Destination: Korea

Recently, the late night TV show 1st Look did an episode in Korea. They spend an afternoon and evening in Seoul, pick green tea leaves in Hadong, visiting the seaside in Busan and a temple in Pyeongchang. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to visit either Hadong or Pyeonghcang myself, although they look stunning. I visited Busan my first year in Korea, but didn’t have a great experience. The Brit and I wanted to give it another try this year, but, as usual, life had other plans. However, I can say that the portion of this video that is filmed in Seoul captures pretty perfectly my life here. Give it a watch here for a taste of life in Korea.The photo below is from one of the fish markets in Busan, albeit not the one in the video.

026

Advertisements

Japan vs. Korea

Now that I’ve finally recounted my not so recent trips to Japan, I want to talk about some differences I noticed between Japan and Korea. Disclaimer: On the off chance there’s someone reading this blog that I’m not related to, I’m not saying one country is better than the other, or that I know all there is to know about either country. I genuinely like both countries. I’m simply making observations. Please don’t send me hate mail.

Now that that’s over with, here goes:

1. We were really surprised by how little English we came across in Japan. In Korea, it’s everywhere. You can get along pretty easily with knowing little to no Korean. But in Japan, we found ourselves struggling a couple of times.

2. The Japanese respect the queue much more than Koreans. And personal space in general. It’s one of my pet peeves in Korea, but I have to go with it because I know I’m just a visitor in their country. But it makes me NUTS. It was nice not to have any ajummas mowing me down or standing so close to me in line that I can feel their breath on the back of my neck.

3. The subway system in Korea is much more user friendly than in Japan (and cheaper!). The subway lines in Korea are all owned by one company and you can get from one side of the city to the other quite easily and painlessly. But in Japan, there are several subway lines that have different owners and transferring can be a bit tricky. It can be very confusing because certain lines only take certain tickets/cards. And the name or color of the lines doesn’t always match up with the name or color on the subway map. This caused us trouble on more than one occasion.

4. We really enjoyed the diverse architecture in Japan. In Korea, many buildings (and even cities) look really similar. Giant grey buildings looming all around. Apartment blocks everywhere, but seldom an actual house. Most of the buildings are fairly modern. In Japan, it was really refreshing to see an array of buildings in many different styles and from many different time periods.

5. In Japan taxis are stupid expensive and in Korea they are stupid cheap. Although we noticed a lot of  the taxi drivers in Japan spoke English decently and tended to be more friendly than Korean taxi drivers.

6. In Korea, make-up shops abound. Every major street will have not one, but likely 4-5 different make-up chains. I could probably name 10 different chains off the top of my head. The make-up is usually pretty inexpensive, good quality and has adorable packaging. The best part is, they always give you free samples. And the more you buy, the more free samples you get. It’s one of my favorite things about Korea. So I was really excited to visit Japan to see what they had to offer in that department. To my disappointment, Japan does not have the same make-up culture as Korea. I didn’t see any independent make-up shops and purchased no make-up. *sobs*

I am sure there are many more differences than these six, but what I’ve mentioned is what The Brit and I noticed in our short time visiting Japan. I was inspired to write this post by a video posted on Eat Your Kimchi (my favorite Korea based vloggers). They did a joint vlog with a girl named Rachel who lives in Japan but has visited Korea several times. It was interesting to hear their different perspectives. If you’re interested in checking out what they have to say, here is Eat Your Kimchi’s vlog about it, and here is Rachel & Jun’s vlog.

IMG_1559 (2)

Linus’ Bama Style BBQ

Guys. I know I don’t usually do restaurant reviews here, but I went to a restaurant so good that I have changed my mind! Over the holiday weekend, The Brit and I headed to Namsan Tower to put our engagement lock on the Locks of Love wall. Since we were in such close proximity to Itaewon, we decided to make our way over there for dinner. We’d heard great things about Linus’ Bama Style BBQ from our friends and had been wanting to try it out for awhile. We figured that due to the holiday weekend, the crowds wouldn’t be out in full force. We were right! We had a very short wait before we were seated, but had decided we loved the restaurant well before we were seated. The restaurant has a backyard BBQ atmosphere, with wooden benches for the outdoor seating. The oldies playing overhead reminded my of summertime BBQs from my childhood and had The Brit and I singing along. The humor in the signage was an added bonus; the wifi is Guess What? The password is porkbutt. Another throwback to my childhood days.

The service is excellent – especially by Korean standards. We were promptly greeted by our waitress and offered drinks. We had another laugh as we perused the menu. Each item has a chuckle inducing description that makes you want to order one of everything. And we nearly did! We got the BBQ set for two, which comes with two kinds of meat, three sides and six buns of sliders. We got the fries, mashed potatoes and potato salad as our sides. Can you tell we love us some potatoes? The mashed potatoes were great, but the potato salad was legit the best I’ve ever had. We also ordered the fried pickles, fried okra and smokey mac ‘n’ cheese. We ordered so much other food that we never ended up touching the fries. We also ordered a Great White and an Indica IPA, which always makes me happy because it reminds me of home. The Lost Coast Brewery is in the same town as my university and was a staple at all the college parties.

By the time we left, we were in full on food coma status. I was uncomfortable for hours. But oh so satisfied. We couldn’t believe we waited so long to check it out, and we will definitely be back again soon. To get to Linus’, go to the McDonald’s in Itaewon. Directly to the left of McDonald’s is a glass door with a staircase leading down into a shady looking hallway. Go through the shady looking hallway and emerge into BBQ heaven. Here is their Facebook page. And here is my Tumblr so you can check out more hunger inducing photos from our dinner.

146

Tiny Korean Apartments Round 3

It’s time for everyone’s favorite blog post of the year! Tiny Korean apartments. This time we’re seeing Joe’s accommodations from last year. He lived in a part of Seoul called Sadang, not too far from where I live. Now, I know this may be difficult to imagine if you’ve seen the other videos, but Joe’s old apartment is even smaller than either of my previous apartments and about half the size of my current apartment. Which you might get to see before I leave, but we’re all familiar with how well I update this in a timely fashion – so don’t hold your breath.

Joe’s apartment had a wardrobe, a desk, a fridge, a microwave and a bed that looked like it belonged to one of the seven dwarfs. Like, even MY feet hang off the edge. I have no idea how Joe actually slept in it. But I like to picture something like this:

CAM00339

Here’s the video. Forgive the quality, it was done with a cell phone because we forgot to do it until move out day. And here are Round One and Round Two, in case you missed them the first time around.

Braai Camp

The last two years, for the Buddha’s birthday holiday, The Brit and I have gone away to a pension at the base of Jirisan for a Braai Camp. Now let me decode that sentence for you. In Korea, a pension is a type of vacation rental. It can be like a house, like an apartment, or in this case, like a cabin. It typically does not have a bed, so it feels a bit like a slumber party with everyone curled up on the floor together. Except that I’m not 9-years-old anymore, so it’s uncomfortable and makes my hips hurt and this is how I know I’m getting old. But I digress. Jirisan is generally regarded as being one of Korea’s three most famous mountains. The others being Hallasan (in Jeju) and Seoraksan (in Gangwand0). And finally, braai is Afrikaans for BBQ. And it is probably the most delicious BBQ I’ve ever had (sorry, Mom).

Both years we departed from Seoul in the wee hours of the morning for our long bus ride to the Namwon area. The first year the ride was especially long because our bus overheated and we had to pull over in the middle of nowhere to let it cool down. We had to pool all of our water together so the bus driver could put it in the radiator(?) . I dunno, the place that keeps the engine cool. Cars! And we had to keep the aircon off for most of the drive as a result of the overheating, so what should have been a 5ish hour bus ride turned into a really uncomfortable 8ish hour bus ride. Fortunately, this year there were no such complications. Smooth sailing both there and back.

The Braai Camp has been known to change locations, but the last two years it has taken place deep in the serene mountain range in Namwon, with Jirisan towering in the backdrop. Both years the area was lush and green and it felt amazing to be far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And also the pollution. At the base of the pension was a beautiful creek perfect for relaxing in sun, as long as you weren’t distracted by the highway on the other side of it. Hey, we can’t have everything…

Now, the name of the game at Braai Camp is to drink, have fun and eat good food. And that is what was done both years. Each day is spent just chillin out, maxin, relaxin all cool, shootin some b-ball outside the pool. When a couple of guys, who were up to no good – sorry, I seem to have gone astray. That’s been known to happen when the words chillin out get used. Back to your regularly scheduled broadcast. And at night, we BBQ. The first night is spent barbecuing either meat that you bring with you, or as we did, meat that you order through the organizers of the event.  We ordered some lamb and some boerewors (a South African style sausage). The meat was amazing, but not nearly as good as the second night, when the guys from Braai Republic (a South African restaurant in Itaewon) fire up the spit and roast an entire lamb on it over the course of the day. I don’t know what spices and witchcraft they use, but this meat is literally the most delicious meat I have ever eaten. It is tender and juicy and loaded with flavor. I couldn’t stop myself from eating it. I was full, but my taste buds were screaming, “More! More! MORE!!!” And there is no one in the world I heed more than my taste buds. I think I felt full for four days after we left.

All in all, it was a great weekend, with great food and great friends. I highly recommend going on this trip if you’re in Korea in the spring. They have departures from multiple cities in Korea, or the option to make your own way there. I don’t know that there’s a permanent event page you can follow, but you can get in touch with the guys over at Braai Republic, or with Tobias at The Hidden Cellar, as he is the main event coordinator. Check out more photos here.

IMG_0865

Anthony Bourdain Returns to South Korea

Last fall, Anthony Bourdain returned to South Korea to film an episode of his highly anticipated return to Parts Unknown. He last visited Korea in 2006 for an episode of his previous show, No Reservations. I remember watching the episode of No Reservations in my preparation for coming to Korea in 2011. It mostly just freaked me out. He ate A LOT of weird stuff in that episode, guys. A lot of stuff I would NEVER eat. Oh, wait. But I digress. The foreigner geared Korea based websites I follow were atwitter in the weeks leading up to the episodes premier. Some of the websites I follow even worked on the episode. So needless to say, the foreign community here was really excited about the episode. I’m not the only one that likes to get asked about Korea, y’all!

So I began watching the episode with bated breath. And I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disppointed. I’m not sure if it was the build up setting me up for a bit of a letdown, or the Tarantino-esque shooting style that made it difficult to follow – even for an old pro like me. I can only imagine how hard it was for someone who has never been to Korea to follow. I get that they were trying to put an interesting spin on it, but I don’t think this was the right format for that style of filming/storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, it was still enjoyable and I loved being able to relate to it. Similar to Avengers, I want people to watch it and get excited about Korea and interested in Korean culture. It was fun watching him have experiences that I’ve had, eating the dishes I love. Because Korean food is A-MAY-Zing. Also, noraebang is the greatest thing in life. Just trust me. But please don’t touch my microphone.

I would still recommend watching the episode. It portrays a much more typical Korean dining experience, as opposed to the “look at all this weird food!” vibe his last show gave off. I was going to include a link to watch the episode in its entirety, but it seems I’ve procrastinated too long (who? me?), and the video is no longer available. So you’re on your own for this one. As a consolation, here is a segment he did on Anderson Cooper about the show. And here is some sage advice from the man himself. I hope you enjoy the episode!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

“Guess who’s back, back again. Megan’s back, tell a friend.” I’m pretty sure those are the lyrics, right guys? So it’s been an embarrassing amount of time awhile since my last post… But now I’m back! With new and improved intentions! And with an exciting topic so you’l hopefully forget that I’m terrible at this I haven’t been here in awhile. As you may already know, the new Avengers movie was filmed in part in Seoul. Last year, The Brit and I went to Gangnam to watch some of the filming. I meant to write about it last year but… Anywho, the scene we saw being filmed was the one where Black Widow is cruising through the streets of Gangnam on her motorcycle and I have BIG NEWS about ScarJo’s stunt double. In the wise words of Austin Powers, “That’s not a woman, that’s a man, baby!” I don’t know why this thrills me so, but it does (let’s be real – we all know why this thrills me.). And I learned something else very important that day. Watching a movie being filmed is decidedly less exciting than you’d think. Especially when Chris Evans isn’t even around.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when The Brit and I finally got around to watching it on the big screen. (Comic book movies get released in Korea early. NBD.) My professional opinion was that the movie was…wait for it…alright. It was fun, but maybe a little long. I liked the first one better. But the parts in Seoul! The Brit and I agree that that was hands down our favorite part. It was so exciting to see  places we have been/regularly go on the big screen. This is a new experience for me. Not a lot of movies take place in Sacramento, guys. Though it hasn’t happened yet, we’re certain that it will pique people’s interest in our lives here in Korea. Much like Gangnam Style. (Please ask us questions! We love it. Seriously.) Fun fact: the building they pretend is the Korean doctor’s office is actually a convention hall. And the other building has a cafe called CNN Cafe at the bottom. If you go into the cafe, they have CNN constantly playing on, like, six TVs. It’s kind of weird. It’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t film it at night because at night it looks like this:

195

If you want to check out a few more photos from the filming, check out my Tumblr.

I’m Baaaa-ack!!!

Well hello, there. Come here often? Cuz I certainly don’t. <–See what I did there? I made a joke about being the WORST. BLOGGER. EVER. So here’s the long and the short of why I haven’t posted a new blog in 7 months. And 17 days. But who’s counting? (Put your hand down, Mom!) I had a really lazy start to my year and right around the time I decided to get my ass in gear and get caught up, my computer decided it had other plans. And it took all of my photos from the first half of the year with it. Due to Dell cancelling my order without notifying me more than once shipping complications, it finally arrived mid December (suck it, customs!) just in time for Christmas play meltdown and sweet freedom Christmas vacation. This weekend I finally got my personal savior computer savvy friend to help me extract the missing files from my dead computer. Turns out they were on my external hard drive the whole time. Just sitting there. Waiting for me to be less computarded. So, now that I have all the files, I am in the process of uploading them all on Tumblr because I don’t want to pay to keep uploading them here. So in future posts, I will post a picture or two and then link to my Tumblr so I can upload a million and five photos, as I am wont to do. I am hoping to start getting y’all caught up with my escapades in the very near future. For real real. It’s, like, number five on my list of New Year’s resolutions. So it could happen. Maybe. At any rate, here are some interesting things to come out of Korea recently to tide you over.

First, this happened. And people freaked out. I can assure I am fine and just as safe as in the states. Probably more so because I actually have health care in Korea. Second, It snowed a lot last week and I was really excited. For about a minute. Then my suspicions about the evil that is snow were confirmed when this came out. I’m lucky my face didn’t melt off. My friend posted this article. Which is horrifying  interesting. And speaks to the view on plastic surgery in Korea. Maybe don’t open it if you’re eating right now. And I will leave you with this article about racist fried chicken. And this picture of food. Shaped like poo.

Image