and Danyang.KakaoTalk_20170616_112313101.jpg

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It was definitely a good way to spend the Sunday.

As far as school goes a new term has rolled around a few weeks ago, and it is a nice change of pace from last term for sure.

That is pretty much it. Now a new weekend is a day away so lets see what happens!

Let’s not forget though.

THE PENS WON THE STANLEY CUP!

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Hey I got some of it right…..

Vietnam time

Travel

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I went to Vietnam this  past weekend and it was a lot of fun! I flew into Hai Phong on Thursday night after work. I was definitely pretty tired. I got in around 10 on Friday. Before I came I was really worried that I’d have a tough time figuring out how to get from point A to B. Turns out it was really simple and I was basically guided and probably ripped off from as soon as I touched down. I’m not complaining though everything was super cheap. At least I think it was.

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beep beep

I was going to Cat Ba island which like the name sounds is an island. So I had to take a boat to get there. The boat was basically a barge, it was pretty darn slow, and the seats were literally falling apart. Either way there were quite a few other tourists there mostly French which was a theme for the whole trip.  Al together the ride took somewhere between 2 or 2/30 hours to get where I was going. So it was a bit long but that’s ok. I was able to go outside and see everything. I also met a Korean on the boat and we ended up hanging out all weekend. Also thankfully the weather was really nice.

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1st look of Cat Ba from the dock

Once I got in I found the Hostel where I was staying. It was ok. The guy who checked me in sounded peeved that anyone was talking to him. He was also really strange. It wasn’t bad though not like I was spending any time there anyways. After throwing my stuff down I went and looked for something to eat. Wasn’t that hard to find something. Got some Pho Bo that was just awesome, and it was like $2. I went back there again. I spent most of the time just walking around and being asked by everyone if I wanted to rent a motor bike or mota bye.

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Didn’t do much day one. Just walked up to cannon fort for a little bit.  Cannon fort was made by the Japanese and then used by the French and Vietnamese. It gave a pretty good view of the island. 20170414_164601.jpg

See cannons. I have mixed opinions on the green army guys.

Second day I went on a boat tour. Continuing the trend of the trip it was packed with Europeans who were on week or month long trips through the country. The sky was pretty overcast which I am kind of happy about. It was still warm out and the water wasn’t cold either so it worked out and I wasn’t baking all day. 20170415_16250520170415_162703

A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating houses. wiki

We went through a fishing village on the way and back from wherever we went. My question is how did people end up living there in the first place? Did they just wake up one day with their houses floating in the water after being carried off by a flood? Then they just decided why not stay? Also went Kayaking. Which was probably the best thing on the trip. 20170415_09421220170415_093204

After scooting around for awhile on the boat we went swimming/snorkeling. Got to jump off the boat too. It had more of an impact than I was expecting.  The whole area was pretty cool. I found that I was taking the same picture over and over. Almost all of them looked the same. That being said it was just really nice looking so I couldn’t help it! IMG_8114

All of the rocks were thinner on the bottom from the water and there were also lots of little caves and things pretty cool stuff.

The bay consists of a dense cluster of some 1,600 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Wiki

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Also went to a place called monkey island. Presumably because there are monkeys.  I’ve seen tours being sold to go there. I would never recommend getting a tour there. Especially not for ₩150,000. The whole thing is a 10-12 minute walk up some really pointy rocks then you go down trying not to die so you can watch monkeys steal things off German teenagers. boat20170414_182851

By far one of the coolest things I did or ever have done is rent a motor bike and ride around. It was way easier than I thought it would be and there was pretty much no traffic to speak off, there were also no driving rules it looked like. It was just really awesome.

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The first place that we stopped at was the cave hospital that the Vietnamese used during the war.

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There were two entrances and this was the exit but it looked like this on the other side too. My first reaction was wondering if this really was it. Kind of lame, it’s a cave and a room yay. Turns out it’s a lot bigger than one room and is pretty huge. Really surprising. Kind of gave me an appreciation for what people are talking about when they mention the Viet Cong having tunnels all around. These things could be really substantial bases. 20170416_104022.jpg

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The thing was still a giant rectangle though built underneath a giant cave. So the second floor to it was just walking around on the roof of the concrete box with the natural cave wall above.

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The coolest thing about the whole ride though was the drive. Going up and down the hills and through the valleys was really cool. It was kind of like the day before but on land and a lot more majestic. Going through the hills though was pretty freaky though. Sure it looked really cool but there were lots of zigs and zags and I was having trouble going around all of them. So I went about 2mph and drifted down while my friend raced around the turns.

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Top of the national park

I also went to the national park. It was a lot longer of a hike and a lot harder of one too. I was dying out there! KakaoTalk_20170419_103735410.jpg

My favorite part though was getting to the other side of the island.

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We came down from the hills on the far side of the picture and it was sweet. Looking out before making my way down I could see the inlet and the road winding and flowing next to the water. It felt like I was in Monte Carlo or some James Bond movie, racing next to the water. However the road was quite bad so I went pretty slow, it was still cool either way.

Pretty much the same thing

After this we bustled back to the rental because we had to catch the last boat out. The boat out was a speed boat and only took 45 minutes to get back. Being back in Hai Phong we still had about 6 hours till the plane left at 11. 20170416_172717

Didn’t really do much. Got a cab to Big C which is like a Vietnamese Walmart. They had Lotteria too! Lots of chicken. So we just messed around there then walked to a street and got something to eat. When all was said and done we had like 3 hours so we just went to the airport. Pro tip: give them your ARC (residency card) with your passport. Thankfully we were ahead of schedule and we landed in Incheon at 5 instead of 6 on Monday morning.

A few things I found interesting was the obsession with the USD and how important it was. Also how many Europeans were around I was expecting a lot more people from English speaking countries. Then the fishing boats and everywhere else were decked out in Vietnam flags.

Overall the trip was really awesome and I’m glad I went. Like I said in the beginning I was pretty nervous about everything, but I really had no trouble with a thing. It all worked out in the end.

Don’t forget the Pens just beat the Blue Jackets and won the series! Rooting for Nashville too.