Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

As our time in Korea comes to a close, I decided to honor our profession and our experience abroad with the ABC’s of being an expat teacher in this great peninsula!

A is for Anju, the most amazing drinking concept since beer pong. Never give into a late-night urge for drunchies when you have endless amounts of everything from peanuts and french fries to nachos and rice snacks coming to your table with the beer.

Runner-up: Ajumma

B is for beondegi, the most wretched stench/snack combination ever concocted. Let’s take silk worm pupa, boil them until crunchy and putrid, then serve them with beer! Um… let’s not. Barf.

Runners-up: bibimbap, Busan

C is for Cheonbukdae, where throngs of hip youngsters gather to drink, dance and be merry on the weekends. It is also home to Pick It Pack It, the best burger in the ‘Ju!

D is for dakgalbi — the cheesy, noodley, oh-so-naughty Korean dish that is so comforting and homey that I had to try to recreate it at home!

Runner-up: Deepin and Deepinto

E is for E-Mart, since we couldn’t have survived without this mega-store around the corner.

F is for fan death. There isn’t anything better than an isolated population believing that you could die from leaving a fan on inside of a room and shutting the door. It will suck out all of the oxygen! Or wait… no, no it won’t.

Runner-up: Football

G is for gamjatang, the spicy pork-back soup that takes you straight into the home of (someone’s) Korean grandmother as she slowly stirs the pot, adding spices just so and making the most perfect bowl of stew you could ever dream up. BEST Korean food. Hands down.

Runner-up: Gaegogi

H is for holidays — from the traditional American ones (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) to the special Korean days (Chu Seok, Solnal, Pepero Day) where we got a taste of real Korean tradition. A rare and wonderful experience.

I is for Itaewon, the “America” away from home and the only place to find hunger-satisfying foreign food, a multi-cultural community and normal-sized clothing all in one place.

J is for Jeonju, forever my home away from home.

K is for kimchi, the national dish of Korea and the star in culinary delights such as kimchi jjigae and kimchi bokumbap!

Runner-up: K-Pop (aka pure musical gold)

L is for Little River Day School, where I had the pleasure of working this past year — it brought me good friends, great memories and taught me a thing or two about teaching (patience. lots of patience.)

M is for the annual Mud Festival in Boryeong! From the rain and the endless amount of mud slides and pits, to the shower-less hotel and the amazing sea food, our experience at this yearly foreigner fun fest was one to remember!

N is for Norebang. Private karaoke room + friends + 24 hours + endless beer and snacks = best time ever. Done.

O is for octopus! I’ve never eaten so much of the sea creatures as I have in Korea — from live and wriggling to boiled nicely in a pan, I can say that I will never eat so much octopus again. Trust.

P is for Pizza School, the one place we could run away to and forget we had limited access to all of the foods we were craving — well, we could forget if we ignored pictures of things like sweet potato paste, corn, hot dogs and crumbled tortilla chips and other blasphemous toppings on the various pizzas.

Runner-up: Pizza Maru

Q is for Quiznos, which saved me from sliding into a deep sandwich-less depression over the past year. Every time we went to Seoul, this little gem was on the itinerary, pumping life into me with every bite of the Italian-style sub. Nom nom.

R is for Radio Star, the rockin’ live music venue that has hosted a multitude of awesome bands, kick-ass parties, fundraisers and general debauchery.

S is for sonsaengniiiim, the never-ending cry for (usually Korean) teachers heard by English hagwon workers around the country. So much for not speaking Korean in the class.

Runner-up: Samgyeupsal

T is for Trailer Park Boys, which is (thanks to our good friend Chris) one of our new favorite shows. You’ll never be the same after you experience the hilarity that is these guys from Nova Scotia (especially if you have real Nova Scotians to compare them to)

U is for the Ulsan Cup 2010, one of the best weekends I had during this experience. Me and my girlfriends (the cheerleaders) spent two days rooting, burger-ing and (trying to) cartwheel as the men of JUFC kicked their way to football victory — without ever conceding a goal!

V is for V-Day, the anti-violence campaign that I, along with other committee members, donated time and energy into from October to April, culminating in performances of one of Eve Ensler’s amazing collection of monologues, and a kick-ass concert.

W is for Wa Bar, our (ex) watering hole where we spent many a night icing each other, playing rounds of kings cup and cheering on the USA team in the World Cup — all while enjoying free baskets of french fries. R.I.P. Seoshin-dong location.

Runner-up: waygook

X is for xenophobia, the interesting phenomenon that I’ve experienced here. In America, people fight to stand out the most, while being “different” is generally shunned and avoided in Korean culture.

Y is for the year that I’ve been away. The longest I’ve ever been away from home, the time it took to build a new home here in Korea, and one of the scariest/best/awe-inspiring years of my life. I’ve grown so much and am going back a better person because of it!

Z is for zero, the number of regrets I have about leaving my life in the States to try my hand at being a teacher. With my best friend/boyfriend by my side, we made a lot of great memories.

Read Full Post »

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I decided to escape to the big city for two whirlwind days of shopping, foreign food and live music.

I awoke early on Saturday morning to catch a bus to Seoul with my friends Rachel and Jenny Ryan. We headed straight for Hongdae upon our arrival, and dropped our bags at our crash pad for the night, Backpacker’s Space. The hostel, which was roughly 90% occupied by our posse, was adorable, clean and comfortable. It featured three rooms with bunks and fresh linen, one (western-style) bathroom with countless toiletries, and a vanity corner with a hair dryer and a straightener. I died, since I hadn’t straightened my hair in 10 months — I was waaaaay too excited.

The owner was pleasant and helpful, and a water cooler with cups was a welcome amenity during the wee, hungover hours of the morning. Plus, it was located in the heart of the bustling University district, so we were just a hop, skip and jump away from the clubs where we spent our night bobbing and dancing to jams.

So we ditched our packs and headed to Dos Tacos for some food. It was the same restaurant that we visited in Gangnam with my ‘cuz last summer, but the Hongdae location. Meat and avocado burrito, yummers. Just per-fec-tion.

Afterward, we took the train to Myeongdong to do some serious retail damage. I couldn’t get out of Forever 21 without a necessary top… or five. Oooops!

We also ran into a grungy, creepy Garfield in the midst of our shopping spree, nbd.

On our way home, we got wrapped up into a conversation and missed our subway transfer (whoops) but eventually made it back to the hostel! We grabbed some beer, dolled up and got ready for our night on the town. I chose one of my new tops from F21 and paired with with a black skirt, black tights, black boots and my Lady Gaga ring. Faboosh!

The crew, about 15 women deep, rolled to T Bell to grab some more Mexican grub before going out to Club FF. I ate a taco, and a burrito… and part of Sasia’s quesadilla… and Priscilla’s nachos. Yeah. Bad move leaving me around available food.

Club FF was awesome! The event was the 7 year anniversary of the hot spot, and had a bunch of great bands to celebrate the occasion. The first act we saw was Kingston Rudieska, an awesome ska band. At 11 PM, the bar started serving FREE cocktails that we enjoyed for an hour. Needless to say, I only bought one beer during our stay.

Later in the night, I decided to meet up with Alyssa at Shake! a mile-a-minute underground dance party. Alyssa popped into Club FF to tell me her location after her phone went missing, and we realized we were wearing the exact. same. outfit.

We had both purchased the same shirt that day without realizing it, and went on to dress ourselves in the same threads. It was hilariously mortifying — we looked like a Korean couple on their honeymoon.

We stayed at Shake for hours, went back to Club FF and shook it til the wee hours of morning.

I scraped myself out of bed in the morning, showered and enjoyed a picturesque cup of coffee while I waited for my ladies to get ready.

I also enjoyed the view of Hello Kitty cafe across the street. So cuuuuuute — where was Candace when I needed her? ^_-

After everyone was awake, we cabbed it to Itaewon to get some pub grub at Wolfhound. Rachel was sooo very excited to get her Bloody Mary. I skipped my own Mary for a pint of strong cider, and went crazy for their menu. In the end, I opted for a shepherd’s pie and a side salad with ranch. RANCH DRESSING! The second time I’ve enjoyed the creamy, fatty goodness in ten months. Yum!

Evan probably would have guessed that my eyes won a competition over my stomach during this meal, but I ate every last bite. Nom nom.

Being the wonderful girlfriends that we are, Rachel and I popped into Quizno’s on our way home to pick up sandwiches for us and boyfs to eat for dinner, which I enjoyed with Ev after a sleepy bus ride home.

Successful, wonderful weekend getaway!

Read Full Post »

New Year’s Eve was one crazy night, but it wasn’t the only adventure to be had in Thailand. From zip-lining to getting up close and personal with a baby tiger, our days on Koh Samui were packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

On the first day of 2011, we slept all day before being roused by the mellow evening breeze that swept into the windows of our gorgeous, tropical retreat. We threw on our warm weather-ready garb, hopped into a cab and spent the evening on Bo Phut beach, in Fisherman’s Village.

After a lovely dinner at Starfish, we strolled in the village and perused merchandise from the various shops and street vendors lining the warm, well-lit streets. We inspected trinkets and souvenirs before finding ourselves at Dr. Fish, a spa that specializes in tubs with tiny fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet.

It was ten minutes of simultaneous tickling, discomfort and hilarity! Mimi and I went into a tank, while Matt and Evan hopped into another.

The feeling of the fish nibbling on my toes, heels and ankles was too much to bear. Mimi and I spent our time laughing, screaming and swirling our feet around in the water, terrifying the little buggers. Eventually, the fish stopped biting because we squirmed so much.

Evan and Matt kept cool under pressure a lot better than we did. They giggled and chewed on their lips, but were able to hold their feet still long enough for the fishies to get a decent meal. The school in the water swarmed their feet! It was a funny experience, but not one that any of us are looking to repeat any time soon.

Also, during our “spa treatment,” a crowd of people watched our discomfort through the floor-to-ceiling glass panels. I’m sure we scared more than one person off!

After a beautiful, relatively quiet night (aside from a rowdy tween who shot me with a popper on the street during a war with his friends) we hit the hay to prepare for the day of adventure that we had ahead of us.

The next morning, we woke early and hopped aboard our trusty motorbikes to begin our tour of the island. After breakfast and a long, bumpy ride into the jungle, our first stop was to the Canopy Adventures. It was there where we suited up to zip-line through the tree tops.

Weeee! It was mildly terrifying to sail through the trees, but mostly just exhilarating. We had a blast, swinging in the trees and screaming as our small platforms swayed in the wind.

Our tour guide was awesome too — cracking jokes, telling stories, and even zip-lining upside down! He even took a great video of one of our rides, scaring all of us at the end when we almost collided! YouTube is being funky (boooo) but I will upload the video as soon as I can! :)

A seaside lunch and motorbike ride later, we arrived at one of the largest waterfalls on Koh Samui. Surrounding the waterfall were touristy activities of sorts — elephant rides, more zip lines, and even petting and taking a picture of a tiger or leopard! I know that I probably shouldn’t support the mediocre (or worse) care of these animals by paying to take a picture with them, but the baby tiger was so cute I couldn’t resist.

We fed the little guy a bottle :)

The waterfall was a rocky hike away, but definitely worth it once we reached the top. We chilled out there for a bit, combating the sweltering heat with the cool spring water.

Afterward, we headed to Hin Tai and Hin Yai, the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks located on Lamai Beach. These rocks, shaped like male and female genatalia, located closely together, have spawned a legend about how they came to be. The story tells the tale of Ta Kreng (Grandpa Kreng) and Yai Riem (Grandma Riem), an elderly couple who were killed at sea when their boat capsized on their way to marry off their son. The couple transformed into rocks as “proof to the bride’s parents of their true intentions.”

The sun was sinking in the sky when we arrived, and got some beautiful shots of the red-purple sky, breaking tide and the, ehm, phallic rock.

There was also a tiny reggae bar nestled into the boulders, Rock Bar, where Bob Marley played softly over speakers, rasta art donned the hut-like structure, and tourists and locals got together for a Chang and a laugh. It was peaceful and relaxing — a perfect end to a perfect day out.

Our last day was spent at Bo Phut, where we feasted before walking down the beach looking for seaside massages. We finally found a pleasant open-air space with four unoccupied beds — we laid down, and the Thai women got right to work massaging our sore bodies. The hour rub-down only set us back about $8, not bad for a massage with sand and surf as your ambiance.

Afterward, we found a beach bar to down some fruity drinks before scouring the streets for some lovely souvenirs to take home. Evan and I ended up with two wooden elephants to use as bookends, a wooden sculpture of a drummer, a beautiful bowl, and a deep red table runner. I also got a few clothing items to rock in April, when we meet my family in Oahu on the way back to the states!

The rest of our night was spent packing and eating with our friends, then starting our journey home.

Wonderful trip — food, friends, partying, adventures. One of the best vacations ever!

Read Full Post »

New Year’s marked the anniversaries of both Evan and me and Mimi and Matt, so this year we decided to attend one of the biggest parties in the world — the famous “full moon party” in Koh Phangan!

Technically, this wasn’t a full moon celebration since there wasn’t a full moon in the sky, but it had all of the fixings of one — everything from body paint, house music and booze buckets to happy shakes, twinkling lights and fire. Lots and LOTS of fire!

After a rocky, sick-inducing ferry ride and stint in a cab, we made it to Haad Rin Beach, where the party took place. We paid our minimal entrance fee before crossing through the gate and heading straight for the body paint.

I wanted space-themed pictures on my arms (suns, moons, stars) while I had free reign with Mimi’s arms. We didn’t go crazy with the paint, but did enough so that we could have fun pointing at it under black lights later.

We walked down an alley full of vendors before reaching the sandy beach — and little could prepare me for what we were about to experience.

We entered the beach alongside a huge club shaped and lit-up like a pirate ship, which was blasting music that spilled out onto the sand and floated toward the crashing waves. To the right, we saw a massive sandy dance floor with elevated “stages” for club goers to shake it on, and signs three stories tall, awaiting a kindle so they could burst into flames and impress the partiers with their various messages.

In the far distance, beyond rows of palm trees and nestled into a rocky cliff, was an area known as mellow mountain. It consisted of three or four different bars on various levels of the hill, all serving up drinks, loud beats and happy shakes.

We ventured up mellow mountain on a few occasions during the night. I particularly liked the few bars that offered over sized pillows to sit or lay on, surrounded by floor tables. It was a nice place to relax if you had too much trance for the time being.

The mountain was lit up by twinkling, spinning, sparkling lights of every color. The result of this rainbow was that it looked more like an attraction out of Disneyland than anything else. That was the first of many times I felt that way — it was like Vegas, a playground for adults where inhibitions dropped and craziness was rampant. The out-of-this-world experience reminded me of going to places like Coachella <3 — one night cut off from the world, where the only thing that mattered was music, friends, dancing and having a great time.

On the opposite side of the pirate ship (as the club was dubbed by our group), the beach was lined with clubs blasting out intense beats, vendors selling street food and alcohol buckets, and performers amazing crowds with various forms of fiery entertainment. Since we had noshed on delicious street grub before coming to Koh Phangan, we didn’t eat at the party until much later into the evening.

The “buckets” sold on the beach came with a flask of alcohol and a chaser, ranging from soda to red bull. I wasn’t too interested in drinking since I felt a bit nauseous during a portion of the party, but I did build a sand fort with the empty bucket once one was polished off in the group :) I have sand building skills, what can I say? A few people marveled at it as they walked by.

We got wrapped up in watching one man twirling fire batons for awhile (he was amazing) before heading to the far end of the beach to watch people jumping a blazing rope.

Little did we know, these weren’t professionals at all — they were common drunkards from the bash! To say we were shocked that inebriated people would willingly subject themselves to burns at the hands of the fire rope (and the idiots who kept dousing the rope with alcohol) is an understatement.

Another party favor that didn’t sit well with me were the giant fireworks that the vendors sold to stumbling party goers. These people would buy explosives the size of my arm, then fumble around for a few minutes before figuring out how to blast the thing into space! They were beautiful but being shot off waaaaay too close to crowds of people. Call me a stick in the mud, but having my arm blown off by a firework doesn’t sound like much fun.

Although, the firework display that the professionals shot off at midnight was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing.

The majority of the crowd at the party were a few years younger than us — maybe 22-23 or so. A lot of people traveled from Europe or Australia to attend, but we didn’t run into that many more Americans.

The beach provided a perfect place for an event like this — loud and crowded in front of the clubs where you wanted to groove and get sweaty with hoardes of people, but quiet and serene in other areas of the beach, where you just wanted to lay in the sand, look at the swaying palm trees and listen to the waves crash. The large scale of the venue made these contrasts possible, which I was grateful for.

There were moments I didn’t want to get off the dance floor…

…and moments where I wanted to plop down in the sand and just observe.

We abandoned the beach close to 4 AM, when the crowds broke up and the beach was littered with trash and bottles. We got back to the ferry station at 5, only to learn that the first boat didn’t head back to Koh Samui until 7. No matter — we set up shop in the station, rested a bit and were able to see a phenomenal sunrise as we headed home.

All in all, a fabulous experience — utter madness at times, one of the craziest nights ever, but I loved every bit of it. I am so happy that I finally got to see the shenanigans on Haad Rin up close, as I have wanted to for years. I have probably gotten my fill of the full moon party (gasp…getting old) but am so glad that this is one I can put in the memory books.

Read Full Post »

It is no secret that I love Korean food — from bibimbap to gamjatang, there aren’t many dishes here that I’ve tried and haven’t loved. That being said, eating in Thailand was one of the richest culinary experiences I’ve ever had. The tropical cuisine is complex, savory and full of contrasts — sweet and sour, creamy and spicy — and uses lots of umami in the dishes.

Our first day of travel was met with some dismal dishes from the airplanes we rode in. To be fair, the food was better than on most planes, but it was seriously lacking substance. Oh, and the bread tasted like plastic — I suspect the chemicals from the wrapper leeched into the bread when it was warmed up. Clearly, I ignored this part of both meals.

The first one consisted of fried rice, which was decent. I ate allĀ  of it, but left the rest of the plate untouched. The rice actually came with a side of gochuchang, a Korean red bean paste that I’m pretty obsessed with, so that gave the cardboard cuisine some oomph.

The second meal was less memorable than the first. I ate the rice, ignored the “chicken” and ate the canned fruit. Eh.

Upon arriving in Bangkok, we immediately ordered a plate of fresh fruit and was given an array of pineapple, papaya and watermelon. The fruit was perfectly ripened, fresh, juicy, sweet and tasted like heaven after our day of airplane food.

This inspired many more plates of fruit during the duration of our vacation. Perfect!

Koh Samui, the small island where we spent our trip, is well known for it’s seafood so that was the dominant source of our energy during our stay. We noshed on everything under the sea :)

Our first day in town, Evan and I unloaded our backpacks, changed out of our sweaty travel gear and headed to our guesthouse restaurant for some Koh Samui eats. It was there we ordered the first of many plates of pad thai, and it instantly hooked me. Spicy and nutty at once, the noodles were perfectly cooked and everything was balanced with crisp vegetables and a splash of lime.

Another plate of the country’s signature dish:

That evening, we strolled to a gorgeous restaurant down the road in bustling Chaweng Beach for some fish dishes. I opted for a grilled salmon fillet (which I hadn’t had in nine months, thankyouverymuch) while Evan chose the ahi tuna. Both dishes were served with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a lemon sauce with fresh tomato.

The fish was moist and succulent. It felt so nice to get my omega-3s and enjoy a plate of seriously delectable food — all for around $10 each. The potatoes were soft and fluffy, and we practically licked the tangy sauce off of our plates, it was that good.

Despite the lack of formidable foreign cuisine in Jeonju, this meal was the only semi “foreign” fare that we had during our stay in Thailand. To come to a country with such a rich selection of cultural food and only eat spaghetti or tacos would be a total waste.

We did, however, deviate for breakfast. I couldn’t pass up beans on toast or the breakfast wrap I had. Western breakfast is somewhat of a luxury in our town.

The next day, we met up with Mimi and Matt after their long trip from the States. The four of us changed, then headed down to the dock where we would catch a ferry to Koh Phangan for the New Year’s Eve party. While we waited, we ordered some street food for a quick dinner.

We had a huge variety of carts from which to choose — everything from skewered meat and egg rolls to noodles and sweet potato pastries. In the end, we all bought and taste-tested different dishes.

I chose a rice and vegetable dish, mixed together in a spicy sauce and topped with roasted nuts (chickpeas maybe?) and served with cabbage. I gobbled it up so quick that Evan had to order another bag! Matt and Mimi chose an awesome green curry (another thing I couldn’t get enough of in Thailand). We also got a few egg rolls (yum) and Mimi picked a sweet dessert.

We danced our pants off at the beach that night, got back to the hotel at 9 AM (eek!) and passed out until it was time to hunt for dinner. We grabbed a hotel cab to Fisherman’s Village in Bo Phut, a quieter and calmer beach compared to the chaos and masses of backpackers that lined Chaweng.

We ended up dining at a great place called Starfish, where we ordered appetizers and four main dishes to share. Dining was only second best to seeing our friends in the flesh — every time we ate, we used the same system of ordering a lot and sharing everything. That way, everyone was able to taste the excellent grub. I am all for family style meals!

At Starfish, we noshed on whole snapper stuffed with lemongrass, pad thai, yellow Thai curry, glass noodles with prawns, seafood coconut milk soup and caprese salad. All washed down with red wine and Chiang. It was a particularly special night, marking the anniversaries of both Evan and I and Matt and Mimi!

For dessert, we picked up three pancakes from this guy, who was dubbed “the pancake man.” He made thin crepes with a methodical method, entertaining his customers while he made drool-worthy food to order. Our coconut/chocolate, banana/lemon/sugar and nutella/banana concoctions took about 10 minutes (at least) but they were most definitely worth the wait.

The next day, we stopped at a picturesque restaurant along the highway for a quick lunch between our jam-packed day’s adventures. It was here that we ordered the best (and cheapest) pad thai of the trip. That, along with plates of spicy vegetables and fresh fruit, hit the spot.

Dinner that night was a feast that left me feeling full for hours. From noodles and curry to sweet and sour pork with pineapple, the amount of quality food with such a wide variety of textures and tastes was nearly too overwhelming for my taste buds to handle. I kept eating long after my stomach signaled for me to stop, because who can resist a pineapple filled with pork?

On our final day on the island, we celebrated with a beach side lunch. I chose a traditional dish with prawns, mushrooms and ginger and added on an avocado salad. It was creamy, with tangy vinaigrette and acidic tomatoes. A plate of perfection. I miss avocados so much!

For dinner, we made reservations at Eat Sense, one of the most popular restaurants on the island. The food was amazing, but due to the even more amazing company, I only had the energy to take a photo of the stunningly beautiful surroundings on our walk in. It was the perfect way to end the perfect trip — lots of traditional Thai food, best friends, and red wine before our ride to the airport.

I want to go baaaaack!

Read Full Post »

Let me preface this post by saying that not even the approximate 26 hours we spent in various methods of transportation en route to our final destination in Thailand could mar my feelings about this amazing, exotic, tropical and laid-back country. I loved every second of it, even — and especially, at times — the journey.

Evan and I began our adventure on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM, when we bundled up, grabbed some kimbap and chicken strips and braved the snow to hop on a three-hour bus to Seoul, from where we would depart to Thailand early Wednesday morning. Bus travel in Korea is extremely comfortable, so as soon as we hit our seats I snuggled in and tore into our food.

Evan thought it was hilarious that I ate my chicken with chopsticks, but what was I supposed to do? My hands were filthy and not acceptable vehicles to shovel food into my mouth. I’m sure the germaphobes in my family can appreciate that.

Kimbap is a Korean dish that is similar to sushi, but instead of fresh fish wrapped in the rice and seaweed, the roll is filled with egg, various vegetables (typically carrot, spinach and pickled radish) and usually ham. It is delicious and and staple in our diet. We eat it at least two or three times a week. NOM!

Thanks to family visits, my desire for a piping bowl of chili and Evan’s competitive urge to play FIFA, we got only a few hours of sleep before it was 4 AM, and time to catch a bus to the airport. Thankfully, my cousin Tim told us about a bus straight to Incheon that took an hour, which was such a relief because the subway wasn’t running yet and besides, it’s a pain to get to the airport by train.

We waited for our 9 AM flight, watching the sunrise from the gorgeous wall/windows at Seoul Incheon. It is literally the prettiest and most efficient airport I’ve ever been to.

Our first stop was in Shanghai at around 10 AM. The airport was alright, but what really made me uncomfortable was the utter curtness of the airport employees. Everyone seemed beyond annoyed, short and like I was being a total pain in the ass. Hmph.

I feared that this may have been simply the Chinese way, but that was before I had a completely different experience in Beijing. More on that later. We killed time during our 2-hour layover with spicy chicken, onion rings and Asahi (we’ve been on a chicken kick since Christmas Eve). Hee hee.

At 4 PM, we finally arrived in Bangkok! It took 30 minutes to get through security, which was a miracle since everyone and their mother from all around the world decided that was the place to be that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were in a cab to the Bangkok train station. Once at the station, we bought tickets for an overnight train/bus/ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui, where we’d be spending our time. We were sweltering when we got there (it was in the 80s) and had peeled off layers during our trip. After all, it was about 15 degrees when we left Seoul that morning!

We celebrated our arrival with Thai beer and fresh fruit. The sleeper train was amazingly space efficient. We ate more vendor food, chatted, and people watched all the backpackers interacting until a man came around to help us assemble our bunk. As soon as my bed was ready, I crawled in and passed out.

We awoke (well I awoke) at 4 AM, because our ticket said that’s when we’d be transferring to a bus. Well that was before I knew everything ran on “Thai time,” which is roughly 1-1.5 hours late. Eventually we bussed to the pier in Champong, where we boarded a ferry that would take us to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and finally Koh Samui. We caught a gorgeous sunrise at the dock :)

We got to our destination around 1 PM, and were able to relax until more travel excursions the following day. On NYE, we had joined up with Mimi and Matt and made our way to a ferry back to Koh Phangan, where we would celebrate the new year. The ferry was so rocky, the water was choppy and the boat was full of drinking 20-year-olds. You do the math. Eesh.

We took cabs (and I use that term loosely, considering it was a pickup filled with people) to and from the party once on Koh Phangan, which was uneventful until the cab we were leaving in broke down on our way home. Everyone had to get out and push, during which I (of course) ran right out of my flip flop. I had to run back and get it, while the cab started to speed away. I screamed, ran with Mimi, and we barely made it back on. I lept for it, while a guy just swooped Meems on. It was nuts! Oh and when we were ready to leave Koh Phangan, we were at the ferry station before we realized we had 2 hours to wait before the first one. FAIL.

On the island, we got around on little motorbikes. It seemed like the preferred method of transportation for everyone, and it was awesome seeing everything from place to place, and doing activities on our own time. Plus, it was much cheaper than cabbing!

At the end of our amazing vacation, Evan and I boarded our plane to fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok around 9 PM. Once in Bangkok, we hopped aboard a 1 AM flight to Beijing, switched planes with the help of very friendly Chinese locals, and landed back in Seoul at 12 PM. A much shorter ride than the way out. I would have more to say about the seamless trip, but I literally slept for the majority of it. WIN!

In Seoul, we got tickets for the 1 PM bus to Jeonju, grabbed Dunkin Donuts and lamented that our island vacation was over. Evan: Goodbye white beaches, hello white snow. Goodbye 30 degrees celsius, hello 30 degrees farenheit. Me: Wah, waaaaaaahhh. All in all, we were really lucky that no hiccups occured on any planes, trains, buses, cabs, or motorbikes. It was a lot more travel time than the Japan trip, but ran much more smoothly.

Read Full Post »

Does it even surprise you anymore when Evan and I head to the eastern end of the country to party in Busan? We practically live there chincha!

We boarded a bus one recent early Saturday morning with our friends Chris and Matt (Marc bowed out last minute due to a late evening at Deepin). After fueling up on Dunkin’ Donuts, I spent the entire bus ride reading my book, “The Buddha of Suburbia.” Great read, if you ever get a hold of it.

We certainly are creatures of habit. The first place we stopped was the hotel we stayed in last time we were in Busan, which was clean and reasonably priced. After dropping off our backpacks, it was straight to Fuzzy Navel for a meat and avocado burrito, chips and salsa and a whole lot of mekchu.

The group strayed from FN momentarily, to check out the Paradise Casino, but Chris forgot his Alien Registration Card and we were turned away. Interesting in Korea — gambling is only legal for expats. Hrm. Maybe its a good thing we couldn’t get in!

We returned to the busy bar until dusk, when we met up with Chris’ girlfriend Jayeon. Since we were still full from a late lunch, we skipped out on dinner (smart…but not really). We just headed over to Thursday Party, where we continued the debauchery with lots of Agwa and energy drinks. Yikes.

That’s where my night ended… in my mind. Apparently there was more singing, dancing, Burger King and me falling off of multiple chairs. Not my proudest moment people. I’m going to blame it on the nightlife being too tempting in this town.

I ended up getting a decent amount of sleep before needing to check out of the hotel the next afternoon. We headed back to Namaste for an Indian lunch before putting on our tourist hats and checking out one of the most beautiful temples in the city.

The Yonggungsa Temple is an extraordinarily scenic Buddhist sanctuary that is nestled on top of an ocean-front cliff. It is stunning. It was built in 1376 during the reign of Goryeo Dynasty, and restored in 1970. We’ve visited some other tourist traps in the city, but this was my favorite to date.

The pathway leading up to the temple was littered with vendors selling touristy trinkets and street food. One area of the walkway featured twelve statues representing the animals of the zodiac. We each took a photo with our designated creatures, being sure to leave a coin on the statue so that all of our wishes come true. Evan even found a fighting Rat to take home as a souvenir!

Chris and Jayeon’s candid snapshots turned out super cute.

The main pagoda is flanked by four lion statues, representing happiness, joy, anger and sadness. There were also two giant golden pigs, quite fitting considering the swine represent wealth in Buddhism.

There is also a giant golden Buddha and the Seawater Great Goddess Buddha for people to pay their respects to. We had to tread carefully at the temple, since there were a lot of devoted Buddhists there to pray, burn incense and lay down offerings to the various idols.

In a small courtyard, there was this awesome dragon flanked by dozens of small Buddhist idols, and coins that people left to represent their hopes and dreams. It was beautiful.

One thing to check off of the “tourist checklist” of activities we need to experience before leaving in four months!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »