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Day of Rest – Indian Food

Last weekend Nicole and I went to Oedaldo island off the coast of Mokpo on the West coast of Korea. It was part of my two days off for summer break before summer intensives started up. Since Nicole works for a different school she had a different two days off. For her vacation, she took a trip along the East coast of Korea. Since I had a different break I couldn’t travel with her so I hung out in Gwangju. Saturday I caught up with some cleaning and errands around town. Since I’d arrived in Korea I’ve been traveling all over the place, everywhere from Wondo to Seoul to Oedaldo. However, all the traveling was starting to wear me down so I gave myself a well deserved day off. I got my bike tire fixed, bought groceries, and watched tons of Netflix.

Lunch at First Nepal

That night Kayla, my neighbor, co-teacher, and friend went out for Indian food at a restaurant downtown called First Nepal. If you know anything about me, it’s that I love Indian food and it had been awhile since I last had Indian food. Kayla and I both got cards for the Indian place the last time we went that entitled us to free naan, delicious Indian pitas, this time around.

Bunnies for Sale

Bunnies for Sale

We had a rousing dinner of Indian food then wandered downtown. Downtown Gwangju is interesting. There are so many sights and smells. There are food trucks that actually drive, sometimes while they are making food. There are old men selling bunnies on the street for only a few dollars.  I bought a whale shirt from a little store and got a shirt for “service” (free).

Whale Shirt Selfie

Whale Shirt Selfie

 

 

Second Weekend in Seoul: Color Me Rad II

Continued from Second Week in Seoul: Color Me Rad I

Breakfast

Nicole and I packed our bags at the hostel and got some breakfast at a local brunch place. Brunch isn’t too common in Korea, so most brunch places are in the foreign parts of town such as Itaewon. I got real buttermilk pancakes with thick cut bacon, and I mean thick, like bacon steak if that was a thing. This place had real delicious coffee as well, a welcome change from yesterday’s McDonalds. Coffee in Korea, and in most places outside of the US does not exist the way it does in the states. Most places have lattes, cappuccinos, and espresso, but rarely do they have traditional American coffee. I often order an Americano (espresso plus hot water).

Sunday in Itaewon is an immensely peaceful place if you’re up early enough anytime before noon. In the afternoon shoppers wander its streets eating international food and shopping in various boutiques. At night Itaewon becomes a crazy club district and its packed with people, Korean and foreign alike. 

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Bongeunsa Temple

After breakfast, Nicole and I caught a cab toBongeunsa Temple, a place even more tranquil than Itaewon on a sleepy Sunday morning. Bongeunsa Temple is a Buddhist temple dating back to 794. Its located close to the center of Seoul, ironically surrounded by shopping malls and some of the most expensive apartment buildings in Korea. We spent the afternoon wandering around the temple, observing its majestic beauty and instagraming its secrets.

Bongeunsa Temple

Bongeunsa Temple

I got the impression not many tourists westerners visit the temple. Nicole and I got a lot of curious looks as we wandered the temple and one gentleman stopped and spoke with us for about 15 minutes telling us about the temple’s history.

Bongeunsa Temple

Bongeunsa Temple

Convention Center

After leaving the temple, Nicole and I walked across the street to the convention center on the off chance something fun was happening. Indeed it was, there was a Korean children’s character licensing convention. I’m not 100% on what that means, but there were tons of children’s characters in costumes handing out autographs and taking photos. It was a madhouse. Nicole and I wanted to go into the convention and take photos, but there was an admission fee and it didn’t seem worth it since neither of us knew who any of the characters were.

Seven Luck Casino

The convention center is massive and it connects to a hotel & casino next door. That’s right, a Korean casino. Nicole and I had to go, and we were not disappointed. We had both expected a casino similar to one in the states where you can wander in off the Las Vegas strip in shorts and a t-shirt and gamble to your heart’s content, that was not quite the case here.

Nicole and I stroll in off the streets in Seoul in our shorts and t-shirts, because it’s 90 degrees with 100% humidity. Immediately we’re greeted by a staff of 5 or 6 Koreans in full suits. The small lobby is immaculate with crystal chandeliers and fountains. Clearly, we are underdressed, but we decided not to let that dissuade us from seeing this Korean casino. I greet the first gentleman in a suit and he asks for our passports. In Korea, you cannot go into a casino unless you are a foreigner. I believe Koreans are not allowed to gamble. After we get our passports back, we walk around the corner of the lobby and take an escalator up to a small gambling floor with maybe 50 slot machines and a few tables for poker and roulette. Everyone gambling in the casino looks Korean, which is odd since this should be foreigners only. I suspect that there is some way around this passport check or maybe they bribed the doorman.

Nicole and I aren’t gamblers so we mostly just look around until we spy in the corner, past the flashing lights and slot machines, a juice bar. That’s right, this casino has free juice, and by that I mean there are several pitchers of airplane-quality juice available to drink out of tiny paper cups. Nicole and I go over and start slamming back shots of juice with reckless abandonment. The fact that its cold and free almost makes up for how bad it is. I feel like whoever made this juice had never had real juice. Someone probably described juice to him and he said “oh yeah, I know what you mean” but really had no idea.

Juice Bar

Juice Bar

Nicole took a picture of me drinking free juice and several casino security guards came by and told us not to take photos. At that point, we’d seen everything we wanted to at the casino and decided to head back to Itaewon and gather our bags for the bus back.

4D Movie Experience

Nicole and I took the bus back to Gwangju and made it back early enough in the evening to see a 4D movie at the bus station. The Gwangju bus station has everything, tons of shops, restaurants, a department store, and a 4D movie theater. It’s awesome. In the 4D movie theater you get sprayed with smells, your seat shakes, you might get wet, and you occasionally get air blown on you. It’s just like a 4D ride at Disney but it’s a full-length movie in a theater.

4D Movie

4D Movie

Nicole and I saw Pacific Rim, a movie about giant transformer robots fighting giant monsters from an alternate universe. It’s probably the perfect movie to see in 4D because its so over the top. The movie itself wasn’t too bad. The action was massively epic, but the character development was nonexistent and I didn’t really care what happened to any of the people in the film.

If you think there are a lot of previews before movies in the states, don’t see movies in Korea. There were easily twice as many previews and general advertisements before the movie along with several warning screens about motion sickness. Overall the 4D experience was a lot of fun, but after the first hour or so I started to get tired of the 4D part and just wanted to watch the movie without being shaken or having air blown on me, but the gimmick was a fun one-time thing.

Second Weekend in Seoul: Color Me Rad I

This weekend was the weekend before Nicole’s birthday so we decided to go back to Seoul for some R and R. In this case, R and R meant running and resisting the urge to eat taco bell. We did one of those two things.

Getting to Seoul

After work Friday, Nicole and I caught the bus from the Gwangju bus terminal to Seoul, leaving at 11:30 pm and arriving at 3 am. The nice thing about buses between Seoul and Gwangju is that they run every ten minutes and they’re only about $25. Nicole and I packed snacks to bring along and spent the trip napping and eating Korean chips.

When we arrived, we hailed a cab to Itaewon to stay at the same hostel we’d stayed at last time: the SP@Itaewon guesthouse. The cab ride was about $5 and it was way faster than taking the subway like we did last time. I’d written to the hostel a few days before to let them know that we would be arriving at 3 am. They said they’d leave the room unlocked and we could just let ourselves in and pay in the morning. When Nicole and I got to the hostel our room was locked, lucky for us, I’d accidentally taken the key with me from when we stayed last time, so I let us into our room.

Mmm, McDonald's Coffee

Mmm, McDonald’s Coffee

Nicole had signed the two of us up for the Color Me Rad 5k run on Saturday at 11 am, so the two of us threw on some clothes and left the hostel at around 8 am, after about 4 hours of sleep. The only thing open at that time on the streets of Itaewon was McDonald’s, so Nicole and I prepared for our run with Egg McMuffins, terrible coffee, and 4 hours of sleep. I’m sure somewhere out there a runner is cringing at the thought of our pre-race preparations, or lack thereof.

COLOR ME RAD

The Color Me Rad 5k is a race through the Seoul Olympic complex right on the bank of the Han River. It started in the US and its slowly been migrating around the world. The race in Korea had 12,000 registered runners and I would say about half were foreign and half were Korean.

Nicole and I before the race

Nicole and I before the race

 

The race course was set up to run through several of the Olympic stadiums and track and field facilities eventually ending where it began. Along the race course, there were several stations with heavy electronic music and people throwing powdered paint at runners. It was awesome. I encourage you to watch the video above if you want to know what it was like. It was such a fun crazy event and it happens all over the world. 

Nicole and I after the race

Nicole and I after the race

Nicole and I got to the race around 10 am and since the race lets runners start every 10 minutes, Nicole and I were able to start almost as soon as we got there. We gathered at the starting line and waited for our cue to go, which in this case was loud music and a ton of paint being thrown into the air/at us.

I expected everyone to start running once we got the go-ahead, but everyone started slowly walking forward. It was very anticlimactic. Once we got a little bit further down the course and into the stadium, the race opened up and we were able to start running. Most of the Koreans struggled with the idea of running or maybe just weren’t feeling it, but a lot of the participants thought of the run as more of a walk and acted accordingly.

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Subway Ride

After the run, Nicole and I caught the subway back to our hostel with everyone else. The first few subway stops we were in welcome company as the subway was about half full of people covered in paint. However, after another two transfers and several more stops, Nicole and I became the only ones covered in paint on a very clean Korean subway.

Dirty Austin Clean Subway

Dirty Austin Clean Subway

Mexican Lunch

Korean Chipotle Menu

Korean Chipotle Menu

After several showers and lots of scrubbing, Nicole and I went left our hostel and made our way out to Itaewon’s international street and found Mexican food and craft beers. The place was nearly identical to Chipotle back home, complete with the choose your meat/choose your form menu.

Just eating Mexican food and reading about the DMZ

Just eatin’ Mexican food & reading about the DMZ

Riverwalk

Nicole found a really nice part of town for us to walk through Saturday night. Seoul recently completed its largest civic project ever, a man-made river flowing through downtown complete with walkway and laser-fog show. We spent the evening enjoying beverages and walking along this river. There were tons of Korean families out enjoying the riverwalk. We caught the tail-end of one of the laser-fog shows as well.

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Continued in Second Weekend in Seoul: Color Me Rad II

Weekend in Gwangju Part II

Continued from Part I

Nicole and I got up and went downtown to eat brunch at a place called Alleyway. There are a few foreign bars in Gwangju, all of them are downtown. The Alleyway is one of them and they serve a delicious brunch on Sunday mornings. Most Koreans don’t eat brunch or much of a breakfast really, so brunch establishments are few and far between. I ordered french toast stuffed with poutine and a coffee. It was delicious.

French Toast stuffed with Poutine

French Toast stuffed with Poutine

Nicole and I spent the rest of the day walking around downtown and recouping from week of teaching.

Gwangju at Night

Gwangju at Night

That night Nicole and I went for a hike up a little mountain behind Nicole’s apartment. At the top of the mountain you can see almost all of Gwangju below. It was an incredible view. Nicole and I experimented with light-painting as well and got some cool photos out of it.

Gwangju at Night II

Gwangju at Night II

Hiking Path at Night

Hiking Path at Night

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