South Korea- Representing the UK!
Updated: Jan 29
My first long haul! This trip was a bit of a reality check, I'd agreed to go to South Korea way back in February never thinking in a million years it would actually happen... fast forward to June and flights were being booked and schedules being confirmed!
The booking was far from usual for me, I was performing somebody else's show with another performer-Lindsay, and it turned out we were representing the UK in an International Festival! Then we were told we would also be the act for the opening ceremony! No pressure then!
South Korea is a strange and wonderful place to visit, we arrived in Seoul airport and boarded a bus to Daegu (almost at the opposite end of the country) and a few hours later we arrived in Chilgok. Chilgok was a small town, on the outskirts of Daegu city and we travelled in to the performance venue each day. The other countries performing included Russia, South Korea, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Argentina and Czech Republic. We all attended a formal ceremony of invitation with the Mayor of the region and other dignitaries which included many photos, cold tea and the exchange of gifts. Later that evening the opening ceremony was upon us- a formal affair with a fully packed auditorium. We had a blast, one show down, 6 to go.
During our next week there we performed our show twice on 3 days. The humidity and heat was a challenge with the energetic nature of the show- even with the air conditioning and our shows were all fully booked with 1750 audience members each time! After the shows we allowed photos and so many people queued up for them that the photo opportunity took longer than the show itself!
Between our shows we would try to watch the other countries, their shows were all so different, they had amazing skills, great characters, storylines and deeper messages. Each night we would all go for dinner together then me and Lindsay would explore downtown Chilgok. We were all provided with a translator but we didn't realise we could take her places out of the convention- so we just left her each evening to spend time with her friends or relax. We would stumble into fun places like the amazing giant dessert cafe (turns out they were sharing desserts), the quirky shops, vintage arcade games bars and similar then tell the translators where we had been. They always wanted to try the places we had been the next day! On the last day we suggested that maybe they came with us- we decided to go bowling- UV bowling! The shoes were the same as the type you borrow in the UK but they keep them in the fridge! We decided it would be nice to get a round in for all the translators- drinking socially is an important part of Korean culture now. We went to pay for the first round and drinks for all ten of us cost the same as drinks for two in the UK!
The end of August is the start of typhoon season in South Korea... during our week they had the worst typhoon on record for many years! We were worried for a moment as flights were cancelled from Seoul but when it hit Chilgok like true Brits we laughed at the 'bit of drizzle' that fell- it was nothing compared to home! The culture of South Koreans different to what I expected, its a lovely clean country and the people are super polite and want to speak to you and help you though they don't speak much English where we were. I found I could easily use my debit card in most stores and the ones that didn't would accept my credit card so after I used all the money I had exchanged I switched over. The fees with HSBC were so minimal I didn't actually notice them if there were any. The food was the hardest thing for me to deal with I think. In the UK I have a vegetarian lifestyle 90% of the time (the remaining 10% being when someone cooks me dinner who doesn't know and I eat it to be polite)- being vegetarian in South Korea is hard work! They have a main dish as a plate of raw beef...After a few days of trying not to be offensive leaving all the chicken (they serve an entire chicken in a bowl per person) I asked my translator (the amazing Alison) to order me something vegetarian- and there was one restaurant that really hit the spot- I've even but a photo below. I can't remember what it was called now but it was delicious and had so many textures! The make up scene is booming in South Korea and I came away with all sorts of new lip stains and beauty products to try! Being blonde I did have lots of interest in my appearance but it was good prep for my upcoming trip to China.
I managed to get my token Starbucks location mug before heading home and I hope to visit South Korea again- it was an amazing place, though they really like Kimchi- if you don't like it you're hungry!
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