Earlier this year, I worked in my company’s publishing department editing a Korean history book. While a lot of the information blended together because of the extensive detail and use of Korean names, I did learn a little about the Silla Kingdom and its grand history. Among many things, Silla is credited for creating the first unified Korea by conquering the two kingdoms of Baekje (백제) and Goguryeo (고구려). The Silla, an ancient kingdom of Korea, once called the city of Gyeongju its capital, which is partly the reason I wanted to visit.
Outside the Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal, Chris and I rented a scooter for 25,000 won for three hours. After we picked up a handy map of Gyeongju in English from the tourist center outside the bus terminal, we hopped on our scooter and hit the road.
Not too long later, we arrived at our destination: a famous temple. Bulguksa (불국사) is the main site to see in Gyeongju. The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest temples in Korea. The structure standing today has gone through dozens of renovations, but it was incredible to think that Koreans were on this sacred land more than 1,400 years ago building this very temple.
We skipped seeing the Seokguram Grotto (석굴암) because the weather started to turn on us (check out my sweet rain poncho!). We hopped back on the scooter and headed out to see a sex museum; however, the steep admission of 10,000 won each scared us away.
On our ride back to the bus terminal, I spotted a line of luxury cars parked casually in a coffee shop’s parking lot. We stopped to take a peak (and a handful of photos). To no surprise, we weren’t the only ones enjoying the view.
Getting to Gyeongju: I took a 50-minute bus ride from Dongdaegu bus terminal. The cost is no more than 4,300 won ($5) each way.
My last day of teaching was bittersweet. I was excited for S.E. Asia trip coming up, but sad to leave my students, knowing that I’d likely never see them again.
One student, Chan Ho, was getting so excited to tell me something that he began to stutter. He couldn’t think of the English. Then finally he stops and says in a very serious tone, “Sarah Teacher, you are the Best English Teacher.” he pauses for dramatic effect, “Of..My…Life.” “Thank you, Chan Ho.”
In October 2013, I moved to Daegu, South Korea and started what would be a yearlong journey of teaching English Monday through Friday and traveling every weekend. I met a man in May and quickly fell in love as we explored Korea together. When my contract ended in October 2014, I set out alone for two months traveling through four S.E. Asian countries.
Once I returned to the U.S., I embarked on a two-week road trip through America with Chris, the man I fell for in South Korea. Now, I am packing up my belongings at my parent’s house in Kansas and preparing to move to Georgetown, Texas, a town outside of Austin.
As I settle into my life stateside, my goal this year is to blog about my time in Korea, my trip to Cambodia, my weekend in Shanghai, my adventures in Japan, Thailand and Myanmar, and continue to push myself to be honest, open and informative. And, of course, plan for my next trip…
One thing I did not mention in my first two posts about applying for a job in Korea is that my job includes a pension plan. The pension is on top of the salary, severance pay, round-trip airfare, health insurance and furnished apartment. Not bad, eh?
The pension is called a lump-sum pension refund. If you qualify, a small amount of money is taken out of your paycheck each month and matched by your employer. Unfortunately, my British and Kiwi coworkers pay into the pension yet do not qualify to receive the pension at the end of their contracts, yet Americans and Canadians can expect to receive their lump-sum pension refund four to five weeks after ending their contract.
My pension is meant to be around 1.6 million won (or $1,550)** after working in Korea for 12 months. For me, the best part about this money is that it was an added “savings” account for me. While in Korea I was able to save about 59% of my paycheck, this is added savings that I did not have to account for.
Collecting your lump-sum pension refund in Daegu is easy. The woman in the office in Daegu speaks English. Some male foreign teachers have tried to snag her number; she is good looking, too. I recommend visiting the office four weeks before you fly out of Korea to give you time in case you’re missing documents.
It is an easy trip to the National Pension Service Office.
Be sure to bring:
Alien Registration Card
Flight ticket (should be within one month of departure date)
If you want your money transferred into your KEB account, bring your KEB bank account passbook
If you want the money transferred into your home country’s bank account, bring the following information: bank’s address, phone number, account number, routing number, and a copy of a bank statement.
Where’s the National Pension office in Daegu?
Beomeo Station (범어역), on the green line. The LIG building is between exit 1 and 4. It is a huge building, you cannot miss it. The office is on the 11th floor.
If you want to be lazy and take a taxi (you are about to get 1.5 million won, so you can afford to splurge) Tell the taxi: 범어역 출구 1번으로 가주세요 – (Boh-Moh-Yuck-Chool-Goo-Eel-Bohn-Euh-Roh-Gah-Choo-Say-Yoh)
Korea Burn was held on 4th of July weekend in the town of Taean, which is on the east coast a few hours south of Seoul. I arrived late Friday night on the Enjoy Korea bus. Enjoy Korea is a solid travel company ran by an awesome American girl, Stacey. She has done a great job putting together trips and packages for low-stress, high-satisfaction fun. I highly recommend going on an Enjoy Korea trip.
The Burn was something I was really looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. My friends from Cheongju put together an awesome themed Camp of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
While costumes are not required, it is one of those things you will wish you had put some time into a costume. Korea Burn is an event where the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. The biggest lesson from Korea Burn is BRING BUGSPRAY.
Chris ordered this headdress off of Etsy in preparation for the event.