Today, I met up with my Korean friend, Jihoon, because he wanted to give me a Korean grammar book so I can practice my language skills. I thought that was so nice of him! We met at the bus stop nearest my apartment and decided to go for bubble tea at a place I discovered a few days ago. He told me he’s only had it once before. I got honey melon and he got taro. It was delicious and we hung out in the cafe and talked.
After a while, he asked me if I had been to the bamboo forest yet. I hadn’t, but I was curious. He said he would take me there. So, we gathered our things and walked to the bus. I think I’ve mentioned before, but riding the bus here is insane. The driver will start driving before the doors are even closed. You will trip and stumble like a drunk person all the way to your seat. If you can find one, that is. If not, good luck clutching onto the handles, or a seat, and trying to avoid crashing into the ajumma beside you. It’s almost like a game. A game that isn’t fun, but still requires lots of skill.
Finally, we made it to our stop near the Taehwa River. Jihoon and I walked over and there was a beautiful structure I was eager to learn more about. He explained it to me as a temple where his ancestors would drink a lot. They really like alcohol in Korea. We stopped in a tiny museum at the foot of the temple, which had lots of beautiful maps and artifacts. Then, we climbed up the stairs and went inside (after taking our shoes off, of course). It was so incredible, as was the view of the Taehwa River.
View of the Taehwa River.
View of the Taehwa River.
We put our shoes on and walked down the path to the bamboo forest. There were lots of people out and soothing music played from a series of speakers that lined the path. It was very cool. You could see mountains and trees and so much beautiful greenery. There was also a bridge that Jihoon and I decided to climb up and walk across. He almost got hit by a cyclist. That’s when we turned around and just went to the forest.
Me! At a rock!
Approaching the bamboo forest.
Near the entrance, there were exercise machines set up for anyone who wanted to use them. Pretty cool. We began our walk. The bamboo was so amazing, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was a deep jade and towered above us. Near the top, the leaves fluttered around in the breeze. It was almost like I had been transported to some fantasy land. I was simply in awe, touching it and taking pictures.
Me by the bamboo. Like a tourist.
After finding our way out, we walked around several fields of flowers before making our way back to the bus stop. Jihoon rode with me until we got to my stop, before heading home himself.
I rested at home for a bit before walking to meet my friend Lily in Samsan. We have been talking online for several months, but this would be our first time meeting in person. She told me to meet her at the Lotte Department Store Plaza. After a while, we found each other (I couldn’t get WiFi and missed several of her messages). She wanted to take me for barbecue and I followed her through the tight, crowded streets of Samsan. We finally found our restaurant, one which specialized in pork belly. Yum!
The waiters brought out all the banchan and Lily asked me if I had had somaek yet. I hadn’t. Somaek is a combination of soju and beer. She poured half a shot of soju, poured it into a beer glass, added beer, and gave the mixture one hard jab with a long spoon to mix it. “GAMBAE,” we shouted, which means “cheers!”
There was kimchi and spicy bean sprouts and spicy green onions. On the grill, we also had mushrooms, pumpkin, onions. The waiter brought the pork out and began to cook it for us. After a while, we even got to see what Lily called “the fire show.” It was awesome. She showed me how to take a lettuce leaf, place a perilla leaf in it, then some pickled onion, and the meat. We rolled it all up and ate it in one bite. Delicious! After we finished the pork, Lily ordered us some fried rice. They cooked it on the grill in front of us and there was kimchi, greens, egg, and cheese inside.
Pork belly barbecue.
Following dinner, we decided to go for a drink at Thursday Party. We talked about music, movies, and work. Lily taught me to say some new words in Korean and told me that my pronunciation was good. I hope she wasn’t just saying that! I also tried to read hangeul on several signs around the bar, and she was very impressed. I’m trying!