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Hanging Out in Hyehwa

19 hours 25 min ago
Hanging Out in Hyehwa Once the center of Seoul's art and music scene, Hyehwa is a neighborhood bursting with creativity and youthful energy. The area is situated in the northeastern part of the capital and is also known as Daehangno, a nickname derived from dehag, or "university," because of its close proximity to a number of learning institutes.

Over the past decade, Hongdae has garnered the reputation of being Seoul's SoHo, lessening Hyehwa to a mere a notch in the history of the city's culture boom. Today, it remains off the radar to most tourists and is even overlooked by locals. Nevertheless, it remains to thrive as Seoul's theater district- with over 80 independent theaters showing performances on a daily basis- and is brimming with diverse, inexpensive eateries, eye-catching cafes and greenspaces to boot. The neighborhood, while seemingly typical on the surface, is one of surprises. It just takes a bit of digging to discover them.

Caffeine is an essential component to the start of any day and the best place to get it in Hyehwa is b2project. Part cafe, part gallery, this cozy space is a haven for both coffee lovers and design aficionados. Enter the first floor, place your beverage order and take in the cafe's tasteful decor. Colorful paintings adorn the walls and quirky lighting fixtures hang from above, while miss-matched chairs and tables create a comfortable environment for studying or reading a book. Before you go, take a look at the gallery downstairs, which features an array of modern Scandinavian furniture. If you've got money to burn, you can purchase the wares on display, which start at a whopping one million won ($1,000USD).

Now that you're properly energized, follow the signs up the hills to Naksan Park, one of my favorite places to get a bit of fresh air in the city. The park itself offers some incredible views of downtown Seoul from the city's fortress wall, but the real highlight is the collection of sculptures and murals that decorate its paths that wind into the low-income residential area of Ihwa-dong.

The urban art, a beautification initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, is unique in that rather than being a contrast to the dilapidated buildings that line the streets, it blends so that it appears as if the installations and paintings are at one with the spots they occupy. In my opinion, the decrepit characteristics combined with the personalized art make this part of the area far more charming than the affluent but sterile neighborhoods south of the river.

Wind your way back down to Hyehwa Station for lunch. Hidden on a side street in a renovated hanok is Zzimmani. This quaint yet modern restaurant serves up tasty Korean fare and offers some fantastic lunch specials. Everything on the menu is good but the moksal barbecue deopab (BBQ rice bowl), a mound of steamed rice covered in juicy, charcoaly meat and greens, keeps me going back on every visit to the area. The entrees are served with loads of fresh unlimited banchan (side dishes), which include a chicken salad, atypical of a Korean spread. An added bonus is the ridiculously cheap price: each set costs about 7,000 won ($7USD)!

Zzimmani's duenjang jiggae (bean paste soup) with fresh and healthy sides.

No trip to Hyehwa would be complete without shopping. The neighborhood is cluttered with cheap clothing shops, most of which carry the same trends sold in Dongdaemun, but are far more organized. The downfall is that many vendors won't allow you to try on their wares before you buy them, but it's worth asking, anyway. Whenever I visit Hyehwa, I make a trip to 10x10, a multi-store that sells just about everything. The focus of the shop is on design and many of the lifestyle products for sale, which include clothes, bags, jewelry, candles, kitchenware and stationary, are designed by Korean artists. There's even a florist and gift-wrapping center in case you're shopping for someone other than yourself. But where's the fun in that, right?

My favorite 10x10 products have to be the travel goodies... everything you could possibly need for your next trip is here!
If you happen to visit Hyehwa on a Sunday, make your way toward Hyehwa Rotary for a taste of the Philippines. Many Filipino expats gather here, usually after mass at Hyehwa Catholic Church, to congregate, pick up hard-to-find snacks from the motherland and gorge on specialties such as pork adobo, lumpia (egg rolls) and pancit (Filipino noodles). The Filipino Market is small and the seating for the food stalls is limited but I've always been one to love sharing a table with strangers and this market is no exception. I also had one of the vendors hand-feed me one of her famous empanadas on a previous visit, a testament to the warmth and hospitality Filipinos are known for.

As the sun begins to set, street performers abound and one of the best places to see them in action is outside Hyehwa Station, Exit 2, or Marronnier Park. Recently renovated, the park is a nice open space that often hosts free performances and concerts. Weeknights are a bit calmer and the location is a peaceful place to relax after a long day of wandering.

There's no shortage of nightlife venues in Hyehwa and my all-time favorite hangout is Jazz Story, an obscure music bar. Shrouded in metal work, it seems as if a very talented and creative blacksmith had a heyday with the interior of the palce. Yet, for as industrial as the metal intends the bar to be, velvet-covered chairs, shelves of vinyl records, and clusters of candles create a cozy, romantic atmosphere. Drinks aren't anything to write home about, and there's a 5,000 won ($5USD) cover, but the live music performed by Jazz Story's house band every night of the week beginning at 8:30 (or 8 on Sundays) is more than worth it.

A newer favorite is Mix & Malt.  Opened only a few months, this homey bar uses fresh ingredients- many of which come straight from their garden- to concoct some of the best cocktails in the city. In addition to the classics, Mix & Malt also has some signature and seasonal specialties on the menu, like the Elderflower Mojito (11,000 won, $11USD). Presentation is also superb. Because so much effort is put into each drink, they take a bit longer than usual to make it to your table, so be prepared to wait. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself, from board games to a shuffleboard table. On the second floor, there is a fireplace... a feature I will definitely be returning for in the fall.

Mix & Malt's Elderflower Mojito and Hibiscus Mojito... perfect flavors for the summer. (Photo: Mix & Malt)
After a few rounds at Mix & Malt, you can easily catch the last train at nearby Hyehwa Station, or hail a taxi, as there's always one passing by. Either way, it's certain that you won't be gone for long. Hyehwa has that effect, and with the increasing trendiness of areas like Hongdae and Itaewon (and as such, increasing crowds), Hyehwa is convenient, enjoyable and comfortable alternative hang-out.

More Information (See Map Below)

b2project Address: Seoul Jongno-gu, Dongsoong-dong, Dongsung3-gil 6-6 (서울시 종로구 동숭동 동숭3길 6-6) Telephone: 02-6369-2900

Naksan Park Address: Seoul Jongno-gu, Dongsung-dong, San2-10

Zzimmani Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu, Myeongnyun 4(sa)ga, 117 Telephone: 02-744-6262

10x10 (텐바이텐) Address: Seoul Jongno-gu, Dongsoong-dong 1-7 (서울특별시 종로구 동숭동 1-7) Telephone: 1644-6030

Hyehwa Filipino Market Address: Seoul Jongno-gu Hyehwa-dong 58-2 (종로구 혜화동 58-2) Hours: Sun 9am-5pm Payment: Cash only

Marronnier Park Address: Seoul Jongno-gu Dongsung-dong, 1-124

Jazz Story Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu, DongSoong-dong 1-138 Telephone: 02-725-6537 Hours: Daily, 5pm-late

Mix & Malt Address: Seoul, Jongno-gu, Changgyeonggung-ro 29-gil, 3 (종로구 창경궁로 29길 3) Telephone: 02-765-5945 Hours: Mon-Thu 7:30am-2am; Fri-Sat 7:30pm-3am; Sun 7:30am-2am

Disclaimer: The above information is accurate and correct as of September 17, 2014.
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching, unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced without authorization.

Seoul Searching

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Getting Drunk in Korea: Your Guide to Korean Alcohols

Mon, 2014-09-15 13:36
Getting Drunk in Korea: Your Guide to Korean Alcohols

You might not think of Korea as a nation of drinkers, but they sure do love their alcohol. Not only does the nation have a lot of different alcohols, but when they’re out on the town, they revel in mixing them together. Honestly, you’ve no idea how far down the warren the rabbit can stumble.

Somaek (소맥)

Anyone that’s ever visited Korea should be familiar with Soju, the nation’s favourite distilled rice liquor. The people here love it, and there is almost no occasion when the serving of soju is inappropriate. At around 19% proof, its strong, almost medicinal taste is often compared with vodka. Indeed soju is to Korea what vodka is to Russia. The cavalier mixing of this beloved intoxicant with beer (maekju, 맥주) creates an entirely new, yet still utterly Korean brew know as Somaek. The mixing of these two drinks is surprisingly delicious and, obviously, rather potent.

Makgeolli (막걸리)

Given its sickly off-white appearance this rice wine tastes nothing like what you might expect. It’s sweet and tangy and comes served in a large communal pot, which is then dished out into separate drinking bowls. The more prudent drinker will often dilute Makgeoli with lemonade, which makes it all the fizzier. You can also find its cousin Dongdongju (동동주), which is slightly less sweet and occasionally contains small chucks of rice.

Baekseju (백세주)

This slightly bitter tasting potation is made with ginseng, ginger, cinnamon, and all manner of herbs. Baekseju, translating as “100 Years Rice Wine,” is said to have alchemical properties that aids in the reaching the ripe old age of 100. It’s a little more expensive than other Korean rice-wines, therefore thrifty drinkers mix baekseju with soju forming Ohshipseju (오십세주, 50 years rices wine). It won’t make you live as long but it is lusciously inebriating.

Bokbunja (복분자)

This delicious little tipple is as close to western wine as Korea gets. Instead of grapes this sweet and fruity vino is produced from mountain berries and is quite the favourite of young ladies. The drink also proves popular with guys, as it is said to be a potent aphrodisiac.

Cheonnyeon Yaksok (천년약속)

The official toasting drink of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) of 2005 in Busan, Cheonnyeon Yaksok, or “Thousand Year Promise” in English, is a fermented mushroom alcohol special to Korea. It’s slightly sticky, sweet and comes with a pleasing aftertaste.

Brief Korean Drinking Etiquette

As with just about every social encounter in Korea, there are a panoply of social rules to observe, especially if the occasion involves co-workers or elders. As a foreigner, however, you should be fine to smash any and all taboos with near-complete impunity.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that Koreans rarely pour their own drink. Usually the youngest person at the table will do the honours, holding the bottle with both hands. Men quite often pour with a straight back and one hand flat across their chest. Should the person pouring your intoxicant be older then accept it with both hands on the glass.

Gonbae! (Cheers!)

A note from the Editor-in-Chimp: This article was originally posted here on Travel Wire Asia. Go and check them out too if you like.

The post Getting Shitfaced in Korea: Your Guide to Korean Alcohols appeared first on Monkeyboy Goes.


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Eating 해장국, ‘Hangover Soup,’ While Sober

Sun, 2014-09-14 12:41
Eating 해장국, ‘Hangover Soup,’ While Sober

Tom Gates of The Red Dragon Diaries and I are joined in our second food video collaboration (check out the first one, LIVE OCTOPUS, here) by our good friend, the lovely and talented Jookyeong, for a lovely meal of Haejang Guk, also known as “Hangover Soup.” It’s definitely not just for eating after a night of hard drinking!

JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.

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How Koreans Can Stay Safe in the Philippines

Fri, 2014-09-12 18:39
How Koreans Can Stay Safe in the Philippines  

Six months ago, I wrote a post as a reply to an article I read in The Korea Times entitled “Philippines Turns into Death Trap for Koreans”. The article talks about the growing concern among Koreans living in the Philippines after news of the death of a Korean student who was abducted in Pasay City hit the headlines. Prior to the tragic news, there had been a number of crimes committed against Koreans living in the Philippines that has brought trepidation to the Korean community.

In September 2011, a 59-year old Korean businessman named Hyun Hur was shot and killed, while his Filipino driver was wounded after they were attacked by two men on a motorcycle along Ortigas Avenue. In March of last year, the lifeless body of a Korean man, identified as Kim Ji-hun, 38 years old, was found inside a water tank at a condominium inParanaque. He was last seen in the morning of March 26 running barefoot outside the condominium unit he shared with his Filipina live-in partner. In April, another Korean died and two were injured in a shooting in Angeles City. The victims were all businessmen involved in currency exchange  and were believed to be carrying a lot of cash with them at the time of the crime. In 2013, 12 Koreans were reportedly shot or stabbed to death, but to this day, the suspects remain at large.  According to the Foreign Ministry, 44 percent of 160 murder cases of Koreans residing abroad happened in the Philippines. This year, there have already been reports of nine Koreans murdered from January to July and two cases of abduction.

It’s no surprise that according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines is the most dangerous country for Koreans in 2013, with a total of 780 crimes committed against them.

A recent article from The Korea Times says, this the first time since 2011 that crime rates against Koreans in the Philippines outnumbered those in China where there are more Koreans visiting every year.

The data compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that the number of crimes against Koreans in the Philippines stood at 128 in 2009, 94 in 2010, 774 in 2011, and 628 in 2012.The figures in China were 1,024 in 2009, 944 in 2010, 731 in 2011 and 759 in 2012.

Crimes in the Philippines last year included 13 murders, 12 robberies, 678 thefts, two rapes, nine abductions, 12 physical assaults and 10 frauds.

 An average of 15 million Koreans traveled overseas each year, while another 2.6 million Korean nationals live outside the country, according to the government. It also said the number of Korean tourists to the Philippines this year hit 1.16 million as of Aug. 29, up from 830,000 in 2011.

Twenty five percent of the 4.7-million tourists who arrived in the Philippines last year are Koreans. Most of them are students who have come to the country to learn English. Korean parents send their children to the here to learn English, because the tuition fee is more affordable compared to other English-speaking countries; nevertheless, it offers the same high quality English language education. As the number of Korean residents grew over the years, many Korean entrepreneurs started businesses here that cater to fellow Koreans. Now you can find a lot of Korean restaurants, grocery stores, shops, salons, hotels, academies, churches and other Korean-owned businesses anywhere in the Philippines. In Angeles City’s Korean Town alone,  there are about 150 business establishments owned by Koreans.

The cost of living in the Philippines is cheaper than in Korea, so some Korean families settle here to enjoy a more affluent lifestyle. As my husband puts it, the savings of a typical “salary man” in Korea can go a long way in the Philippines. This is also one of the main reasons why retirees from Korea, who are on fixed pensions, come to live here. Some Korean residents in the Philippines are missionaries; some are employees of big companies owned by Koreans.

Although Koreans still top the list of foreigners coming to the Philippines, the number of Korean visitors dropped this year. Obviously, some of them no longer feel safe in this country… and we can’t blame them. To be honest, when my husband decided to start a business in the Philippines and stay here for a year, I was concerned for his safety. My apprehension doubled when several shootings targeting Korean businessmen occurred in my hometown.

I used to tell Koreans good things about the Philippines every time they ask me about my country… and yes, there are so many wonderful things about this country and its people that a foreigner will learn to love… but is it safe for Koreans? Is it safe for outsiders? Now I don’t think that I can say yes, because the truth is, even Filipinos don’t feel safe in their own country anymore. There is just too much criminality and injustice that the leaders can’t iron out.

Though the Korean Embassy in Manila has already expressed grave concern over the increasing number of crimes against its citizens and sought the help of the Philippine government, no “real” solution has been enunciated. I am not trying to dissuade Koreans (or any other foreigners) from visiting the Philippines, but I would like to remind everyone who comes here to be MORE vigilant.

Here are some ways a Korean can stay safe in the Philippines:

  • If you are a first-time tourist or a solo traveler, stick to your itinerary. It is best to have a qualified tour guide or a friend to show you around.
  • Avoid going to unfamiliar places, but if you really have to go to a place you have no idea about, let’s say, you are looking for an adventure and you’d like to go backpacking, NEVER do it alone. It is much safer traveling around the Philippines (or anywhere in the world) in groups or with a friend… and as they say, the more the merrier.
  • Make friends with Filipinos you see on a regular basis, like a classmate or a teacher in school, an office mate  a church mate  etc., NOT just anybody you have met on-line, in a bar or at the mall. Filipinos are known and loved for their amiability and hospitality, but sometimes these can be used as lure by swindlers. I know most Koreans would rather have Korean friends to hang out with than socialize with the locals, but having a trustworthy Filipino friend can help you understand Philippine culture better.
  • If you are coming home from school late at night, have a friend walk you home, or ask a family member or your guardian to pick you up. Avoid taxis or tricycles if you are by yourself. If this isn’t possible, call someone you know; give that person the plate number of the taxi or the tricycle that you are riding. Let the driver know that you are informing someone of the vehicle’s plate number or make the phone call while inside the vehicle, so the driver can hear the conversation. That way, he won’t do anything foolish, because he knows he won’t get away with it. This may be offensive to drivers who don’t have any hidden agenda, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Flashing your smart phones and expensive gadgets in public places is a big no-no. In Korea, you can use your phone anywhere and no one will give a damn, but if you do that in the Philippines, you will be attracting thieves.
  • If you are withdrawing a huge amount of money from the bank or changing your foreign cash to peso, make sure that no one is following you. Have someone assist you, so this person can act as your second pair of eyes.
  • If you are withdrawing money from the ATM, use ATM’s with assigned security guards or one that is within the bank. ATM’s in the mall are no longer safe because of scammers posing as shoppers. My sister almost fell victim to a modus operandi while she was withdrawing cash from an ATM in a shopping center in Angeles City, but good thing she knows better.
  • Be wary of strangers who are too friendly, for instance, those who offer you free stuff or promos. They could be scammers, too.
  • Avoid crowded places and packed public transport. They are magnets for pickpockets. My brother-in-law and his wife, both Koreans, have been in the Philippines numerous times, but it was only two years ago when they encountered pickpockets in the mall, and they don’t even know how it happened! Nearly 600 USD was stolen from them. Last year, my husband and I were victimized by sneak thieves, too. We were riding a jeepney on our way home. One of the passengers sitting in front of us asked my husband what time it was. Oblivious to what the man was really trying to do, my husband answered him. After a few stops, the man and another passenger sitting next to my husband got off. Later, my husband realized that his wallet was empty.
  • Do not get wasted outside your home. If in Korea you can get drunk, sleep anywhere and remain unscathed, here in the Philippines, you will only endanger your life if you do that.
  • Don’t make enemies here, especially among your fellow Koreans. This year, a Korean was kidnapped and killed by a fellow Korean in Cavite. According to the investigation, the victim, Yang Kwang Sung and his companion, Jeong In Seong, double-crossed their employer, Shin Beom Sik. With the help of his Filipina live-in partner, Shin hired Filipinos to abduct, beat up and shoot the two Koreans. Jeong survived the ordeal. Shin and his live-in partner are in police custody, but authorities are still looking for three others involved in the crime. Last year, the arrest of some of the members of a Korean kidnap gang in the Philippines made headlines. The group’s modus operandi was to offer their services as tour guides to fellow Koreans who want to visit the Philippines, and after gaining the tourists’ trust, they would kidnap them and ask their families for ransom.


From Korea with Love



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Busan to Seoul, a journey on Korea’s Cross-Country Cycling Road

Fri, 2014-09-12 07:17
Busan to Seoul, a journey on Korea’s Cross-Country Cycling Road

It’s 07:30 and my alarm is chirping away at me. Time to drag myself out of bed, eat breakfast in a hurry, shower and go to school. Just another work-day. But, wait! It’s Saturday, why am I up at this unwelcoming hour? That’s right, you’ve decided to spend the Chuseok public holiday cycling across a whole country…

Day 1, Saturday 6th of September: 211.9km



I trundled across the bridge connecting Hadan, my home, and Eulsukdo, an island in the mouth of the Nakdong River. Eulsukdo is many things, a poorly protected bird sanctuary in the ever-developing river estuary area, a private tennis club, a multi-purpose exercise complex and also the beginning (or end) of Korea’s Cross-Country Cycle Road. On this particular Saturday morning the bleak river-mist was lingering with a slight autumnal chill and intermittent light rain was dampening the pavement under my wheels. I took a picture of my bike next to the engraved stone marking the beginning of my adventure and stamped the back of my bus ticket home from Seoul (the certification centre at Eulsukdo was out of stock of trail passports). The beginning of the trail is quite familiar to me as I have run and rode along it numerous times over the three years I have lived in the area and despite bumping into a few Ultimate Frisbee friends near Hwamyeong, who were on a similar journey, I made quick work of zig-zagging amongst the early morning weekend cycle path ‘traffic’. As I left the city limits and flew past southern Yangsan the path cleared and I was soon cycling ahead of the pack (presumably there would be many people attempting the same route).




A shade over four hours had elapsed and the first 100km was already in the bank, the path out of Busan is mostly flat, long straight stretches hug the riverbank and are only briefly broken by a few detours along a tributary river and through a few small village roads. The sun was out now, the mist having burned off progressively and the rain having abated a long time ago. At this point my first problem arose. Food and drink. My water bottle was empty and two Gatorades were long gone, I did have an oatmeal bar but that had been hastily munched 20km ago. I needed to refuel. There had been no shops on the route so far and I was relieved to roll into a small village on the opposite side of the river to Namji. There were no viable lunch options, just a bunch of river fish restaurants but I thought that the old lady outside her own convenience store would have some snack bars and some drinks. When I produced my debit card she shook her head and I learnt my first lesson, cash rules in the countryside. I spent my last 1,000원 (50p) on two bottles of water and rolled on.


Outside Namji I hit the first real hill as the path wandered away from the river briefly and into the rice-paddies and farmland. The hill was ridiculously steep and the path had given way to dusty and rocky dirt, more dangerous than the ride up was the ride down and my brakes got their first real test. After a few river crossings, another steep, but fairly short hill, and a further 45km I finally found somewhere to buy some food at Hapcheonbo. I have never been so delighted to see a chain convenience store than when I rolled across the bridge from the west bank to the east bank, I even gave out a slightly aggressive shout of relief. After purchasing enough water and gatorade for the day I sat down on a picnic table outside and had some noodles, cookies and an ice-cream. A little later a well-cycled Korean man rolled in and we chatted about our journeys and he enjoyed a little giggle at my expense as I recounted my personal drought.

After Hapcheonbo I made my first navigational error. The trail signs appeared to invite me to travel over another sharply steep and poorly surfaced mini-mountain and where the end of the descent appeared to rejoin the river bank I somehow confused the trail signposting and I headed inland. I was bewildered to see the six sharp towering points of the Hapcheonbo bridge reappearing in my horizon and it was then that I realised I had circled around the base of the small mountain I had just unnecessarily climbed. The cost of my mistake was an extra 11km and my second snake encounter of the day (Snakes, equally dead and alive were a frequent occurrence during the trip).

Having just made one mistake the last thing I wanted to do was make another, but this is exactly what I did. At another bridge crossing further up the river the signposts appeared to invite me to cross the river, and technically I was still on the right path when I did, (many parts of the trail can be ridden on either side of the Nakdong River) however I was now about to embark on a 12km mountain bike path. As I suffered on the rocky, sandy, muddy mountain bike trail, bordered by ditches, trees and drop-offs, dipping and falling over insanely steep inclines and narrow tight corners I gazed longingly across to the very visible east river bank and the smooth snaking path. As I reflect, I remember passing the surprised luminously adorned old man who I met at the convenience store (he must have passed me as I took my unnecessary detour a few minutes earlier) and him ringing his bell several times as I began to cross the bridge. What I had thought was friendly bell-ringing was probably a ‘where are you going you idiot’ bell ringing.

My bike and I survived the mountain bike course, my narrow racing tyres scampered for grip a few times and I nearly came off when I hit some sand at the bottom of a decline. The light was beginning to fade and I made a concerted and committed effort to get to Daegu. The last 10km of trail threaded through some riverside reeds and I  managed to miss out on a stamping booth and ultimately I decided to just not bother collecting them, especially without having the passport.

I reached Daegu just after darkness descended and my final blow came in the form of a puncture as I navigated my way to a motel area on the west side of Daegu in Horim-dong. I checked into the very plush but reasonably cheap Wave Motel and fixed my puncture in the bathroom. Feeling famished I walked across the road and had samgyeopsal by myself. The lady owner informed me the minimum order was a serving for three people (this is common in barbecue restaurants) and I told her in my broken Korean that would be perfect. She and a few of her friends, the only other diners, were interested in the reason for my appetite and I explained my trip. Seeing how bushed I was she sat down and cooked the food for me at the table. A pretty good end to a grueling but ultimately successful day.

Day 2, Sunday 7th of September: 136.0km


I took a bit of a lie-in and headed out around 10:00, a local cyclist helped guide me back to the trail in the morning and although my legs were feeling a little fatigued I soon found my rhythm on the ride out of Daegu. For the first 30km or so I rode with a young Korean lad on a very fancy racing bike and without speaking a word we somehow managed to organise a complimentary slip-streaming effort. We sped along the tarmac pathway and disturbed a sunbathing viper, well he did as he ran over it. I think he didn’t see it to be fair and he looked a little surprised as his tyres briefly jumped. Another snake to add to the roadkill total. After passing another of the numerous Nakdong river weir system and bridges we parted company and I pressed on ahead. The path was quite generic during the morning and the monotony was only dispersed by frequent stops to ensure I was fully stocked on water and Gatorade, (which I was now sick of drinking) the sun was out in full-force today and I didn’t want to be caught-short again.

I stopped for lunch at Nakdong-ri and the kindly owner gave me some dried persimmon to boost my energy as he accompanied me in the shade and quizzed me on my nationality, age etc… and gleefully informed me about the hilly section ahead of me. I consumed a refreshing ice-cream and left him behind to deal with an SUV full of excited children.

True to his word the next 30km were hilly, the cycle path often gave way to roads with light traffic and I weaved across the contours of the terrain and over the river several times. It was during this time I noticed my chain was a little dry and I was considering getting some oil when I had a chance, but being the first actual day of the Chuseok holiday, as well as a Sunday I felt my chances would be limited, especially with no settlements in sight. Oddly enough there was a bicycle museum shortly after Gyeongcheon Bridge and despite the grounds being packed with kids on hire bikes it appeared the workshop was closed. I carried on, hit a really hilly, dusty gravel section and my front derailleur promptly collapsed into the chain ring.

This was a problem, and as I tried to fix it with my minimal multi-tool and a pathetic adjustable spanner the problem became greater. Even a couple of lads heading in the opposite direction couldn’t help me and I decided the only course of action was to walk, and coast the downhill sections when possible, back to the bike museum. 4km later in the searing heat I arrived at the bike museum and explained my situation to a receptionist, she took me to the mechanic, a slightly uncomfortable young man who explained to me they only fixed punctures. At this point I could see into the bike hire workshop and perfectly visible was a bike stand and a ton of tools, with no other options at my disposal I essentially verbally forced my way in. He eventually came round and even helped me with the tricky process of resetting the derailleur height, tension and alignment and as we both sweated and pulled on cables and loosened and tightened parts an old man came along and ensured he criticised everything we did.

With a generous spray of oil and to the relief of the mechanic and myself I returned to the trail and re-did the 4km of rolling forest hills. The following 35km were a pleasant burn through rice-paddies and along open and clear riverside paths. I sped along with a little unease, frequently glancing between the suspicious signposting and my untrustworthy derailleur.

Shortly before I rolled into Moongyeong City I had passed two western riders and as I sat by the riverside park in Moongyeong City contemplating if I should carry on or pick out a motel from the ones I could visibly see behind a train station they also stopped close by. Looking at their very professional equipment I thought it may be a good idea to seek their advice and after looking at my smartphone map app and their Garmin computers we all came to the conclusion that here would be a good place to stop for the day as there was a major mountainous section ahead that would be best left for tomorrow. After rejecting one grumpy lady’s motel we checked into another one. After taking a shower and bumping into PVL, a friend of some friends that I have met a few times, and who had ridden with Dan and Kelly the previous day for a short while, we headed out to eat some dinner. At a dalkgalbi (spicy chicken and veg) restaurant they shared their experiences of riding all over Korea and I was grateful to get some good information on some of the trails ahead. After a plentiful meal and some good company I was delighted to get an early night.

Day 3, Monday 8th of September: 181.3km



Dan and Kelly planned to leave at the crack of dawn but I was much happier to sleep until around 08:00, I bumped into PVL again in the motel lobby, he was having problems trying to find somewhere to get breakfast, we exchanged numbers and said if we were in the same town later we would grab some dinner.


My first call of business was to purchase plenty of drinks and some sunscreen to protect what was now a badly scorched neck and set of knees. I rode the short way back to the path and set off into some lush farmland areas that led to an ever increasing and ominous mountain range. I was now on the Saejae Trail and had left the Nakdong River behind me yesterday. The Saejae Trail is notable as it crosses Moongyeong Saejae Provincial Park which is part of a series of mountainous parks that form a distinct ridge dividing the country in half. The 100km Saejae Trail is highlighted by the 5km long and 550m elevation climb of the Bakdudaegan Ihwaryeong Pass, after 30km of gradual incline, snaking between fields, riversides and small valleys I hit the climb head on. With the distance of the last two days hanging in my legs I was impressed that I manged to climb over the pass without taking a break, at the top of the pass I was congratulated by a young German lad who was heading the other way and took some mandatory self-pride photos. The descent was smooth on the wide twisting tarmac road and I was only fearful of my brakes giving out when they made the occasional disgruntled squeal. Another steep but slightly shorter 3km climb followed and after that the road eventually steered itself out of the mountain valleys and into scorching hot Chungju. Today was the main Chuseok holiday day, the route was noticeably quiet and I mostly encountered families who were out at the roadsides to tend to their families mounded graves, a traditional aspect of Chuseok holiday festivities.


Chungju marked the end of the 100km Saejae Trail and this is where I joined the Namhangang Trail (South Han River). This was a big psychological boost, the big climbs were behind me and the Han river of course leads to Seoul. At a quiet bike trail cafe just after leaving Chungju I grabbed some dumplings and water from a kind lady and her family who also shared some of their Chuseok holiday treats with me and then set off along the scenic trail north towards Yeoju and hopefully to Yangpyeong where I wished to spend the night.

Although I was hurting a little today, a culmination of the previous two days efforts and the mountain climbs in the morning, the consistent pathways and lack of significant elevation after the mountain pass ensured I rode at a good speed throughout the afternoon. Coupled with a day of no mechanical issues and some more considered navigational choices using both signposts and Naver Maps (a Korean version of Google Maps) I really enjoyed my afternoon spin to Yangpyeong and arrived just before the sunset. The scenery along the South Han River was at times breathtaking and the suns low late evening light highlighted the horizon and river waters beautifully.


In Yangpyeong I took a diversion from the path into the town centre and despite being rejected by one grouchy motel lady who did not want my bicycle inside I soon found one nice lady who did. I showered and bought myself some oven roasted chicken from a nearby take-out and refueled while watching Skyfall on a movie channel.

Day 4, Tuesday 9th of September: 56.1km



If it wasn’t for my mishaps on day one and my mechanical issues on day two I think I would have reached Seoul the previous evening. In the end I had to finish the last 56km on Tuesday morning. I had considered carrying my journey onto Incheon originally, but now that I wasn’t collecting the stamps for the passport there seemed little point to cycle 60km just to see the depressing brown estuary waters of Incheon. I left Yangpyeong around 08:00, as I had gone to sleep so early the previous evening, and this meant I completed my journey at 10:30 at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Stadium. The morning began in fine fashion as I zipped along an old railway line, flying along the tunnels burrowing their way under small valley peaks.

As I approached Seoul the trail noticeably grew busier, local riding teams were out in their team colours and inexperienced riders and random pedestrians did their best to meander and wobble in front of me. After all I had been through the previous days this was probably the most dangerous section! It was also here that I was overtaken  by someone for the first time, four times in fact! The journey was not a race but I was delighted at the pace I could keep along the way, especially considering I was on a cheap Korean version of a hybrid bike.

By the end I completed the journey over three days and two hours on the fourth morning. With the help of today’s modern smartphone tracking apps I can tell you this was a total of 26 hours 20 minutes and 54 seconds of riding time covering 585.3km at an average speed of 22.2kmh and climbing 6276m. Good, average or bad I don’t know but I’ve never felt a greater sense of achievement.

Having a good chunk of spare time remaining on the holiday period I scooted over to an area of Seoul near DongSeoul Bus Terminal where I would depart the following evening. I checked into a motel near Konkuk University on the edge of a lively area and spent the afternoon and evening with my Korean friend Dia, most of which I spent feeding food to my famished body.

I enjoyed a true holiday lie-in until 11:00 the next day, I checked out of the motel and the kind lady locked my bike in a store room while I went off to meet Luke, a friend from when I lived in Changwon. We both played football for the same team a few years back and we visited Japan two summers ago. We spent the afternoon catching up in Itaewon, a popular foreigner area which has fortunately now left a better memory on me than the last time I visited there a few years back. We had a decent burger at Gecko’s and had a few pints in the afternoon sun at the Crafthouse and Magpie Brewing. We grabbed the subway, Luke went off to work on his thesis and I cruised my bike along the busy Seoul pavements to the express bus terminal. I shoved my bike in the storage area under the bus and chatted to a lovely old lady from Daegu for twenty minutes before the bus set off. Just to crown a perfect trip the bus pulled into Nopo station in Busan early and I caught the last subway home rather than having to cycle 20km across the city at midnight.

What a journey, what an adventure, if you are reading this thinking about if you should take this cycling trip I implore you to do it.

Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Busan International Shakespeare Festival @ Dalmaji Amphitheatre

Thu, 2014-09-11 01:33

From: https://www.facebook.com/events/688601611195586

Join Shakespeare in Busan and cities around Korea for an afternoon of merriment, monologues, and music!
Busan, Daegu, Masan, Jeongup, Gwangju, and Ulsan have come together to bring you the best of the Shakespearean entertainment for Busan's fifth annual Shakespeare in the Park event. Performances will be in English with a couple Korean pieces. 

Come on over to Dalmaji Amphitheatre on September 13th at 3 (come earlier to get a good seat)! Bring a picnic! Bring wine! Bring friends and a blanket to sit on! 
Just hop in a taxi and tell them 'Dalmaji, Alexander Restaurant'.

Act 1
-Ryan Estrada
Othello (Act 1, Scene 3)
-Director and Performer: Jeong Hyeok Jin
Dogfish (written by Ryan Estrada)
-Director: Ryan Estrada
-Performers: Indy Randhawa, Michael Uchrin, Kerry Maher, Suzanne Farrell, Kim Hyun Sook
Madness of Hamlet
-Director: Victoria Anderson
-Performers: Tammy Louise Rak, Rachel Mikolajczyk, Stephanie Seaman
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
-Director: Jeffrey Schoenfeld
-Performers: Jeffrey Schoenfeld, Lawrence Kent
Bitter Sauce
-Director: Carrie Heeter
-Performers: Carrie Heeter, Michael Uchrin, Holly Ive Bartkowiak


Act 2
Titus Andronicus (Act 2, Scene 5)
-Director: Benjamin William Slater
-Performers: Patrick Sanders, S
Othello (Act 5, Scene 2)
-Directors and Performers: Indy Randhawa, Carrie Heeter
The Tempest (monologues) 
-Director and Performer: Juli Johnson
A Midsummer Nights Dream (monologue)
-Director and Performer: Holly Ive Bartkowiak
A Midsummer Nights Dream (Act 3, Scene 2)
Directors and Performers:

Busan International Shakespeare Festival @ Dalmaji Amphitheatre
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Chuseok Blues

Wed, 2014-09-10 14:58
Chuseok Blues


Last night, I was reading an article about fake casts for daughters-in-law in Korea who want to avoid Chuseok chores. According to the article,  the fake casts sold like hotcakes. Women wear them on Chuseok and pretend that they are injured, so they won’t have to help around the kitchen. One may ask, “Why do these women resort to deception just to shun house work?’ I may not have the gall to wear a fake cast and lie to my parents-in-law like these women, but I am one of the many myeonuris who dread Chuseok chores.

Chuseok (추석: Thanksgiving Day) is one of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea when families visit their ancestral homes and gather to share ceremonial feasts, but for a myeonuri (며느리: daughter-in-law) like me, Chuseok is more of donkey work than a celebration of gratitude for a bountiful harvest. I don’t mean to sound so negative aboutChuseok, but when this holiday comes, it’s impossible to enjoy my days off because of all the chores that I have to do.

Chuseok holiday period lasts for three days, but this year, it is from September 6 to 10. Imagine five days of agony! It’s not that myeonuris work continuously all those days, but we just can’t get over the so-called “daughter-in-law holiday syndrome” until Chuseok is officially over.

Lucky for me, I am NOT in Korea, so this year, I was able to evade all the chores and the stress that come with Chuseok. All I had to do was to call my parents-in-law in Korea and greet them.


Because Chuseok is a big celebration, there is a lot of food that needs to be prepared. My husband comes from a traditional clan, so the women in the family are the ones obliged to do all the work in the kitchen, while the men play Go-stop, watch TV or enjoy their chitchat. As much as I loathe the chores, which I know are not that much compared to othermyeonuris whose families perform ancestral memorial rites, I hate the fact that women do all the tedious work while men have all the fun.

The unfairness of Chuseok preparation as illustrated here (SOURCE: The Korea Blog)

Our Chuseok chores begin the day before the actual celebration. We wake up early and go to the eldest uncle’s house to prepare the food for the next day. Most mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law work together, but my Omonim (mother-in-law) is always busy with her business, so she never comes to help. My husband has many uncles, so their wives, the oldermyeonuris, do most of the cooking, while my sisters-in-law and I, the younger myeonuris, help with the preparation and do the cleaning. I always volunteer to cook jeon, because it seems to be the easiest thing to do… and I like arranging them nicely on a tray once they are cooked. Mind you, I’m not talking about frying four or five kinds of jeon for a small family. It’s for the whole clan! It takes me the entire morning to finish the task. After tidying up the kitchen or washing the dishes, I’m free to go… but NOT really free, because there’s work that needs to be done in the house, too.

Jeon, also known as Korean pancake, is served as an important food for jesasang (제사상) or ceremonial table setting for ancestral rites.


As Christians, we don’t perform ancestral rites on Chuseok called charye (차례), so we don’t have to prepare an elaborate ceremonial feast. In the morning, one of my husband’s uncles, who is a pastor, leads worship. After that, the women will be busy in the kitchen. The men are served breakfast. Abonim (father-in-law) and the uncles get to eat first, and they always have the best seats in the house. Omonim and the aunties rarely eat together with their husbands. I’ve noticed that the older women are more concerned with refilling their husbands’ bowls than minding their own food. This isn’t the case with me and my sisters-in-law. We eat at the same table with our husbands. (Sometimes it’s our husbands who serve us. ^^)

Maybe because we are much younger, we have learned to do things differently. We cater to our husbands, but at the same time, we take care of our needs. Servin

g the elders, however, is A MUST.


Myeonuris are expected to stay in the eldest uncle’s house for the whole day. We take our lunch and dinner there, but most of the time, we cook, serve and clean. In the afternoon, the men go to their ancestors’ graves to pay respects, while the women chat a little or take a rest.


Ceremonial table setting for charye with many Korean traditional food (SOURCE: The Chosun Ilbo)




    My first Chuseok wasn't so bad. I was interested in learning how to cook traditional Korean food, so I didn't mind working in the kitchen... but when I was left to wash tons of dishes by myself, I felt like crying. My husband must have known how upset I was, so he came to help me. The aunties teased him, because he was the only man in the kitchen. That is probably why he stayed away from the kitchen from then on.


Last year, my in-laws decided to have our own Chuseok gathering in the house besides the one annually hosted by the eldest uncle's family. I didn't fancy the idea, because it meant more house work having two gatherings in one day, but what can a myeonuri do? I have two sisters-in-law who also help with the chores, but their responsibilities begin with setting the table and end with putting away the dishes. They never stay too long in the house, I guess because they know what awaits them when the party's over. It's usually the eldest son's wife, the older myeonuri, who has to do most of the work, but in my husband's family, it's the other way around. My husband is the youngest son, which makes me the youngest myeonuri, but we live with the in-laws, so most of the older myeonuri duties are given to me.



The truth is, my Chuseok chores are nothing compared to those of other myeonuries. Some myeonuris I know spend days making Chuseok preparations, while mean mothers-in-law constantly hound them. I am grateful for my Omonim, because she doesn't pressure me. My husband's relatives are kind, too... at least this is a consolation.

Some myeonuris have to endure hours of travel time to get to their in-laws' home provinces only to work like slaves in the kitchen. My husband's paternal relatives live nearby, so we don't have to travel far. What gets me is the work load and not being able to spend the holiday as I please.

Before marriage, I was told that foreign wives are usually given less work, since Chuseok is something new to them, but I never believed that. I have always known that being a foreigner does not give any daughter-in-law in Korea an excuse for failing to fulfill her duties as a myeonuri, especially on important family gatherings when all eyes are on us. Foreigner or not, married women in Korea are bound by the traditional role of an obedient and diligent daughter-in-law.

Now that Chuseok is finally over, let me congratulate my fellow myeonuris for making it through another year of "forced labor". I know that most of us rarely get thanks or thumbs up, but everyone knows that Chuseok won't be possible without our hard work.


From Korea with Love



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Top 10 Things to Do in Seoul

Sun, 2014-09-07 01:44
Top 10 Things to Do in Seoul I've been writing Seoul Searching for just over five years now and although I've mentioned a lot of great places to visit, it recently came to my attention that I have yet to put together a list of the best things to do in the city. Of course, "best" is a highly subjective word, and while everyone has their own ideas of what a visitor should experience during his or her stay, I have my own personal favorites. So, without further ado, here are the top ten things you should do on your stay in Seoul:

10. Tap into your artsy side

Koreans have always had an appreciation for the arts. From the intricately crafted ceramic pottery of the country's dynastic days to modern reinterpretations of pansori, a genre of musical storytelling, Korean artists know no limits. Explore ancient treasures at the National Museum of Korea- one of the largest in the world- or if your tastes are more contemporary, opt for a visit to the Seoul Museum of Art. For a complete list of exhibitions and concerts going on throughout the city, visit this website.

9. See a non-verbal performance

Treat yourself to a night of entertainment by booking tickets for one of the many high-energy non-verbal performances showing daily in theaters throughout the city. Miso, a personal favorite, showcases traditional dance, emotional music and some incredibly beautiful costumes, while Bibap is a food-centric story that utilizes martial arts and a whole lot of slapstick to keep the audience laughing from start to finish.

A non-verbal performance illustrates the beauty and mystery of Korean culture.
8. Sleep in a traditional house

For a truly Korean experience, spend a night or two in a hanok. These traditional homes, which are diminishing by the day, are a unique reminder of Korea's past and still preserve the country's history in their tiled roofs, papered windows, enchanting courtyards and heated floors. Bukchon Hanok Village is an especially picturesque neighborhood mostly comprised of these homes. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful areas in the city and is conveniently wedged between Gyeongbok and Changdeok palaces, among other cultural relics, making it a great spot to rest your head after a long day of Seoul searching.

7. Get monk-y

Although the majority of Korean nationals today do not profess a specific religious orientation, Buddhism was once the national religion and its influence on the country is obvious, even in modern day Korea. There are a few temples in Seoul worth visiting, particularly during Buddha's Birthday in May, but one of the best places to get oriented to Buddhism is Bongeunsa, a 1,200 year old complex located in the heart of Gangnam's business district. Visitors with a deep interest in the religion can opt to stay overnight and live like a monk for a day (think grueling prostrations, vegetarian meals and a 4am wakeup call) but for those looking for a less intense look into the life of Buddhist monks, Bongeunsa offers a TempleLife program on Thursdays. Here, participants learn the basics of Seon meditation, the Korean tea ceremony and get a nice tour of the temple grounds.

Temple stay participants learn how to meditate.
6. Have a cuppa

Korea is a coffee-crazed nation, with a cafe on practically every block of every street. Still, there are a number of traditional tea houses primarily concentrated in Insadong. These cafes are easy to spot but the best are tucked away in the alleys of the neighborhood. My go-to is Moon Bird Thinks Only of the Moon, a tea house far more simplistic than its complicated name suggests. Shrouded in rustic decor, Moon Bird is a cozy spot to enjoy a cup of homemade omija (five-flavored) or yuja (Asian citrus) tea. Although the prices for these traditional teas are a bit costly (usually around 7,000 won), the complimentary tea snacks and atmosphere make it worth it.

5. Spend an afternoon on the Han

Seoul is often portrayed as a city of concrete and neon, so many are surprised to learn that there are a number of green spaces strewn across the Korean capital. My favorite place to soak up some sun is the Han River and the parks that border it. On any given day, locals can be found in these parks shooting hoops, riding bikes (which can be rented for pennies) and picnicking under sun shades. In the evenings, a musical fountain show is held at Banpo Bridge in which over 200 tons of water are sprayed out of the illuminated bridge in sync to musical tunes. In warmer months, free concerts are held and movies are shown on stages around the river.

Enjoy a bike ride and picnic on the picturesque Han River. (Photo: Talk To Me In Korean)
4. Explore Hongdae

Hongdae is a vibrant neighborhood known for being the creative hub of the country. Boasting a number of design shops, art galleries, indie music bars and fashion studios, the district is the perfect place to soak up the city's up-and-coming trends and youth culture. Spend an afternoon in Hongdae checking out unique (and sometimes strangely) themed coffee shops, snap photos of the colorful street art and chow down on gimmicky street snacks like nitrogen ice cream. After the sun sets, Hongdae really comes alive as thousands flock to the area's bars, dance clubs and noraebangs (private karaoke rooms) for round after round of drunken debauchery.

An indie band jams out in Hongdae's Children's Park. (Photo: Jeffrey Tripp)
3. Go on a food tour

The world is slowly becoming more aware of the tantalizing flavors Korean food has to offer and people from all corners of the globe are flocking to the peninsula to taste the cuisine in its most authentic form. While many restaurants in touris areas are foreigner-friendly, it can be difficult to find the gastronomic gems of Seoul, often located in obscure and hidden back alleys of lesser known neighborhoods. That's why going on a food tour is the best option to sample the tastiest treats Korea has to offer, all the while allowing English-speaking local residents to do the dirty work for you. From seafood market visits to Korean barbecue tours to pub hopping, there's a tour for just about everyone.

2. Hike a mountain

When I do decide to leave Korea, one of the things I'll miss most is having immediate access to gorgeous hiking trails and outstanding city views. A number of mountains can be easily accessed via Seoul's subway system and trails are clearly marked and maintained. The fact is Koreans- mostly of the elderly variety- have made a lifestyle out of hiking, investing thousands of dollars in colorful outdoor get-ups and equipment. Hiking is a social activity in itself and once on the trails, the cranky and pushy characteristics those of the older generations are known for seem to dissipate. Hikers are quite often eager share both their smiles and lunches of kimbap, fresh fruit and makgeolli- lots of makgeolli- with passersby. These interactions, in addition to the beautiful vistas offered by mountains like Bukhansan, Inwangsan and Dobongsan, make a hiking trip a must on any visit to Seoul.

Hikers take a picnic break. (Photo)
1. Get off the beaten path

Without a doubt, the best thing to do in Seoul is to get lost. The city is very much a treasure trove of sights and smells and sounds and tastes waiting to be taken in. While I have my own personal favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations I escape to every now and again, there are plenty others I have yet to discover. Seoul is an incredibly safe city which makes wandering its streets not only fun but secure as well. So don't feel the need to stick only to the areas your guidebook suggests. Get out there and experience all the surprises the city has waiting for you!

What's your number one thing to do in Seoul? Leave any suggestions I may have left out in the comments below.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival: Pixelated

Sat, 2014-09-06 18:21
Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival: Pixelated

From October 1st ~ 12th hundreds of spirits, soldiers, and denizens from Korea’s past emblazon the night in the small fortified city of Jinju.

The Namgang Lantern Festival (진주 남강 유등 축제) is held every autumn in the small (for Korea) city of Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province. The festival not only commemorates the city’s great victory in the Imjin war, but also depicts traditional life in Korea at the time. Centred around the fortress and the Nam River (Namgang) outside, the lanterns bask the city in a beautiful glow. Accompanying the artistic luminosity are traditional foods, drinks, games, and fantastic performances of Joseon music, dance, and song.

City after city fell to samurai swords, yet Jinju refused to be capitulated. Utterly outnumbered and outgunned the ragtag army under the leadership of general Simin pushed the Japanese invaders back.

The city’s great triumph was short lived however as the samurai returned in greater numbers, and this time levelled everything. The conflict raged for a further six years and ended in stalemate.

The festival is not all soldiers and war though. Korea’s past customs, games, jobs, and beliefs are all represented in glorious glowing paper.

Here’s the monkey from the Chinese zodiac.

Daksaum, or chicken fight, is a traditional children’s wrestling game. The participants hold onto one leg and, hopping around like a chicken, try to knock their opponent’s leg to the floor.

Joseon men enjoy a tea ceremony… (I’ll tell you something about blood tea)

Young children giggle as they ride on tomorrow’s dinner.

Janggi is a chess like game originating in China and is still played by old folks in parks across Korea.

Outside the Nam river is illuminated by hundreds of floating lanterns.

Jinju is easy to reach from Busan or Seoul by bus or train. The festival last for several days and is likely to be very busy on the weekends. However, don’t let that deter you from experiencing one of Korea’s most awesome festivities.

A note from the Editor-in-Chimp: This post was originally featured here on Travel Wire Asia. Do me a favour and monkey on over there too!

The post Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival: Pixelated appeared first on Monkeyboy Goes.


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ELT Live 2 - Hows, Whats, and Whys (or why nots) of class websites

Wed, 2014-09-03 01:59
ELT Live 2 - Hows, Whats, and Whys (or why nots) of class websites


ELT  Live Webcast#2
 Hows, Whats, and Whys (or why nots)
of class websites and other online resources. 
September 2, 2014 Download mp3


Links Mentioned

Course Websites Options

Group Chat Tools

Other Sites/Tools

Course Websites

Please comment below to share any related tools, resources, or sites. 

Chat Log Below

  Sung Hee Lim   hello everyone   jefflebow (Admin) FOMO - Fear of Missing Out   Elizabeth Anne   pbworks anyone?   Daniel Craig   Hello   Daniel Craig   I used to use pbworks, but haven't for a long time. I liked wikis, but haven't used them for a while.   Elizabeth Anne   I Just tried to join, but can't get in :-( I been working a system with my 3rd year Physics students for quite a while based on pbworks   Elizabeth Anne   wd've shared   jefflebow (Admin) just sent an invite Elizabeth Anne. Let me know if you don't see it   Elizabeth Anne   Oops - I heard the call, but I'm on the Koreabridge page and didn't see it ... don't worry - I'll go and fish around   Elizabeth Anne   got it   Daniel Craig   I used to use it with grad students at IU. I had them make their own sites and contribute to a class site. It worked quite well.   Daniel Craig   Hi Elizabeth   Lisa Bellamy   Hi there, this is my first hangout/webinar so if I do the wrong thing feel free to chastize/advise... Lis   Daniel Craig   Hi Lisa   Sung Hee Lim   hello Lisa    Lisa Bellamy   can see/hear     jefflebow (Admin) http://clyp.it/   Kuyang Landry   I can see you all   Kuyang Landry   except lisa   Daniel Craig   http://www.fotobabble.com/   jefflebow (Admin) Kuyang, would you like to join in the conversation?   jefflebow (Admin) If so, Hangout at: https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/hoaevent/AP36tYd3bXFGk7day-dGQNrIZBgAUTo9GhIPAvUKNRoV7rWXOfsOhA?authuser=0&hl=en   Kuyang Landry   getting close to an hour   Kuyang Landry   thanks.   Kuyang Landry   kev   jefflebow (Admin) Kev, it is. Feel free to try again.   Kuyang Landry   I was just worried my mike was going to interrupt   Daniel Craig   http://versoapp.com/#verso   jefflebow (Admin) http://www.divii.org/   Kuyang Landry   I'll just listen for now. missed the first 45 minutes. cheers though   Kuyang Landry   hahaha I'm 42   Daniel Craig   http://www.danielcraig.com is my site, but I haven't been very good at updating it :-)   Kuyang Landry   thanks jeff. I'll watch the first part tomorrow.   Daniel Craig   http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/ SAMR   Sung Hee Lim   Thank you Jeff for creating such nice chance to share our ideas and experience   Guest 202   I'm late :(   Elizabeth Anne   A livebinder of all my student wikis (just last year missing) !   Elizabeth Anne   http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?present=true&id=600092   Elizabeth Anne   But where does your write-up go? I'd never heard of "clip it" and don't seem to find a recording app with that name! THANKS as usual for the inspiration :-) 



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Celebrating 20 Years of Chingusai

Tue, 2014-09-02 14:55
Celebrating 20 Years of Chingusai On Saturday night in Jongno, queer activists and allies gathered to celebrate the 20th year of Chingusai (Between Friends), a gay men’s group that has played a pivotal role in the gay rights movement in Korea. Their stated goals are to change society's distorted views of homosexuality, protect human rights and educate people on their rights, and promote HIV/AIDS education. They also organize a variety of groups with the aim of building a gay community such as G Boys (a gay chorus) and Marine Boys (a swim team). 
To celebrate their 20th year, a parade/protest was organized in the Jongno area of Seoul which has had a score of gay bars since the 1960s. Before the start of the parade, representatives of Chingusai gave instructions on the parade route and film director Kim Jho Gwang Su explained our cheer - a simple call-and-response about Chingusai, love, and LGBT rights (with the occasional 'get rid of President Park Geun-hye added for political flavor). Although the parade was predominately to celebrate 20 years of Chingusai, there were also marchers wearing yellow hats in support of bereaved families calling for a special law to independently investigate the cause of the Sewol Ferry incident in April

Around two or three hundred people showed up to the parade and marched with rainbow flags and signs distributed by Chingusai. A pair was dressed up as gold aliens and a beautiful drag queen Superwoman gave the parade a nice bit of camp. Spectators lined the street as we marched around the block and while onlookers mostly had bemused expressions, a few joined in on our cheer.

However, not every spectator had nice things to say. In a similar manner to the disruptions caused by Christianprotestors in June’s pride parade, around ten or twenty counter-protestors arrived screaming about how our sins will send us to hell. One woman in particular channeled the spirt of Shirley Phelps as she continued to yell in both English and Korean 'Shut up!' for a good ten minutes straight. 
Homosexuality is personal ruin and
the crime that is ruining the nation.
AIDS is hell's judgement
Halting children's birth

Chingusai ended the night with discussions on its past and future and presented Hong Seok-cheon with a human rights award for his bravery since coming out publicly in 2000. Although the protestors continued their anti-gay rhetoric on the sidelines, their voices were drowned out by music, speeches, and conversation. The night ended with a gay Korean tradition: drinks and discussions in Jongno's pojangmacha (food tents). While Jongno is typically not known as a gay mecca to the straight majority, that night rainbow streamers on the pojangmacha reflected the pride of the parade's participants. Although the gay rights movement still has a long way to go, Chingusai's work in the past twenty years has surely contributed to modern Korea's ever expanding positive attitude toward sexual minorities. 

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Should the US Retrench from South Korea, part 1: Yes

Mon, 2014-09-01 04:29
Should the US Retrench from South Korea, part 1: Yes

This is a re-up of a debate couplet on the US position in South Korea, which I wrote for the Lowy Institute. Part one, the reasons for US retrenchment, is here (and below); part 2, the arguments against a US departure, is here. And that pic is me and my North Korean minder at the North Korea side of the DMZ. Note the KWP pin above his breast pocket.

Whether the US should stay or go is a perennial issue, that surprisingly, doesn’t get discussed much. This is probably because if you really supported a US withdrawal, you would not be taken seriously in much of US or Korean foreign policy establishments. US foreign policy is dominated by a hawkish, interventionist consensus of neocons and liberal internationalists for whom the US positions in Japan and Korea have become ends in themselves as symbols of US hegemony (in neocon-speak, that’s read as: ‘global basing means we’re f****** awesome!’). In tandem, the Korean discussion, for all its lazy anti-Americanism, assumes a permanent American presence to the point of irresponsibility. But all this misses the real hole at the center – the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the North Korean conventional threat (and before you say, ‘heh wait, they could blow up Seoul,’ recall that South Korea easily has the resources to ramp up in a big way; it just doesn’t do it).

The essay starts after the jump:


“Over at War on the Rocks, Christopher Lee, a former officer in the US Forces Korea (USFK), and Tom Nichols of the US Naval War College, have gotten into a useful debate on whether US forces should remain in Korea. This issue is not widely discussed – surprisingly, given the end of the Cold War and the huge margin of advantage in South Korea’s favor. Although I have taught international relations in South Korea for six years, this idea is almost never mooted in academia or the media here, so I applaud War on the Rocks for broaching it. But I think Lee and Tom (full disclosure: Tom Nichols and I are friends) have missed the strongest arguments for a pull-out. Specifically, I think Lee understates his case and Tom will have to work harder to justify staying – although I think it can be done. Today, I want to lay out a more robust case for departure; tomorrow I will lay out the counterargument. In brief, I think that the case for staying just barely clears the bar and that the tide is running against it.

Why could/should the US leave South Korea:

1. South Korea is free-riding. It only ‘needs’ the US, because it is doing less than it would otherwise.

Free-riding is controversial issue, one that has bedeviled all US alliances for many decades. An entire literature within international relations is built around the curious dynamics, such as ‘buck-passing’ or ‘reckless driving,’ that characterize allies’ efforts to shift burdens to other allies, or tie others unwittingly to their own national preferences. The most acute free-riding problem in the US alliance structure is in Europe. NATO informally benchmarks 2% of GDP as a minimum for members’ defense spending. Yet only four NATO states break that marker. This has systematically crippled NATO, forcing the US to take the lead on should-be-European contingencies such as the Balkans wars, Libya, and the Ukraine. Japan is even worse at less than one percent of GDP.

By contrast, South Korea spends 2.6% of GDP on defense. This sounds better, but unfortunately is far from enough given its security environment – the massive garrison state of North Korea sitting right on top of it. There is no formal spending target – USFK places no such demand on Seoul – but the number I hear widely thrown around is that without the US, South Korea would spend two or three times as much as it does on defense now. Every foreign security analyst I know in Korea thinks the RoK needs to spend a great deal more: South Korea has significantly under-invested in C4ISR, missile defense, and counter-insurgency tactics. It is woefully under-prepared to occupy North Korea. It does not draft women, despite a declining birth-rate that is leading to a major shrinkage in the ground force. With a GDP twenty-five to thirty times that of North Korea, and a population more than twice as large, South Korea has the room to make a far greater effort. Where Lee and Nichols spar over the small amount of money the US contributes to Southern defense, the real issue is getting South Korea to take its own defense far more seriously.

2. The US presence in Korea (and Japan) discourages Japan-South Korea rapprochement.

I have written about this issue several times (here and here). In brief, the US alliance almost certainly inhibits much needed cooperation between Japan and Korea on regional issues, most obviously China and North Korea. Specifically, the US alliance permits ‘moral hazard’ in both: neither Tokyo nor Seoul suffer any consequences for ridiculous criticisms of the other, because the US insures them both against the consequences. Hence Japan, and Korea especially, focus far too much attention on each other, and not nearly enough on the real regional threats. There is a great deal of agonizing in the US over how to get these two allies to bury the hatchet and start working together, but no one wants to admit the obvious solution – a genuine threat of abandonment. Hawks will disagree, and there are indeed downsides to abandonment, but let’s stop pretending that US regional alliances don’t have costs, such as this, either.

3. USFK’s presence ideologically props up North Korea.

One point that neither Lee nor Tom brought up is the obvious propaganda boon to North Korea of the US peninsular presence. Overlooking this is not uncommon. Most researchers on the North tend to assume that its ideology is a lot of empty talk, bunk to fill the airwaves, demonize Seoul, and so on. It is just a smokescreen over a degenerate, gangster-ocracy whose real ‘ideology’ is living the high life and hanging onto power by any means necessary. While the elite’s emptiness and cynicism is certainly clear, I think this is too easy. My own sense though – perhaps from having visited North Korea and been bombarded relentlessly there with ideology – is that ideology is actually very important. North Koreans are expected to attend ideology training ‘classes’ at least once a week, and more often for officials and higher-ups. The (North) Korean Central News Agency and the three newspapers of Pyongyang exert tremendous ‘intellectual’ effort on ideological reinforcement. The focus of that ideology, particularly since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism, is anti-colonial nationalism, in which the United States has taken the place of the Japanese invader, and South Korea is the bastardized, globalized ‘Yankee Colony.’ An imminent American invasion symbolized by USFK is the primacy explanation of the regime to its people for their privation and the permanent national security emergency. Take that justification away, and North Korea loses its primary raison d’etre. If South Korea is no longer ‘occupied,’ then why does North Korea need to exist at all?

4. USFK’s persistence keeps China from cutting North Korea loose, which would accelerate Pyongyang’s collapse.

In the same way that USFK perversely acts as an ideological crutch for Pyongyang, so does it act as a reason for Beijing to endlessly prevaricate on North Korean bad behavior and unification. China is formally committed to Korean unification, but in practice this is a lie. Instead, the Chinese openly refer to North Korea as a ‘buffer’ between them and the robust democracies of South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Personally, I detest this logic; it suggests a breath-taking cynicism about the catastrophic human rights condition of North Korea. That China would callously instrumentalize a state that the UN recently likened to Nazi Germany is just appalling (and goes a long way to explaining way so few in Asia trust China). But that is the situation. However, were the US to retrench from South Korea, the Chinese fear of USFK on its doorstep would be alleviated. Indeed, South Korea could swap a USFK exit plus a promise of post-unification neutrality for a Chinese cut-off of aid to North Korea and pressure for unification. Hawks in the US and South Korea might not like that, but alleviating the extraordinary suffering of the North Koreans should be our primary goal here. If a USFK departure, tied to a major Chinese policy shift, could bring that about, it should be considered.

5. US is not an empire. Where it can retrench, it should. Commitments should not last indefinitely.

This is an openly normative argument. If one embraces a full-throated version of US hegemony – militarized, globalized, interventionist – then this will not appeal. But post-Iraq, there is clear public desire to rein in American interventions, and the normative case for restraint, on liberal democratic grounds, is strong. The costs of hegemony – not just financial, but the regular war-making and killing of foreigners; a sprawling, hugely intrusive national security state; domestic nativism; torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and similar penal abuses – suggest that retrenchment would be good for American democracy and liberalism. Allies may not like that. They will complain of abandonment. But sacrificing America’s liberal ideals at home to promote them abroad is strange brew. It is increasingly obvious that hegemony abroad is deleterious to American liberalism at home. Where allies can stand on their own, as South Korea very obviously can, US retrenchment would be domestically healthy.”

Filed under: Hegemony, Korea (North), Korea (South), United States

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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Seoul's Video Game Alley

Mon, 2014-09-01 02:11
Seoul's Video Game Alley in

Attention Gamers: IF you haven’t been to Video Game Alley yet- RUN THERE! Game consoles from every generation and games can be found here!

Happy Market Monday! We’re back after a month of travel (videos and posts coming soon)!! Yesterday I headed back to the Electronics Market in Yongsan to purchase a card reader. Before heading that way I stopped in at a friends house. His beloved Xbox 360 had just stopped working so we decided to check out Video Game Alley and see if we could find him a new power brick. The unfortunate state of his Xbox lead us to explore another interesting specialty market in Seoul!


Many Games to choose from at Video Game Alley

Video Game Alley is located directly past the electronics market. If you walk through the tunnel continue straight. You will see a giant PlayStation poster on your left hand side. Directly underneath it are some stairs with a red sign. Walk in and the down to the basement.


Nearly every gaming console that has ever been in existence can be found in the Alley with hundreds of games and accessories. I relived my childhood as I found a TV hooked up with Super Nintendo and played a few levels of Mario Brothers while a girl next to me used the gun accessory to play duck hunt.

Seoul, Korea


We were instantly able to find the Power Brick, along with several other models for other Xbox 360s, that we needed. The vendor that sold it to us was very helpful. Prior to coming we took a picture of the label and he made sure that the voltage was correct and it was the exact power cord we needed. The vendor was able to read our picture to determine the precise model required.


They also sold a number of bargain bin xbox 360/playstation games, including recent releases for only 9,800 won. Xbox 1 releases in Korea next month.


If you are into Video games I highly recommend making this trip!


Directions: Sinyongsan Station (Exit 5)

Walk straight through the underground tunnel, just to the north of Ipark Mall.

50m past the tunnel you will see a giant PlayStation billboard on your left.

Look for the Red sign underneath and go down the stairs into Video Game Alley


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ELT Live - 'Start of the Semester - University Edition'

Fri, 2014-08-29 05:35
ELT  Live Webcast
'Start  of the Semester - University Edition'
August 28, 2014A Group of University Instructors in Korea 'hangout' and discuss our approaches to the first week or two of classes and what projects and goals we're working on for this coming semester. 


Links Mentioned

Next Show: Tuesday, September 2, 2014  8pmKST, 1100GMT Global Times
Event Pages: Google+  
Topic: Hows, Whats, and Whys (or why nots) of class websites and other online resources.  

Chat Log Below


 jefflebow We'll be starting soon... Stay tuned.  Gast 317   Hi to all from an Englishman in North Germany.  Sung Hee Lim   hello~~~^^ Sung Hee Lim   welcome to ELT Live, Gast 317  Gast 317   Thanks! Gast 317 = Dennis (Newson) Osnabrueck, Germany. jefflebow Dennis, can you hear the audio? Gast 317   Very clearly. Daniel Cross   I'm now following through chat, I'm a bit too distracted to keep up with the cam  Daniel Cross   Why am i undefined Robert Dickey   Rob Dickey is watching... Daniel Cross   Why am i undefined  Daniel Cross   there we go  Nina Liakos   Hello all from Maryland, USA  Daniel Cross   Hi nina  Nina Liakos   That's a lot of preps!  jefflebow Hello Nina jefflebow and Rob Nina Liakos   Tuesday morning for us in Maryland, because of Labor Day. Daniel Cross   What apps or tools are you using for the flipping? Nina Liakos   Hi Jeff! Gast 317   Hi, Nina. Nina Liakos   I always start out with diagnostics, because I have to, and housekeeping tasks like student information sheet, syllabus, and of course some kind of icebreaker. Daniel Craig   Daniel Cross, I've used a few different screencast utilities: Present.me has been my favorite so far in terms of quality, features, and ease.   Nina Liakos   I just read back in the chat and realized Gast is Dennis Newson. Hi Dennis!   Daniel Craig   Nina, I like diagnostics for my writing and listening classes. As much for me as for them.   Nina Liakos   @Daniel, yes, plus we need to make sure students have been placed correctly into the right level.   Daniel Cross   I give them 10 answers about myself and they work in partners to think of the questions   Daniel Craig   For me, it wouldn't really matter in terms of placement. I have to work with whoever comes to class :-) However, I could advise them to go elsewhere.   Nina Liakos   I like the idea of providing answers to the questions. Students always struggle with question formation.   Daniel Cross   ex. Then they interview each other with those questions   Nina Liakos   :-)   Gast 317   My wife always loved grouping people into what position they hada in their families - oldest, younger brother , only child etc.   Robert Dickey   fatherhood duties call. enjoy folks... Nina Liakos   In writing, so they can't claim you never told them. Nina Liakos   Give them an inch and they take a mile. True all opver the world, I suspect.  jefflebow  Doctopus Nina Liakos   Are there expectations that American teachers have which Korean teachers do not have, or vice versa? How do you deal with this, as a teacher from the "target culture" in the students' educational culture? Nina Liakos   How do you spell that--doctopus? How do you find it?   Nina Liakos   Actually I use Canvas here at UMD   Nina Liakos   What kind of picture file did they use?   Nina Liakos   I have had a lot of problems with adding timed handwritten essays to electronic portfolios.   James Buckingham   cowchat?   Nina Liakos   kakaochat?   jefflebow Kakao
  jefflebow http://www.kakao.com/services/8
  James Buckingham   Thanks Jeff   Daniel Craig   Sorry, yes. Doctopus. Go to a Google Doc and go to Add-ons for find and install it.   Nina Liakos   Do you train your Korean students to participate orally, or do you adjust your expectations?   James Buckingham   Have you used Doctopus Dan? What's the chief advantage...   Daniel Craig   The pictures worked really well. Zero complaints about that. I didn't have a lot of other complaints :-)   Nina Liakos   Thanks   Daniel Craig   Document management   Nina Liakos   I have heard that Korean (Asian, actually) students do not want to make a mistake publically Nina Liakos   whereas here we tend to think of mistakes as how you learn Nina Liakos   Some of my students are reluctant to open accounts with google, and although I use google everywhere I certainly sympathize with their desire to remain off google's grid James Buckingham   I agree Nina... jefflebow  http://powtoon.com  Rob Whyte   Jeff, any sense of what % your students use your quizzler vocab review files? Daniel Craig   Jeff, I like the animation sites as well. brian dean   Any thoughts on Socrative? Daniel Craig   Nina, I struggled with the Google monster a little, but I decided that it was something I was willing to have them do. Daniel Craig   Brian, I was just going to write about that.   Daniel Craig   My students have really liked Socrative both in terms of using as a student and as a teacher   brian dean   It has been good but little more than a game - not every student was able to connect - some had phones with low batteries...   James Buckingham   would like to learn more about it .. but more from the point of view of the data it collects on students ...   jefflebow http://socrative.com/   brian dean   I use it mostly to test comprehension - I post the questions on my powerpoint slides.   Nina Liakos   Low-tech way to do this: have students hold up cards with A, B, C, or D on them (front only so students are not influenced by others' choices)   Nina Liakos   Confession: I do not have a smart phone.   James Buckingham   the really power of these apps (i.e. Socrative) lies in the data collection.. error analysis   James Buckingham   ... that can be used to check a class' general understanding of a question or set of questions   Daniel Craig   Apps like Socrative are great for quick and dirty assessment. Best for anonymous assessment   jefflebow (Admin) If anyone would like to join the hangout, we're at:https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/hoaevent/AP36tYcgbDfqF5-yrOBBumg2hBJz0Upx2lBFDU9kTpYQCWPIA1_OeQ?authuser=0&hl=en

Remember to mute the Youtube stream before joining.   James Buckingham   Apparently the data collection is there and with some depth. 
From the Socrative site.. http://socrative.com/features.php
Review student understanding in a variety of report types: whole class overview, student specific results or question by question breakdown. All the reports can be downloaded, emailed or delivered to your google drive folder at any time. They are always accessible in your Reports section.   jefflebow http://www.kamall.or.kr/?r=Eng   James Buckingham   ... must be off. Wish I could have come sooner .. and could stay longer. Many thanks for sharing.   jefflebow (Admin) Thanks for stopping by James   Daniel Craig   by James. Thanks for your input   Nina Liakos   That must have been an awesome experience for those students!   Nina Liakos   Thank you for inviting me. I've enjoyed listening in and commenting.   Nina Liakos   Have a great fall semester!   brian dean   Thanks for doing this, Jeff.   Daniel Craig   Thanks for your participation Nina. Nice to (virtually) meet you :-)   Daniel Craig   Take care, Brian.   Daniel Craig   Thanks, Jeff. It was fun.   brian dean   Remember all that the international conference is crazy early this year - Oct 3 or 4 to 5. KOTESOL, that is.   brian dean   You too, Dan.   Nina Liakos   8 am EDT   Nina Liakos   How often are you planning to do this?   Nina Liakos   Thanks, Jeff and all   Nina Liakos   Bye!   jefflebowThanks very much everyone!   



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Sampling Seoul: A Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications

Fri, 2014-08-29 01:24
Sampling Seoul: A Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications Korean cuisine, much like the country's people, is vibrant, flavorful, eclectic and packs a lot of punch. It's so diverse that it would take years to try each banchan (side dish), variety of kimchi (there's over 200!) and regional and seasonal specialty. Fortunately for gastronomes eager to sample Korea's tastiest cuisine in a limited amount of time, O'ngo Food Communications offers a number of food tours that take all the guesswork out of the search for the country's best restaurants.

This week, I joined O'ngo on their highly popular Korean Night Dining Tour, an activity that consistently ranks in the top 5 list of things to do in Seoul on TripAdvisor.  After meeting my tour mates- a diverse group of friendly Singaporeans, Germans and Australians- and our enthusiastic local guide Gemma, we hit the streets of Jongno with our mouths watering and our bellies growling.
From the get go, Gemma gave us fun tidbits about the landmarks we passed and the streets we wandered, including Galmaegisal-gil, the first stop on our tour. This street, a cramped alley of tiny restaurants, smoking grills and boisterous businessmen perched on plastic chairs downing soju, was incredibly picturesque and captured the true essence of the city.

We took our seats at an unassuming corner restaurant, the first in the city to serve galmaegisal, pork skirt steak. The table had already been prepared for our group, and the servers were kind enough to do the cooking for us, a big plus for foreigners less versed in the art of table grilling. Gemma explained how to wrap the perfectly cooked pork in mustard greens and sesame leaves, adding just the right amount of mung bean and sesame powders, salt, and ssamjang (dipping sauce), all the while devouring it in one bite.

Suddenly, the entire table was quiet as we stuffed our mouths with the deliciousness that is ssam (lettuce wraps). But, the silence wouldn't last long, as Gemma didn't waste any time in serving us cojinganmek, a "bomb" shot of Coca-Cola, soju, and beer. We were all a bit flushed and full by the end of the meal, but it was soon off to the next stop.

Weaving through Insadong's alleys, we found ourselves at a hidden tteokbokki joint. The rice cake snack we sampled was a twist on the original, and rather than being spicy, was sweet and soupy, and was mixed in with carrots and fish cakes in a soy-based broth. Although I still prefer the original, it was nice to try something new. We slurped up the tasty dish, and washed it down with few shots of maehwasu, Korean plum liquor.

We managed not to stumble to our next destination, a pojangmacha, or tent bar. Gemma explained to us that these quintessentially Korean drinking establishments are expected to be extinct within the next ten years, as the government has been doing away with them, firmly believing their existence tarnishes Korea's image as a clean and forward-moving society. (They've yet to understand the fact that they're one of the favorite places of foreign tourists and residents to experience the country's culture.)

We may have looked a bit out of place to the elderly gentlemen that surrounded us, but we were welcomed with smiles and hospitality. Despite the warm summer weather, the generous portions of dakbokkeumtang, or spicy braised chicken stew, hit the spot and was the perfect companion for the somaek (beer and soju cocktail) that Gemma so impressively whipped up for us. By this point, we had all bonded, not necessarily because of the alcohol, and were having a great time exchanging funny travel stories and telling jokes.

It didn't take long to reach Gwangjang Market, one of Seoul's oldest and most famous traditional markets, particularly popular for its food. The market was packed and scents of fermenting seafood, fried goodies and spilled alcohol permeated throughout. We were led to a three-story restaurant and were quickly served up plates of bindaekduk (crispy savory pancakes) and mixed jeon (fried veggies, meat and seafood). By this point, I wished I had worn elastic pants but still managed to shovel down a few bites. Gemma poured us bowls of makgeolli (Korean rice beer) and taught us a few basic drinking games. We couldn't stop laughing at our ineptitude to play, yet were still probably the tamest group in the entire place.

After a night of drinking games, wandering Seoul's streets, meeting new friends and gorging on the city's tastiest treats, we parted ways. Half of the group headed out to Dongdaemun for some late-night shopping while the rest of us, practically in food comas, went home. 
Overall, I was extremely impressed with O'ngo's Korean Night Dining Tour. Even after living in Seoul for five years, I was introduced to neighborhoods I had never visited and dishes I had never tried. The guide was fun and helpful, the tour well-structured and organized, and the price excellent for the value. It's the perfect tour for those wanting to make the most of a short trip in Seoul, but is also fun for long-term expats like myself looking to learn more about the hidden gastronomic gems of the city.

Photo courtesy of Chang Thuy.
More Information
The Korean Night Dining Tour runs daily at 6PM and is three and a half hours long. The tour begins at the O'ngo Culinary School, located just a few minutes' walk from Insadong. The cost is $88 USD per person and there are discounted rates for those not drinking alcohol, kids, and groups of eight or more. For more information about O'ngo or to make a reservation for this food tour, click here and fill out the form.

*Although this post is sponsored by O'ngo Food Communications, the opinions are, of course, my own. 
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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Love is like Ice, it will Trick you! - Unique museums in Seoul.

Thu, 2014-08-28 06:37
Love is like Ice, it will Trick you! - Unique museums in Seoul 4th episode with our dearest friend, Charly!

She went to explore the most unique and popular museums right now in Seoul. If you want to have some fun then this is the place for you.

In the middle of Hongdae, the street of youth and indie music, stands a very special museum that you can enjoy. It’s called Trickeye Museum and it recently added two more theme museums- Ice & Love.

The first museum that Charly visited is the Ice Museum where everything is made of ice, which means it’s cold and perfect to cool down during hot humid Korean Summer.

Secondly, she went to the Trickeye Museum which is right next to the Ice museum. As the name suggests, it’s all about tricking your eyes. It’s fun because you can take super fun pictures with different situations. Not only kids but adults actually love this place as well.

Last is the PG 19 (in Korea), the Love Museum which is one step above the Trickeye museum. It basically offers the same experience as Trickeye but with a sensuous and sexual theme. The background and pictures are pretty raw and down to earth(?). No kids or teenagers are allowed here!

Trazy offers free coupons for all three of the museums so simply click on the name and download it.

Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite! :)

XOXO, Trazy.


a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 

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The Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

Wed, 2014-08-27 05:29
The Ryukyu Islands, Japan.

It feels like a long time since I was in Malaysia and Singapore in February and I almost feel like I’ve forgotten to write a blog post since then. The last few months have been tough for a variety of reasons, bereavement, break-ups and contractual issues at work (I’ve re-signed for what will be a final six months in South Korea) and since I booked my flight tickets six weeks ago I have eagerly been looking forward to just getting away from it all.

After some deliberation I decided to keep the flight cost down, keeping in mind my plans for 2015, and I booked myself 12 days in Okinawa prefecture at the very tip of southern Japan. When people think of Japan I would venture they mostly imagine the snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji, the quirkiness and blade-runneresque Tokyo streets or the composure of the Buddhist temples in Kyoto. In all honestly when I lived in England this was my distant assumption, too.  When you sit down with an atlas (or Google Maps…) you quickly realise how expansive Japan is, so expansive that Japan, sitting upon the Pacific Ring of Fire, is made up of innumerous islands. (6,852, thanks Wikipedia). This sprawling archipelago therefore has distinct topographical and cultural variations, which to a traveler looking to stay close to home (my Korean home), gives you a multitude of options. With it being summer the snowboarding peaks of Hokkaido and the snow monkeys of Jigokudani would have to wait for another day and I entertained the idea of exploring the isolated Okinawan Pacific Islands to the south.


My journey began with a flight to Tokyo and a nap waiting for my connecting flight to Naha in Tokyo’s rapidly aging Narita airport. A bumpy flight over typhoon Halong  followed. In Naha I took the monorail to a centrally based downtown guesthouse.I arrived quite late and pretty much checked-in and passed out.

On my first full day in Naha I got up reasonably early and set off to one of the most important historical focal points on the main island. Shuri Castle sits atop a hill on the northern outskirts of central Naha. Since the mid-1300’s there has been a castle there and for 450 years it served as the administrative centre of the Ryukyu Kingdom before being seceded to the Satsumas (not the fruit) and then being annexed by the Japanese. It was almost completely destroyed by the Americans during World War II as the Japanese military set-up their headquarters beneath it. What stands today is a reproduction of the castle based on photos and memories,  nonetheless the castle walls shield an impressive burnt-red wooden structure that stands out amongst the surrounding rolling whitewashed concrete urban sprawl. From the monorail I walked down in the searing heat and humidity following the outline of the castle walls to the entrance gate. A reasonable entry fee (Okinawa is significantly cheaper than the other areas of Japan that I have previously visited) allows you access to the castle buildings and gardens that provide a good view across the city surroundings. The Ryukyu kings seemed to have had a pretty sweet deal, entertaining their trading partners from China in simple tatami floored rooms looking out over miniature landscaped gardens and ruling from the elegantly simple throne room. Outside the main castle there are some gates which the significance has since been lost to me but provided some nice photos and there are some mausoleum tombs and ponds to walk around.

From Shuri I returned to the downtown area and got my bearings by walking around some of the main shopping streets. To experience true Naha you first need to get away from the garish Kokusai Street lined with endless tourist shops and over-priced dining offerings and head to the streets that splinter off it where you can find quirky eateries and bars, this is especially the case along the area that is sandwiched between Kokusai Street and the monorail (Kumoji District). Another good area that I wandered upon was along Ushikima, definitely worth checking out for its vintage clothes shops, cafes and bars. Considering I was burning up by this point in the afternoon sun I bought myself a cap and literally found a cafe to chill-out in.

In the evening I had some amazing noodles in a friendly eatery called Mazemen. The two owners, a young couple seemed delighted to see me and I pleasured them with a couple of return visits during my stay. Cheap and delicious. I checked out the ferry times for some ill-fated trips to the Kerama Islands (more on that later) and had a mango smoothie in a coffee shop. Unlike Korea none of the locals were on their smartphones, but rather reading which I found nicely refreshing and a common theme across the islands I visited. It would appear the Japanese love a good book.

My second day began in faltering fashion as I enjoyed a lie-in under the presumption that the bus schedule to Churaumi Aquarium was a little more frequent than it turned out to be. After twiddling my thumbs on Naha’s streets for a few hours I then endured a two hour bus journey to the aquarium on the north-west coast. I say endured because after one hour the air-conditioning on-board packed up. I was beginning to understand why a large proportion of the population walk around with a hand towel either draped across their shoulders, wrapped around their heads (this is definitely a fashion accessory for young men) or easy to hand in their bags. After exiting the sweaty bus it was already early to mid-afternoon and with the last bus running back to Naha I had to rush down to the aquarium.

Churaumi Aquarium was previously the largest in the world and I guess if I was ever going to go to one it wasn’t a bad place to start, although my experience of zoos has never been a particularly positive one. The main attraction here is the whale sharks and they can be found in the main tank along with a wide selection of rays and other large fish. As I worked my way round the tropical reef fish I arrived at the main show, the 7,500 cubic metre tank. Although it is big, I’m sure the whale sharks probably felt it wasn’t big enough. I happened to arrive as their feeding time was held and they gulped down big buckets of krill that were spilt into the tank. The rest of the time they circled around giving the odd small child a fright as they glued their faces to the thick glass aquarium windows.

Across from the main tank was the ‘dangerous’ shark tank. A tiger shark a few bull sharks and some others that I could not name aimlessly swam around. It looked pretty dull and if they weren’t man-eaters before they must be seriously considering the decision to become one. the tiger shark looked especially pissed-off as it swam clockwise with its nose glued to the surface and tank wall. Outside the manatees and turtles fared much worse, crammed into tiny pools that would only suffice as a toddlers play pool at your local community pool.

A dolphin show was on and a rather black and angry looking dolphin (it looked almost like a killer whale) splashed half-gleeful, half-terrified children who had been made to gather at the base of the tank windows by some either cynical or guilty parents.

My time was up and although I had seen some pretty amazing animals it was a bitter achievement in my mind and I decided it didn’t really count unless I was lucky enough to one day encounter them in the ocean.

I managed to have no more bus mishaps and headed back to Naha, showered and headed out to enjoy a walk around the backstreets of Sazaruka and Tsuboya. The highlight of my evening walk being an encounter with a man who had set up a projector in a back alley and was enjoying his own outdoor cinema viewing of Raging Bull on his or possibly a neighbours house.


The next morning at breakfast I had the misfortune to meet the most beautiful girl I may have ever encountered just as I was checking out and heading to the airport. Such is life (or just my life?)… Anyway little was I to know the joys that Ishigaki Island, my next destination, would hold for me. After an hours flying time I arrived in the Yaeyama Islands the most southern points of Japan and landed at Ishigaki airport and took a local bus to Shiraho Friends House in Shiraho village.

On arrival I met the friendly owner Hiro who helps his guests out enormously by giving them expert insider information about the island and some of the trips you can take and the sights you can see. I had some time in the afternoon to check out the main town and look at some of the ferry schedules to the local islands. I ate a small dinner at a local izikaya and then sat on the roof of the hostel with beer admiring the crystal clear sky and the stars that you can so rarely see through the hazy city skies of Busan. The view of the stars was only obscured by the odd giant fruit bat that swooped through my eye line and then some clouds that eventually rolled in to obscure an apparent meteor shower that was expected around midnight.

I woke early as I was joining a snorkeling trip with some of the other guests who were staying at the guesthouse. At around 08:30 Robyn, Stefan, Misato and myself were picked up by the snorkeling company staff Nao and Hazu (Jiyujin) and after a few of my new friends grabbed some wet-suits we headed to the harbour and jumped on the boat with the captain Yama-chan. The plan was to sail the boat to the very remote Kuroshima and Panari islands but because of some dark skies and rough seas we had to make do with a plan to snorkel around Taketomi Island.


We spent the morning snorkeling around the abundant coral reefs encountering some exotic fish before having lunch on the island. We had some time after lunch so I took a walk along the virtually endless beach that encompasses the island. After my walk and everyone’s lunch having settled we hit two more reef spots.

After the first one I half-jokingly suggested I wanted to see a shark and so our final spot was to be in some deeper but equally crystal clear waters. Be careful what you wish for. As we laid anchor and tied up to another companies boats their guides spotted a shark but I didn’t have my mask and flippers on yet so I didn’t manage to see the shark… Nonetheless the deep waters were incredible, the receding tide brought the coral perilously close to you (I already had cut my foot open on some coral in the morning after taking a swim sans flippers) and the coral reef raised an incredible height from the seafloor making it more exciting to dive down and work your way alongside the fish and coral rather than looking down upon them. We had a waterproof camera with us and the staff took some good shots of life on the reef for us.

The whole day, bar the stinging sunburn I got on my shoulder blades and my coral slashed foot,  was fantastic. A great day spent with good people, this was enhanced even further as Nao invited us out to dinner with the dive team and his Hawaiian girlfriend. We planned to go to a popular yakinikuk restaurant, (like a refined Korean barbecue joint) but they were full, instead we went to another one that I can only imagine was equally as good. It was great to get to know Nao and Hazu a little better and we enjoyed plenty of delicious meats and alcohol including the local awamori liqeur. Yama-chan spoke little English but was making up for this with his ability to keep mine and particularly Stefan’s, whose last night in Ishigaki was today, glasses of awamori and iced water full. Hazu was very talkative and the others described her as being a typical Japanese genki girl which I have decided must be a quite endearing feature. Nao was quite the conversationalist and has a vibrant personality. I was beginning to feel that living in these islands was so enjoyable it would be difficult for anyone to have a negative personality trait. The evening gradually drew to a close and we headed back to the guesthouse.

The following day Misato and I took a trip to the neighbouring island of Iriomote. We took an inexpensive high-speed ferry from Ishigaki that included a free multi-use bus ticket around Iriomote. We planned to take the Urauchi river boat tour and then hike into the jungle to see some of the waterfalls. The river tour began slightly upstream from the river mouth at the edge of the mangroves. Our boat was virtually empty so we had space to move around and look at the sights on both sides. The tour was narrated in Japanese but I had been given an English translation paper where I read that tiger sharks like to swim up the river to feed on the abundantly rich river waters. Swimming was immediately vetoed.


The tour was scenic and as the river narrowed and the elevation of the treetops increased we came to the docking point. The water changed from an ominously tranquil murky brown to clear water tumbling between rocks. From here we hiked up a semi-cleared jungle path to a viewing point for the Kanbire waterfall, after taking a few pictures from distance we continued following the path upriver to another section of cascading waterfall. Our time was up, it had taken an hour to get here and we had to be back at the docking point in one hour. The trail was littered with lizards of all kinds and the odd frog and bird. Other things rustled in the undergrowth but it was impossible to see or react to the sounds quick enough with the slippery roots and mud beneath our feet. We definitely didn’t spy one of the elusive Iriomote wildcats, maybe if we missed the last boat and were stuck over night in the jungle we would have had a better chance…

We grabbed the next bus that came along from the entrance to the river centre and headed to the ‘Star Sand’ beach, famous for tiny star shaped shells that can be found amongst the other grains of sand. We found a few and cooled off with a brief paddle in the rock-pools and admired the isolated rocks that had been left by coastal erosion. Time was drawing in on us and perfectly timed our arrival at the dock to catch the ferry. Back in Ishigaki we cooled off after being caught in the hot and stuffy rear end of the ferry by enjoying some salted ice-cream with hibiscus and wasabi sprinkles. Sounds odd but is also surprisingly delicious!

In the evening Misato and I joined Kayoko, a long-term Shiraho Friends House summer resident, at one of the local run restaurants and we tried some goat sashimi with ginger and garlic amongst some other dishes. We went back to the hostel and met up with some other guests from France, Japan and Germany and walked down to the beach to look at the stars in the night sky. Later in the evening when Kayoko and I were reading books on the roof terrace a small rat and a snake came tumbling out of the vines and faced off against each other amongst the outdoor slippers, not a great time to be stepping outside for anyone… The snake didn’t eat the rat as it ran away, but I managed to grab a quick picture of the snake as it slithered off before showing it to the hostel owner, despite being a young snake it turns out it was one of the greatly feared and aggressive ‘habu’ snakes that are responsible for numerous biting incidents every year and quite a few deaths (although not recently) throughout the Okinawan islands. Hiro suggested I could have tried to catch it as awamori producers would pay good money for a snake to place in the bottles during fermentation (in some shops you can even see the awamori being sold with a snake curled up inside). Feeling slightly nervous due to all the open doors in the hostel I watched where I was stepping on my way to bed.

On my final day I hired a car for the day using my international drivers licence and took to a tour around Ishigaki. As always it was nice to be behind the wheel again as I don’t drive in Korea. I began my trip across the sugar cane farmland of central Ishigaki before arriving at Kabira Bay on the north coast. Kabira Bay is a tranquil richly coloured enclosed bay with a smattering of beaches dispersed by undergrowth topped volcanic rock cliffs. I took a walk along one beach and waded around the small cliffs to some of the others.

From Kabira I traveled to Kabiraishizaki a peninsular to the north-west and drove along some deserted roads stopping off wherever I saw a path going off into the undergrowth. By doing this I was able to reach some incredibly isolated and empty beaches and coves at the base of the jutting cliff tops. I spent a few hours basking in the solitude and sun on my own private beach.

My next destination was the breathtaking views from Oganzaki, on the far western peninsula. I walked up to a lonesome brilliant white lighthouse and along the surrounding cliff area that overlooks the crystal clear waters and the outline of the coral reefs below. I took a few sketchy paths that were overgrown to reach some difficult to reach clifftop positions, apart from the uneven rocky surface beneath I was also a little concerned about last nights snake encounter and it wasn’t particularly comfortable putting my feet where I couldn’t see what laid below! The views were incredible, so I think the risk was worth it.

I headed east via a recommended juice shop where I had a tangy pineapple smoothie (pineapples being a popular local product) and a sad encounter with one off the local birds that flew across my path and disappeared up into the air above in a puff of feathers as it failed to avoid my bumper. I took a winding mountainous road through the national park before hiking to the summit of Nosokodake. From the top I was afforded some great cross island views in all directions.

Back at hostel I had a quick shower and picked up Kayoko. I had promised to drive her north to a beach famous for dramatic sunsets after she had finished a Chinese class she was taking in the main town. We hoped to see a phenomenon called the green flash which can occur seconds after a sunset, despite mostly clear skies there were some clouds on the very far horizon and we just missed out on it.

We headed back and walked along the unlit village roads to a different restaurant on the far outskirts of the village in hope of catching up with some other guests, but they were not there so we shared a dinner of pork and noodles with seaweed tempura and bacon, mushrooms and goya (bitter melon) together.

After one final night of stars on the roof terrace and a very local trip to an Okinawan shrine which Hiro suggested I see in the morning, I reluctantly headed to the airport. Ishigaki was an amazing adventure and an incredible place to visit and with the benefit of hindsight I wish I had stayed there for much longer during this particular trip. I was fortunate to meet some amazing people and I think if they read this they will understand that they helped make the experience unforgettable.


Back in Naha I had booked a cheapish hotel for the remainder of my holiday. While staying in hostels is great for meeting people, sharing a room with the odd snorer and the lack of privacy gets to me after a while, those who know me well know I love a bit of my own time. Feeling a bit wiped out from everything I had done over the last six days I took a day off and slept most of the afternoon following my check-in, I headed out in the evening and went to watch the return of the Premier League in a bar called Cafe de Camp Nou. This bar was something special in itself, Hiro (another Hiro) the owner was a fully commited football fan and had decorated the small bar with shirts and memorabilia from all over the world. In his broken English we had a conversation about the new season and I watched Swansea beat United and then Spurs scraped past West Ham much to my personal delight.

The next day was a rainy one and I enjoyed an extensive lie-in and read my Khaled Hosseini novel most of the day. In the late afternoon the rain eased off and I walked to the nearby Okinawan Prefectural Museum and Art Museum. I decided just to view the art museum on this day and save the Okinawan Prefectural Museum for another day. They had an exhibition of post-impressionist French painters, some photos from a local photographer (Taro Okamoto) who had documented the changes in Okinawan life since the 50s/60’s and some local Okinawan fine arts. In a prequel to another night of football at Cafe de Camp Nou I had dinner at an underground place called Afronest. This Jamaican place served me an incredible sizzling and fiery plate of Jamaican jerk chicken. All the staff (Japanese) had well manicured afros and the reggae music was tone perfect the rainy chilled day that I had experienced.

The next day began disastrously at Naha port where I discovered all the boat tickets to the Kerama Islands had been sold for the coming week and I wasn’t going to be able to do the island hopping that I hod hoped to do. Advance online bookings was the only way to go and I had literally and figuratively missed the boat. Instead I went to the bus stop at the front of Tomari Port and took a bus north to Yomitan. Zampa is famous for its beach and cape but neither impressed me, possibly because of the cloud in my mind about the ferry tickets I had missed out on. The beach was crowded and small; jetskis and banana boats zipped around so I walked to the cape. The lighthouse was under renovation and a gaggle of Chinese tourists greeted me on the sharp rock volcanic cliff-tops. Only a walk along the cliff edge and a little adventure down to some rocks below could appease my mind, I relaxed a little and then watched an amateur football game nearby. I walked back past the beach and discovered an adjacent beach to the main one, it was virtually deserted so I relaxed in the sun and felt a little better about everything. I walked through Yomitan village and visited the remaining walls of Zakimi Castle.

From Yomitan I took the bus back to Naha, it was getting insanely hot and I’d had enough sun, but I stopped off briefly at Mihama American Village on the return journey. I had hoped to find some decent clothes shop but found a really tacky complex. Apparently supposed to help American servicemen feel closer to home and to provide a themed tourist attraction for Japanese tourists I couldn’t help but feel they had missed the mark for both. Imagine the English trying to make a Japanese theme park without ever visiting Japan, full of cliches and sub-par food outlets, this is all of course presuming I’m not overestimating America… My day was pretty average and the only thing to fix it was some of those awesome noodles at Mazemen.

Maybe I was a little affected by the previous days disappointments but the final two days were quite mundane in that I found little motivation to do anything. I would have liked to have visited the northern area of Okinawa but I lacked the motivation to endure a long bus ride so I took comfort in being lazy and enjoying some of the good things I had already done around Naha. Maybe it was the product of the last six months or possibly overdoing it in the high summer sun over the last week or so.

I ate some amazing sausages at a little bar called Baku in a back alley and I spent my last evening in Afronest with another generous portion of jerk chicken. Cultural activities included a visit to the Okinawan Prefectural Museum where I learnt about the history of the Ryukyu Islands and the suffering experienced during the American invasion in 1945 and an hour spent book shopping in the Junkudo Book Store picking up some books by Haruki Murakami and another Japanese author.

That was that and my time in Okinawa prefecture had come to a timely conclusion. On reflection I feel that I missed out on some experiences that were out there but my blase attitude to planning had cost me on this occasion when on other trips it has been to my benefit. That being said, the time I spent in the Yaeyama Islands was right up there as one of my best traveling experiences. I would have loved to visit the Kerama Islands, and if you want to as well, heed my advice and pre-book online!



Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Protectors of an Ancient Time

Wed, 2014-08-27 03:31
Protectors of an Ancient Time


Originally Published at TeyMarieAstudillo.com

Today, we have satellites, aircraft, bombs, guns – a whole slew of modern warfare technology that countries use to protect themselves from other nations.

But in ancient times, the only thing that separated people from a potential invasion or destruction by a foreign nation or their soldiers was a simple brick and mud wall.

These defense walls were the common protectors of cities and sovereign lands in ancient times. We can see the remanence of them all over the world – from The Great Wall of China to The Walls of Constantinople in Turkey.

Which brings me to the Seoul Fortress Wall.

Bordering the heart of Seoul, very much in the same manner as it did thousands of years ago, the Seoul Fortress wall winds its way up and down through four mountain ranges – Bugaksan, Inwangsan, Namsan and Naksan.

It perimeters some of Seoul’s most famous and important landmarks including Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of the ancient Korean Joseon Dynasty, and Cheong Wa Dae, the Korean presidential headquarters and residence.

Once a total of about 11.3 miles (18.2km) many parts of the wall were destroyed over the years, primarily from the invasions of Japan in the 1500s and early 1900s and then the Korean War in 1950.

Over the years, the South Korean government has restored many segments of the wall and is continuing revitalization efforts.

**All photography is copyright of Tey-Marie Astudillo and may not be used, distributed or reproduced in any way without consent of the owner.**

Tey-Marie Astudillo
Journalist & Videographer



Categories: Worldbridges Megafeed

Serious Floods Hit Busan

Mon, 2014-08-25 11:32
Serious Floods Hit Busan

After a couple rainy weeks, up to 30cm of rain fell on the Busan region today leading to serious flooding, casualaties, flight cancellations, and the shutdown of a nearby nuclear power plant.  If you have media or links related to these floods, please comment below or click 'create/photo' to share you photos on Koreabridge. 

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Korea's Best Grocery Delivery Websites

Sun, 2014-08-24 13:29
Korea's Best Grocery Delivery Websites Seoul is, without a doubt, one of the most convenient places to live in the world. It's a 24 hour city, with businesses remaining open until the wee hours of the morning. It boasts an incredibly efficient and affordable transportation system.  And you can get just about anything delivered to your house. Including groceries. Which is particularly handy when you live in the hilltops of Gyeongnidan like myself.

Below is a list of helpful websites to use when you don't feel like hauling around heavy bags of veggies or fighting ajumma in chaotic supermarkets.


Although I live in Itaewon and have easy access to a number of international markets, I prefer shopping on iHerb.com for the price, selection of food and quick delivery. iHerb.com is based in America and prides itself on having the best overall value for natural products in the world. You can find just about anything on iHerb, from user-reviewed breakfast foods and baking items to vitamins and toiletries. One of my favorite brands to order is Bob's Red Mill; I'm particularly fond of their gluten-free bread mixes, steel-cut oats, and soups. I'm obsessed with their hearty Vegi Soup Mix for $5.37 USD which sells at Itaewon High Street Market for the equivalent of $10.69. And I won't even get started on the mark-up of vitamins in Korea.

Surprisingly, the shipping is crazy cheap- a flat rate of $4.00 USD for up to 15 pounds. Shipping takes about a week and despite the more complicated customs process as of late, all you need to complete your order is an ARC number (either yours or a co-signer's).

First-time users can use the code STJ541 to save up to $10.00 USD on one's first purchase. Be warned, however, that once you start using iHerb.com, you WILL become addicted.

Gachi CSA

Korean farms use 15 times more pesticides than those in the United States.  Scary, I know. Fortunately, for the health-conscious, there's a new farm-to-table initiative quickly gaining popularity in Seoul. Gachi CSA is a food delivery system that provides residents in Korea with trustworthy, local, organic produce directly from local farms straight to your doorstep.

Gachi offers a base basket of local, seasonal fruit and vegetables in two portions: one for couples, the other for families. The Couples' Basket contains 8-10 different items and is priced at ₩27,000 per week, whereas the Family Basket contains 10-12 different items and is priced at ₩35,000. These two baskets both have a time-frame option of month share, half share and full share (1 month, 3 months and 6 months respectively). For an additional fee, add-on options such as snacks, juice, bread and meat can be added.

Gachi posts recipes using ingredients of their weekly boxes on their Facebook page and those interested can register for the service at their website.

High Street Market

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of High Street's prices are a rip-off, but for those items that can't be purchased on iHerb- i.e. perishables- their website comes in handy. High Street has a great selection of meats, including harder to find options such as pastrami and chorizo. Additionally, High Street offers whole cooked turkeys and hams, which is particularly convenient if you're hosting a holiday party. (Just remember to order a couple weeks in advance.) They also have a good, albeit expensive, variety of cheese, which is nice for those living outside the city with a lack of access to the unprocessed stuff.

The delivery fee for orders under ₩120,000 is ₩3,000- not a bad price, considering they ship all over Korea, including Jeju Island. Check out High Street's online store here.

Waeg Farm

Located in Gyeongju, Waeg Farm is home to 7 goats and former university teacher Doug Huffer, who has made goat cheese available for purchase on the internet in an otherwise goat cheese-less country.  Each 200 gram container of goat cheese costs ₩10,000 and shipping is ₩4,000, or free if you order 4 or more containers. Additionally, Waeg Farm sells their own farm-grown veggies, so inquire as to which are available.

Visit the Waeg Farm website or Facebook page for more information and photos of their oh-so-adorable goats.

Alien's Day Out Bake Shop

Vegans with a sweet tooth will be happy to learn about Alien's Day Out Bake Shop. Opened by Mipa, food blogger and owner of PLANT Cafe in Itaewon, the online store offers tasty cookies, muffins and cakes at prices comparable to other bakeries around the city, but are made using organic, unrefined cane sugar and organic soy milk.

Some of Mipa's especially yummy goodies include pumpkin cranberry oatmeal cookies (₩7,000 for 6 cookies) and banana chocolate nut muffins (₩9,000 for 4 muffins). She also has a nice variety of cakes on sale that start at ₩30,000 and should be ordered a week in advance.

Alien's Day Out Bake Shop ships all around Korea for ₩4,000/order and delivery takes a few days. Visit the website to place your order or visit PLANT's Facebook page for more of Mipa's treats.


For those looking for authentic Indian groceries, spices and sauces, ExpatMart is the place to shop. While the website offers a variety of curries, flours and varieties of rice, it also sells fresh items. Hard-to-find produce like cilantro and okra can also be purchased on ExpatMart, which is perfect for those hoping to whip up some Mexican or Southeast Asian cuisine. Additionally, halal meats are available, making this website a go-to for Muslim residents in Korea.

For orders over 70,000 won under 22kgs, shipping is free. A ₩4,000 shipping fee is charged for orders under ₩70,000. Browse the Expat Mart website here.

Happy shopping!

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.


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by Dr. Radut