Tag Archives: Asia

Attack of the Engrish: South Korea Edition!

Optimized-IMG_0474For those that can’t see through the glare on the can: My fighting time! Let’s be cafe time!

In countries where the first language isn’t English, the populace has often attempted to insert education of the world’s most spoken language into their curriculum, with varying results.  Korea is one of those countries that has pushed hard to get their citizens educated in the use of this often confusing form of communication (2nd hardest in the world to learn after Mandarin Chinese), and for the most part, it has resulted in its economies’ rapid rise.

Of course, a culture with a different way of relating to self-expression is bound to come with a rather unique style of using the English language.  While this may include mistakes in grammar, most often, their use of metaphors and the like end up with light-hearted and humorous results, as shown above. Let’s go through a few more that I stumbled across during my 3 1/2 month sojourn in South Korea…!

Optimized-IMG_0548

Every time I went to the PC Bang (gaming and internet cafe) next door to my apartment (due to my lack of stable wi-fi at my place), I’d buy one of these guys.  I certainly enjoyed my fruitful days, most likely because they would have quickly become my last, as these cafes are filled with cigarette smoke (yes, smoking indoors in many parts of Korea is legal)!

Optimized-IMG_0651

Grammatically correct, but this phrase unfortunately has a negative connotation … so is it good.  SPOILER ALERT: it is!  Find it in the entertainment district of Cheonan (south of the Shinseggae department store in Shinbudong) and be sure to order one of their thin crust pizzas!

Optimized-IMG_0713

Apparently this cafe is a meeting place for cannibals … I shuffled by rather quickly 😛 (just past this place in Buldong is a really awesome Mexican place called Cantina … check it out if you’re living here!)

Optimized-SAM_0087

Coffee and pizza … such a killer combination, but I think I’ll stick to beer or Coca-Cola as my accompanying drink of choice, ok? 😛

Optimized-SAM_0104

Ohhhh myyyyy …. I got nothing guys…!

Optimized-SAM_0123

Bloody right I am … let’s get going! 🙂

Optimized-SAM_0144

Found this on the subway. Note to self: avoid taking the train from 6 til 10 am/pm, lest I end up in the midst of a blood-soaked frenzy of Koreans taking their frustrations out in a homicidal fashion.  Mmmm, murder! 😛

What’s the funniest Engrish you’ve encountered on an overseas journey?  Tell us in the comments below!

Experiencing An Authentic Korean BBQ

IMG_0636

During my time in Korea, one of the things that interested me most was getting acquainted with this nation’s unique cuisine.  Kimchi, Donkastsu, Kimbap … all had their turn in my mouth, with interesting results at minimum.

One thing that I had yet to try at the point in time when the events in this post occurred (June 2013) was Samgyeopsal, or Korean-style grilled pork belly.  I preferred to call it a pet name, Mutant Korean Bacon™, much to the amusement of friends.

As the summer began to get ever hotter, Sonya, who was one of my co-teachers, invited me to a family BBQ that would involve this meaty treat.  Needless to say, I simply couldn’t turn down an opportunity to experience an authentic Korean BBQ in a rustic setting…

Optimized-IMG_0637 (1)

It wasn’t quite the idyllic park that I had had originally envisioned in my mind filled with Western memes and stereotypes, but the soju, beer (as shown in the cover photo) and the meat roasting atop the grill was very much what I was yearning for…

Optimized-IMG_0639

The finished product, in its roasting, dripping state would not last long upon this grill.  It quickly found its way to the preparation table …

Optimized-IMG_0638

… where it got mixed with a variety of ingredients, after which it was wrapped in a lettuce leaf and consumed in a marriage between vegetable and protein that any self-respecting paleo dieter would just adore!

Have you ever tried Samgyeopsal?  Did you love it or hate it? Let me know below!

Launching Lanterns On New Year’s Eve In Chiang Mai

Optimized-poe_heauplanchimai

New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai is a holiday that is treated by the locals in the manner that we regard Christmas.  It’s a joyous occasion where people get to get with their families, celebrate, and make wishes for a prosperous and happy year ahead.  One of these traditions involves lighting a lantern and releasing it into the sky.  On the day of/in the days leading up to the big day, vendors will be selling these collapsed paper bags with a wick that is shaped like a doughnut.  This is what you and thousands of people will be sending into the sky en masse on New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai …

Optimized-poe_andlifoffwehavlifoff

To send your lantern into the ether, unfurl it, then light the wick, which has been pre-primed with an accelerant that will keep it lit for a good long while.  Next, it won’t fly away until the air within the lantern is hot enough to provide the upward thrust to keep it rising.  Many people get impatient and let theirs go way too early, leading to it hovering near the ground, and sadly, due to the moat present in the main area of Chiang Mai, splashing down in the water, possibly leading to a year of bad luck 😛

Optimized-poe_onwtospaadv

Eventually though, the heat will have built up to a point where you can let it blast off (3-5 minutes is usually enough time).  Off into the sky it will go, along with thousands of others … before the law of gravity takes over and begins raining fire and extinguished lanterns on the surrounding neighbourhoods! 😛

Have you ever launched paper lanterns into the sky, be it in Thailand or elsewhere in the world?  Tell us about it below!

Photo: Chiang Mai From Above

Chiang Mai, Thailand as viewed from Doi Suthep

Sweeping views of Thailand’s second city are hard to come by, as much of the place is kept low-rise by the fact that most business headquarters are located in Bangkok, and due to the presence of an international airport well within city limits.

Fortunately for those that love these lofty vantage points, there is a mountain that abuts the western part of the metropolis.  Doi Suthep towers above this part of Chiang Mai, with views from Wat Phra That being suspended thousands of feet above the streets and buildings below.

When you head up to get that marvelous shot, be sure to dress conservatively (long pants/no exposed shoulders), as you will be on sacred ground.

How to get here: Take a red songthaew to the Chiang Mai Zoo.  A short way up the street from here are the gates of Doi Suthep National Park, where there will be more songthaews that will take you up and down the mountain for 50-80 baht, depending how many attractions (Phuping Palace and a a hilltribe village also can be visited up here) you want to see (Wat Phra That is the closest one, so it should be no more than 50 baht).

Head up the stairs past countless trinket vendors to the Wat, then head towards the ridge once on the grounds of the temple.  Enjoy! 

A Late Spring Outing To Hoseo University In Asan District, South Korea

Cool street art in Baebang Korea

With my free time winding down to the end of yet another weekend, I wanted to do something with my time that was new and exciting, lest I feel that I wasted it.  Time to explore is at a premium when you’re a hagwon teacher in South Korea, so you need to use the time that you aren’t teaching, lesson planning, cooking, cleaning, and sleeping to the best uses possible.

As such, I decided to explore Hoseo, a university town at the end of a dead end road in a valley just south of my town, Baebang, as some colleagues of mine had said it was quite beautiful down that way.  To get there, a bus needed to be taken, which I hadn’t done in Korea yet, so I was a little bit intimidated, but not deterred 😛

Cool street art in Baebang Korea

To get to the bus stop I needed to wait at, though, I had to walk for about 10-15 minutes through my community, which was looking rather fine on this late spring day, as you can see from the murals in the pictures above.

Hoseo University, South Korea

After attempting to mime a conversation with a Korean ajumma (old woman) for about ten minutes, I was finally on the bus, and after getting scolded by the bus driver for unwittingly shortchanging him, I was at the end of the line, at Hoseo University.  Some sort of ceremony, was ongoing that day, maybe graduation day…?  The crowd seemed to be a bit thin for such a momentous occasion, though.

Grape Coconut drink in Korea

In search of some refreshment on this baking hot day, I opted to forego my usual Coke and get a drink that was truly Korean.  Have you ever had a grape coconut drink before?  Neither had I, but as weird as it was, I can happily report that it was quite enjoyable, and it quenched my thirst to boot!

Building at Hoseo University in South Korea

After wandering around the grounds of the university for awhile, searching for mountain trailheads, and generally trying to get a feel for Korean campus life, I headed back through the townsite to see what was on offer for the kids there.  As per most Korean entertainment districts, there were many restaurants, hofs (Korean pubs), and games rooms.  However, it was soon time to seek out the bus again, so I could return to town to begin my preparations again for the coming week (I so don’t miss Sunday evenings now that I’m working for myself now…!)

Farmer's field, Asan District, Korea

As I have mentioned before, no arable or buildable land is wasted in Korea.  There are always growing something on land that isn’t built upon, in a feverish and admirable attempt to be as food secure as possible (something that we in the West could learn from). On this plot that I happened upon on my way to the bus stop, we witness the starting point of the Korean obsession with kimchi, as rows of cabbage extend out almost as far as the eye can see.

Traffic safety mirror selfie, Baebang Korea

Overall, it was a rewarding day.  Even if you don’t know why exactly you’re going somewhere, exploring somewhere you haven’t been is ultimately rewarding in itself.  After all, it beats just randomly surfing the internet on a gorgeous Spring afternoon, with an ever-growing dread for the coming work week building with every passing second towards bedtime!

Ever explored an area for no reason, except for the fact that it was there? Tell us all about it below!

Photo: A Park … In Korea?? With GRASS!?!

Park in Cheonan Korea

Throughout much of Korea, land is used to the maximum extent.  There are 50 million people living in a country that is smaller than the State of Ohio (or the island of Newfoundland, for my Canadian readers).

These people need a place to live, food to eat, and places to work.  Complicating things further is the fact that 70% of the land in South Korea is mountainous, severely limiting what can be built or grown there.

Parks as we know them in North America or Europe are very rare in South Korea for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph.

This makes the green space shown above that much more striking, as it contains an abundance of the parkland we take for granted back home.  Of course, this is South Korea, so signs of urbanity are never far behind.

The towers in the background is the new, dynamic Korea showing its much prettier face, a breath of fresh air from the commie block style apartments that litter just about every town and city in this country.

Cheonan is a rapidly growing area 1 and 1/2 hours drive south of Seoul, so the relatively underdeveloped land here made for an interesting experiment in cutting-edge architectural design, paired with green principles.

Not only is there a spacious park with easy walking distance of this mixed use tower, there are wind turbines and sports facilities on the other side of the hill, making this place the leading edge of a healthier way of life for people in Cheonan, and hopefully in the long run, for all people in South Korea.

Photo Series: James And Bob The Elephant, BFF’s For Life!

Elephants in Thailand

On my first trip to Thailand, I spent a lot of time in the mountain paradise of Pai.  About two weeks to be exact.

During that time, I experienced many of the things that the Pai Valley had to offer, including one of many elephant camps.

Thanks to my friend Katie, who seemingly knows half the people in town due to spending seven winters in this sleepy place, I was able to meet my new pal shown above.

Feeding an elephant in Thailand

Bob, was hungry, so I fed him some delicious elephant grass…

elephant hugs in Thailand

… and found out that he was more than pleased with my generous gift.  Awww, elephant cuddles!

Have you connected with a friendly pachyderm on vacation in Thailand?  Share your tale below!

In Motion: A Rainy Night In Itaewon, Seoul, Korea

Itaewon Seoul Korea

Standing out like a patch of North America in the middle of South Korea, Itaewon is the preeminent foreigner hub in Seoul, and by virtue of this, the biggest gathering place for expats in the entire country. Western-style bars, restaurants, and stores with appropriately sized clothing are all available in relative abundance, leading to frequent trips to this area by desperate teachers from the provinces. Also, many Koreans find it to be the best place to experience foreign cultures in the whole country, made all the more significant by the fact that this country is very homogeneous (Korea is 98% ethnic Korean), making it hard to connect with all things international outside of this area.

Below, I make my first foray into this vibrant district, on a moody and rainy night in Seoul

Have you ever been to Itaewon?  Have a favourite bar/restaurant/shop you frequent there?  Let us know about it in the comments!

Photo: The Wisdom Of The Buddha

Optimized-poe_budsayminonealwpro

Buddhism has a huge influence in Thailand, with 95% of the population claiming Thervada Buddhism as their religion. As such, there are many exotic (to us foreigners, that is) golden and brass houses of worship across the country, along with countless centuries old brick stupas.  When you walk into these sacred places, there are a number of different things you might see, ranging from idols that honour various animals, to gold leaf covered Buddha statues.  One thing that I always scope out a temple for though are the sayings of the Buddha.  Frequently, you will signs in Thai and English, imparting the wisdom of the Buddha to visitors.

The above saying is particularly apt in today’s modern world.  Technology has us constantly distracted, deflecting attention from the things that truly matter in the real world: beauty, the taste of food, the laughter of a friend, and so on.  Also, the careful considerations of one’s actions could make a huge difference in the life of many people.  So often, we live our lives on autopilot, making automatic decisions that may be creating sub-optimal results in our everyday lives.  By questioning seemingly easy decisions that we take for granted, we may, as the sign says above, begin to prosper where prosperity had not been present before.

Try it.  What do you have to lose anyway?

Photo: Deserted Waterfall At The Top Of A Mountain Trail In Northern Thailand

This waterfall greeting me at the top of a Mountain Trail In Northern ThailandA deserted waterfall at the end of a hike up a small mountain 40km south of Sukhothai, Thailand … a worthwhile payoff to a morning of hard effort

After receiving a tip from some local Thais at the resort where we were staying in Sukhothai, my travel mates and I rented bikes and set off south of the city, in search of a remote waterfall in a small national park, virtually unvisited by fellow foreigners.  Not thinking it to be much more than a walk in the woods, I threw a bottle of water in my day pack, slipped on my well-worn sandals, and set off on the road with my trusty Honda Click.

After paying the entrance fee to disinterested gatekeepers, who were more wrapped up in the Thai soap opera playing out on their fuzzy TV in the corner, we set off in search of our secret chute in the wilderness.  Shortly after, it became apparent that sandals were woefully inadequate footwear for this trail, as it ascended 20-30 degree grades at the worst of it, and towards the end, we had to scramble over granite boulders.

We survived, though, and our reward was 100+ foot high waterfall, a delightfully chilly plunge pool (which required sandals to walk in without hurting your feet) with a cloud of dainty yellow butterflies hovering overhead … and not another soul to be seen.

When you push through hell, or any other less than ideal circumstance, take heart: most of the time, an incredible reward awaits you at the top.