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Seoul-ed Out: Everything Seoul, Korea!

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Need more current information? Lonely Planet Korea and Lonely Planet Seoul  are awesome, and I relied heavily on both while in Korea.

I lived in Seoul for 2 years between late 2012 and early 2015, and it’s one of my favourite cities in the world! I feel homesick for Seoul all the time. Sometimes I miss the little things, like the subway system, or staring confusedly at the grocery store shelves, trying to make sure I was buying the right kind thing. (Really, I miss that!) Sometimes, it’s the big things. Entertainment at all hours. The food. My lifestyle. It’s always nice to look back on that time, and I was inspired to write a Seoul megapost for anyone heading that way for the Olympics or otherwise. Here are some things to see, do, and eat in the winter**. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list! Do you have a favourite Seoul food or activity that’s not included? Let me know in the comments!

Jump to:

  • Food (hotteok, samgyupsal, kim bap, dakgalbi, green tea latte, pajeon and makgeolli, yeoltan bulgogi, galmaegisal, somaek, chimaek, shabu shabu, fish bread, tteokbokki)
  • Neighbourhoods (Myeongdong, Insadong, Hongdae (lesbian bars), Itaewon (queer bars), Gangnam)
  • Sights/Activities (Namsan, palaces, jjimjilbang/spa, parks, noraebang/karaoke, dog/cat cafes, hiking, markets, temples, amusement parks, museums)
  • Day Trips (DMZ, temple stay, toilet museum)
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Continue reading “Seoul-ed Out: Everything Seoul, Korea!”

Getting Naked with Strangers: Navigating the Korean Jjimjilbang

This one’s an oldie – it’s one of the first posts I published on this blog. I’m currently in the home stretch of my master’s degree, so it’s rerun time for blog posts! This is one of my absolute favourites, and since I’ve been dreaming about these warm spas lately, it seemed like the right choice!

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One of the best ways to relax in Korea is to strip down and spend a day at the jjimjilbang, or public bathhouse/spa. If you’ve never been before, it can be a little overwhelming to figure it out. Namely: when should you be naked and when should you not be? (Coincidentally also one of life’s greatest questions.) Here are some guidelines for your first time.

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Continue reading “Getting Naked with Strangers: Navigating the Korean Jjimjilbang”

Must Eats: South Korean Foods to Accompany a Hot Summer

The weather’s nice and warm in Victoria, and I’ve been having mad cravings for some Korean summer foods. Here are a few super refreshing options!

Patbingsoo (팥빙수):

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A mountain of shaved ice, topped with sweet red beans. It usually comes covered in sweetened condensed milk and topped with gooey rice cakes, and you can often order it with ice cream, fruit, cereal flakes, jelly, and in different flavours. Continue reading “Must Eats: South Korean Foods to Accompany a Hot Summer”

Anxiety on a White Sandy Beach: GTFO of this Tropical Paradise!

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My first night on Boracay, I sat with a friend on a white sandy beach, beer in hand, waves gently coming in a few feet away. The air was warm, and we listened to live music from a nearby restaurant.

I had just finished my second year of teaching in South Korea and was taking the long way home to Canada. The small island in the Philippines was the first stop during about a month of travel, and it had drawn me in for the same reasons it appeals to most tourists: white beaches and relaxation. But the thoughts that began running through my mind were far from relaxing.

A jumble of worries quickly became more specific: I wasn’t employed in Korea or Canada. I was moving back home after more than two years of living overseas, where I had been financially stable, competent at my job, and free to travel around Asia whenever I had time off work. I had about upcoming commitments to normal people things: weddings and family reunions, big decisions on the horizon, and a crap-ton of important yet tedious tasks looming, like reinstating health care and paying taxes on foreign income. Things that are hard to process when you lead a weird, Peter Pan-esque lifestyle.

Playing vagabond during vacation from work was one thing, but holy shit what was I doing now?! Continue reading “Anxiety on a White Sandy Beach: GTFO of this Tropical Paradise!”

12 Ways to Deal with Holiday Homesickness When You’re Abroad

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First, let me say that this post is loaded with privilege. Not everyone has a good relationship with family, or positive holiday experiences, and on top of that has the ability to be overseas missing them. I’m very grateful for my family and for the opportunities I’ve had to travel long-term. Also, it’s a very Christmas-oriented post, but feel free to replace the C-word with your holiday or non-denominational celebration of choice!

        Whether you’re working on the other side of the world without the means to go home for a visit, or choosing to take advantage of days off to travel, it can be tough to be away from home for the holidays. Here are some ways to ease the ho-ho-homesickness:

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Continue reading “12 Ways to Deal with Holiday Homesickness When You’re Abroad”

Getting Naked with Strangers: Navigating the Korean Jjimjilbang

-1875962317

One of the best ways to relax in Korea is to strip down and spend a day at the jjimjilbang, or public bathhouse/spa. If you’ve never been before, it can be a little overwhelming to figure it out. Namely: when should you be naked and when should you not be? (Coincidentally also one of life’s greatest questions.) Here are some guidelines for your first time.

20141113_153622

Continue reading “Getting Naked with Strangers: Navigating the Korean Jjimjilbang”

4 Reasons Why Japan is an Introverted Traveller’s Paradise

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Mt. Misen, Miyajima

I’m a major introvert. I like meeting new people and hanging out with friends, but need a good dose of alone time afterwards to curl up in the fetal position re-energize. When travelling solo, I will almost always choose to spend time touring around on my own, rather than with a “new friend” (i.e. person I just met who I have to make small talk with).

When I visited Japan, I was feeling particularly introverted. I hadn’t travelled across the Pacific to get there; I’d come over on an hour-long flight from Seoul, where I was living at the time. I really just wanted to see all the cool things during the day, and read or Skype my then-girlfriend in the evenings. I was a little worried about whether I would be missing out, but it turns out Japan is a great destination for solo-travelling introverts!

Here are 4 reasons why Japan might appeal to other solitary souls:

Continue reading “4 Reasons Why Japan is an Introverted Traveller’s Paradise”

Must Eats Korea (Part 1): Korean Meats

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Whenever someone asks me how I enjoyed living in South Korea, I will inevitably start talking about the food.

e.g.: “Oh you lived in Korea?! Did you get homesick? What was it like??”

        ” Nah, Skype’s pretty great and the food was amazing!

No matter what the question is, food is always the answer. Why?

  • The consistent balance of flavour: salty, slightly sweet, and reliably spicy.
  • The value: meals are cheap, filling, and come with enough side dishes to leave you questioning how much you actually ordered.
  • The diversity: if, like me, you come from a city without a large Korean population, your knowledge of Korean cuisine may be limited. There is so much to it. So much diversity in cooking techniques, regional variation in flavours (not everything is salty/sweet/spicy), and multiple influences on the way food is shared and prepared.

Ok, enough preamble. Here’s Part One of the Korean food series: Korean Meats.

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Continue reading “Must Eats Korea (Part 1): Korean Meats”

Cool Places to Stay: Beijing – Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B

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What & Where? Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B, Beijing; check it out on a map

What makes it wonderful?

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Mao’er has only four rooms (it’s nice and quiet!!), and they’re laid out around a courtyard. The staff is incredibly warm and friendly, and they’re happy to help out with anything you need.

Continue reading “Cool Places to Stay: Beijing – Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B”

The Road to El Nido*

roadtoelnidoI was sure that we were going to hit the chicken. Unaware of the comedic value of what were certainly its last moments of life, it was crossing the road in front of the minivan. As we got closer, the Filipino driver’s face remained calm, but his continuous honking became increasingly urgent, as if to say, “C’mon, you stupid bird, I’m rooting for you! Now MOVE IT!” I closed my eyes, reluctant to witness a violent end to the classic riddle. But there was no bump. This was the road to El Nido, and the driver had, once again, proven that he was a magician.

Continue reading “The Road to El Nido*”

Number 2: The Crappiest Places in East Asia

modern toiletTo set the tone of this blog, it seems appropriate that the second post, or – dare I say it – number 2, should highlight some attractions related to toilets and excrement. After all, those subjects form the building blocks of great punchlines (for toddlers) and are highly fascinating (to plumbers and also toddlers). Sadly, my adult life* has been mostly devoid of bathroom-related entertainment. That is, it had been, until I moved to East Asia. Continue reading “Number 2: The Crappiest Places in East Asia”

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