Well it wasn't officially a white Christmas but we had snow early in the week and there was still some unmelted snow on the ground on Christmas day so I was happy. Christmas was incredible here, the hotel put on a Christmas brunch for the residents complete with a Korean Santa and staff putting on a live concert.
The food was fantastic, I didn't have to clean up afterwards and the mood was great so all in all it was a good day. We also spent the morning talking to family so it didn't feel like we were alone on the other side of the world at all.
After brunch we decided to walk around and have a look at the city - what we didn't expect was for every store and market stall to be open and bustling with business. Christmas here is a day for couples, it's not so much for the children as young adults so it was a really nice vibe. We took a chance to get some more photos including a couple of one of my major landmarks, Gwanghamun man, all dressed up for Christmas.
We tried to have a quiet day on Christmas day because Boxing Day was reserved for skiing. The alarm was set for four thirty (and after a long shift at the airport it didn't make for an easy wake up for me) and by 5.15am we were on the bus and making our way towards Yongpyong resort.
Our bus driver spoke absolutely no english so it made finding our ski gear on arrival quite challenging but that just adds to the fun. We ended up hiring skis and boots (more on the boots later) and arranging a two hour lesson so we could try and survive on the snow. Wade has skiied before but it was 19 years ago and I was a virgin wannabe ski bunny so it made our instructors life challenging. Wade seemed to pick it all up straight away but the only thing I successfully mastered in the first hour of lessons was the ability to fall over safely! Our guide then took us on our first downhill trip so we boarded the ski lift with me more than a little nervous. When the lift arrived at the top I promptly fell off when I tried to exit the lift and it didn't get a lot better from there. I think I slid down further than I skiied for that first trip but it was fun and after than our instructor decided that we should try the gondola trip and ski down that slope. What we didn't know was that the gondola course was 5.7kms with some pretty difficult sections and took us pretty high up into the mountains. I almost chickened out at the top given that I was probably only going a max of 10 metres before falling but I decided to push on and give it a go.
Unbeknownst to me Wade was having some dramas with his ski boots, he had the largest boots available but they were on the small size and he was fast losing feeling in his feet, and it was travelling upwards. After a couple more falls for me it started to all come together and I was actually staying upright and making turns and getting my way down the mountain so I was pretty darn impressed with myself. Things had gone from bad to worse for Wade who had his legs totally cramp up and was unable to make his way down the mountain so our instructor made the decision with about 4kms of skiing left to call for the rescue squad.
I was excited at the prospect of catching a skimobile back down the mountain but instead our rescuer turned up with a pull along stretcher with a body bag attached to it and asked us both to climb on. After zipping up the body bag he then proceeded to ski down the mountain reaching some pretty scary speeds and taking us to the bottom. It was definitely the highlight of my day up until then and we were more than impressed with his skiing skills.
With our dignity left at the top of the mountain we decided to skulk off and have lunch before making a second attempt at skiing in the afternoon. For attempt number two Wade gave up socks in an attempt to get some extra room in his boots and it seemed to work. This time we kept to the beginner slope and I began to really get the hang of getting on and off the ski lift and eventually made three incident and fall free descents down the 500 metre slope. I left the day on a high and I can't wait to go back and try again. The only bad bit about the trip was the more than 3 hour drive home with my work phone constantly ringing (no day off for me it seems with constant phone calls keeping me busy all the way home). It's all still a bit embarrassing when I think of all the kids that managed to fly past me, I guess thats the advantage of growing up where skiing is a regular sport and you learn to ski just after you learn to walk, but all in all I'm pretty glad to have left the slopes of my own accord with no need for medical assistance!
We ended the day with a stint in the hotel spa to try and relax a bit before bedtime but I don't know how much it actually helped giving how much pain we are both in today. Still the memories of skiing on Boxing Day were amazing and it was definitely an amazing festive season for us.
Our next highlight will be New Years Eve here so expect lots more photos from that night.
Merry Christmas everyone and a safe and happy 2009 to you all.