goodbye jeju, hello rainy seoul!

•2011/06/27 • Leave a Comment

it was a bitter-sweet feeling this morning, having to leave seogwipo. we weren’t making it on time taking a bus to the airport, so we had to catch a taxi. not a bad idea in the end, because it took us down through the middle of the island, and we enjoyed incredibly beautiful views of the mountains and prairies along the way. the sky finally cleared up, and was bright blue, with puffy clouds floating about. it was really disappointing that we had to leave on such a nice day! we reached jeju airport, grabbed a snack and green tea latte, and then got ourselves checked in for our flight. once we were in the air, it was an extremely shaky experience, because of the moody weather that has been going around korea for the past week or so. i was really afraid much of the time, and felt very bad for having to cling on and punch alison sometimes! thankfully, we finally landed safely in gimpo, and were once again greeted by rain and clouds. we got our luggage in a cinch, and caught the korail back to the city. after finally unpacking, we headed out to grocery shop at… homeplus!! this place has a lot of really great deals, and a great selection to boot! i splurged on the yogurts! they have apple yogurts, which i really miss from the russia. so of course, i had to have some! after we got our groceries, we came home to rest up and then had our first home-cooked meal since we’d arrived! it was nice to finally cook again. i made jajangmyeon tonight, and it came out quite well. the rest of the evening consisted of bonding with our housemates. we moved around the furniture in the living room and did yoga together – it was quite the sight. i was supposed to study, but ending up falling asleep after instead. i have my entrance exam coming up!

rainy weather makes me too sleepy and lazy!

•2011/06/27 • Leave a Comment

we’d finally reached our last day here in jeju, and the weather was, yet again, cloudy and drizzling. we slept in for as long as we could, and when we got up, all we did was go out with our laptops and get brunch from the nearby paris baguette. we ended up staying for a couple of hours, before heading back to the inn, where we met oh seonsaengnim. i asked her to recommend us a good jimjilbang (bath house), and she took us to one that was literally 2 minutes walking distance from home. i showered off and then sat in the warm tub for a while. afterwards, i hit the wooden sauna room, rinsed off with cold water, and checked out the other baths that they had. one was a nokcha bath (green tea), another was a milky rice grain bath, and the third was a big tub of freezing water! i tried all three, and then went to shower off a last time. we got to enjoy all this for a mere 4,000 won. that’s under 4 bucks. after the jimjilbang, oh seonsaengnim was kind enough to treat us to dinner at a nice traditional jeju-style restaurant. it mostly featured a ton of banchan (side dishes), and some soup. overall, very delicious dinner. on the way back, we stopped by the home of a historic artist that resided in jeju. sadly, i forgot his name. but he was a respected artist in seogwipo, which was enough to get an entire street dedicated to him. before getting home, we also enjoyed a couple of hoddeok (korean stuffed pancake with peanut, sugar, and cinnamon).  overall, it was a very easy-going day. back at home, oh seonsaengnim came up to our room and i discussed music, movies, and just life in general with her for a while. we also talked of the time when artists like deux and baby vox were popular – she still remembered! we finally went to sleep, since we will have an early start the next morning. our plane leaves around 10, and we have to get to the airport by 9!

rainy weather is not the best for beaching, but at least it gives you an excuse to not wear sunscreen

•2011/06/27 • Leave a Comment

Today we had a late start, and weren’t out of the house until maybe 10:30 or 11. Spent too much time in the morning watching the diary of bridget jones, hah. The forecast predicted good weather for today, even promising some sun. but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. From the moment we stepped out, it was already sprinkling a little bit. This was a shame, since today was supposed to be our beach day. that didn’t stop us from going. We took a bus that traversed the entire island, passing through jungmun and hallim to the western side of jeju-do. We stopped at hyeopjae haesuyokjang (hyeopjae beach) and I finally got to swim in the pale turquoise water I’d always dreamed of swimming in! an interesting thing about this beach was all the seaweed settled on the sand. It’s not the kind of thick, long seaweed I’m used to seeing in California beaches. It looked like it was practically edible! And it was so light in color, at first I’d mistaken it for grass from far away. On the beach, there was some mist, but eventually the cloudy skies let some rays of sunlight through. We waded in the water, built sand/seaweed castles, and enjoyed the clear clear water! I also walked around on the basalt rocks for a bit. I didn’t realize how late it had gotten! We planned to visit two other beaches, but the weather was worsening, and it was already 5pm. We took a bus to jeju-shi, and then transferred to another that went back to seogwipo-shi. Upon reaching the southern part of the island, it was pouring, and we hurried back to the inn. We didn’t have any time to eat all day, so we had dinner at gubne chicken, not far from where we were staying. Went to the pc bang (internet cafe) afterwards, came home, and finally crashed!

easter island + hawaii = jeju-do?

•2011/06/27 • Leave a Comment

they say there are three famous things about jeju-do: the women, the rocks, and the wind. within two days of staying here, all three were pretty apparent. on our first evening, on the outskirts of jeju-shi after arriving, i could see basalt rocks (of course, from hallasan) lining the shore. the second, when we reached seogwipo-shi, we went to a small island just off-shore. crossing the bridge  to access it, i was feeling the most intense wind ever! as for the women – jeju-do has a history of powerful women-divers, who would scower the waters for seafood. basalt statues of them can be seen around the shores, usually. anyhow, today marks our third day on jeju-do. and what a day it has been! we woke up just past 8 this morning. usually when you wake up in seoul, you feel like you just woke up in a tent up in the mountains during summer – sticky and hot.  but here, it was just right (albeit, the amount of mosquitoes is unbelievable). it was slightly warm, with a breeze entering from the window. we took our time getting up. i showered and watched an interesting documentary about a man exploring micronesia. on that note, korean variety shows get played out after a while, but the documentaries and educational shows are always very engaging.

we finally got around to leaving the house by 10am or so, and made our way towards the seaside road, where the bus stop is. it was very timely, as the bus arrived just about 30 seconds after we got there. we hopped on, and i realized that i had left my handphone (which has my t-money attached to it!) back at home, so i had to pay in cash, guh. well, we eventually got to jungmun, where we first hit the teddy bear museum. it was three stories of all sorts of teddy bears! there were historic ones that dated back to the beginning of the 20th century (1908, and such), and many bears depicted historical/famous figures, such as charlie chaplin, marilyn monroe, the beatles, gandhi… you name it. there were also many scenes set up, where the bears moved. they had a scene of normandy, new year in hong kong, the future, a 60’s fashion runway, and tons more. there were also some nice gardens for us to enjoy outside! after the museum, we went to dunkin’ donuts a block away to have a snack, since we hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast yet. then we went on a hunt to search for daepo hae-an (dae po coast). we meticulously searched, yet ended up somewhere completely different – but we have no regrets! what we came across instead was a steep path, taking us down a cliff, and then to a beach. the place was a hidden gem – a compleeetely empty beach, lined with towering, black basalt cliffs, which are covered in lush green forest, palm trees, and the like. there is even a small waterfall coming down the side, but is hidden from immediate view. ecstatic, we spent a long, long time there, wading in the water (which was surprisingly warm, despite the cloudy sky). i’ve never felt quite so at peace. after enjoying the nice water and clashing waves, we wanted to check out the waterfall. to reach it, we had to go across some rocks. as i stepped from boulder to boulder, i saw bugs scrambling to hide away. then i noticed something that was bigger, and yelped, thinking it might be a tarantula. it turned out to be a crab! crabs were scurrying all across the rocks! i did my best to avoid them – they acted in mutual interest. we finally reached the waterfall and washed off our feet in the pool of cool water at its base.

finally finished there, we decided to try and continue along the coast, in hopes that we may eventually reach daepo hae-an. although it never happened, we enjoyed an absolutely amazing hike along the jeju southwestern coast. we passed pools of water settled into the stretches of basalt, where fisherman would sit with a bucket, getting their daily catch. we traversed the small maul (villages) that were dotted all along the coast, and some that were set further inland. we also crossed fields and fields of farmland. eventually, we noticed that it was already well near 4:30, so it was time to turn back. we headed into the island, and finally came across a road that was heading back to jungmun. we walked most of the way back, but then got on a bus when we got the chance. we got off near the entrance to cheonjeyeon falls, and went in. unlike cheonjiyeon in seogwipo, cheonJEyeon in jungmun had an entire three waterfalls, as well as a huge bridge over the ravine. another interesting sight here was the subtropical rainforest that covered the entire area. luckily for us, the sun decided to peak out this time around, so we took our time enjoying the falls, the endless flights of stairs,and the rainforest, with all its little streams, the beautiful calls of different bugs and birds.

after fulfilling all our stops for the day, we took a path through the forest that led us to a vista overlooking the forests and the river that fed into the ocean in the distance. we hiked down towards the seaside road, and caught one more bus for the day, that took us home to seogwipo. the sunset this day was absolutely beautiful. so instead of going straight home, we went to seogwipo elementary school, where i climbed to the top of the climbing structure on the playground. the view was amazing, and the evening was warm and relaxing. we came home completely satisfied~

jeju island, and its mystique beauty

•2011/06/22 • Leave a Comment

On Sunday morning I woke up with the smell of the ocean breeze coming into the room. Before this, I hadn’t watched any tv in korea yet. But this pension had a nice big tv, so I saw lots of familiar shows, like running man, one night two days, and strong heart. Tons of kang hodong on every channel, no matter when you turn on the tv. It was almost 10, and I had to pack everything back together. Mrs. Kang came, along with her two sons! They were so cute. But I forgot the their names already. We took a taxi into jeju-shi, and had breakfast at paris baguette. Eventually she got us on a bus to seogwipo-shi, so we had to sadly say goodbye. Her older son was so sad about it, it made me a bit regretful about having to leave. As the bus crossed the island to jeju-shi, I noticed so much green! Everything was covered in forest and green fields. It was still overcast, so it was difficult for me to get a good view of hallasan. In seogwipo, we stopped at the bus terminal, and met oh seonsaengnim (miss oh bokhee). She got us settled into her mother’s inn, conveniently located near the seogwipo city center. We got our stuff into our room on the third floor, and later went out with oh seonsaengnim. She took us to cheonjiyeon falls first. We started on a path that ran alongside a small river. The place had a certain mystical beauty about it. The water was a very beautiful murky blue color. Koi could be seen swimming in it. All around, there were forests and hills. We headed along the path and finally reached the falls themselves, which fed into a large pool of water and stemmed into the stream that we had been following. Took lots of photos, breathed in the fresh air, and moved on. Oh seonsaengnim took us to an island just offshore from seogwipo, and we as we crossed the bridge over it, we were met by a screeching, strong wind! When we finally reached the little island, the air was calm again. The island was also covered in green, and there were small pools of water everywhere, scattered among the tall grass. As we walked, I could hear the calls of lots of different birds, really unique ones I had never heard before. We had dinner at a seaside restaurant later that night, and enjoyed more seafood. Also went to a pc bang (pc room) for the first time.

from myeongdong shopping, to jeju-do resting~

•2011/06/22 • Leave a Comment

Saturday morning!! Today the first order of business was to pack for our jeju-do (jeju island) trip, as we had a plane to catch at 4 in the afternoon. Getting everything together was actually pretty quick, and we made sure to pack lightly. the only thing I regret is not bringing my textbook, since I wanted to study a bit for my entrance exam, which is next Friday. Today I also arranged to meet with dongjin at the lotte department store in myeongdong, so we had to get there by 10:30. We headed out, and I noticed that the streets were completely vacant, and most shops were still closed. Party hard Friday, sleep in Saturday, continue in this fashion until Monday~ except not really, because there are still tons of people out every weekday night in hongdae. trip to myeongdong was fairly quick. Metro here is so convenient and fast, I’m really getting to appreciate it. Stepping outside into myeongdong, the first thing you will noticed is stand after stand of… kpop merchandise. Keychains, calendars, folders, posters, cups – you will find anything and everything you need to satisfy a fangirl’s heart. Believe it or not, I didn’t get anything. In fact, I hardly looked. Jing should be proud of me for this. Actually getting to myeondong, the shopping district, the mood of the place was very interesting. There were winding streets with tons of different shops. You could spot anything from forever 21, to h&m, to adidas. Kpop music is blaring from each store. Ladies on the street stand with microphones, yelling out special deal and catch phrases in different languages (primarily Korean and Japanese, with occasional mandarin chinese). Street food is being served here and there, and school girls walk around in mobs, running and pointing to the places that catch their eyes. We checked out the store Alison wanted to see – spao. super junior and snsd apparently endorse for it, so there were huge posters and ads of them that could be seen in the windows of the store. On the third floor of the spao building, we went to a place called everysing. It’s sm entertainment’s personal goody store, and boasts its own selection of *autographed and framed* photos, keychains, mugs, shirts, figurines, pillow cases, cds…. The list can go on and on. Another thing to note in this store is the purikura (sticker photo) booth. I don’t know what they call it in Korean, so I will just refer to it as purikura. In it, you can pose with backdrops of your favorite sm artists, it’s actually pretty cool. But the horrible downsides of this booth are: firstly, it’s 7,000 won. That’s practically 7 bucks. And secondly, The time you get to select your backdrops, pose, etc are SO fast that you hardly get to take a breath or blink in between. If anyone wishes to try it out one day – good luck. but i advise you to take your money elsewhere. Like the nature republic – which ended up being our next stop, thanks to a lady on the street that successfully lured me in with a basket of face masks and other goodies that had jyj’s faces on them.

By then, I also realized we still had to meet up with dongjin at the lotte dept store, so we made a beeline for the place. It took a while for us to find one another, as the place was huge, so we went in circles for a bit. Finally spotted each other, and headed back to myeongdong together. Dongjin helped me get my phone and registered under his own name (for which I am so thankful, honestly). We window shopped for a bit, then got lunch at the lotte food courts. We ordered a big platter consisting of curry over rice and katsudon, mm~ after having a good lunch, we checked out a nearby book/cd store, where I quickly found every cd I’d ever wanted. I’m saving these purchases for a later time, though. Alison looked around more, while dongjin and I went upstairs to caffe bene – my favorite coffee shop here in korea.

Soon it was time to go to the airport. We first had to get back to hongdae and get our luggage that we’d packed earlier that day. we hurried over, got everything, double-checked, and then got on korail to gimpo airport (which formerly served as the main international airport for seoul and the area, before Incheon was built). Got there, checked in successfully, and were ready to board! It amazed we how quickly they get everything done in the airports here, it really does save a lot of nerves and hassle. Anyhow. We flew with jeju air – a very nice airline, in my opinion. The flight was short, so they just served drinks, offering either water or their own jeju gyul juice (jeju’s locally grown mandarin oranges, for which they are famous). Another very cute thing was that the flight attendants went around with head accessories, like big bows or pororo caps, and you could take a picture with them on, for memories! We of course tried, too. I closed my eyes after, and before I knew it, we were already getting ready to land! As I’d mentioned, it was a very quick flight – only about 50 minute long. As we ascended over jeju-do, there was only one thing that came into view over all the clouds – hallasan. Hallasan is korea’s highest mountain, a volcano that essentially formed jeju island. There is even a saying that notes this: “hallasan is jeju-do, and jeju-do is hallasan.” Hallasan truly towers over the rest of the island, and can be seen from both the major cities, seogwipo-shi and jeju-shi.

We got off the plane, and unfortunately had to deal with rain. We picked up our bag, and shortly after were greeted by mrs. Kang eunjung, who was helping us settle in for our first night. She got us into a cab, and we were taken to a nice pension. We settled in, showered, and then mrs. Kang returned, and took us out to dinner, where we enjoyed one of the local specialties – pork barbequed meat, and some haemul soondubu jigae (seafood soup with soft tofu). The rain had calmed down by then, so we took a nice long walk along the seashore after dinner. We stopped by a store to buy another one of jeju’s local specialties: jeju chocolate. We got the green tea and gyul flavored ones. We made our way back home and agreed to meet with mrs. Kang the following morning. I fell asleep that night watching disturbia (with shia labeouf!)

seoul: exciting, hot, and the streets always smell like delicious food.

•2011/06/22 • Leave a Comment

first *full* day in seoul! woke up just before 6am on friday, and slept a bit longer… eventually got up and everything. The food we stowed from the plane came in handy, as we had it for breakfast (we took a couple of meat buns and apples). Our first stop for the day was… dunkin donuts! The place was situated on a corner across the street from the coffee bean. We went in, and my first mistake was not realizing that it was a self-serve~ there were lots of really interesting donuts to choose from. We decided on some unusual sounding ones, which were the banana chewisty, olive chewisty, glutinous rice donut, and a tofu donut. Of all of them, I like the glutinous rice one the most~ very chewy, thick consistency, and it had some cream cheese inside. Yum~ Afterwards, we stopped at the faceshop, where I got my first bb cream (I tried it later when we got back home, it was really a good deal!!) then we went on some errands. Exchanged money at the bank and went to get a pre-paid phone made. There were some complications with the phone, as they needed my passport for it, but the passport would take until Tuesday to get processed in korea. So no handphone for now. After this, we decided to get more acquainted with seogyo-dong, the neighborhood where we stay. I kind of just went where my eyes looked. Along the way, Stopped by a music store and got the SHINee amigo repackage album, the cd I was missing, aside from the hello repackage. Next, i went to morning glory I spotted near hongik university, to buy some pencil lead, since I ran out. Also got my hands on some very cute stickers! we passed several points of interest, the first being hello kitty cafe! it was… very pink, but the drinks looks very good (and cute!). moreover, the prices were reasonable, with a green tea latte costing about 3,500 won (under 3.50 bucks). next, we saw the coffee prince cafe. i’ve never watched the drama, but i assume the shop was used either as a set, or was themed after it. it even said “licensed by mbc” or somehting along the lines of, on the building itself. After all this, it was time to finally make our way to what will be my university. The walk was lengthy, especially because we stopped for so many distractions. Coincidentally, we even passed a 2pm fansign, wow~ I didn’t bother to join in though. Line was too long, and not my fandom. But I digress~ as we walked, I also noticed jyj endorsing for nature republic! They had life-size cutouts of them in front of the shop, so we of course stopped to take pictures. And then, 10 paris baguettes, twosome places, and dunkin’ donuts later we finally reached the intersection crossing to the entrance of yonsei university! The campus was very promising. My department’s building was located practically on the other side of the campus, so we endured a lengthy walk uphill, even crossing through yonsei’s park, which features lots of woodland. Past the forest, we arrived at a road heading downhill. Walking along it for a bit, we finally reached a large brick building, yonsei Korean language institute~ after we were satisfied with looking around, we finally headed off campus, and into the sinchon area. Sinchon is well-known for being the university area of the city, and within its range you can find yonsei, ewha women’s university, sogang university, and more. We wandered from sinchon, and started heading in the direction of the city hall. We were well over an hour into our walk to city hall, and still hadn’t reached it. Namsan was finally coming into view in the distance, and it looked very impressive! I can’t wait to finally go there next week. By this point we were already tired from walking so far, we decided to finally get on the metro and head back home. The weather was cloudy all day, but when we finally got home, rain was beginning to drizzle. Rainy weather makes me really drowsy, so I ended up falling asleep for a while. Waking up again around 9, I decided to go back outside and maybe get some street food. Ended up enjoying hot ddeokkbokki! It was Friday night and tons of people were having a good time on the street, so we decided to join in. I shopped around for some presents to get my family and friends, and then Alison wanted to get baskin robbin’s. we heard f(x)’s Pinocchio playing, while the store next door played hot summer. I get so excited when I hear familiar songs playing. Our last stop for the evening was family mart, where I got some yogurt. Korea has such a nice selection of yogurts, and offers a lot more flavors than America. In that sense, it reminds me of Russia, where I could practically live off yogurt alone. after that, Got home and finally turned in for the night.