Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seoul II.

Our first full day in Seoul we started out with -8 degrees and waffles on the roof of our hostel.  Part of it is open and the blokes (as they shall henceforth be known) are using the space as a bit of a workshop for the downstairs reno. Then there has been a small room knocked up with a sink, heater etc which is the kitchen.  It makes me think of the sort of set up my dad would put together if he built a shed to live in.

First stop was Gangnam (no, not to do the dance) - Kate (Roper) had an appointment there.

From there we were off to see Bongeunsa Temple - which is a large Buddhist temple complex in Seoul.  Turned out they have a guided tour for foreigners at 2pm so we hauled ass out of there for a couple of hours to the Coex Building.  Coex is huge, apparently they have an aquarium and a grand ballroom stashed away in there somewhere,  but it takes you 15 minutes of walking down hallways to get from place to place so unless you're going for something specific (like lunch, which we were) I think it'd be kinda boring.

Our temple tour in the afternoon was awesome.  Tour guide was great, explaining some basics of Buddhism, showing us around all the place and explaining lots of the paintings that were on the walls.  Tour also included tea ceremony (beautiful), paper lotus making (I suck at crafts) and zen meditation on the question of 'who am I?' (distraction is everywhere).

In the evening we went to see a Nanta performance.  Nanta is a musical performance set in a kitchen,  involving some comedy and audience participation alongside the musical element.  It was amazing!  Kate R, Emily and I were all hauled up on stage to participate - I won a dumpling-making competition! 

Day two started with toast and coffe on the roof. We then travelled to ... to walk around a neighborhood that is made up of traditional Korean houses.  Very beautiful and a big contrast between this neighborhood and the skyline of the city in the background.  We visited a gallery that lets you try your hand at traditional art - I did a paint-by-numbers fan which was fun and (because I was not using any of my own creativity) turned out pretty well.

We then walked to ... which is sort of the touristy area of Seoul.  Here there are a lot of stores selling momento sort of things. Basically,  SO MUCH SHOPPING WAS HAD. There was also Indian food, which was nice. But, y'know, shopping.

In the evening we had a few drinks at the hostel playing Cards Against Humanity - which is amazing by the way.  Hostel staff had managed to install the wood heayer at this stage and were celebrating with a smoke filled room, poor ventilation and roasted chestnuts and sweet potato.  Then we caught the subway over to ... which is in the university district and has a bit of night life. Long story short,  $2 gin and tonics and $2 shots of tequila are bad for you. Not a late night though as planned to visit the Korean War Memorial next day.

Day three began with McDonald's and seediness.

Still made it to the War Memorial in the morning though. 


We returned from Jeju Island on Monday and had a rest day back in Busan on Tuesday when we spent the day at an all you can eat American buffet, then doing a walk around Hae Undae and eyeballing where they held the 2005 (?) APEC summit - good pic of old Johnny Howard and his eyebrows to be seen.

Wednesday we traveled to Seoul by the fast train arriving about 1.  We are staying at the Base Camp Hostel which is in a really good spot - apparently it used to be made up of tents all over the floor space but the fire department had a field day and they had to build legit rooms.  Currently they are installing a wood heater which seems to involve lots of loud noises and men standing around looking at the heater and hoping it will install itself.  The bathroom door is operated by the use of a hammer tied to a   piece of string as a counter weight.  They also supply shampoo conditioner and body wash for guests but they're all in unmarked bottles. This is what happens when lads are in charge and I am freaking loving it - it really is like camping inside.

In the evening we went to Itaewon which is the multicultural area of Seoul and had MEXICAN FOOD for dinner. And it excellent. And I bought one of those ear flap hats that lumberjacks wear.  It's going to be my Bruny winter hat.

Tomorrow we are off to explore Seoul!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Korean impressions.

We've been in Korea a week now and I'm starting to feel my way about a bit. Most of the blog so far has just been a list of the day to day so here are some of my pyher impressions of the country.

The food so far has been amazing. Before I left a lot of people told me that the food would be wonderful and so far they've been absolutely right.  From Em's local cafe where you can buy dumplings, noodles,  kimbap (Korean version of sushi) and pork cutlets to seafood you see down by the water front, fresh as can be and sometimes still wriggling when being eaten (not by me, I'm too much of a wuss). 

The weather is cold. Colder than home and in the sort of way that makes your teeth hurt and your cheeks sting after a while. But if you're in the sunshine it doesn't matter so much and it's amazing weather for hiking.

Which brings me to the outdoors in Korea.  Everyone goes hiking. Seriously.  They set off up these moutain paths for a day walk dressed up like they're about to climb everest or spend five days in the wildernesd.  Everywhere you go there are hordes of people in bright puffer jackets, hiking boots and with hiking sticks headed off up some reltively well traversed and often paved path. But I can understand it, the cities are crowded and not always that attractive,  but once you are out of the towns the landscape os beautiful even cold and brown as it is in winter.

Perhaps the strangest part has been being in a monocultural society.   Korea is not multicultural - seeing someone from a culture other than the local is something of an oddity.  The only exception to this so far has been Seoul, and even then not by a lot. But western chains like 7/11, paris baguette and starbucks are all over the place so it's an odd mix.

That's all for now, maybe so more things will come to mind over the next week or so.

Love love xx

Sunday, January 19, 2014

the Jeju times.

We're coming to the end of our time on Jeju Island now, after four amazing days.

Day one we visited Udo Island (see previous post).

Day two we visited Manjanggul to see the lava tube caves. These are not too far underground and about a 15 min easy walk from the entrance to the end. Amazing sight and lots of good info along the way to tell you how different features of the caves were created.  We then walked down to the bus stop which was really nice, an easy walk along the road through the forest. 

We were planning on visiting 'Mazeland' in the afternoon but were on the wrong bus route so decided to go back to Jeju city and see more around there. The hostel was kind enough to lend us some bikes (2 good ones and 1 mini one which I rode) and we biked along the waterfront of the city.

In the evening we planned to go to a Mexican restaurant in the busier part of the city but couldn't find it and ended up somewhere called Harry's Pub, and had a burger and cider for dinner which was freaking amazing.

Day three we had planned on traveling up Hallasan to see the snow, but when we stepped out of the hostel it was rainy and misty, so we decided to travel to the south of the island to Seowipo.  We had a really nice day just wandering around the town which is much smaller and feels more like a fishing village than anything. There is also a small island just off shore connected by a cable bridge so we walked around there before lunch. 

In the afternoon we went to Jeongbang Pokpo which is said to be the only waterfall in Asia that falls straight into the sea.  We then caught the bus back to Jeju and tried golbi for dinner - basically chicken hotpot I think? 

Day four we finally went to Hallasan to play in the snow.  We didn't have proper gear or spikes for our shoes for the paths so we we didn't try the ascent to the top.  Instead we just played around near the base of the Mountain.  I tried skiing for the first time and it went both badly and great - I axed myself, but it was amazingly good fun.  We also tried a Korean game where you have to try and throw sticks in a bucket - sucked at that.

We then went to 'Loveland' which is an outdoor sex-themed art space thingamajig.  Basically lots of naughty sculptures and laughing.  It was amazing and hilarious.

Our last stop for the day was the Jeju Museum of Art.  This was great for four reasons. 1) they served burritos in the cafe, 2) the artwork was really lovely and there were some standout pieces for me, 3) the building was stunning, architecture was beautiful and gorgeous with the mountain in the background, and 4) there were only three gallerys so we were obly there for a couple of hours.

Then we missed the last bus back to the city. Awkward. But then I tried to hail a cab and a lovely Korean couple took pity on us and gave us a lift back to the city - thank the Baby Cheeses.

Tomorrow we are flying back to Busan and might have a quiet day around the city to recover before heading to Seoul later in the week.  I have attached some photos here which are all from day four.

Love love xx

Thursday, January 16, 2014

a visit to Udo.

We arrived on Jeju yesterday,  after flying from Busan.  It is very cold here but windy too, so you sort of feel like your eyeballs might freeze over every time you step outside.

We are staying at The Forest Hostel. There is a large traditional market and an underground mall near the hostel and lots of restaurants. We had beer and chicken for dinner last night - basically somewhere where they serve you a plate of fried chicken and a mug of beer (#fitspo).

Today we visited Udo, which is an island off the coast of Jeju. Apparently it got its name because it looks like a cow lying down but I'm calling bullshit on that. To get there you catch a ferry over, much the same as heading to Bruny, then you buy a pass for a hop-on hop-off bus.  The island is famous for it's women free divers - we could see some of them diving even in the middle of winter.   All over the place there are paddocks separated by dry stone walls made of volcanic rock and some crops in them but not too many at this time of year.

We caught the ferry back across to Jeju and went to climb Soengsan Ilchulbing, which is pretty much an empty caldera as far as I can tell - the volcanic rock is too porus to hold water or some geological snuff like that.  Being winter it wasn't half as snazzy as I imagine it is in springtime when the weather is nice and the grass is green and there are wild flowers, but it was still bloody beautiful (mate). Seriously lame hike up a squillion stairs to get to the top though, so legs day is totes covered off for this week anyway.   

Then caught the bus back to Jeju-si and went to a bbq place next door to the hostel for dinner. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

winter in summer.

 So, there was this one time in the middle of summer, when Tasmania (and even South Hobart) was starting to think about weather over 25C for the first time in a year, and Kate and I thought we'd go and visit Emily in South Korea. Where it is goddam freezing. Luckily though, Emily's pretty ok, and y'know there's heating and shit, so this far it's sort of gone the way of super-awesome-party-time...

We arrived mid-afternoon after catching the red-eye from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur and then a morning flight from KL to Busan, which is where Emily is living in South Korea. Emily met us at the airport, and there was a general bout of girly squealing and hugs, then we caught a cab to Em's apartment where we'll be staying for most of our visit. So basically day 1 involved airplanes, diazapam and freaking out(for me and my hate/hate relationship with flying), the realisation that we were not in Kansas anymore so thermal underwear was 'go', our first Korean meal (so hungry they could have fed us rice cakes and I'd have been stoked) and sleep. So much sleep.

Our first full day we began by visiting a cultural village. Em said something about it being a slum, and instead of knocking it down they developed into an artists and tourist area. Lots of small art installations, walking along a path through small dilapidated houses and for some reason fish and squid hanging out to dry out the front of people's houses. The bus from the subway wound around tiny corners as we went uphill, trying to hold and stay standing as it was pretty full. There were quite a few other tourists around that we kept running into at different points along the trail. And there was some local food, which was really just a dagwood dog.

For the afternoon we visited the fish markets down at the docks. Some of the market was outside and some under cover in a big shed. It was so cold, and the piles of ice they were laying the fish out on made it even colder. It seemed like there was every type of fish, crustacean, shell fish or seaweed available there for people to buy. Ladies were wearing big plastic aprons and selling every sort of seafood you can imagine to the locals who were there to buy. Out the back of the market you could see men unloading fish straight from the boat in crates onto the docks.

Day 3 we visited a local temple in Busan in the morning, Haedong Yonggung. It's a Buddhist temple right on the water on the outskirts of the city, but seemed to have a strong Chinese bent as at the entrance there was a walkway with statues of the characters from the Chinese Zodiac (Rabbit, Snake, Dragon etc). The main temple complex was literally right next to the water, built on and into the rocks. Very beautiful and an amazing location.

In the afternoon we went for a walk just outside the city to the bottom of Jangsan Mountain. Hiking is big in Korea (along with K-pop and Starbucks) and there were locals everywhere kitted out in the latest outdoor gear looking like they were climbing Everest. Then for dinner we travelled to a restaurant for Korean Barbeque with some of Emily's friends that she has met whilst living here. It was pretty amazing, there's a sort of grill in the middle of the table and they bring out all sort of vegetables and meat (pork) for you to cook on the grill yourself.

Today we are flying the Jeju Island which I think is off to the south west, where we will be for 5 nights. More news after that I guess. Love love x

Monday, May 7, 2012

my week with cleo.

It started with a Jacobean Suite. Well, not really, instead it started with a trip to Melbourne with my little sister, Phoebe, my gift to her for her 21st birthday.  But then came the Jacobean Suit, which belonged to her friend Alex, with whom we were staying and which was genuinely saliva worthy. And then I was in love; if i could have stolen it, I would, all thought of morality and honesty out the proverbial window.

Our first day in Melbourne was a feast of shopping, a cute as fuck black baby pug that happily munched on my jacket while I coddled it, and actually feasting at all sorts of delicious Melbournian places.

 Day two of the Melbourne stint started with my backside on the floor (thanks to a super, magically deflating air-mattress) but things went infinitely upwards from there. Breakfast was at Soda Rock Diner, and came in the form of a chicken burger (I am just not a breakfast person).  Then, after Phoebe made me to partake in a pot of tea, I headed off to Brunswick to see my lovely Taswegians.

After arriving at the idyllic Albion Road I got to have the best catch up with my Tasmanian Beauties and (added bonus) lunch at Jellystone, my absolute favourite.  Lunch was Mediterranean eggs, with beetroot relish and dukkha (yes, I am one of those breakfast for lunch people) and a ginger beer spider.  Just quietly, ginger beer spiders are actually the best thing in the world and if you die without ever having one I'm pretty sure heaven will reject you on principle.

From Brunswick, it was off to the Melbourne Art's Centre to meet Alex, Phoebe, Lindsay and Cam for din dins and general evening frivolity.  Dinner was at the food court, and I thoroughly enjoyed having a quiet giggle at the above 'nerd meme' hybrid sign at the taco place.  From there, it was off to the Opera to see Contact! a new Australian operetta about netball. 

After our annual intake of arts culture we headed off for some more culture, this time in the formal of the alcoholic culture of Madame Brussels.  I'd never been before, but I was smitten the instant I walked in.  Three jugs of cocktail later we were all feeling slightly merry (poor waiter who had to look after us), and headed off to karaoke.  But, after hearing several seemly untalented people try their respective hands at Adele and various 90s R'n'B shit we abandoned ship.

And so it was finally time for Sydney and the adventure of Cleo (I say finally, but really I love Melbourne so much I hated to leave).  The only thing standing between me and sydney, my absolute terror of flying. NO WORRIES.  But y'know, I had a handful of Valium and needless to say the plane didn't crash, so it sort of worked out in the end.  One taxi later I had successfully broken into Emma's apartment (I GOT PHOTOS GIRLS) and thrown my belongings everywhere, along with discovering the joy that is Foxtel - but seriously guys, why no Showcase/Game of Thrones?

Day one at Cleo was always going to be a bit of a shit (you try working in a night club for a year and then try to get ready for anything before 10am).  But somehow I made it out the door on time, and on the bus without a compete nervous breakdown - I was going for small wins at this point.  Even better, Google Maps was kind enough to tell me where to go so I didn't even have to do the 'awkward gets lost on her first day' thing.

For my first day I was partnered with one of the interns, Grace.  Cleo - and the billion other magazines that are in the ACP building - have a whole lot of interns who usually come in once or twice a week, and then there are work experience people, like myself, who come for a week or so and then disappear and never come back. Grace set me up with a computer and we started off researching for an upcoming issue that will focus on weddings.  Then we did something far more intern-like and went off to collect some dry-cleaning (yay for un-paid work).  After lunch, I went and introduced myself to the Editor, Gemma Crisp, who apart from being totally fantastic and awesome and having a job I would die for, happens to be an ex-Fahan, ex-Taswegian (there's hope for us all yet!).  I spent the rest of the afternoon researching for Cleo's 'Get Smart' segment and then it was home time. 

Day two started off pretty much the same (early morning bus rides and real jobs can burn in hell).  I met Tuesday's intern, Ally, and step one of the day was more research for the upcoming wedding issue.  Mostly, it was researching in the form of parasols, wedding invites and place cards, and outdoor lanterns for the upcoming photo shoot for the issue.  They were also collecting responses to couple of questions. One was from my cousin Tegan (who was married last year), 'What is something you wish you had known before you got married?', to which she responded that she wished she had known how to choose, and to have a set of criteria to help you decide between all the different options that are out there. The other was for me, and was 'do you think marriage is or is becoming outdated?', for which my response was yes, based on the fact that my parents never married and also that I am a strong supporter of gay marriage rights.  Finally, I wrote the 'reader's beauty product and tip' for the next issue, saying yes to Body Shop highlighters and facial steam baths.

By day three I was feeling practically positive about the whole early morning thing, and went as far as catching an early bus into the city and reading my book in the sun for a little bit (yay for Mimi having finally made it as far as book five of Game of Thrones).  When I started up at Cleo my first task for the day was putting together a list of 'ways to live like a trust fund kid', so basically ways poor people like myself can feel like we're living the life of the Gossip Girl kids.  So ideas came along the ideas of booking ahead and getting bargain flights interstate for weekends away, and road tripping with your friends for a day-trip picnic.  After that I was researching the importance of 'rest days' when training, so there was a lot of Googling, reading and then summarising articles for the feature writer.  I then spent some time researching instances in which jealousy can be considered healthy.  Needless to say finding anything about jealousy that doesn't relate to jealous girlfriends or boyfriends is nearly impossible, so most of it was bullshit about finding the source of your jealousy and using it for self growth, and how it can be a source of aspiration and inspiration (at this point the stench of bullshit was pretty overwhelming).  But then they let me research fashion week, which was far more my style.

Day four was spend almost entirely transcribing interviews.  The first was an interview with Carly Rae Jepsen, of 'Call Me Maybe' fame.  It was quite a short interview (15 mins), but it still took me all morning to transcribe.  Also, the girl is ditzy as fuck so I had the privilege of listening to her responding to every question with 'yeah' and 'ummmm, so...', and which turned out being about 2,000 words long (I challenge anyone to write that much before lunchtime, about Call Me Maybe and still have a tinsy winsy little of sanity left).  But it got even less sanity inducing from there, because I got to spend all afternoon transcribing an interview with a recovering alcoholic (at 24 she's been in rehab three times).  That took all afternoon, and was a pretty eye opening interview - she once booked into a motel for two weeks over school holidays just to drink until she blacked out, time after time.  It was also a super long interview and after working at it for three hours, I was only a third of the way through, so I left the rest of it for the morrow.

Day five (my last day) was also spent transcribing interviews.  In the morning I transcribed an interview with Dale and Sophie, from The Block, about their wedding (more shizz for the upcoming wedding issue), and I have to say their wedding sounded cute as fuck.  I then spent the afternoon finishing off the interview with the alcoholic (seriously, it took all afternoon) and it ended up at over 7,000 words long; 7,000 words that I could never write in two days if my uni degree required it.  Then it was time for goodbyes and getting an armful of books from 'The Free Shelf' to take home - seriously I wish I could have taken them all.  Then I handed in my visitors pass and that was the end of my time at Cleo, sad face.

Saturday was next, and I now realise why people who have real jobs love the weekend so much.  I spent most of the morning cleaning up the mess I'd made of Emma and Jacob's apartment (it's sparkly clean now though guys!).  Then I taxied to the airport and (thinking I was going to plunge to my death) caught my flight to Melbourne.  I stayed with the lovelies in Brunswick for the night, which included giggles and ciders and seriously excellent pub grub.

And finally, it was time for home, and a 5am start to get there. But I made it and my lovely mumma picked me up from the airport in early morning.  

And at that point, it was the end of my adventure.