Sunday, 21 April 2013

Excuses excuses...

Okay, I know, it's been over a week now since I last posted for the A-Z challenge, I will finish it and I will catch up.  Whether this happens within the time frame it was supposed to is another thing though.  I have a list of all the topics I was thinking of using, just to prove that it was no spur of the moment decision to participate.


My reasons for being slack?  Having an actual regular social life for the first time in a long time (since returning from ROK) and exploring my options for the next step in this crazy thing called life.  I'm no sudden decision girl.  My decisions may seem obscure and out of the blue but they have rarely been made without extensive thought and analysis.  I say rarely, there are always exceptions to rules.  But to give you an example, it took me 2 years of wondering and thinking to decide to brave going to Korea...

Hope you are all well, super duper sunny here.  I think it may be safe to say that spring has finally arrived, long may it stay.  Have a great rest of your weekend and see you here soon for posts on Jeju Island, K Pop (or Kimchi), Lantern festivals (another one because they are pretty), Myeongdong, and many more (namely the rest of the alphabet).

Bis bald.


Monday, 15 April 2013

A-Z delay

Gosh, another weekend and another visit from one of my best friends!  I had company Friday until Sunday, so another few days of the A-Z to catch up on (soon as I can). 

We had sunshine here, yesterday was gorgeous and even the wind was mild.  It was such a nice change and good for the soul. 

I had an excellent weekend, I hope you did too.

Bis bald.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

I is for...


The biggest foreigner district in Seoul, Itaewon is located right next to one of the biggest US army bases in Korea.  It is the best place to find foreign food, both restaurants and shops.   It has a huge expat community, not just English teachers but people from all over the globe.   I found it a little dodgy at night time, although you can find real cider at the Irish pub there...

Here is a glorious song about Itaewon:

H is for...


It had to be really.  Hongdae is the area I lived in for a year, and possibly THE biggest party district in Seoul.  I know, Hongdae + Abi/Me are not a natural sounding fit, but the area has a lot to offer other than drunkards.  I moved there because the hagwon (private school) I worked in was in an area called Sinchon, just one stop on the subway, 5/10 minutes by bus or a 15/20 minute walk away and our apartment building was in Hongdae.

Hongik university.
 At first I thought Hongdae was loud, dirty and busy.  I left loving it, but still thinking it was loud, dirty and busy.  It is a bonkers area to live in, Seoul is a city that NEVER sleeps, I mean never ever.  I would sometimes go for a run at 7am and I would pass people going home from the night before.  Living in that area was pretty interesting, and extremely convenient as it is super central (and not far from the river).  I'm not a big one for night life, but I still found things to love about the area.

The Hello Kitty Cafe.

Stall selling random cute things.
On a Saturday morning you will find a craft fair in the "playground", this hosts a collection of local artists selling their wares.  They are usually up to a pretty high standard too.  The area is named Hongdae because of the local arts university Hongik University. 

Free gig inside a clothes store.
The playground becomes a completely different place at night, then it is a meeting ground, a place to hang out and buy a dodgy street cocktail or to watch buskers.  There is also an older guy that sells makgeolli (Korean fermented rice wine, aquired taste but I found it delicious), he is literally called the Makgeolli man and is known to any regulars of the area (google him for a photo).

Local mart.
 It has a multitude of restaurants, cute cafes, bars and clubs.  A gazillion fashionable shops selling oversized jumpers and little skirts,  stalls selling funky mobile phone covers every hundred yards and a lot of street performers.  It is also down the road from the area of Hapjeong, this is also a nice area but I didn't get to explore it enough before leaving.

I'm going to pop a collection of photos taken in Hongdae down below.  There's one thing to be said for Hongdae, you'll always see something interesting...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

G is for...

Gangnam style

I didn't want to do this to you all, as I am sure you have had enough of Psy and his antics, but I want to catch up with my A-Z and this is the easy option for G.

But, whilst on the topic of Gangnam, take a look here for a description of this affluent area south of the river in Seoul.

F is for...

I really struggled with this one, there aren't really places or things starting with this letter.  Apart from a restaurant, for example Fry Pan (best fried chicken in Seoul), or using my friend's idea of Face and discussing the crazy cosmetics industry in Korea I've been coming up clueless.  I might hit upon the latter in another post though.  A look at the index of my Rough Guide to Korea just proved it, there are no places beginning with F!  It is not a sound you hear in Hangul.  

Until about two seconds ago I was going to go with Fitness and discuss how outdoor gyms are really popular in Korea (and how old people do not just sit down and became immobile, they work out).  But then I spotted Fortress in the index and thought about a day trip I took with my friend to the fortress at Suwon.

So, today, F is for Fortress.

Located just an hour or so south of Central Seoul is the city of Suwon.  It's been a little swallowed up by the ever growing Seoul, but it is a city in it's own right rather than just a satellite city built to house workers for the capital (although some of these are quite nice too).  

Hwaseong fortress is a UNESCO-listed fortress at the centre of Suwon.  It was completed in 1796, built on the orders of King Jeongjo (an important ruler from the Joseon dynasty) to house the remains of his father, Prince Sado.  Sadly for poor Prince Sado, he never made it to the throne, instead meeting his doom by the hands of his father, King Yeongjo, at Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul (thank you to the Rough Guide, 2008).

I went there with my friend Jenny, she popped by to visit me on her way home from Australia (via Korea and Hong Kong) and we had a great 10 days together.  Unfortunately, I had to work during her visit, but she's a well seasoned traveller and soon had both her solo days and our together days and evenings planned.   We popped down to Suwon one weekend and had a walk down to the fortress, we didn't get to see much of the rest of the city as we had a deadline to meet a friend of mine at the Art Park in Anyang, but what we saw was nice.  It was one of those days where nothing quite goes to plan, as is often the case with us, but it was a good day none the less (and hot because it was August).

We arrived at the train station and followed signs and the map in my Lonely Planet through the town and to the fortress.  

When we knew for certain that we were heading in the right direction.
It's free to enter and the thing to do is walk the wall.  As we followed it round we came to a gift shop, restaurant and place to buy tickets for the little dragon trolley that you can ride up and down the hillier part of the wall.  Korea has it's moments that leave me perplexed and we had one of them that day.  There was a possibility that it was going to rain, so they had decided to stop running the dragon trolley.  This is fine, and I agree that it was a typical humid summer day, but later we saw the dragon trolley packed with people enjoying the ride!  

Ah well, it was still fun to follow the wall.  At one point it disappears and you walk through the town trying to find the next segment, in fact the centre of the fortress is no longer really there and instead it now surrounds regular concrete buildings.  Every now and then you come across something resembling the original centre, the odd pagoda or green patch of grass, but the city has definitely grown up around this old relic.

The whole wall stretches for 5.7km so it's a walk-able distance and takes a little while if you want to stop and look at things.  It winds around quite a bit.  

There's a big Buddha statue and a small former palace you can see as well. 

When you get to the higher ground there is a big bell that you can pay to "gong", you pay tuppence to do so, I think it was 1,000 won for 3 goes, but it's quite fun.  Apparently, it's one gong for your parents, one for a healthy, harmonious family, and one for whatever you desire (Rough Guide).  All in all, it was a great day trip.

Hazy day in the city.

Something childishly thrilling about ringing a big bell.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Normal A-Z service will resume shortly.

Just wanted to pop on and say hello!  Hope it is as sunny for you as it is for me today.  So excited by this gorgeous, and long awaited, spring-like weather!  So excited that I completely ran out of time to write my F post yesterday, but worry not I have finally thought of my topic.  It will be a little later yet though, my friend is visiting me and I have to hurry up and get ready to go meet her.  Super exciting to have a visitor, I even baked a cake!

Yesterday I got distracted by sunshine, impromptu shopping (naughty naughty) and playing Cranium at a pub with my housemate and her friends (I was the token Brit and knew maybe 2 answers to the all the British related factual questions, patriotic fail).

Have a super day and bis bald.


Friday, 5 April 2013

E is for...


Today I am a little at a loss of what to write about, so I am cheating and using my housemate's idea of a post about food.  So, as it has been a long time now and I don't have anyone to help me name everything, here is a collection of photos of just some of the food I ate in Korea.  I quickly picked up the habit of taking photos of almost every meal I ate out, firstly because it was all new, interesting and delicious, secondly because that is what Koreans seem to do!  It is one of the things you quickly notice, they use the cameras on their smart phones and take photos of food, or just of themselves.  Seriously, I am not kidding.  Take a look at this blog, there's a post all about the self-photo phenomenon (I just wanted to use that word).

For now, here are some (partly labelled) photos of Korean food...

21cm ice creams in Myeongdong


Korean style BBQ, delicious.

I love Korean side dishes, you order one thing and get several side dishes free of charge.

And if you go to the right place, you can get this many side dishes!

Some kind of jjigae (soup), I think it's bean curd jjigae and super tasty.

They eat a lot of steamed sweet potatoes, so simple yet delicious.

Dried squid?

Rice porridge, very wholesome and warming.

Terrible photo, but these red bean stuffed fish HAD to be included.

Spicy pork served with rice and leaves to eat them with (you put the meat and rice in the leaves).

Ginseng chicken soup, that whole chicken (stuffed with rice) was all for me.  Classic summer dish, believe it or not, as it gives you lots of energy.

Rice noodle fried dumplings.

Think this was called jimdak, and those scissors you see in the top left corner are used to cut up the noodles.

More BBQ, complete with egg ring omelette.

A kimbap, Korean version of sushi (California roll style) preparation station.

This was from a soup, beef back bone or something similar.  It was super tasty but fiddly as you had to take the meat off of the bone (with chopsticks).

Instant noodles, purchased at a convenience store by the river.

They LOVE waffles!

Potatoe pajeon, pancake.

This was delicious!  Cannot remember the name, but it contained chicken and potatoes.  Mmmmmm.

More side dishes.

Side dishes purchased at the local street stall.

Korean BBQ.

Lady making mung bean pancakes.
Amazing dinner, before it was cooked.  It was delicious and looked so pretty.

The end piece of some kimbap.  In there you can see Radish (the bright yellow), spam (the pink), crab stick, egg omelette thingy, odang (fish cake light brown thing) and I think carrot?

Special apron for eating Dak Galbi.

Potatoes on a stick, covered in cheese powder.  Tasty and another example of street food, especially what can be found in the Myeongdong shopping district.

Corn dogs covered in chips.fries and deep fried.  Looked amazing, tasted okay.

Peanut butter roasted squid, to die for.