Archive for August, 2009

Good Food… Good Times

I love to discover that there is yet another amazing place to dine in Sanbon.  It’s hidden away in the basement of a giant building near the subway station.  Once inside the restaurant you are surrounded by deep hues of red and purple, curtains hang around many of the tables, candles are lit, pillows line the floor, a crystal chandelier hangs over a small pond full of shiny rocks, and the smell of food makes you salivate.  Sadly, I don’t even know the name of this restaurant.

This place is wonderful in that it brings all the food out in various courses.  The food just keeps coming and coming.  If you want more of one of the courses, they’ll bring out more of that course.  It’s great.   We ate salad, potatoes, pineapples, 3 types of beef, chicken curry and grilled teriyaki chicken.  There was soo much food that we only ordered more of one of the beef dishes.  The spices were unique in that I couldn’t even begin to describe them.  I will be going back to this place for sure.

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The Lull

Lately it has been quite normal in the Land of the Morning Calm.   There has been a sea of new faces matched with a wave of familiar faces leaving Korea.  When summer session ended, schools brought in their new teachers.  Soon, even at our school, we’ll have a new co-worker.  Seth and I have been here for just about 7 months so we’ve had time to make friends and be sad to see them move away.

I believe the most exciting news I have to report is that we rearranged the apartment, again.  I think it’s working out nicely.  We got rid of one of our couches.  Yes, this tiny shoebox of an apartment had two couches!  Neither of us sat on this ugly-orange nasty couch with rips and tears that we taped with green duct tape.  That allowed us to move everything around, freeing up a huge area.

Pictures around Sanbon:

times Royal Azalea Hill at Gunpo IMG_0609

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My Latest Creations

I’ve been on a painting kick lately.  Before coming to South Korea, I never really painted anything other than walls.  I love painting with friends, drinking some wine and spending the day changing the look of a room.  Now, I paint by myself for meditation and self reflection.   It’s wonderful.  Here is my latest work… they’re not wonderful, but I wanted to share.

Korean lotus flower

Sunflower

Hearts and flowers falling from the sky.

Wind, Water, Earth, Fire

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Hanagae Beach

I took a weekend trip with some delightful girls.  Fabulous time.

Muuido Island was 2 1/2 hours away from Sanbon, a bit West of Incheon… soo worth the travel time on the subway, bus, ferry and another bus.  Hanagae Beach is this tiny beach with an extremely low tide, as in 2K of low tide sandy nothingness.  I loved the rocky cliffs and had fun exploring a few of the rock areas.

The jellyfish were insane.  On the ferry ride, we could see giant jellyfish floating around.  I am not kidding when I say that some of them were bigger than me!

Upon arrival, I was shocked to see soo many Westerners.   It certainly wasn’t any Myrtle Beach or Daytona… thank goodness.  But adding to the 50, give or take, Westerners were Koreans dressed head to toe in hiking gear, swimming fully clothed, clamming in the low tide area, mud wrestling, and spinning until they fall down.   Such a great place to people watch.   I read a book, lounged, sat by a bonfire, ate sooo much ice cream and got sunburned.  The lobster family has welcomed me in with open claws.

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Random Signs from Taipei

I thought the signs around Taipei were funny.  Signs on vehicles, in the subway, store names, massage parlors and on windows.  My favorite sign is the one from a restaurant that had toilets as seats and fake poo all over the tables and on the walls… it was hilarious.  Needless to say, we didn’t eat there.

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Taroko Gorge

One day tour of Taroko Gorge National Park.

I would highly recommend anyone wanting to visit this area take a tour.  It is widely spread out and having a van waiting at the end of a 30 minute hike is nice, instead of having to hike the same way back to reach your vehicle again.  Our tour left Taipei at 7am, taking a plane to Hualien which was only a short 20 minute ride to Taroko Gorge.  We were picked up from the airport and overall the tour was amazing.  I now have the urge to go white water rafting from viewing the winding rivers throughout the gorge.

One of the highlights from this adventure was seeing Swallow Grotto.  This was an area of rock, really I should say mountain side, that has hundreds of holes that were carved by swirling water many years ago.  Now these holes are inhabited by Swallows every Spring to lay eggs in a secure environment.  Wind whistled through the entire area.  The Swallows were not there when we visited, but it was still a beautiful area.

Another highlight was lunch.  Sadly, after viewing all of the amazing mountains and trees, I was excited about an actual Chinese Buffet.  Back home I eat Chinese  food all the time… but now I can say that I’ve eaten the real deal.  Ironically, this buffet also had Gouda cheese.  That, in itself, made my day.  Lunch was at a 5-Star hotel, and the food was all amazing and prepared on site.  YUM.

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Sam Gyup Sal

When the door opens, the smell makes me salivate.  Instantly I go from comfortable to starving.  It is time for delicious food.  Sam gyup sal translates roughly to mean 3-layered pork belly… or “bacon”.  This stuff looks like yummy bacon, but it’s not cured, so it’s extremely different than the bacon we’d eat back home for breakfast.

One thing I love about Korea is getting to cook our own food on the tables.  There is a small restaurant called ‘Don Day’ extremely close to our apartment that we frequent because the sam gyup sal is fabulous.  The menu is simple, but it is a very filling and satisfying meal.

Put the meat and kimchi on the grill.

Now the meat sizzles and cooks.

Once it cooks, cut up the meat and kimchi into bite size peices.  We always throw garlic and onions on the grill too. YUM.

Now roll it up in lettuce and enjoy.  YUM.  :razz:

The aftermath… a dirty grill.

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Scooter Gangs?

Never have I ever been witness to soo many scooters.  When the light turned green, I kid you not, 50+ scooters went through the intersection.  I thought, ‘Whoa, check out the scooter gang’.  Then I realized that at the opposite stop light were just as many or more scooters waiting for the light to change.  Scooters lined the streets by the hundreds.  Most of them were beat up and very worn.  It was insane.  Entire parking lots were designated for scooters only, and they were FULL.  It’s normal for every inch of the road to be utilized in order to fit in a row or two of scooters that weave between cars.  Taiwan has a serious scooter culture.

In this last  picture, look at the far right scooter.  It has a family of 3.  We even saw a family of 4 riding around a few times, some holding infants.  People rode scooters with their dogs, their children, holding pizza, hauling very large tanks of propane… Surprisingly they don’t have many accidents either.

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Taiwanese Cooking Class

To learn about a culture, is to learn about their food.  Cooking is such a relaxing and enjoyable event for me that it only makes sense to experience local cuisine the way it’s meant to be prepared and consumed.  Jodie’s Kitchen was the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Not only did we escape the insane heat and eat some delicious food, we learned about Taiwan culture and cuisine from a very altruistic Taiwanese woman.  I had such a good time… I’d recommend her cooking class to anyone that enjoys good food and good company.  We opted for the one day cooking class, but she has a variety of options to choose from.

Menu for the day:
  • Soy bean milk
  • Soft tofu with Taiwanese dressing
  • Sour and spicy soup
  • Black sesame paste: with veggies
  • White sesame paste: Taiwanese sesame noodles
  • Spicy Sichuan (Szechuan) flower pepper oil: served on pineapples
  • Spicy Sichuan sweet and sour dressing: served on cucumbers
  • Fried rice
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Claw Games

These machines were everywhere.  Walking the the tiny, crowded streets of the night markets, we spotted randomly placed Claw Games.  What made these particular games so interesting was the selection of toys.  Each box was filled to the brim with the exact same toy.  Bears, monkeys, space men, Mickey Mouse, tooth brushes, purses, candy, you name it… we probably saw a Claw Game full of that prize.   Each box contained a different toy, but still, it was odd to see so many of the same toy in one game.  Here are only a few examples found throughout Taipei.

The Claw Game Existential Horrorbean bags...

We did not play any of these games, in case you were wondering.

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