Krazy in Korea

Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – People to See, Places to Go
4 October 2011 at 07:58 1

Friday, 30 September 2011

We headed out early to meet two of Colette's friend's, Flora and Shan, who Colette teaches extra English to. She meets them at their Hagwin (a Hagwin is an academy, like the place my sister teaches at) and gives them extra lessons. Today was chilled since one of the other girls couldn't make it, so we headed out for some coffee with them. It was great chatting to some locals who knew English quite well. I then went with Colette to school again and we watched the rugby game with the teachers during supper time. The other teachers thought Colette was hysterical shouting at our players on screen. It's very hard to explain how the game works to the locals, they don't fully understand the game, even though they have their own rugby team.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

We got up early and headed to Korea's other major city, Busan. Colette wanted to take me shopping and sight-seeing, and unlike Seoul which is 3 hours away, Busan in only 45 minutes away. We were also clever this time, and got a day pass for the subways, which saved us a lot of money First stop was Nampo-dong market, a huge street flea-market, famous in Busan. We got a bit lost trying to find it and looking very 'touristy' with our lost expressions and massive map. Turns out we were right by it and just missed a few turns. When we finally got 'inside', it was chaos. It's not like our little 'China Mart' or Bruma; this is a real street market and anything goes. Half the time we were jumping out the way because cars and scooters drive down the narrow aisles. The shops are incredible though. They sell EVERYTHING and you can even fix your hair in the clothes shops (?). When you get peckish, you stop at the street-food carts and eat fish, unidentified-fried-food and other bizarre concuctions - I was very lucky having Colette with me, knowing what to eat and what not to eat. It was really divine and the ladies who cook are really kind. After 4 hours of walking and shopping, we decided to head to the Busan beach. We took the subway, walked a little and finally got to their beautiful beach which overlooks a magnificent bridge. We took photo's, petted a very cute fluffy dog and had some coffee. By now my feet were killing me. My usual working 16 hours on a computer and not walking much was starting to catch up with me. My sister still wanted to show me their huge mall, Shinsegae, which is apparently the biggest mall in the world. So we had some more coffee, took the subway and headed to this extravagant mall. Shinsegae is very 'western' and overly priced. It's all the big, popular American stores, like Guess, Chanel and that kind of thing. There is a lot more English than normal, over 6 floors of shops and shoes that start at R2000. Not our thing at all, but still quite something to see. After some truly horrible KFC that tasted like oil, we decided it was time to head home. We still wanted to visit a 'Foreigner Bar' back in Masan and we were already completely exhausted (we honestly just did too much for one day!). We only got to this bar, O'Brien's, at about 10:30pm, and I met most of the foreigners living and teaching in Masan. We only stayed an hour and a half before resigning and heading home. We slept like the dead.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

We woke up at 12 noon... All our plans for the Sunday went down the drain. We were still so tired from Busan and I had hurt my leg from all the walking (how sad!). So we just chilled, watched a Korean sitcom (The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) and just took the day to rest. It was awesome.

Monday, 3 October 2011 (Public Holiday)

Another chilled day. We slept in (we really tried to get up early, but we love the snooze button a little too much) and headed out for coffee at about noon. We had dinner plans with Colette's friend Sunil, so we just spent the afternoon at the most beautiful coffee shop I've ever seen, while Colette studied a bit and I caught up on emails, to kill time. This coffee shop was truly amazing... A couple and their son opened this little cafe, and covered it in books, photographs, antiques, figurines and couches. The wife is an artist and a photographer, so her drawings and photo's line the shop walls and counters. It was exquisite and I can only begin to capture the atmosphere in my own photo's of it (you'll have to check out Facebook until I get everything in here). A few hours in, a foreigner friend of Colette's, Chantelle, joined us for coffee and cake. We all talked our faces off and didn't get much studying or work done. But it was ok, it was a public holiday afterall. At 5, we finally headed off to Sunil, another Foreigner who teaches English at a public school, for much younger children. Sunil loves to cook, and cooks well. We had crab chowder and Korean dumplings as starters, and then enjoyed some lovely vegetarian spring-rolls. We chatted for hours, then watched a movie while Sunil baked a chocolate cake that smelt like heaven. We ate and chatted and ate some more until we rolled out there at about 11pm. Definitely one of the most exciting long weekends I've ever had.
Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – Whacky Weekdays Part 2
2 October 2011 at 08:15 0

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

We got up at about 10am (my sister likes at least 10-11 hours of sleep) and headed into town to go to a coffee shop. I brought my laptop with, and we hunted down a place called 'Tom n Tom's Coffee' and we enjoyed vanilla latte's while my sister studied (she's taking TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language to advance her studies and get better jobs etc.) and I did some work. Korean's LOVE their coffee, they are seriously addicted. Almost every shop, no matter what they sell, will sell coffee too. So most shops will say "Shop and coffee" or "Chocolate! (and coffee)". It's also custom to drink coffee after dinner. So once we ve finished eating, you grab a free coffee on your way out (and it's really good coffee too!) After Tom n Toms, we headed home and Colette went off to school and I stayed home to catch up on my work. It's really lovely working from Colette's apartment. Her window overlooks the park and the whole day, I could hear someone practicing their saxophone. It created a really lovely atmosphere. Another thing that makes me chuckle with the Koreans - they love excercise, almost as much as their coffee. So in the park, they have excercise equipment (how random right?). So those machines where your arms and legs swing, and weight machines etc. and people just randomly work out. So all day as I overlook the park, I watch Korean's working out. For supper we had ddakkalbi, which is like a chicken stirfry. It has cabbage, thick chicken pieces and other veggies. They love their garlic so there are obviously lekker thick slices of garlic and of course Kimchi (their pickled cabbage). After supper we went to Home Plus (yeah, apparently this store only closes at midnight - image if Pick n Pay stayed open that late!). They have an ice-cream parlour with the most amazing flavours. I got some blue ice-cream that literally had pop rocks in it! It's like candy/ice-cream heaven. Best ice-cream ever. Then before going to bed, Colette insisted I watch a Korean series called "The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince". At first I was skeptical, but I actually really enjoyed it! The Korean's definitely have a good sense of humour and I love the story line (I hope I can find it back in SA)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Today we overslept and only woke up at 11am (How am I ever going to get back into my 8-hour routine!). We were meeting one of Colette's foreign friend's, Brittany, for lunch, this time good old pizza! The store is owned by a man who has been to Italy so the pizza was really great. I had a pizza with tomato, yogurt, kiwi and rocket! I know it sounds SO weird but it was really nice. The yogurt wasn't sweet so it was still a savoury pizza, but that with the tomato and rocket tasted amazing. I also messed all over the table because they (as in my sister and her friend from California) eat pizza with a knife and fork (bloody weird foreigners!) We then had to rush home cause Colette's classes were starting. I had to walk home from her school, which is thankfully just down the road (literally) from her apartment. I got to chat to Bryan for a few hours which was also great. Things like Skype really close the distance gap! For supper, we had tuna kimbap and udong. The kimbap is like Korean sushi, without any raw fish. We had a veggie and tuna one - really yummy. The udong is a thick noodle soup with veggies. And remember, all their food is spicy, so 90% of what we eat burns!
Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – Whacky Weekdays
30 September 2011 at 02:26 1

Monday, 26 September 2011

I was a bit stressed, since we'd found out that my laptop plug didn't fit here - we needed a two-prong (Korean's are clever and only use one plug size, but unfortunately it's two-prong not three). Luckily, my sister works in the afternoon so we had the morning to hunt a compatible one down. We also needed to do some grocery shopping, so we headed to their large grocery store, Home Plus. This shop is a small mall... it is 5 floors and you can purchase ANYTHING. They sell food as normal and clothes, and then they have floors for electronics, plants, a restaurant, pharmacy - you name it. You can literally do all your shopping in one place. So naturally we went there first to try get a laptop cable, which they didn't have unfortunately, but they knew exactly where to get it - some Samsung service station further into town. After shopping, my sister, with her little bit of Korea, managed to follow their directions, and after a few wrong turns we finally found them and the woman handed us the exact plug we needed for about R20. We grabbed some coffee and headed home before my sister headed to work. We also, at the last minute, decided I should go with my sister to her school. I needed to work though, so I took my laptop with and sat in her classes. (My sister is an English teacher for after-school extra lessons - so she has students in different classes from 9 to 24 years old, between 2pm and 10pm). Unfortunately, Monday didn't turn out to be the best day... some of her 'less favourite' classes are on Monday and they are quite loud. One of her classes literally gave me a headache because they get so loud, I thought my ears might bleed. She also had some pleasant students though who were so sweet and they say things like 'beautiful' and 'white' and 'twins' (referring to me and my sister looking similar, apparently). I also shared lunch with her and the other teachers. After school, my sister has dancing... it is Hip Hop dancing lessons down the road from her school, and she decided it would be a good idea for me to join in the middle of their routine. Well! Half the dancers are professional and I couldn't keep up at all. I looked like a praying mantis who was about to get eaten by its' spouse. I gave up halfway, sweaty and looking pitiful and decided I wouldn't do that again. I must say, the Korean's dance well; I think white people were the only race that didn't get rhythm. After dancing, at about 10pm, we headed home and just had traditional Korean 'cup 'o noodles' for supper with Kimchi (of course).

27 September 2011

After an 11 hour sleep (my sister was tired (?)), we finally woke up at about 11am on this lovely Tuesday. By now, I still hadn't been able to draw cash... my poor sister had been using all her money since all the ATM's weren't letting me draw. (I don't know what the point of having a VISA and a MasterCard are if they don't work anywhere!!). So today we needed to hunt down an ATM and finally found a 'Global ATM'. Again, what is the point of having VISA and MasterCard... We stopped off and bought a pastry from a lovely Korean bakery and then headed back. I worked all day, this time at home while my sister worked, and then we headed out into town for supper. We had gamjatang, which is pork stew/soup, and delicious! We left our shoes at the door and sat on the floor, in true Korean style!
Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – Land Running!
27 September 2011 at 05:54 1
I finally boarded my plane to South Korea on Friday the 23rd of September at about 12:30pm. I blubbed through the airport because I hate being apart from my husband and that's when the stares started and haven't stopped since!

24 September 2011

My first flight was 13 hours and 10,686km to Hong Kong. I didn't see much of HK Airport but it was amazing - they are so much more advanced than us. I got free wifi as I got off, found my gate and boarded my next flight without any hiccups (although, I did stop and ask some random foreigner for help who was sitting at the Help Desk like a special person and then looked at me like I was special!!). I finally landed in Seoul, South Korea (I had to take a train to my bags?!) and then lugged my suitcase (that weighs about the same as a baby elephant) to finally meet my sister! We made squeaks and squeals and once we'd relaxed a bit, we made our way out. Now this is when the 'adventure' started... My sister is as much of a tourist to Seoul as me, and to get around Seoul, most people use the subway. There are roughly 12 trains on this subway (we're guessing) that criss-cross all over the place, and the underground tunnels all look the same! We also had my 2-ton bag to lug around - what a nightmare! We couldn't figure out the lines, took a few wrong trains, missed our stop and finally gave up, headed up and took a taxi to our hotel. The hotel was really nice though and luckily I wasn't too jet-lagged because I'd slept on the plane. My sister had planned to take me to a spa though and that required taking the subway again. This time, without the bag and fear, we (as in my sister) worked out the subway and we got to the spa in one piece. Now this 'spa' is amazing. It's like 'seven-floors-of-pampering'. You go in to the bathing areas, separated into male and female and literally go back to the days of Adam and Eve (you're actually a weirdo if you leave your clothing on). After bathing, drying your hair and getting refreshed, you join the unisex area where there are sauna's, massage chairs, hot rooms (where you just lie on the floor), watch TV or play games. It's a very social/family-type outing and by the time you come out, you feel like a new person. We then headed back to the hotel and pretty much died for 9 hours.

25 September 2011

Woke up with a migraine, not sure why, but I felt worse than I should have the previous day after an 18hour trip and dragging ourselves all over Seoul getting lost. Thankfully my sister brought headaches pills and Valoid and after a snooze, I was fine again. Problem was, our train to Masan was at 13:40 and we only got out of the hotel at about 10:00 - that doesn't leave much time to tour Seoul. We rushed to go view one of Seoul's sights - the statue of Sejong the Great and some other cool stuff - and then rushed to Seoul Station to try change our train tickets because we wanted to see more of Seoul. All the tickets were sold out, and stopping there actually made us late! By the time we got back to our hotel and caught a taxi, the driver basically told us we'll miss our train - not cool when it costs so much, it's sold out AND we have a ten-tonne bag (it gets heavier the more stressed we are). Well I tell you, this taxi driver did South Africa proud. We zipped so fast through the city, we did a 40 minute trip in 20 minutes! As we got on the train, the doors closed and the tain headed off. What an experience! I can tell you this - I hate travelling! I don't know how people do it alone. We arrived in Masan late Sunday afternoon and took a bus to Colettes' little city and headed up to her apartment. After relieving ourselves of my devil-luggage, we departed to go grab some traditional Korean food - samgypsol! All the meals in Korea are very social and the food is really delicious. It looks strange and I keep mistaking their red sauce for tomato sauce, but really, our food is quite bland in comparison. After dinner, now this is about 21:00, went 'shopping' in the city. It's unreal. You feel like it should be Friday night because the city is so alive and everyone is still working! All types of shops, fruit stands and stalls are open like it's midday in SA. Now all the while we're walking around, locals just stop and stare at us. They don't have a diverse nation like SA (and now I understand the true meaning of that). Anyone who isn't Korean is a foreigner and very rare. So when they see us, some just stare like you're an out-of-world alien, some want to try their English out on you and other get so excited they just giggle to death. It's also so safe here - they don't really have crime. So when we saw some policemen we just laughed because they're pretty useless and a waste of space. They walk around all important but really, they're not... Big adjustment from SA. The locals are also extremely friendly and helpful if they're not too scared and know a bit of English. They help us on the subways and with directions, and are very kind. This does cease to exist however, when you need to get on a bus! Oh my goodness, the city buses put our taxi's to shame! While you're still getting on, the bus pulls off and basically, they own the road and cars need to move! My sister says you just got to grab onto anything to hold and she's seen old people fall - no pity! I've also found the locals to be so chilled - it's like Cape Town here. No one rushes, you sleep late, nothing is urgent. But when you need to get on a bus, you need to move. They shove and push to get on the bus and all I'm thinking is, seriously, you're not going to miss the bus... I am not sure what the craze is there. In summing up, I'm loving it so far and it's a wonderful experience. I'll share more as I go. (I've also written a short post, a summary of keywords, on my experience here. Read it here)
Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – A Summary
27 September 2011 at 05:50 0
As a summary of my experience here, I took note of some keywords that describe South Korea best... I'll add to this list as my experience grows.

South Korea is...

  • Kitsch
  • Advanced
  • Everything talks to you
  • Neon, neon, neon
  • Coffee addicts!
  • Convenience stores EVERYWHERE
  • Cheapest, most awesome candy
  • The obvious (products tend to have obvious names/descriptions like 'Good for You' or 'Healthy Snack')
  • Bad translations that make you laugh
  • Vanity (the girls are very vain/insecure & have mirrors open constantly)
  • They could fund Apple, Hyundai and Kia by themselves
  • Smelly streets
  • Every building looks identical (you cannot tell a hospital/school from an apartment)
Krazy in Korea
Krazy in Korea – Trip Prep!
21 September 2011 at 16:38 1
From the 23rd of September to 10th of October, I will be in South Korea visiting my older sister Colette, who is an English teacher in Masan. She has been there for a year-and-a-half (since February 2010). I've always wanted to visit but the flights are so expensive I didn't think it would ever be possible while she was still there. Then on a random afternoon while visiting my folks, we were discussing my sister and how I wished I could visit her, when my dad randomly offered to pay half of the airfares! That's over R4000 for anyone wondering. With my savings, I could afford the other half and finally the dream was a reality! Within a week (about the 19th of August), I'd found the cheapest flights and booked a two-and-a-half week trip to South Korea. Now I sit here, with two days until I head to the airport, with too much excitement and much to prep for! Check-in Confirmation! The first thing I did was prepare the laptop for working in Korea - although it's a holiday, it's a bit too long to not work, especially with our own business. So the plan is to work like normal, while my sister has class (it works out almost perfectly in terms of time-zones so my clients won't even know I'm gone). Then yesterday, after buying a vacuum cleaner our domestic helper disapproved of, we went back to Macro to return it and came back instead with a stunning, red suitcase set (Bryan wanted something bright that I wouldn't miss on the conveyor belt :P). We bought a few other bits and bobs too, like sleeping pills, a passport bag thing and a 'regulation toiletry bag' with all the correct sizes for liquids. In all the excitement however, I really wish Bryan was coming with. My heart aches when we're apart for so long and the holiday would have been even better with him there. Anyway, now all that's left is to pack tomorrow. I'm going to try very hard to blog at least every week day, with photo's and news, but be sure to follow me on Twitter for "on-the-move" updates and photo's!