After 12 months in Korea, Wade and I quit our jobs and packed our bags. A lot of people have asked us why we didn’t want to stay another year in Korea or find a different job there. Simply put– we felt it was time to move on.
We fulfilled our contracts with our school and got what we needed. I want to share more about our year spent living in Korea, both the ups and downs (and there were many of each). In fact, I sat down a month before we left Korea to write a post about it. Then I sat down two weeks before we left. Then a week before. Then the night before. But I just couldn’t think of anyway to properly summarize all that we had seen, but mostly how we felt about our experience there.
It’s easy to think that life abroad is an easy, care-free experience with no responsibility or stress. Seeing travel photos through an Instagram filter can really drive that home. And there is some truth to that– in many ways, our responsibilities were very small. And my teaching job was a million times easier than producing a four hour-long morning show or a prime time newscast (thankfully). But our year was filled with so many other challenges that it’s difficult for me to deconstruct that just yet.
I’ll get to that post soon because I want to reflect and share what we liked and disliked about our year in Korea. But not yet.
For now, me and Korea just need some…
s p a c e.
In the meantime, I’ll fill you in on what’s next. Wade and I left, but not all the way. We’ve cooked up a nice little backpacking trip right through the heart of Southeast Asia.
We left Korea on Monday and flew directly to Hanoi, Vietnam.
We spent just four days in Hanoi, but I already love Vietnam. Hanoi is chaotic, noisy, diverse and different. We stayed at a small, but clean hotel in the Old Quarter, which is close to many touristy spots. Stepping out onto the street is like walking into an ant hill. The street is organized chaos with motorbike drivers, cars, hawkers, walkers and gaudy weird crap for sale. It’s humid and the smell of exhaust is always in the air. Blaring horns are constant. It feels like a mess, but there is total order to the throngs of people passing by.
Our first meal in Vietnam was beef pho and fried noodles with garlicky water spinach and chicken. We topped it off with two cold beers. It cost us $6. SIX DOLLARS. I downloaded a currency converter on my phone. I keep converting the price of our meals to see how much it costs in USD because it’s so absurdly low. Vietnam may not be the place to make money as a teacher, but you certainly won’t spend much.
We spent our first full day in Hanoi on self-devised walking tour. There is no one I’d rather travel with than Wade because he goes out with a plan. He whipped up some nice tour spots to check out, and thankfully, our travel styles are similar. We both like to pound the pavement with some hardcore touring followed by some hardcore cafe lounging. Followed by more hardcore touring. Followed by hardcore nom nom noming. Followed by some hardcore zzzz’s. And so on and so forth. The best part about it is that Wade is an awesome navigator. This guy can read a map! For someone who is chronically lost, he is the best person to have around.
We visited the Temple of Literature first. The complex is a wonderful green space away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi street life. The site was built in 1076 and is considered Vietnam’s first university. The best of the best students came here to study the principles of Confucianism, literature and poetry.
The temple is huge! It’s over 54,000 square meters and has five different courtyards.
Our next stop was the Ho Chi Minh Museum. This giant building is dedicated to Vietnam’s former leader, Ho Chi Minh , and his efforts to institute a Communist party in the state. The building is enormous. It has tons of photographs and information about his early life and accomplishments, all with good English translations.
The really interesting (or weird?) thing about this is you can actually see Uncle Ho’s embalmed body not too far away. The body of Ho Chi Minh is preserved at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We didn’t go inside, but the parade square around the building is quite impressive. It’s a lot of grandeur for a guy who just wanted to be cremated.
We’ve spent the rest of our time in Hanoi basically walking our asses off. We also toured through the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, the Hoa Lo prison, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the National Museum of Vietnamese History and the Vietnam Museum of Revolution.
Exhausting, but that’s the way we like it.
After four fantastic days in Hanoi, we packed up. One two-hour flight later and we found ourselves in Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon). Turns out, Vietnam is a long-ass country. There are so many great cities to see between North and South Vietnam, but we decided to head straight to HCMC. I’m learning that budget travelling means making decisions about what not to do, too.
This city is jam-packed with museums and sites to see. We’ll be here for another four days or so before moving on to Cambodia. More updates to come!