Monday, 22 June 2015

강릉 | Gangneung

A few weeks ago, Nick had a tiny kpop event that he'd only been able to get one ticket to, and I was looking for something to do while he was away. It's not often we're apart outside of school so I was trying to find somewhere to go in Seoul that he wasn't keen on.

However, my co-teacher saw me researching a few places and came up with another suggestion. That weekend she would be taking a brief trip to her hometown of Donghae to visit her family and make the most of the fact we had Monday as an official day off. She thought it would be a good chance for me to see a new part of South Korea, and that I should join her.

Cutting things short, I said yes, Nick expressed his wish to also go (the event he needed to attend was on a Sunday, and we'd be leaving on a Friday) so he bundled into the car with us and would leave earlier by bus on the Sunday.

We found out we'd be staying with my co-teacher's brother in Gangneung the first night, 3 or 4 hours drive east of Incheon and about 30 minutes north of Donghae.

Basically her family is a big collection of some of the nicest people I've met (and I've met a LOT of nice people here).

Gangneung is known for its sundubu (silken tofu) so we were treated to a big baekban style meal with what I will tentatively call sundubu jorim because I forgot it's actual name. Similar to a jjigae (stew, usually quite spicy) it's a hotpot of sorts, full of chunks of fish, kimchi, and a load of other vegetables and quite simply tastes incredible even if it is in a sort of "melt your face off" kind of way.

I was always convinced that I didn't really like tofu, after trying to cook it at an attempted "Japanese culture night" wherein we cooked some recipes from a recipe book of Japanese food, one of which was miso soup with tofu in it. Either we cooked it poorly or the tofu wasn't great, because it was nothing like the glorious stuff we had in that restaurant.

Silken tofu, as the name would suggest, is incredibly smooth and creamy, kind of like the next step up the solidity ladder from a really thick yoghurt. It's pretty much impossible to eat with chopsticks, it's so soft, and the flavour is really mild in a nice way. Kind of nutty and creamy. Try it if you can!

Gangneung's other specialty is fresh fish, considering it's right by the East Sea, so we ate a LOT of fish that weekend, cooked in various forms be it grilled, fried, stewed, or even not at all.

After dinner, amidst me being a bit awestruck at all the stars I could see (something of a rare occurrence since moving over here.) we headed closer to the sea. As my poor photos very clearly show (ha) this kind of towering Holly's Coffee has been built in part of the car park next to the harbour where ships and ferries regularly come and go.

After coffee we went back to my co-teacher's brother's home where we'd be staying the night. It's always interesting to see actual family apartments in Korea because I only ever have my own officetel for comparison. So I catch myself wondering "how on earth do people live in such small places?"

They're actually just the right size and the more I see these apartments, the more I feel like I never want a house in the future. Or if I do, I don't want a big one. These homes are perfectly sized, just enough room to keep all your stuff in and have plenty of living space, but small enough that it doesn't take a whole day to clean ;p

We went to sleep pretty early (not before poking around at their cool lego sets and watching their worryingly aggressive terrapins) and prepared for tomorrow.

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