Thursday, June 9, 2011

Busan Bids, Riverside Festival, and Muuido

Spring has turned into summer, and time has been FLYING here in Korea! It really is starting to feel like its the home stretch.. which is crazy! Its been a great past few weeks and i wanted to update on what ive been up to.

First, the weekend after i went to Beijing i went to Busan for an ultimate Frisbee tournament. (Busan is the 2nd biggest city in Korea and is in the south and located on the water.) I had been really wanting to get to Busan for a while now and was happy to have a reason to go. Overall, it was an awesome weekend!! We played frisbee on the beach all day (which was awesome AND my team won!!), had a seafood feast for dinner one night, and bar hopped around both of the nights we were there. I really really enjoyed my weekend.. i met so many awesome people and really enjoyed spending time on the beach and the beach atmosphere of the whole city as well as checking out a new city in Korea.

The next weekend was this Riverside beer and mexican food and music festival located a few hours outside of Seoul. Me and wolfish went to check it out and had an awesome time. They were serving really good micro brews (which are super hard to come by in Korea) and tacos/quesedillas and had live music going the whole time. We didnt get there till the afternoon cause it took us forever to get to, but we ended up staying till the event finished drinking and playing cards and chilling by the water and meeting people and enjoying the music. I was really happy with my decision to make the treck out to this event!

And then last weekend we had a 3 day weekend and a big group of us went to Muuido island. This place was sooooo cool!! We stayed on this beach filled with these little huts and just relaxed and drank and ate the freshest sea food and and had bonfires at night and played a little bit of sports and music and just had a great weekend get away. The island was packed with foreigners and it was pretty much just a weekend long foreigner beach party!

That brings us to now.. all of the sudden i have 1 (ONLY ONE!!) week of real teaching left before the summer break!! next week i give an exam.. then the lone week of teaching.. then self study week.. then finals week.. then movie week.. then SEMESTER IS OVER! A month or two ago i kinda felt like i was in a rut at school and just SO bored and fed up with teaching english.. but now all of the sudden i am beginning to really get nostalgic.. about the teaching and just being in Korea in general. It is a really interesting shift in perspective..

At school, ive been passing the time by playing a lot of scrabble and chess which has been keeping me pretty entertained/busy. And im watching the HBO show Treme (set in post-katrina New Orleans) and have been reallllllllyy enjoying that as well! I definitely would recommend it to anyone looking for a new show to watch.

Anyway, all is well here and i have been staying busy and having great weekends and enjoying the summer weather. And i have REALLY been enjoying Korean food! I always enjoyed it, but recently i have become obsessed with galbi (korean bbq) and have been getting it every chance i can get and loving it!

Thanks for keeping up with this and i hope all is well wherever you are!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


My trip to Beijing was AMAZING!! I really had an incredible time! I was a little nervous heading into the trip because it was my first experience travelling alone, but everything worked out perfectly and was just great.

First, Beijing is such a cool city!! It was sooooo different from Korea. Korea is really modern and feels like an advanced city, whereas Beijing still has a really old/traditional feel to it. Beijing is a HUGE city (like 15-20 million people) but it doesnt feel like the sprawling metropolis of Seoul. It kinda felt like a really big, small city (if that makes sense). There are still traditional Chinese Hutongs (alleys) all over the city which were so cool to explore. Some of my favorite memories from my trip were just exploring the Hutongs near the hostel and observing the people in them. People spoke about as much english as they do in korea (barely any) and i forgot how difficult the language barrier can be and made me appreciate the very little Korea that i do know.

So I arrived in Beijing Tuesday afternoon and actually had a bit of trouble finding my hostel.. the directions i printed off were not very good.. and nobody spoke english (of course) but i eventually found my way and that was the only blip in an otherwise perfect vacation/trip.

When i got to the hostel (which apparently was the 2nd rated hostel in all of Asia!!) i checked into my room (which i had to myself for the first few nights) and met this Australian guy who had been living/hiking in Nepal for the past 6 weeks. We grabbed some dinner and decided to check out this Kung Fu show (#whynot). It took forever to get there cause the traffic in Beijing is absolutely miserable but the show itself was nice. The show was about this Kung Fu master who told his story. It was pretty cool and had some amazing acrobatics and fighting. After the play, on our walk home, i ran into these other guys from my hostel and decided to join them for a drink. Then it was back to the hostel to sleep.

The next day we woke up, had a leisurely breakfast and then me, the australian guy from the night before, and this German guy i met, tom (i ended up doing a lot of things with tom the rest of my trip), went to check out Tiennaman Square and the Forbidden City. Tiennaman Square was pretty cool.. tons of tourists and some hillarious Chinese propaganda videos that are always playing haaha. And then the Forbidden City was pretty cool too. Honestly, after being in Asia for almost 9 months ive gotten kinda jaded by some of the temples and asian history stuff. It IS really cool.. but is also pretty similar to other stuff that ive seen in Korea or SE Asia. The Forbiden City was pretty huge though.. and also packed with tourists and chinese people trying to scam you one way or another.

That night i got dinner with Tom and a friend of his who was studying abroad in Beijing. We got some peking duck which was pretty good. And then we went out to some bars/clubs in an area near her university. It was a nice night.

We slept in and kinda bummed around the hostel for the morning and then met up with a friend of a friend who showed us around the University that he was studying at. Later that night we checked out the Olympic Village which was pretty sweet and then tried to get to sleep earlyish cause we were goin to the great wall the next day!!

There was a bus that picked us up from the hostel at 6 AM to take us to the great wall. We decided to go to the part of the wall that was farther away, less touristy and a bit more of a strenuous hike. The bus took like 3 or 4 hours to get there and then we were free to explore for 4 hours before grabbing lunch and the bus back. The Great Wall was SO AWESOME!! It was every bit as amazing as i thought it would be! And it was cool because it was not crowded at all so at times we were the only ones on a section of the wall. It was just crazy to see how vast it was. Parts were also pretty difficult to hike.. soooooo many steps! Tom had some ipod speakers that he brought so we walked around and explored while listening to music. Really really really awesome. So we explored as much of the wall as we could in our time there with sporadic breaks to chill beside the wall and enjoy the Chinese countryside. When our time was up we hiked back down and had a great lunch and then passed out for the bus ride back to Beijing. The wall really was everything i was hoping it to be and i am so glad that i was able to see it. That was one of the things on my Asia bucket list for my experience here and im glad that i was able to cross it off!

We were exhausted when we got back and just chilled around the hostel and watched a movie and had a relaxing night.

The next day was my last day in Beijing :( but it was a good one. We rented bikes which was such a great move! Beijing is a very bike friendly city with really wide bike lanes on every road. So we biked to the Temple of Heaven which was this pretty cool park with a bunch of shrines and stuff. The temple/park was pretty enjoyable but even better was just biking around the city. It was a beautiful day and it was awesome to get to see the city by bike.

After the Temple of Heaven we went over to the Pearl marker which was HILARIOUS!! While no one in Beijing seemed to speak english, it was funny how all of the old Chinese ladies who were trying to sell you stuff spoke perfect english! I was warned before i went that you REALLY need to bargain with them because they start their prices ridiculously high. And the ladies were SO PUSHY!! They would literally scream at you 'COME LOOK AT MY SCARVES!!!,' 'LOOK AT MY SHIRTS!!' and would actually grab you and try and pull you into their stalls!! It was definitely an experience. And bargaining with them was great. They would try and sell you something at a price.. and then you would come back saying you would pay 1/10 of what they said.. and they would make a face and tell you you were crazy. But then you would walk away and they would just keep lowering and lowering until the decided price was close to 1/10 of what they were originally asking!! I got some pretty good gifts for people and a nice carved Chinese chess set for me :) We left the market and had another enjoyable bike ride back to the hostel and had a nice dinner and relaxing last night.

These guys from Oxford who were attending a robotics conference in Shanghai and came to Beijing for a few days arrived at the hostel that night. We ended up chilling with them and drinking and playing some cards for the evening. They were pretty cool and were all so smart. It was really interesting to talk with them and hear about the stuff they were doing. One thing that was so cool about this hostel and i guess most hostels is that everyone there has such a cool and unique story. That night, the group that was playing cards consisted of English/American/German Oxford Graduates, a German who was backpacking around Asia (Tom) and an American who was teaching English in South Korea. It was a pretty diverse group that all had their own interesting and very different experiences to talk about. Then the next day i just went to the airport and flew back to Seoul.

Again, i was a bit nervous about my first time travelling alone but after my experience i would absolutely recommend it. It forces you to meet people and you do meet such interesting people! This trip also reignited my passion for travel and got me even more excited for my trip in the fall. After being in Korea for so long, it doenst even feel like i am travelling here or doing something out of the ordinary. Leaving for a few days was a great refresher and has made me re-appreciate things that i had begun to take for granted here in Korea.

And im going to Busan this weekend for a Frisbee tournament which im really excited for, and then i cant believe its almost June!! Its crazy to think that i am closing in on having only 1/4 left of my time in Korea and less than 2 months of actual teaching left! I am so excited to be done with the teaching bit.. recently i have been getting really sick of this job and am excited for whatever i do next. But its so crazy to think that i am beginning the 'home stretch'.. ive been here so long and for so long felt like i would be here forever.. all now of the sudden i am approaching the end. Theres still a lot that i have to look forward to here and when the time comes i will be ready to leave. This has been quite the experience, to say the least. Anyway, im excited to check out Busan and ill write another blog once i am back!

All the best,

Here are links to my pictures from the trip:

Catching up on the spring

I’m on my way to Beijing right now and thought id update on what ive been up to the past monthish. Overall everything is good and time has been FLYING! School the past month or so has been the biggest joke ever. Ive had one wee where I gave a test and then just read during class while they were testing; one week where they had self study before their midterms. I didn’t even have to supervise while they were studying so I just sat at my desk alllllllll week. Honestly while that week was super easy, all of the sitting at my desk gets to me.. it gets SO BORING! The news and stumbleupon and tv shows can only enterain you for so long before you start to go crazy; and then a third week where the kids took midterms and then I just sat at my desk for the mornings and got to go home or out to lunch at noon. This job is the biggest joke and its hard to believe how much money the Korean government spends on us to do nothing half of the time at school.

One afternoon after midterms my coteacher invited me to lunch and then over to see his apartment. He took me to a shabu shabu (you dip thin slices of beef into a hot and spicy broth to cook and then eat) place which was pretty good and then we went for a walk/hike around this mountain that he lives by. When we finished we went back to his apartment and it was hilarious! First his apartment is almost completely empty (he lives alone). He has about 4 decent sized rooms and none of them have anything in them!! Then he showed me pictures of him from high school and college and of him doing hapkido (some Korean martial arts) which was also so funny. I also convinced him to give me a nun-chuck (yes, he as nun-chucks or however you spell them) demonstration in one of his empty rooms HAAA!!! We finished off the afternoon my Joseph playing and singing some traditional Korean song on guitar. It all was hysterical and also nice to see how/where joseph lives. I really have a great coteacher and am very thankful for all that he has done and helped me with.

During Passover me and a few of my friends went to a seder at an army base that isn’t too far from where I live. That was quite the experience as well. From the moment you walk through the gates onto the base it is like you step back into America. English signs… American restaurants… American architecture.. and all americans. It was interesting cause I went onto the base for Rosh Hashana a few weeks into my time in Korea and was not nearly as taken aback by how American everything was. I honestly felt culture shocked. The seder was nice also.. it was super chill with a few military families who were all very friendly. The jewish stuff was nice too.. when youre in SUCH a different place little bits of familiarity are really appreciated and feel really nice and comforting. Throughout the seder I kept feeling like I was back in America.. the whole thing was definitely an experience.

I went to a soccer and baseball game a few weeks ago. The soccer game was great. The Koreans were going nuts the whole time and some of them were waving Che Guevara (??) flags at the game haaahaha! And the baseball game was awesome and hilarious too.. the Koreans were singing the entire game and there are cheerleaders constantly trying to interact with the crowd and get the crowd involved. All of the games are BYO anything you want so everyone was getting wasted and bringing in pizzas and any other sort of food you could imagine.

My Aunt Jill and cousin Carrie are currently visiting Korea (I have a cousin who is teaching in Korea as well) and I had a really nice weekend with them. On Saturday we did a lot of walking around Seoul and had some nice meals and some nice chatting. Then on Sunday I met them for dinner and some more walking and talking. It was really nice to see them. Again, in such a different place, any semblance of home and things that remind you of it is really nice.

Well I think that’s about it. Im pretty excited for my trip to Beijing! I am traveling by myself and this is the first time I have done something like this which is pretty exciting. Ill write all about it once I am back.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mom and Jeremy's visit, St Pattys Day, and My Birthday

Ive been lazy about updating this recently and so now i have a lot i need to cover.. First Jeremy and my mom's visit a few weeks ago was SO NICE!! They got here on a thursday and i met up with then in Seoul on Friday and we had an awesome awesome weekend and following week together. We did a bunch of sight seeing.. Jeremy and my mom did a bunch of shopping at the Korean markets that sell all kinds of crazy stuff for real cheap had some nice meals and just really had a nice time. Jeremy and my mom came into school with me for a few days and that was great. The kids all were freaking out at meeting them and were just super excited and hilarious. One class that i had, Jeremy walked in like half way through because he was doing some work at my house, and the kids literally all started cheering and clapping and it was just too funny. It was really really really great having my family here.. it was great to show them a bit of what my life is like here and just to have some pieces of home here while i am so far away. And my school hooked it up and gave me a day and a few afternoons off while they were visiting so i got to spend more time with them. My school is pretty legit and really has been great to me.. so its good to have no complaints on that end.

The day that my fam left was St. Pattys day and there were some celebrations going on around Seoul that me and my friends went to. It was a nice spring day and real fun to be outside and celebrate with lots of other foreigners. Then, that night, we went to this all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink thing at this irish bar which was awesome. We got there around 630 and stayed till 1 so we all for sure got our moneys worth.

Last weekend was also my birthday! And thank you to all of people that wrote me messages and had kind wished for me. I had a really really nice time talking with friends that day and weekend which made it really special and enjoyable. So anyway, on my birthday, which was a friday, me and a bunch of friends met at this Memphis BBQ place in seoul. BBQ is really really hard to find here and the place that we went to ended up being awesome.. well definitely be back. After dinner, we went to this cool hookah bar that was around the area that i really like. AND at this place they have a bunch of drums for the guests to play around with.. and every time that i have been there i have wanted to play them soooooo badly but hadnt.. but this time me and a few of my friends jammed out on them for a while which really made me soooooooo happy! I loved playing the drums in madison and really miss the drum circles that we got involved with.. so it was great to get to play a bit over here :)

After that bar we bar hopped around and drank and hung out and it was just a nice night. It was a fun night and getting to talk as much as i did with some of the people from home made me really happy and the weekend special.

I saw MGMT last weekend which were pretty fun. And it was a buddy of mines birthday last weekend so we went to this AWESOME brazillian steak house on saturday.. that place was SOOOO good!!! These birthdays have been awesome for discovering some more great places to eat in Seoul.

And now here we are into April and i can hardly believe it. I cant believe that i am already 1/4 finished with this semester! AND the next month is going to be such a joke at work!! Next week I give an exam, so i just hang out while the kids are testing.. and the following week the kids have self study all week for their mid terms which are the following week.. and then for their midterms i dont have to do anything and get to leave school at noon!! And then its already May!! I just booked a trip to go to China may 10-15 which i am also really excited for! I am travelling by myself because no one else i know has those days off of school (again, my school pretty much hooked it up) which i know will be an interesting and exciting experience.

Overall, things are well.. i still get bored with some of the teaching and all of the time just sitting at my computer but the weather is getting nicer which is good and i am getting increasingly excited for my upcoming travels.

Thanks again to all of you who made my birthday so nice!

Hope all is well and be in touch!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Clapton, Whiskey Live and quick update


So currently Jeremy and my mom are en route to Korea!! They are scheduled to arrive tonight at like 10 PM and are heading straight into Seoul to stay for the night.. and then I will meet up with them after school tomorrow!! Im realllllyyyy excited!!! It'll be great to show them what my life is like here and show them Seoul. Once they leave, I will make sure to write and tell about what we did.

Anywayy.. the past month or so since i got back from Hong Kong has been nice.. The weather is starting to warm up which is real nice and im getting settled back into the 'normal' work routine. Teaching this semester is going to be even easier than last semester because i have new kids and can use the same lessons that i used last semester with them. While the teaching continues to be really, really, really easy.. i am starting to get kinda sick of it. I dont mind actual teaching and the kids are good (for the most part) but doing the same lesson over and over again each week just gets so repetitive and mindless!! And i am already getting bored with all of the time i just sit on my computer between classes.. This has been and continues to be a great experience.. but i will be happy with my year here and will be glad to move onto something new once my contract is finished. Its crazy.. i pretty much have 4 months of straight teaching (maybe with a weekish break somewhere in the middle where i hope to go to China) and then mid july the semester ends and i have a few weeks off for summer break and a few weeks of 'camps', like i had in the winter, for a few hours a day and then i am outta here. Its crazy being on the count-down side opposed to the count-up side of my time here.

One of the highlights of the past few weeks here was seeing Eric Clapton. He was AMAZING! His voice sounded great and his playing sounded great and it was just a really great time. He is incredible and didnt seem to have lost anything in his increased age. I am really glad that i was able to see him live.

By far the coolest thing that has happened the past few weeks and one of actual coolest things i have ever done was Whiskey Live Seoul. Whiskey Live is a travelling whiskey taste testing event that goes all over the world and for the first time this winter, stopped in Seoul. It was hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel and was just incredible. It was a little pricey.. but sooooooo worth it! We got there, paid our entrance fee and paid some extra to get some premium tasting tickets and then hit the tastings! The event was held in the ballroom and the way it was set up was all of these different whiskey companies had booths around the ballroom.. and you just walked around and could taste all of the different brands' whiskey. The bottom level of each brand's whiskey was included in the ticket price (jonny walker red and gold label, makers mark, jamison, jack etc..) and then the premium whiskey cost a one or a few premium tickets. AND at the event they were serving unlimited Guinness!!! Which is my favorite!!! As well as other cocktails which i wasnt really interested in.. So, me and a few buddies spend the afternoon (from about 2-7pm) walking around and sampling all of the different brands and drinkings tons of guinness. We started off, while we were still pretty sober, sampling the nice ones and using our premium tickets. We sampled this one whiskey, which was AMAZING, that retails for over 1500 USD a bottle!!! It was really really awesome. And then, after we used all of our premium tickets and had tasted the ones we really wanted to.. we just went around the room booth by booth getting samples of everything!! I can not say enough how awesome this thing was.. one of the coolest things i have ever done.

Well that about wraps it up.. overall things are good and im looking forward to a nice week with my family. Thanks for reading and I hope everything is good at home!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hong Kong and Macau

Sorry its a bit belated but... My trip to Hong Kong and Macau for the lunar new year was AMAZING! We all had the best time and everything just worked out really great without us doing too much planning in advance. Hong Kong is such a cool city! It is definitely one of my favorite cities that i have ever been to. It really is a perfect mix of east and west. There are two main parts of the city that we were in: Kawloon and Hong Kong island. Kawloon has a really 'chinese' feel to it opposed to Hong Kong Island which feels like a big international city. It was really cool to have both east/west feels to the city opposed to Korea which is overwhelmingly eastern feeling. Its cool that Korea is so eastern though, because its a crazy different experience than any other even remotely western city, but Hong Kong has a nice blend that made it seem cool and different, but also familiar enough to make it livable. Hong Kong is definitely a city i would like to go back to.

So anyway.. out trip. We arrived to our hostel (in Kawloon) around midnight and dropped our bags off and went out exploring a bit. The lady running our hostel directed us towards an area that has some bars so we went to check it out. On the way, we passed a place that looked like it was serving dim sum.. and we were starving.. so we decided to check it out. It turned out the be a great decision! and about the first dim sum meal out of many many many many in our time in Hong Kong. The dim sum was delicious, fast, and cheap! They had a lot of the familiar favorites that ive had back home and some new stuff. But overall the meal was amazing and we got a ton of dishes and it only cost like $4 a person. ... So far so good in Hong Kong!

After we ate, we walked around the bar area more trying to find a place to sit and have a few drinks. At first we were deterred by the signs reading ~$20 USD for beer.. until we realized that they were advertising for 6 beers! (I guess at a lot of places they sell beer in sets of 6) This made the price waaayyy more appealing and we eventually settled on a place and drank our beers and relaxed and enjoyed our first evening in HK.

When we woke up the next day we went to another dim sum place for breakfast and then walked around exploring some markets near our hostel. I got a pair of 'Beats by Dre' headphones for like $12!!!! (They retail for over $100) So i was pretty pumped about that. After exploring the markets for a while we headed over to the harbor front to the 'Avenue of the Stars.'

The Avenue of the Stars is like Hong Kong's version of Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Its a stretch of promenade adjacent to the harbor that has handprints of famous chinese celebrities. We only recognized a few of the names (Jackie Chan, Jet Lee) but the coolest thing about the Avenue of the Stars is the view. The view of Hong Kong Island from the other side of the harbor is really really amazing. It reminded me of like a smaller, cleaner and newer Manhattan.

So we hung out along the promenade and enjoyed the view of Hong Kong for a bit and then headed back to the hostel to relax before heading back out for dinner.  When we ventured back out to try and find something to eat, almost everything was closed due to it being Lunar New Years Eve. After walking around, we eventually found a dim sum place that was open to have dinner. The rest of the night we bar hopped around the area we were the night before.. people watched at this packed flower market.. played some darts and ended the night by eating some delicious chinese beef brisket soup that we all put WAY too much chili sauce in which resulted us in all getting the spicy hick-ups. Despite the spicy hick-ups, the soup was delicious.

The next day we explored Hong Kong Island and ended up going on a bus tour of the city.  The bus tour was a cool and relaxing way to see the whole island. After the bus tour we explored a pretty sweet park that was in the city.. Hong Kong had a few pretty cool parks. I cant say enough how cool this city is!!

Later in the day we went to the big New Years parade. It was pretty cool but was kinda overhyped. It was SO packed and we could barely see and honestly, as far as parade quality goes,  id take the hollidazle or the macys parade over the new years parade in HK. But, it was still real cool to experience it. During the parade we discovered that they sold dim sum at 7/11!!! Amazing! And it wasnt bad either! Again, Hong Kong is the coolest.

After the parade we checked out the Intercontinental Hotel which we were told has amazing views of Hong Kong.. and we were not disappointed. We all felt pretty cool enjoying drinks and the skyline in one of the fanciest hotels in the city. Then we went over to Lan Kwai Fong which is like the bar/club scene area on Hong Kong island which was also really cool. We had a few drinks and enjoyed the night before heading back to our hostel.

The next day was a BIG day! So we had hostels booked for the first 3 nights we were in HK.. and the last night that we were in HK.. but we were going to Macau (Chinese Vegas) for that night and everything was either booked cause of the new year or too expensive so we were homeless until 2PM the NEXT day when we could check into our final hostel.

We woke up, got suited up in our sweet fitted suits (we thought that Macau was a good opportunity to rock our new suits), grabbed some dim sum lunch in HK and hopped on the ferry over to Macau.

Macau was another really really cool place. Hong Kong was the perfect cool mix of east/west and Macau, being a formerly Portuguese colony, had the super cool feel of european/chinese... plus vegas. There were parts of Macau that we were walking around in that had all of these beautiful European style buildings and cobblestone streets and european-esque squares... all littered with chinese ballons and lights and writing. The city felt really awesome. Parts literally felt like you were in Europe. And then of course there are the HUGE casinos and lights!! One minute we were walking in this quaint european feeling square and the next we were in front of a huge casino and felt like you are in Vegas! Macau was a really cool place to experience.

When we arrived in Macau, we did some exploring, ate some traditional food (which was delicious) and did some more walking around before hitting the casino. We had a LONG night ahead of us so we were in no rush to get anywhere.. When we were done exploring the city, we checked out a few casinos to see what we liked. We began at The Wynn where we found a cigar bar with a really cool garden area that we relaxed in and had a few drinks.. then we relocated to another casino and sat down at the blackjack table.

We played blackjack and a little bit of craps for most of the night and somehow, we all ended up winning $$!! With our winnings, we ordered a dim sum FEAST at like 6am and were trying to ride the high of winning as long as we could. After our meal, we went back to the ferry terminal and took an 8AM ferry back to HK. Once we were back in HK, we wandered around for a while (literally hours) looking for a place where we could just sit and watch sports.. finally we were directed to a part of town, Soho, where we found an awesome restaurant that had western breakfast and was playing ESPN. We waited out the last few hours till we could check into that nights hostel there.

FINALLY, at 2 we went to our hostel and took an extremely needed nap. After the nap, we went down to the Avenue of the Stars to check out the famous light show. Every night, at 8 PM, the skyline of HK island puts on a really sweet light show which im happy we got to see. Then, we headed back to Soho for dinner. Soho ended up being a really sweet part of HK that I am glad we discovered. It was really western and nice and had some amazing looking western restaurants. We settled on this mexican place and the food and drinks were excellent.

Once we finished dinner, we headed back to Lan Kwai Fong and chilled in a hookah bar for a bit, went to this ice bar (pretty cool experience), and then went to this bar/club on the top of a hotel that had really sweet views of the city. It was a fun end to a crazy day and a nice last night in HK.

Hong Kong was everything that i was hoping it to be and more! I can not say enough how much i enjoyed that city. It was just so cool and eastern AND western and i would love to go back there some day.

Heres a link to my pictures from the trip 

Back in Korea things are well. This month ive only had to teach in the afternoons which has been really nice and easy and the new semester starts the beginning of March. The time here continues to FLY and i cant believe that i have almost been here for 6 months!! CRAZY! I continue to really enjoy my experiences and am so happy that i decided to come to Korea.

Hope all is well a home!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cambodia and Thailand!

Alright so I have quite a bit of catching up to do starting with Dori and my trip to Cambodia and Thailand. In one word the trip was AMAZING! It was everything I was hoping it to be and more and everything worked out so well.

Our trip began the day after the badgers lost in the Rosebowl (bummer, but was a good time regardless). We flew into Phnom Phen Cambodia and arrived around 10 at night. We were greeted by the warm smiles that seemed to be permanently fixed on all of local Cambodian’s faces.. as well as warm weather J (PS. Asian airlines are awesome! Every flight that we took, even if it was less than an hour, served foo!) It was a great start to a great trip.

I loved Phnom Phen. Its this little city on a nice riverside which has a cool promenade with lots of bars and restaurants. In Cambodia, stuff is SO cheap, and things are listed in and they accept USD everywhere so it feels really cheap too.  Meals were maybe 2-4 dollars and these were for nice meals! In korea you can get tons of cheap meals, but they feel kinda like cheap meals. In Cambodia, you can eat really really well for next to nothing. Although the food was so cheap, it was not the same for alcohol (maybe $4ish a drink).  Also, massages were SO CHEAP! Like $6 for an hour massage (we probably got one almost every day of the trip) and there were massage places on every corner.

But anyway, we were staying at this nice little place along the river which was perfect for walking along the main strip. To get around to the other parts of the city we took tuk-tuk which were just mopeds with carriges on the back of them. These guys were everywhere and would take you most places for just a dollar or two.  In our one full day in Phnom Phen we hired a tuk tuk to chauffer us around to the major attractions, which was great.

We went to the killing fields first which were pretty horrifying. So much senseless death.. walking around the fields had a similar feeling to a concentration camp.

After the fields, we went to the Egyptian Market which was just this big market. It was cool.. I got some shirts and that is where we discovered sugarcare and mangosteen!! Both of these are now at the top of my favorite things to eat list and I will most definitely eat as much of them as I possibly can whenever available.

Later that day we checked out the royal palace which was pretty cool.. but honestly you get kinda jaded by all of the crazy but similar architecture. That being said, it was still a pretty sweet place to walk around. After that, we got Dr Fish foot massage!!! I had heard about this a while ago and have been wanting to try it and was glad to finally have the opportunity. Dr Fish foot massage is where you stick your feet in a pool of these little fishes that eat the dead skin off of your feet (or something like that). At first it was honestly a little bit nerve racking and when you first put your feet in the water it takes a lot of restraint not to squirm because it feels so weird/ticklish.. but after you get used to it, it is honestly kinda nice.

Overall Phnom Phen was AWESOME and I would love to go back sometime. The next morning we headed to Siem Riep.

We got to Siem Riep in the afternoon and were pretty burnt out from the long ride so we decided to have a pretty chill first day and just explore the city. Siem Riep was also so cool! They have this Pub Street area which is pretty much a street filled with bars/restaurants and at night they make it pedestrian only so you can walk from bar to bar with your drinks and its no problem. It felt like a SE Asian Beale Street. So our first day in Siem Riep we walked around, got a cheap massage, and got dinner and drinks and hung out around Pub Street. That place gets pretty wild at night and we had a really great time.

The next day we hired a tuk tuk to take us around the major temples in the area highlighted by Ankor Wat. All of the temples were really really cool and crazy and amazing to see but Ankor Wat was definitely the coolest. We climbed around and explored different temples for the morning/afternoon and by the time we were finished were ready to relax by the pool and have another enjoyable night around Pub Street. Also, at one of the temples we rode an elephant!!! That was one of the things on our to-do list and it was definitely an experience. After our ride, we got to feed and pet the elephant which was really really cool.

Overall Cambodia was amazing! I am so glad that I got to go there and experience it! Everyone is so nice and everything is so cheap and its just a great place to see. The next day we took a flight to Bangkok.

That afternoon in Bangkok we went to the Royal Palace which is home to the Emerald Buddah. It was cool to see and to walk around the gardens and stuff but again, you kinda get jaded by all of these temples and palaces.. but it was still cool.
That night Dori wasn’t feeling well so we just hung out at our hotel and went to bed early.

The next day we woke up and took a flight down to Krabi en route to Ton Sai Bay on the SW coast of Thailand.  To get there, we took a cab from the airport to Ao Nang bay where the only means of getting to Ton Sai is by longboat.  We decided to go to Ton Sai on the very very very high recommendation of a good friend of Dori’s.. so needless to say our expectations for this beach were very high.

We arrived and checked into our hut which was just a few minutes walk from the beach and very soon learned what a gem Ton Sai bay really was. Its pretty much this stip of hippie beach filled with rock climbers (Ton Sai is knows for its rock climbing) and people rocking dreads. It was not touristy at all and the food was cheap and the music good and this place was about as close to paradise as anywhere that I have ever been. Its really just this amazing strip of beach scattered with restaurants and bars in the Thai jungle.  I can not do this place justice at all by describing it, it was just that cool.

While we were there we spend our days eating pad thai, mango and sticky rice, tom tum, playing in the water, playing chess, watching the rock climbers and monkeys and just chilled out. One morning I played with some boatmans pet monkey which was SO COOL! I know this seems obvious, but monkeys are crazy good climbers and it was so fun to have them climbing all over me.

One afternoon we hiked through a bit of jungle that separated Ton Sai with the more touristy Reilley beach. The travel books raved more about Reilley beach and when we asked anyone on Ton Sai about it, all they would say is that it was ‘touristy’. I didn’t even know what they meant by that but wanted to see it for myself. So we hiked through the jungle separating the two beaches (which itself was amazing.. one of the many highlights of the trip) and arrived at Reilley Beach to find it… touristy. It was more crowded with more obnoxious chachke shops and more expensive and compared to Ton Sai was just annoying. We grabbed a snack and smoothie there and then quickly heaed back to Ton Sai. On our way back, instead of climb through the jumgle we decided to swim which ended up being really cool as well.

Our time in Ton Sai was really really amazing and we were really sad to leave it.. I could not be happier that we chose Ton Sai out of the many many different beaches in Thailand and would love to return and just bum around there for a while some day. But alas, after our few days we headed over to Ko Samui which is an island off the east coast.

Getting to Ko Samui was so obnoxious.. a longtail ride.. a cramped thai taxi.. 2 annoying bus rides and a ferry later we arrived at our place on Ko Samui. The only nice thing about this journey was on the ferry to the island we got hour foot massages for just a few dollars J The whole transit though was annoying and long.

Once we arrived at our beautiful place, all of our tensions were gone and we were back in paradise. Our place on Ko Samui was really really relaxing. A lot of nice meals and walks on the beach and just enjoying the beach and each other. The reason that we chose ko Samui as our other place to go was because of the famous full moon parties which take place on the nearby island of Ko Phagnan every full moon and we had heard were the wildest parties ever. The full moon didn’t happen to coincide with our trip, so we opted for the half moon party (not as cool as the full moon party but still quite an experience.)

There were supposed to be ferrys  running from Ko Samui to Ko Phagnan hourly throughout the evening and night, so we were planning on taking an evening ferry and coming back whenever we felt like it in the middle of the night. But, our hotel informed us at around 6 PM that because the half moon party was smaller than the full moon party, only normal ferrys were scheduled which meant the last ferry to depart was at 630 PM and the first ferry in the morning was at 7AM. We quickly decided that despite this, we still had to go to this party. So we quickly got our stuff together and raced to the port and made the final ferry over to Ko Samui.

In Ko Samui, we grabbed dinner and walked around and got another massage to kill time before the party started. While we were walking around, we also found out that there WERE ferrys running throughout the night which was a huge relief to us because we didn’t really want to have to wait until 7AM to go back to our place on Ko Samui.

So eventually we head to this party in the jungle with tons of cheap buckets of alcohol and neon lights everywhere and drank and danced and enjoyed until we decided we were tired and wanted to begin our journey home. Overall the party was cool, but from what we gathered not quite as cool as the full moon party. It was still quite an experience though.

We hardly slept that night and spend our last day in Ko Samui just lounging around and recovering from the night before. The next day we departed for one more day in Bangkok.

We arrived in Bangkok in the aftternoon and walked around the city and just explored. I really liked Bangkok, it was pretty cool. That night, for dinner we went to this nice restaurant on like the 30th floor of a building that had amazing views of the cit. After we went to the red light district and bar hopped and had a really fun last night in Thailand.

Then we had a really nice few days back in Korea before Dori left to go back home L.  The trip was so so so amazing just as was the time with Dori. Everything was as good or better than I ever imagined.

Back in Korea things are really really good. Ive only had to work in the afternoons which has been great. It seems the longer I am  here, the more I am enjoying Korea. It is such a cool and hilarious country and I am so happy with my decision to spend the year here. Korea has been, and continues to be just a great experience that I am sure I will look back on positively for the rest of my life.

Now I am en route to Hong Kong for the lunar new year for another adventure. Hope all is well back home! I wrote this on the plane ride to HGK so sorry for not putting pictures on here.. there are a bunch up on facebook if you want to check them out!