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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Japan & Korea - A little of this, a little of that

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I am going to go ahead and commit myself to writing a trip report now before too much time goes by and I decide it's not worth the effort and I have forgotten half the details! It may take me a bit to finish as I tend to ramble, I am still jet lagged and I came back to a big pile of stuff on my desk I am still trying to wade through.

This may be of no interest and little use to anyone but this is the first trip we have taken in six years, aside from our usual Hawaiian poolside vacation, so I feel obligated to make some kind of contribution to Fodor's other than my lounge input.

The original purpose of our trip was to celebrate our oldest son's and daughter in law's marriage which technically happened last December but it was just filing paperwork at a government office. Our son has been living and working in South Korea for the last seven years, his wife is Korean. The intention was to have some type of reception or ceremony in the Spring. Options were explored, time ran short and they decided that a ceremony wasn't really important to them (nor to us) and they couldn't find a place they liked for a reception and it would also have been fairly expensive to have it in Seoul because there would then be an obligation to invite a large number of people who they really didn't care about! They decided the most important thing to them was the chance for the two families to meet, have some time to get to know each other and relax a bit. My son found a large rental house on Jeju Island and booked it for three nights in September. I then went into my planning frenzy, trying to decide on when to go and fit in the wedding trip etc.

Originally the plan was to spend about ten days in Korea. Our younger son was also going along with us. We had visited Korea once before six years ago but we were only in Seoul for a few days and then went to Gwangju where our son was working. We didn't really get a chance to see much as we were mostly there to see our son and we were not there for very long. This time I wanted to see more. I had everything planned out and as I was ready to book flights my husband informed me if he was already going to Korea he really should stop in Japan to meet with a company we do business with. This meant he wanted to cut down time in Korea. I wasn't happy. I could really ramble at his point but this is already way too rambley and I have yet to report anything. In the end we wound up being invited to spend time in Japan with friends, my husband had his business meeting and we had almost enough time to spend in Korea before we all got sick of each other!

Now I will check my notes and see if I can find anything of interest to say about our time in Japan!

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    Don't even think about drawing comparisons, SeeHag! You had a taste of two different cultures in a very short period of time, so I'm confident that your observations will prove enlightening. My TR was based on an ENTIRELY different kind of trip -- a month in South Korea, on my own, visiting places that are almost never covered here on Fodor's. I'm looking forward to the chance to see a few of those places through another person's eyes and to learning whether you thought Japan and South Korea as different as I found them on my widely separated visits.

    (That said, I thank you again for your compliments. :-) )

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    Japan!!!!

    After stressing out about a number of things including my husband’s failure to book his ticket under the name that appears on his passport, what to buy to give to Japanese business associates, what size suitcase to take, what to pack/not pack and what kind of carryon bag or purse to take it was finally time to travel. My husband corrected his name at the last minute a day or two before we left, I was forbidden to buy another smaller suitcase because we have no more room to store it, I under packed for the first time in my life and somehow I am wearing the same pink shirt in every photo taken, I used a purse I already had and it was fine and I found out the $75.00 of gourmet beef jerky I bought is not allowed to be taken into Japan due to concerns about mad cow disease so we took most of it on the plane for a snack!
    We left the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and I wasn’t sure what to expect at LAX but it was really pretty deserted by noon and we had time to wait in the Delta lounge. My husband is nearly 6’7” and really can’t ride in coach for a ten hour flight so he used miles to upgrade to business while my son and I sat in steerage. He did come back and visit us on the flight long enough to describe his personal pod sleeping area and meal and get his sleeping pill from me.

    My son and I managed to doze for a few hours and didn’t feel too bad by the time we arrived at Narita around 4:30 pm. We breezed through customs and made it just in time to take the last direct limo bus to the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel. This hotel is advertised as the tallest hotel in Japan, occupying floors 52 through 70! It is right on Yokohama Bay and is part of the Minato Mirai 21 area, described in the Japan-guide.com as “a seaside urban area whose name means "harbor of the future". It has many large high-rises, including the Landmark Tower, which was Japan's tallest building from 1993 until 2014. The area was a large shipyard until the 1980s, when development began to turn it into a new city center.” There is a shopping center and an amusement park that I wish we had more time to explore. There is a giant ferris wheel with lights all over it and it is quite a sight to see from the top of the hotel. We enjoyed taking a quick walk around the area the next morning before breakfast.

    Our stop in Japan was to spend a couple of days with a married couple that we are friends and business associates with. They are currently living in the US but go to Japan on business for several weeks at a time. They were going to be there during the same week that we would be there. He is a Brit and she is Japanese. They are going to retire in Japan and recently purchased a home in Ito, on the Izu peninsula. They are both golfers and so is my husband. When he visits in California he and DH always golf and he wanted to take DH golfing in Japan. She is tons of fun and would have taken us on a two week guided tour of Japan if we had let her!

    Instead she had us meet them in Yokohama at the Park Royal where they were staying, and spend the first night and then the next day they would take us sightseeing. Originally we would stop the following night at a golf resort and then the two husbands would golf the following day and afterwards we would take the train to Osaka where DH had a meeting on Friday. The golf resorts were all fairly expensive and because we had our adult son with us, some of the hotels didn’t allow three adults in a room which made it more costly for two rooms. They wound up getting the new house sooner than expected so she said if we didn’t mind sleeping in the tatami room on the floor we could stay there instead. We were honored by the offer! We had all been to Japan before but my son and I had never been inside of a private home so I was interested to see what it would be like.

    My husband has had various connections to Japanese businesses over the years, and many years ago he had a Japanese customer who we wound up being friends with him and his family. We went to Japan and he visited the US often and invited our oldest son to come and spend the summer with them when he was fourteen. We kept in touch and then suddenly we stopped hearing from him. E-mails and voice mails were not returned. We were really worried but didn’t know what to do. Several years went by and finally he wrote a letter to tell us that his wife had died from breast cancer after a long illness. His English is not very clear but he said he felt ashamed. We would hear from him once every year or two. We had not heard from him for awhile and my husband said while we were planning the trip he wished we had time to see him. The very next day my husband got a friend request from him on Facebook!It turned out he would be in Yokohama the same time that we would but the only day we could meet was the day we arrived.

    We checked into the hotel, our son had his own room since the hotel didn’t allow him to share our room. The hotel is a very nice hotel although the décor is a bit dated. The rooms are very large and the restrooms were very large especially by Japanese standards. We have been in Yokohama several times and always stayed at the Sheraton but our friends really like Royal Park and since they were staying there and we were leaving early the next morning it was the best place to stay. The bar and restaurant were very expensive typical of that type of hotel.

    We then met with our long lost friend in the lobby. He had mentioned he would be with his partner and we speculated on what that might mean! I thought it was a business partner, but it turned out to be his girlfriend. I was afraid talking about his deceased wife might be uncomfortable but it turns out that his girlfriend was his wife’s best friend from high school who had also not known she had passed away until much later. We later found out that in Japan it isn’t unusual for people to keep a serious illness very private and when a family member dies it is a tradition to spend a year in sort of a private mourning. We enjoyed seeing him happy.

    We went up the lounge at the top of the hotel and met our other friends and had drinks and ate a snack. There was a ridiculous cover charge and drinks and appetizers were pretty expensive. A jazz band was playing and our son said it was just like “Lost in Translation” but without Scarlett Johanssen! We managed to stay awake and visit for a few hours but soon it was time for sleep to get up early for sightseeing.

    This is way too long already and it’s only the first day!

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    kja, I think my report is mostly about personal connections with a side of travel!

    nelsonian, too bad she couldn't work Japan into the work schedule, great excuse for you to take a trip! By the way, do you know your screen name always gets auto corrected to melatonin on my stupid Kindle!!!

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    Yay, trip report! I love reading all trip reports, or even when people share tidbits about an experience by way of giving suggestions or feedback on an info request thread. I love all of it. Keep going please! :-D

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    How cool Nelsonian!!! Where will she be? Our friends live near Yokohama and she is a music lover and plays the piano. If she is near there I will tell her to go! When does she leave for Busan?

    I have much guilt over not getting my trip report done! I left a trainee to do my job for two weeks and she did great but there are lots of things she wasn't trained on that were left undone and I am playing catch up! And last weekend my husband told me at the last minute he didn't care if we had decided our trip was also our birthday and anniversary gift, we were going to get away for a few days to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary so no time then! I can't do it on my tablet so I need to use my work computer...excuses excuses!!

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    Great to have some more of your report SeeHag and congratulations on your anniversary. It deserves being celebrated properly.

    I'm heading back to South Korea Monday but not to Jeju. I'm looking forward to hearing about that and enjoying the Japan report as well.

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    Okay, the pressure was on so I got through another day. It will get briefer after this I promise!

    The weather had been a concern before we left, Japan had terrible flooding and mudslides in the weeks leading up to our trip but Monday morning we woke up really early with light streaming through the window. The view of Yokohama Bay spread out shining and bright was great from the room on the 59th floor.

    It was very early and we felt like getting in some activity after the previous day’s flight so we went out for a walk around the amusement park and surrounding waterfront. It has a nice park area and we watched a few people out early on the water taking paddle board lessons. I know Yokohama is not a sought after place for tourists but we have enjoyed our stays there. It’s close to Kamakura, it has the world’s largest Chinatown and it has a ramen museum! However we were only there for the night and morning! We went back and packed an overnight bag to take with us and the rest of the luggage was then sent ahead to our hotel in Osaka since we were traveling by car to our friends and then the next day we took the train to Osaka. I think we paid about $50.00 for three suitcases to be sent ahead. We met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, the same place we had drinks the night before and it was just as pricey, about $35.00 per person if I remember correctly. It was a really great buffet with all the traditional Japanese and Chinese items as well as a full western breakfast selection. We then checked out and loaded into the Toyota van our friends rented so we would all be comfortable.

    Off we went to Hakone. I was surprised at how little traffic there was at 9:00 am in a huge city like Yokohama. We all had a good laugh when my son who was sitting in the very back of the van admitted that he had forgotten that the driver’s side was on the right and he had been really nervous because he didn’t realize that Tomoko wasn’t driving and she kept looking over her shoulder to talk to us! We drove for about an hour and a half through really beautiful hills and mountains on a windy road. It seemed like we stopped at a toll booth every fifteen minutes. Our friend was so disappointed that it was cloudy when we started to get closer to Hakone because it was obscuring the view of Mt Fuji, which she was keen on having us see.

    We drove through Hakone and on to Onshi Hakone Koen Park, a lovely garden overlooking Ashino-ko Lake. It used to be an Imperial villa. The villa was destroyed by earthquakes but it has been rebuilt to look like one of the originals. We wandered around and enjoyed the surroundings of beautifully manicured gardens, hoping Fuji-san would peek through but the clouds were too heavy. We then drove back to Hakone and did some shopping. The town is known for the inlaid wood puzzle boxes made there so we picked up some souvenirs made from the wood and I bought a pair of tiny little thong sandals for my friend’s little granddaughter. We stopped for lunch at a soba place and had some mochi for dessert. Our friend Tomoko said that Hakone is known for this treat. We split a couple of different types. We were all stuffed by the time we finished lunch.

    It was then time to head back down through the mountains to the town of Ito on the Izu peninsula where our friends just purchased a retirement home. They have lived in Japan, the UK and most recently the US where they have a home. They decided that Japan was the best place to retire and they like the Izu peninsula because it has pretty beaches and some nice smaller towns. On previous trips to Japan we have seen mostly huge cities, so it was so nice to see the countryside and the smaller towns we went through. We stopped at several scenic turnouts still hoping to see Mt Fuji but no luck. We still had great views back to Hakone and the lake and then the other direction looking out over the peninsula. We went some picturesque little farming areas in the lush green hills and finally came to the coast.

    Originally we planned on staying at a golf resort where there are also hot springs. This area is filled with onsens, golf courses, hotels and ryokans. The town of Ito is a little fishing village. As we got closer to Ito we could see a peak, Mt Omuro which is an extinct volcano that they told us was right next to their home. They said you can take a lift to the top. They had never explored it so we decided to check it out. It was a funky little place with a chair lift that looked a little sketchy but I feel safe in Japan so what the heck! The peak is super steep, covered in grass and at the summit there are paths to circle the crater. In the center of the crater there was an archery area. The lift was a quick ride and the view from the top was spectacular. You could see for miles up and down the peninsula. We kept taking pictures but they just don’t capture the panorama. Finally the clouds parted a bit and we could see a small bit of Mt Fuji! We could look out and see the golf course that the two guys would be playing the next morning. We hopped back in the van and headed to Ito.

    We could have gone out to dinner, there are lots of good restaurants in the area but our friends thought a picnic at home would be fun. In addition, our host enjoys having cocktails and there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving in Japan. We asked what the penalties are and apparently everyone in the car goes to jail, not just the driver! The picnic was looking better and better! I love to go to a grocery store when I am in a different country so this was great fun for me. The place was the size of a smaller American grocery but it was full of beautiful fruits and vegetables, which were displayed very nicely. I have never seen such huge pieces of fruit! We all wandered around throwing whatever looked interesting into the multiple carts we had. We got lots of curious glances, one small Japanese woman, one tall white woman and three very tall white men all scouring the aisles! We got several big platters of sushi and sashimi for really reasonable prices. Lots of beer and sake too! We checked out and took our booty back to the house!

    The house is on a hillside with views of the ocean in the distance. It is an interesting place. Built in the 70’s and engineered to be very earthquake resistant. The previous owner was a Tokyo lawyer who built the place as his tennis retreat. It has a huge yard with a tennis court and beautiful garden. The downstairs bathroom is like a spa at a tennis club, giant soaking tub big enough for five or six people and five showerheads! There was hot mineral spring water piped to the house. There were also three water closets in a row off of the hallway. They will have some remodeling to do but it is a great house! We ate our picnic at the table with recessed area for your legs, sitting on the floor. After much eating and drinking, our son serenaded us on his guitar and then we retired to the tatami rooms where our futons awaited. I was nervous about sleeping on them as I have been having some back problems, but they were double thick and I I slept fine. I think the sake may have helped!

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    Okay I pretended to be working and fit in a bit more!

    The next morning was golf for my husband and Malcolm at the Kawana Resort. The course is rated as one of the top 100 golf courses in the world. My husband said the views were outstanding, similar to Pebble Beach and the course kicked his butt! There were some steep hills and it left his knees aching for days! They quit keeping score so neither did too well. When they went to pay at the clubhouse the guy told them to be particularly careful on one hole if their balls went off into one area. He said just forget the ball because there was a nasty type of bee that had a nest somewhere that they couldn’t locate and if you encounter one it will shoot some liquid on you that then attracts all the other bees to come and sting you! They took him at his word!

    Tomoko and I went for a stroll in the neighborhood and my son went for a run. It was another warm sunny day and as we walked we could hear the cicadas buzzing but mostly it was very quiet. The area is hilly and the main street is lined with cherry trees which attract visitors in the spring. The homes were all fairly large and on decent size lots. Every home was different and looked to be built in different eras. None of them where what I would call a traditional looking Japanese building, no blue tile roofs etc.

    The guys got back from golf and it was time to go grab lunch on our way to catch the train to Osaka. We had a bit of a drive from Ito to the station in Odawara. We stopped at a revolving sushi restaurant and had some very fresh sushi for not much more than lunch at Subway!

    The drive from Ito to Odawara was right along the coast and the whole area reminded us of Laguna Beach or even places on the Mediterranean. There was a bay where we saw surfers trying to catch a wave so we felt like we were back in California. I would recommend this area of Japan to anyone who wants to take a trip out of the Tokyo area and see some sights that don’t draw many tourists. Farther south on the peninsula there are some beautiful white sand beaches. I would love to come back again and have more time to explore. Our wonderful hosts have extended an open invitation and I hope to take them up on it!

    Traffic was fairly heavy but we made it in time to stop at the “combini” to pick up some snacks for the train. I love Japanese convenience stores and all of the great junk food they stock. It is actually pretty good quality stuff. We said goodbye at the station and found our platform with about 15 minutes to spare. It is so exciting to stand there and watch those bullet trains shoot past. Like clockwork the train arrived and we settled into our comfortable seats and watched the scenery go by. Soon we were pulling into Osaka station.

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    Seehag, DD will be at Fukuoka, which seems to be directly opposite Busan, the two places are connected by ferry. She starts in Busan on the 13th October.

    I am really enjoying your report, love all the details.

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    Osaka

    We were happy to have sent our bags ahead while trudging through Osaka station. I must admit that busy subway stations give me angst! We made our way to the taxi line and told the driver we wanted to go to the Marriott Miyako hotel. It was then I realized I meant to e-mail the hotel and ask them to send me the address in Japanese as the hotel is somewhat new and I had read in reviews that people had a hard time finding the place. I showed him the address in English and I knew it was right next to Tennoji station so I said that and he seemed to know how to get there. He looked a little confused when we got to the location and finally drove into a parking lot next to a department store. I was pretty sure that we were not in the correct place and in fact remembered a Trip Advisor review that described being dropped off in the same spot and having to walk a ways to the hotel. It wasn’t until after the taxi drove off that I realized why they were going to this location, there is a Miyako hotel there, just not the Marriott. We could see signs that said Marriott Miyako so we followed them for about a block and finally came to the entrance to the building and took the elevator to the 37th floor to check in.

    We were told that our first hotel in Yokohama was the tallest building in Japan but the Marriott which just opened in March has actually claimed that title. It occupies the 38th to 57th floor of the Abeno Harukas building. The hotel is beautiful, very modern with striking light fixtures and sleek furnishings. A couple of reviews I read mentioned that there seemed to be a lack of English speaking employees for a western owned hotel in a large city. I had booked a room with a queen sized bed and a roll-away for our son. Our confirmation had that printed on it so we told the guy at the check in desk and he seemed to understand but then as he checked the computer he looked a little confused and he said “Queen Bed?” and we said yes with a roll-away. The he said “Double Beds?” No, queen with a roll-away. He got another clerk who presumably spoke more English and they conversed with each other a bit. The second guy asked the same questions. We gave the same answers and pointed at the confirmation. They both looked embarrassed and confused but they called the bell guy over who had our bags that were shipped ahead and he took us to our room. There was one queen bed and that was it, no roll-away. The bell boy spoke even less English but somehow he managed to convey the problem to the desk and they told us to wait in the room and about 15 minutes later we were in a room with two doubles and a roll-away. All good we had our own beds! No wonder they were giving us odd looks, they must have been wondering how three big people were going to sleep in one queen sized bed!

    The room was really large even with three beds in it along with all of us. It had a huge bathroom with the sink area separate from the bath area, and of course the high tech washlet was in its own room with a control panel that looked like it could launch a rocket, which I guess it kind of did if you got the water jet setting too high! The bath area of the bathroom was one big room with a large deep soaking tub and a separate shower that is the traditional Japanese style with a wooden bench to sit on. Like a big wet room with a drain in the floor.

    We freshened up and since it was my birthday I picked Okonomiyaki as my choice of food for dinner. We asked the concierge and she directed us to a place in the subway station which was accessible from the basement of the building. If you have never had this dish it is known as Japanese pizza but to me it is more like a pancake. It has flour, eggs, cabbage, pork (bacon), shrimp or other seafood, and is topped with a variety of condiments like sweet sauce (Okonomi Sauce), mayonnaise, dried seaweed and dried fish flakes. Normally they bring out the ingredients and you cook them like a pancake on the griddle at your table. We found the place and although they had the tables with the built in grill it looked like they were getting ready to close and they just brought out the already cooked “pancakes” and set them on the grill to keep them warm. It was a little disappointing, not up to my okonomiyaki standards! Even though we live where there are lots of Japanese restaurants there are very few that serve this savory dish. Osaka is supposed to be the home of the dish so I was hoping for better. We headed back to the room and our son decided to take a cab to some area he read about to see if he could find a fun bar and people his age. We had just dozed off when he was back and said he went on a wild goose chase and never found any place.

    Don’t read this next entry if you are a serious traveler as it is travel sacrilege.

    We only had one entire free day in Osaka so the plan was to take the train into Kyoto and spend the day and evening sightseeing. My husband and I had spent time in Kyoto on a previous trip but it was years ago and we missed many things and our son had never been there. I originally was inspired by poster Don Topaz to rent bikes and take a guided tour for half a day but as the trip approached the forecast was for heavy rain and I was also having some back problems so I decided not to book anything.

    I talked to the concierge and mentioned a few places I wanted to see but in looking at a map they were spread out over a wide area. She suggested a route we could easily walk from the station and see quite a few places. It wasn't ideal but I knew it would satisfy the DH & son. It was threatening rain and about 80 out so I knew we probably wouldn't be spending a full day sightseeing.

    We took the subway and followed the directions the concierge gave us. I will readily admit to being intimidated by negotiating subways and while I know Japan has a very easy to use train system I still get anxious. My anxiety isn't helped by the lack of willingness by “some people” to read directions or ask for help. By the time we got off the last train in Kyoto we were all a bit crabby and hot. We walked down the main street from the station following the route on our map. DH decided he needed an iced coffee so we stopped in a bakery. We had a snack and coffee and headed on. I love to shop and we were passing lots of shops but I figured we better get to the sights so I only whined a little as we passed the most enticing places.

    We came to the first shrine, I think it was Yasaka shrine, but it was about that time that I discovered I had left my map with all of that information back at the coffee shop. This is also when it began to mist a bit and I think it was at least 85 out. We enjoyed the shrine and when we were done I pointed in the direction I remembered as the route on the map. DH had a different recollection. I mentioned that many other tourist types were going the way I remembered it being. I was told just pick a direction, so I wimped out and went the way DH remembered it being because I have a bad memory, he is usually right and that way if he was wrong I wouldn’t get blamed! Of course after we had walked another three quarters of a mile we were not seeing anything that looked like tourists or points of interest and DH was sweating profusely and decided it was time to change his shirt having had the foresight to bring an extra!

    We wandered around and finally found a noodle place that was just opening for lunch and seemed a few degrees cooler than outside. We cooled down a bit and finished lunch and walked back outside where it started raining heavily. That pushed our level of general crankiness and annoyance over the edge and we all decided our cultural enrichment would have to wait for another occasion. We found our way back to the station without killing each other. I kept hearing the echoes of all of these excellent, detailed trip reports and people asking if a week in Kyoto is enough and feeling like a poor representation of a Fodorite!

    That night we took advantage of DH’s Marriott gold status and went to the club lounge for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and they also had desserts. This was enough for our dinner. Our son went out again in search of whatever twenty seven year olds in a foreign city search for. I don’t ask! We were still tired from our day so we turned in. DS was back pretty early; he had found a foreigner bar in the Dontonbori area and he said he was rebuffed buy a couple of Russian girls so he just walked around and took photos.

    The next afternoon DH had a business meeting to attend and we were all invited to go out to dinner afterwards. It was sprinkling and hot again so we just went to the shopping center next to the hotel. I love the basement food courts in hotels and we wandered around sampled a few things and oddly enough bought a bottle of California wine for one of the business people we would be seeing. We could have paid half if we had brought it with us from home but it wasn’t convenient. DH went to his meeting and my son and I shopped at the Uniqlo store. The sale prices there were actually a better price than I have seen on the US website. We both got some good deals. We mentioned this at dinner and scored points with our hosts because their company makes fabric for Uniqlo!

    When it was time to meet for dinner they actually had someone come and get my son and I in a taxi rather than just have us meet them. It is always a wonderful experience to be the guest of a Japanese business. They knew my husband loves all Japanese food and they asked if we were okay with sushi. Yes of course! We wound up walking around in the Dontonbori area before dinner. It is a great place to eat; it is known for excellent restaurants, crazy neon lighted signs, bars and shopping. I didn’t realize it until one of our Japanese hosts pointed it out but many of the signs in the shops were in Chinese and the majority of the tourists there were Chinese. This is a big change from what it was the last time we were in Japan six years ago.

    We had a delicious meal accompanied by lots of sake, soju and beer. It got pretty boisterous! We were toasting in different languages and my husband taught them “Here’s mud in your eye!” They all thought it was hilarious when it was translated so we had a few more “Muds in your eyes!” Typically a business dinner like this ends with a stroll to another kind of restaurant like a ramen place or yakiniku for more drinks and a snack and that night held true to form. It was decided we needed to go to the best Takoyaki place in Osaka and try the Osaka style versus the Kobe style to see what we thought was best. The button on my pants was ready to pop off but I didn't want to be rude! Takoyaki is an Osaka specialty; deep fried balls of dough filled with octopus and other tasty items. They had a seasoned mayonnaise sauce drizzled over one and the other was more of a teriyaki flavor. So we sat by the canal that runs through the Dontonbori and drank more beer and sampled the steaming hot Takoyaki. We all decided the Osaka style was the best. We really enjoyed our evening out and I could hear the big boss trying to find out who was going to be available to drive us to Kansai the next morning for our flight to Korea. I would have felt bad ruining some junior level guy's Saturday morning so I quickly said we had already purchased tickets on the limo bus even though we had not! They did make one guy ride back to the hotel with us to make sure we were ok!

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    Oh, I think all travellers have occasional days like your Kyoto day -- disappointing at the time but I really wouldn't feel guilty about it! Sometimes Pete and I realise that we're not in the mood to do some major sight that really is a "must-see" and we just skip it and chill out in a coffee shop or our hotel room with our books and some snacks/ drinks. Usually not for an entire day but sometimes you just need to say, "No, I know it's the done thing but I ain't doing it!"

    Your evening with the business colleagues sounds such fun though, I'm very envious of that as one clearly gets such a different insight and experience when being taken out in that way as to going it alone. What a blast!

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    Sorry this is taking so long...

    On to Korea!

    We checked out of the Osaka Marriott Miyako. I really liked this hotel and would recommend it if you are staying in Osaka. I was sad to leave the big bathroom, floor to ceiling windows with the view of the city from up in the clouds, the bed I got to have to myself, the Nespresso coffee maker, and the lounge with free food and drinks that were actually really good!

    The limo bus office was right around the corner from the hotel so we bought our tickets and made our way to Kansai. Smooth check in with Korean Air and soon we were on our way to Gimpo. Our last trip we flew into Incheon which is a beautiful airport but it was still a long ride into Seoul. Gimpo is much closer and it is a really nice airport on a much smaller scale. There is both an international terminal and a domestic terminal but everything is pretty modern and updated. Our son and daughter in law met us at the airport and we took a jumbo taxi van back to our hotel.

    Again we chose to stay at a Marriott because we had points we could use. On our last trip to Seoul the only Marriott property was the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul but there are now quite a few new properties. We made our choice based on what we thought was convenient to our son’s place and some of the places we would be going. We narrowed it down to the Courtyard Times Square and the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul. The Courtyard won out because we could use less points and it was closer to our son’s but in hindsight I wish we had chosen the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square because it is in a much nicer area, closer to some of the sightseeing areas and it would have been easier to use the subway. We didn’t wind up using the subway because cabs are so inexpensive in Seoul! All of the reviews of both hotels were very good and the Courtyard was closer to a regular Marriott hotel than the Courtyards in the US. It was very new and it is next to a new mall with a big food court so that was convenient. There was a Lotte department store about a half block away that was connected to a subway station. When we checked in I found it interesting that all of the staff was much more fluent in English than the staff at the Osaka Marriott. Another surprise came when we decided to have a drink and some snacks in the hotel lounge. The prices were ridiculously expensive, much higher than the Marriott in Osaka. Regular well drinks were about $12.00 to $15.00 and the buffalo wings were about $15.00! Luckily there was a lounge level where we could have breakfast and cocktails or we could have breakfast in the hotel restaurant at no charge.

    We had a nice large room with a king bed. I meant to ask for a room with a view of the garden but I forgot so we got the view of the fire station across the street and the accompanying occasional siren sounds but it wasn’t really bothersome. The bathroom wasn’t as spacious and nice as the Osaka Marriott but it was still nicer than a typical Courtyard. The kids took off to go home and we went and freshened up to go meet them and see their apartment .We would then go to meet our new Korean family.

    We had their address written in Hangul and our son said that the taxi driver might not want to take us all the way to the top of the hill up the windy road to their apartment or might not be able to figure it out because the GPS doesn’t always show the address, so we should just call him and he would explain to the driver. It should only have taken about 15 minutes to get to their place but we had arrived during Chuseok which is Korean Thanksgiving. Most business shut down and families gather together to celebrate their ancestor’s memories. There is a large park we had to go around and apparently there were events going on because we got stuck in a huge traffic jam rivaling anything in Los Angeles. The only difference was the many people dressed in traditional Hanboks, a garment similar to a Kimono. We finally got to the neighborhood and the poor driver was so frazzled we just had him let us out at the bottom of the hill and we called our son! They live in an old neighborhood of low rise apartment buildings in an area that is compared to Brooklyn. We noticed a bunch of buildings that had red flags posted near their doors and our son explained that this area has been deemed a redevelopment district by the government and people are protesting because it is like eminent domain. The buildings are slated to be torn down and rebuilt as larger apartment buildings. The owners are compensated but at a less than fair amount but then offered a supposed discount to buy a new apartment in the new building. They have a small two bedroom apartment, one bedroom is my DIL’s closet!  She is in the fashion business so that is how she rationalizes it!

    We all went out and caught two cabs to take us to our DIL’s parent’s apartment where they were waiting to serve us a special dinner. They were very nervous to have us at their house. Since they don’t have much furniture and normally sit on the floor at a low table, they had gone out and purchased a large table and borrowed chairs for everyone to sit at since they knew we were not used that arrangement! They have a very modest apartment with a small kitchen. When we walked in the table was loaded with plates and plates of food! They must have been cooking for two days! The group consisted of DH, me our younger son, our older son and DIL, our DIL’s mother and father, her younger brother, her sister and her sister’s husband and their three year old daughter. This was a huge crowd for the room! Everyone greeted us warmly, no English on their part and no Korean on ours! Our poor son was having a hard time eating because he was so busy translating and telling us what dishes we were eating!

    It was a delicious meal. We had three kinds of kimchee all of it homemade and each very different from the other. One was more fermented, and one was what was called a washed kimchee, so none of the red chili paste and garlic. None of it was hot. There was Japchae, a delicious noodle dish with mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic, and spinach. My favorite, Pajeon, which is like a seafood pancake with green onions, a raw beef dish that was cut into small strips and marinated in sesame oil and other seasonings. I also like the Sundae, a blood sausage with cellophane noodles. I really wish I had taken notes on what we were served because there were so many things I have forgotten what they all were. My son said that his in laws are frugal in some ways, they will only purchase the highest quality ingredients when they are cooking special meals. They go to a place out in the country to buy their beef and vegetables. The quality showed in the meal. There was a grilled thinly cut steak that was so tender you could cut it with a fork (or chopstick!) We also had pork belly that was grilled with some dipping sauce. Dessert was a cold sweet broth with rice in it. If you are familiar with horchata it had a similar flavor but it was more watered down.

    After dinner we exchanged gifts and drank more soju and continued to tax our son’s translation skills. It was a really nice evening and we really appreciated how welcome they made us feel and how much work they went to having us to dinner in their home.

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    Oh what a lovely meeting of families, how wonderful. And what a feast. I went to a kimchi making class recently, run by the head chef of a local Korean restaurant. Such fun!

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    Kavey, when we went shopping in the mall adjacent to our hotel I was looking at appliances and we saw the special kimchee refrigerators that our son mentioned Koreans have in addition to a regular refrigerator. I knew kimchee was a staple but needing an entire refrigerator was a surprise!

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    Traditionally, they would put kimchi into earthenware pots and bury in the ground for several months, so we learned! I guess a specialist humidity/ temperature controlled fridge makes it easier!!!

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    Soudns like a great meal from the in-laws. Not many travelers get to have something that special. I am guessing you were not used to some of these foods, so it's great you were happy to explore new sensations.

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    We are lucky to live in an area that has a large Asian population so there are lots of Korean restaurants, but eating homemade food prepared from family recipes surpasses anything you can buy!

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    We had the next three days to spend in Seoul before we would leave for Jeju Island. We were not trying to fit in a lot of sightseeing so we chose some places that sounded interesting and hung around with our sons and daughter in law.

    We went to Insadong where there are lots of shops with traditional crafts and restaurants and wandered around. We snacked on street foods. The vendors have an interesting variety of mostly unhealthy food, some traditional, some not so much . I had egg griddle cakes that were savory and seemed like they would be good for breakfast. There was a place where they cut whole potatoes into a swirly shape, stuck them on a long skewer then deep fried them. You could shake on assorted seasonings when they were done. I also had some sweet sesame filled donuts. This was after we had lunch in one of the ubiquitous fried chicken places.

    I asked my son why there were so many coffee shops, fried chicken places and pizza places in Seoul. He said people retire at a fairly early age but they still want to do something and want to invest their retirement money so it has been popular to buy a franchise at one of these types of businesses. He said they have over sold them and now some people have lost their investments so now the government is regulating it more carefully and actually prohibiting a new pizza or chicken place within so many meters of a similar place!

    I checked out the brand new mall next to our hotel and it was exactly like being in any mall in the US, even some of the same stores. I looked at appliances in one department store and I saw the special refrigerators made for kimchee! No more burying it in the ground to ferment! In the high end stores I noticed there was at least one clerk in every department and as soon as you slowed down to look at something they were right there asking if you needed help. Many times as soon as you entered a shop keepers space they would call out to you. I guess I am used to either nonexistent clerks or clerks that ignore me because I was a bit put off by the attention!

    One warm evening we took a sightseeing cruise on the Han River. It was a good way to see the city skyline from the water and it was nice and cool out on the water. It was after our cruise while we were walking on the bank of the river that our DIL went and bought roasted silkworm larvae for my husband to eat. He is willing to try anything once so he dug in and decided it needed hot sauce. I was gagging but it made a good picture!

    We enjoyed walking around Dongdaemun Design Plaza one early evening. It is a cool space age looking building designed by Zaha Hadid. It looks like a spaceship, covered in shiny silver panels. It is nicely lit at night and we had fun taking pictures. Afterwards we went to the Hongdae area which is near Hongik University, an area that appeals to students and other young people as it is home to street art festivals, live music venues, street performers and lots of shops and restaurants. There is a playground area that transforms itself into a flea market at night.

    When our younger son visited his brother a year and a half ago he frequented this area with his guitar in hand and busked. Several times he made close to $100 in a short time so he decided to do the same during this visit. We met up with him and our DIL and older son. It was pretty funny, because my DIL has this little poodle that adorable that she takes everywhere with her. My son had his case open and a sign in Korean that said he was a poor foreigner and the dog was sitting in the guitar case looking really forlorn. He made quite a bit.

    Before we got there a couple stopped and watched him for a long time. They approached my older son to ask about him and it turns out they were the owners of a new recording studio. They wanted to record him and use it as a sample of their work because they really liked him. It was decided they would go the next afternoon. Nobody knew what to expect so it was a pleasant surprise that it was a legitimate studio. They had written down my son’s music website and oddly enough, when they went back home and looked it up the woman realized she had heard his music when it had been featured on the front page of the sight at the end of last year! They wound up recording for several hours and he is waiting to get a copy of it. It made him feel good that someone appreciated his music.

    After he finished recording we met up for lunch. We went to our son and DIL'd favorite BiBimBap restaurant. This is one of my favorite Korean dishes. It is usually a bowl of warm white rice topped with sautéed and seasoned vegetables chili pepper paste, soy sauce,seame oil, a fried egg and sliced meat. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating. One of our DIL's best friends was there too. She has known our DIL since junior high. She heard that my husband and I would be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary at the end of the month so she brought us a special gift that she had made for us. It is evidently a traditional anniversary gift. It was two small carved wooden ducks that were bound together with brightly colored fabric and ribbon. Ducks mate for life, so this represents a couple bound together for life. We were really touched by this young woman we had never met making this gift for us.

    She is a pretty petite young woman who has a degree in structural engineering and is employed as a construction project manager overseeing a highrise project. She showed us her picture wearing overalls and and a hardhat. We asked if the workers respected her and she said there are mainly foreigners, mostly Chinese and the don't give her crap in person but they make drawings on the drywall that are disrespectful.

    We went to Bukchon Hanok Village to see the traditional type of buildings we had missed on our earlier trip. This turned out to be one of my favorite places. There are winding alleys lined with Hanoks and other buildings. We passed several sites where construction of new Hanoks was underway. There were lots of nicer shops and restaurants in the area. I would have liked to explore longer but we had reservations to take our new extended family out for dinner.

    We all met at the largest Lotte hotel in downtown Seoul and had their buffet dinner. It was a huge buffet with everything imaginable but it didn't come any where close to the homemade food at our in laws house.

    The next morning it was time for our long weekend on Jeju Island!

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    So THAT explains all the franchises! I remember thinking that if anyone has ever wondered how many Dunkin' Donut shops could fit on a pinhead, a trip to South Korea would show you that the answer is "a LOT."

    I love the stories about your son's recording opportunity and the anniversary gift.

    Please keep sharing these great memories!

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    Jeju Island!
    We had an 11:30 flight on Thursday morning from Gimpo to Jeju on Eastar Jet. They are a discount airline and normally you can fly roundtrip for around $80.00 per person. The fares were a bit higher when we went because of the Choseok holiday. When we originally decided to go to Jeju I had checked airfare from Incheon and Gimpo and it was pretty expensive. I wasn’t aware of Eastar Jet but my son wound up booking through them. I just checked and they have an English website that looked user friendly. I would recommend them if you are thinking of flying to Jeju. They fly from several locations in Korea and also several international locations in Asia. We would be returning to Gimpo on Sunday around 11:00 AM and then depart from Gimpo at around 6:30 pm for our connecting flight to Hanaeda and then on to LAX. We decided to leave most of our luggage in the storage area of the domestic terminal since we only needed enough for the weekend.

    After an hour long flight we were circling the airport in Jeju City. From the air it reminded me a bit of the first time I saw Honolulu forty years ago. The terminal is fairly small. Outside of the baggage claim area we found some really nice limo taxis. They were big luxury vans that could seat the five of us comfortably. We negotiated a ride to the other side of the island to the home we would be staying in which was outside of Seogwipo, the other major city on the island. The island is about the same size as Oahu so it was like driving from Honolulu to the North Shore. The drive through Jeju City was not too impressive. I was surprised that it was such a large city. There were many older rundown buildings and even the newer buildings were lacking any architectural interest. Once we got away from the downtown it became prettier, more of a country feel. There were palm trees here and there but not a very tropical feel even though it was pretty green. It is known as the Hawaii of Korea but it doesn’t really have a climate like Hawaii. My husband and I both thought it was similar to up country Maui. More trees, hills and valleys. Along the way we did see evidence of the Chinese who have taken advantage of the ability to purchase land and built some really ugly condos and townhomes.

    We finally came to the turn off for the house which was in the country in the hills above Seogwipo. My son found the place on Airbnb. He needed a place that would accommodate the whole family and a friend or two. It is the home of a software engineer from Seoul who purchased it as a future retirement home. It was surrounded by gorgeous landscaping and from the house and balcony there were great views of the ocean. Here is the listing https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2849334?guests=10&s=PbC8 I think we were one of the first people to rent it. My son got it for $400.00 a night but I just looked and it is now $550.00 per night.

    It had a large updated open kitchen and dining room with a smaller tv room. There were two large bedrooms downstairs with queen size beds and a modern bathroom with a washlet type of toilet and a large shower with a wooden soaking tub next to it. Upstairs were two more large bedrooms and a bedroom for kids with a bunk bed and cool little hidden tiny playroom in one of the dormers. There was also a large room with a low table where more people could sleep, and an extra kitchenette. It was the perfect place for a large group. It was initially just me, DH, son 1, son 2 and DIL with the rest of the family flying in after work that night and picking up two ten passenger vans at the airport.

    My DIL has a friend who is a professional photographer that she worked with doing fashion shoots in Seoul who has now moved to Jeju to start a wedding photography business. He would be taking photos of them and the rest of the family. He came by the house and offered to take us to lunch at a nearby BiBimBop place and then to a tea plantation. There were too many of us for one car so we had to go in his car and a cab. The restaurant served the BiBimBap in hot pots which are stone bowls heated up so that the rice sticks to the bowl and forms a crunchy layer. Lunch was very good. I don’t remember the name but I do recall that it was close to the Museum of Sex and Health!

    We got another cab and went to the Osulloc Tea Museum. We strolled around the tea plants and then went into the museum. It was nowhere near as pretty as the Boseong tea plantation and the museum was pretty boring but it was something to do for an hour or two and the ride was a nice chance to see more of the island.

    We encountered a problem when we left the museum. Part of the group left with our photographer friend but my older son, my husband and I needed to catch a cab back to the house. It was close to 5pm and there were cabs parked around the parking lot waiting to pick up fares but when they heard where we wanted to go they were not interested because they were looking for fares going back to the tourist hotels which were farther away. An older Korean man noticed our dilemma and asked my son what the problem was. He told my son to offer them more and he thought they would make a deal so that is what he did. My son is quite a novelty, especially in the areas outside of Seoul, a young white guy who speaks fluent Korean. It is fun to see the expression on people’s faces when he starts talking! He struck up a deal with some old guy who looked like he could have fought in the Korean War. He had to be at least 75. He wasn’t the friendliest guy and didn’t seem happy but we hopped in his cab before he could change his mind. The guy was asking our son what we were doing there and who we were. My son said we were his parents and the guy asked how old my husband was. My son said he is fifty seven. The guy started laughing his head off and I asked my son what he thought was so funny. The guy was laughing because he thought my husband was older than him! My husband is bald but trust me there is no way he looks older that this guy! DH didn’t think this was very funny.

    My son had told the guy where the house was but the guy’s GPS wasn’t working and became apparent that the guy was not familiar with the area we needed to get to. I could tell be were not headed the right way but I didn’t really know how to get where we needed to be. Finally the guy stopped at a tiny market in the middle of the country and went inside to ask directions. He came back out and looked annoyed. He said something to my son and I asked for translation. He said the guy said “They were young people and young people don’t how to give directions, they just use GPS!” We drove a ways further and he stopped at a garage and spoke to the mechanic who was in the driveway. We could hear them talking and there was much gesturing and head shaking. I again asked for translation and my son said the mechanic was saying, “You are nowhere close to where that is but I don’t know how to get the either!” Finally we came to a highway and he figured out where to go and after 45 minutes of driving we found the house!

    Later that night the rest of the family arrived along with another of my DIL’s friends who spoke a little English. We sat around talking and sipping sochu and getting more comfortable with each other. There were two good ice breakers, one being my DIL’s three year old niece who had become fascinated by my 6’ 6” husband. After being really shy at first she decided they were buddies. The other ice breaker is my younger son and his guitar. We talked late into the night.

    The next day was picture day so we all had casual photos taken around the house and then the bride and groom went out to a bunch of locations around the island for photos. Our in laws had planned some sightseeing so we all piled into the two vans and went looking around.

    When we were home from the trip my younger son and I were talking about how much fun we had and how great it was to have the planning taken out of our hands. We didn’t experience any of our poor attitudes we had in Kyoto! We told them we were happy to go anywhere, see anything and eat whatever they decided on.

    They knew we liked beaches so we went to the nearest nice beach to where we were staying, which was Hyeopjae Beach. It wasn’t a very nice day, it was misty and no sun at all. It was pretty warm out so my son and my DIL’s brother went swimming and the rest of use walked around and took pictures. The beach was pretty with nice white sand and lots of black volcanic rock. There was a small offshore island. This was after beach season so there were not many people at the beach. We did see some people camping in tents.

    We then loaded back up and went to the Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a fairly large museum and there was a statue garden I would have liked to see but by this time it had started raining. We decided it was time to go back home.

    Without the sightseeing to distract us and left without our translator and at first it was a little awkward when we got back to the house. Finally my son started using the Google translation app on his phone and everyone else put the app on their phones and we had fun laughing at what the translator came up with. By the end of the afternoon we decided we didn’t need our older son to be the go between. When the couple got back I could tell my son was surprised that we were all sitting around “talking” and having a good time.

    That night my DIL’s parents insisted on cooking again and went to the grocery store to buy stuff to barbeque. She had even packed up her suitcase with her homemade kimchee and other banchan, or small side dishes often pickled or spiced vegetables. We tried to help but she shooed us out of the kitchen. Once again we had a delicious meal. They bought pork which is a specialty of the island. There are Jeju black pigs which are said to have a distinct flavor. There was a discussion about this during dinner. Here is how it is summed up on Wikipedia: “Until quite recent times, the pig was kept in order to dispose of human waste. They were housed in sties built below the outside latrines where their "food" was directly delivered. This practice was still current in the 1960s but has now given way to more conventional feeding. Some commentators are adamant that this change has adversely affected the taste” Glad to hear they have modernized. It was very flavorful! We also tried to help clean up after dinner but our efforts were again in vain. I noticed DIL’s dad was helping in the kitchen and my son said that is not the norm. He told us the next day that that was the most time he had ever spent in a kitchen in sixty five years! He owns a small trucking company and she is a housewife so I think this the first time he had stepped away from his role.

    We insisted on cooking breakfast the next morning but omlettes made from leftover dinner from the night before really did not pay back the meals we had been served. We joked that the only reason the breakfast was good was the ingredients were all leftovers from the previous night’s meal!

    After breakfast we headed out again in the vans. Our first destination was in the mountains perhaps a half hour drive from our homebase to see the Jeju Jeolmul Recreational Forest. The drive there was gorgeous, heavy forests of different types of trees and then into an area that was all Japanese cedar. We parked in a lot and paid admission to enter the area. There were paths made from wooden planks all through the forest. There were play areas and along the path there were carved statues of various thinkgs. One area had different insects, another had statues representing the years of the Chinese zodiac. It was really peaceful and pristine. The day beautiful and sunny and a nice breeze would blow the trees and make whispering sound.

    We then headed to Samyang Beach which is on the north east coast near Jeju City. It is known for its black sand beach and wind surfing. There is a freshwater spring that runs into the ocean. I passed on swimming but I did go wading and the youngsters went swimming. For the most part older Koreans don’t really enjoy swimming and they really don’t get going to the beach if it’s not the official beach season. They observed! After the swimmers changed we all went to find a restaurant in Jeju City that was supposed to have some really good soup. We drove around and found that it was closed so we picked another place with the same style soup. It was some beef and noodle soup and everyone agreed it wasn’t very good.

    There were two kids who looked like they were the children of the owner and they were playing with my DIL’s little dog and speaking with her and my son. My son mentioned that the people on Jeju speak a different sort of dialect. Most of the people we had encountered had not spoken in that dialect but these children were using the dialect. When they mentioned it they then spoke in Korean.

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    Final installment. Thanks for indulging me. Sorry this was so long, I guess I wanted to relive the entire trip! We really enjoyed Jeju and I would go back again!

    After lunch we headed back to the south side of the island stopping Jungmun Tourism Complex. This area on the coast is where lava flows formed columnar joints that extend down the coast for a kilometer. If you have seen Devil’s Postpile in California or the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, this is the same type of hexagonal columns but they form cliffs into the sea. It is pretty dramatic to see the ocean crashing against the jagged formations. There are wooden paths and observation decks to take advantage of the views. We happened to be there at sunset and it made for some great pictures.

    That night we went into Seogwipo City to have dinner at a place that specializes in abalone soup. I am normally open to trying any type of food but I am not a fan of abalone and shellfish but it sounded like something that DH would love so I thought “Sure, why not!” We also wanted a chance to take everyone out to dinner and it was DH’s birthday so we headed to the place.

    It was a little sketchy looking from the outside and when we went in it was the type of place where you have to sit on the floor with a very low table. I asked where the restroom was and I was directed outside and down the sidewalk a couple of buildings to a public restroom!

    As we waited for dinner I was worried because my back was killing me after sleeping on a rock hard mattress and DH’s knees were bothering him. Gee, what bunch of old fogeys! Finally they brought out giant pots of broth with abalone, clams, mussels and shrimp and sat them on burners on the table. As the items were cooked they pulled them out of the broth and put them on our plates. After all of the fish was removed they cooked noodles in the broth. I think I did a good job of pretending to like the food but I just don’t enjoy the texture. DH caught on and managed to help me finish.

    When we sat down my husband told my son not to let his in laws pay and we thought we were pretty sneaky in passing him a credit card under the table but somehow my DIL’s mom realized what my son was going to do and she shot up from the table to the cash register like a little bolt of lightning, heading off my son who had our credit card in his hand and shoved her card at the waitress. We were saying “No, no, don’t let her pay!” and our son was trying to pass our card to the hostess. His MIL nearly wrestled him to the floor! She is probably 5’ tall and our son is 6’2” so it was a funny sight, all in good nature.

    After dinner one van load of us headed home and the other headed to the market to pick up a few things. They brought home a couple of birthday cakes and a bunch of Hello Kitty balloons and a Hello Kitty headband with a giant pink bow for my husband so we could celebrate his birthday. They sneaked everything in and went upstairs to blow up the balloons and then we forced my husband to wear his bow and they threw balloons off the balcony onto his head as we sang “Happy Birthday.”

    I heard some commotion when they were upstairs blowing up the balloons and our little three year old princess was unhappy because she thought the balloons were for her. Then when it was time for DH to blow out the birthday candles, she had a tantrum so they relighted the candles three of four times so she could blow them out herself. Then she gathered all the balloons up and wouldn't let anyone touch them even when people were trying to play with her by bouncing the balloons around. I thought it was interesting that nobody used the moment to talk about sharing etc. I have noticed in both Japan and Korea that small children are really allowed to indulge in behavior that most people in the US would label as spoiled or bratty. It must come as a shock to these kids when they hit school and suddenly they are expected to behave and study and respect their teachers.

    It was our last night before leaving so we all stayed up late enjoying each other’s company. There was a small deck of some type of cards and mu younger son was asking about it and they were some sort of fortune telling card game. My DIL’s little brother showed my son how to play and his fortune was for travel in his future, fitting for someone going to spend the next day flying across the globe.

    My husband and son’s FIL had a long conversation about how he and his wife had accepted DS into their family. My husband told him that we were really happy to have their daughter as part of our family. Her Dad said that at first they were both worried, her mom more than him, that they would marry and then our son would decide he changed his mind. He said that he told her that they couldn't interfere and that then when they got to know him they forgot their doubts and they know think of him as Korean. My husband said it was a really nice conversation that left him feeling good about their acceptance.

    The next morning we had to be up early to catch our flight back to Seoul. When we said good bye to our new family I thanked my DIL’s parents for everything and particularly for giving us a daughter that we always wanted and being there to watch over our son. I was of course crying and by the time I finished I think almost everyone was! It was a good feeling to know that even though we are from such different cultures that we are really just two families who love their children and place importance in family. We let them know that we expect them to come to the US so we can repay all of their hospitality.

    We made our flight back from Jeju to Gimpo. When we were in the baggage claim area we witnessed a huge screaming match between some Chinese tourists. I am not sure what it was about but one of the women was pretty hostile and I was waiting for her to punch the couple she was yelling at. I wish I had translator!

    We had about seven hours before our departing flight to Haneda. We decided to go back to Seoul to have lunch and hang out with DS & DIL and then return later for our flight. We had left our bags in the storage area in the domestic terminal and we were trying to figure out the easiest thing to do with our luggage while we were gone. We decided to ask if we could check our bags early for our flight so we approached a Korean Air employee and explained. She went and asked her supervisor who said yes, we could take our luggage to the international terminal and they would let us check it for our later flight. So we got it out of storage, took the shuttle to the international terminal and walked to the Korean Air counter and it was deserted.

    I saw a Korean Air employee so I explained the situation. My son had gone off to try and find someone and as I was talking to her he came back. She told me there was no way to check the baggage and we would just have to put it back in storage or take it with us. My son then spoke to her in Korean and she got a very surprised look on her face and the next thing I knew she was escorting us back through the hallways to a Korean Air office where she said we could leave our bags until we came back. I asked my son what he said and he pulled the “company honor” card by saying her company had given misinformation and it made them look bad or something to that affect!

    We had lunch and then went to a coffee shop and killed time before we had to leave for the airport. I hate saying goodbye when I know it is going to be a long time before I will see someone and they will be so far away. We had another tearful goodbye and I sniffled all the way to the airport. I also cried when the flight was taking off. We had a couple of hours in Haneda and then on home to LAX, tired but glad to be home and sleep on my own comfy bed!

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    I think those shore-side cliffs made of columnar posts are the Jusangjeolli Cliffs -- stunning!

    I'm glad you continued to have interesting and enjoyable experiences while in South Korea.

    Thanks for posting!

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    Seehag, thanks for posting the link to this in the lounge. I'm enjoying it!

    I almost made it to Jehu this year as my DH had a conference there but he ended up not going. I'm just glad we found out before we booked my flight ;)

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    I am glad if anyone found any of this of interest! I read trip reports that are so informational and this is like gossip!

    I want to go back to Jeju and do more hiking and go to more beaches. I know I will probably return since I have family in Korea and it is a quick inexpensive trip from mainland Korea. We didn't see any of the large resort type of hotels so I don't know what that area is like. Although we didn't drive on our trip, it looked like it would be pretty easy to navigate the roads with a GPS.

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    I mentioned this on another thread in regards to beaches in Korea. There is a beach season with a starting and ending date. For the most part nobody goes to the beach out of that season, even if the weather is great so I suspect you can probably get good deals on beach resorts on Jeju and in Busan outside of the "season." My son said most Koreans do not know how to swim so there are lots of lifeguards in boats just off the beach to make sure people don't wade out too far. They always yell at my son to back in when he is swimming.

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    I loved it too SeeHag!

    We visited Japan in April 2012 and I was recovering from an illness and had very little energy. I can so relate to your day in Kyoto! Basically I had enough energy to get around for about 2 hours in the morning, a quick lunch and then a lazy afternoon in my hotel room. It certainly made sight seeing challenging especially as my daughter and I got lost one day.

    I enjoyed hearing about your interactions with locals!

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