A Travellerspoint blog

Things I don't like about Korea

sunny 27 °C

These are some of the things I don't like about Korea:

1. Children dressing up and performing as adults on TV, particularly dancing provocatively on game shows. I saw this on the bus home from Seoul last week and it really shocked me.

2. Women who have little yappy dogs in their handbags. This is quite a trend here. They also dye their dogs ears and tails different colours and even dress them up. Yuck!

3. Skinny Korean women - us English girls struggle here when trying to buy underwear, swimming costumes and other stuff because we can't fit into them. Most stuff only goes up to a 10 or 12 maximum.

4. Kimchi! Pickled cabbage. I do not understand how anyone can make this the staple of their diet. And it comes with every meal here.

5. Seafood still in the tank outside the restaurants. I hate seafood anyway, but I really don't like seeing it still swimming around in a tank outside the restaurant. And i was really freaked out by a meal I had the other day, when as I side dish we were brought a load of baby crabs that you are supposed to eat whole! I was told a story by one of the other teachers when I first arrived about seafood in korea. When she arrived, she was taken for a meal by our bosses and they ordered octopus. However, even after it is cooked, an octupus apparently still moves around for a while. When it was brought to the table it was moving around so much in the pan that the teacher was instructed to hold the lid down to stop it coming out of the pan! If that had been me i would have a) fainted and b) booked myself on the next flight home :)

6. Pansori - a kind of traditional korean opera. I saw some when I was at the Sori-Womad festival and, although it was interesting, it was so removed from anything i have ever heard before that I found it very difficult to enjoy.

7. The lack of health and safety just about anywhere. Now I do agree that we have gone a bit over the top with health and safety in the UK. But Korea is quite the opposite. You can frequently see workmen working on the roads, with barely a cone in sight. You take your life in your hands everytime you cross a road because a green light for pedestrians doesn't always mean drivers will stop. I have already met two people who have been hit by cars since I have been here. Which leads me on to...

8. Taxi rides - I travel pretty much everywhere by taxi because it is ridiculously cheap. However, taxi rides can be a bit hairy - depending on the sort of driver you get. Most of them speed. A lot of them don't have seatbelts. Most of the taxi drivers themselves aren't bad drivers necessarily, but other drivers can be. I would certainly never want to drive in this country.

9. Korean work ethic - in this country it seems to be perfectly acceptable to pretty much work yourself to death. And they get their kids in training for this life from a very young age. For example, EG and our sister school teach kids as young as 7, who are already attending normal school, and then our private school afterwards. By the time they are 12, many kids are attending more than one private school a night and are preparing to take entrance exams to get into specialist high schools. By 14, they are staying for lessons until midnight and coming in for practice tests on saturdays. Can you imagine english kids doing that?

10. Spitting in the streets. It is considered impolite to blow your nose in Korea. Instead you are meant to spit it into the streets. It is one of the least pleasant things I have seen and heard since i got here.

Posted by claire14 09:45 Archived in South Korea Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Things I Love about Korea

You know I love Lists!

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Ok, here's my favourite things in Korea so far - in no particular order...

1. Noraebangs - karaoke every weekend in your own private room. What more can I say?? I love it!
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2. Palaces and Temples everywhere you go.
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3. Iced Cafe Mocha with Cream - I spend a lot of time in cafes these days and nothing beats an iced coffee on a hot day.

4. DVDbangs - watching a DVD on six foot screen in a private room. They're such a great idea.

5. Mountains - I love finally living somewhere that i can see mountains. I'm not as much of a fan of walking up them though!
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6. Night Markets in Deokjin - I love going shopping for flowers and kebabs on market stalls at 2am after several drinks in Deokjin - the University area.

7. Adorable Korean Children - Believe it or not out of the 13 classes that I teach, almost all of my children are absolutely adorable.
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8. Hanbok - Korean traditional dress.
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9. Spicy Chicken Kebabs - i love these kebabs. They only cost about 60p and they're delicious. And particularly good on the way home after a night out.

10. It's so cheap here! I keep panicking when I realise I've spent 100,000 won and then i realise thats only about £50. Of course, I still spend more than I should. But its still much cheaper here than anywhere in the UK.

11. Korean Logic - imagine any situation. Then imagine the logical approach to it. Finally, think of the opposite and that will be the Korean approach :) For example, today I was trying to get a taxi to work. I saw one coming so I flagged it down. it pulled over, only for the driver to tell me he already had a passenger, by shaking his head and then driving off! Why stop in the first place if you have a passenger? This is one of many examples.

12. Sitting on the floor in restaurants - sitting cross-legged at a low table is an interesting experience. I still get pins and needles a lot. And its not great if you are wearing a skirt, but I do like traditional restaurants.

13. Seoul Metro - clean, easy to navigate and with huge trains compared to the London Underground. Makes travelling around Seoul much easier.

Posted by claire14 09:05 Archived in South Korea Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

Settling in Nicely

4 weeks and 4 days in

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Well, I have to say that Korea is starting to feel a bit like home now. This may have something to do with the fact that I am writing this, whilst making a cuppa and watching The X Files! Yes - they have The X Files in Korea! :) Of course, I am watching it at one in the morning and it has Korean subtitles, but it makes me feel at home all the same.

The next week will be an interesting one - it is Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, Korea's biggest public holiday. I am at work Monday and Wednesday, but I get the rest of the week off. Most Koreans will be going back to their family homes to see their relatives and pay their respects to their elders. Us waeguks (foreigners) will be off to Seoul for a couple of days of sightseeing and partying instead!

As it is Chuseok, many of the Koreans we have met recently have been incredibly generous to us. Just this weekend we have been given fresh bread and butter from the restaurant we went to, to take home with us. The nice woman in the jewellery shop in Gaeksa gave us pretty, mirrored memo pads. The man with the flower stall in Deokjin gave all of us girls who were out a fresh single rose each. And today, we were in a traditional craft shop and we were each given beautiful craft cards in the shape of Korean fans. However, this isn't all just because of Chuseok - Korean people are genuinely very generous. They often give freebies when you purchase things in shops and call it 'service'. For example, in a cosmetics shop we go in, they give us loads of free stuff with every purchase - unfortunately it tends to be skin whitener! Which I find odd enough for Korean women, but who could honestly think I need paler skin?! :)

I had a lovely weekend this weekend. We were originally planning on going to a martial arts festival in a place called Chungju. But we decided to stay in Jeonju instead, so that we could save money for Seoul next week. Also I was exhausted after 4 weeks of working til 10pm and going out til 4am every friday and saturday. I spent all day Saturday asleep or watching TV in my room. In the evening we went for a meal at the Outback Steakhouse, an Australian restaurant that did wonderful steaks. After that we tried to go to a posh wine bar, but instead we had our second experience of racism in the same bar. Twice now we have tried to go there in a group of about 5 and despite there obviously being seats available in the bar, the manager told us he did not have room for 5 foreigners.

This made us quite angry, so we decided we would go to a DVDbang instead. A DVDbang is an excellent idea - a room the size of a small bedroom, with a large sofa/bed, great sound system and a six foot screen on the wall. You go in with your friends, choose the DVD you want to watch and then go into the room to watch it. We watched a favourite film of mine, 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'. I also saw a great film last time i went caled 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance'. It's a brilliant Korean film, but a little bit twisted in places. I loved it.

After the DVDbang I bought some beautiful lillies from a street trader and he gave us all a rose each. Then we took our flowers and went to Baskin Robbins for dessert. It was a very girly evening! It was about midnight by now but i was still able to go into a Chon shop (a Chon in 1000 won - kind of equivalent to £1 but actually worth about 60p) in order to buy a vase for my flowers. We headed back shortly after that and then spent another hour and a half watching DVDs in my room. All in all a good night.

Then today we had another lazy morning, but went to the Hanok village in the afternoon. The Hanok Village is a part of Jeonju that has been preserved as a historical record and tourist attraction. It goes back to the Joseon dynasty (1300-1910), where the then Korean emperors were based in here Jeonju. At the village they carry on traditional arts and crafts and there were so many beautiful things to buy - I spent a fortune! I got some great xmas presents though :)

Posted by claire14 08:35 Archived in South Korea Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sori-Womad Festival

World Music Korean-Style

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This weekend started like every other, by going out and getting drunk after work on Friday. Unfortunately I got a bit carried away and then spent most of the following day crashed out in my room feeling more than a little worse for wear! That didn't stop me going out for a meal with friends that evening though. Eating in Korea has been an interesting experience so far - as everyone knows I am not especially adventuous when it comes to food because I am so fussy about what I eat. I thought I had played it safe when i ordered a tofu soup. However, I'd eaten about half of it when i realised it was full of mussels at the bottom! Yuck! I hate seafood! Anyway, after that about 10 of us went out for more drinks and then to a noraeybang. Another late, but fun, night.
The next day was the final day of the Sori-Womad Festival. The Sori festival celebrates Korean music, and the second week of the festival combines Korean and World music. I saw a great range of incredibly talented musicians and singers from all over the world. There was a classical Indian musician called Amjad Ali Khan; a reggae band called The Sunshiners, specialising in covers of 80s pop songs, a Tibetan woman called Yung chen Llamo and loads of others. The most unexpected though was Midge Ure! He did an acoustic set and even sang Vienna and Do They Know Its Xmas! What a bizzare piece of British/Scottish culture to come across in Korea! There were loads of other cool things to see, so I have added the rest of the pictures to http://www.flickr.com/photos/claireinkorea2006_0924s..val0048.JPG
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Posted by claire14 08:01 Archived in South Korea Tagged events Comments (1)

My first visit to Seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace and Itaewon

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After a big night of drinking last night (friday), where we were dancing on stools in a bar and then went to a house party til 4am, we finally managed to get on a bus to Seoul at half ten saturday morning. Which was pretty good considering I'd only had five hours sleep and I was hungover. The bus seemed a bit expensive at 16,000 won but when we got on it we realised why, it was a super-posh bus, with reclining seats and a tv! Unfortunately, of course, they were only showing korean programmes. But we did catch the weather, which is when we learnt that typhoon Shanshan was making its way towards South Korea, and expecting to make landfall by 3am on Sunday! Don't worry though, its on the other side of the country to Jeonju, so we'll just get a bit of rainy, windy weather.

We got to Seoul at about half one, and I'd slept most of the way. There were four of us altogether, Nicky, Laura, Rachel and I. We couldn't decide where to start at first - Seoul is a huge city and there is so much to see. But we had a quick look through the rough guide and decided we'd go and see Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace was from the Joseon Dynasty, which I think was around 1,000 years ago. It was mostly destroyed during the Japanese occupation, but then restored in 1994.

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It was a stunning place to start a tour of Seoul because it was like stepping back in time. Even though, if you looked towards the palace entrance, you see modern tower blocks. If you looked the other way, all you could see were the various buildings of the palace compound, gardens and the mountains in the background. I took loads of pictures, which you can see at http://www.flickr.com/photos/claireinkorea.

We walked around all the palace buildings, seeing the King's throne room, the Queen's chambers, and various others. We then went to the gardens and sat watching people feeding the extremely greedy fish in the pond, by the pavillion.

After looking around the palace, we were quite hungry. So we decided to go to Itaewon. Itaewon is an area popular with tourists, partly because it is full of Americans and therefore there are lots of western shops, restaurants and bars. Itaewon was about as far removed from the tranquility of the palace as you could get! As we came up from the subway, I was shocked by the sight of other foreigners, having got used to being surrounded by Koreans. But the sheer number of foreigners was even more shocking. As South Korea is still technically at war with North Korea, there are still a large amount of American soldiers stationed here and most them frequent the Itaewon area. However, we were interested mainly in the nightlife it has to offer. Although we weren't staying over this time, we plan to spend a weekend in Seoul in a month or so and to go clubbing, so this was a chance for us to get to know the area a bit better. In some ways, this area of Seoul is quite similar to areas like Soho, and the red light district in Amsterdam, in that they are full of western foreigners and have a great nightlife, but they also have a lot of seedy and sordid backstreets!

We did manage to find an Asian corner shop as we were wandering around though. None of the shops I have been to Jeonju sell ingredients for Indian or Thai meals, so when we found this little international food store, we stocked up. I got my Thai Red Curry Paste, some poppadoms, lentils, liptons tea bags, coconut milk and various curry spices, so it'll be indian night at least once in the next week. Which will make a nice change from noodles every night :)

Posted by claire14 09:30 Archived in South Korea Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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