First Trip to South Korea

Last month I went to Jeju Island, South Korea, to report on the World Conservation Congress. I’d been to Asia once before—on a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand—but I’d never thought about going to Korea. So I really didn’t know what to expect (and, I’m ashamed to say, I hadn’t seen the Gangham style video before I left!)

I’m glad that my introduction to Korea was on Jeju, a small volcanic island about an hour’s flight south of Seoul. For one thing, it was gorgeous—people call it the Korean Hawaii, with its pretty coastlines and craggy coasts. It also has some awesome natural wonders, including Asia’s longest asia tube, Manjanggul (below)—which I walked a mile of—and some volcanic craters that you can hike. The above picture is of Jeongbang Waterfall.

The convention center was the nicest I’ve worked in, with a view of the coast; a cafeteria with hearty, homemade Korean food; and a culture market, which gave visitors an idea of where they were. I enjoyed trying on some Korean garb (below) at the culture market.

Most of the people I met were very gracious—especially when I left my iPhone at a 7-Eleven. I’d snapped a picture of some curious-looking coffee drinks, then absentmindedly left it on the table. I didn’t realize it was missing until I was at the conference center, and miraculously a woman at the registration desk called my hostel owner, asked him to walk across the street to the 7-Eleven, and get the phone from the employee, who had found it and kept it. I’m not sure if that would have happened anywhere else!

I had one day to spend in Seoul, which reminded me of New York. I saw some of the royal palaces (including Gyeongbokgung Palace, below) and explored a few of the street markets. I was happy to see that South Koreans are as obsessed with coffee shops as I am, although I have to say that a sweet potato latte is probably the grossest coffee drink I’ve ever had!

My next long trip is stateside—to Texas, where I’m excited about camping at Big Bend National Park, one of the country’s least visited parks.

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