Taking the wrong bus (Korea)About one hour before the check-in in for my flight to Korea, I decided to learn Hangul. Blame the airport bookshop. The book was titled “Learn Hangul in 24 hours”. I had but 3 hours.
I reached Inchon (Seoul) airport early next morning. I went to the bus booking office at the airport, pointed Gyeongju on their chart, and feeling happy about my recently acquired Hangul, bought the ticket. I fell asleep on the bus. It was still afternoon when I reached the city. I noticed a tourist information office at the bus terminal. I asked the staff about this temple called Girimsa. The staff laughed out. She explained that I had come to the wrong city. I had come to Gwangju instead of Gyeongju where the said temple is. So much for my Hangul expertise.
The staff, her name was Yun, said Gwangju itself is not a dull place, she took out a map and pointed out some highlights to me. I decided to stay for a day. She helped me buy a bus ticket to Gyeongju and suggested a place where I could stay for the night.
I bumped into Yun again later that evening. I was buying a newspaper, and she was heading home. She asked me about my plans for the evening. I wanted to visit Chungjangro — the downtown area. Gwangju downtown is the place where all the fashion shops are and where the hip youngsters hang out. Yun said she will accompany me. We talked about her city, Korean politics etc.
Kwangju is famous for a student protest way back in May 1980 - several students died in the protest. Many consider this event as one of the key events the led to true democracy in South Korea. We walked past the Art street — the place the locals come to buy art supplies. Yun bought a “Korean mask” keychain for me. It still hangs from my bag. Later in the night, she invited me home for dinner. We took the bus past the edge of the city where the farms started appearing - Yun’s father was a farmer. Her mother had prepared a feast. More than the main dish, I love all the little condiments and kimchi they have in Korea. Plus, home food always tastes so good.
Now I am tempted to take more wrong buses in Korea.