A rest stop is a rest stop anywhere, right? As we discovered on our drive from Seoul to Gyeongju, apparently not. Traveling to Gyeongju and our evening there afterwards presented further examples of how things that seem so familiar can, despite having the same basic structure, still be so different.
For example, the rest stops here appeared especially clean and it seemed like everyone there was traveling in business or at least relatively nice clothes, compared to the comfortable clothes you tend to see more frequently in the United States. At least one of the rest stops seemed to also be selling clothes which is something I have not seen in the US.
Also, even just driving through South Korea the landscape was different from a lot of parts of the United States. As we learned on one of our tours, around 80% of the Korean peninsula is mountainous, and it seemed we were pretty consistently among beautiful green hills.
When we finally arrived in Gyeongju we went to an amusement park called Gyeonju World, which carried the same sense of being so similar but not quite the same. Obviously in both of these places there are the glaring differences of the language and for the most part the food, although they still had cotton candy and corn dogs. Especially because this park was world themed, it was interesting to see how they portrayed and interpreted what they used as influence. For example, it seemed one section was ancient Greece focused while other parts consisted of mythical creatures.
The rides were also a mix of classics, like the Ferris wheel and a drop tower, and rides that were brand new to me, and it’s interesting to consider why some of them crossed borders while others appear to have not. It is fascinating to try to comprehend the extraordinary resemblance South Korea has to the United States while also being aware of the vast differences – like walking through an amusement park with carnival music and familiar smells but being unable to understand what is being said by people passing and consequently being reminded you are halfway around the world.