Had a great time over Golden Week when I headed to Lake Biwa. I stayed in an amazing hotel with a view of the castle in Hikone. I tried Omi wagyu beef and local delicacies at their restaurant (the beef was so flavourful) and took advantage of their free bikes to bike around the castle and go inside one of the few remaining castles in Japan that has never been destroyed and rebuilt. That evening, after a disappointing shabu shabu meal, I enjoyed the hotel's onsen which had a view of the castle and moat which was lit up red at night. I probably spent an hour in their silk bath even though without my glasses the castle was a red blur lol. The next day, I enjoyed the restaurant's excellent breakfast buffet (gotta love roast duck in the morning) then headed down south to the town of Otsu. There I visited Miidera temple which holds a lot of national treasure Buddhist statues, a famous bell and has an amazing view of Lake Biwa (plus they filmed some of the Rurouni Kenshin live action film there). I then caught a train up into the mountains to this little town whose only claim to fame is their famous eel restaurant, Kaneyo. It was supposed to be some of the best eel in Japan and since I love eel, I figured I might as well go. They also serve omlettes with it for some reason so this is what I ended up with. I enjoyed it but I have had better eel before and I think the smokey taste from their grill was actually a little overwhelming of the natural eel flavour. That photo is killing it on google maps amusingly enough. (I've since done some research and it seems they only smoke eel in the kansai region whereas in the kanto region they smoke and steam them... I probably prefer the later.)

After lunch, I headed back out of the mountains and had to catch a bus (which was chronically 15min late) up the other side of the lake to the Ogoto onsen area, ie the hot springs. I had researched before hand about various hotels/ryokan there and picked one that seemed to have a good variety of hot spring pools to try - Yumotokan. I went in and had to pay a special fee, and then I was just told which floors the onsen were on. That was perhaps the worst part - the three hot springs that were open to women that day where on the 8th, 5th, and 2nd floor. People who were staying at the hotel just had to pull on their yukata (hotel robes) to go between them but I had to laboriously get dressed and undressed. I headed to the 8th floor first where there was an infinity pool looking out over the lake and a quite comfy outdoor pool, also with a view. There was a sauna as well. All were a tad bit too hot so I couldn't stay forever and decided to head down to the 2nd floor. This turned out to be a good choice because it was nearly empty probably because it was obviously decorated in the 80s and in need of a bit of an update. What I did love was the steam sauna and the foot massage/bath. Now ridiculously clean, I once again headed up to the 5th floor where they had a very impressive outdoor bath made from artistically arranged rocks - some made an arch, some to perch on, some for a natural spring and waterfall. It was really gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was also getting towards evening so there were a bit too many bugs out for me to fully relax plus the water was too hot to soak for long. I almost had the place to myself though since everyone was getting ready for dinner. I headed back to catch the bus, then ran to catch the train back up to Hikone.

After another good sleep and a great breakfast I decided to make my slow way back to my apartment in Nara prefecture. Since everyone has off during Golden Week the trains and stations were ridiculously crowded. I felt pretty overwhelmed passing through Kyoto station but better when I stopped at a station near an Aeon mall which I knew had a theatre in it. There I payed the exorbitant ticket price ($20 for a movie at noon!) and got to see Captain America Civil War. I enjoyed it in general, but it was kinda predictable and I have a bunch of nitpicks. Even so, 100 times better than Age of Ultron. I then decided to wander around the huge mall, bought some socks and went to the huge grocery store. My local stores are fine but are somewhat lacking in variety so it's nice to hit the bigger stores in the cities for a change. I found the best chuhai flavour ever too - cherry lime from Okinawa. It's so good but I have yet to find it locally. Shopping done, I headed back to my apartment and spent the rest of the holiday recovering from my vacation.
deralte: (Default)
( Mar. 14th, 2016 09:35 pm)
I decided to do a day trip to Kyoto on Saturday. I wanted to see the Ryozen Museum (ie the one dedicated to the bakumatsu) because I've been pretty much everywhere else in the country that's relevant to the bakumatsu. (For those who don't know, the bakumatsu was the fall of the shongunate right before the meiji restoration). The museum is pretty small, but not bad. There was a focus on individuals during the bakumatsu, some hilariously bloody dioramas (the Ikedaya inn incident was particularly gruesome), a weird 3D movie, and a place where you could try on shinsengumi costumes. I didn't partake but only because I already dressed as a shinsengmi member for Halloween the last time I lived in Japan and nothing can top shocking drunken japanese men and yakuza by walking through the drinking district as a samurai. Unfortunately, they didn't allow photos elsewhere in the museum which is a shame since I really wanted a selfie with an actual shinsengumi banner. I had a good time but I really really don't recommend this museum to anyone who hasn't done extensive research into the bakumatsu or is fluent in Japanese. I wrote my MA thesis on the bakumatsu and am pretty good at Japanese so I was able to follow along, but I still got stymied in places because I didn't know everyone's names as well as I did years ago when I wrote the thesis and also because they change bloody names (I'm looking at you Katsura Koguryo!) What I didn't know about the museum until I got there was that the main shishi (supporters of the restoration of the emperor ie the winners of the revolution) cemetery was in the shrine across the road from the museum. I thought there were only a few graves but actually there were hundreds and also memorials for the different prefectures who fought. The big grave to visit is Sakamoto Ryoma's and there's quite a nice view of the city from there since you have to climb up the side of the mountain to reach it.

I headed back down the mountain then and turned left when I hit the more traditional streets, heading towards Kiyomizudera. There are tons of shops along there selling traditional crafts and food though I mostly just window shopped. I did stop to buy nama yatsuhashi, the traditional triangle shaped soft sweet dough with some type of bean paste inside - a staple of the Kyoto omiyage trade. I didn't mean to do so, but they had these amazing sesame flavoured ones which were awesome. One set was white and the other was pure black and both were delicious. I ate one set myself then shared the rest with my office mates like a good Japanese traveler. (The Koreans loved them and even took down the address so they could buy some, but the poor Chinese guy was obviously freaked out by it being pure black.) I had no urge to visit kiyomizudera again so when I got to the base of the hill where it's located and I turned around and headed back to visit Kodaiji. Otherwise known as one of the few major temples in Kyoto I hadn't visited. A couple of cherry trees were blooming early but the main ones hadn't started yet so it was less crowded than it could have been. The temple was quite nice to see, and then I wandered out towards the nearby Maruyama park, and then to Yasaka shrine. I'm not sure if they do this every weekend but there were some floats set out and typical stalls with Japanese festival food. I almost bought some roasted bamboo shoots but then I spotted grilled crab skewers which I had to try. I then headed back towards the Gin district to do some shopping at Book Off and see if the body shop here has hand sanitizer (alas, no luck). By that point, it was about 6pm and I was starting to limp so I made my way back to the trains and headed home.

I kinda want to go back in a week or two and see the cherry blossoms in full bloom but it was so crowded already I'm not sure if I'm up for it. There were a lot of people out in yukata or full kimono in the streets which was lovely to see but I can't imagine how anyone would manage pics if it was more crowded than it already was.
deralte: (Default)
( Jan. 24th, 2016 07:56 pm)
So I have been having a blast here in Tokyo despite jetlag and the pain of walking up and down subway steps (this is the reason I lost so much weight in Korea... you just have to live with the pain for the first few days). I have been hitting the communal bath on the top floor to compensate for all the aches but soaking in hot water can only do so much.

I went to see Star Wars in 4D and it was utterly amazing that way. Having your seat tilt down following the slow pan of the opening shot was really thrilling, as were all the space battles. They sprayed mesquite into the room whenever there were things burning which I liked but it also made me a bit hungry. It was actually a little weird to have something hitting your legs at the same time as a tentacle monster attacking Finn. Japanese 4D theaters have more seats and they tilt forward more. So much so that if they had gone slightly more angled, I'd have slid off. No wonder they suggest you put your bags in free lockers before you go in. Incidentally, to get the tickets, I had to go to the roppongi hills cinema several hours before the show and buy one of the last four tickets for the 3pm showing. They sold out insanely quickly but this was unsurprising considering the weekend was already sold out when I went on Friday. By virtue of seeing it alone, I actually had a really nice center seat.

I made it to Mandarake in Shibuya to check out the "doujinshi for women" as they put it. There's not a lot of series I'm interested in atm (I already have tons of doujinshi that I've only flipped through at home) but I love to look at the western series doujin because it's rather fascinating to compare to the western fandoms. Usually, the focus of pairings is quite different. So for example, the Avengers fandom is still being dominated by Tony/Jarvis with science bros not too far behind. Stucky was a rare pair and I only saw a few Stony. I have yet to figure out too why the Boondock Saints fandom is still going strong in Japan. Anybody? But much to my surprise The Hobbit fandom was really fascinating because the doujin almost exactly reflected the western fandom. Bagginshield dominated (it was nonexistent in Japan in 2013 when I last checked) and Bard/Thranduil had become popular since the last movie, with a couple of rare pairs and gen thrown in for good measure.

I also made it to Akihabara. I checked out animate first as I usually do but my interests in anime don't currently line up with anything that is showing atm (except One Punch Man), so I headed over the building with the mandarake cafe in it. The lower four floors there have recent doujin, electronics, and an astonishing collection of figurines and memorabilia. There's one shop on the third floor I believe which consistently sells all the figures about 20% cheaper than anyone else so it's worth checking out. I first tried to find a new battery for my lenova pad but I was told they don't make anything like it in Japan so I'd have to get one from the US. Oh well. I then set out to find memorabilia and figurines from Natsume Yuujinchou and Star Wars. I particularly wanted some action figures of Rey and BB-8 but she was almost as hard to find here as in the US. I did get a cute 3-inch figure of Rey which was made for the Japanese market only and looks great but there were no BB-8 figurines to be found, or the larger Rey figurine which the internet tells me exists but I have yet to see. My capsule luck held and I got an awesome looking tengu from a gegege kitaro machine. Turns out it's one of the rarer expensive ones so I was doubly pleased. (You can tell by how they price them in other nearby stores that sell figurines individually. Mine was the most expensive, therefore it was pretty rare.) I picked up some tiny Natsume yuujinchou figurines like one of Madara as a daruma. I then headed out and north to another store which was advertising for Star Wars. They did have a BB=8 figurine there but it came with R2D2 and I wouldn't have been able to fit him in my bag. So I bought a cute set of BB-8 stationary and headed back to my hotel.

I have been eating out on occasion but mostly living on the hotel breakfast (which is quite nice) and convenience store food. The thrill of meat buns and onigiri for a buck will not wear off for awhile. I also tried some famous Asakusa pudding which was amazing until I hit the burnt sugar at the bottom which totally ruined the rest of the pudding for me. I also had some famous maple melon bread and a delicious sweet potato paste thingy.

Today, I headed out of Tokyo to attend Bujinkan training at the Hombu dojo. Nobody told me, but they knocked down the old dojo and built a new, larger one with better facilities. It was a bit difficult to find at first until I started looking for the kanji. The other dojo was quite stereotypical looking so it was easier to find, though I suppose you could always just follow all the foreigners on a Sunday morning. There were a ton of Australians there and I made friends. I trained with one of them, M. who was my height and a bit of a beginner, plus she had a leg injury, so we took it easy. I don't mind teaching someone since it helps me learn as well (it's only frustrating if they're not trying and this was not the case). Despite the dojo being bigger, it was still crowded so when we switched over to sword, there wasn't really enough room to do anything. But it was fun. Hatsumi soke has a wicked sense of humour (that Jack definitely gets from him). For example, he took a guy down, let him go and then when he thought he could escape, put him in an even worse lock, and all with a smile on his face. It's interesting to be able to understand enough Japanese to know what he was talking about. He talked about intent and convincing your opponent that they took a hit, even though they didn't. We then got a gruesome story about Japanese executions and people getting their heads chopped off. Apparently, heads being chopped sounds like a wet towel being snapped so they went down a line and at the last person, they snapped a towel instead and the person died of fright. He's also still talking about things that Jack passed on like spiraling in to the proper point while taking people down and of course, taking the right space and distance and moving. I liked his point of using both sides of the chest to take someone out (catching on one hand, then bringing that shoulder down before taking the space around the opposite elbow and letting the rebound from the shoulder you pressed down send the other shoulder up). I ended up with a few more bruises and tired but I found out where there's training in Osaka and made a lot of new friends. Plus I got some calligraphy painted by the soke.

I headed back to Asakusa afterwards and wandered through the markets looking for a place to eat lunch (it was 2pm by this point). Everywhere I tried had people waiting outside in the cold for a seat so I bought some snacks and wandered out of the tourist areas until I found a ramen place for lunch. I haven't had proper ramen in ages so that was nice. I then headed out, bought some food for my dinner and stopped at a cat cafe near by hotel, Cafe Calaugh. This one was set up a bit differently than ones I've been to before. They served food and drinks and didn't cover anything but the cats seemed to mostly ignore the food. I found a snuggle buddy who huddled next to me for warmth and then inherited a lap cat from someone else. That cat just didn't want to do anything other than sleep in people's laps. I had to pass her on myself after my hour of time was up. She did give me a kiss when she first came to my lap - probably to smell the hot chocolate on my lips.

I head down to Nara tomorrow so I'm getting ready. Ja ne!
deralte: (Default)
( Jul. 12th, 2015 10:58 pm)
Some pics here.

So on Friday, I took the day off and decided to go to Gonju. It was just an hour and a half from Seoul by bus so it seemed like a good day trip if I didn't push it. My only problem is that I've developed a bit of plantar fasciitis from all the walking I do and because I have low arches so I've been trying to rest, but I also have tons of places I need to go. I won't be able to rest until I get back to the US basically. Anyway, getting to the express bus terminal was a pain in the arse, but catching the bus was easy enough. I got to Gongju around noon and had some shrimp fried rice (bokkumbap) for lunch. Then I bought some chesnut pastries. I was looking for ice cream but they didn't have me but the shop owner heard me muttering about it and gave me a different kind of chilled chesnut pastry. I then tried to find the bus that went to the archaeological sites but I couldn't figure out where it was so I gave up and took a taxi.

I went to the Songsan-ri tombs and the site of King Muryeong's tomb (who is probably the most famous of the Paekche kings). The weather outside was gorgeous if rather hot so it was nice to be inside the museum on site and explore their fake tomb sites. I then headed up to the tombs. The path was being reworked so I'm not sure if we were supposed to walk on it but a group of Japanese tourists were so I blended in with them. I climbed all the way up the hill, had an amazing view (see pics), and then saw a sign to the Gonju National Museum which was the other place I wanted to visit. Rather than going back down the hill and walking around it, I just followed the path down the other side of the big hill. Thus accidentally going up and over a small mountain. Oops. On the way down, I saw a unified Silla tomb and a deer that was so overheated it just sat there while I walked by. The path was steep going up and going down but it really did bring me out right next to the museum. I headed inside, refilled my water bottle and headed to the second floor because a huge, noisy school group was there and I wanted to look at King Muryeong's tomb artifacts in peace. I passed them going by while making my way to the first floor and going backwards through the exhibit. This worked rather well since it's not like I don't know a lot about the artifacts anyway.

From there, I headed out towards the parking lot, hoping to find some taxis loitering. None were to be seen, so I accidentally wandered into a replica of the Chosun administrative areas and then into the Gonju Hanok village full of old traditional houses. Everyone was lingering inside to avoid the heat so I almost gave up and tried walking back towards the station but my feet were killing me and after wandering for a bit I spotted a convenience store. I bought an ice cream, a sports drink to replenish my electrolytes and asked for the local number for a taxi. I then sat in the shade, enjoying the village and my ice cream before calling a taxi. One came quite quickly and picked me up and brought me back to the bus terminal. 20 minutes later and I was back on a bus towards Seoul. I was exhausted by the time we hit the express bus terminal so I stopped to have some Myeongdong kalkuksu, which is meat and noodles soup, presumably in the myeong dong style (or from the famous store there). That replenished my electrolytes some more before I made the long journey home, pretty much limping from all the subway line changes. But I made it home by 7pm. Not bad for a day trip.

My feet hurt, but it really was a lovely trip and such a beautiful day.
We had to wake up pretty early to get to the airport which was not the best since I did not sleep well. We woke up to freshly fried dosas (kinda like crepes) with masala dipping sauce for breakfast which we scarfed down before paying for the room and catching our taxi. The flight back to Delhi was interesting only because we were on one of the new 787s and the smartglass on the windows plus the slightly redefined layout were interesting to see. I mostly read the Visni Puri novel and R. read her own.

Once in Delhi we took the taxi back to the Fulbright house and stored my luggage there (though we were later informed we weren’t supposed to do that *shrugs*). We then walked for about ten minutes to the Jantar Mantar which I always wanted to see. It’s a series of observatories which were built in 1724 to examine various celestial phenomenon but it looks like a modern art display. It didn’t take long to visit and disappointingly, you can’t climb up any of the steps you can see. Oh well. From there we caught a rickshaw to do the one other thing I wanted to do while in India – namely, see an Ashokan pillar. I’d been hoping one had been brought to Delhi so I could see one and R. found out where it was. It was over in old Delhi at Feroz Shah Kotla Fort, which was part of a city founded by a Shah in 1354.

We were expecting to explore an old fort and see the pillar. Instead, the place was teaming with people, birds (kites I believe), and smoke. There wasn’t a ticket taker in sight but we were once again the center of attention. I had to hold my breath even to get in since there was a massive fire being burnt right near the front. Once through there, we wandered, admiring how thick the walls were until we found our way to the foot of the building the pillar perched on. It was even more crowded here since everyone had to fit into the ancient walkways and stairs to get anywhere. Opposite it was a mosque which although in ruins was still being used for worship. I had to hold my breath and dash around a lot because in every single alcove they were burning flowers and incense and saying prayers. R. and I were really confused. It also took us awhile to find the steps up to the pillar since they were cleverly hidden. R. bailed out on the lower level so I headed up on my own after actually finding the proper stairs. Once up there, the pillar was amazing to see even if it is a little broken. I liked that someone had carved an elephant into it at some point. The people meanwhile, were tying letters to the pillar, leaving offerings and reaching in to touch it. I was also mobbed by children as I always seemed to be when left alone (kids just really like me, go figure). Once I took their pictures and made my way down, I told R. it was easier to get up then we thought so we went up again. Some cheeky kids kept getting closer and closer to us while we were up there and even poked my bum at one point. *sigh*

We made our way out of there, with me holding my breath and dashing through smoke filled areas, though I figured an asthma attack due to smoke was inevitable at this point (and I was right though it held off until I was on the plane). We headed back to the Fulbright building and in the half hour before my taxi to the airport arrived, looked up what was going on. Turns out my ability to stumble on festivals is ridiculously good. On Thursdays, and only Thursdays, Indian Muslims go to that site to ask the djinn which are thought to inhabit the stones, with the head djinn being in the pillar to grant their wishes. We had a 1 in 7 chance of encountering them but since it was Thursday the 11th, we got in free and got to experience the djinn worship. Turns out it’s a pretty interesting phenomena which only started in 1977 and one of R.’s friend’s friends wrote their Phd thesis on it. Small world, huh?

We said goodbye and I caught my taxi who got me to the airport in good time. Once there, I bought a few more souveniers since I didn’t feel like changing my money and a surprisingly tasty and colourful meal from Curry Kitchen. I managed to get a few hours of sleep on the plane back, which stood me in good stead for the ridiculously long transfer procedure at Shanghai Dupong airport. Our gate was freezing due to improperly closed doors, and even with all my layers just sitting there for an hour and a half waiting for my plane had me shivering. (I couldn’t really buy anything since I only had enough Chinese money left to buy some water.) I watched some of Twin Peaks but kept getting distracted so I was glad when our plane finally loaded. The flight was quick, and I was on the airport train back to my apartment within a half hour of landing. Of course, it was snowing when I got off the subway so I was freezing since I hadn’t been able to pack a winter coat but I rushed home. I took a shower and did my laundry, hoped my sore throat wasn’t an actual cold and went to sleep. Turns out it was a cold (the same one R. got in the last days of our trip, I’d wager) which I am still recovering from, so I’ve spent my time hibernating.

(It took me about two weeks to recover from the cold and the trip in general. Had a great time though.)
I estimate that about 10% of the population are wearing masks because of MERS. Not only is this weird to see considering it isn't spread by air unless in hospital conditions, but it pisses me off how many of them are wearing them improperly. I have to wear a mask whenever the air quality is poor so I've gone through a lot of masks finding one that works against the yellow dust and pollution. These people buy cheap masks which don't even seal to the sides of their mouth and somehow think that it's any use whatsoever. Then there's the idiots who pull down the masks so their noses are exposed. And let's not forget the woman who got on the train next to me, while not wearing a mask, then put on the mask for the duration of the ride, only to take it off before she got off the train. In what world would that have been helpful? It makes me want to not wear a mask in order to not be lumped in to the 'paranoid and stupid about MERS' crowd.

So, I went down to Daegu and Gyeongju this past week to do some research. I'd been to Daegu and the museum before and was just taking impressions of the drill holes of beads which I had already examined. This took a few hours, then I caught the express bus to Gyeongju (which only takes about an hour). Gyeongju was the former center of the Silla Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period and this was my first chance to visit. I took another short bus ride and checked into my hotel. This hotel, called Mini Hotel 141 is the only one I could find in Gyeongju that was explicitly non-smoking. Considering my asthma is highly triggered by smoking, it was necessary to pay whatever it took to stay in a hotel that was smoke free. Luckily, this one was only about ten dollars more than the cheaper hotels and it's location close to the train station put it close to a lot of the attractions. I got there and discovered that it was also a really nice hotel which provides toiletry kits, and even had a western style towel (this is amazing, believe me). I headed out then to find the mounded tomb park, which, since there was a tomb viewable from the corner near the hotel, I assumed wouldn't be too hard. As luck would have it, I just followed the trail of tombs to hit the park right around the sunset.

I headed inside of the actual park and just wandered around the tombs. I checked out the inside of the Cheonmacheong tomb, which was full of replicas but fun to see laid out. I ended up explaining what was there to a Korean family who was there and who didn't understand the layout and what was what. I then wandered to the far end of the park and did a giant circle before heading back out of the gate I entered in. I then headed back into town proper, ending up on the fashion streets. I got some spicy beef fried rice for dinner and an ice cream which I ate when I got back to the hotel. I watched Korean tv for a bit, marveling about how there are two channels for watching pro Go players and two channels for watching pro video game players. (At one point they were playing a game which hilariously looked like Yugioh as played by Kaiba and his holograms.) Then I went to sleep early because I had to be up early to get to the archaeological center.
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I am so behind on updating anything related to recording my life like this journal and sauronchan's tumblr. *sigh* I really need to write about the rest of my India trip and about how awesome my New Zealand trip was, but I'm not sure if I can find the time. I still have tons of things to do before my grant ends. So maybe I can fit in a summary here at least.

So, my New Zealand trip was amazing. For the first time in my life, almost nothing went wrong on my trip. One of my buses was late but that's pretty much it. I saw all the things I wanted to see from a Maori village to the glow worm caves to Weta cave. I bathed in volcanic hot springs in Rotorua and hiked up Mt. Victoria in Wellington to see where LOTR was filmed. I had some amazing food and lived off of cheap avocados when I wasn't splurging. The flight in on a new 787 was very comfortable, and my flight out through Thailand allowed me to stop for some delicious pad thai with river prawns and a massage before heading back to Korea.

I got back and discovered that Spring in Korea brings the yellow dust or hwang sa which comes over from China on the wind. Turns out that with my asthma, I can't deal with an air quality index over 100 and Seoul was hitting that three or four times a week at one point (it's down to 1-2 right now), so I became a hermit after going to the hospital and being told that going from one asthma attack a week to one a day wasn't an escalation of symptoms *headdesk* Went on singulair, started tracking the aqi religiously via an app on my phone and I now carry a mask around to wear, plus showering as soon as I get home seems to have brought me back to one attack a week, but it took me about two months to get to that point.

In the middle of all this, pretty much every single thing I needed to do become urgent. I had three different conference presentations to prepare for and present at, a 5000 word paper to write, a major scholarship application which I had to write and submit (plus get references and fill out multiple other documents), and my mother and little brother came to visit for a week. So there was about a solid month of stress even if I did enjoy my family's visit.

Probably the most interesting thing I did during that month is I went to Jeju to present at the Fulbright conference. Jeju is an island off the south coast of Korea and is kinda their Hawaii. It's a volcanic, tropical island where I had some amazing sea food. I had a seafood smorgusboard with amazing abalone cooked right in its' shell so you had to cut it out with scissors. So tender. The island is famous for oranges, particularly ones with a rather knobby end called halla-bo which are amazing. My friend and I bought a crate of 18 and ate half of them before we left. They taste like sweeter, less citrus tangerines. We also explored a lava tube which was pretty cool to see. Of course, then I caught a cold and had to give my second conference/forum presentation while coughing up my lungs. There is a hilarious video of it online (which I am not going to link to, but if you want to hear an hour long talk about Korean archaeology, leave a comment and I'll send you the link).

I've just requested an extension of my grant period for an extra six weeks so I can get to more museums. So it's back to spending my time analyzing data and trying to look at as many artifacts as possible before I run out of time. Ja ne!
We were unwilling to brave the sleeper train again so instead we stayed the extra night in the hotel and caught a taxi to Bangalore the next day. This cost us $50 each instead of the $20 for the sleeper train so it really wasn’t a bad deal and we would have had to waste most of the day recovering from the sleeper train in Bangalore anyway so a six hour drive in the morning wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant whose power was out for most of our meal. They had really tasty vegetables which were kinda curried and pickled a bit. Might have been ocra but I’m not sure. Didn’t like their sauces much, but I had a fresh orange juice there which was really odd because it was an Indian orange which are more creamy and less citrusy. We then headed onwards and got into Bangalore around 4 and eventually found the little B&B we were staying in. We settled in, enjoyed the free and fast internet (internet in Hampi was 50 cents an hour for one device which wasn’t much but wasn’t worth the effort to get a passcode for more than an hour each night) to find a place to eat then went out shopping. I picked up the ‘unusual’ spices requested by my little brother as a present and picked up some chai spices and almond tea mix for me since that way I can make it non-caffeinated.

We ate at this great brew pub (which may well be India’s only brew pub) called Toit. It was my last night in India so we indulged. We had two appetizers of breaded and fried mushrooms and onion rings (a rarity in India). Both of us had two beers, and I was surprised to find one I really liked (I’m picky about beer) called the Tintin Toit which was a Belgian style beer. For dinner, R. ordered the hamburger with bacon and it was so massive she couldn’t finish it. I, after much deliberation, ordered the steak because how often do you get a steak for $6? It turned out to be an amazing choice. Whatever they did to marinate it and tenderize and cook it was just perfection. This was seriously one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. After that, we ordered the desert fondue plate. We hadn’t realized how huge it would be (I think it was meant to be for four people) so we just had to pick our way, mostly devouring all the fruit dipped in chocolate and ignoring the cake bites. The marshmallows were pretty good though. The entire meal set up back about $25 each which is nothing compared to what it would have cost us in the US so we were pretty pleased, and a bit tipsy *L*

We went back to our B&B and took our showers. I repacked since I was leaving India the next day and we settled in for the night.
This was my favourite day of the trip. My digestive troubles were gone and we’d seen about half of the main places to see in Hampi so we could take it easy (the travel guides tell you that you need a week to see Hampi but I’m not sure how because even if you go to see the temples across the river we would have managed it in 3-4 days. And I’d suspect your average tourist would get a lot more bored of yet more temples than we did.) We hired another taxi driver for the day and this one only spoke some basic Hindi and even less English.

He took us first to the first of two Ganesha images in the area. It was surrounded by huge boulder so I left R. and her leg to rest and hiked over to see them and take silly pics. After that, he took us to a nearby temple which I think was the Sri Krishna temple. It was uncrowded for a bit until a massive group of school children arrived. Around the corner we walked down a pleasant path beside a stream to see the Ugra Narasimha image which was awesome and impressively intact for something carved in 1528 and left out in the elements. Right next door to it was Hampi’s 3m tall Shivalinga, surrounded by water because everyone needs to see a massive penis and vagina at least once in their life. We took a break then to have some fresh coconut juice (which I don’t like but R. enjoyed it) and get some freshly pressed sugar cane juice. When I was a kid, I once helped harvest sugar cane and make sourgum molasses so I must have tried the cane juice then, but I sure don’t remember it tasting so amazing. Might be the different type of cane too.

From there, he took us to the Hazara Rama temple which was on the other side of the King’s Palace complex. It had some decent sculptures including some black pillars inside, and the Ramayana was depicted along the exterior inner walls, though they were weirdly built over in places. From there, we asked him to take us to the Underground Shiva temple so called because it pretty much sits below ground level at this point. It was still a bit flooded from the monsoon which made it cool to explore, but didn’t have any of the beautiful carvings that the other temples boast.
Read more )
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)
( 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.
Flight to India in December and New Zealand in January now booked!
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.