Our first day exploring Hampi we hired a taxi for the day for about $20. He drove us everywhere and waited while we saw the sites. This was a really good way to do it since he knew exactly where things were and took us to them in the proper order to get the most out of the day. The travel guy at the hotel was like, “Oh, you’ll get tired of Hampi by 4pm”. R. and I laughed at that a lot. It’s pretty hilarious to tell an anthropologist and an archaeologist that they’ll get tired of visiting a famous historical site teaming with people.

We started at Vithala Temple which is one of the temples with the most complete sculptures, a massive stone chariot, and musical pillars which we couldn’t figure out without a guide, but our taxi driver demonstrated them at a different temple (showing they’re not as unique as the brochure claims *L*). This was my first experience of an Indian tourist site and it was a bit disconcerting to have so many Indians want to take their picture with me, stare at us, and follow us around. We mostly ignored them but when it was a kid who wanted a pic I occasionally let them. It reminded me of the trip I once took to Nagasaki with a bunch of foreigner obsessed Japanese people who now all have me in their photos and probably still say I’m their friend. The temple really did have some beautiful sculptures and it was fascinating to see some of the color remaining on certain pillars. We then wandered down the road along a path that seemed to keep going all along the massive fortifications set up by the Vijayanagar Empire, but we decided to turn back and let our taxi take us to the next stop.

Because this is going to be long )
We had to wake up at 6:30am to catch a taxi to the airport. I had about 2hrs sleep total but we showered and made it there. The security for the airport is really odd in that they have separate men and women’s lines to go through the detector but there are twice as many men’s lines so the women’s ones always back up. They make you walk through the detector but they don’t really care since they run a wand over your body in a little blocked off room to protect your modesty or something. Ugh. Once through, we stopped in the bookstore again and I bought a really popular detective novel called The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken which is part of the Vishpuri Series which is kinda the number one ladies detective agency novels of India. I finished it on the trip and it is very good though much more understandable if you’ve been to India. We then headed to the plane. It was a two hour flight to Bangalore and the vegetarian food on the plane was particularly tasty. I tried to nap but it wasn’t taking. Once there, we caught a taxi to the main train station and stored our luggage before heading off into the city again. After checking out the rather sketchy places near the train station we headed to Mahatma Ghandi road instead. There, we were looking for a café but got sucked into a handicraft place. We were fine in the sculpture area because they were overpriced but then we went upstairs and the textiles and jewelry were really cheap *sigh* So now I have a gorgeous handwoven silk scarf and a few beautiful silver earrings.

After that, we wandered into Café Coffee Day where I had an absolutely bizarre strawberry lemonade which inexplicably had breath mints in it. Their chocolate cake was nice though and we just chilled for a bit before figuring out where to eat. We were looking for non-sketchy local food but ended up in a restaurant called 20 Feet High which served steak amongst other things. R. had a delicious sheppards pie with Indian spices and I had vegetable stuffed pancakes which were rather weird but not bad. I also had a margarita (not frozen) which was very nice. We then headed back to the train station and ended up waiting on the platform for a few hours before our 10pm sleeper train arrived. We were in the third class air conditioned car which meant they gave us scratchy sheets, a blanket and a flat pillow. This was not really enough to make it comfortable especially since there were no more curtains and people refused to go to sleep for awhile. I felt a bit like I’d gone back in time a few decades. I managed to fall asleep by lying on my back wearing a sleep mask and earplugs around 11:30pm. I woke up at 2am and had to rush to the really disgusting train toilet with diarrhea. I then tried very carefully to get some more sleep while not having any accidents, but was awoken at 5:30am when the top bunk guys (R. was in the middle bunk and I was on the bottom) decided to have a very loud conversation. After another run to the toilet, I gave up on sleeping as did R. who was also feeling poorly. We huddled on the bottom bunk, playing games on our phones and ignoring the guy in the opposite bunk who was perfectly content to stare at us for hours on end until we arrived in the tiny town of Hospet. Hospet was really interesting with tons of people living in one room houses, chickens and pigs browsing in piles of garbage and dirt roads. We were hounded by the rickshaw drivers through the whole 5min walk to our hotel since we were the only foreigners who got off the train there.

Luckily, the hotel we’d booked for about $40 a night each was pretty much the equivalent of a 4-5 star hotel anywhere else. We checked in early since the train had arrived at 7:30am or so, then I showered, suffered on the toilet and crawled into bed and went to sleep. R. fell asleep while I was in the shower. I woke up again at 2pm. Ran to the bathroom then went back to sleep until 4pm since I had pretty much had almost no sleep for the past few days. Since I could not be far from the toilet (despite Imodium and pepto bismul) we decided not to venture out that day and ordered some plain rice for me since I was still inexplicably hungry. I gave up and took some antibiotics I had for severe diarrhea and despite being quite gassy for that meal and some food we ordered later that night that seems to have done the trick regarding the diarrhea part. We had cauliflower (gobi) Manchurian that night which was delicious. Manchurian is Indian Chinese food which is packed with Indian spices and I think it’s delicious even though it’s really not Chinese food.
The next day I slept as late as possible but the room was noisy because Indians use their horns on their cars all the time, and my earplugs just muffle sound not block it completely, plus it was really bright so I only slept until 11am. We took our time waking up and showering before heading out for lunch at The United Coffee House which is about a 15min walk from the Fulbright house. The Coffee house is pretty posh but clean and the food was good. R. got a tomato lamb couscous dish while I had badshatti kofta which was a tomato curry with paneer cheese balls in it. The cheese dumplings were nice but the curry had less tomato and more cumin than I prefer so I ended up dipping our garlic naan into R.’s lamb dish. I really liked the achar they had on the side which is pickled veggies in oil and spices. Apparently most foreigners don’t like it but to me it tasted like spicy olives. From there, we were on a mission to find the local pharmacy and replenish some supplies like ibuprofen which is only sold in small quantities in Korea. That took forever for some reason but we got what we came for then ended up wandering into the levi store and buying jeans. Mostly because not only were they cheap, but they tailored them to your height for free when you bought them. We headed back to the Fulbright house to rest for an hour then took a rickshaw to pick up the jeans before heading out to get dinner.

We ate dinner at Amichi Café in Khan Market, though first we stopped in at the bookstore there since I’d already read through my English language books which I brought. Then we headed to the café which had some amazing pumpkin ravioli in an anise sauce which I thought I wouldn’t like because I don’t usually like licorice but it was really nice and didn’t really taste like licorice at all. We also had some pasta carbonara which was good though it was too much to finish. We then got milkshakes to go which was a mistake on my part since I haven’t been having much dairy in Korea due to hating their milk so my stomach was a bit upset that evening. I took some pepto bismol and it settled down but it’s wedding season so it was particularly noisy out that evening, plus all the cars so even with an eye mask and earplugs I barely slept.
deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( Dec. 8th, 2014 11:02 pm)
Gimpo airport is only a half hour away from where I live by the airport train so I actually only left for the airport about an hour and a half before my flight. Check in went well and I was able to read for a half hour before we boarded the plane. The flight to Shanghai was only a few hours so I arrived in Shanghai at the Hongqiao airport fairly quickly since going through luggage check and the immigration took quite awhile. I was transferring to Pu Dong airport on the other side of the city but I had a little over eight hours before my flight to India. So I caught the subway to People’s Square in the center of the city and dragged my luggage around until I figured out where the Shanghai Museum was. By this point it was about 3:30pm and the museum closed at 5pm so I stored my luggage and prioritized what I wanted to see. This wasn’t very hard though since they had halls devoted to the two materials I study – bronzes and jade. The bronze hall was really interesting. They had a wide variety and a display on how various bronzes were made, plus a mirror which reflects a hidden picture which I’d never seen in person. There was also a display of recently excavated bronzes from the area. Next I headed to the jade area which was also interesting and had a great video on jade manufacture which I wish I could have gotten a copy of. After that I checked out the silk road display which was small and not very interesting, briefly looked through the pottery and porcelain areas, and bought a pin which is what I collect when I visit places. I tried to get into the main museum shop but it had already closed so I shrugged and headed out the door to Nanking Road the main shopping area of Shanghai. It’s a pretty interesting place with tons of people and shops along with an odd selection of international shops like a whole shop devoted to M&Ms. I was looking for a place to eat some local food preferably duck, but when I wandered off into side streets the options were street food which I was not risking or restaurants full of smokers which my asthma couldn’t take. So I ended up in what was basically a mall devoted to food with restaurants on its third floor. There I had a very tasty crispy duck with rice which was the best duck I’ve had in my life, and a honey, pear, jujube and something else hot tea (it being about 35 degrees in Shanghai that day). I then bought a delicious cream puff and headed out into the street again. I walked around a bit then spotted a place which made real hot chocolate with real milk which I miss very much in Korea so I got a small hot chocolate and took advantage of their wifi for a bit. Then I headed back onto the subway which was quite crowded since it was rush hour. I could have taken the subway all the way there but it seemed more fun to take the maglev train because how often do you get to ride a train floating on magnets? It only took 8min to get to the airport on the train because it sped up to 301 km/hr. Once at the airport I almost was in trouble since they’d overbooked the flight by several people and wanted to reroute me through Singapore making me arrive in Delhi several hours later than I should and with no way of informing my friend. I told them this and was very lucky since I was traveling alone, there was one empty seat and it became mine. I had to run through the airport to catch the last bus to the plane but oh well.

The flight was weird because it went overnight but they fed us food at like, 11pm and I ended up with vegetarian Indian food which was pretty good. I had an asthma attack once I got on the plane from all the pollution, running, smoke, and cold no doubt so I didn’t really feel up to trying to sleep until about four hours in. Instead I read my book and watched part of a movie before dozing uncomfortably for awhile. We landed in Delhi at the ungodly hour of 2am. I then found one of the more reputable taxi companies my friend had directed me to, and I was given a particularly clueless driver to take me into New Delhi where I was staying with my friend in the Fulbright house (since we both have Fulbrights). After getting lost, calling my friend, not understanding her directions, asking a rickshaw driver to show us, then driving past it because he didn’t give me time to read the house numbers, I ended up at the right place and met up with R. We headed into the house which had a communal kitchen and a nicely appointed room with a shower and really fluffy towels. The bed was rather hard as expected and the room was too light for me to sleep but I was exhausted so after chatting for a bit and giving her my presents from Korea (oreos, fluffy panda socks, pizza chips, and croissants) we went to sleep.
I had a dream the other day that I was living in this weird, semi-autonomous village, and my job meant that I sort of guided people around and got them food/stuff that couldn't be found within the compound, etc. And somehow I ran into Kit Harrington because I had to help him out while he was visiting to do some promo work for GOT. And we got to be friends and I flirted a bit with him in between developing some sort of contraband ring for smuggling cool stuff into the compound (which was a nice enough seeming place even if it looked like how Disney envisioned the future... I don't remember why I was running circles around the authorities. I guess I was bored?).

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Weds here so I took Weds off and went to see Mockingjay which I enjoyed, but partially because even though it followed the book, it was a lot less boring than the book. I then went on a sock hunt since two friends of mine requested fuzzy animal socks. Cute, trendy socks are one of the more fun trends here in Korea, especially since they only cost a dollar or two and have some of the most interesting patterns. I sometimes can't wear the too small ones but other than that, the skies the limit when it comes to patterns. I found a pair that had little 8 bit stormtroopers, lightsabers and artoos all over them. And one covered in weird food. I also picked up some fuzzy iron man socks for myself and found my friends panda socks. All in all a good haul. I'm going to own so many more socks after living here *L*

Our Thanksgiving dinner was catered from the local US military base and I was in heaven to eat some turkey (ham/pork are pretty much the only meats you get consistently in Korea... chicken is available but it's almost always fried). Their stuffing was pretty good too, though the mashed potatoes sucked. And it was so nice to have pumpkin pie. It was with the other Fulbright researchers so it was also nice to catch up with some people. Since it was held in our building, I took a plate of leftovers home and had it on actual Thanksgiving evening after spending the day working at a museum on the other side of Seoul. I think the director wishes I could work there all the time *L*

I have a scholarship app due before I leave for India which I'm trying to get done. I'm glad I stopped in at my local bank on weds though because it turns out that my atm card won't work in India, but luckily they switched me over to one that would work (and which hilariously has the words 'good luck' written on it). The phone company gave me the run around when I tried to ask them about using my phone in India so I've decided to give up and not worry about being without a working phone for a week. My friend who I'm traveling with will have a phone at least.

I also finished my work at the SNU library yesterday. While I still have to organize my data, it's nice to not have to travel there every other day. That trip is really a pain (3 subway transfers, a bus ride and a 10 min walk). In order to celebrate, I went with a friend to a local jjimjilbang which is literally like two blocks away. I was surprised how nice it was considering it only had two floors and was a local. But it had three different common area saunas, two in the naked areas, and three hot pools which weren't quite the right temperature but weren't bad. My friend and I first went in the common area saunas. Or rather, I went in the rock salt sauna while she tried the others since I can't do charcoal and wood saunas due to my asthma. Then we went in the bath areas, tried out the 'lie down on a slab of heated rock while surrounded by semi-precious stone' sauna, and alternated between different pools. We also were interrogated by this cute little girl who decided to try out all her English on us. Then we headed out into the common area again and bought fruit smoothies. The kiwi one was delicious. We tried out the massage chairs which were great on my back even if they were made for people much taller. However, the squeezing of the legs was actually rather painful and I pulled my legs out (my calves are actually really sore today from it). Then we moved over and laid on infrared heated glass while chatting and vaguely watching tv. Around 9:30, we finally pulled ourselves away from the heat and headed back into the bath area for another long soak before a full body and hair wash (we'd just washed our bodies before and kept our hair out of the water). Then we made our way home, insanely relaxed and sleepy. I went to sleep an hour early and slept for nearly 10 hrs. I was carrying a lot of tension I just didn't realize until it was gone. This might have been more relaxing than my monthly sports massage. I can't decide *lol* Since it's so close, I know where I'll be going when I'm craving some heat.

The Friday before last, I went home for dinner than headed over to the Seoul Lantern Festival since I figured I should see it before it disappeared for the year (it runs for 3 weeks but the weekend before last was the last few days). They set up the lanterns so they float above the river which I love to walk near whenever I'm in the area so it was nice to visit but wow was it really crowded when I got there. My pics are here. I was rather amused that the China-made lanterns were archaeology related, but I think the fish ones impressed me the most.

I had expected to work on my scholarship app on Tuesday, but I had an asthma attack at 3am. I resisted using my inhaler as long as possible, but I couldn't stop coughing so I gave up and used it. This, of course, led to my heart pounding madly for awhile while I played games on my phone, and my not getting to sleep until 5:30am. I turned off my alarm for the next day since there was no way I was waking up at 9am to get to the SNU library and slept in until 11. I awoke to a text asking me if my evening was free from one of the fulbrighter's who works in the fulbright office. He had food poisoning so he wanted to know if I could cover his class teaching North Korean defectors English. I said yes, even though it caused flashbacks to teaching English in Japan. I at least wasn't nervous because I've done classes like this hundreds of times. Getting there took over 1 1/2hrs though at least there was kimbap and tea and someone sharing a fried chicken when we got there. Then it was teaching three high school girls for two hours. The games I know which can be played on the fly are still really popular amusingly enough. And they served us sweet buns in the middle which was apparently a new thing. Then another long trip home before showering and calling my friend in India to plan our trip a bit more. Not how I expected to spend my day but it was interesting enough as a one off thing.
deralte: (Default)
( Nov. 18th, 2014 10:24 pm)
I just got told a hilarious story by someone who accidentally got lost and stuck behind the scenes (ie not in the public areas) at the Smithsonian one night. These are the sort of stories you only get when you work in archaeology or museum studies. *L*

The research has picked up and I'm quite busy which is why I haven't posted for awhile. I just got back from having a meal with some of the museum staff where I'm working atm. They've been really helpful and given me a lot of great opportunities to take advantage of over the next few months. I'm back to reading site reports at SNU tomorrow, though I only have a few more shelves to go through.

Sunday evening, I went with a group and we ended up having dinner at this new fangled Korean Buddhist temple. They had some really fascinating variations on Buddhist iconography going, but much to my surprise, the nuns and monks took us to a local Japanese restaurant to eat *L*

Yesterday, I dropped my passport off at the Indian consulate to get my visa. My trip to India is only a few weeks away! I've got a bunch to get done before I go though so later!
deralte: (Default)
( Nov. 8th, 2014 01:34 am)
Two unexplainable bruises on my left wrist and a possibly sprained angle. I have definitely been out drinking tonight.
deralte: (Default)
( Nov. 1st, 2014 03:31 pm)
So, I ended up having to go to the doctor because my sinus infection wouldn't go away. They give you the antibiotics in a little plastic bag at the clinic so I have no idea what is in them, but after four nights of insomnia, I can safely say one of those ingredients is caffeine. My body can't handle caffeine - I get headaches hours after taking it and it doesn't really work until hours after taking it so I wish I'd known it has caffeine in it because I would have taken it early in the morning. Instead, I took it in the evening and then wondered why I wasn't tired and couldn't sleep even though it was 6am and I had only had 4hrs of sleep the night before. (I haven't had caffeine in a few years now so I think my body is going into hyperdrive.) This pattern continued and I've now switched to slowly taking it earlier each day but my body is only slowly getting the hint. I had a scholarship application due yesterday so I ended up staying up until 6am working on it since I wasn't tired. Taking a nap for an hour or two then waking up at 8am to keep working until the deadline at 6pm. Stayed up until 2am because I still wasn't tired then took hours to fall asleep before sleeping until 2pm. This is not a good schedule for someone trying to recover from a cold *sigh*

I had a pretty interesting dream this morning though. I lived in a post apocalyptic world where Tolkien's elves had inexplicably come to join us afterwards. Anyone who'd lived in the suburbs had had the advantage since the cities themselves had panicked/been destroyed and the countryside had apparently been very hard hit. I'd been out in the countryside (of course). No idea what the apocalypse was because the dream started years afterwards but there were certainly very few buildings standing and we still lived in a shanty town, though one with decent sanitation at least. The government which formed in the wake of the apocalypse was really sexist, racist, and biased towards non-suburbians so those of us in the countryside (or at least my group) were rebelling. I was partially adopted by the older rebel leader (we didn't talk about it but we'd run into each other during the panic and since he was years older, he'd fallen into the role) and I often acted as military leader since I'd had all my martial arts training before the apocalypse. This resulted in the hilarious situation where most people in the town knew me as that person who likes to bake cookies and bread and share it when I could find the supplies, and anybody in the rebellion knew me as that woman who was terrifying in battle and often came home covered in other people's blood... but who also liked to bake with the supplies taken from our raids *L*

So, after running a mission to raid one of the government's forest outposts (I'm not sure if guns survived the apocalypse? I seem to remember being shot at, but that may have been arrows.) we discovered that there was something going on in the capital and we needed to go undercover. Our contacts in the city were mostly elves because they didn't approve of the government now that they'd seen it in action but had been welcomed with open arms when they first appeared and hence all lived somewhat near population centres. The leader and I came in as part of a trade delegation and stayed with this elvish family which was sort of a cross between Elrond and Toph's daughter, Suyin's families. He had a two sons who lived in separate complexes behind the main house with their families, and plenty of daughters, most of whom devoted themselves to the rebellion because the government thought women were useless. We came into the elves house in some distress because the undercover part of our mission had gotten dicey, but also because we'd discovered we were really well known because the Elven leader had been praising us to high heaven in our absence. We went to some sort of Elvish buffet with a lot of inexplicable rules where half the people were staring at us in admiration and we were really embarrassed. And I remember talking to one of the elven leader's sons and he was talking about how happy his sister was to help us. I also remember having a conversation with one of our informants about how bad racism was in the government (he was black), and about keeping his family safe. We had experienced a set back because it turns out our undercover roles had been attracting some (good) attention from the government which was bad for our mission, and we were dealing with the consequences of that when I woke up.
deralte: (Default)
( Oct. 23rd, 2014 11:23 am)
I spoiled myself for the final arcs of Bleach last night and I was so disappointed that I woke up two hours earlier than normal today and couldn't get back to sleep because I was so pissed off at how stupid Bleach has gotten. The interesting thing is you can tell that so many other people are annoyed by it too because very little fanfic even acknowledges that anything happened after the fight with Aizen.

My nasty cold from last week has turned into a sinus infection. I went back to looking at site reports in the SNU library on Monday and Tuesday but I was so exhausted and not getting better that I took Weds off. I thought that might help but today I've been sniffling and coughing more than yesterday. *headdesk* I'm just going to take the next few days off and hope for the best. I have reached the final row of site reports I need to look at at least so I'm pretty much on schedule despite the delays. I would just like to not be sick anymore.
deralte: (Default)
( Oct. 17th, 2014 12:37 am)
I've spent most of the afternoon plotting out my trip to New Zealand. I ended up having to switch the dates of my two proposed trips while I'm here in Korea. I'd wanted to go to New Zealand in early December but since I was booking the flight with miles, I wasn't able to find a flight back that didn't cost an arm and a leg. So instead, I switched to looking at the end of January and found a flight there and back for $75 total. Not bad, eh? (I have tons of miles from flying all the time.) I then switched the date of my trip to India to early December and quickly booked a cheap flight ($430 is not bad, even if the layover on the way is killer... I couldn't use any miles because none of the airlines I have miles on fly from Korea to India). My friend in India (who is also doing her Fulbright atm) already knows the lay of the land so to speak, so it was left to her to book our trip to Bangalore and Hampi. It should be a lot of fun.

So then it was up to me to book my trip around New Zealand. I couldn't go for as long as I wanted to since there's a limit to how much time I'm allowed out of the country while on a Fulbright and the flights eat up days of time unfortunately. I was also dismayed to see there's really no easy way to get around quickly to the places I wanted to see, so I gave up and just made sure I got to see the three things I really wanted to - Hobbiton, glow worm caves, and the Weta workshop. I wish I had the time to go to NZ's southern island but I'd need another two days at least and it would cost a lot to see the places I really want to see from LOTR so I will leave it for another day (and you know, when I'm rich). Still need to find a place to stay in Wellington but other than that, everything major like transportation and accommodation are booked. Any recs for Wellington?

Cold has progressed to the coughing stage which means I'm miserable but happy I'm at least nearing the end of the experience.
deralte: (squid float away (by me))
( Oct. 14th, 2014 01:23 pm)
Going up to SNU everyday to read site reports in their museum library has had the inevitable consequence - I caught a cold from the students. I thus went out only once today and had the longest conversation in my life in Korean with a pharmacist about my symptoms (everything is behind the counter here so you have to talk to the pharmacist), then I went around the corner to another pharmacist and did it again because I was curious to see if I'd get the same medicine. I didn't but they do seem to roughly have the same purpose. Also, I found the equivalent of Theraflu *score!*. Then I went to emart looking for fresh ginger because grated ginger and honey is my go to drink while sick (and my throat hurts so much it's hard to swallow). I found it, but also found a huge 2000g jar of ginger tea which I was curious enough to buy and take home. It's kinda awesome because you just put the kettle on, spoon a few spoonfuls of this stuff into a mug, then pour the hot water in, and voila, you have the same thing I grate fresh ginger for (though it's probably honey mixed with sugar since honey is so expensive here). It even has tons of actual pieces of ginger in it. My throat feels so good right now compared to before the tea.
Flight to India in December and New Zealand in January now booked!
deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( Oct. 9th, 2014 02:11 am)
Dreamt I was an ancient werewolf who had originally been a pale furred wolf at the dawn of time. I was consulted in the modern day on the possibility of creating more/better werewolves but kept to myself that I thought they were going about it all wrong since I had been there when werewolves were created (complete with awesome flashback to how it had happened).

I need to read Greek myths right before bed more often.
deralte: (Default)
( Oct. 7th, 2014 09:06 pm)
Gave up finding a place to train in hapkido on my own and emailed the head of the Korean Hapkido Federation in very polite Korean. He writes back in English that my Korean is 'near perfect', and I feel sorry for him when he finally meets me and discovers that my spoken Korean sucks. Then I call him today because he asked me to and he's more shocked by the fact that I'm female...

I finally made contact with the professor I'm working with here and she got me access to a library full of Korean site reports. So I'm now making the hour long trip to the university museum in order to read through them all (there are a lot!). This is what I'll be doing for the rest of the month until I attend to the Korean arch society conference and meet everybody.
Today I went looking for a folklore museum which was supposed to be near Namsan park in the center of Seoul (at the center of which is a mountain and on top of the mountain is Seoul tower fyi). So I got off the subway at Seoul Station and decided to walk to the park since it was only another subway stop away and it would take just as much walking to get to transfer to the line going that way anyway. I set off, past Namdaemun market and then when I thought I went too far, I turned right and started heading up hill, wandering amongst neighborhoods and hotels. My path led me to a tiny concrete trail next to a fence with the highway below me. I headed up. And up. Then I found a map which was useless since it didn't show the museum and the map on my phone didn't look like the map on the board. Google maps on my phone said I was in the right place but nothing was there. So I climbed a truly enormous set of stairs, discovering halfway up that this was the same staircase where they filmed the finale of My Name is Kim Sam Soon (which is good since I spent a lot of that scene wondering why the hell that staircase was so long in the middle of a city). Once at the top, I found another map, and it had been recently altered. In front of me was a fenced off area. Peering through the cracks showed what looked like a covered up excavation to me. I found a sign saying it was the site of the excavation of the city walls. Possibly the museum had been there or it was somewhere else and had been renamed or it just closed down. I decided to give up and headed up a bit more, then down some stairs to arrive at the trail which wound around the mountain. It was bordered by a pretty stream and the occasional waterfall so I didn't mind walking a few km.

I ended up coming down the mountain at Namsangol Hanok Village which is a collection of restored Korean houses complete with furnishings and whatnot. I was most fascinated by the ondol (or under the floor heating system), a modern version of which graces my apartment and many other Korean people's today. I arrived near the end of a rice cake and alcohol festival which was a bit like a country fair since they were handing out awards to women in hanbok (traditional Korean dress) for best rice cake and whatnot. The tasting had ended unfortunately, so I just looked at the pretty cakes, the bizarre coloured drinks, and two men demonstrating straw weaving.

My feet were really tired at that point but it didn't seem worth hoping on the subway just to go one stop again so I walked back to the Myeong-dong area and followed vague directions to get to a Cat Cafe. I'm allergic to cats, so I'd taken some allergy medicine in prep and it seems to have worked since I was able to stay for about 1 1/2hrs petting and playing with kitties. You basically pay a flat fee when you come in and get a free drink with it which isn't all that bad a system and you can stay as long as you want. They provide some cat toys, and you can pay a little extra to get a treat to feed the cats which I didn't bother doing. All the cats seemed a bit tuckered out to be honest. Some played and seemed to be having fun, but there were so many people, I think they get more attention than they needed or possibly wanted on the weekends. I think I'll go to one on a weekday and I bet the cats will be less overwhelmed. They had two of those cats without fur and they were really cute. I'd never seen one in real life before and it was nice that they were taking good care of one who was missing a leg.

After that, I wandered around looking for a restaurant to catch my fancy. I spotted one saying it was famous for pan fried rice (bokeumbap) and figured since they made me wait to get a seat, it was pretty popular and would be tasty. I ordered the chicken fried rice which they cooked in front of me in a big cast iron pan. When it was done, I was surprised to see it looked much lighter than the picture of it in their displays. "Shouldn't it be redder?" I asked, and pointed at the picture in their menu which was labeled as what I had ordered. And he was like, "You want it spicy?" "Yep." So he called someone over to add red pepper paste to it at which point it looked more like, you know, what everyone else was eating. I can't figure out if I was supposed to order it spicy (which would be weird for Korea cause everything is just automatically spicy), or if they left it out on purpose because I'm a foreigner and there's no way I could handle their (really not as hot as they all think it is) food. It was very tasty at least.

I then wandered around for a bit to digest. I ended up buying a chocolate/strawberry ice cream cone which was a good way to digest the rest of the meal even if soft serve ice cream here sucks (I think it's because they use the wrong kinds of milk to make it because their milk is kinda weird here too). I then got lured into Nature Republic. They give you free stuff to get you into beauty stores which if you take, you're obligated to go in, though not to buy. I got handed a snail mask (ie, a face mask made from snail goo which is supposed to be good for your skin) and I happily took it because I spotted the most amazing thing - hand sanitizer. Nature Republic pretty much stole Bath and Body Works idea of having cute, nice smelling pocket sized hand sanitizers and while $2 a bottle is a lot for something so tiny, it's a pretty good deal considering how expensive and rare hand sanitizer is here. So I picked up a few bottles, then got lured into buying some almond body wash since it was buy one get one free. And then the salesperson threw even more freebies into my bag so I ended up with 3 snail masks, 8 tiny bottles of whitening cream (which I have no idea what to do with cause I really don't care to whiten my skin), oils, and steamers (whatever those are. not really sure how to use them). Did the salesperson just like me or do they do that every time is my question?
deralte: (Default)
( Sep. 19th, 2014 10:12 pm)
Today, I went to gwagjang market which is surprisingly easy to get to from where I live. I'd been there before last year to have some mung bean pancakes, but this time around I wanted to visit the shops. I started out on the opposite side of the street/river from the marketplace since I'd found a blog mentioning that that was where all the knitting shops were. Sure, enough, after passing a store where you could get rubber bands in all sizes including your dream person-sized catapult, I hit a long line of yarn shops, some of them filled with ahjummas and halmohniis (grandmothers) knitting away with a lot more skill than I possess. I picked up some really soft yarn I shouldn't have, but it was so cheap compared to the US, then I picked up the blue and white yarn I want for my next project once I finish the scarf for my father.

That accomplished, I crossed the street, paused to admire the river, then headed into the actual marketplace which is huge, covered and two stories tall. There's barely enough room to walk in some places since the corridors are full of bolts of cloth. This is the place where everyone goes when they want traditional clothes made and/or bedding. I wandered around, staring at fabrics, but I hate sewing so I was safe from the urge to buy things... that is until I wandered out of the fabric areas. I ended up buying a soft memory foam pillow with patterns of owls all over it. It was very cute. I then proceeded to wander the rest of the market, checking out what food was available. They sell fresh fish, kimchi, misc beans and a few other things there as well, but the market is well known for its various food stalls. I told myself I should eat some mung bean pancakes, but I wasn't in the mood so I ended up at a knife cut noodle and kimchi dumpling stall where I got quizzed by a chatty ahjumma while I ate. I really liked the knife cut noodles and the kimchi dumplings, though it was hard to eat at first because it was steaming hot after being freshly made in front of me. (It cost $5.) I was then stuffed so I leisurely wandered back to the subway. I climbed down into the park along the river (the Cheonggyecheon 청계천 river... this isn't quite as much of a mouthful in Korean thankfully). It was gorgeous and there were tons of fish visible in the clear water. I snapped a picture of the sunset, walked across the stones they leave at intervals for people to cross and headed back to the subway. It was rush hour, but I caught a seat anyway and ended up entertaining a lot of people as they watched me play PuzzleCraft on my phone.
Yesterday, I took a friend to Dragon Hill jjimjilbang. She'd lived in Japan before so she was used to Japanese onsen, but I figured I'd introduce her to the Korean version. She lives pretty close to the place too. Lucky. Anyway, she was shocked how many pools there were in Dragon Hill and it really is a good deal considering it was $11, and I paid $10 for the Happy Day Spa in Hongdae which only has four pools. (Dragon Hill had 9 that were filled and two more which weren't atm.) We paid to get a scrubbing done which is when an ajumma (middle-aged woman) scrubs your skin so hard (you are naked, shes in her underwear and bra) that it removes the top layer of the skin. It's pretty weird especially since they do scrub you everywhere, but it does make your skin really soft afterwards. The ajumma tried to hard sell us on getting a more expensive oil massage for $60 but since I know where to get a 1hr shiatsu massage (called a sports massage here) for $33 it wasn't much of a deal. When I kept telling her it was too expensive, she swatted me on the shoulder and said it was truly cheap. But I think then she figured out we were students because she asked if I was and I told her grad students and that got her to stop. They also shampoo your hair at the end for some reason which I guess it just part of the service.

We ate dinner in the restaurant there. It was a very good bibimbap, though they really skimp on the meat, and the seaweed soup wasn't the best. We also had a 'chewy egg' which seems to be boiled in soy sauce and sugar. It comes out of the shell kinda gooey and translucent, if brown. Tasty if a bit odd because it's sweet. After surveying the saunas, we went back to have one last bath and wash our hair properly (since there's no point in doing it before you go in the baths imo). I pulled a muscle in my leg while I was getting in one of the baths at the end. The pain faded away after being in the pool for awhile so I didn't think of it, and if I was limping when I got home I thought it was just from climbing too many stairs, but today I woke up and there's sharp pain in one of my muscles if I flex the foot. Guess I'm not going anywhere today.
deralte: (stardust expect me when you see me)
( Sep. 11th, 2014 01:30 pm)
Was there anyone who I promised postcards to from Korea who I'm forgetting? Speak up if I did. And even if I didn't feel free to comment and ask for one (though you'll need to email me your current address).
Well, my scanner arrived yesterday evening. Unfortunately, despite it looking like it had a brick for converting power, the AC adapter gave out a puff of smoke after being plugged in for half an hour and I was left spending all of Saturday trying to find a replacement AC adapter. Two which might work are on their way to me but it is yet another delay to my research. Joy.

I finally got a phone. Someone gave me their Samsung Galaxy S3 which has a well-cracked screen. But when the phone is on, it's not really that noticeable and I put a screen protector on it to hold it together so oh well. For a free phone, it's fantastic. It's really nice to finally have access to all the wifi hot spots around Seoul. It's amazing how connected you are, even on the subway. Or maybe that's especially on the subway? And I'm also paying a lot less per month than people who have contracts so yay.

Unfortunately, my timing was once again bad since I got the phone late Weds. Called the professor I'm supposed to be working with on Thursday and left a message. But Chuseok, Korean thanksgiving (only you go home and eat special rice cakes for a few days) starts on Sunday but everyone started it early, you know, on Friday, which meant I had very little hope of being contacted by the professor. I will call again on Thursday when the holiday is over if I don't hear from her.

On Thursday after the phone call, I headed out to a jjimjilbang since it's my goal to visit every 3 story or above jjimjilbang in Seoul while here. I hit up Itaewon Spa Land because it's easy to get to from where I live and I knew exactly where it was (the hardest thing about visiting jjimjilbangs, I've found, is finding out where they are). There are tons of English language reviews about this place online and they all claimed that despite being right near the red light district this place wasn't sketchy. And for the most part, this is true, but I have no idea how all those reviews missed the fact that the fountains gushing water into the corner of the hot tubs are shaped like penises. Which is sort of the definition of sketchy, yes? (Scroll down to the view of the bath here to see them. And yet the reviewer doesn't say a word about them.)

I go to jjimjilbangs for the hot tubs and wet saunas so I was disappointed that one pool wasn't even filled, three were lukewarm, one was freezing cold (even colder than the usual cold pool) and one was really hot. The wet sauna just wasn't hot enough or sealed enough unfortunately (this seems to be a trend in Korean wet saunas though). I did enjoy soaking in the really hot pool and it did relieve my muscle aches. I then threw on the uniform and headed up stairs to explore the five floors. I really liked laying in their rock walk sauna, so much so that I almost fell asleep. Otherwise, I wasn't really impressed and there was construction going on which was annoying. It did look like the fifth floor with it's individual cubby holes would be a nice place to sleep if you were stuck in Itaewon after the trains stop. But overall, I wouldn't recommend the place if you go for the baths like I do.