Busan Trip Report 31 Dec 14 - 8 Jan 15.

Old Jan 7th, 2015, 07:11 PM
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Busan Trip Report 31 Dec 14 - 8 Jan 15.

Sorry I don't know how to do short reports.

Busan 31 Dec 14- 8 Jan 15

A spontaneous trip booked to visit our DD who has a 6 month gig at the Park Hyatt hotel in Busan.

Day One

Our flight left Nelson New Zealand on New Years Eve, 6.40am which meant we had to be at the airport by 6.15am. An early 5am start for us. Thankfully our bags were checked all the way through to Busan. We flew Air NZ to Auckland and Korean Air to Busan via Seoul.

We left Auckland at 10am arriving at Incheon in Seoul at 5pm, and then left for Busan at 7.35pm arriving at Gimhae (Busan airport) at 8.40pm, (12.40am NZ time).

The flight to Seoul was packed, the plane was a 747. We sat in a middle row, aisle seat and the one next to it, so we wouldn’t have to clamber over other people to go to the restrooms. We didn’t have much leg-room at all, and couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep, so dozed most of the way. I couldn’t wait for the flight to be over. Unlike Air NZ which keeps their planes on the cooler side, this one was very hot. I was totally over-dressed.

I did love the service on Korean Air. The flight attendants were very attentive and polite. The food choices were good, one Korean option and two Western choices. My DH tried the Bi Bim Bab. He ate it but didn’t order it again on the return flight. I think it is an acquired taste. I didn’t try it at all but the beef meal I had was nice.

We didn’t have to change terminals at Incheon, but had to make our way to the transit area to catch the next plane. We didn’t go through immigration until we got to Busan. We were given instructions to follow on how to get to the transit lounge and go through security, however in my view there should have been several additional steps. One of which should have told us we actually needed to catch a train to the other terminal. The instructions that were given made it sound like you got off the international flight walked for a few minutes until you got to the transit lounge. In reality you walked for at least 15 minutes with me saying we are doing this wrong, we should be there by now!!!. In any event if you follow the signs you eventually get there. They also make it clear that if you go through Immigration there, then you cannot catch the flight from the transit area, so I knew we shouldn’t go through Immigration.

The flight from Incheon to Gimhae was very quick. This was on a 737 and seemed to have a lot more leg room than the 747. We were met at Gimhae by my DD’s friends who volunteered to come and pick us up and take us to see DD who was already playing for New Years Eve at the Hyatt. This saved us having to take a taxi or airport bus to get to our accommodation and then find our way to the Park Hyatt.

I had spend several weeks trying to find an apartment on AirBNB (we couldn’t afford to stay at the Park Hyatt!!). I managed to find one that proved to be no more than 5 minutes walking distance from the hotel which proved invaluable when we were walking home after the gigs most night. https://www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/1271661. Even when it was really cold we knew we would be home very soon. It was advertised as luxurious which it wasn’t, the couch actually had a tear in it, the rug had dirty marks, but it was comfortable and perfect location for us. Also grocery store downstairs, an Italian restaurant in the same building, Korean BBQ over the road and an Indian restaurant close by.

DD’s friends (now our friends) dropped us off at the apartment, it was nearly 10pm. We did a quick change of clothes and then they drove us to the hotel. When we got there the Living Room Bar was packed so we couldn’t even get in to see DD playing. Eventually a lovely Korean couple asked us to join them, they come to see DD play at least once a week. They were very generous to us. Our friends unfortunately couldn’t get in, but waited for us in the dining area until we wanted to go home. We were extremely tired by now so only stayed until 11.15pm. We did have intentions of staying until midnight but wasn’t fair to have DD’s friends hanging around waiting for us. We had a great sleep and all set to go sight-seeing the next day.
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Old Jan 7th, 2015, 08:32 PM
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You must have been exhausted! But I'm sure it meant the world to all involved to be able to hear your DD play the evening of your arrival. Great way to start the New Year!
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 03:02 PM
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Warm Friday greetings, nelsonian, from another satisfactory business stay in Auckland, New Zealand. Thank you for your superlative opening post. (And do wish to extend gratitude to your fellow, fine New Zealand denizens for a most memorable ~ fortnight; initially, holiday, South Island, followed by the aforementioned meetings in Auckland. You are blessed with a special country.)

Should you ever desire lodging, dining recommendations for our fine home of Singapore, honoured to assist. And, concerning flights, happy to give suggestions. You probably already know 'your' Air New Zealand officially entered into a closer alliance with 'our' Singapore Airlines earlier this week. And, speaking of Air NZ, will once again have the privilege of flying another work-related, business class flight - NZ 8 - from AKL to San Francisco this weekend. Have always enjoyed flying NZ for work and the occasional leisure flight.

Keep up the brilliant work, nelsonian, and good travels to you. Warm Friday and early weekend wishes to you and all from Auckland,

macintosh (robert)


... Singapore Girl, You're a Great Way to Fly ...
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 04:52 PM
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Glad to hear ( from your other thread) that you managed to keep warm.

I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of your trip. You put me to shame as I still haven't reported from my October trip.
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Old Jan 8th, 2015, 04:55 PM
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Looking forward to more! Glad you found a coat to keep you warm!

The flight we took to Germany was so friggin hot I thought I would freak out! We were in business class on a 747 in the upstairs but in the back so maybe that was the problem but it was miserable.

Too bad the Airbnb place wasn't up to par, but at least it was convenient.
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 05:11 AM
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Kids go the darnedest places!
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 10:40 AM
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Following along.
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Old Jan 10th, 2015, 02:12 PM
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Day Two (New Years Day)

Had a good night’s sleep after adding some extra mattresses to our bed. There was a foam mattress rolled up in the lounge which we put on to our bed and made it a bit more comfortable. DH went to have a shower and we found we had no hot water. There was a control panel on the wall for heating but it was all in Korean. The owner had left a manual with some English translation but turned out to be of a previous unit!! We texted DD and she came over and by taking photos of the panel and importing them into Google Translate she and DH were able to work out which button was for the hot-water. It was all gas heating, so it didn’t take long for the hot-water to come through. I am sure if we had contacted the owner he would have given us instructions but it was a bit early in the day to do that we thought.

There was about an inch gap around two of the windows, which was letting ithrough very cold air. DH went on a duct tape hunt and ended up taping up the windows, made it a lot warmer.
There was also no toaster, or knives, but we improvised. As DD said it was like camping. There were spoons, forks and chopsticks but no knives, when we were shopping for the duct type we found a couple of knives as well.

Our first sight-seeing venture today was to wander around Dongbaek Island and walk to Hauendae Beach which was just a short walk from our apartment. This was the coldest day of our visit. I was bundled up in a merino top, a wool coat, a windbreaker, hat and gloves. Hundreds of years ago Dongbaek Island was actually an island but is now part of the mainland. This was a very nice walk with great sea and city views especially of the Gwangan bridge. However this is much more spectacular at night when it is all lit up. It was Interesting to see a group of fisherman with very long fishing rods, fishing off the rocks. I never saw if they actually caught anything. Dongbaek Island is also where the 2005 APEC conference was held, and we went and had a look at APEC house situated right on the sea, with magnificent views. There were a couple of other memorials to see such as the mermaid, and the lighthouse. A very pleasant walk, not too strenuous after our tiring flight the day before.

As we got closer to the golden sands of Haeundae Beach we saw there were a lot of people milling around, even though it was very cold. My DD said that there would have been hundreds of people there very early in the morning to see the first sun-rise of the New Year, more important to Koreans than New Years Eve and the count-down to midnight. Apparently the beach is packed in July and August which are the two summer months for going to the beach. Thousands of Koreans visit Busan this time of the year. They all disappear at the end of August, and the beach is virtually empty after that.

We walked back to the Park Hyatt for lunch, did a bit of supermarket shopping, where I found a down coat at Home Plus for 50,000 won. It was perfect, a lot warmer than what I had been wearing. We then went back to our apartment for a bit of a break before we went out for Korean BBQ in the evening. The views from the Park Hyatt are also spectacular, looking over the marina and the bridge. The Yachting Centre is right next door to the Park Hyatt and was where the yachting was held in the 2008 Seoul Olympics.

We met DD at about 4.30pm so she could help sort out our tickets for the subway. First you buy a subway card for 2000 won ($ 2) and then you add money to the card. DH and I loaded 10,000 won on each of our cards and that virtually lasted our whole trip, and we did many subway rides. Each subway ride was 1200 won. The closest subway station to us was Dongbaek about a 10 minute walk from our place.

We were meeting DD’s friends at Gwangalli beach for Korean BBQ. This was two subway stops from Dongbaek so didn’t take very long to get there. The Korean subway is a lot cleaner than the New York subways that for sure. They looked pristine. The sun was just going down as we got to Gwangalli Beach, there were a lot of people around being that is was a public holiday, and the light display on the bridge was starting to come on as we walked along the beach for a short time. We met up with DD’s friends and headed off to where we were to have our meal. Unfortunately it was closed due to the holiday and ended up having to go to a Plan B. There were a lot of Korean BBQ’s around and their second favourite was not far away. We have no Korean restaurants in New Zealand and had never experienced this type of BBQ before. It was very interesting, watching the waiters bring out the hot coals and the hot plate, and then cooking the meat. There were a lot of side dishes too some of which we had not had before including kimchi. I am not a very adventurous eater so didn’t actually enjoy the kimchi. I stuck with the more familiar items like the spring onions, macaroni salad, sprouts etc. I loved the BBQ meat, we had pork and beef. I also tried some Soju which I quite enjoyed!! We had a great night, DD had to leave to get back to play at the Park Hyatt but DH and I decided to give it a miss tonight as we had been out with her all day, and also needed a reasonably earlier night. We took a taxi back home which cost 10,000 won. A very enjoyable first day in Haeundae Busan.
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Old Jan 10th, 2015, 03:12 PM
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Brave of you to spend such a cold day on the waterfront! I know just what you mean about those LONG fishing poles, and I didn't see anyone catch anything either. ;-)
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Old Jan 11th, 2015, 08:40 AM
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Your description of Korean barbeque is making me hungry! I like that they use scissors to cut up the meat.

I hope you left a bad review for the apartment! We were lucky the house we rented was actually nicer than it looked. The price has also gone up since we stayed so I guess the owner realized he wasn't charging enough.

Looking forward to more!
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Old Jan 11th, 2015, 10:23 PM
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Yes I forgot to mention about the scissors, it is certainly a different way to cut up the meat. I decided not to leave a bad review, we managed to make it work and it was so convenient to where our DD was staying. There were big signs on the wall that we were supposed to turn the heating off when we left the apartment but we never did. It was the middle of winter after all, and we didn't want to come back to a cold house. We also thought it was more economic to leave the heating on rather than switching it off all the tine.
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Old Jan 11th, 2015, 10:49 PM
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Aren't those scissors wonderful?!?
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 11:31 PM
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Day Three

We were very fortunate to have our very own tour guide to show us around today. DD’s friend offered to drive us to the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple which was a short drive from Hauendae. She and her husband have an apartment at Haeundae beach so we walked there to meet her. I forgot to mention yesterday that there was a statue of a large sheep on the beach with the number 2015, we couldn’t figure out what that meant until we realised that 2015 is the year of the sheep!

The Yonggungsa Temple is unusual in that it is located right on the coast amongst the cliffs, most temples are found in the mountains. We arrived there about 11.30am and it was very extremely busy due to it being New Year. Apparently a lot of Koreans visit at this time to make a wish for the coming year. We could see the number of cars ahead of us and decided to opt for one of the further away carparks rather than take a chance of trying to get a park closer up.

We had a short uphill walk to the entrance, where you were greeted by street vendors selling different types of food and crafts. This seemed a bit too touristy for me. We then passed statues of the twelve Zodiac’s which had human bodies coated in armour and animal heads. I wasn’t sure how you knew which statute you belonged too and my DD said it was all to do with your birth year. I thought these were fascinating. I was born in the Year of the Snake. Many people stopped by their particular statue to have their photos taken.

We then walked down the 108 steps to the temple complex itself, there are some gorgeous views of the coast-line and of the temple from about half way down. You need to take your time going down the steps though as they are very uneven, and not a set distant apart. We passed the wishing statues where you throw a coin into a bowl and make a wish if it goes in, unfortunately we all missed!!!! This is a very worthwhile place to visit, so many different things to look at and appreciate such as the Golden Buddha perched on the edge of a cliff, the beautiful Pagoda guarded by four lions, the dragon statue which I loved. There were many others also. We entered the shrine hall to listen to a monk chanting and look at the interior. We didn’t think it was a good idea to take photos at this point. We spent about an hour and a half looking at all the sights, and the wonderful sea views, and then had to walk back up all the steps. It was getting very crowded by this stage and the queues of people coming in were slowed down to a crawl. At least we could take our time walking back up as we just went with the traffic flow.

We stopped for lunch at a cafe opposite Songjeong beach. There was only one other group of people there so were served very quickly. We enjoyed sitting in the sun eating our pizza (not very Korean) watching a man flying a kite on the beach and others taking a stroll along the sand even though it was rather cold out there. This beach is used by the locals more than Hauendae beach which gets extremely crowded with tourists in summer.

After lunch our “tour guide” drove up up to the top of Mt Hwangnyeongsan Mountain to see the Smoke Signal Station, and where you could get a panoramic view of all of Busan. There are smoke stacks built on the top of this mountain which were used as a means of communication during the wars hundreds of years ago. There were other stations built on adjoining mountains so it was possible to warn others if enemy ships were coming. Every year there is a beacon lighting ceremony on the mountain. It was getting very cold by now so we didn’t stay around too long. 


We got back in to the car, and drove to Mt Geumnyeonsan which was only a short drive away. There was another viewing platform here and again had a brilliant 360 degree view of the city. A lot of photos were taken!!! DD’s friend dropped us off at our apartment for a bit of a break before we spent the evening at the Park Hyatt listening to DD.

We did get a bit of sticker shock to discover a glass of wine was 21,000 won. We ordered a glass each (a NZ Sauvignon Blanc which costs about $ 15 a bottle here!). We were debating what to order next when one of DD’s friends who work in the Living Room Bar appeared with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine each. This happened most nights, but when we were buying drinks we switched to spirits as they were much cheaper.

We stayed for there for about two hours, and then walked back to our accommodation. It was very cold walking back but a very pretty walk, as a lot of the shrubbery and buildings were lit up with Christmas lights. DH thought about taking photos when we were walking to the Hyatt but decided he would wait until we were coming home. However much to his disappointment most of them had been switched off, so we had to wait until the next night to get some great photos.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 12:23 AM
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I loved Yonggungsa and am so glad you got to see it!

I, too, found that wine -- when I could find it -- was surprisingly costly. Wish I'd had someone bring me some complimentary sparkling wine, ;-)

Looking forward to hearing more....
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 09:56 PM
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Day Four

This proved to be a very long day, I actually had to call time on it as I had very sore legs and was just exhausted after all the walking.

My DH was mainly interested in seeing two things in Busan, one was music shops, and the other was electronics, stores similar to Radio Shack when it used to sell electronic parts for making different gadgets. We had done a bit of research before we left and found that there were 25 music stores in the Busajin Market. This sounded very interesting so this was first adventure for Day 4. Well first of all we had a delicious breakfast at the Hyatt, and then set off with DD to find these music shops.

I must admit I did get tired of walking to Dongbaek subway station most days, but cannot complain about how cheap the subway is at 1200 won per ride. We had found directions on the internet on where we needed to get off to get to the Busanjin market and find the music stores. We had to get off at the Bujeon subway station, take Exit 1 and walk straight until we came to the Bujeon station (Not the subway station). Then turn left and walk 3-5 minutes, look for a large building with two ramps out the front. We found the building no problem at all. However this was a major disappointment. Yes there were a large number of shops, a lot of them were repair shops, or just shops that were storing old pianos, keyboards or electronic organs. There were a few brass instrument shops, and some shops that stocked a bit of everything but nothing out of the ordinary.
DH was interested in modern keyboards, and electric pianos, but didn’t find anything that sparked his interest. We owned a music shop many years ago, and DH works in one now, he wanted to be blown away by seeing all the products that are made in Korea but no such luck.

We gave up on the music shops and instead started looking at the market itself. This is a much older area of Busan compared to Haeundae and more like what I imagined Korea to be. Haeundae was built on reclaimed land in the 1970’s and the majority of buildings are hight-rises. Busanjin on the other hand had much older buildings, narrower streets, and a lot more people!! There were hundreds of stalls, selling all sorts of produce, fruit, fish, spices, clothing etc. There were a lot of vendors selling oranges, mandarins, tangelo’s etc. It was the middle of winter though and couldn’t help wonder where they were actually grown. The smells, sounds, and colours were totally different to anything that we see in Nelson We do have some markets but normally only at the weekend, and mostly farmers markets.

DD decided that as we were not far from the Busan Tower we should hop on the subway again and make our way to Yongdusan Park where the tower is located. This was a nice getaway in the middle of a busy shopping district. There were escalators going up to the park itself, where there was a pagoda, some donkey rides, a flower clock, and thousands of love padlocks symbolising you love by locking it up and throwing away the key!! There was a 4,000 won entrance fee for the tower itself. It is 118 metres high so very happy there was an elevator. We had a small wait for the elevator which took us up to the cafe level, but there was one more level to get to the top of the tower and the viewing platform. You were able to get a fantastic view of Busan, and there were signs on the wall describing what you were looking at. We stayed here for awhile and then it was time to go and explore that Nampo-dong Market. There were a lot of steps going down but it an easy walk.

Our DD loves the Nampo market, she likes to look and buy the clothing as it is cheap. and loves looking at all the bags, and jewellery. There were just streets and streets and streets of stalls. I actually got tired of it all. There were crowds of people all pushing to get past, none of the clothes would actually fit me, so I wasn’t really looking at them. I was interested in getting some for my grand-children but couldn’t work out the sizing. We went through the fish market and that got a bit much as well. So many stalls selling the same type of fish and the smell was a bit off-putting. DH was getting a bit bored also. We were just starting to get to the lighting shops, camera stores, phone shops which he was interested in, when I decided I just wanted to get back to our apartment. I had no idea where we were either. DD managed to get directions to the nearest subway station which was still quite a walk away.

It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon and the subway was very crowded We managed to get a seat at the next stop but then I felt a bit claustrophobic as there were many many people standing in the middle of the train. As we got closer to Dpngbaek station the numbers had lessened and it was a much nicer trip home.

We spent the evening at the Park Hyatt, switching to Gin and Tonic's and Bourbon and Coke instead of wine!!
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 10:21 PM
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I loved the views from Busan Tower; didn't like Nampo at all -- not my scene!; and was glad to visit Jigalchi (the fish market) as it was closing, when there were fewer open stalls, the AC/refrigeration (whichever) more effective, and the smells subsequently diminished. So I can thoroughly appreciate the decision to return to a hotel and switch to a decent alcoholic beverage (not the wines most commonly available, IME, in the area).

I guess I'm not alone in finding a few trying moments when traveling.... ;-)
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Old Jan 16th, 2015, 01:10 PM
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Thanks for reading kja, we seemed to do a lot of the same things, but you a lot more adventurous than us, and fitter than me I think. DD did want to take us to Igadae Park but decided it was too far for me too walk!!
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Old Jan 16th, 2015, 10:53 PM
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Well, I wasn't trying to visit anyone! And I wasn't there in winter. And much more importantly, I don't think the point is whether you did the same or different things, but whether you enjoyed yourselves -- and I sincerely hope you did.

Looking forward to reading more....
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Old Jan 17th, 2015, 09:29 AM
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Yes, I feel like a travel wimp sometimes. I really hate trying to navigate large crowds of people.

Funny you mention looking for music shops. My son did the same thing in Osaka and wound up kind of lost so spent cab fare to return to the hotel, after not finding anything. A few weeks ago in Frankfurt I walked out of my way to find a music shop in the hope they would sell t-shirts with their name on it so I could by one for my son. Of course they didn't.

Did you try soju when enjoying libations? My husband is quite fond of it, but I don't like it. It is pretty budget friendly.

How does your daughter like Korea?
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Old Jan 17th, 2015, 11:20 AM
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We had a wonderful time on our trip. The only thing I didn't really like because I was out of my comfort zone was the crowds at the markets and on the subway. Haeundae where DD is living, is a very beautiful place, very clean, gorgeous coastal views, seemed a lot quieter than other parts of Busan, but that would be because it is mostly a summer tourist destination. It would be totally different in July and August.

Seehag I had a couple of small glasses of soju, I actually liked it!!! We did find one small music shop in Centum City but it was actually part of a large department store and only sold Yamaha products.

DD loves Busan, she has been out and about a lot. She has made friends with several of the hotel staff and likes to go out with them when she can. They all work different shifts and DD only gets Sunday off so a bit difficult to co-ordinate. She has a US friend coming to visit at the end of this month so will enjoy showing her around. I think they will do the more adventurous stuff that we never got around to doing.
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