I’ll be blunt. We’re eating our way through Seoul, unable to pass whatever’s being fried or boiled or grilled at the next street vendor. I could lie and say we’re focused on the museums and historical sights of this massive city, and taking in the modern culture (and odd American exports). That’s all happening, but only between meals. And snacks. And meal-snacks.
A lot of that is thanks to the incredibly friendly people who keep pointing us in the right direction. Locals regularly walk right up to us — personal space, they care not! — if we look remotely lost or confused (so, every day). That’s surprising for a city this large, dense and cosmopolitan.
After a whirlwind trip through Japan, we had a choice for our limited time in South Korea: Keep the same pace to zigzag the southern part of the country — including going to an internationally known mud festival — or rest.
We arrived in South Korea via the port city of Busan, thanks to a ferry from Japan. Busan came highly recommended from friends who’d lived in South Korea, and we were in the region during the Boryeong Mud Festival, which Lonely Planet lists as a “must see.” The fest draws close to a million people each July to frolic in giant vats of mud between concerts, raves and other festivities.
And this, my friends, is the difference between traveling in your 20s and … not in your 20s.
Gray-blue sea surrounds us now that Japan has faded off the ship’s stern. We’re alone, walking the windy port-side deck while awaiting the first glimpse of South Korea. A uniformed sailor appears in the windowed passageway above us. His stance — legs wide, hands clasped, eyes locked on us through sunglasses — signals we’re a bit too close to the lifeboats.
We’re about to enter a new country from the sea, which I love, because it offers a slow, anticipatory view of the travels ahead. I’m also fresh off what may have been the best nap of my adult life, lulled to sleep by calm seas and lapping waves, while resting on a sunlight-warmed lounging mat.
Once again, Japan doesn’t disappoint the budget traveler.