Monday, 30 September 2013

Changes: Leaving Korea

Seoul Wall Art

A bit of a big announcement today, but I have officially handed in my notice to my school in Korea and plan to leave by the end of November!

The idea had been swimming around my head for a long time, and having spoken to my mum about it, I decided just to tell school so I could stop being stressed. They were obviously not very happy about it and have asked me to change my mind, but the time is definitely right for me to leave Korea.

That means it's just under 2 months until I leave Korea. I can see lots more lists forming of things to do, stuff to buy and places to see before I leave. There's still so much more food I want to try, places to explore and things still on my to do list that I think this time is going to absolutely fly.

It's a little scary, I forget how easy life is here sometimes, and there are going to be so many things that I miss, but the next adventure's calling and it's time to leave.

I'm so happy that it's out in the open as it's been weighing on my mind a lot recently. I stayed late at school tonight to do the first interview for my replacement.

So after we've said goodbye to Korea, Nick and I will be going back to the UK for a couple of weeks before heading to Argentina. We should arrive there just a day or two before my 27th birthday in December, scary stuff!

Now everything's in motion I feel like I can really start looking forward to it!

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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Our Weekend: What to do with a weekend in Seoul

It's nearly a fortnight since I was on my way to meet my mum and Julie in Seoul. I can't believe how fast time flies when you're busy, busy, busy. The weather was perfect for their trip and we managed to pack lots of things in. Here are some of the highlights from our weekend...

Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Stay: I was recommended Insadong by some of the ladies from the Seoul roller derby team and I am so happy that I listened to their advice. Although the hotel itself wasn't great, I really liked the area. It had the right amount of neon covered streets with blaring music to make it easy to find a BBQ or bar, blended with Anguk just five minutes walk away where there were lots of good touristy shops and street food stalls. It also only took about 10 minutes to get to Gyeongbokgung palace. While walking back to our hotel at night we would walk through the 'locals' area where we were admired by a drunk, middle aged Korean who declared his love with a green chilli hanging out of his mouth!

Passion 5 Bakery
Passion 5 Bakery Breakfast
Passion 5 Bakery Breakfast
Mocha at Passion 5
Passion 5 Bakery

Treat: Saturday morning we got up and out and headed to Itaewon to visit the bakery, Passion 5. A couple of people had recommended it to me, and when I got there I could see why. It was a 5 storey building packed with all the cakey goodness you could ever imagine. There was so much to choose from that we decided to get lots of little bits and share them all. Once you've picked what you want, you can go up to the cafe on the second floor and order drinks, they put our choices on a plate and served it with cutlery. It was very polished and modern and bright in the bakery, I felt like I was in a posh restaurant rather than a bakery. There were lots of ladies having meetings and families eating brunch. We were there until early afternoon enjoying our treats and the drinks. My favourite had to be the olive bread we had, followed by the small nut tarts, amazing. I'm quite happy this isn't closer to me or else I may bankrupt myself there. It is definitely worth the visit.

Big Bubbles
Seoul Wall Art
Hanok Roof
Hanok Village Flowers
Night time in Anguk

Explore: We spent the afternoon in Anguk. I loved the higgledy piggledy lanes that had little boutiques, vintage shops, coffee shops and street entertainers. There is also the Bukchon hanok village which has hidden gems around every corner. There are mini museums set up inside the traditional houses so you can see what it's like inside and learn what would have gone on behind those shuttered windows and doors. We didn't do it, but I would love to try the soju tasting they run in one of the hanks. It's the perfect place to spend the evening on one of the rooftop cafes, looking out to the calm mountains that surround the area, with Seoul's craziness behind you.

War Museum
War Museum
Korea War Museum
Learn: On a sunny afternoon we went to the War Memorial of Korea and the Museum. It was really interesting to learn about the Korean war, I was really surprised to find out that the North Koreans managed to get all the way down to Busan before the South regained control. There is also an impressive array of battle ships, planes and weaponry outside of the museum that you can walk around and peer into.

View from Seoul Tower
Promise Lock Tree
Promise Locks

See: Go to Seoul tower and look down on the massive city below. We did well to resist the Cold Stone Ice Cream shop at the top. The last time I went it was so hot up there that I couldn't eat the ice cream quick enough. I've never actually been to the top of the tower, only around the base, but the views are great from there.

Kumpir Potato
Kumpir Potato
Kumpir Potato
Kumpir Potato

Eat: My favourite food that I always try and squeeze in whenever I'm in Seoul is the Kumpir Potato shop in Hongdae. I know it's not traditionally Korean, but that's what I like to do when I'm in Seoul, to treat myself to good Western food! I love this place and have exactly the same filling every time, steak and gorgonzola cheese with olives, sweetcorn and jalapeños, it's delicious! I lie that it's quite small and really relaxed inside, and that part of the uniform for the staff is that they wear flat caps. My mum and Julie also loved it there, even though they'd hardly been away from home for just a few days.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Korean Make up Trash, Treat or Stash: Etude House's Dear My Blooming Lips Lipstick

Trash, Treat or Stash. The Korean make-up products I've discovered are better off in the bin, the ones you should treat yourself to every now and again, and the ones that are so good that you should definitely make sure you have a stash of them.

Dear My Review

I really don't mean to turn these make up reviews into a mini weather report, but the more I do it, the more I notice that some makeup is seasonal. Today was the first grey day in Busan for a long time. It was cloudy and drizzly all day to the point where I started to get excited for Autumn, as it seems like it has arrived everywhere else, but just as we were about to walk home from work, the clouds parted and the sun showed its face. I love Autumn. I love being unjustifiably wrapped up in layers, when it's not actually that cold, and spending time outside. I like getting the hats and gloves out, and what's more, I feel like it's red lipstick time again! My favourite red lipstick is MAC's Russian Red, but as always, trying to conserve what I have left, I went on the hunt for a Korean alternative, and found Etude House's Dear My Blooming Lips in Fury Red.

Cost: This costs 8,500 in Korea, which is about £4.70.
Prettiness: The reason that I bought this lipstick was because of the packaging. It comes in a cute box and the tube has a tiny, plastic, pink bow around the base. I also like that the lipstick has the Etude logo impressed into it.
Effectiveness: The lipstick goes on really easily, feels really creamy to begin with, and gives a matte effect. Gradually though it starts to feel quite tight on your lips and left my lips feeling a little dry, so I was retouching more frequently than I would with my MAC.


Overall: I think for the price that the lipstick is, it's perfect to throw in my bag before I go on nights out, where I have a tendency to lose things. The colour is bright and vivid, it goes on easy, but does make the lips feel dry after a short amount of time. I won't be replacing my MAC Russian Red with the Fury Red, but I will definitely be using it to touch up when I'm out and about.

Also, check out the last Trash, Treat or Stash by clicking right here!

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

I'm Back!

Seoul Collage 2

I accidentally took a week long break from everything last week. Everything, that is, apart from trying to be an amazing tour guide for my mum and Julie.

They left last night to catch the train to Seoul where their flight left this morning. In the meantime I've been trying to scrape some order back together. It was back to school yesterday, I had about a billion pictures to sort through and upload, which I'm still in the process of doing, and still have an apartment that is desperate for a clean, despite my mum taking a whole suitcase of stuff. It's funny that even though I live in a tiny studio apartment, and I arrived with just one suitcase, I could probably fill 6 of them now. Where does it all come from?!

Later in the week I'll share what we got up to on our weekend in Seoul, and how we celebrated Chuseok, which is the Korean Thanksgiving holiday. I could get used to adopting all of these new holidays and additional time off!

I'm sad that my mum's gone, but excited that there is some change on the horizon!

I'll be back tomorrow with the next Trash, treat or stash!

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Board Game Bangs : Chess PNU

As my Mum finally arrives today Nick and I spent the evening together as we won't see each other for a while. I decided to take him to a Board Game Bang in the PNU area. I really like it in PNU, as it's one of the university areas, it's got a fun, laid-back vibe with lots of small boutiques and coffee shops to while away some time cheaply.

There are lots of different 'bangs' in Korea. DVD bangs, Noraebangs, Multi bangs and board game bangs, and probably many more that I'm not aware of. Bang translates as room, so these are places that specialise in either small private rooms, or public spaces where you can do the above. DVD bangs are like video hire shops where you pick a DVD and go into a private room to watch it, Noreabangs are private karaoke rooms, multi bangs combine everything together and the final one is where we went last night!

I really like this little place called 'Chess'. On your way in you're sat at a table with a yogi-oh button, so you can call over the staff whenever you need help. I think that you pay hourly, so the longer that you stay, the higher the charge will be. We stayed for about an hour which came to 5,000, which is about 2.70. This also includes a drink which you can pick from their small menu. I went for hot chocolate and Nick had an iced coffee.

I only know the rules of a few select games, and not many of the other games had English instructions, so we settled on playing Boggle and a Simpson's version of Cluedo. Sadly Nick beat me at both games, I obviously wasn't on top form this week.

It looked like it's not just computer gaming that's big business in Korea, as there were lots of tables of people having serious looking games, and the staff were constantly being buzzed to fetch new games to the tables. Every so often we would hear a cheer coming from a tense game around the corner, so it was quite a fun atmosphere to be in.

We left after about an hour because we were so hungry (and I kept losing), but I can see us spending a lot more time there in the evenings when it starts to get colder.

We went to stuff our hungry tummys at Coq, which serves fried chicken and beer, where I found the most humongous potato wedge that I've ever seen!

Board Game Bang

Board Game Bang

All the games


Simpson's CLue

Beer and Snacks

Fried Chicken

Huge potato wedge

How to get to Chess

-Get off the metro at PNU
-Come out of exit 1.
-Walk straight ahead, down the road with all of the shops. Keep walking, past McDonalds, up to the road that you will have to cross.
-Keep walking straight, even though it will get a little quieter here, and cross the next road.
-Eventually you should see the yellow checked sign on the second floor on your right.
-chess is above a convenience store and opposite an Ediya cofee.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Quickest Way to Travel Around Korea

KTX Standing Seat

Only one more sleep until my mum and her friend Julie arrives in Seoul and I get to see her after 6 long months. Not only am I excited about her arrival, along with the stash of treats for me in her bag, nor the fact I get a mini holiday, but I'm kind of excited about the journey up to Seoul to meet her.

I'm not sure if it's because I was an avid driver back at home, or whether the UK's transport is just as appalling as I thought it was, but the ever late, shoddy trains in the UK pale in comparison with how you can get around in Korea. It's not just that, but I really dislike the fact that in England you aren't allocated a seat, unless you have pre booked in advance. Cue many a hot, frustrating train ride sat on the floor in the corridor outside of the toilet. Not pleasant.

The KTX is a super fast train that travels from Busan to Seoul in just over 2 and a half hours. It leaves every 15 minutes from Busan station and I have never known it to be late. It costs ₩54,00 which is about £30, and you are guaranteed a reserved seat unless you specify that you want to stand. Not unreasonable when it's usually so dependable. How can you argue with a company whose motto is 'Korail wants to be a beautiful bridge that connects people's hearts, not just some iron-made transportation'. Oh Korea! How can you even make trains sound cute?

I love that as soon as I step onto the train I feel like I'm on a plane rather than a train. It has WIFI, big, comfy seats, immaculate staff that could only be compared to hostesses, an entertainment carriage including Noraebangs and food carriage too! Amazing! I can't help feel a little bit excited about wherever I'm off to.

Even better is that the Koreans seem to really take pride in their amazing, super powered train, so are all very peaceful and quiet on the train, meaning that it's perfect to catch a nap if you're up early or late to get to wherever you need to be. My favourite journey I've had on the train is when Nick and I were going to Seoul, we got The Walking Dead ready on the lap top and a bottle of red wine and two paper cups. I've never known a journey go quite so fast!

KTX journey Walking dead and wine

I think the best example of how much the Koreans love the KTX too is the fact that one of Nick's students painstakingly made a bomb style game called 'Ding Dang Dong KTX' which he pestered Nick about so much that he actually played it with his class! Apparently the pestering still goes on and I'm not to mention it anymore...

BUT if you don't have much time in Korea, or want to save precious time on your day trips, then I would always recommend the KTX as the number one way. To make the cost even cheaper, you can buy a standing ticket, yet they have little fold up chairs in the doorways that you can sit on, so like many a long journey in the UK, you don't have to sit in the toilet or on the floor!

So yay for Korea and its amazing transport and yay for my mum and Julie being able to have their first experience of bridging their hearts on the iron-made transportation! Who wouldn't want to do that?

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