Saturday, April 30, 2005

A fish is a fish

After another night of bowling Z managed a personal high of 151 and I came in at a not-too-shabby 128. Who would have thought bowling could be so much fun?

Today (Saturday), Z, Karen, Brett and I took off for a day of adventures. We first went to the local mall to visit the book store so that Z and I could browse the travel book section and copy some info from the Thailand travel book. We fly into Bangkok tomorrow and will hopefully be traveling on an overnight bus to Krabi (south Thailand). The four of us stopped in the Apple Store and then got sidetracked for a bit getting sticker pictures taken. Crazy cool.

We then headed to Dongdaemun, which is a HUGE shopping area of Seoul. It has about three malls (each are eight stories) that are open from 10:30 AM to 5:00AM. The later you go the better the deal. We saw some sign claiming that there are 35,000 stores in the whole area. Slightly overwhelming.

I managed to talk Z out of purchasing this shirt by explaining that perhaps “ManShaft” is not quite the message he wants to convey. He quietly agreed.

He did find one that was a bit more his style and proudly donned it and rocked it for the rest of the day.

Afterwards we got back on the subway and traveled to the fish market – Noriyangen.

A huge enclosed warehouse-type structure where many, many vendors sell a variety of sea creatures that most people only get to see on the nature channel. Here are just a few.

When you have selected your fish (from the live fish assortment) the vendors retrieve the fish and promptly beat it with a sharp pointed stick and gut it in front of you. Dinner and a show.

Here is the coolest part – once you purchase your goodies from the vendors, you venture downstairs to one of the many restaurant establishments where they prepare your fish delights for a small fee.

K, B and Z bought king crab and some prawn for dinner. Here you can see the lucky crab candidate on the scale being weighed.

AND here is what he looked like after the nice Korean women at the restaurant fixed him up. mmmmm.

Since I am not eating seafood at the moment I was not able to share in the king crab and prawn feast. The rest of the crew was generous enough to consume my share without much complaint. I really was a bit sad that I never got into seafood as the three of them immensely enjoyed the meal. I had rice and beer. Breakfast of champions.

We headed back to the apartment after dinner as Z and I have to leave early tomorrow morning to catch our flight.

As an aside, for those of you keeping track of all our misadventures, we have changed our travel plans a wee bit. Instead of spending the next few weeks in Thailand alone, we will be heading to Malaysia for a bit in the middle. Look for those wacky tales in upcoming posts.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

To Do Soju

Last night Z and I picked up Karen and Brett at work and the four of us headed out for dinner and apple soju. We ended up at a Mexican place that was actually pretty tasty. K and B work until 10PM and by the time we got organized it was 11PM, which is fairly late to be walking into a restaurant on a Wednesday evening. Since the Mexican place was open, that is where we dined.

Afterwards we went to FAS (Fruits Alcohol Shop), one of K and B’s favorite bar. They serve the most delicious fruit flavored soju.

Our first round was apple. As you can see they bring you a large bowl of soju and you drink it out of hollowed out apples. Yummy.

We ordered pineapple soju for our second round. Same idea except you drink it out of a glass and the soju is served in a hollowed pineapple instead of a bowl. We plan to return this weekend to try out the watermelon, kiwi and possibly tomato flavors.

After soju we were all feeling good. I especially was feeling elated, despite suffering some difficulty blinking with both eyes at the same time. Classy.

We came back to the apartment around 2AM and eventually passed out watching a terrible movie – “Constantine.” Snoozer.

Today we woke up fairly chipper and headed out for lunch with K at a local joint that we have visited before. Then Z and I headed out to Insadong again (the art center area of Seoul) to try and see the Palace.

Luckily the Palace IS open on Thursdays, so we were able to see a bit more this time. As we expected, the tour left much to be desired. Although the buildings are beautiful, they lack the sense of history that many other similar sites in other countries have. Since the Japanese destroyed almost all of the Korean palaces and monuments during their brutal occupation in the first half of the twentieth century, the buildings that exist today have all been restored very recently. In fact, almost all of the buildings we saw were built in the mid-1990’s. A historical site loses something when all of the structures are younger than you.

After touring the Palace we popped into an exhibition of a korean artist, Kwon In-kyung. Most of his pieces depicted cityscapes, primarily in black and white using Chinese ink on canvas. The style was partly old-world and partly 1930s pastiche. The subject matter was urban life. Cool stuff.

Then Z and I walked about a mile or two south of Insadong to Korea’s traditional shopping place, Nomdaemun market – a six-hundred-year-old market. The retail and food vendors formed a chaotic collage of bright colors and smells.

By the time we had made our way through a quarter of the market, we were beat. We returned to the apartment and will be heading out again soon to pick up K and B at work for some tempura and a bit of late night bowling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wondering Seoul

Yesterday Z and I woke up early and did some yoga in Karen and Brett’s living room. After a quick shower and some breakfast, we promptly fell back asleep on the couch just as Karen and Brett were waking up. Nice. Our internal clocks are still a bit on the fritz.

After dropping K and B off at their school for work we braved the Seoul subway by our lonesome and headed to Insadong, an area of Seoul, which is the art center of the city.

We walked around a bit and perused the various crafts. We tried to visit a Palace but as it turns out, it is closed on Tuesdays. We still were able to walk around in the courtyard however.

We left Insadong and returned to K and B’s school. K had scheduled time for her students to interview me and Z to practice their English skills. It was certainly a learning experience for us.

Korean parents insist on their children achieving high academic success because Korean culture dictates that economic success is directly correlated to how well one does in school. Thus, these kids – who are still elementary students – are studying 12 to 14 hours a day. After their regular school ends they are shuttled to various academies until very late at night. These academies include math academy, English academy, Japanese academy, science academy, etc. Many of them do no get home until after 11pm at night. They then study for a few more hours and then wake up very early to get a jump on studying for the next day.

When we described to them what our schedule was like when we were their age they were quite astonished and seemed a bit envious. One of the students commented “Korean children have no freedom.” Very cute. I should mention that their English was excellent.

After class (which ended at 10pm) B, K, Z and I – along with one of their friends from school – grabbed some food at a local Japanese restaurant and headed out for some bowling.

K and B have become formidable bowlers and put us to shame. K beat her personal best with a strong 146. Nice.

I did not score a 146, or anything near it. However I did manage a few strikes and I barely broke 100 with a whopping 103, which was pretty exciting.

Today the four of us grabbed lunch at a local spot near K and B's school. We also made a stop at the "Sock Guy" - a sock vendor who sells his merchandise out of the back of his truck. He has an adorable selection of colorful socks and they are only 50 cents each. Afterwards Z and I had planned to do some exploring around the city, however due to some stomach complications we spent much of the afternoon indoors. ugh.

We are not sure what the exact cause of our on-and-off recent illness is, but we suspect that our bodies are rebelling against the change of the number of hours of sleep we are getting combined with the drastic change in diet. It is hard to keep up our 10-12 hours of sleep per day and all-organic-all-the-time pattern when living the life of a world traveler. What can you do?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Never, Never Follow the Leader

Today, Sunday, the four of us ventured just outside of Seoul for a four and a half hour hike. But we’ll discuss last night first.

Last night we had planned to begin the evening with some Korean BBQ and head out from there for some Apple Soju (Korean vodka served in a hollowed out apple).

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I am taking a break from eating meat for a while. So my meal was limited to rice, salad, tofu soup and this interesting egg soup-type dish. Some item in that list did NOT agree with my constitution and upset my stomach to such a degree we had to return to the apartment and spend the rest of the evening in.

We have all concluded that after a month of eating pretty mild food, the few bites of spicy soup was enough to set my stomach on strike. Not fun. Luckily Z, Brett and Karen were very understanding and the four of us watched the movie "Sin City" instead.

Today we headed out to Bukhansan National Park for a long hike. Three hours up-hill and one and a half down.

When we got off the subway we had to trek up towards the park through various food and clothing vendors. As you may or may not know, Koreans eat a great variety of foods.

And being the responsible American tourist I took it upon myself to take a bunch of photos of some of these snacks.

Notably, you can see here in the front the steamed silk worm larvae. Believe you me, they were very hard to resist.

We hit the trail with bold enthusiasm.

Since Z and I have been living a fairly active life style in Maui – including a number of serious hikes we were confident that this *little* Korean hike would be a breeze. Arrogance will always get you into trouble. Koreans are very serious hikers – or at least the ones we saw are. Must be all the silk worm larvae they eat.

As I mentioned above – three and a half hours UP hill.

Pretty soon we were all feeling the burn. But we doggedly pursued and eventually we reached the top. We snacked on some granola and fruit and discussed the best plan to descend. There were a number of trails leading down, and unfortunately Karen and I acquiesced to Brett and Zach’s bright idea of taking the Ridge trail down. Bad idea.

The Ridge trail was a narrow, steep and dangerous round-about route down the mountain.

Luckily I had a personal mantra on hand in order to calm myself as I crawled from boulder to boulder – “I HATE you Zach, I HATE you Brett, you are in SO much trouble” – managed to do the trick. The upshot was that such a potent fear for life and limb *magically* eliminated all lingering stomach pains from the night before. Funny how that works.

Surprisingly we all survived in one piece without any significant bruising or scrapes. We picked up some fresh noodles (made right in front of us) and some sprouts and greens for dinner tomorrow night.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. We are all exhausted and will sleep VERY soundly tonight.

Friday, April 22, 2005

We Got Seoul

After 19 hours of traveling we have arrived in Seoul. Karen and Brett picked us up at the bus stop in their neighborhood last night around 10:30PM Seoul time (and who knows what time according to my and Z’s internal clock).

We dropped off our bags and headed out to celebrate our long awaited reunion. We stayed out sort of late drinking Bekseju and munching on some rice and Korean BBQ (at least the veggie portions).

We slept in a bit this AM and then after a delicious breakfast of Asian Pears we headed out to adventure around Seoul. We walked through a tiny market by K and B’s apartment and took a bus to Apugeoing, which is one of the more trendy areas of Seoul.

Shopping seems to be a big part of Korean culture, so it was pretty fun to witness all the consumer-hype.

We also popped into a photography exhibit. featuring Bruce Davidson, whose pieces capture the the NYC subway system in the 1980’s. The artist explained why he took picture of the Subway: “When in the subway, what is beautiful appears bestial, and what is bestial becomes beautiful.” The pieces were really moving and it was particularly interesting for the four of us who were recently living in NYC using the subways quite often. It was quite shocking to see how ominous the subways seemed not long ago; the graffiti alone appeared very intimidating.

Now we are back at the apartment taking some down time in preparation for our outing tonight. More to come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Final Days

Our final days in Hawaii are here. Z and I left Maui Monday morning and flew to Honolulu. Since the flight is barely 30 minutes we had plenty of time to sign in at the hostel and hit the beach.

Z got some surfing in while I stayed on the beach with my book (sound like anyone you know PLG?). The beach here is gorgeous, if a little crowded. It was a bit of a chore finding some space in the sand to park our stuff. Life can be SO grueling sometimes.

We have found that rejoining the hustle-bustle of society is a bit overwhelming after our somewhat secluded life in Maui. We haven’t seen a McDonalds or Starbucks in over a month and I can’t say that our re-exposure to the commerce-driven world is entirely welcomed with open arms. I suppose we had to return to it at some point.

Yesterday we woke up early and headed out for a rigorous walk and did some yoga in the park. Z and I would like to maintain the active lifestyle we had it Maui…and we certainly achieved it yesterday.

After our morning exercise we picked up some fruit at the grocery store and enjoyed breakfast at the hostel. Then we took off for Diamond Head – a crater on the Island that is a significant tourist attraction. You hike up the crater with the promise of a stunning view of the city and beach.

Z and I walked the two miles there, up the crater and back. The visual was indeed worth it, however we had to fight a fairly serious crowd including the second-grade class that was visiting on their field-trip at the same time as we were. Good times.

We took it easy the rest of the day and flopped on the beach – sandwiched between the rest of the tourists. The water is clear and just the right temperature and we spent a good deal of time in it.

We ate dinner at what seems to be the only organic restaurant/ food counter in the area, Marie’s. Not bad, although we are still longing for Myra’s cooking.

After our meal Z and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

Today we will brave the buses and head out towards the University in search of Down to Earth (natural foods grocery store) and a used bookstore to trade in our books for new ones. Will the excitement EVER end???? Tune in next time to see.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Best Day Ever


Well, it was our last day here in Maui and we all did our best to make it memorable.

We started out at 6AM and hit the surf. Z borrowed one of Vanessa’s surfboards, and while they and Scott and Myra surfed, Steffi and I ocean kayaked (played around in the waves in a big indestructible sit-on-top kayak).

Then after a few hours we piled back in the cars and stopped at home to drop off the boards. We jumped right back in the cars and headed off for our bamboo forest hike at “Bamboo Pools.”

The most INCREDIBLE place I have been. Bamboo trees as far as the eye can see. Then you pop out into fresh-water swimming pools and waterfalls. The hike was moderately rigorous, but we brought the two house-dogs along. At one point we had to hoist them up a 15 foot face cliff. It was quite a production.

It was absolutely amazing swimming in those pools under the waterfalls. We jumped off cliffs and generally made merry. We managed to do all this with only a few minor cuts and bruises…ouch.

On the way back we stopped for fresh coconuts that were hacked open right before our eyes! Outstanding. I never really liked coconut until I had it fresh…today.

The house is having a going-away dinner tonight which promises to be a grand ole time. To see more pictures check’em out by clicking the link on the right side of the screen!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Shimminy Crickets

So we went to the Shim Shai concert last night – Steffi, Brandon, Z, Dahi and I. Whoa. Music was ok. Shim Shai as it turns out is a blond, dreaded, Jewish kid whom we suspect is from Cherry Hills, NJ. No confirmation on that. Pure speculation.

The show was a bit weak, but the SCENE was worth every penny. Great numbers of loose fitting skirts and shirts of all shapes and sizes arrived barefoot and ready to jam. The atmosphere was a bit tainted by put-on spirituality, but all in all they were good folks out to have a grand ole time. Classic Maui gathering – hippified to the max (and I don’t use that term lightly).

This morning Myra held her monthly 108 Sun Salutations class at 7am which Z and I attended. It is as straightforward as it sounds. For those of you unfamiliar with yoga Sun Salutations, I will simply say that 108 Sun Salutations is no laughing matter. I was very apprehensive about attending, as I imagined that I would make it to 30, maybe push out another sputtering five and then simply collapse into Child’s Pose.

Surprisingly, I FINISHED! Now to be fair, I was a bit behind Myra and her crew. That is, it took them about 50 minutes to finish them and it took me 70. But those are just details. The point is that I finished! Just goes to show you what a couple of months in Maui will do for your body and spirit and drive.

Then Z, Steffi and I headed out to the Kahului (pronounced Ka - who - louie) for the Saterday Swap Meet. Found some interesting trinkets. Quite a show down there.

We returned to the house for lunch and then spent most of our time making these signs for Myra's vegetable garden. A fantastic afternoon.

It looks like tomorrow the whole house will be heading out to hit the surf. Everyone rides a different kind of board - so it should be interesting. Myra's friend Ann is lending us two ocean Kayaks for the outing. Nice! Don't worry...we'll take pictures and report later!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Packing Is Such Sweet Sorrow

It is funny how quickly a place and people can become ‘home.’ Today Z and I have begun packing – separating which stuff will continue on with us to Korea and what will be mailed home in boxes (thanks mom and dad, aka Universal Storage Co. – don’t worry, not too many boxes).

As I glance at my sad looking empty closet I am already homesick for Myra’s farm in Maui. We have had a fantastic time here and everyone at the house has made us feel so welcome and loved.

On a lighter note, I am making hummus tonight after which Steffi, Dahi, Brandon, Z and I will be attending a show in Haiku where Shim Shai will be playing some World music. Should be a hoot.

Can’t seem to get enough of the flowers here. Just a smattering of beauty to brighten your day.