the highlight of the trip was the day we spent at the most popular beach in Korea, Haeundae Beach.
Contrary to our expectations, the water was clear, shallow, and seemed clean enough. There were tons of kids and teens in the ocean hanging on to inner tubes riding the waves.
To get to Busan, which is on the southernmost tip of South Korea, we took the train from Seoul Station. The mugunghwa class train takes 5 hours from Seoul to Busan and costs $25. We managed to escape the rain clouds which poured down on Seoul during the three days that we were gone.
All we had to deal with was lots and lots of hot sun =) At Haeundae Beach, no one brings their own sun umbrella to the beach. They're all rented for 5,000 won, resulting in the sand being covered with identical red and white umbrellas advertising McDonalds and Lotteria.
We had to find someone with non-sandy hands to take a photo of us. When the picture was finally taken, we found out that you could barely see our faces because of the shadow. I adjusted the shadows and highlightings to fix the picture, and now we have some kind of weird halo around our figures, like we're angels O:-]
Around Haeundae Beach are lots of small restaurants and vendors. The stores have a somewhat limited selection of beach supplies though. Mark found himself buying a Disney Princesses towel =p
We met up with some native Busan-ers (?) for dinner. They took us to a place that serves a chicken dish which is a Busan specialty.
It was basically pieces of chicken and rice cake in a spicy sauce. The sauce was definitely the best part, I'd never tasted it before; a flavorful fusion that tasted like barbecue sauce and spicy Korean gochujang (red pepper paste). I'm not sure why there are corn kernels and pickles in it though.
After we ate, I had to visit the 붕어빵 (bungabbang~ bunga is the word for goldfish, bbang means bread) vendor down the street. hese little pastries are delicious!! Batter is poured into a fish shaped mold and baked with red bean in the middle. To clear up any misunderstanding, there are no fish products whatsover inside.
In the States, there is also an ice cream version of this made by Binggrae.
Oh and I can't forget the sesame ice cream.
AMAZING. Sold by Natuur as a "well-being" ice cream. It's my new favorite flavor.
Gorgeous sunset view.
The not so gorgeous yeogwan (cheap motel) that I stayed at. But for $20 a night and your own bathroom, it's a good deal. Still, I was afraid that something would crawl out of a crack in the wall and bite me while I was asleep.
We also went to Gwangalli Beach, famous for its nighttime view of the Gwangan bridge, the longest bridge in Korea.
Korean palm trees
Near the university district in Busan, we found "Foxy", which boasted both a bar and a dance *cave*.
At Foxy I witnessed multiple male couples grinding enthusiastically on each other. These guys were straight (many Koreans are still deeply suspicious of homosexuals). And there were no guys and girls dancing together ^^;;
Kaila and I went to the biggest bath house in Asia.... HUR SHIM CHANG MOGYOKTANG! (허심창)
With multiple floors, it is spa heaven. The first floor has a fountain, a beauty salon, small shops, and a yummy bakery =)
Here's a directory.
Sorry, no photos from inside the mogyoktang, I think I would have been kicked out if someone had seen me taking pictures of naked people =p
Basically, one floor has jjeemjjeelbangs, which are different saunas. They're big igloo shaped structures which you walk into and relax in--one is hot and made out of clay, another one is of intermediate temperature (it's called jewelry room and has pretty mosaics on the wall), and the last one is cold with snow and fake ice crystals lining the walls. This floor also has a lounge area where families sit together, relax, and talk; an ice cream and snack shop; a restaurant serving traditional Korean food; foot baths; an Oxygen room (which is supposed to stimulate growth hormones?); an aromatherapy room; and a DVD room. The jjeemjjelbang floor is coed--men and women are given gowns to wear while relaxing, sweating, and chilling.
On the other floor, however, you are completely and utterly NAKED. This floor has the "Grand Hot Springs", a huge atrium with different pools and waterfalls. Temperatures range from steaming hot to warm, cool, and ice cold. There are also "caverns" which run through rocky walls, streams of water coming from the ceilings to simulate waterfalls, and pools with colored water scented with strange herbs that are supposed to have health benefits.
Here are pictures from the Hur-Shim-Chang website:
Not to sound like a nudist advocate or anything, but being naked with 500 other Korean women is less awkward than I thought it would be. First of all, once you see hundreds of naked women, everyone starts to look similar. And secondly, the people at the hot springs range from infant age to old grandmothers. It was obvious that everyone had been coming to public baths for their whole lives and felt completely comfortable.
Once I came out of the sweating room, chilling room, hot baths, and cold baths (and enjoyed a bowl of Korean miyukguk, or seaweed soup along the way), I felt completely refreshed.
Hur-Shim-Chang was gorgeous and huge and you're free to stay as long as you want. If you tried to go to a similar spa in America, it would probably cost you around $100. Guess how much the bill came to here? . . . . . 7,500 won. That's $7.50 in the US.
Ahh, I'm so sad I don't live in Busan =(
More scenic views of Busan taken on the train ride back..
And random photos of the party that my Sogang teacher had at her house for our class a week ago:
It's Daun's birthday and she's making a wish...
I'm going for the cake. By the way, cakes in Korean bakeries are works of art! Not to mention that they taste heavenly.
Our teacher had samgaetang at her house for her, the traditional chicken soup dish which you're supposed to eat in the summer. It's hot, but somehow refreshing. A small chicken is stuffed with sweet rice, ginseng, dates, and chestnuts and then boiled until tender and juicy.
It was a feast:
Sunsengneem's kid is adorable =)
Last week we also met up with Professor Hwang, a professor at Yale/Yonsei for dinner.. and then went to Milky Road.
Milky Road deserves its own blog entry one day. But as you can see, all of our patbingsoo bowls are scraped clean. =P
It's funny how people rely on stereotypes in tough situations. In Psych we learned that stereotypes are actually a survival mechanism.. in the majority of situations, our stereotypes are true, and so having them helps us act quickly when we need to.
Well, Koreans have some strange stereotypes of Americans! For example, a Korean friend told me that most people from a certain nation have a defining scent. Apparently the Japanese have a briny, oceany smell; Indians have a pungent, spicy smell; and Koreans have a alcohol-y, garlic-y smell (Okay, she didn't actually say alcohol-y smell, but it's true!).
"What about Americans? Do we have a particular smell?" I asked, curious. She replied (in Korean, of course), "Ahh, yes! It's hard to describe, but they have this vague odor sometimes...smells just like eggs!"
EGGS? I was expecting maybe grease, sugar, sweat? But...eggs.. I guess it could be worse.
The other thing I keep hearing is that Americans are very "opposite of conservative". Yeah... this was clarified when I bought a Korean magazine one day. It had a special called "Vacance Sex Report".
It was one of those spreads where they do a whole bunch of polls about what percentage of people wait to have sex before marriage, the preferred location of most couples to have sex, what they like to do afterwards, all that TMI stuff.
Well, this magazine is obviously a Korean magazine and 95% of the models in it are, understandably, Korean. But when you get to the sex section, everyone suddenly switches to white. Not a single Korean or Asian-looking model in the entire spread. Just a wholleee bunch of white couples kissing, making out, and seducing each other.
C'mon.. are Americans just that sexy? I mean, eggs are hardly considered an aphrodisiac. (Not to mention the fact that white does not equal American.. I mean, what happened to all the blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc. I guess they don't have sex either)
Despite America's reputation for romance, I have NEVER seen as many couples walking around on the streets as I have in Seoul. If you're walking on the street in Sinchon, I guarantee that you will be behind a giggling, hand-holding couple who will stop at EVERY stall to look at items and unapologetically take up the entire sidewalk.
Seoul is the city for lovers. Forget Paris or Milan. Here there are multitudes of activities for you and your significant other to bond over. For example, if you want to go to a cafe-- why not go to the popular "Twosome Place"? Or a cozy wine and cake cafe. Even if you want ice cream or patbingsoo, everything comes in "Couple" sizes on the menus.
"Couple" is pretty much a theme here, and one of the English words that every Korean you speak to will know. (Some of the other ones are "complex" as in psychological complex, "multiplayer", "fighting", and "oh my god!").
You can buy "Couple" cell phone charms and from every other street vendor.
"Couple" outfits are coming into fashion too-- basically you wear the same design of clothing as your boyfriend/girlfriend, usually of a bright, fluorescent color with some distinctive image on the front.
Girls are pretty much set here too. Koreans consider it rude to pay Dutch, even when out with friends or relatives. So basically the guy always pays for meals, transportation, etc. Also, Seoul is literally the only place where I regularly see guys ENTHUSIASTICALLY helping their girlfriends pick out makeup! You will see almost as many guys as girls if you go inside a beauty store. ^_^;; Sometimes the guys even try some of the makeup for themselves.. Guys holding their girlfriends' purses is taken for granted as well. And everywhere you will see couples taking photos of themselves in cute poses together on their cell phones. Haha, these later become cell phone backgrounds.
I keep hearing that most of my entries are centered around food. Josanna: "All you talk about on your website is food. 'I discovered this new place to eat. Look at this special dessert. This food is so cheap here!'" This really shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me..I love food, especially Korean food..
Anyway, this week is special. I believe that in the course of this past week I've actually eaten more Korean food than I have in any other week of my life. This is pretty serious, and I believe that my achievement deserves its own entry.
Let's start with Tuesday. I went to the DMZ with a couple other Yalies and administrators associated with the scholarship that I am on in Korea.
Ha, so my first photo is not of food. Actually, it's the Peace Bell, dedicated to Korean war victims.
LOOK AT THESE! Silkworm larvae.
And snails. Yum. I didn't eat those either... I know, I'm a coward.
In this scene, the people of Korea are pushing the two sides (North and South) together. Korean unity! Another non-comestible (no, it's not made out of chocolate or something)
^ THIS IS ACTUALLY NORTH KOREA. Haha, doesn't look too different from South Korea, does it? If you look through the binoculars, you'll see a place that North Korea tells us is one of its "towns". However, this is actually a fake town. Nobody lives there, and the buildings are actually structures with the windows and doors painted on..
South Korea built a train station that says that it goes to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Of course, no train actually exists, but I guess South Korea figures that once North Korea allows such a train to be built, it'll already have a station made.
Okay, now that all the cultural stuff is done with, onto the food!!!
Traditional Korean meal-- you get tons of dishes with "banchan", different types of food, inside of them. The dishwashing afterwards must be terrible.. Basically, there's a lot of kimchi dishes (cucumber, turnip, cabbage, oyster), a type of fish fried in soy sauce which was especially delicious (daegu something), bulgogi (barbecued marinated beef), tofu, fresh lettuce and cucumber, sauces, stews, and much more. This restaurant (actually it seemed more like someone's house) was located in Insa-dong, a traditional Korean artsy kind of place.
DRAGON BEARD CANDY. It is as fine as hair, and looks just like it. The guy was showing us how he made it... he takes a cold, hard block of honey and pokes a hole in it. He then coats it with cornstarch powder and makes it into a loop... then he doubles the loop... 2 fibers... doubles again... 4 fibers... again and again until there are 3920840392843092 (or so) fibers and the candy's ready!! Watch the video to see him go!
Insa-dong also sells a lot of yummy traditional Korean snacks on the street: - shik-hye, or sweet rice drink - yak-gwa, oily Korean honey cookie
- hodduk, a sweet fried Korean pancake with honey and sugar in the middle (my favorite)
- caramelized sugar candy on a stick with hearts and stars imprinted onto it. If you manage to get a heart out of the candy without breaking the outside, you get another candy for free! This is actually impossible...
- PATBINGSOO: I absolutely love this. It's shaved ice with toppings. Sweet red bean syrup, vanilla frozen yogurt, strawberries, kiwis, rice cake pieces, pineapple. Perfect for hot, humid Korean summers.
Insa-dong also has a good jjajangmyun (Chinese noodles) place where apparently the guy makes his own noodles, so I've gotta go back and try it!
WEDNESDAY, another day, more food.
KALBI. Possibly the most well known Korean food, after kimchi. Marinated, fatty, delicious BEEF.
Roast on your own personal fire, dip in spicy pepper paste and bean paste, transfer to a waiting leaf of red-leaf lettuce, add rice and kimchi, and stuff the resulting huge pocket of lettuce into your face. Bliss that everyone needs to experience at least once in his or her life.
This kalbi place is next to the train tracks in Sinchon, and had the best kalbi that I've ever had in my life. It's called Chulgi wang-kalbisal.
^ We ate that for dessert.
Just playing =p... not ready to eat bo-shin-tang (dog meat stew) yet...probably ever.
Here we had SOJU COCKTAILS. Yes, alcohol counts as food... So many flavors, but yogurt is the best! Although it sounds gross, it's something you've gotta try.
We went from this:
It's making Kaila crazy.
It's norehbang time...
Friday. The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie! Not too bad, although pretty Disney-fied. And the Johnny Depp-Keira Knightley kiss at the end......hot! Seriously, I'm in favor of Keira ditching Orlando Bloom (who makes a stupid bet and dooms his father to lifelong imprisonment... and did he ever stab the heart of Davie Jones like he promised to?? No!) for Captain Jack Sparrow (ahahaha, see this article Knightley begs for Depp Kiss).
Anyway, went to Hilton Millennium Hotel's casino-- only foreigners are allowed in, so bring your passport..
All gyopo =p There were actually tons of Japanese inside... The bar was free, and so was the food ^_^ got shrimp curry, and numerous cocktails
The bathrooms....scary Kaila was inside and I heard her SCREAM Apparently the toilets have special jets that shoot water at different parts of your rear.. hahaha, you can even choose "pulsating" water flow...
full and happy (if a few bucks poorer)
Saturday Party for my Sogang writing class... the email containing the directions was 4 pages long =// Me, forlornly trying to figure out which way to go..
Once we got there there were hot dogs, hamburgers (for the first time since I've been here), soju, juice, Krispy Kreme ;)
This class is so adorable!
Nighttime view of Itaewon
RAIN (monsoon season)
All this food has a consequence though... We went back to the gym today and got retested for body fat, muscle mass, weight, the works. I had the EXACT SAME stats as I did a month ago before I started working out! Haha, oh well... But our poor trainer was pretty disappointed.
Seriously, if I had to choose between Korean food and losing weight... let's just say it's no competition.