Tag Archives: South Korea

Making A Pilgrimage To The Baebang Buddhist Temple

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While Christianity has a significant presence in Korea, Buddhism also has a large following as well.  On a typical weekend off from teaching in Baebang, I decided to seek out out local temple.  After hiking into the hills above my town through rice and kimchi farms, I finally reached its hallowed grounds. When you are faced with a view like the one displayed above, how could you not build a shrine to your deity of choice?

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Despite arriving at its doorstep on a weekend afternoon, all was quiet. Perfect for a spot of exploration and a rare moment of serenity in a nation as crowded as South Korea…

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Unlike more elaborate inner sanctums that one would find in halls of worship in places like Seoul, Beijing or Bangkok, Baebang has kept things simple, with a small idol of the lord Buddha accompanied by offerings of abundance and sublime style elements.

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One thing I wasn’t able to figure out during my time in this country was the purpose behind altars built in the honor of seemingly prominent Koreans. Not sure who this guy was, but I’m sure he was integral to the building up of this nation, or at least this community.

Ever visit a non-descript temple, church, or mosque that captured your heart?  Let us know below!

Gagwonsa Temple: A Chief Cultural Attraction In Cheonan, South Korea

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With South Korea having the rich past that it does, its not long after a foreigner arrives here before they go searching for relics of its heritage.  As such, I also went looking for the most vaunted cultural attraction in Cheonan, Gagwonsa Temple, within the first few months of being settled in South Korea (little did I know that it would be close to the end of my stay there, but c’est la vie).

Located up on the slopes of Taejosan above the rapidly growing industrial, high-tech and research city of Cheonan, this place is one of serenity and peace from the hustle and bustle present in the streets below.

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After taking a bus from the entertainment district of Cheonan, I arrived in the relaxing mountain village that lies just below the temple complex itself.  After a bit of a walk in the sweltering 32 degree heat (not counting the heat index), I finally made it to the most famous sight of Gagwonsa – The Bronze Buddha…

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Noted as one of the largest sitting Buddhas in Asia, it was a worthwhile sight to see on this day … but there was still more exploring to be done.

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To those not familiar with Asian religious history, the symbol of the swastika on these venerated temple structures may come as a bit of a shock.  They were used as Hindu and Buddhist symbols for thousands of years before the Nazis co-opted this icon for their own nefarious purposes.

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Heading down into the courtyard, I simply couldn’t come here without taking a look inside…

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Shoes off before going in!

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I wasn’t sure if cameras were frowned within the inner sanctum, so I snapped a pic before stepping inside.  Anyone in the know about this, please inform me on the proper protocol!

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I was going to go on a mountain hike on this day, but with the heat so overwhelming on this day, I thought better of it on this day and turned back at this point. Summer is a terrible time to go peak bagging in Korea, spring or fall is your best bet!

Do you have a favorite local temple in Korea where you live?  Have you visited one on holiday here?  Tell all in the comments below!

Photo: Korea Is A Carnivore’s Dream (Unless You Like Beef)

Pictured above is the aftermath of a typical grocery trip in Korea for yours truly.  Before you start getting concerned about me dropping dead of a heart attack at 35, know that most artery inflammation is mostly the result of over-consumption of simple carbohydrates (sugars + white bread) and trans fats (often created when processed foods are made) with red meat ranking well behind on the danger scale.  Besides, I did buy spinach and onions before this grocery run, with remnants already in the fridge and cupboard, thank you very much 🙂

Grocery costs are well below that of Canada, despite the constrained land to raise livestock and grow crops … economies of scale work wonders, what can I say?

Prices of items above:

Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts (2) – 2500 won each = $2.27 CDN each
Pork, cut into stir fry strips (3) – 1180 won each = $1.07 each
Big pack of ground pork – 3520 won = $3.20
Big bag of frozen Mandu (Korean dumplings) – 4500 won = $4.09
12 eggs – 3000 won = $2.73
Tall can of Cass Beer – 2500 won = $2.07
The sole expensive buy … small but good-looking beef steak – 6600 won = $6

All told, this haul, which was a bigger trip than I normally made, added up to 28,660 won, or $26.05 Canadian, which is markedly less than my grocery bill in Canada for a lot less meat.  Not pictured or purchased on this run was spinach, which sells at Homeplus for about 1200 won a bag, or slightly more than $1 Canadian, rather than the $3-$4 it costs here at home.

Conclusion: Korea is paleo heaven (just learn to love chicken and pork a lot more, and request purple rice instead of the standard white rice at restaurants, and you’ll be golden!)

Readers: any killer grocery buys you’ve made in Korea?  Spill your guts to us in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…!

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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)!

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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!

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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!)

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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? 😛

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Ohhhh myyyyy …. I got nothing guys…!

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

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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

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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…

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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…

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

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… 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!

Traveling For The Avid Poker Player

Bloggers almost playing poker by CC user fhwrdh on Flickr

NOTE FROM JAMES: The following is a guest post contributed by Angela Stevens, who has become the first author on this site other than myself in its history.  All views expressed are her own and do necessarily reflect my opinion, nor that of The Pursuit of Excitement.  That said, I am a big fan of poker, so it gives me great pleasure to present the following post to you

Take it away, Angela!
When people think of poker, they usually imagine stone-faced gamblers putting their intuition, skill, and mental training all into play. While poker pros engage their fertile brains by going through every hand and analyzing every beat, their faces are usually the epitome of ice-cold calm – their eyes, in particular, staring holes into the table, their cards, and maybe even their opponents’ eyes.

It certainly doesn’t take a grizzled veteran of the poker tables to recognize that poker is truly a complex mind sport; a deceptively simple, decidedly serious game of skill that requires and demands finely honed mental toughness, resilience, and a fair bit of craftiness. Much like board games such as chess and Go, poker has a devoted international following, thus ensuring a consistently high level of true world-class competition on practically every age group and skill level.

Going all in all over the world

The growing popularity of the World Poker Tour (WPT) circuit in locales as diverse as Morocco, South Korea, and Cyprus coupled with the European, African, and Asia-Pacific expansion of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournaments has resulted in an increasingly global talent pool that runs the gamut from serious national contenders to amateur poker players and everything in between.

For the elite, cream-of-the-crop poker pros, this means fantastic opportunities to explore the many wondrous attractions on this planet – before (and after) participating in highly stacked poker tournaments, of course. As one of the most widely recognizable faces and voices in the poker universe, Kara Scott is a stunningly fine example of the constantly jet-setting professional poker player.

In 2013 alone, the peripatetic Partypoker ambassador – who has had memorable stints as an ESPN sideline reporter on WSOP Main Events – played in and/or hosted at numerous poker tournaments all over the world. Some of these include WPT National events in Italy, Cyprus, Prague, Denmark, Austria, and France; interviewing football and poker legends for the Road to Old Trafford event in Manchester and the 44th Annual WSOP in Las Vegas. The brunette Alberta native also hosted the 12th edition of the European Poker Awards in Paris, where she won the Poker Personality of the Year award for 2012.

Poker has even taken on the form of organized adventure-style events aptly called “poker runs”. Participants in these organized events use various forms of transportation, including (but definitely not limited to) snowmobiles, motorcycles, longboards, boats, and mountain bikes.

Solo or group participants must draw a playing card at each of the assigned checkpoints in the official course; the primary goal is to possess the best poker hand at the end of the run.

Clearly, poker is a worldwide sensation that caters to millions of diehard fans across the globe.

Photo: Waegook Comedy Night In Cheonan, South Korea

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When you’re in a homogeneous place like South Korea, where less than 1% of the population are foreigners more or less like you, sometimes you gotta band together to avoid feeling overwhelmed sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, cultural immersion is rad and all, but sometimes you crave the company of people that share your collective societal experiences and that speak your language.  Cheonan, despite being a smaller city by Korea standards (600,000), has an expat community that is larger than normal, making for a lively community.

One thing that went on here during my time in Cheonan was a comedy night.  Apparently, if you are crazy enough to drop everything and move to a foreign country completely different from your own, it also engenders a wicked sense of humor within you!

Despite the thin pool to draw from, most of the guys you see above are from the area (a few parachuted in from Seoul), and did a bang up job bringing the house down with guffaws, snorts, and all-out barrages of belly laughter.

It was certainly one of my most memorable nights in Cheonan, as I also went bar crawling with most of these gents after the show (many bars stay open until the sun rises in Korea on the weekends!).

Live(d) in Korea? If so, how is (was) the expat social scene in your city/town?

My 2013 In Pictures: A Tumultuous Year In Review

Christmas in Calgary 2012Christmas 2012 in Calgary … my holiday season had a much lower profile this year, but I had a lot to reflect and grateful for over the past 365+ days!

It’s amazing what can happen in the span of 365 short days.  This time last year, I was freezing in the depths of yet another Alberta winter, yet I had a renewed spring in my step, despite the darkness that early January brings with it.

I had hatched plans to dump my day job as a warehouseman (which I had never planned to be a permanent arrangement), as I had committed in my mind to pursue the next great adventure in my life … to teach English as a Second Language in South Korea.  I couldn’t head over straight away, though, as I needed to go through a Byzantine process to qualify and then, get hired.

Well, that’s cool.  But what was I doing in Calgary in the dead of winter anyway?  On that note, let’s get this party rolling, starting below!

January 2013 – Family Time in Calgary

My nephew Owen about to shoot off a rocket

One of my original motivations to seek a job in Calgary, Alberta’s largest city, was to enable myself to spend more family time with my nephew and niece, who are very rapidly growing up as I type this.  Owen (pictured above) just entered elementary school this fall, and Lauren at 3 years old isn’t that far behind. And as of this September, there was a new addition to my sister’s family, little Aaron.

As much of a globetrotter as I am, I am endeavoring to be there for them in the years ahead.  All the more reason to continue pursuing my efforts to fuel my life via the internet, a task now half completed, as I will reveal later on in this piece!

February 2013 – Just Quit Your Warehouse Job?  Time To Go Skiing!

After making the decision to go splitskis with my employer in my mind late last year, I began furiously saving for a period of unemployment, in much the same way I have saved for my travels in the past.  While there were many things related to the ESL application process that took up my time, as well as working away at causal web work and preparing to launch this standalone site, it left me a lot of idle time.

Calgary isn’t the most exciting place in the world during the winter, especially during the work week, so what to do?  Well, I heard that my former home Jasper, tucked well away in the Canadian Rockies to the northwest, was about to get pummeled with a massive snowstorm. With nothing holding me back, I hopped aboard a Greyhound Bus and an overnight ride and nine hours later, I was in Jasper on the eve of one of the heaviest storms to hit the area in a long time!

Powder day at Marmot Basin, outside of Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Over the course of three days, Marmot Basin, the local ski resort in Jasper (best kept secret in the Canadian Rockies!) got hammered with over 71 centimetres of snow (29 inches for our American friends), enabling those lucky enough to be snowed in to this friendly town to have virtually unlimited lines of knee to waist deep powder for the entire weekend I was there!  Sick times.  Want to see more?  Stay tuned for the post on this weekend that will live in snowhound history…!

March 2013 – House Sitting, Getting Hired For Korea, and Ramping Up My Online Presence

Nose Hill Park in winter, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

As March dawned and I went through random walks through parks in an effort to stave off boredom (my camera lens broke after this pic, hence the thin bench for images in March), I finally got enough of my documents together that I could finally post my application for employment on the web’s biggest ESL job site, Dave’s ESL Cafe.  Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next.

An avalanche of e-mails and phone calls from anxious and enthusiastic recruiters wanting to link me up with “the job of my dreams”.  While some disqualified themselves by barely being able to speak the language (oh, the irony), I eventually settled on a recruiter and so the process began.

During this time, I housesat for my sister, who was headed off on a well-deserved vacation to Mexico.  During the two weeks that I was caring for Autumn and the house, I went through about three interviews, the last of which was done over my cell phone with a Korean principal that spoke broken English with a thick accent.

In spite of all the frustrations, I got the JOB!  I was headed off to a place called Baebang 2 hours south of Seoul.  WHOO-HOO!

April 2013 – Korea Work Visa Run to Vancouver, The Best City on Earth

Skyline, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Before I could get on a plane though I had to do a bunch of document mailing and FEDEX-ing, which eventually turned into an old-fashioned visa run, as time was running too short to risk trusting my passport to the mail system.  As such, I hopped another Greyhound bus bound for Vancouver, leaving winter behind and landing squarely in the midst of spring…

Spring in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Yes, those palm trees are real, those blossoms really are breaking out in the middle of April, and the temperature in Van City really was 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit) when it was -6 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit) back in Calgary on the same day.

Granville Market, Vancouver, BC, Canada

I spent an entire week going on tours through Vancouver’s urban and natural attractions, such as the foodie paradise that is Granville Market, shown above, while my passport was being “processed”.  There was a bit of background tension, as the consular official that took my passport on the first day scolded me for the weathered state of my travel document, warning me that I might get refused my visa due to its condition (didn’t stop her from taking my money, though!).

Fortunately, all was well, so with my documents all straightened out, I headed back to Calgary to await my departure to South Korea!

May 2013 – Starting My ESL Career In South Korea

Rooftop view, Baebang, Korea

After arriving in Korea, the first few days involved random document signing and other matters too boring to comment on here.  The view you see above was from the first morning I was here … sick view, eh? While many parts of Korea don’t resemble Coruscant like this picture suggests, many built up places in the country do look this way due to a lack of suitable land, due to the mountainous nature of the land mass Korea occupies.

For those thinking that English teaching involves walking into a school for four hours, talking English to the kids, then leaving to party like a rock star, put down that application form right now … I’m going to break your little hearts (sorry).

Lesson planning, homework marking, and other admin tasks will grow to take up much of your “free” time at home, even parts of your weekend.  Being a good teacher (I tried my hardest, and despite what happened to me, I felt I did a great job) takes tonnes of planning, passion, and giving a $#!t.  So don’t waste your kid’s time, and your employer’s time and money if you’re planning to go over and just party the whole time! </rant>

Whew… I’m almost never like that.  Sorry guys.  Just know that this isn’t a vacation when you go, and you’ll be fine.  And go public, not private.  More on that in a second…!

June 2013 – The Sands of Daecheon Beach and Samgyeopsal BBQ’s

Daecheon Beach, Korea

OK … so like, summer is Korea is hot, right?  I mean, HOTTER than you’ve ever imagined it could ever get, anywhere in the world.  Unless you’re from the American South/Midwest/Ontario in Canada, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

So, be sure that your A/C works before mid-June swings around, and when it does … go to the beach!  Now, Korea may not strike you as a beach destination, and I won’t try to get you to come from halfway around the world to experience it.

If you find yourself in Korea come summer, though, Korea has some beaches that more than suffice for your cooling needs.  Daecheon Beach is Korea’s best west coast getaway, with tonnes of fine white sand, cool West Sea water, and oodles of fresh seafood cooked up K-style!  I’ll be writing a guest post on this subject very soon, so stay alert for when it comes out … it’ll be a dandy!

Korean BBQ in Korea

Ever since I started watching Youtube videos about Korean cuisine, I had always wanted to have some juicy Samgyeopsal (aka Korean pork BBQ).  I have affectionately referred to it as mutant Korean bacon, and late in the month, Sonya, one of my co-teachers, took me out for a family BBQ.

Hanging out with them outside of work was so cool, and it was one of those rare authentic cultural exchanges that we all crave as travelers.  When you stumble upon such an opportunity … seize it!

July 2013 – My Big Fat Busan Vacation

Haeundae Beach, Busan, Korea

Working in a private English institute (aka a hagwon) affords few chances for vacations in the traditional sense (you know, when you put in for days off, and you get 1-2 weeks off consecutively). You are on duty the vast majority of the year, but during the peak heat of the summer, even the most workaholic directors break down and schedule downtime to get out of the sweaty office.

My three days off (yes *3* days) plus the weekend saw me escape to Busan to see Korea’s second city.  From the Jagalchi Fish Market to the claustrophobic beach destination of Haeundae Beach and everything in between, Busan impressed me, even if the weather was typical for the monsoon season (humid and wet).  As with many other events that occurred this past year, posts are forthcoming, so be patient, my children 🙂

August 2013 – Leaving Korea for Thailand and the Unknown…

Word of wisdom, Korea

I won’t get into the dirty details of it, but effectively, months of confrontation over my bosses non-payment of health insurance and pension, ridiculous accusations concerning my teaching, and all the stress that comes with that all came to a head in August.  After the final straw was broken after a meeting filled with finger-pointing, innuendo, and raised voices, I had finally had enough.

With an orphan day off in the middle of the week for Independence Day, I made my move.  After eight hours of furious cleaning, packing, ticket booking, and creeping about Baebang surreptitiously in a manner that would have made Jason Bourne proud, I leapt aboard the 6:30pm bullet train bound for Seoul, the first leg on my journey to Bangkok, my selected place of refuge from the duress I was suffering.

Lonely Beach, Koh Chang, Thailand

I’ll be honest: I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to Thailand.  For the foreseeable future, I was done with teaching.  Totally burnt out.  I wasn’t exactly relishing returning to Canada so soon either, so I figured I’d take a month in the Land of Smiles to clear my head.

As it happens, the Universe had my back, as the web work I had been doing on the side presented me with a huge opportunity.  A friend of mine offered me the chance to do some writing for him for money, and so I ran with it.  At this point, I had no idea it would lead to me being able to support myself via the interwebs…

September 2013 – Finding my way in Malaysia

Butter Chicken and Naan, Penang, Malaysia

After getting kicked in the face by the death flu in Koh Samui, I continued down the Malay Peninsula to Penang in Malaysia.  I may have mentioned it before, but this country is the place where all the good foodies go when they die.  If you’re not dead yet, the flavors of the dishes here will send you to Heaven, if only temporarily.  It’s that good guys, for serious!

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From Indian to Chinese to Malay food, you could spend your entire holiday going from one foodgasm to the next.  Mom’s cooking just won’t taste the same when you head home, that’s for sure!

October 2013 – Exotic Islands and Subtropical Highlands

Tioman Islands, Malaysia

I spent a good portion of my time in Malaysia (5 weeks) in Kuala Lumpur getting the hang of working for myself (finding a balance is NOT easy … work too little and you hemorrhage cash, work too much and you feel like you’re not living the dream), but I also found time to do a little sightseeing and exercise my travel blogging muscles while I was here.  Above, the diving paradise of the Tioman Islands will tantalize you with its beauty when I get around to posting about it, while…

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

… the lofty heights of the Cameron Highlands will refresh you like a strong fan on a stinkin’ hot day. Only this fan comes with a cup of Boh Tea and a slice of strawberry shortcake, ’cause that’s how they do it in Tanah Rata!

November 2013 – Moving to Chiang Mai to Make Bank

Pool at Huay Kaew Residence, Chiang Mai, Thailand

While I definitely did enjoy my time farting around the Malay Peninsula, it was time to get serious.  Off to Chiang Mai I went, securing an apartment (sick pool above included in the package!) for the princely sum of 4,500 baht, internet included.  Taken together with my utilities usage, my monthly living costs came to 5,500 baht, which equates to the budget-busting figure of … $185 USD a month.  Ohhh my God, I can’t afford that!  On another note, this was the first month that I turned a profit running my own multi-dollar corporation. Yayyyy! 🙂

Lantern art, Yee Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

It wasn’t all dull stuff that month though, as the famous Loy Krathong festival went on, fancy lanterns and all.  Not all of them were meant to fly, as the dragon one attest to … if you’re looking for a time to start your Thailand holiday, plan it so that you can take in this event!

December 2013 – Catching Fire

Thai Meal, Tops supermarket food court, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Despite it being the holiday season, I really put my nose to the grindstone this month.  Picking up two more clients and having a tonne of priority work hit your virtual desk can do that.  I did get out around the holidays with all the other fabulous travel bloggerati, but for the most part, the inside of my favourite restaurants/cafes, my room, and the Thai food court at TOPS supermarket (so good for so cheap!) was all that I saw this month.

All in all though, when you’re laying the foundation for a virtual life you can take anywhere in the world, sacrifices in the early stages have to be made before you can get the passive income stuff set up later.  I’m not sure how I’ll do that, but then again, I wasn’t sure what I would do after Korea, and yet here I am 🙂

How did the past year treat you?  Regale us with your tales in the comments!

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!

More South Korean Om Nom Noms

Caffe Bene Korea

Throughout my time in South Korea, I tried many foods.  Today, we will highlight a few more things I ate during the course of my stay here.  Admittedly, some of them aren’t exactly exotic, but I feel they are at least somewhat relevant to those from the West heading to South Korea, either to teach or to travel.  Let’s start with a late night visit to Cafe Bene, for a little spot of dessert…

Honey Toast, Caffe Bene Korea

… okay, maybe a big spot of dessert!  This is Cafe Bene’s Honey Bread, a paleo dieters worst nightmare, as it is a carb bomb consisting of roughly 1018 calories of awesomeness.  The honey flavoured bread is complimented by lashings of caramel sauce, a liberal application of cinnamon, and a massive dollop of heavenly whipped cream.  I’ve also had this for breakfast a few times before … so wrong, yet so right! 🙂

Buffet, South Korea

One of the great aspects of my hagwon was once a month, we’d all go out for a buffet lunch together.  Now in South Korea, buffets are EXPENSIVE, they are not the bargain basement affair that they are back in Canada.  I was told that this particular restaurant cost roughly 30,000 ₩ ($27 USD) per head, and for the most part, the food fit the bill, as did the decor and surroundings.  The mandu (Korean dumplings in the bottom left corner of the plate) were delightful as always, the squash dish was sweet without being overwhelmingly so, the spring rolls (I had eaten the other one) were quite satisfying, and the breaded Chinese chicken in the top right was sinfully delicious.  Only the pizza was disappointing, but I had my expectations set lower on that count, so I wasn’t devastated.

Kimbap, South Korea

You might that this is a sushi roll, but in Korea, while it may look like sushi, it is called and is something completely different.  This is a kimbap roll, which is a roll of rice, carrots, radish, ham and cheese, wrapped up in a sheath of seaweed.  Other kimbaps will have different ingredients for the veggies and meats, but the constituent ingredients of rice with a seaweed covering remain consistent through the offerings of this quick Korean meal/snack.

Pizza Maru Korea

Unlike the buffet pizza displayed above, some businesses do manage to get pizza right in Korea.  One such homegrown establishment worth mentioning is Pizza Maru.  Baking their pizzas on a multigrain (MULTIGRAIN … IN KOREA?!) crust with a range of excellent toppings, and selling them at a steal of a price (8,000 ₩ or $7 USD for a 12-inch pie), you’ll be hard pressed to find better value for money in the country.  Domino’s does the best job of nailing Western style pan pizza in Korea, but they come at a higher price point (12,500 ₩, or $11 USD for 12 inches), so when you’re running short and payday is not due for a few more days, Pizza Maru is a sure bet!

Have some hot tips about food in Korea, native cuisine or foreign food?  Share them with us below!