Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stuff and Things

I've kinda dropped out of this blogging malarkey. Not that I've been hugely busy - I have been busy though, doing courses part-time online, dealing with my co-teacher going on maternity leave and training her replacement, maintaining a social life - but busy in Korea isn't anything like busy in other parts of the world.

This week my students have mid-term exams, and like every other time they have exams it involves two lessons pre-exam where the teacher goes over everything in the exam to ensure all students pass, even if all they're doing is memorising the answers they've been given. Mercifully, this is handled by the Korean teacher so I have three days of deskwarming and time to do all the things I've actually had time to do anyway.

A couple of weekends ago I was visited by my friend Abi who I went to high school and worked with in Whangarei. Abi was on her way to the UK where she's doing her obligatory OE and she got cheap-ish flights through Seoul. I bussed up to meet her on Friday night where we crammed ALL OF THE THINGS into a weekend.

We stayed in the Jongno area - cheap love motels, history, street food - and hit up my favourite touristy spots. We went to Insadong and Ssamziegil, the latter has recently installed a kind of 'lover's walk' a bit like Namsan Tower (fourth picture down). Instead of locks of love, couples can buy small plastic disks and tie them to the walls of this walk. I went a few months ago and the walls were patchy and barren, but since November they've been utterly covered.  

The Saturday was unfortunately a bit rainy and miserable, so we trudged around under $3 umbrellas which broke shortly after purchase. Very close to Insadong is Bukchon Hanok Village, a suburb full of traditional Korean houses (Hanok) which is actually really ritzy. I always get a kick out of the traditional juxtaposed with the new so fingerprint ID locking systems on an intricately carved Korean gate just tickles me pink.

We walked around for an hour or so, stopping briefly in an odd little museum/hanok where we saw small carved wooden figurines and Abi got to try on a hanbok - traditional Korean clothing.

As we left the village to head back to Insadong, Abi was interviewed by a middle school student about her reasons for visiting. Sometimes it's frustrating - like yesterday, when I was having a discussion with my friends, and the neighbouring table kept asking us weird questions - but generally I really get a kick out of letting people try out their English on me. The student's Mum asked us for a picture so I got one too!

Later in the evening I got a chance to do something touristy I've neglected since settling in to Korean life - the night-time Seoul bus tour. I've wanted to do it for yonks! Unfortunately it wasn't the best, maybe because it was ridiculously rainy and I was freezing. The highlight was Namsan Tower, but we only got a ten minute stop there, and it's a 6 minute walk to the tower from the car park! We took a few quick snaps, I like this one of the tower in the fog.

We spent Saturday night eating tasty food and drinking soju at two different DVD Bangs, before rising at a respectable hour (cough, cough, super late) to explore on Sunday. Fortunately the sun was out and it was reasonably warm. We visited Gyeongbokgung and saw a few spring blossoms, it was beautiful! 

Abi's a big sports fan so after the palace we hopped on the subway and headed to Jamsil Sports Complex for some baseball. I really enjoy the games here and was pleased we'd decided to go - the stadium was absolutely packed and we ended up blocking a stairway, clutching tallboys of beer and cheering on the Doosan Bears.

We left a little early to skip the crowds and went to our last stop - Gangnam. It's kinda compulsory to visit thanks to .... that song... but there's still some cool stuff to do. We went to a cat cafe I'd visited in Korea part 1, and they had new cats! I've never been particular about wanting to own a certain breed of cat but after this visit I really, really, hopelessly want a Scottish Fold. They're just so boss. This grey guy clearly owned the place and was the main focus of my affection.

I had a last meal of Shabu Shabu with Abi (we crammed in SO much food, it was extraordinary) before heading home on the 9pm bus and being zonked for the week following. It was a great weekend, and big thank-yous to Abi for being my test audience for Korean travel. My lovely friend Steph is visiting in June so I've got another subject to try out before setting up a travel agency!

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