Monday, 21 July 2014

낙산 | Naksan Art Village

Continuing on from my previous post, we took a bit of a hike up to Naksan. I'm partial to a bit of street art, so this seemed ideal, mixed in with a bit of much-needed exercise.

The walk started off innocuously enough, with a lovely long mural next to an intriguing looking building in the ever pervasive trend of "industrial chic", egh. (Also, it was a lock museum. As in, a museum...about locks. Padlocks, door locks, safes...really?)

However, it wasn't long before we reached this:

Despite my laboured wheezing, I had enough time to appreciate the view, which just kept getting better. I have to say, the people that live here must be REALLY healthy. There's only one road up the whole hill as far as I can tell. Anywhere not directly on that road? Better walk, kid.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

창경궁 | Changgyeonggung Palace

This blog post is technically one of two, because I like to keep everything compact and tidy, and I'm too verbose to have two locations in one post, even though we did it all in one day. Sigh.

We met up with Erin and Morgan to go on an adventure! We settled on visiting a palace AND an Art Village, because the great thing about Seoul is that there's hundreds of things to do and usually within a short distance of each other.

The palace we went to was Changgyeonggung. For only 1000 won per person, it's a great place for a day (or half-day) out!
History Lesson: It was originally a summer palace during Goryeo times, and later became one of the 5 Grand Palaces.

The weather was great, with blue skies, and not as much humidity as we'd seen in the days prior. As with many old buildings in South Korea, there's a lot of very intricate detail in the woodwork and decorations, as well as being very lush, with many trees and lawn areas. It's always nice to see places like this in the middle of large, busy cities.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Korvia Summer BBQ!

Woo, it's been a while! In fairness, this is the longest-running and most consistent blog I think I've ever had (and, being a child of the internet, I've had a LOT of blogs...) so I'm not going to lie, I'm quite proud. It probably helps that my life is a lot more interesting now. Let's face it, "I went to a palace" is much better than "I slept for 13 hours then went on Tumblr" ;)

ANYWAY. Quite a few weeks ago now, Nick and I went to the Korvia BBQ. For the uninformed, Korvia is the recruitment agency we used to get our jobs in Korea. It's a great agency, with kind and caring staff and I don't think I'll ever be able to stop singing their praises. 

One of the many great things they do for their recruits is they hold a party or barbecue when the weather is good, to give teachers old and new a chance to mingle and meet some fellow English speakers. It's really nice when you're far away from home with very little in the way of home comforts. I'm quite lucky, because every day I come home to my own little slice of England, but for many people, especially those in more rural areas, I can imagine the homesickness can hit hard.

So, after doing some shopping in the morning (we wanted to buy a "thank you and happy birthday!" present for our lovely recruiter, Daisy) we hopped onto the subway and headed off for Yatap. Annoyingly, we had to take quite a convoluted route there, which meant that we ended up taking the same amount of time as some people that came from much, much further away! However, the subway here is very comfortable so I'm not complaining too much.

When we arrived in the right area, we found some helpful posters dotted around, and slowly the sound of very non-Korean voices drifted over. Yaaay~

Pictured above: the aforementioned sign, my plate piled high with lovely lovely food, and the obligatory photo of Nick eating and wishing I was doing something other than taking terrible photos.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Matchy Matchy

So the matchy matchy trend is very much alive and well in South Korea. Way more so than anywhere else I've seen it.

Despite the recent efforts of the bigger brands like H&M, raving about couple fashion and posting photoshoots of men and women dressed vaguely to match (both wearing a plaid shirt of different styles and colours simply does not cut it, my friend.) to my knowledge, at home it's still seen as cringe and a bit OTT to have a near-identical outfit to your other half. But here, everyone's doing the twin thing.

I was so undecided on it. Everything I knew was telling me it was a bit odd, especially when I saw it wasn't exclusive to middle and high school couples. I grew to love the "complementary" option, where you go for a similar colour or pattern, say a denim dress on one, and a denim shirt with tan shorts that you can match a handbag to. That's pretty sweet.

But then there are the couples that literally seem to just buy two of everything. Thing 1 and Thing 2. Right down to matching hats and trainers. Okay, we get it, you're an "item".

Oddly, when done right, even this looks adorable. I don't know how it's come to this. Identical outfits is something I associate with creepy twins dressed by their mothers that think it's cute (but surely ultimately very confusing?), not couples out on a date.

Alas, I've been infected. I think it's pretty cute.
So we tried it out.

Nick looks pretty unenthused by the whole idea in a lot of photos but I assure you he actively encourages this trend.

Here's some more examples of Korean couples that are altogether far more fashionable and beautiful than us humble nerd kids:

So, what do you think? Is it cute or way OTT, and would you or have you tried it out with your SO?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Seoul Food | 한국맥도날드

Hanguk Maekdonaldu. That's Korean McDonald's to the rest of us.

Yeah, we went there.

Despite trying to avoid McDonald's (and fast food chains in general) at all but my lowest moments at home, as soon as I'm in a foreign country I can't wait to try. I blame Hong Kong McD's and an article I read in the Guardian (or something) once that highlighted all the weird and wonderful international variations of the humble Big Mac. In HK I tried chicken nuggets and fries. Standard enough. But lo, I was presented with a ridiculous array of dipping sauces to choose from (blue cheese, thousand island, various bbq and sweet&sour combinations), and seaweed sprinkles for my fries. AMAZING.

So anyway, yes. I now trawl the world looking for more fast food oddities, apparently. That, and clogged arteries. With this in mind, since arriving in Korea I've been intrigued by the row of American fast food chains at our local train station. KFC chicken COVERED in chunks of garlic, Dunkin' Donuts with a variety of weird flavours, and McDonalds proudly displaying a Bulgogi Burger in its window.


Bulgogi is basically, as far as I can tell, marinated and grilled pork. It's pretty tasty and one of South Korea's most famous dishes (bar kimchi)

Anyway, we went in and ordered in 100% Korean, albeit that of a very young child. Don't take this victory from me. (7본 주세요. 2게 주세요.) We were then asked to move to the side so they could continue to take orders, and not long after, a tray appeared and food was placed on it. Yay, fast food indeed!

I picked it up, went to walk away, only to have the server say 아니요! 아니요! At me in a panicked tone, and an older man come up to me and take the tray holding HIS order from me, with a side order of glare.


Anyway, we apologised profusely and our actual food arrived not long after.

Obligatory ill-timed photo of Nick consuming sustenance.
I have to wasn't that incredible. Pretty much just a normal burger with an okay bulgogi sauce on it. The fries were a little nicer than at home, and thanks to McCafe and SK's love of recycling the cups were hard plastic that you hand back in at the end, so it can be washed and reused rather than dumped in a landfill. But nothing else on the menu was particularly...Korean. No kimchi burger or rice side dish (that I could see), so I was a bit upset, mixed with the usual "ugh, what have I done" feeling that usually accompanies a trip to McD's.

Not the end of the world, but hey. There's always Lotteria~ ;)

Seoul Food | 닭갈비 Dalkgalbi

Sort of.

Dakgalbi is one of these great, hearty, all-in-one dishes. I discovered it via teaching my 4th grade classes, as one of the lessons on past tense involves the phrase "I ate dakgalbi". Every time it was mentioned, there was inevitably a chorus of "oohs" and "aahs" and "AAH DAKGALBI!!"

High praise indeed.

After some research, I found it's pretty much kids/student/peasant/drunkard food. Easy to make, easy to eat, and most importantly: cheap.

It's marinated chicken with cabbage, carrot, garlic, topokki, onion, and possibly sweet potato, cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce. You can eat it straight out of the pan, and if you're super hungry, you can then chuck in a load of rice and make spicy stir fried rice with the leftover sauce and bits of veg. Topokki (pictured below) is an interesting food that I've had a few times in school, it's basically a little rice cake sausage. Kind of like a VERY thick noodle, so if you've had udon before, it's like that in texture, but maybe 2-3x thicker. It sucks up all the flavour of whatever you put it in, similar to tofu but in a much more appetising way (for me, anyway).

But yes, it sounded incredible and I had to have some.

So here it is.

The "sort of" comes in the form of "we don't buy chicken very often because I hate deboning, breasts are expensive, and pork/beef is so much tastier". So this is a beef tuna* variant. But considering I followed a dakgalbi recipe exclusively up until the point where it said chicken, I won't bother renaming it.

I think this would be great in autumn or winter with a small group of friends, and I can also see why it's so popular as a snack when out drinking.

*we actually ate this two days in a row. Mainly because it was great, but also because I forgot to take a photo of the beef, so needed to recreate it for blogging purposes. Alas, we'd used the last of the beef. Tuna it is then. Not as good as chicken or beef in this situation, but it was still pretty good.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Seoul Food | 비빔밥 Bibimbap

I think this was the first Korean dish I ever ate, courtesy of our "research" undertaken at Bibigo in Soho before coming to Incheon.

It's great, healthy (-ish. You can never tell with the Salt Queen) and makes a little bit of meat stretch a long way.

Anyway, Nick brought home a little book about Korean cuisine in our first week, and there are a few recipes in the back. We use this one a lot, because it's fairly quick and easy, as well as tasty. My presentation is by no means as wonderful as the traditional Korean style, but I hope it still looks fairly appetising. Apparently the toppings are from old Buddhist traditions, with each bit of food representing a different colour, which is really lovely and actually a pretty smart way of getting a balanced meal.

The recipe calls for burdock root and bracken as a topping. I have no idea what these are or what they look like, nor do I know the Korean names for them, so alas I have struggled to buy them. So my bibimbap is generally made with carrot, zucchini, onion of some form, and a separated egg or two, fried up and sliced.

It's by no means authentic, but it's tasty, so maybe try it sometime~

Friday, 4 July 2014

Phones, Internet, and a New Friend?

So, as I said in my last post, WE GOT PHONES! Woo~

It's so nice to be able to take photos and message people and read news on the go again. We went to the KT Olleh Global store in Jongno, Seoul, and had a lovely person take us through the whole process of getting our phones set up.

I got an LG G3, which is exciting, because I've never had a NEW phone before. That is, new as in newly released, not "not preowned". Nick got an iPhone 5s in the coveted CHAMPAGNE colour, and we also booked in for 100mbps wifi in our officetel. All together it cost us around £100, which for two brand new phones and incredible internet, as well as great walkthrough service, is great in my opinion.

Can I just take a moment to express just how huge this phone is compared to my old one?

1p for scale due to lack of bananas

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