Tuesday, 13 August 2013

It is the Korean Way


Still in South Korea but not for much longer.


Saturday was another day for friends.




Late breakfast of coffee and then to another restaurant in Gangneung to meet with another Sandra.

When Linda started at the school one of the first co-teachers she met was a girl who told Linda that her English name was Susan but she was changing it to Sandra so of course Linda said her mum was called Sandra and ever since that, the two Sandras had heard a lot about each other from Linda and had been looking forward to meeting.






So we met Sandra and her future husband Paul (they are getting married next Saturday and Linda is excited about going to their wedding). There was a lot of laughing and chatting while the food cooked, not so much as we ate the lovely food which was a Vietnamese meal this time, but more again when we went round to Yoon's Coffee Shop after the meal but just before the thunder and lightning.






Later we had a visit from our friend Park again but this time we were so delighted to be able to meet his wife and their two children. We were intrigued to learn that Park had written a book about their life and had it published so when he gave Linda a copy of it in Hangul we told her that her mission now was to learn the language well enough to translate his book for us all.





Lots more laughing and chatting over coffee and then of course we all had to have another meal which was in a Lamb restaurant so we had two types of Lamb barbequed with soup and rice.

It was another goodbye again but what can we expect when we are only visitors in this country.





So the time to pack was upon us and when we had sorted out clothes for Sunday and for travelling on Monday we treated ourselves to the last late night snack which was BingSoo - a large bowl filled with ice shavings, yogurt ice-cream, & berries, which is then all mixed up together and shared.  There are so many different varieties of this dessert that I  don't think you can know exactly what to expect when you order the same combination in different cafes.


Two examples of Korean BingSoo


We have decided that this must be one of the reasons there are so many long handled spoons in Korea.


Sunday brought us another extremely hot day. Fred & I checked out of the hotel and we all had tea, coffee and pastry at Linda's appartment. Then we went to Linda's church which is in downtown Gangneung and her friend Jessie translated for us. We recognised some of the hymn tunes and Linda lent us her Korean/English bible which also has the hymbook in it.


So it came time for our last meal in Gangneung, we asked Jessie to join us and we all had Bulgogi in a restaurant quite near Linda's home. A different form of Bulgogi, but again delicious and as with 2 previous meals this one was enjoyed sitting on the floor at low tables.




Last minute looking at some of the pictures we had taken, getting our drinks ready and chatting and then the taxi to the bus station to get the bus to Seoul Incheon Airport and of course the final goodbye with Linda.

This time the bus journey was over 5 hours in length, again pretty good seats so we read and uploaded photos to the ipad from the camera and slept. Our last night in South Korea was spent in an airport hotel and then up early on Monday morning for the long flight to London and finally the flight to Belfast.

The last meal on the plane from South Korea was our favourite Bulgogi with chopsticks yet again.




 We are so pleased we had practised using chopsticks before we went on this trip as we entertained our Korean friends with our efforts and also felt like we really entered in to "The Korean Way" as our friend Park would say.








Monday, 12 August 2013

5 Waygook???


Still in Gangneung and still enjoying South Korea but still having trouble with the high temperatures and the high humidity making it not always easy to sleep well.








Thursday started with a late breakfast of coffee and then a longish walk to the acorn restaurant where we met up with one of Linda's co-teachers Mr Woo for lunch. He had been very helpful and supportive of Linda so it was lovely to meet him and chat with him.

 There were acorn noodles, acorn pancakes and acorn soup.

 We had never known that you could eat acorn let alone have it in different forms. we had to sit on the floor in this restaurant just as we had done in the tofu restaurant on Wednesday for lunch.  This is difficult when you have long legs like my husband and two sons but also for me because I sometimes feel it painful on my hip.

A visit to Homeplus in the afternoon to see the place Linda is always talking about shopping in and had discovered that the supermarket part was Tescos really as the blue and red and white signs gave it away.




Nearby there was an outdoor market so we explored it for a while but it really was too hot for us to be out too long that afternoon so we went inside again for cold drinks and waffles.





Dinner was a home cooked Korean meal in the home of one of Linda's co-workers Jacob. His wife Hannah had made Bulgogi, noodles, Gimchi, rice cake, mushrooms, rice, seaweed, and more for us and it was delicious. I could even eat her Gimchi which was not as spicy and smelly as the Gimchi we were always being presented with in the restaurants.

 We had a very enjoyable evening talking and laughing about lots of things and felt very much at home with this lovely christian couple.

The evening ended with a trip to Yoon's Coffee Shop for late night drinks and to find that Mr Woo had left gifts of Korean fans for us at Linda's appartment. The two fans are beautiful.








They also came in very attractive boxes. with wraparound bags.







Friday morning and we headed off to the beach.

The Korean word for foreigner is waygook and Linda has heard this word often as Koreans talk to each other about her, so she warned us that we would be noticed and talked about especially when people would see all 5 of us together in Gangneung.

 So imagine the scene at Gimpo Beach when the 5 of us arrive and head into the sea to swim.

We were the centre of attention for many of the Koreans.




 Older ones just stared at us while some of the younger males came up to us and wanted to talk to us.






 We even had girls taking pictures of us as we swam & talked together in the water.

 Some people were just very rude and got very close but didn't speak.





It's NOT very comfortable coming out of the water and walking up the beach in a wet swimsuit when you have an audience.

The sun was very hot so we dried off quite quickly and then headed back to Gangneung to have a late lunch. As it was just us today we decided to try out an Italian restaurant near Linda's appartment and enjoyed our pizzas and pasta there.

Fred had been fighting a cold for the last few days and now his chest was rather sore so he decided to go back and relax at the hotel while the rest of us did some shopping for gifts to take home.


 A few hours later we returned to him with fans, chopsticks, wooden dishes, etc. and donuts from Dunkin Donuts.

During this trip Fred and I had got quite good at using chopsticks.






 We told him we would have this as a quick snack and then go to Yoon's Coffee Shop for coffee and drinks and then try Korea chips on the way home again.
 In Korea they say potatoes but they are just chips to us, although having them with cheesy flavouring was a novelty.







The Final Part of the Story is HERE





Saturday, 10 August 2013

"Gangnam Style"




Tuesday morning saw us packing to move on from Seoul.

 It was time to travel East to Gangneung to spend the rest of our holiday in the area where our daughter Linda lives and works.






A three hour bus journey in a hot humid climate was not very appealing but it was actually one of the best bus journeys I have ever been on.

 The seats are like first class seats on an aeroplane, wide, well padded and reclining so all five of us fell asleep for a good part of the trip. I am glad I didn't sleep the whole way though as some of the mountainous scenery was lovely to see.


Apparently we were in Gangnam near the start of the bus trip but Linda forgot to tell us until afterwards, so I'm not really sure if we can say we did the trip in Gangnam Style???  but I want to say it anyway.






Our next stop was Linda's apartment, not very big but in a nice neighbourhood.


Then on to find our hotel which is a Boutique Hotel but has not been a great hit with us, we tend to prefer hotels which have a safe and drawers and a wardrobe because it is nice to have somewhere to put at least put your clothes. This hotel provides a computer in each room but no drawers and only 2 hangers on a hook on the wall. None of us could figure out how to get the taps to work properly so just a trickle of water to wash our hands, but we did have the biggest TV I've ever seen in a hotel room.

Now something we have been having some fun with in both Korea and Hong Kong are the toilets,  not public toilets but the ones in most of the hotels.  They have remote controls!




You can angle a stream of water to turn it into a bidet,  you can have streams of warm air and you can heat the seats.


Another thing that we had to do was to get the right type of money for our trip which was another story of its own as not many people in small towns in Northern Ireland are asking their bank to get them Korean Won and Hong Kong Dollars.




Then we had to remember a rough conversion every time we wanted to buy something and not get mixed up between the two currencies.

It was funny also as we were millionaires in Korean Won because the Won is so small in value compared to the British Pound.


Dinner was another Korean Barbecue with pork this time and it gets rolled up with vegetables in a lettuce leaf - very tasty.


 We met up with Jessie who is one of Linda's friends from church (in fact the new interpreter at her church) for this meal and then on for coffee to a local coffee shop owned by another of Linda's friends called Andrew Yoon.




A lovely coffee shop (Yoon's Coffee), relaxing, with good coffee and smoothies and nice company as we got to know these friends.  Andrew is a lovely guy and he is also very musical so that sort of just meant he was like one of the family talking about guitars and playing guitars.

Our oldest son Jonathan was so impressed with Andrew's cappuccino that he told Andrew it was the best cappuccino he had had outside of Italy - high praise indeed!





On Wednesday morning we awoke at 10 am to 32 degrees the start of a very hot humid day for us.

We met more friends of Linda's for lunch in the beach area at a Tofu restaurant as one of them is a vegan. My first experience of tofu and I think that one experience is definitely enough.  Another restaurant involving sitting on the floor at a very low table.  Thank goodness Yoon's Coffee Shop had comfortable chairs and sofas.


I have been warned that red sauces are the spicy ones so I've been very careful about anything that is red but today I got caught out by what I thought was a piece of green pepper but was really a chilli pepper and my mouth was burning hot.


On to a coffee shop afterwards and then the five of us went for a walk around the lake stopping at an outside exercise area to try out the exercise machines. Next on to a burger restaurant for some very tasty burgers and fries.




On the way to lunch we had had to get two taxis because there are 5 of us and so the same on the way back but this time the taxi driver who took Fred & I told Linda he knew where our hotel was but actually he didn't so we had a little adventure as he drove around pointing at hotels and we shook our heads at him. Language can be such a headache when we travel and often we depend on our weak Dutch or Jonathan's excellent French but no taxi drivers here were going to understand anything we could say. 

We finally remembered that we had a copy of the hotel confirmation on my ipad all in Hangul (the Korean language) so the driver was able to get the address into the GPS only to find that we were simply just round the corner from it.

After quite a bit of cooling off time in the air-conditioning in the hotel room we walked across to Yoon's Coffee Shop to end the evening with great coffees & drinks again.




Notice how we ended up with twin daughters in this photo at Yoon's  -  Linda likes to get into the panoramic photos at the start and then run round to get back in for the end as well. 










More from South Korea HERE



Thursday, 8 August 2013

Old Friends - New Friends


Linda had arranged for us to go to Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul on Sunday, known as the biggest church in the world with 1 million members. 






 One of Linda's Korean friends Pildu (Stephen is his Western name) who was her first interpreter at the Korean Church she attends, has moved to live and work in Seoul and has started attending the church so we met him outside the church




and then went for lunch together before attending one of the afternoon services which had English translation.


Lunch was great - Bulgogi, a beef dish with rice which our friend Sharon had taught us to make when she stayed with us in Belgium - we all agreed that Stephen had chosen a good restaurant.





So then to church with up to 27,000 people in the one service.





It was a communion service and we all were amazed at how quickly communion was given to everyone, quicker than in any of the churches we attend.





We sat upstairs, a few stops up in the lift and we were not in the highest tier.

We had to wear headphones to get the service translated into English for us.






After church we had a leisurely walk along the river past a floating stage and floating fountains with an ice pop.

 The humidity was obviously very high on Sunday as I was constantly wiping the sweat off my face and feeling more tired than usual.

 Back into the centre of Seoul in the subway, a quick walk through one of the big market areas and we found a restaurant where we had a beef barbecue at the table with some of the tenderest, tastiest beef I have ever had.
Then after we had seconds - it was so good - we wandered around to find a coffee shop but had to make do with a Dunkin Donuts as one was closing early and another was so small it didn't have enough free seats for the 5 of us.

 Nice coffees though and a long chat and then back to the hotel.





Monday was a very special day for us. We had arranged to meet up with Sharon again to explore more of Seoul but we did not know that another Korean friend from our time in Belgium had driven in from another area to surprise us as well.




 It was great to see Park again after so many years and to hear about his family.




We had a lovely time going around the largest palace and seeing the changing of the guards and chatting with these friends.





Lunch then was another special treat as we had a meal where we cooked our own food (very thinly cut beef, a variety of mushrooms, lettuce, radish and cabbage) in a bowl at the table in the restaurant. There were two sauces to dip in, one was rather hot and spicy for us but the other was a delicious peanut sauce.

Of course we then had to find a coffee shop to have our tea and coffee and continue chatting with our old friends, before saying goodbye to Park as he had to drive quite a distance home again.


Next stop was a traditional Korean village area where we met up with our new friend Caroline from last Sunday.

 We enjoyed a display of Taekwondo, Fred & Daniel had a go at Taekwondo, 




we all tried a game of throwing long sticks into metal tubes (I almost managed it and Daniel did it first go), then a go at archery, and lastly a walk round the village.






We finished off the day with a bus ride to the Seoul Tower where we looked down on the city of Seoul from the mountain, 





watched a short but very clearly produced projection display on the side of the tower,






saw the masses of lovers padlocks and then had a time of photos.






After that it was time to say goodbye to Caroline and Sharon and of course to invite them to come and visit us in Northern Ireland.


So three goodbyes in one day - I don't like goodbyes.






Continue the story HERE

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Seoul Once Again! Travel


We left Hong Kong on Friday to return to South Korea.




It was nice to travel at a leisurely pace and fly out from a spacious, clean, bright, quiet airport.

We were even able to check-in at the Kowloon Station and then make our way to the airport with only our hand luggage.

I have fallen in love with Hong Kong airport.


The biggest problem of the journey was what to watch on our individual screens during the flight as we had watched movies on the first trip to Seoul and also on the trip to Hong Kong so we had watched most of the things we were interested in already.

I finally settled for trying out a new British TV comedy series.

We did have a bit of a hiccup though as the Typhoon warning hoisted on Thursday had now been changed to a Tropical Storm Warning and it was noticeable how much lower the temperature had gotten and the how dark the skies were so it was not surprising the see that various flights were being delayed.

Our flight never actually came up as delayed but we didn't start boarding until about 20 mins after the time allotted. Then we sat on the tarmac for a very long time waiting to leave.  However the pilot must have made up time during the flight because we only seemed to be about half an hour late in landing in Incheon Airport in South Korea just west of Seoul.





We arrived at the Best Western Kukdo Hotel in the heart of Seoul quite late at night and Linda was there waiting for us.

 I couldn't wait to get a chocolate snack and a coffee and a quick catch-up and then to bed.

Getting into bed was not the easiest as the triple room we were in was really a twin room with an extra bed rolled in, leaving it so short of space that the armchair was wedged between the window sill and the bed and so I had to crawl up the bed from the bottom as I could not stand beside it.

 Plenty of drawers in this room though far more than you would really need. Strange how different the hotel rooms can all be.

I do think the Nine Tree Hotel we stayed in the previous weekend in Seoul was better than this one and the one in Hong Kong. If we ever come back to Seoul I would definitely go to the Nine Tree again, it even has a better location with a busy entertaining night life around it but not noisy.







Saturday was bright and sunny once more and after a good nights sleep we were ready to hit the nearby shopping Mall. Great prices in this Lotte Mall and I got a few dresses there.

 Most of the girls were very helpful but we were surprised in one shop to be told that we could not try on a dress or a top. We pointed to the changing room and asked why not, to be told that we could only try on trousers. If anyone can see the reasoning in that one I would love to know it, it just didn't make any sense to me.






Next we had to decide where to have lunch and then Linda suggested we try a spoon pizza.

The restaurant had a Bulgogi  spoon pizza and we love Bulgogi (thanks to our Korean friend Sharon having taught us how to make it when she stayed with us in Belgium) so we opted for that.
 It was so delicious that we immediately ordered a second one to share.

Well fed we headed off on the subway to meet Sharon for our Korean Experience of the Day.

Sharon was taking us to a place where we could make something of our choice. Linda and I chose to make a ring with mother of pearl effect and really enjoyed the simple process.


Sharon helping to explain what we had to do.


Concentrating hard to make our rings.


The completed rings.


 This experience was then followed by a walk to another area of Seoul to see the Rice Cake Museum known in Korea as the Tteok Museum.

 Who would have believed there could be so many different varieties of rice cake.



By LittleT889 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link


So far we had had small pieces of savoury rice cake in soup and sweet rice cake in desserts but we were amazed by the different colours and textures and shapes and sizes presented in the museum.

 At the end of our tour here we went into the little cafe at the museum and tasted 3 different rice cakes, strawberry, chocolate and mugwort (pink, brown & green) and also a persimmon sorbet and a cinnamon ice tea.

 Good tastes except perhaps the mugwort!

It was now time for the boys to arrive so we said goodbye to Sharon after arranging plans for Monday and we headed back to the hotel to meet the boys due off the airport bus around 6pm.

 No sign of the boys at the hotel and no message from them so Linda checked arrivals on the internet and discovered their flight was delayed.







 The boys eventually got to the hotel around 9 pm so it was a very late dinner that night and our first western one as we went to a Steakhouse.

It was nice to have all five of us together again for a holiday and as Daniel had said some time ago this would be our last one as the original Black family as come October he and Suzie would be married.






Next part of the South Korea Saga is HERE