Seoul Food

Too Dangerous to go at this alone

Last week(end)
This past week was midterms, and while most of them went well, some of them definitely could've been better. Next time, I suppose. In order to relieve some of the stress, I decided to head out on Saturday and explore Seoul.
I hopped on the bus with the intention of just going places I hadn't yet. I took the bus to Mapo station, where I got on the subway line six, which I rode until Hangangjin station, with the intention of finding the Harley shop, which I was lead to believe was in the area. It was only a block or two from the station, so I went to check that out; it was pretty typical but still very cool. I decided to try going from Hannam station on line one next, which was also close. However, I couldn't seem to find it, so I just got on a bus headed for Gangnam (turns out I was looking for a subway station and Hannam is above ground... who knew?). I got off by Gangnam station, and although I wanted to look around the area a bit to try and find the Hard Rock Cafe, there was a lot of construction on the main road and it was crowded, so I got back on the subway, and took the green line to Samseong, which is connected to Coex. Coex is a large underground shopping mall, and I'd wanted to visit it for a while now, just to check it out. I ate lunch at the food court, trying a place that had "fusion omurice", I got the pulgogi version. It wasn't very good; instead of using fried rice like typical omurice, the rice was steamed and had all sorts of weird grains in it. Still, it was filling. For those of you wondering, omurice is imported from Japan, it's basically "omelet rice" - an egg covering a bed of fried rice, usually topped with ketchup.
The mall also had the closest thing I've seen to an apple store in Korea (there are no official ones), and Mac OS Leopard had just come in. The box was very shiny, I really wish I could afford it now, seems to have a lot of good upgrades. I can wait, though. After the mac paradise I stopped at a bookstore and bought a Japanese book so I can keep up with it, then decided to head out. I took the subway as far as Yongsan, and from there took the bus back to campus.

For those of you interested, I've started a webcomic that I plan to update about twice a week, assuming I'm not swamped with homework or classes. While many of the comics focus on a character I created, some of them will be (maybe)humorous interpretations of things I've done or seen here in Korea. You can check it out at

That's all for now.

Some Pictures

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto


The Giant Buddha in Nara


Osaka Castle

(no subject)
Sorry it's taken me so long to update about Japan, guys, but midterms are next week and I've been swamped with studying.
We had to find our own way to the airport by 7:30 am Friday morning, so I went with a few others in my group. First we took a taxi to Sinchon, where we ate breakfast at McDonald's. Then we walked a few blocks down to catch the airport shuttle bus, which was especially crowded. We got to the airport early and waited around, eventually boarding for our 90-minute flight to Osaka/Kansai international. We got into Japn around 11:30 and had lunch in a fancyish restaurant in the airport; tempura and soba. Pretty good. We the boarded a bus for Kyoto, where we visited Sanjusangen-do Temple and Heian shrine, then headed for the Kyoto National Museum. From there we checked into our hotel, and then went to Gion, which was the traditional Geisha area of Kyoto (still is, really). We were then released for dinner so I went to a donburi restaurant with two other girls and had very tasty and very filling katsudon. We then decided instead of taking a taxi to walk the 2km back to our hotel, checking out some Japanese stores along the way. Across the street from the hotel was one of my favourite stores from when I used to live in Japan, called Book-off. They sell used books, CDs, and video games. I especially like the 100 yen manga, and ended up buying quite a few. I then took a bath in the very deep bathtub and went to bed.
Next morning began with a quite tasty breakfast buffet, then we headed for Kiyomizu-dera, or "Clear water temple." It was crowded with high schoolers on class trips, but still very beautiful. After that was the golden pavilion (kinkakuji), followed by lunch. We again ate at a very fancy restaurant, and I think the food was more beautiful than tasty; typical Japanese. From there we went to the silver pavilion (ginkakuji) and then Nijo castle until the museums inside closed. We then loaded back up on the bus and headed for Osaka. We checked into our hotel, and then were free for the evening. I met up with my friend Cindy (airisu) who is teaching English there at department store near my hotel. We took the subway to Namba to hang out in Dotumburi, a famous nightlife and shopping district in Osaka. We had dinner at and Okonomiyaki restaurant, which was even better than I remembered it. We then spent much of the night at a Japanese arcade, taking purikura (sticker pictures) and becoming taiko drum masters.
The next morning was another lovely breakfast, then we boarded the bus for Nara. We visitied Todaiji and the Nara deer park, home of very friendly deer that you can pet and the giant Buddha. Then we walked a little ways to the Nara Museum, and learned a lot about the spread of Buddhism. We then got on the bus to Horyuji temple, where we were lucky enough to see a festival. From there we headed back to Osaka and spent the evening touring Korea Town with a professor from Kansai Gaidai. We had dinner there at a Korean restaurant, Sampgyeopsal with all the panchan. I guess it was a sort of Korean-Japanese fusion, but it still felt weird going to Japan just to eat Korean food. We got back to the hotel fairly late so I just watched baseball and went to bed.
Another breakfast buffet, then we headed to Osaka castle for a tour. It was really awesome, from the observatory deck I could see the ferris wheel I went to four years ago. We then went back to dotumburi for and hour or so of free time, most of which I wasted on using my remaining yen trying to win stuffed animals from those crane games. For lunch we went to a fancy Shabu-Shabu restaurant, which was unbelievably good, and then headed back to the airport for an evening flight to Incheon. Got back in Korea around seven, and then took the bus and a taxi back to the dorm. All in all a great trip - except now my camera's batteries are shot. I barely had enough to take pictures when I wanted, and now I can't upload them. I'll try to get some new ones in the next week or so so you guys can see.

This Friday I have to wake up extra early, somehow get to Incheon airport by 7:30 am, and then I'm flying to Kansai Int'l in Japan for a weekend trip. I'm extremely excited to finally have something to post about here on Monday night.

So, in an attempt to get out of my room today, I decided to go to Seoul-yok (Seoul Station). This may seem odd, but railroad stations in Korea are often big entertainment and shopping complexes, so I wanted to check it out. But as the bus I was on was pulling up to the station, I looked outside to see some sort of huge demonstration. I can't be sure what it was about, since none of the news sites seem to be reporting it (at least in English), but I think I saw some of the banners with the olympic logo crossed out. I'd heard some people were advocating protesting the olympics until China did something about the crisis in Myanmar, so maybe that was it. In any case, the US embassy led me to believe it was a bad idea to be anywhere near a protest in Seoul, so I stayed on the bus and got off at Yongsan-yok instead. Yongsan is known as the electronics district of Seoul, and this was quite obvious by the 9 floors of various electronic shops on one half of the station. This was only a small part though, the station is amazingly huge, with lots of various shops, an upscale department store, a discount/grocery store called e-mart, food courts, and outdoor stage (where they had some sort of concert going on); not to mention the train and subway platforms. It was nice and cool today, so I spent as much time in the outdoor areas as I could. I even tried some "street food", they have small food carts that may have a counter and stools, with cheap, delicious Korean food. As I was walking back to the bus stop I stopped at one and had some goon mandu (fried dumplings) which was 2,000 won for a dozen. They also gave me a little paper cup of the soup which is traditionally served with such entrees. It was a pretty neat experience, something to keep in mind for a cheap meal.

Lotte World!
Well, I haven't been neglecting this blog, it's just that I doubt you guys want to hear about my studying and playing Warcraft.
Today, I actually did something interesting. Tomorrow is Chuseok, which a Korean holiday similar to Thanksgiving. Because of this, we don't have class until thursday this week. I had received a discount coupon for "foreigners only" to the Lotte World theme park, so I decided to check it out. It was about a 40 minute ride by subway to Jamsil station, which is directly connected to the park. I bought my ticket and went inside.
The entrance is by an escalator up to "Adventure", which purports itself to be the world's largest indoor theme park. It is absolutely huge - there's an enormous ice rink in the middle (albeit two floors down) and all around are rides and stages. Half of it ascends into other floors with food courts and entrances to upper level rides. I went on many of the rides here, including a flume ride and and crazy ouchy roller coaster called (for some unbeknown reason) the "French Revolution". Hilarious. There is also a place to board a monorail, which you can take all the way around as a tour, or get off on the other stop, Magic Island.
When you walk outside, there's a bridge that leads to an escalator in front of a palace, this is Magic Island, the outdoor theme park. There are some crazy fast, absolutely amazing rides here. Two different kinds of free fall rides, a space themed coaster, etc. I especially enjoyed the bumper cars (because it's the only driving I'm going to be doing for a while ^^).
The admission ticket also lets you go to the Lotte World Folk Museum, a kind of history/cultural museum. I took advantage of it, and I found it to be quite interesting. They had a room recreating a street during the Japanese occupation, which reminded me of something I'd seen in a museum in Chicago. Also, in one of the rooms they were playing songs on a traditional korean instrument, which had a very distinct oriental sound. It went from playing an obviously traditional song, and all of the sudden it changes into a very familiar melody... "Hey Jude". That really weirded me out, but it was still pretty funny.

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(no subject)
Well, it being a Saturday and all, I finally have time to update on what I've been doing these past few weeks.
I left Kyung-hee and Suwon on August 11th, and went back home for a week. On August 19th, I got on a plane in Chicago and flew straight to Seoul this time. Got into Korea about 5pm on the 20th, and from there I went to our dorm to get settled and unpack. My roommate turned out to be another girl from our program who also happened to be from Minnesota, although she goes to Macalester. We started our orientation the next day, and went out for dinner as a group, followed by noraebang. The day after that, we went on a tour around Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung palace, one of the major palaces in Seoul, and the Korean war museum. We also went to Seoul tower, where we had an amazing view of the city - the absolutely ridiculously huge city. All in all, we saw a lot of Seoul that I may not be seeing again.

That friday we set off on a trip to the southeast of Korea, starting off by going to Ulsan, where Hyundai operates one of the world's largest car factories, which we got to tour. It was very interesting seeing them being made. From there we went to the East sea to see the underwater tomb of King Munmu. We didn't stay very long, but I, along with two other guys in my program, took the opportunity to put on my swimsuit and jump in the ocean. The water was absolutely perfect, and it felt so nice compared to how hot it was outside. Of course, that meant a slightly uncomfortable ride to our hotel, but it was worth it. The hotel we would stay at for the next two nights was in a tourist area of Gyeongju, the former capital of Korea during the Shilla dynasty. We ate dinner at a fancy restaurant in the hotel, and the rest of the night was free time. The hotel had a water park, which normally cost money, but we were able to use it free the first night. It was really fun! There was a wave pool, lazy river, and some coloured hot tubs that turned out to be herb baths. I stayed until it closed, I absolutely love water parks.

On Saturday we went to a large Buddhist temple in the morning, which apparently had been lost until it was found by accident during the Japanese occupation. It had a very large Buddha statue, and very impressive architecture. After that we went to a craft village, where a Shilla pottery master demonstrated some techniques to us, and then we were allowed to make our own pottery. I made a bowl, which didn't turn out quite how I'd hoped, but then what does? We then went to visited the Gyeongju national museum, which had a lot of interesting displays. The rest of that night was free time at the hotel again.

Sunday we set off towards the north, first going to Hahoe where we visited a mask museum and a traditional village, and also saw a mask dance. We then went to Andong, where we stayed in a traditional house in the mountains overnight. It was really an interesting experience. Monday morning we set off back for Seoul. We were supposed to go to an amusement park, but it was raining. Overall it was a good trip.

We had orientation on Wednesday for the school, which was basically just general information. Last Monday was the first day of classes, and yesterday finished my first week of them. I think they'll all go pretty well. In case you're interested, here's my schedule:

11-12:50 Chinese Characters I
1-2:50 Advanced French Conversation
4-6 Beginning Korean III (apparently one level = one year)
4-6 Korean
12-12:50 Chinese Characters
2-2:50 French
4-6 Korean
4-6 Korean
9-11:50 Comparative Study of Far Eastern Cinema Art (ie I get to watch Chinese, Japanese, and Korean movies)
4-6 Korean

Not too bad at all, I'd say.

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So, I haven't posted in a while. I haven't the time for a proper post at the moment, suffice it to say I am now safely in Seoul at Yonsei, and I've started classes. I'll fill in some of the missing details in due time. I just thought I'd better post something to let you know I haven't completely abandoned you guys.

We had a pretty busy week, and on saturday we left Seoul leaving me without internet for a few days; thus the lack of updates. Sorry!
Monday through thursday was pretty much just class as usual; but friday after class I met my language partner and went with her and some other students/language partners to Gangnam (in Seoul) to see Ratatouille. Apparently we had to go that far to find a showing that was subtitiled instead of dubbed... After the movie we went as a group to dinner. They said we were going to a nice restaurant, we went to Pizza Hut. Which, apparently, is a nice restaurant in Korea. It was all sit-down, very fancy, even had a salad bar. The pizza still tasted the same, though.
Saturday morning we loaded up the bus and headed south to Jinju, where we spent two nights in a traditional Korean hotel, meaning sleeping on mats on the floor. Saturday afternoon we visited a palace and shrine to Nohngae, a woman who was martyred in the 16th century when she killed a Japanese general by grabbing him and pulling them both in the water. Only five of these martyr shrines in Korea are to women, so this was a pretty special place. In the evening we had dinner at a restaurant famous for its pulgogi (barbequed beef) and bibimbap (rice with vegetables). Back in the hotel, I watched TV for the first time since I've been here, and quite enjoyed the Starcraft and Warcraft 3 competitions I saw. I think it's funny how much of a gamer culture there is here.
Sunday morning we went to a museum dedicated to the Japanese invasions in 1592. I usually find these things kind of biased, but it had some interesting artifacts.
On monday we left Jinju and went towards the mountains. We first stopped at an old traditional house, which had been built on one of the most geomantically significant sites in Korea. From there we traveled higher up in the mountains, walking up to a buddhist temple. It was more natural than other temples we have visited, but more surprising was the fact that they raised bears there! This particular species of bear had been hunted almost to extinction for the medicinal properties of its gall bladder, so the monks are helping to renew the population. We then stopped for lunch at a small restaurant which had been featured on a Korean TV show about a month ago, where it was still the grandma cooking all the food. We had some pretty tasty fish. After this, we stopped at a river to cool our feet, then went to a youth hostel in Tongyong, where we again spent the night on the floor. We didn't have comfy mats this time though, just blankets. -.-
I know I promised pictures, but since my camera needs batteries in order to connect to my computer, it'll have to wait until next time. There will be pictures from as much as I can fit.

DMZ and Changdeokgung
Well, for as many hoops as we had to go through to go to the DMZ on wednesday, it wasn't that impressive. Only foreigners were allowed to go on the trip, and we had to have our passports checked about three times. There was a very strict dress code, those who were silly enough to wear open shoes or sleeveless shirts were given very ugly replacements. After all this, we had a very brief guided tour where we essentially just went into a room half owned by North Korea and half by the UN. The whole thing just seemed like a lot of propaganda to me.
Thursday and Friday were studying as usual, except Friday night I went to see a movie with some friends.
This morning was another field trip, we all hopped on the bus to Seoul and went on a tour of Changdeokgung, one of the surviving royal palaces. It was really beautiful, but the guided tour wasn't just us; but a couple hundred english-speaking people all lumped into one group. It made it really hard to hear anything, so it wasn't a very good tour. I still liked all the scenery, though.
Afterwards I ate at a famous mandu restaurant in Insa-dong. It was really good... Mandu is one of the few Korean foods I really enjoy, because it is generally not spicy, unlike almost everything else.
I'll post pictures next time.


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