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Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.

Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.: June 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The O-blog-atory Update-even-though-I-haven't-done-anything-blogworthy Post

Since my last post, not a lot new has happened, but I feel like I should update so as to stimulate the mind(s) of my loyal reader(s).

We're going to Bali in 38 days! This is pretty exciting. So far we've got plane tickets, accomodations for the first 3 nights in Kuta, and a general outline of our plan. I'll tell you what that is because talking about our trip to Bali makes me happy. On August 6, 2011 we're going to hop a train up to Seoul, then the Seoul/Incheon railway over to the Incheon/Seoul International Airport. Then we hop on an overnight Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur, wait around there for a few hours (hopefully the airport has some window looking at the Petronas Towers, because that's about the only thing that I really want to see in Malaysia) and then catch a short flight over to Denpasar, Indonesia. From the airport in Denpasar we should get a free airport pickup from our hotel, check in, and hit the beach. We'll probably be reeeeeeeaaaaaaaaally tired, but I think we'll take the time to at least dip our toes in the Indian Ocean before we sack out. And probably eat one of those pigs with the crispy skin I saw on No Reservations, too.

After our arrival we have two days to spend on Kuta beach. There are some sights we want to see, but mostly I think we want to experience the hustle in a new country. A new, tropical, country with beautiful warm tropical waters wrapped around it. Hopefully at the end of these two days we're both golden brown and ready to move on to a different ocean.

The cool thing about Bali (the cool thing? more like one of the bajillions of cool things) is that it's got access to two oceans. Kuta is on the Indian Ocean side (unless I'm gravely mistaken), and after our short stay there we're moving north, to the North Shore of Bali, and the South Pacific! Yes, you can bet your buttons that I'll be singing show tunes when we finally see the South Pacific. We're planning to stay near Menjangan (but on the Bali "mainland") for a couple of days. We think we'll do a day of diving and a day in the National Forest (read: JUNGLE WITH MONKEYS!). After two active days we want to move on to Lovina, which Lonely Planet describes as The Place to Do Nothing. Sounds pretty good.  We'll need our energy for the next few days.

After doing nothing in Lovina, we're going to move to Ubud, the center of spirituality, dance, culture, art, and everything hipster in Bali. We're staying at a really cool homestay built in a traditional Balinese family house. I'm actually chatting with Babehoney on facebook right now trying to get her to let me book a 4th night in Ubud in a really kitschy hotel with a badass looking plunge pool. Anyway, enough about accomodations. We want to see Wayan Kulit (Balinese shadow puppet shows), Balinese Dance, trek through beautiful terraced rice paddies, and buy awesome sarongs and stuff in Ubud. And eat early because apparently everything closes down kinda early. Ubud is also the setting for the third section of the extraordinarily successful book, Eat, Pray, Love so we might also watch late 20's early 30's American women searching for their megarich Brazilian lover while asking where they can find Wayan and Ketut. The only reason I know that much is that Babehoney and I rented the movie one night in Cuba, New York. Alas, after three or four days in Ubud it will be time to go back to Kuta.

We want to spend our last full day in Kuta just enjoying the touristy vibe and being around other people that speak English. Even if we don't understand a damn thing they're saying (because they'll probably be Australian) it will be nice to be among people that sorta look like us and don't get stared at by the other 99% of the population. I hate being the center of attention, and I find myself being that very center of attention far more than is comfortable here in Korea (I'm freaking gargantuan here) so it will be nice to be part of the background, and I heard that Bali is a great place to just fade into the background. I mean, it's gotta be at LEAST as good as Kansas (if you're not picking up the sarcasm you need to up your reading level.)

After 13 beautiful days on the island, we're going to hop another Air Asia flight back to Kuala Lumpur, then another to Seoul, take the Incheon - Seoul railway back to Seoul Station, and grab a KTX back to Daegu. We'll probably get home realllllly early on Friday morning. And I'll take a shower and go to work. But hey, it's  way less evil of an option than shorting ourselves a day in Bali.

And just to see if she's reading, I'm going to go downtown later this week without Babehoney and surprise her with a copy of Eat, Pray, Love because I heard it's a good book for late 20's to early 30's aged American women that are going to Bali. I'll be kinda pissed if she meets a Brazilian man though.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Rafting near the DMZ

If I was reading my own blog prior to moving over here I'd be taken aback by the stupidity present in this post's title, but I'm not. I'm writing my blog after doing exactly what the title says. This weekend we went rafting in the northern part of the country, and it was absolutely beautiful. We even had a surprise drive by the DMZ, more on that in a few paragraphs. First, I must tell my story.

Friday was a busy, busy day. I normally have between 2 and 5 classes a day, with at least one break of an hour or more at some point during the day. Friday I had 6 straight classes and no breaks other than lunch. I also did a bit more talking than usual because we were doing speaking tests and I had to pull answers out of some of the kids. I was already worn out when we got off of work, quickly packed our bags, and made our way across town to Daegu station to catch the 6:10pm Saemaul train to Seoul. The train was about a 4 hour ride, but the Saemaul train is a bit larger and has more comfortable seats than the KTX, so it was okay. We arrived at Seoul station and made our way to the Hongdae Guesthouse in Hongdae for the night.

The Hongdae Guesthouse is owned by a very nice lady named Mary who would give you the shoes off of her feet if you said you liked them, and was a nice enough place to get a night's sleep. If you're over about 5'6" tall though you should be very careful, as you'll hit your head on the ceiling in any of the stairwells. I found that out myself. We slept a few hours and got up at about 6:00am to get ready to make our way to the bus that was going to take us rafting.

We met the bus at Hongik University subway station and loaded up. There was music playing from the mid-late 1990's (but it was in English so it was kinda fun) and we headed for the northeastern reaches of the country. Gangwando is a beautifully green province with a ton of mountains (the whole country is mountainous) and beautiful emerald green rice paddies. The bus ride was smooth and the driver did a great job of not making me queasy.  About 3 hours later (including a stop to pick more people up at the bus terminal and a rest area) we were at the Hantan river in the town of Cherwon.

We met a few Canadians and a Brit who we shared a raft with and hiked our 10 person raft down to the water. The water wasn't cold, but it was refreshing, probably around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. As soon as the boats were in the water the splashing commenced. I love how a group of 22-35 year old people turn into children as soon as you give them the ability to sling water at each other. The river wasn't running too high or too fast, so the rapids weren't so exciting, but the trip was a ton of fun. We had a chance to hop into the river to swim a bit and jump off about a 20' cliff.

After we finished the trip we had a meal, took a shower, and headed off to find a bridge for people to jump off of...with bungee cords of course. I wanted no part of bungee jumping but it's fun enough to watch and there was a small store with ice cream. The surroundings were so beautiful and quiet compared to the city too. Here's a look at what was across the street from those who chose to jump, bounce, and dangle...pretty dang serene!

After the last jumper jumped, we loaded back on the buses for the long ride back to Seoul. They said that traffic would be too heavy to go back the way we came, so we went  along a different highway and all of the sudden the landscape became very barren. Then I noticed a barbed wire fence. I said to Carolyn, "Do you think that's the DMZ?" and she responded uncertainly. Then, across the street from the fence I noticed dozens of South Korean Army Artillery pieces pointed towards the fence. The tour guide confirmed a couple of minutes later that we were in fact next to the DMZ, and that the small buildings we could see on the other side, just 3 kilometers away were North Korean bunkers. It's so strange to see it so well developed on the South side, and so barren in the North, and it's also quite the experience to peer into a closed country with your own eyes. 

Now, a word about the DMZ. I think the big thing that people know about it is that it's a border. It's a border that sometimes journalists seem to "accidentally" cross. There's no freaking way you could accidentally cross it. Exhibit A: Huge guard towers. Do you think the South Korean soldiers are going to let you cross the DMZ and cause an international incident? Hell no. Exhibit B: It's 3 kilometers wide. If you "accidentally" started to cross it, you'd have some time to figure out your mistake, right? Unless your stride is SUPER long. Exhibit C: To "accidentally" cross the DMZ, you would have to "accidentally" sneak through or climb over a 15-20' tall barbed wire topped fence. Good luck with that. I always suspected that the reporters who got themselves in trouble weren't as innocent as they portrayed themselves to be, and when I saw the actual DMZ, I kinda believe it to be a fact, not just my supposition.

Anyhow, about a half hour after turning away from the DMZ we were in Seoul again, and not long after we were at Hongik University subway station. We headed back to Seoul Station, picked up a quick to-go meal at the Burger King, got our butts onto the earliest KTX we could, and headed home. 3 hours later we stumbled into the apartment and went straight to sleep until noon on Sunday, and just kinda stayed home after that.

After this small adventure I'd recommend Adventure Korea Tours for the rafting trip for sure. It was a ton of fun and a lot of great scenery, and you know what, it was fun to hang out with other 왜국인 (waygooks...foreigners) for a while :).

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Korean Zombies

Now, as you know if you're one of my 11 readers, I live in South Korea. What you have probably figured out is that I also have a very minor fascination with zombies. Not the drinks, or the dudes in Haiti that get drugged into a stupor, but rather, the undead. The kind that that groan and slowly slink down the street trying to catch whatever hapless moron is slow enough to be caught by the undead, and eat his brains.

One thing I've noticed while living here is that Korea is the perfect place for a zombie outbreak. Scenes from a zombie movie might not look so out of place here in real life (except for the blood and I imagine the stench). I know that the Japanese seem to like their zombie flicks, westerners sure seem to love them, but when I did a conversation lesson about zombies my students didn't seem to like the idea. Either they're weird, or Koreans don't love the zombies as much as we do (and there's nothing wrong with that, what's there to love about zombies anyway?)

Anyway here is my list of reasons that Korea is the perfect place for a zombie outbreak.

  1. Lots of people = lots of BRAIIIIIIIIIIIIINS. That was kinda a no-brainer (hee. pun intended.)
  2. Hospitals. Hospitals here are smaller and all over the place. Zombie outbreaks are often caused by viruses. Hospitals are a great place to get viruses.
  3. People wearing sanitary facemasks everywhere. I dunno, it just seems to go with number 2 (not poop, reason number 2 in this list.)
  4. Koreans love fresh air. So much so that if you walk by a hospital...and you will walk by a will see what I call "escapees." I think the nurses/doctors/caretakers/etc encourage the patients that are healthy enough to go outside and get fresh air. It's not uncommon to see a sickly looking person in a hospital gown 2 blocks from the hospital smoking a cigarette and buying fresh vegetables while pushing their IV rack. Seriously. The escapees could easily spread the virus.
  5. Koreans dress nice. Seriously. It's pretty strange to see people not dressed up nicer than they need to be. People won't wear sweatpants to the grocery store here. Now, what looks better, zombies munching on dudes dressed in sweatpants at the grocery store, or zombies throwin' a munch on a dude wearing 3 different colored polo t-shirts he paid 96,000 wons for with all 3 collars popped? One works better than the other, and it ain't the sweatpants.
  6. Korean couples are so damn cute. Seriously. They wear matching outfits. On a side-note, Babehoney and I inadvertently wore a couple's out on the town last week. We weren't careful and wore plain grey v-neck t-shirts on the same day. Good thing that's acceptable here. Now, what's cuter than cute couples wearing cute matching outfits? Cute ZOMBIE couples wearing cute matching outfits. Dare I say that would be cinematic/comic book genius? I do.
  7. Outdoor markets. There's certain places that are just good for zombies. These include hospitals, prisons, streets, wooded highways, swamps, carnivals (of course, carnivals!) and I would say outdoor markets. They're incredibly crowded and have complex systems of secret passageways (so it would seem). Perfect for a cunning zombie to jump out and eat your brains...absolutely perfect.
  8. Subways: Same reasoning as the previous.
  9. Amusement parks. Mainly because of their resemblance to carnivals.
  10. Plenty of places to make an escape. Ever heard of a zombie climbing a mountain? I haven't.
This list isn't exhaustive, but it's something I think about more than I should. I'm ready for the zombie apocalypse, are you?

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Oh man, it's already June.

Well, it's the first week of June. The kids back home are out of school, and the kids here have maybe another 6 weeks or so to go. Not much of interest has happened since my last update. Babehoney and I both changed our hairstyles. She went from blonde to brown and got a shorter cut that really frames her face super nice. I went from longer hair on top to a caesar style cut that actually works pretty well. Work has been fairly easy, and we're going to taekwondo about 3-4 times a week right now. Last weekend we tested for our yellow belts and got to break boards and stuff. It was pretty cool.

This weekend is a long weekend for memorial day in Korea. We usually like to skip out of town for the weekend on long ones, but we're trying to save some money for our big trip in August. We thought China sounded like a pretty awesome idea, but now we're leaning more towards Bali. We could swim in the South Pacific and Indian oceans if we go there. The food looks amazing, and it would be a complete change of pace from East Asia in general. We're somewhat afraid that if we go to China we'll find that the cities look remarkably similar to where we are now, with different writing on the signs. Bali will be a 100% change of pace.

Today we tried to sleep in as much as possible. That's about 9:30am in Korea because the streets become quite busy and it's just too noisy after the hustle and bustle starts to keep your eyes closed. Babehoney and I did laundry and cleaned up the kitchen, and we're waiting for a pot of curry rice to be ready so we can eat. Later we're meeting some friends at a nice park where I think we're going to climb a mountain or something and maybe hang out in a different park eating fried chicken later. I don't think we have too many other plans for the weekend, but we could both stand to just have a restful weekend I think.

Babehoney's sister just had a baby, and it's really a beautiful little girl. It's really tugging on her heart that we're so far away from home and she's got new family members she hasn't met yet. She's such a sweet girl, and I'm happy that she's an auntie now :). I think that this change along with the fact that Korea isn't so new and exciting anymore makes us a little homesick. We still have new adventures almost every day (seriously, I eat school lunches, that's an adventure), but I don't think either of us intend to remain away from the U.S. forever. ..we miss our peeps!

I ordered a video game from about a week ago, and it arrived on Thursday, so I've been working on L.A. Noire when I have time at night. It's quite an amazing game, and I really like the interrogation scenes. I think it has a great mix of action, puzzle, and an intense storyline that should make it one of the defining games of 2011. That's my bit of mindless fun for now :).

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