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Nay Pyi Taw–What if They Built a Capital and Nobody Came?

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The Surreal Solitude and Mind-Boggling Modernity of Nay Pyi Taw

By Richard Luhrs

When one thinks of Southeast Asian cities, the usual – and usually accurate – image is of teeming millions struggling to make do with woefully inadequate and/or outdated infrastructure. Many of the region’s capitals (Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Hanoi) have become bywords for the pollution-choked, traffic-jammed, beggar-ridden and perpetually flooded Third World metropolis of the twenty-first century – urban centers pushed far beyond their limits on every conceivable level.

Until 2006, the capital of Myanmar – Yangon – perfectly fit that stereotype. A decade later it fits it even more perfectly; but the Golden Land’s largest city and unrivaled commercial center is no longer also its seat of government.

For the past ten years that honor has instead been held by the purpose-built “union territory” of Nay Pyi Taw, some 200 miles to the north, though for all intents and purposes it might as well be on another planet.

Carved out of and paved over a broad plain of rice fields on the orders of Myanmar’s then-almighty junta, which felt itself too exposed in populous Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw is, first and foremost, a vast place. One hesitates to call it a city (though it is officially designated as one), since there are no neighborhoods to speak of in all its seemingly endless square miles, let alone anything which might qualify as a downtown.

Instead, the capital is divided into various “zones” serving various purposes, most of which are quite far from one another and connected by perfectly flat, well maintained eight-, ten- and even fourteen-lane roads with scarcely a vehicle upon them. No public transit system exists, of course, there being effectively no public to use it, so relatively expensive taxi trips are the only option for those without wheels and believe me, you’ll need them.

The few visitors the capital receives will almost inevitably find themselves staying in the “Hotel Zone,” which as its name suggests is a string of several dozen hotels, many of them quite large and all of them apparently empty or nearly so, stretching for several kilometers along a wide boulevard which seems, like every other road in Nay Pyi Taw, to run from one end of infinity to the other. A few restaurants and two showpiece shopping malls can also be found in this area; the latter, though quite modern in appearance and thoroughly air-conditioned, are rather modest in scale by Western standards, which makes good sense since their clientele is extremely modest in scale by any standard.

While malls generally rank somewhere below thumbscrews on my list of favorite things to experience, it was mildly fascinating to wander these retail Meccas – at noon on a Saturday, no less – observing the various pricey imported goods on offer, from ice cream and hair tonic to running machines and George W. Bush dolls, in the company of practically no one.

The half-hour walk back to my hotel in the company of absolutely no one had a distinctly post-apocalyptic feel to it, which after all my years in this overcrowded region I dare say I found most agreeable. Indeed, I’d recommend a visit to Nay Pyi Taw for anyone, local or expatriate, who’s burnt-out on urban life in the Far East. You may, as I did, find it rather painful to leave.

Despite the relative dearth of tourists in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital is not entirely without places for them to visit. A twenty-five-minute, $12.00 taxi ride from the Hotel Zone brought me to Uppatasanti Paya, Nay Pyi Taw’s answer to the far better known Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, which despite its evidently shoddy construction (there are plainly visible cracks in the gilding all over the exterior) offers splendid views of the surrounding countryside and, unlike Shwedagon, can actually be entered. The cavernous interior is truly a sight to behold, with its immense and colorful domed ceiling and over 100 friezes depicting the life of the Buddha lining its walls. There are also some royal “white” (actually pink) elephants in a rather miserable-looking pen at the foot of the stairway leading up to the pagoda, and though their existence of swaying to and fro in leg chains while munching on the bamboo their guards toss at them is hardly enviable, I’ve seen worse.

The staff at my hotel having estimated that it’d take me around thirty minutes to walk from Uppatasanti to the National Museum, I decided to forego a taxi ride in favor of some exercise. As it turned out, the walk took nearly ninety minutes, all of that in blazing heat and most of it alongside ricefields populated only by grazing buffalo and farmers who spoke no more English than their bovine charges. (Indeed, the lack of English skills among most of Nay Pyi Taw’s population, including hotel and restaurant staff, is noteworthy; the place desperately needs some ESL teachers.)

I finally did find the museum, however, and entered to find it, like everything else in town, jaw-dropping in scale and almost wholly unoccupied. The exhibits ranged from 40-million-year-old crocodilian fossils to an imitation throne room, with sizable spaces along the way devoted to, among other things, traditional Myanmar arts and crafts, the efforts of local painters, gifts from foreign governments and a celebration of the glories of ASEAN.

I spent nearly three hours wandering the rooms, the length of my rather painful stroll being driven home for me by the occasional glimpse of Uppatasanti’s distant spire through the museum’s front windows. A few other foreigners appeared at one point in the section covering Neolithic cultures, but for the most part I was treated to an almost private viewing. Closing time came at 4:30, and the security guards were good enough to call me a taxi, which cost $12.00 for the twelve-minute ride back to my hotel.

And now that we’re back there, this seems a good time to talk a little more about Nay Pyi Taw’s infrastructure, which sets the town apart from the rest of Myanmar at least as much as its size and emptiness do. While very nice, mine was one of the capital’s more modest accommodation options; but it nevertheless offered ‘round-the-clock power, satellite TV with crystal-clear reception and a dozen or so foreign stations (including Fox News for a bit of comic relief), and hot water which not only came out of the tap scalding as soon as I turned it on but stayed that way long enough to fill the full-length bathtub. I didn’t use the Internet during my stay, but various sources report that it’s excellent and always available, which is most definitely not the case anywhere else in the Golden Land.

Uppatasanti Paya and the National Museum were the only real tourist attractions I took in during my weekend in Nay Pyi Taw (unless you count the shopping malls), but for those with a bit more ambition and a bottomless taxi budget there are a couple of kitschy theme parks dotting the outskirts of the city, along with a zoo that’s said to be of the classic Asian variety, i.e. heartbreaking. I chose to pass on these options not only for financial reasons, but because just wandering the barely inhabited vastness all around me seemed a worthwhile use of my time in itself. Call it Myanmar perfected or Myanmar denied (or better yet call it both, since both are really the same thing), Nay Pyi Taw is an experience unique in Southeast Asia, if not the world. The only way to sum it up with any accuracy is as a sort of ghost town in reverse – a place haunted not by the spirits of those who’ve left, but by the yawning absence of those who, for all the pristine boulevards and well-appointed hotel rooms awaiting them, have simply never appeared.

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Richard Luhrs is a long-time Asian expat (originally from New York) currently living and teaching in Vientiane.

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    Hitting the Han 4 Rivers Bike Trail–Pain, Rain & Staying Sane

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    By Jenna Kunze

    I had never ridden by bike further than the next neighborhood over before I embarked on a cycling trip that would take me across a country I’d just moved to, with people I’d just met.

    The trail that connects Seoul to Busan is called the “Han 4 Rivers Trail,” a namesake derived from, yes, the four rivers that string together the world’s longest biking trail  (a non-verified claim). It was opened in 2011 as a $17 billion undertaking. The trail follows the Han, Daejeon, Guem, Nakdong, and Yeongsang rivers. Connecting the two largest cities in Korea, Seoul and Busan, the path also snakes through the fourth largest metropolitan area of Daegu.

    In five days, we covered 340.5 miles (548 km).


    “We need to eat something every hour or all of the sugar will deplete from our muscles and we’ll do this thing called boiking–it’s like–it’s when you just die, basically,”Matt said as he guided his bike by bracing the frame with his thighs, hands unwrapping a Binch cookie and passing it to me.

    By contrast, even lifting one hand off my handlebar to receive the food he so confidently prepared for eating made my whole body ossify in the beginning. But everything was harder in the beginning.

    I joined this lengthy bike trip across Korea over a vodka-infused conversation within an hour of meeting Matt a few weeks earlier. His presentation of the trip was so nonchalant–“Yeah I think I’m just going to go on this bike trail for a few days”–that I was continuously shocked when he swapped the word “biking” for it’s uppity cousin, “cycling,” referencing sport-specific vocab, and traded the Drake t-shirt I met him in for a singlet and shoes that locked into his petals.

    The barometer with which I measure my decisions, I’ve learned, seems to center on “the outrageous.” I’m less apt to agree to anything less, and anything more prompts more careful consideration (like hiking Fuji in the middle of winter when the official trail is closed and all professional websites warn imminent death). Usually, if I can’t say something without laughing, or striking a look of disbelief in someone’s face, I know I’m making a venerable decision. This logic is what led me to work as a club promoter in Italy for a summer, to sign up to run a marathon four weeks in advance, and ultimately to ride a bicycle across a country I’d just arrived to.

    I extended the invite to Haley, my new co-worker. She laughed at the proposition as she blew out cigarette smoke, and said “sure.”

    “We probably won’t make it,” I prefaced all conversations leading up to our trip with. “Far, yeah,” I’d agree with every single person who gawked and our absurd plan. Several blog posts (a personal favorite, the “Cyclopaths”) from experienced riders who’d completed the trail warned it would take five full days of hard biking to make it to Busan. We had four and a half. ”Not experienced, no,” I’d laugh at my own expense in unison. We’ll see how it goes, we probably won’t make it.

    We began the trip around 2 p.m. on a Wednesday and took the subway to the furthest east point of the trail accessible by subway, Namyangju, and started biking. We didn’t stop for four and a half days.

    I mean, we stopped, of course. Just never for longer than an hour at a time during daylight hours, and only for practical reasons, like eating and sleeping (though in periods of delirium practical became more interpretive–read on).

    Biking became the constant, and I don’t think it’s at all dramatic to compare it to the reflexive behavior of breathing at the time. With all the empty hours, we played word games, gave indirect character witnesses through stories (remember, we all just met) and pointed a lot. “Look at that field!” “Do you see that bridge that looks like it’s from a weird future sci-fi movie?” I became more comfortable with one-hand steering for the express reason of having to point so much. We drank water, and fought about not drinking enough water (me, always). I relished the fact that sugar was necessary to stave off, you know, “boiking,” and was happy to introduce gallons of Pocari Sweat, Coca Cola, and endless packets of cookies into a 4.5 day diet plan.

    With our backpacks strapped to contortion on our bike racks, Haley and I relied on Matt and his one, orange singlet with pockets like a clown car. We’d buy entire boxes of cookies, granola bars, and sweet cakes and then promptly stretch the pocket out wide and dump them in. Luckily, too, because neither Haley nor I would have been nearly as regimented about our feeding times. “I can’t do it,” Haley would moan as he coasted next to her, offering her the same cookie she’d eaten 35 minutes ago.

    Now half-a-year removed from the trip, I am not able to excavate town names from my brain to delineate the trail to prospective riders. Maybe because I barely knew them to begin with. Matt was the soul navigator, whose map-my-ride log following our whole trip has since been lost with the death of his iPhone. I won’t say this responsibility was easy, but most all of the trail was expertly marked, and there were only intermittently short periods we spent off the trail.

    Instead of town names, the landmarks I remember are people, kind and peculiar, and odds and ends of places strung together that map our trip as a whole. I can recall where we ate on a certain day based on distinct and visceral memories of how easy it was for us to walk at the time. I remember the exact layout of a chicken place we stumbled into for our third dinner, because we sat on the same side of the table to lean together, taking pressure off of our butts and budding saddle sores.

    We followed a cartoonish four-leaf-clover logo that marked the 4-rivers-trail throughout the country. It was our north star directing us south, and there was at least a 24-hour period during which I would have gotten it tattooed on my body. Whenever hunger or nightfall required us to divert from the river path, we’d scour signs from a distance, looking for those four, multi-colored petals. The path itself was distinctive, too, putty red with the look of a high school track.

    Bikers have several options for lodging along the trail. The most suitable are love motels, Korea’s claim on the motel industry, that charge by the hour and provide you with a condom and a room key upon check-in. Many bloggers also wrote about camping at various grounds along the trail, which we had neither the equipment nor the mule-packing carrying power for. Also, there are pensions, which are traditional guesthouses where you typically sleep on a sleeping mat on the floor and meals are provided.

    We stayed at love motels, which were generally the easiest to find in a new town. Each morning began the same, with a 6 a.m.-we-will-sometimes-snooze alarm, and each night finished with a beer over a hot meal. Tracking out of our room each morning, we’d leave behind various bottles and cans, weightless and teetering on the entire surface of a dresser.

    There were trees, my god there were trees, and so many rice fields of ice pop lime-green. Rice accounts for 90% of total grain production among the 1.1 million farm households in South Korea. The average cultivated area is 1.5 ha/household, or 3.7 acres, so it is perfectly logical for rice fields to be the looped scene in my head when I think about the middle of South Korea. Often, we’d be the only souls for miles and miles, winding through and around these impressive rice fields.

    We called ourselves the Seouldiars, after sifting through even cornier team names. Almost just as we hit our stride on the third day, though, Haley was on a bus back to Seoul with a beer-can icepack on her knee (Matt’s solution to everything). It had been bothering her, which she stoically had not yet vocalized, and we were in for a day of hills.

    Hesitantly, a bit disoriented from the breakup of our team, Matt and I pushed forward towards Daegu, and a forecast from hell. Our preliminary research outlined three hills we’d have to climb en route, and their slow incline made the speed of my pedaling match the slow resistance building inside of me. My knees would sometimes lock and I’d have to gear down or fall off–both tactics I tried. Somewhere around the first hill, Matt took out his phone in an act of solidarity. Kanye’s “Blood On the Leaves” became the blaring mantra, a sound that could only be heard from his feeble phone speaker if I was just behind him, which furthered my incentive to stomp against my wheels, swiveling my airborne hips from side to side for maximum momentum.

    “Fighting!!” was the first colloquialism I learned in Korean from this first hill. A phrase that means the English-equivalent of “you can do it!!” I heard this affirmation again and again from Korean biker’s whizzing by downhill, and eventually started chanting it myself. Today, it’s something my Korean co-workers sometimes drop on me before a hard task, and it makes me feel sick with nostalgia. It’s a word that sounds best when torn apart by wind and paired with a stranger’s smile–of which we saw a lot. Strangers’ smiles, that is.

    The one time we didn’t stay at a love motel was the third night, when we met Jaekil and his family. It had rained all afternoon and the mountain was eclipsing the light, the next town anywhere between 15-50 miles ahead. Matt’s iPhone map was so general, we never really knew distance, which was at once a blessing and a curse. So we asked these fellow bikers for directions; a man, what looked like his wife, and teenage son. They were all wearing slick ponchos that covered both themselves and their belongings, and urged us to follow them. We did–to a biker’s pension, down a half-mile dirt road and into a community of bikers. We ate kimchi and rice dinner with Jaekil and his family, and later breakfast of the same food. He drew us a map in Korean on scrap cardboard that now hangs on my wall as a memento of how to bypass an upcoming mountain to save time on our next day’s journey.

    Of all the days that bleed into one another on the trip–Which day did we stop at that campground rest area? Where did we get lost and senselessly summit that mountain?–the stand-alone distinction was the fourth day. From the time I opened my eyes on Saturday morning, not to the usual alarm symphony, but to pelting raindrops on the thin roof above, I can recount each, drenched detail. It wasn’t just raining, it was pouring. The same rain that came down like a faucet on full came back up through tires that created spin-art designs of dirt on our legs. This day would be the tell-all day to make up time and make it, or not, to Busan. So, we packaged our still-damp-from-hand washing clothing, and headed out.

    We agreed to the logic that stopping would only make us cold, so our first stop was only out of necessity to re-stock on fluids. We landed just off the trail in nowhere land Korea, at a no name Korean convenience store with Porta Potties out back and outdoor seating on a plastic-encased deck. The ajumma that worked there was not concerned about her floors, which were now specked with fat splats of water and muddy footprints. Instead, she simply could not understand why we weren’t wearing jackets. When we arrived, while we ate, and before we left, she spewed Korean at us, wildly gesticulating and rubbing each arm with the other so fast she was a blur of motion. “Busan” we told her, which only made her more confused and concerned. It seemed the closer we got to Busan, the more skeptical the townspeople we encountered were about our making it. The look on her face indicated doubt and bewilderment. Worried now about our mental states in addition to physical, she followed us out and waved in big half-rainbows as we walked our bikes back the way we’d come.

    Getting back on my wet, cold bike while my muscles twitched and jittered with clear warnings was the lowest point of the trip. “I didn’t think you were going to make it from there,” Matt would later admit to me. “You looked pissed.” And I was. I was that unshakable, unavoidable cold that could only be thwarted with a hot shower and layers and layers of clothes. Would you rather be too hot or too cold was, in my opinion, the easiest question to answer. Sure, you can always put layers on when you’re cold but can’t take them off when you’re hot. Even still, there’s the irreversible quality of being cold–on a ski slope, camping–that is severe and dangerous, that just isn’t present in summer months.

    As an investment in our health and happiness, Matt invented a hot pack at our second stop that would save our lives, if not nearly seer off our skin. He filled an empty aluminum coffee bottle with hot water. It was too hot to touch without first wrapping your shirt around it, which we took turns doing for the rest of the day while biking. Another necessary cause for one-handing it.

    We would do this thing, (I forget what Matt called it, maybe crushing it?) where we’d pedal as fast as we could as fast as we could for several minutes to get out muscles warmed and blood circulating to all the vital places. We talked about everything but the rain.

    At one point, we happened upon a bike museum. No kidding. The Sanju Bicycle Museum. We had to stop, we couldn’t stop laughing, and the museum itself was so outrageous. A massive structure, it had lots of empty space, and still-life portraits under heavy spotlights of three-gear bikes just like mine.

    What I love about the story that substantiates just how much it poured on the day of hell is, the next day, the trail was closed from flooding in several different places. Flooding you’d have to see to believe, entire bits of our established trail just blipped off the radar, swallowed whole by the river to the right. It validates just how much rain my clothes absorbed, was spit up back at me by my tires, made my bike a mirror of refracted light.

    We knew we’d make it to Busan by the morning of the last day. Just 100 miles away.

    I was struck by the change of the trees. Once woody and large, these southern trees were stout, with big knobby growths on their sides.

    There were roadblocks, sure. Often literally. Just three hours from Busan, the whole trail was closed off from flooding and we had to follow verbal directions from the Korean girls holding traffic signs, up over yet another hill to reconnect with the non-submerged trail. There was the getting lost, the going the wrong way, and the unsightly development of “saddle sores” on our butts and thighs from the precarious extended positions we were putting them in. There was sailing over handlebars in the countryside when an ajumma doubled back to her car without looking. There’s the chunk still missing from Matt’s knee from falling hard and fast on gravel while talking about his weed habits in high school.

    But for every hard thing there were 10 gifts: the full-figured apples I ate directly off a tree; the kind man who turned around, stopped the car, and came out into the rain to ask us (in broken English) if we needed directions; the weird exchange of snacks and then testosterone between Matt and this Korean male who proceeded to race him a mile ahead of me; the picturesque attitude of the man perched on a guardrail, fishing. Gifts.

    We were in Busan for three hours before we had to board an overnight bus back to Seoul for work the following morning. We ate pizza on plastic porch chairs outside of a shabby place advertising photos of corn on their pizza. We could have eaten anything, and it would have tasted like Michelin stars themselves.

    We drank beer on the subway to the bus terminal, and remarked at how unfit for public transportation we were. There was a definite feeling of not caring, of being taken with myself, of holding on tight to this accomplishment. Do you know what I did to come here. I rode a fucking bicycle, that’s what. I operated a mechanism with my body for more than four days that got me here. I turned petals with my perpetually-sore, closed-fist muscles. I wore the same two sports bras. I memorized the distance in kilometers, and got ready to tell everyone I knew.

    “Be careful,” I said to deaf ears of the Korean man who swung my bike into the cargo container underneath the coach bus. And with that, we limped onto the bus back to Seoul to retrace 4.5 days of biking. Total driving time: 5 hours.


    Detailed info on the bike trail can be found here.


    Jenna Kunze is an expat in Seoul, South Korea.  She asks a lot of questions, and has been described by third parties as “energetic”. To read about her other (mis)adventures, you can visit her website at, or follow her instagram @jennakunze.

    The post Hitting the Han 4 Rivers Bike Trail–Pain, Rain & Staying Sane appeared first on the3WM.

    Bites & Bytes: Linus BBQ in HBC (Seoul Food)

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    Linus BBQ Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 Pulled Pork c/o Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ Food

    Linus BBQ Arrives in HBC

    When I worked in hospitality back in Canada, I would always scoff at food bloggers who would visit a restaurant once, then review.  They’d try one entree and maybe a bite of a second, then make a decision which could make or break the opening of a business based on their “honesty” and clout within a community or popular social circle.  I visited Linus BBQ (Linus’ Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐) having heard a lot of buzz, but not a lot actual talk.  Bites & Bytes is an introduction to new restaurants in Seoul so you can see the menu and get the location.  Bites & Bytes are not full-blown reviews.  I had a lovely experience at Linus BBQ, but will have to visit more than once to get you even more meat and potatoes of the menu!

    Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 Pulled Pork c/o Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ Food

    Hangeul Day in HBC

    Throughout the lengthy Chuseok break, I ventured outside of my recent comfort zone throughout Mangwon and back to Cheongdam-dong.  Just a hop, skip, and a jump from my old Jamsil stomping grounds, it felt really good to get out of Itaewon.  I also moved from Kyungnidan to Haebangchon (HBC).  It doesn’t seem like a big leap, but from one hill across to the top of the other, it’s a world of difference.  On the last day of a massively lost travel opportunity, a friend and I trudged through my new neighbourhood.  Hangeul Day landed on Canadian Thanksgiving, and with rehearsals and moving I had totally missed out.

    Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 Pulled Pork Smoked Chicken Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ Food Drinks Menu

    Linus BBQ – Gravy and Giving Thanks

    It wasn’t turkey, stuffing, and Mom’s scalloped potatoes, but our Thanksgiving dinner at Linus BBQ felt like a family affair.  I’m not drinking these days, but when I get back to cocktail tasting that Maple Boulevardier will be first on my list.  I love the re-emergence of the Moscow Mule, and if they make it right then Linus BBQ might just become my new neighbourhood social!  We got the Smoked Chicken and Pulled Pork for Two, which could have easily fed three hungry foodies.  I was with a self-proclaimed eater, and we all know I can put it away, but we had a tough time finishing everything on the platter!  The vibe was awesome (picnic table style, elevated design), the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive, and the grub was good.

    Bacon Jalapeno Mac n' Cheese Balls Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 Pulled Pork Smoked Chicken Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ Food


    The Bacon Jalapeno Mac N’ Cheese balls at Linus BBQ were what got me in the door.  At KRW 5,000 for 4, how could they not?  The mac n’ cheese balls at Linus BBQ were absolutely massive.  I’m on a bit of a deep-fried mac n’ cheese kick these days, do I was happy to see a variation on pasta + sauce + deep-fryer.  I would love to have had more smoky bacon and hot jalapeno adding to the cracking outer core/ super-melty cheese taste, but for 5 bucks I’d grab these as comfort food take-out any day of the week!

    Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 Pulled Pork Smoked Chicken Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ Food

    Smoked Chicken and Pulled Pork for Two @ Linus BBQ in HBC

    We shared 1 appetizer and 1 platter, making me exactly the type of food blogger in Seoul I kind of loathe.  I promise I’ll be back for a proper review of Linus BBQ in HBC soon.  That said, I’d highly recommend finding your own favourite combinations for your platter at Linus BBQ.  Our Smoked Chicken and Pulled Pork Platter for Two (KRW 25, 000) was great value.

    The platter came with half a smoked chicken, a generous portion (heaping pile) of pulled pork, white sauce, 6 sliders buns, and 3 sides of our choosing.  The pulled pork was dry rubbed.  I love adding sauce but hate when pulled pork comes slathered in bbq sauce.  The tender meat has plenty of seasoning, but not so much that the 3 sauces on the side couldn’t be enjoyed.  The slider buns were pillowy and Korean-style sweet with a garlic and herb butter slathered on the toasty side.  The smoked chicken was a massive portion cooked low n’ slow.  We were slightly concerned about the pink colour of the chicken.  Linus BBQ has the answer with a laminated printout:

    “The USDA says that as long as all parts of the chicken have reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°, it is safe to eat. Color does not indicate doneness. The USDA further explains that even fully cooked poultry can sometimes show a pinkish tinge in the meat and juices.” – The Kitchn

    Linus' Bama Style Barbecue 라이너스 바베큐 MENU Pulled Pork Smoked Chicken Linus BBQ Facebook HBC Itaewon Seoul Korea Southern BBQ FoodLinus BBQ Sides

    6 sides (3 potato-based and 2 coleslaw) are offered up for your choosing.  We decided to go for a slaw, a tater, and the other guy:

    • Mashed Taters n’ Gravy – These mashed potatoes were just kinda there.  While the BBQ sauces and White sauce packed a punch, the mashed potatoes and gravy did not.  Next time I’ll give the potato salad a shot.
    • Pork n’ Beans – The pork n’ beans were nothing particularly special to write home about.  We finished the serving last as we were more focused on the meat and bread.  The beans added Western flare to the meal and a texture I enjoyed.  I’d probably order this again unless they add some proper veggies as a side option for the platter.  Let’s be real, the platter was bare by the end of the meal.
    • Slaw in the Raw Green means go!  We opted for the vinegar-based coleslaw.  I’m glad we did!  With the buttery bun and the addition of the garlic mayo “white sauce”, our little chicken or pork sandwiches needed something to cut the fat.  Slaw in the Raw was just the ticket!

    Instagram Photo

    Getting to Linus BBQ

    Linus BBQ (per their Facebook page) is open daily from 11 AM – 10:30 PM.

    Call: 02-790-2920 (the HBC location takes reservations)

    HBC Neighbourhood Location (within S’take)

    “We are located in HBC (Haebangchon) on the main road further up the hill before you reach Olde Knives, We have no sign outside but the building is also occupied by S’take.
    Address: 37-5 Yongsandong 2(i)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul”

    Go to Noksapyeong Station and take Exit 1.  Walk straight out for approximately 3 blocks.  Veer left past the kimchi pots and follow the street all the way up.  You’ll hit Linus BBQ HBC on your left-hand side before the big fork in the road!

    Itaewon Location

    “We are located near the Noksapyeong and Itaewon subway stations on Line 6. Heading towards the McDonald’s on Itaewon-ro, descend the stairway to the left side and walk straight back through the glass entrance door. You will pop up into our patio dining area.”

    • Itaewon Station: If you’re coming from Itaewon Station, take exit 4 and walk straight.  If you hit the McDonald’s, you’ve gone too far.
    • Noksapyeong Station: From Noksapyeong Station, walk away from Yongsan base and into the Itaewon bubble.  Pass McDonald’s and look to your right.  You’ll see the Linus BBQ sign.  Walk downstairs.

    Have you checked out the new Linus BBQ + S’take collaboration in HBC?  How do you think it stacks up to the original?  What’s your favourite menu item?  Let us know in the comments below!

    The post Bites & Bytes: Linus BBQ in HBC (Seoul Food) appeared first on The Toronto Seoulcialite.

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    The 4 Best Korean Beauty Products For Under $20

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    If you’re planning on visiting Korea, you’re in luck — not only is Korea full of amazing cities, magnificent sightseeing, and delicious Korean food, it’s also home to some of the best makeup and beauty products that money can buy. In Korea, using makeup and making sure that you have the best makeup is a huge part of popular culture for both men and women (that’s right — it’s super normal for men to wear makeup in Korea!).

    While Korean beauty products are considered the best of the best, they’re not particularly expensive. Most beauty products that you’ll find in stores can be purchased for less than $20, which means you can stock up before you return home. And there’s plenty of options for buying Korean makeup if you’re in Korea!

    Thanks to the internet, you can also buy Korean beauty products from the comfort of your own couch without leaving your apartment. If you choose to go this route, however, you should be aware that there is a seemingly infinite number of Korean beauty products on the internet, and some of them are better than others.

    *Ready to learn Korean yet? Click here to learn about our 90 Day Korean learning program!

    Let us help direct you to the best of the best — use this article as a guide to the best Korean beauty products on the market and your face will thank you later. Read on, and happy shopping!

    VDL Lumilayer Primer 3D Volume Face 30ml, $15

    best Korean beauty products

    If you wear foundation, then you know how necessary primer is. Primer acts as a buffer between your skin and your foundation, and it gives your foundation an even surface to sit on top of. Without it, blemishes are visible and your skin texture can look uneven.

    That being said, there are of course good primers and bad primers — bad primers will leave you oily or will cause your foundation to flake off, while good primers will have leave your makeup looking perfect all day. This VDL Lumilayer Primer is one of the best out there, and will ensure your foundation looks flawless even after a sweaty day.

    Most comparable primers made in the United States like the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer retail for over $30, but this VDL primer is only $15. Order it today and you won’t look back!

    Check out VDL Lumilayer Primer on Amazon!

    Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Full Face Facial Mask Sheet, 16 Combo Pack, $7.90

    best Korean beauty products

    Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re familiar with sheet masks, you know that they’re all the rage and that they can cost a pretty penny. If you were to walk into Sephora and purchase an individually packaged sheet mask, it would run you $5-6 easy. Keeping that in mind, it’s an internet miracle that the Dermal Korea Collagen Essence sheet masks are fifty cents a mask!

    The low price of these masks is not enough to get them on a list of best Korean beauty products on its own, however. Not only is the price of these masks super approachable, but they’re rated 4.5 stars out of 5 with over 2,000 reviewers weighing in. Clearly, this company is doing something right!

    If you’re a lover of self-pampering after a long day or a long week, order this 16 pack of sheet masks and you’ll be all set for a while. You may even have to consider increasing your frequency of use with prices this low — why not?!

    Check out Dermal Korea Collagen Essence on Amazon!

    TONYMOLY Panda’s Dream So Cool Eye Stick, $12.00

    best Korean beauty products

    Have you ever put chilled cucumber over your eyes to reduce swelling redness? This cure for puffy eyes seems to be as old as time itself, and it can do wonders for helping you look less stressed and tired if you have a couple of minutes to lay down.

    What if you don’t have time to lay down, or if you don’t have a cucumber on hand? Sometimes, you need the ability to fix your face on the go, and there are surprisingly few inexpensive beauty products out there that can help soothe puffy eyes.

    This amazing eye stick by TONYMOLY will do exactly that for you. All you need to do is uncap, swipe under your eyes or on your eyelids, and you’ll instantly have a refreshing cooling sensation wash over your eye area. Not only is it one of the best Korean beauty products out there, but it’s also shaped like a panda — what could possibly be better than that?

    Pick up one of these eye sticks if you want to carry something on you for puffy eye relief or if you’d just like to have a beauty product in your bag that will make you say “awww” every time you look at it. It’s currently Amazon’s #1 New Release, and will become available at the above link on August 30!

    Check out TONYMOLY Panda’s Dream So Cool Eye Stick on Amazon!

    MIZON Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule – Anti Wrinkle, $9.44

    best Korean beauty products

    If you haven’t used this anti-aging and anti-scarring serum by MIZON, don’t knock it before you try it just based on its description. Yes, this serum contains snail mucin as one of the main active ingredients. Yes, that may sound terrifying. But, truth be told, you can’t tell that there is anything that sets this serum apart from other serums while you’re using it — the consistency and smell are the same as most over-the-counter anti-aging serums.

    You don’t notice a difference from other serums at first during the application, but you will almost immediately after you commit to using it consistently. MIZON has done an amazing job creating a lightweight, easy-application product that can help significantly reduce the appearance of even the most stubborn lines, wrinkles, and acne scars.

    While it’s primarily advertised as an anti-aging serum, you should consider taking a leap of faith and trying this serum out if you have any facial scars that you’re uncomfortable with. Using this consistently will help fade their appearance in no time!

    Check out MIZON Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule on Amazon!

    Please note: some of the descriptions that Amazon uses for these products are hard to read because they’re roughly translated from Korean. Check out our 90 Minute Challenge and familiarize yourself with Hangul so you’re one step closer to reading the descriptions of beauty products in Korean instead of the rough translations!


    What are some of your favorite Korean cosmetics and other products? Let us know in the comments below!


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    The post The 4 Best Korean Beauty Products For Under $20 appeared first on 90 Day Korean.

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    Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily

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    Study Tips to Learn English Faster

    What would it mean to your career or studies to be able to speak and write more easily and fluently in English? How about understanding more of what you read and hear? The 200+ tips and habits in Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily are designed to help you improve your English quickly and easily, and help you become fluent.

    About the Authors

    Jackie Bolen and Jennifer Booker Smith have nearly thirty years experience teaching English to students in South Korea and from around the world. In this book, they have organized the advice they have given students to help them reach their English goals from improving a test score, to getting a job, to giving business presentations in English, and much more!

    Learning English doesn’t have to be terrible and boring. It doesn’t have to tedious and frustrating. It really is possible to have fun while become fluent with these more than 200 study tips. Check out the book, pick a few tips that will work for you, and then get started with improving your English.

    Get Study Tips to Learn English Faster Today

    Pick up Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily today and get started. Improved English skills are in your near future! Get a better job! Be able to study abroad. Find an English speaking boyfriend or girlfriend! Watch English movies or TV shows without subtitles.

    Are you ready for some English speaking, reading, listening, and writing awesome? Are you excited about improving your communication skills, or improving your TOEFL, IELTS, or TOEIC score?

    Then head over to Amazon and pick up your copy today. It’s available in both digital and print formats. The (cheaper) digital one can be read on any device. You just have to download the free Kindle reading app. It’s easy to do and will only take you a minute.

    Check out the book for yourself today:

    The post Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily appeared first on ESL Speaking.

    Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea


    My Life! Teaching in a Korean University

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    Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily

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    Study Tips to Help you Improve your English Skills There are many reasons why you might want to improve your English skills. Perhaps it’s to get the job of your dreams where being fluent in English is a necessity. Perhaps you want to travel abroad for a vacation, or to …

    The post Study Tips to Learn English Faster: Become Fluent Quickly and Easily appeared first on My Life! Teaching in a Korean University.

    Korea This Week: Stinko Gingkos, BIFF Liberation, & Solo CEO's

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    Stinko Gingkos

    Along with the changing foliage and increased incidence of the exclamation “Chueo!” (“[I’m] cold!”) in Korean discourse, one of the telltale signs of fall around the peninsula is a pervasive smell that has often been likened to a melange of rancid butter, vomit, and gym socks.

    The annual olfactory assault is the product of the rotting fruit of gingko trees, which are a common sight in cities around Korea, particularly Seoul, where gingkos comprise some 40% of the trees planted in the city. When the fleshy coat surrounding the seed begins to rot, it produces butyric acid, which is not coincidentally also present in rancid butter, vomit, and body odor (and by extension, gym socks).

    Many local governments combat the smell by sending crews to pick up the nuts, and they encourage citizens to do the same, as the seeds, once they are removed from the coat, roasted, and paired with a cold lager, are actually quite delicious.

    Slate recently ran an interesting piece on how so many cities ended up with so many lovely but gag-inducing trees, and it’s very much worth reading if you find yourself, as I do, cursing city planners every October.

    Gingko berries after laying around for a few days. Be grateful you can’t smell this photograph.

    Film Festival Finding Its Old Groove

    The Busan International Film Festival kicked off last Friday with it’s usual pomp, low cut dresses, and unofficial world records for camera flashes per second, as stars from the Korean and international movie firmament descended on Busan Cinema Center for the opening film, “Glass Garden”.

    This year’s festival, the 22nd, marked a return to normal after three years of political struggle stemming from the 2014 decision by the festival organizers to screen the film “Diving Bell”, which leveled harsh criticism at President Park Guen-hye’s handling of the Sewol ferry disaster. The decision to screen the film, despite governmental efforts to block it, resulted in the blacklisting of many actors, filmmakers, and writers, the slashing of the BIFF budget, and other forms of official retribution.

    The air of tension surrounding recent festivals seems to have largely lifted this year amid a much-changed political climate that has seen the impeachment of President Park and the jailing of several aides involved in the blacklisting of artists critical of her administration.

    The Busan International Film Festival runs through October 21st. Check out the BIFF website for the program and other information.

    The 20th BIFF opening night at Busan’s Cinema Center. Recent Festivals were marred by tension between BIFF organizers and the government.

    Everybody Wants to Rule the World

    According to an OECD report on entrepreneurship cited by a recent Joongang Daily article, Korea has the 4th highest number of one-person businesses among the 38 countries surveyed. The article notes that the trend may be partly explained by Baby Boomers who open small shops as a form of retirement plan.

    I also found myself wondering whether it was connected to the more general recent trend of Koreans eschewing the crowd and doing more things – including eating, drinking, and traveling – by themselves.

    Interestingly, the article refers to anyone who runs their own business as a “CEO”, which thus would seem to refer to the head of any operation, from a multinational corporation down to a hot dog truck. This novel extension of the meaning of CEO also jibes with several years of anecdotal evidence gleaned from conversations with university students, a large number of whom have listed “CEO” as their desired occupation.

    With all these CEO’s, I often wondered, who is left to man the shop? Apparently, the answer could very well be: they are.

    Hyundai CEO Chung Mong-koo speaks to a group of Hyundai non-CEOs.

    And how was your week?


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    ‘Manwon’ Food Budget a Day

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    Recently a blogger from the Philippines shared her expenses in touring Korea, and her post drew flak for claiming that in her 5-days-and-4-nights of stay here, she spent only 12,000 pesos (around 235 dollars). She was able to purchase a 3,000-peso roundtrip ticket (around 59 dollars) from Jeju Air, paid 3,120 (around 61 dollars) for her 5D4N stay at a guesthouse and survived with a ‘manwon’ budget on food everyday (That’s barely 450 pesos or 9 dollars!).

    The price of the ticket may come as a shock to many of us who know how expensive it can be to travel overseas, but this extremely tight budget is possible for travelers who wait patiently for promo tickets from airlines such as Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air and Philippine Airlines and are lucky to get that most coveted ticket. A couple of years ago, I was able to buy an inexpensive roundtrip ticket in Cebu Pacific, but the cheapest I got was about 6,000 pesos (117 dollars).

    Guesthouses, on the other hand, can be low-priced if the room is shared by a group.

    What stupefied readers the most was the blogger’s budget on food. I feel kinda sorry for all the bashing she got from those who have lived in Korea for years and know how much the food really costs here, but I’m not siding with her either. Personally, I think she should have given more details of her budget or at least tried to explain what the ‘manwon’ lunch and dinner included since she was encouraging Filipino travelers to visit Korea with minimal budget. On the contrary, I think bashing someone for sharing a memorable experience is a bit out of hand.

    Now, is it really possible to survive a day with that ‘manwon’ food budget? As someone who has lived in Korea for years and has eaten almost every Korean food there is (except poshintang or dog soup), I’m telling you it is possible… but only if you don’t eat like a horse!

    If you’re on a ‘manwon’ budget in Korea, what can you eat for lunch and dinner?

    I’m going to name a few:

    Street food ~ PRICE: from 500 to 3,000 won (23 to 137 pesos)

    Everybody knows that street food is cheap anywhere in the world, but here in Korea, there are tons of mouth-watering and satiating street food to try. Some can be healthy, too. Two or three sticks of hot odeng or fish cake, for example, can squelch your hunger for more or less 3,000 won, like what my tourist friend did when he was starving from his walks around Seoul. There’s barbecue and sausage that you can buy for 2,000 – 2,500 won a stick. Pig-blood sausage may sound disgusting, but sunde is a must-try. An order will not cost you more than 3,000 won. Heck, there’s even tteokbokki you can enjoy for 500 won a cup!

    Kimbop (rice rolls) and other bunsik food ~ PRICE: 1,500 – 5,500 won (68 – 250 pesos)

    Inexpensive Korean food like kimbop, ramyon, tteokbokki, twigim, etc. can be bought in bunsik or bunsik jib (snack restaurants). Kimbop may be considered street food, but this is a common snack for Koreans when they go on a picnic or a meal for Koreans who are always on the go. The country is teeming with kimbop restaurants that sell various kinds of rice rolls: tuna, kimchi, cheese, bulgogi, even tonkatsu! Don’t waste your money on cheap kimbop from convenience stores though, because they’re nasty! If you go to a kimbop restaurant, you can have soup and side dish, usually yellow radish, for free. Some kimbop restaurants have kimbop and udon set for 5,000 to 5,500 won.



    The two dishes I’m going to mention next can be found in the same restaurant.

    Pyohejang guk (beef bone stew) ~ PRICE: 7,000 to 8,000 won (319 – 363 pesos)

    This spicy version of nilagang baka, short ribs and vegetable stew in the Philippines, has everything you need in a meal: lots of meat, vegetables and steamed rice which is served separately. You will also get two or three side dishes which is a common thing in Korea when you order a meal.

    sundae guk (blood sausage soup) ~ PRICE: 5,000 – 8,000 won (227 to 363 pesos)

    In the Philippines, we have dinuguan (pork blood stew). In Korea, they have sundae guk (blood sausage soup). The first time my husband ordered sundae guk for me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but I ended up finishing the whole bowl! When you eat sundae kuk, you won’t even know you’re eating soup with blood sausage in it, unless someone tells you. The blood sausage is prepared so well that you won’t even smell anything out-of-the-ordinary and there’s no rancid aftertaste. Just like pyeohejang guk, sundae guk is served with steamed rice and side dishes. If you like exotic and spicy food, you will enjoy sundae guk.

    Not-so-spicy sundae guk for 5,000 won

    Spicy sundae guk for 7,000 won

    Noodles are quite affordable, too, and they are delicious. Besides, ramyon and jjampong which are popular in the Philippines, you may want to try…

    Jjajangmyeon (black noodles) ~ PRICE: 3,500 to 5,500 won (159 to 250 pesos)

    This noodle is actually Chinese food, but since it is widely popular in Korea, you can find it anywhere. They even have a day called “Black noodles’ Day” for single men and women. Jjajangmyeon is tasty and filling. The sauce has got bits of pork and onion, and it’s topped with thinly-sliced cucumber. This one is served with yellow radish and some onions as side dishes.

    Naengmyon (cold noodles) ~ PRICE: 5,000 to 7,000 won (227 to 319 pesos)

    Another filling dish that is popular in Korea is naengmyeon. It’s basically thin, chewy noodles served with icy soup, sweet chilli pepper paste, a slice of egg and some radish or cucumber. There are two kinds of naengmyeon. If you’re not into spicy noodles, go for mul naengmyeon, the one that is served with icy broth. If you like it spicier, go for bibim naengmyeon, same ingredients but served with no broth.



    This is how you sip your neangmyeon broth. ^^

    (Cheap) Hansik buffet PRICE: 5,000 (227 pesos)

    Yup, you heard me right, buffet for 5,000 won… but this isn’t the kind of buffet that has it all. The food served in these kinds of buffet are Korean food that you can find in a typical Korean home. I’ve been to two cheap hansik buffets, one in my area in Namyangju and the other in Guri. I didn’t fancy the food, but for the price of 5,000 won, what can one expect? The food, however, was enough to sate my hunger. These types of buffet are frequented by workers and students.

    Convenience store doshirak or bento (lunchbox) PRICE: 4,000 to 6,000 won (182 to 272 pesos)

    When my husband stayed at the hospital with me, he survived for three days on bento meals from the covenience store. I have also tried them. These bentos are not that bad. Most convenience stores in Korea have a microwave oven where you can heat up your bento.


    These are just some of the food you can budget your manwon with here in Korea. There are plenty of meals you can actually have for 450 pesos (9 dollars) or less, but you’ll be missing out on all the delectable dishes Korea has to offer if you will tour this country on a very tight budget. My advise, as a former tourist in Korea, is to save enough money to enjoy Korean cuisine. You don’t have to spend much. A 20 to 25 dollar food budget a day will be enough. With that kind of budget, you’ll get to enjoy grilled meat, drinks, authentic traditional Korean food and more.

    From Korea with Love




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    코스 3-3 | Course 3-3 from 갈맷길 365: A Year of Movement

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    If you like trekking on rocky coasts, this course is the one for you. It’s a lot of up and down, but incredible views are around every turn and the natural beauty of Busan is abundant. I started at Yongdusan Park 용두산 공원 in the middle of Course 3-2 and did my best to follow all the cultural highlights in the Nampo area 남포동. It wasn’t marked almost at all and I did a half-hearted rectangle around Ggangtong Market 깡통시장 and Jagalchi Seafood Market 자갈치 before crossing the Yeongdo Bridge 영도대교 and entering the small town vibe on the island of horses. Although this is part of Busan, it has a unique history of being used strategically by the Silla kingdom 신라 and later the Japanese for cattle grazing and horse ranching.

    It officially starts under the Namhang Bridge 남항대교, but don’t be confused by the stamp stand being a ways away at the start of the Jeolyeong Coastal Path 절영해안산책로. From Yeongdo Bridge to Namhang Bridge, the path is mostly city port streets and then city parks. The coastal path is a well-maintained walker’s paradise and generally quite busy with families and elderly couples. There is very little in the way of restaurants, cafes, and shops so pack a sandwich and enough water. I had to go off-course and up the steep stairs to forage for a mart. I ended up finding one open and ate some packaged ‘maple’ bread like it was a piece of heaven. Don’t make the same mistake!

    At the end of the Jeolyeong Coastal Path, you have no choice but to hike a set of rainbow stairs and then wonder where to go. Galmaetgil, what galmaetgil? should be the subtitle of this course. I mostly threw out the map and just followed the coastline until the endpoint at Taejongdae 태종대. I’d been here before with a few groups of friends and knew the way well enough. It’s also my favorite kind of path – rocky coastline. It reminds me of my childhood in Maine looking for tiny creatures in tide pools and eating lobster rolls at Two Lights State Park.

    It was unbelievably sunny and hot for an October day and I was pretty much done with trekking by the time I got to Taejongdae, but the path says to go around the park for about 45 minutes so I did. I faithfully got my final stamp at the Taejongdae Lighthouse and felt a moment of pride. There were a lot of families there for the Chuseok holiday and a man even asked me where I got my Galmaetgil Stampbook. I love when Koreans ask me for some information or directions in Korean as if that were the most natural thing. I look like I belong here and that I can give them the information they need. Like most everyone else, I just want to fit in.

    Course 3-3, plus the Nampo bit that I had to complete, turned out to be about 17 kilometers and just over 4 hours. I found parts of it grueling in the hot sun and wish I had worn long sleeves to get more sun protection. Despite my ajumma hat and 2 sunscreen applications, I ended up quite like a Maine lobster.

    Galmaetgil 365
    A year of movement


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