Ken’s Epic Korean Vacation Adventure: Day 1

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Ken's Epic Korean Vacation Adventure, South Korea

I plan on chronicling my Dad’s vacation to Seoul, South Korea in order to post a few pictures.  I realize this is LONG overdue, but better late than never, right?

Day 1: Itaewon

After arriving at Incheon International Airport during the late afternoon of October 15th, my Dad was completely drained so I felt it was best for  us to rest that evening and get up early on Sunday and start our journey then.  What some people may not realize is that the flight from Seattle, Washington to Seoul, South Korea is somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-13 hours, depending on the day.  Add in the 13 hour time difference (at that time) and your system is completely confused when you get off the plane, not to mention you’ve just went a day in to the future.  I knew my Dad would be exhausted, as would anyone, so Saturday night was spent relaxing at Bentley’s Pub in the Dragon Hill Lodge and Sunday the 16th would be considered the first day of our adventure.

I wanted to ease my Dad in to the South Korean experience as best as I could.  One of the best places to find restaurants, pubs, sports bars, and shops all in one place is a city district known as Itaewon.  Itaewon is somewhat known for catering to the immigrant population that’s prevalent due to the large United States military and international presence in, and the global commerce of, Seoul, South Korea.  Because of this, there’s plenty of English speaking clientele and Americanized establishments.

Now I know what you’re saying, “Your Dad didn’t go to South Korea to have a Big Mac!” and I completely agree; however, I wanted to avoid culture shock as much as possible — plus, Itaewon is a fun place.  Being in another country and not knowing the language is one thing.  Being in another country where the characters of the language aren’t even recognizable enough to take an educated guess at a word’s meaning is a whole different animal.  My Dad had already raised his voice in frustration at the cab driver the night before on the way back to the hotel for not understanding or speaking English — the language barrier is tough to adjust to — so I felt a few English-speaking bartenders would do us some good.  Plus, we were up early enough to still catch the late college football game out on the west coast.

A Buckeyes fan behind the bar AND beer? That's all the common ground Ken would need.

When pondering where to take my Dad for our first off-post experience, I looked to none other than Sam Ryan’s, one of my favorite places in Seoul.  Sam Ryan’s is exactly what you’d get if you took the American sports bar concept and wedged it in a densely populated city such as Seoul, South Korea.  The bar caters largely to American sports fans and Australian rugby fans and there are always friendly people, just as displaced as I am, simply hoping to catch some scores from back home.  Following sports is one of my favorite hobbies and the now-14 hour time difference makes it infinitely harder to stay up to date, so when I can catch a game live — ANY game — I’m pretty happy (it’s hard to explain how much you miss seeing games and scores live until you’re out of the country for an extended period of time, so any sense of normalcy is always nice).  The Arizona State at Oregon football game was on live when we arrived around lunchtime and the head bartender happened to be an Ohio State fan (a fact I had known prior).  My Dad took to it like it was his local watering hole and he’d been a patron for years.


After some great conversation with a few regulars, it was time to take in a little more of Itaewon before calling it a night so we headed to the nearby Seoul Pub, another of my top choices that boasts a solid selection and a friendly staff.  We settled in to a table by the window and my Dad immediately went to work with his social expertise.  Before long, native patrons were trying to buy us shots and join in on our little Korean vacation.  Everyone we talked to was very impressed my Dad made the trip and always hoped that we enjoyed their country.

Making friends a thousand miles from home!

As the old adage goes, time flies when you’re having fun and that’s no less true in Korea, where it seems many places don’t even have a Last Call.  After bidding farewell to our new found friends, it was time to return to post and close the book on Day 1.  There was, however, some unfinished business for my Dad to tend to.  Ever the diplomat, he insisted on snapping a quick photo with the gate guard we had become friendly with over the previous 24 hours thanks to the never-ending loop we had been making from our hotel on post to tourist areas in the city.

Foreign diplomacy at it's finest!

In the name of good fun, we wanted to document as much of our time together as possible and as many trips as we made through the same gate in a week’s time, the guards were as much a part of our experience as anything else.

The moment the cultural gap was bridged. Ken in Korea: shaking hands and kissing babies!

At the end of the day — Day 1 of Ken’s Epic Korean Vacation Adventure, to be exact — my Dad was just out and about on the town, winning hearts and minds like it was no big deal.

Hearts and minds, people.  Hearts AND minds.


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