Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

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Asia, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

Jet Lag Junkie

Jet lag has set in, which means I’m up at 2:48 am drinking a coffee and eating a kiwi. From 3 – 4 am, I went to the hotel gym for some yoga to start off the day, then was at breakfast, wide eyed and ready by 6. 

The unfortunate thing about being up so early is that nothing is open. So, it doesn’t really benefit you to go wander the streets. There is one place in the city that opens at dawn: the fish market. 

Early morning eel cleaning

Noryangjin Fish Market is where all the best restaurants in the city come to buy their seafood. Not surprisingly, there were no other tourists there at 7 in the morning, so we were quite the spectacle. Probably because I kept stopping to take pictures of stuff like this.

Is shark fishing even legal?

Yes, I wore white shoes this day

After our fish market tour, we made our way to a neat little shopping district. 

We ducked into a random restaurant that we walked by for lunch. It was the sort of place that requires you to take your shoes off at the door and sit on the floor to eat. 

When we were properly barefoot and seated, we realized that there was no menu in English. Our waitress also quickly realized that we didn’t speak Korean. A conundrum ensued, in which she was presumably asking us (in Korean) what we wanted to order. She was getting blank stares in return, so she did what any good waitress would do. Babbled at us in Korean, made a two sign, and just brought us something. 

Two steaming bowls of something.  

Still unsure of what we’d gotten ourselves into, I started pulling out chunks of bone and meat, hoping to identify something. If you’ll remember back with me to What Did You Say?, unidentifiable bowls of meat and vegetables don’t always work out in my favor. 

But, it tasted pretty good. Jake’s review of the stew was a little different than mine. 

I believe this is a correct direct quote:

“It doesn’t taste exactly like dirt, but just a little bit.”

Later in the day when we met up with some friends, I hesitantly asked them exactly what we’d eaten. 

It’s called Haejangguk, a spicy mixture of pork bones, vegetables, and broth. But, more commonly, it’s referred to as “Hangover Stew”. 

I’m not sure if I should be offended that she mistook my jet lagged looking face for being hungover or thankful that introduced us to the delicious Korean remedy. 

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Asia, Food, Travel

No Soup For You

Finding a post office around here was a little bit difficult. Fortunately, not only did we find a post office, we found the post office. As in, the central headquarters of the post office. Which was huge. And, it just so happened that we found it in the middle of a protest. So, I crossed the police lines to try to find out what was going on (and where I could buy a stamp) I figured it wasn’t too dangerous because they were all eating soup. I was actually just trying to find out how I could obtain a red vest so that I could get in the soup line too. But, then, I figured I probably couldn’t pass for a protester. So, no soup for me.

Soup Time Selfie

Soup Time Selfie

IMG_2968

I’ve basically covered the scale on Korean dining. I’ve done street food, home-cooked, traditional, and fine dining. As you can probably tell, fine dining is not my usual fare. I guess if I had to describe my dining style, “hole in the wall” would probably be the best phrase. Give me a grungy taco shop where I have to order in Spanglish and I’ll be a happy camper. (Have I mentioned that I haven’t had Mexican food for 7 days now? This may be a personal record for me.) However, fine dining experiences are fine.(I can never pass up an opportunity for a pun!)

Let me go ahead and explain what a fine dining experience entails in Korea. They sit you down at a table that is full (as in 20 or more dishes) of food that ranges from recognizable to “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” You begin eating, mostly picking up bites of things with your chopsticks from all the different dishes. Then, they begin coming in with more dishes, replacing the ones on your table with new things and continue this parade of food for an hour or so.

Part of our crowded table

Part of our crowded table

They say there’s a first time for everything, so I’ll detail a few of my firsts.

Mugwort pancakes: I thought the green ones were seaweed, but I was wrong. I actually really liked these (plus mugwort has great health benefits) and Jake graciously gave me his portion.

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Lotus root: I saw the gray disks presented and they sat on the table for the entire meal untouched. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked what they were (knowing that if I asked, I was going to be obligated to try them.) I was told they were lotus root, and so I picked one up, prepared for it to be squishy. But, again, I was wrong. They were crunchy and slightly nutty tasting. Also really good! I was told that lotus root has blood cleansing properties that make it a great food for health.

Lotus root and anchovies

Lotus root and anchovies

Jellyfish: Slimy. That’s the only word for this. It tastes exactly like what you would expect. Chewy and slimy. Appetizing, right? You kinda just chew and swallow and move on. Did I mention that refusing something is basically not an option?

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

One of the meals we attended had 35 dishes, so as you can imagine, there was much much more. However, I think I hit the high points with these three.

Pair of Choux

Pair of Choux

Oh, and we finally did find our shoes at Dunkin Donuts, what luck!

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