Tag Archives: food

Preparing for a Korean Goodbye: Don’t leave my friends out of this.

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Time is running out, so please stop saying, “Yeah, we will have to do that some weekend.” I have exactly 6 weekends left in Korea and each is pretty much full from 8pm on Friday until late Sunday afternoon. I am lucky in that many of my friends in Korea are also leaving close to my departure date. Most of us are in a rush to eat lots of kimchi, find Psy socks to bring home and most importantly soak up each others awesomeness before some depart for homes scattered all over the globe and others remain in Korea. And oh yeah, I still have to find the confidence to make a jjimjilbang date. Umm, a little help please?

So, here is my list. I believe if I write it, it will happen. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Please comment with other things I must do, see, taste, try or buy before I leave this fantastic country I have loved calling home.

I hope to…

1) tour the MOCA. I recently learned that Seoul’s National Museum of Contemporary Art offers free admission for select exhibits on the 4th weekend of each month. See you there?

2) have one more epic weekend adventure with my favorite SHG guide. If you are moving to Korea or are here already I strongly suggest you check them out. But only if you like to have fun. Otherwise, forget I mentioned it.

3) stock up on my favorite Korean cosmetics. Great timing Sheryll, I was getting worried I would leave before you shared this.

4) finally suck it up, strip down and visit a jjimjilbang. If this story doesn’t make you want to visit one, I’m sorry.

5) get lost at the Korean War Memorial and Museum for an entire day. I am proud to say I am related to the late Captain Joseph McConnell Jr. who was a leading jet ace of the Korean War. I hope to learn more about him and the war.

6) norebang with my favorite girlfriends in Uijeongbu one last time. The first night my friend voluntarily put on Call Me Maybe I knew I was going to be just fine in Korea.

7) pretend to know something about electronics and peruse the Yongsan Electronics Market.

8) Stuff my face with one (or two?) Casablanca Moroccan chicken sandwiches. I visited HBC a few weeks ago and almost cried (like real tears) when I found the storefront dark and closed for renovations. A Twitter friend swears they are reopening before I leave. She better not be throwing fake promises around the Internet. You know who you are, and I know your Twitter handle.

9) finally make it to a Hongdae Silent Disco. Check it out.

10) dress super classy and do it up Korea Style.

11) successfully order takeout to my apartment.

12) not go overboard, but add a few more key pieces to my arsenal of Korean fashion. I can’t help myself, I WANT EVERYTHING.

13) You tell me.

I have a lot to do, but I am grateful to spend these next weekends with friends who have kicked it with me in Korea for the past 11 months and have put up with me and my geeky love of planning. Last week we had an early Saturday morning outing scheduled and more sites to see in the afternoon. Friday night rolled around and we found ourselves at a favorite local bar enjoying cheap drinks, stories of teaching mishaps, college card games and a few sloppy rounds of darts. As you can guess, we didn’t make it to bed until the early morning and our plans were scratched in exchange for recovery rest. My Saturday was spent sleeping and Sunday was also quiet with a friendly coffee shop session and a long walk in the evening. Our lazy weekend meant I had to rearrange my planner notes, but I promise, no one is freaking out.

I am impressed with my long list of Korean adventures accomplished in the past year, but just like “감사합니다”  and “안녕하세요” will disappear from my daily routine come March, so will my friends who quickly became family in early 2012. So please, recommend your ‘Korea must-do-see-taste-try-buy’ item for my list, but if my friends aren’t down then I may give it a miss.

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Filed under cuter in korea, departure, food, seoul, travel, uijeongbu

Koh Samet: I wish you were here, or maybe not.

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I have no intention of making you jealous, but I have to inform you that I am writing this blog post from a beach chair 4 feet from the water on the small island of Koh Samet in Thailand. It is late afternoon and the beach area in front of my resort (My bungalow is $20 a night!) is starting to clear out for the day. I personally think dusk is the best part of a beach day. The sky’s color is spectacular, the sun isn’t as intense as it was a few hours prior and I can finally tell by looking at my skin that yes, I in fact did manage to tan and not burn after hours of frolicking in the surf.

I tell you all this because upon traveling to the island from Bangkok, where I spent 3 days being social and saying goodbye to 2012, I have come to the realization that solo-travel may just be the best thing I have done so far in 2013. I admit I was a bit nervous to embark on my solo winter vacation to Thailand. I had traveled alone before but those trips were always only short jaunts from one place to another to meet friends, family or study abroad groups. Because my other expat friends in Korea did not share my vacation days and I knew I didn’t want to stick around Seoul for another week of winter, I booked flights to Bangkok and a hostel for the first night and hoped for the best.

Bangkok proved to be a bustling yet non-intimidating and easily navigable city. I’m not sure what I expected, but my desire to be beach-side and maybe Hangover 2 clouded my judgements and I hoped to leave the city shortly after my arrival. I was pleasantly surprised by Bangkok. I spent 3 nights at the Refill Now! hostel (Please stay here if you are ever in Bangkok!) and made time to explore the splendidly colorful Grand Palace via water transportation, get lost meandering the hundreds of stalls at the famous Chatuck weekend market, wander the backpacker’s party street of Koh San until the early morning hours, and celebrate NYE with a friend from home who now lives in Thailand.

After a whirlwind tour of Bangkok I was more than ready to find a map of Thailand and choose an island to getaway to for the remainder of my vacation. My friend had to return to work so I was left to travel solo and any solo-travel-nerves I might have had when I booked my trip a few months back vanished as I made my way to the Bangkok bus station. I was ready for some quality relaxation and I didn’t mind that a few couples and groups of friends eyed me curiously (I think this was just in my self-centered imagination.) on the ferry from the mainland of Rayong to Koh Samet. I think the lone traveler is mysterious. I imagined an outlandish alter identity for myself, although I do think ‘English Teacher in South Korea’ is pretty darn cool and adventurous. My 20 year old self would have been self conscious, I know it. She would have told herself everyone thought it was strange she was traveling alone and that she must be a lonely cat lady. My 25 year old self, having successfully matured (a bit!) and gained some wisdom in a large part due to her year abroad in Korea, brushed these people and their non-existent thoughts aside and realized she would probably never see them again and she was about to embark on an epic island getaway.

My first full day on Koh Samet is nearly over and I look forward to 2 mores days of sun and fun. The nice thing about vacationing alone is that you are free to do exactly what you want to do exactly when you want to do it. If I want to sleep in I can. If I sporadically decide to stay in the ocean for an entire hour flopping around pretending to be a mermaid no one is impatiently waiting for me on the beach. If I want to go to bed at 10pm there is no judgement. I have also found that the lone traveler is sometimes the most sociable. While a large group of friends may seem intimidating, when you are on your own you are more likely to be approached by others. On the ferry to Koh Samet I met 2 guys who teach in Japan and were vacationing like me. Many young people at my resort beach have also been extremely friendly.

Although I love to socialize, I am using these last few days in Thailand to relax, work on my tan (using SPF!), catch up on all the books I bought for my iPad in 2012 and recharge for the next few months of teaching in Korea. I would tell you all about the delicious pad Thai I plan to consume tonight, but a beach massage advertisement just caught my eye. A one-hour-full-body-massage for about $9…oh, don’t you wish you were here?

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It’s your party, but please learn to hike first.

With about 70% of the Korean peninsula covered with mountains, the hiking culture dominates the the Land of Kimchi. I went for a short hike up Mt. Dobongsan near my home a few weeks ago. I have a ways to go if I want to start calling myself a “hiker”, but here are my thoughts thus far…

Hiking in Korea is reminiscent of attending an epic college party.

It is imperative that you…

pre-game. (Who wants some morning makgeolli?)

dress to impress.

(Leave your sweats at home and make sure your gear is from this season.)

show up at the right time with drinks to share.

(Koreans hike early in the morning and are generous with their drinks.)

move at the right pace.

(You don’t want to rush ahead and fall and be ‘that guy’ that your friends have to take care of, but you also don’t want to fall behind and miss the fun.)

conserve enough energy so that you can make an appearance at the after party.

(Fact: Korean bbq tastes 100x better after a hike.)

at least attempt to conceal your grin on your way home on the subway while jealous onlookers admire your post-outing glow.

(“Yeah, I just hiked for 5 amazing hours and it’s only 12pm. What have you done today?”)

See you on the mountain…unless I was at a party the night before…and in that case I will be sleeping instead.

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Korea Burn – Leave your wallet at home.

After spending a weekend at Korea Burn this September, I realized that although I have been in Korea for more than 7 months now, this country will continue to surprise me with each weekend excursion. On a Monday night my friend called an emergency meeting to persuade a group of us to ‘apply’ for last-minute Korea Burn tickets, Tuesday I enlisted the help of my co-teacher in purchasing a tent from a Korean website, Wednesday and Thursday night were spent texting my friends back and forth regarding our to-do lists of making matching costumes, finding glow-sticks and glitter and buying bug repellent and Friday night I found myself staring at an empty suitcase wondering what the heck one brings to a Burn.

Korea Burn was inspired by Burning Man, the annual festival in Black Rock City, Nevada. The festival in Nevada lasts for a week and includes art installations and performances inspired by the participants. The festival’s core values include participation, art, self-expression and experience. The festival in Korea lasted for only a weekend but everyone involved followed the main mission statement of Burning Man. The celebration centered around a constructed wooden man with arms open to the sky. The structure was set ablaze on Saturday night and this act brought all of the festival goers together to watch the fire show. The weekend participants were encouraged to follow these 10 principles:

1) Radical Inclusion

2) Gifting

3) Decommodification

4) Radical Self-reliance

5) Radical Self-expression

6) Communal Effort

7) Civic Responsibility

8) Leaving No Trace

9) Participation

10) Immediacy

(If you are interested, you can learn more at http://www.koreaburn.co.kr/)

I found the idea of ‘Gifting’ to be the most interesting. The organizers encouraged us to leave our wallets at home, or at least in our tents. How could a massive beach party of foreigners survive without the flow of cash? Even if we were willing to gift the snacks that we brought (soju soaked watermelon pieces cut into stars and hearts), could we really rely on strangers to bring the rest of the party supplies and also to be giving with them? I was amazed at how generous people were as soon as we arrived at Gijipo Beach on Saturday morning. As soon as we found a spot to pitch our tent (which is a story in itself – trust me), we changed into our Burn Costumes (Burn Costumes can be WHATEVER you want them to be, believe me, I saw it all.) and headed to the beach. One of my favorite gifting moments was when I traded an original poem for a crispy slice of bacon. It may have been the best piece of bacon ever. I think the rest of the weekend is best described with pictures. It was one of those weekends that will stay with me. And the fact that this took place in Korea is just icing on the cake. I traded a hand-knit scarf for this cake of course. Gifting is key.

 

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Hummus Heaven at High Street Market

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“You look like you could use an almond milk coffee smoothie with real mint chocolate bits,” the man behind the counter caught me off-guard as I stood at the entrance of the store wide-eyed and drooling. “I can make it for you now and you can enjoy it while you shop.” I nodded, unable to verbalize my gratitude. “Did he just read my mind?” I thought. Maybe he did, or maybe he just saw me for the sucker that I am, regardless, the drink was beyond amazing and I couldn’t help but make a few annoying slurping sounds with my straw as I managed to enjoy each bit of the almond milk deliciousness as I browsed all that High Street Market had to offer.

I spy Nutella!

High Street Market is located in Itaewon in Seoul and had been on my list of places to visit for a few months now. According to the store’s website, The idea of High Street Market was conceived in late 2010 when a few foreign guys doing local import business decided to create a place where people could find the foods they missed back home, all under one roof.

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I knew I would most likely go shopping crazy when I visited, so I had to time my visit when I could manage to carry a few heavy bags from the store directly to the subway and home with no interruptions. I easily convinced my friend to accompany me for the trek into Seoul one Saturday, and I awoke the morning of our shopping trip itching to get my hands on a few precious foreign food items I have been craving: almond milk (duh, it’s awesome!) and hummus (the main staple of my diet at home).

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The store is easy to find, you take the Seoul Subway Line 6 to the Itaewon Station and use Exit 2. At Exit 2 you simply walk about 5 minutes until you see the IP Boutique Hotel on your left and High Street Market is right next to it on the 2nd floor. The address is 2F, 737-24, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea. High Street Market is also all about staying connected, you can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I managed to find what I was looking for and more. Two equally amazing varieties of hummus were being sampled along with crispy baguettes at the deli counter and two kinds of almond milk were for sale. There was some serious mind reading going on! I also found, among others, cooking spray, ingredients to make my own hummus, cookies for my students and fellow teachers, ranch dressing, Nutella!, Nature Valley breakfast bars and some locally made vegan treats from a Seoul favorite, Alien’s Day Out. The staff were extremely friendly and spoke English and they gladly recommended products and answered my foodie questions. High Street Market is known for their fabulous selections of meats, cheeses, breads, wines and beer, but they also have a comfortable corner of the store that serves as a cozy cafe sitting area. I could go on, but I am getting hungry…get yourself to High Street Market and I apologize in advance for buying all the hummus (I think I managed to snag 5 tubs!).

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your body is not a temple, eat a donut

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” – Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly)

Korea has become my home – I have been here for more than 2 months  now – I can’t believe it! Although I have yet to experience serious home-sickness, I am able to text, email & Skype friends & family easily, I do find myself missing small comforts from home. Can you say drive-thru Starbucks!!? Korea does have Starbucks, but not on every corner like I am accustomed to. Like the rest of the world, Korea is home to most chains you know: Burger King, McDonald’s, Jamba Juice, Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Outback Steakhouse etc. I have learned, from experience, that a Korean Dunkins is a touch different compared to its Boston counterpart. A foreigner may stumble into a familiar chain in Korea for a taste of home and find themselves (pleasantly?) surprised. These brands have tweaked their product and presentation to serve their customer: Koreans. You can still grab a burger at Burger King, but it may not be as big as you remember. Your pizza might have some surprising toppings. Corn anyone? And of course, at Dunkin Donuts you expect coffee & donuts, how can you change that up? Check out what I found: A Potato Ring donut, a Choco Banana, a LARGE iced coffee (that could have passed for a small in Boston), and an interesting article (travel itinerary?) exploring all the strange Dunkin Donuts you can find around the world. I am proud to point out that Korea made the list a few times! Cheers!

what I found: potato ringwhat I found: a choco banana anyone?what I found: this is a LARGE iced coffee

Enjoy this article from BuzzFeed.

(Some of) The Most Unusual Dunkin Donuts From Around The World:

Mojito and Banana Daiquiri (Spain)

Red Bean Bismark (Korea)

Dry Pork And Seaweed (China)

Glutinous Rice Stick (China)

Pork Floss (China)

Pink Dual Heart (Korea)

Garlic Glazed (Korea)

Donut Ball Sticks (Thailand)

Happy (Malaysia)

Green Tea Chewisty (Korea)

Kimchi (Korea)

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