Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bungee Jumping and Slush Skating

This past Sunday I met up with my friend Tristan from university who just moved into Seoul (I'm very lucky, lots of Acadia people have moved to Korea in the last year) and it was so good to see him! We went to Bundang, which is a few cities over from Suwon (if you're in Seoul it's on the yellow subway line). Why did we go there? You might not think there's much to do in Bundang, since it's not really in Seoul, BUT there is a park where one can bungee jump and there is also a sweet little skating rink near one of the subway stations (the name of said station has momentarily escaped me).

To be honest, it wasn't the skating or bungee jumping that really made me enjoy myself. I mean, I didn't partake in the bungee jumping (I'm not crazy...) and the skating rink was pretty badly maintained. Maybe, coming from the land of well kept skating rinks, I am spoiled. All I know is, although it was enjoyable to be on the ice once again, I probably won't go skating in Korea anymore. Kids are falling down everywhere, it's extremely crowded, and everywhere you go there are guys blowing whistles at you. Totally sucks the fun out of skating! Plus they never swept the ice so there was slush forming everywhere from the ice being scraped by so many skates. but I still had fun!

Bundang is so, so nice- way nicer than Suwon! By nice, of course I mean less rundown, more modern, and you can tell a lot of very rich people live there. The mall attached to the subway station had so many designer stores that I have never seen before and I could never have a hope to ever step foot in (I am just too shabby for Chanel). All I could do was window shop with a longing look on my face while my friends pushed their way through the crowds.

After ice skating, we tried to find a place for Galbi, but in the end we had to settle for dakgalbi (chicken galbi; delicious) and samgyupsal (pieces of pork that look like really thick slabs of bacon). I wasn't complaining, even when the waitress put an entire squid on the grill beside our samgyupsal. Yum, yum, yum!

Lisa, Bernie, and Samuel waiting to take the elevator up to their bungee platform. I wish the camera could have caught the terrified expression on their faces, but I was too far away.

Tristan and I. What looks like a graceful attempt for a pose is really me trying not to fall down. I am so smooth.

My awesome pink skates... I may not have worn these exact ones, but mine were the same. Thanks to the unknowing girl with similar sized feet to mine for the photo op...

Tristan's first ever galbi lettuce roll. I had to capture the moment, like a proud mother captures her child's first steps. So proud.

And this is Bernard's jump that I caught on video. He kinda screams for the first nanosecond of the jump, and then kinda falls limp. It's extremely amusing for me to watch. You probably won't think it's funny at all, because you probably don't know Bernard (for those who do know Bernard....hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! I know!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Korean War Museum

Just three subways stops away from Itaewon, the Korean War Museum was easily accessed when we stayed in Seoul a few weeks ago. I read a lot of Korean expat blogs, and honestly, I think everyone has done a post on the war museum over the last few weeks. It's like, the in thing to do right now. So of course I had to follow suit.

Actually I really just wanted to go to Insadong, but was overruled on this particular day. Luckily, I had read other blogs discussing the fact that, although it was super cool that the Dead Sea Scrolls were at the museum for a limited time, there was no English translation provided. I thought I would probably need a translation as did my friends, so we did not pay extra to go see that exhibit. We still really enjoyed ourselves, though. One could spend days at this museum- it's huge, and since Korea has such an extensive history of war and occupation, it is chock full of artifacts, recreations, maps and correspondance. I kept thinking that my Dad and brothers would have loved it, so I took lots of pictures for them. For you, faithful readers, I have posted only five, because I don't want to a) bore you, or b) ruin any surprises for when you go there yourself!

Just outside the museum there are several large statues, as well as old planes and a massive monument in the centre of the courtyard. This particular statue is much larger than what you see, and I thought it was interesting because at the front there were soldiers clearly being very brave and going into battle, but when you get toward the end of the statue you see women and children crying, clearly not wanting their men to go to war. Very touching.

They had all kinds of cool artifacts like these old fashioned bombs! One could also see the evolution of the sword from the very beginning of Korean history to the most recent. Oh, also a mean invention: spikes that were put in the ground so that horse would step on them and fall over. It's not the horse's damn fault you made it go to war!

This was my favourite part of the museum: the Korean War floor which had all of the information and correspondence between the United Nations and Korea in the days leading up to the war. It also had an area that showed what life was like in Korea during the war, and had information on all other foreign involvement.

There is one spot dedicated to Canada. After the US and Britain, we sent the largest amount of military support during the war. Actually, per capita we probably sent more. I'm not sure. But it was nice to see this little shout out.

This was part of the display showing the viewer what daily life was like for civilians during the war. This particular set shows the grief of a mother and daughter at the news of the father's death.

We spent hours at the museum and still, I don't think I managed to see everything. It definitely gives me a new perspective on Korean culture and the affect that war and occupation has had on Koreans, even now. I always knew that the war and, specifically, the Japanese occupation is still a soft spot and one generally shouldn't mention either to a Korean they do not know well (inquiries can sometimes be taken the wrong way, that's all- I can talk about these things with my close Korean friends), but now I have a much better understanding of the issues associated with Korean history.

You should go check it out too! Then post your experience on your blog. Come on. Jump on the bandwagon.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rando Dinner in Gangnam

So a little while back some friends and I were cold, tired and slightly hungover from clubbing in Itaewon the night before. Plus my feet hurt. Seoul, despite it's hip appearance, is not the best city to walk around all day in heels. I couldn't even bear the thought of the hour-and-a-half long subway ride back to Suwon at 7 PM and I was sure I wouldn't be able to convince my friends to take the direct bus (which only costs about $1.20 Canadian) from Gangnam to Suwon, simply because I can never convince Kerri and Kim whenever we're in Seoul. They actually like the subway for some reason. Anyway, I was wrong and Lisa, Bernard and Samuel were more than willing to take the bus home. And my feet rejoiced.

Gangnam is a pretty hip neighbourhood in Seoul. You'll find lots of neat stores and lots of expensive clubs to go to. Unlike Itaewon, where you see more foreigners than Koreans, Gangnam (aside from Hongdae) is the main area young Koreans like to frequent on the weekends. Or so I've been told.

When we got to Gangnam we thought it would be easy to find a place for a quick dinner before hopping on the bus, but it actually proved exceedingly difficult. Who knew that every restaurant would be packed? Finally we came across this place (pictured bove).

The name said something about pepper steak. That's all I can remember. However, the food was quite different from what I've been eating so far. In true Korean style, it was a cook-it-yourself meal. You could choose the meat, the rice, and the style and they brought it to you on a sizzling plate not unlike a serving of bulgogi. The plate was hot enough to cook the meat, rice, vegetables, and sauce together. And it was pretty damn delicious. Maybe not in my top 10 for Korean food, but definitely in my top 20, just ahead of acorn gelatin and octopus soup.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Tribute to (one of) my Favourite Gay Cowboys

Dear Heath: So far I have heard: you committed suicide in Mary Kate Olsen's apartment, you had pneumonia and they reacted badly to sleeping pills, you overdosed accidentally, you had perscription and non-prescription sleeping pills in your system and they reacted badly, you overdosed on purpose, your father is a mining engineer, your father is a racecar driver, plus countless other stories that I am not quite sure about.

One thing is for certain: I was totally digging your tired, strung out look that you had going on recently. Indeed, I feel kinda guilty about digging it because it foreshadowed your imminent death and I thought it was an "on purpose" kind of tired. Maybe that's why I'm dedicating an entire post to you on a strictly-South Korea-related blog. Either way, you were one of the hottest and most talented Australian men ever to make it to the big screen. I liked the way you tried to keep it real, and I know that, somewhere, off in the distance, you'll keep it real for the rest of eternity. The teeney bopper inside me screams "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, HEATH", but the cooler, more subdued me says "you will be greatly missed in Hollywood... probably... well, at least until the next person dies."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ehwa Women's University

Well, on Saturday we had the big wedding dress day where Kim tried on her dress for the first time. I can't say what it looks like, but I will say it's beautiful. Drew will love it.

The dress shop was in Seoul, as I've mentioned before, just a block or so away from the Ehwa Women's University subway stop. We had Kim's dress fitting and decided to find a place for lunch in the cooler area closer to the university (just a street over). We found a great "bistro", for lack of a better word, with a great Mediterranean style buffet, paninis, pizza, and more. I ordered the "double cheese roasted garlic" pizza with some type of greens... radicchio? Maybe? Anyway, in Korea it was called double cheese roasted garlic, but where I come from in Canada we just call it GARLIC FINGERS! That's right, I found a place in Seoul where I can go whenever the craving strikes! It's not 100% the same, but the flavour comes pretty close. I'm pretty happy. Here's what my pizza looked like:

I had to take a few pictures of the neighbourhood because it's pretty cool. I think of the area surrounding the university as shabby chic. Yes, that is the proper term.

It was a lovely but freezing day.

Our restaurant was on a steep hill. It reminded me of Halifax.

Walking down toward the university.

At the subway station: possibly the largest escalator I have ever seen or heard of. This picture doesn't even do it justice.

View of the neighbourhood from The Coffee Bean (where I have found delicious cafe au laits).

Scarves for sale! This area really sells to young women, I guess because the university isn't co-ed. Those poor girls.

Street vendors galore, as is the norm everywhere I go.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Helen's Birthday Dinner

Last Friday we all went out for Helen's (Kerri's teaching partner) birthday. She decided that we should have spicy shabu shabu and mandhu (steamed pork dumplings) for dinner and it was a lovely choice. The food was pretty yummy.

I sympethize with Kim, kimchi is really hard to bite into sometimes and you end up with a massive, spicy piece of fermented bok choy in your mouth. I believe kimchi is best eaten little by little (with a little rice to soak up the sourness).

This was different from the shabu shabu I usually eat. Instead of a plain, clean tasting beef broth we got a broth more similar, I think, to the broth you get with ramyean noodles. Red, spicy, and a little thicker than your average broth. It was delicious. The mushrooms, thinly sliced beef and noodles were the same, although they also gave us a bowl of rice to add to the pot when all the beef and noodles and veggies were gone.

The wasabi they gave us with our dipping sauce was going a little overbaord. The broth alone was quite spicy, and even though I enjoy really spicy food I didn't think wasabi and red pepper broth went particularly well together.

Here we all are! Well, I'm taking the picture so obviously I'm not in it. Just imagine a pretty, smiling face and you can imagine me in the picture.

The mandhu was massive, I have never seen them this big! Speaking of mandhu, a new mandhu place just opened in my neighbourhood and it's awesome! A big serving of gogi (or meat) mandhu is only about 3000 won and they really fill you up. Mandhu guk (mandhu soup) is also highly recommended.

Michelle is pregnant! We just found out recently. There goes one more teaching partner... but we are happy for her, she was wanting a baby.

Remember how I said the rice was to be added to the pot at the end of the meal? Well, Tracy thought it wouldn't be a big deal if she just added it to the soup. Neither did I, it actually tasted better in the soup. But our waitress freaked out! Here she is scooping out the rice...

And here she is pouring the remnants of the soup into a seperate dish...

And then she put the rice back in to suck up all the remaining moisture... honestly, what a faux pas we made.

Live and learn, Tracy. It was a rookie mistake.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Intimate Itaewon

A recent trip into Itaewon:

Which is better: creepy, smiling man in?

Or out.

This restaurant is pretty delishnan. For 15 bucks they have a never-ending all-you-can-eat buffet of any kind of curry or Indian dish you can imagine. I love it so much. The last time we went, the owner's Dad was sitting in a corner and he told us all about Bangladesh before partition. Such a sweet old man.

What I thought was an innocent shot of a Hello Kitty sticker is really more of a picture of me and Kim in the window's reflection. I love my accidental cool shots. Maybe I should take a course on photography.

Welcome to Hooker Hill, as it has been aptly named by expats. Home to gay bars and... hookers. A fun Saturday night all on one hill!

The main street in Itaewon.

Vendors and kiosks abound, as always...

Pancho's! This is Itaewon in all its glory.

This guy made suits for Pavarotti himself. Apparently. There's also a guy in Insadong who apparently did a portrait of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

I... didn't know this place existed.

This isn't Itaewon, it's a subway station on the way home. I just figured I'd show you what the outdoor stations look like. The subways come on the closest sides and in the middle the freight and passenger trains go to various places around Korea. I'll be on one to Pusan for Lunar New Years. Very exciting.