Yes, that’s right – we tried Beondegi, silkworm pupae. We’re now in Gwangju, South Korea, which is about 150 miles south of Incheon. We’re staying at a hostel, Pedro’s House and went to dinner with our host, Pedro, and Chris, a young man from Alaska. We decided to try a Korean barbecue rib dinner.
Like with most Korean dinners, you’re given many side dishes before the main meal is ready. We’re used to seeing different noodle side dishes, tofu, and kimchi, of course. This time, we were greeted with Beondegi, silkworm pupae.
How did they taste? I’ll be honest, I washed my bite down right away with Cass, a Korean beer similar to a Corona. Nick describes the silkworms as tasting similar to eating a black bean, like in a burrito. We watched as our host ate a whole serving size spoonful. From what we understand, Beondegi is sometimes served as a side dish and it’s also sold as a street food, in a watery base.
As for the ribs and other side dishes, they were delicious. At this type of restaurant, you watch the meat cook to your liking in front of you. While you wait, you drink and talk with the other people at your table. We were taking shots of soju (a traditional Korean rice liquor). Pedro showed us the proper way to drink soju with a group. He was the oldest at the table, so we couldn’t look at him as we took our shots. We were also told to cover our mouth.
We had great conversation with Chris and Pedro. It was great to have Pedro along to show us how to do things and communicate with the waitstaff for us.
We’ve really been enjoying out stay at Pedro’s House. Getting to Gwangju was a different story. We took a shuttle from our hotel to the airport, because there are many buses that stop there. Buying a bus ticket was the first hurdle. The woman at the ticket counter wasn’t understanding what we needed. Luckily, a nice Korean gentleman who was visiting from Virginia offered to translate for Nick. We were able to get the exact tickets that we needed for our journey.
We made our way outside to the bus stop and within a few moments we were all loaded up. The bus driver wasn’t the friendliest and did not speak any English. There was a very nice passenger who was sitting near us and she was kind enough to confirm that we were on the right bus. The bus ride was very rough because it felt like the driver was driving a huge race car. It was cool to see the different landscape views as we made our way to the next city.
Four hours later, we were in Gwangju. We were let off at a big bus terminal. This is where we encountered our next challenge. We went to the information desk and they told us that taking a cab would be our best bet. We had what we thought was the Korean address to Pedro’s House on my phone. After loading up all of our luggage into a cab and showing the address to the driver, we were given angry gestures and tones. We couldn’t communicate at all with the driver. Nick asked if we needed to get out of the vehicle and he agreed. I started crying at this point and we had to unload the cab quickly, because we were also holding up a big line of taxis behind us. We also needed to make sure that we weren’t leaving anything important behind before he drove off.
We tried to take a couple more cabs before loading anything up into a vehicle. We showed other drivers the address and they too weren’t able to help. I sat with the luggage while Nick went back into the bus station to talk to the lady at the information desk again. Luckily, she got an information officer, who spoke English. She then re-wrote the address in “proper” Korean and helped us into a cab. We had no idea if we were really going to make it to our destination, but we were glad to be on our way. Our luggage was practically hanging out of the trunk due to the fact that it wouldn’t shut and wasn’t tied down.
10 minutes later, we were let off on a curbside in an alleyway. Nick tried to say hello and ask a neighbor about Pedro, but she stared at us and then shut her door. Luckily, a person from a local restaurant pointed us in the right direction. We were shown signs that pointed to Pedro’s and we followed those until we saw Pedro waving at us and walking towards us. What a relief!
Pedro’s House is very welcoming. If you need anything at all or have any questions, Pedro is very willing to help. We chose to stay here because of the great reviews online and because there was a private room available. It’s nice because we can retreat away to our private space at night but still get the opportunity to take part in a shared living experience and communicate with the other travelers that come through. We’ve met two people from the states, a woman from France and two people from Russia!
We’ve been walking around Gwangju a lot, taking in as much as possible. We spent much of yesterday at a nearby park — the May 18th Memorial Park. This park was created to remember the May 18 Democratization Movement in Korea. I’ll attach some pictures below for you to see some of the beauty that Korea offers.
We’re having a lot of fun in Gwangju and plan to do more exploring today. Before I end this post, I’ll touch on one more thing. We came across a McDonald’s here and had a craving 😀 so we stopped there for lunch. We noticed a few things about McDonald’s here. For one, they have something called McDelivery. So, you can order your fast food and have it delivered to your home. How cool is that??! They also have some menu items that we have in America, such as the Big Mac, but they also have different options. This includes a 1955 Burger and the Shanghai Chicken Sandwich. Korea also has a unique way of separating trash. They place all food waste in one container, recyclable in another and then regular garbage in another. At McDonald’s, they also give you plastic cups that aren’t to be thrown away. There is a separate container that these are to be returned to.
I’m thinking our next post will discuss our orientation for school, which starts in two days. Thanks for reading 🙂