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Genderfluid in Korea–Anonymous in an Uncertain World

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The post Genderfluid in Korea–Anonymous in an Uncertain World appeared first on the3WM.
Editor’s note: The writer requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. Any responses can be sent to

A Twitter post on my wall by a past admirer: “Guess this is why you ignored my advances!” A shared link to an article about the confessions of a genderfluid Korean teenager. An influx of tweets into my inbox. Tweets of disgust and hate and disappointment.

I wake up drenched in sweat. The dampness sends chills down my spine.

Then I remember that I don’t even have a Twitter account. Us digital kids and our digital nightmares.

It’s been nearly two years since I came out as genderfluid on this site. For the first few days after my story went up, I got high on the adrenaline from my first real rebellion, though I did request my anonymity. Later, as the views ticked up, I admit having felt a bit paranoid about the possibility of an accidental reveal.

Twenty-two months passed, and my life went on without anyone I know giving a darn. Guess that went better than I expected.

One impeached president and three nuke tests later, I can’t say things have changed for the better. Gay marriage is still illegal. Women’s Rights? LGBTQ awareness? Meh. At this point, I’m just hoping nothing’s deteriorating.

In a more personal sense, however, I suppose some aspects about me have changed — hairstyle, favorite movies, etc. — as it is for any other teen.

Some moments of stupidity, like that time when I, on one particularly depressed evening, tried to come out to my mother over the phone. I rambled on as if I were inebriated, struggling to put together proper sentences to describe how I consider my gender identity. “I… am not so sure… if I consider myself a…”

You would’ve thought I said, “Mama, I killed a man,” from her tone of disapproval. Her barrage of words prevented me from explaining further: You were born in an academic household without many hyper-feminine relatives. I myself don’t wear makeup, nor have I taught you to. I know you like boys, and you need to have very strong attraction towards girls to define yourself  as a transgender. Thus, you’re simply a confused tomboy, and…

Along with that connection to family came a phase of self-doubt about whether the fruit I bit into was of knowledge or deception. Was I really genderfluid or was it merely a series of acquired traditionally-masculine traits? Was I simply struggling to climb the social ladder by proving myself worthy in activities traditionally associated with both genders? Did I fundamentally seek to receive validation from the cutthroat patriarchal family members and to make up for my mother not having any sons?

With such questions in mind, I took time off from my own concerns to tune in to what the others have to say on the topic, observing society’s views while trying to dismiss my own personal experiences and feelings as a member of the LGBTQ community.

“LGBTQ is one of the roots of evil in society. To prevent confusion and inefficiency, they need to be educated in order to turn them back to the natural state,” one classmate claimed during a group discussion in sociology class. A few others said that they were “against” gay people. Thankfully, such strong antipathy is starting to be considered as extreme even in Korea, as I saw the jaws of some students drop incredulously. There were also generous opinions that showed unconditional support, though not from our Korean classroom:

“I can’t believe gay marriage is illegal in Korea,” a German teen said in disbelief when the matter was brought up for discussion among a group of international students participating in a templestay. Her enthusiastic support gave me a bit more hope for the future. “My goodness, are we not all equal beings deserving of the same rights?,” she continued. Oh, my dear friend, if only the future was as bright as you are.

However, I found that most students, especially in Korea, were somewhere in between–having doubt about the repressive old values, yet still afraid to look into themselves. Back in my high school classroom: “Perhaps the ‘girl crush’ that we talk about is an indicator of how most people are on the polar ends of the gender/sexuality spectrum,” another classmate boldly claim. Hearing that, I felt the shame of having generalized my peers as narrow-minded and conservative; my preconceptions might’ve caused my sense of isolation in terms of gender issues. But then, I still didn’t know anyone around me having the same identit…

“To tell you the truth, I don’t consider myself a girl,” a friend declares during a private chat.

Come again?

Life’s funny like that. Just as I was trying to stop focusing solely on my own gender identity, a friend reveals her experiences and the hardships she is going through (or zirs and ze, though the friend doesn’t care for pronouns). And through the confession, I see my own self still not telling anyone in real life, still filled with self-doubt that I’m try to bury under thoughts about anything other than myself.

“How do you see yourself, then?” I ask.

“Ummm… Neutral.”

“And you don’t see yourself at all as a girl?”


I wanted to ask why not. But the words of my mother, resonated in my head: “Why can’t you see yourself as a tomboy?” Nor could I bring myself to say, “Me neither.” All that came out of my mouth were the words I wanted to hear, if I were to ever reveal the fluidity of my gender to someone I know in real life.

“Okay. It must’ve taken you some guts to tell me. Thanks for sharing. I hope you’re not hard on yourself because of what others define you as.”

Confession time. Even after talking with the friend, I still don’t plan on revealing my own gender to anyone in real life. The chances of my bringing up the topic during a family meal is almost nonexistent now. I have, however, learned to fear not the nightmares that had stemmed from paranoia and self-doubt because, after all the different opinions I’ve encountered, I’m sure some people would be on my side. Most importantly, I did nothing wrong. Yet I am reluctant when it comes to letting others know.

Such is life. Such is my life. No need for pity; I do show myself in every aspect. I try to get my voice heard. I break some traditional gender roles. Still, it will take much more time and stronger motivations to get me to proudly present the fluidity of my gender.


I’ve fantasized about my family replying to my “I’m genderfluid,” with benign nonchalance, as if what I said was of no more importance than my preference for strawberry ice cream over chocolate. Now I’m just living on a prayer that there will be a day when being a gender and/or sexual minority wouldn’t overpower other innumerable qualities people see in a human entity.

I also hope for more basic acceptance, not only for the LGBTQ but for all human identity, conditions and characteristics that are currently being misunderstood and blindly criticized. Until then, being the coward I am, the best I can do is to let my agony out through these written pieces and sometimes submit them under the cloak of anonymity.

Seeing many girls around me delve into the intricate world of cosmetics and replace meals with weight loss smoothies (which is an entirely different problem on its own) and, most notably, start dating adoring boys, I feel even more left out than before. While I am content being single for now, I worry about my future. What if the ones I’m attracted to see me as a mere pal than a partner? Would I get friendzoned because I don’t wear cosmetics in a nation where the “all-natural” look wouldn’t take an average-looking person very far? I take fair care of myself, but I do an awful job at coming across as “feminine.” And for many, my desire to wear the pants (though I am willing to share them) in the relationship would be a turn-off.

While finding love is hard for anyone, the potential of perpetual loneliness does scare me. And I’m more concerned that I would start denying or blaming my gender identity for problems in relationships, or the lack thereof.

In terms of other parts of my life, however, I’m fairly content. I can’t say fluidity is a blessing but it certainly isn’t a curse either. Plus, my rational self tells me that whether it be work or romance, it will be up to my own efforts to determine the course of events. With that in mind, I’ll continue my journey forward, uncertain about the effects my fluidity will have on my life and others. 

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    Accidental Island

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    I had gotten on the wrong boat.

    I purchased a ticket to Binjindo—the most famous of the islands of Korea’s Hangryeo Marine National Park–but instead boarded a kind of a multi-island sea bus transporting the venerable inhabitants to the villages dotting a handful of the other islands, where they scratched out a living from farming, the odd bit of tourism, or whatever the sea managed to provide. And as it was the last boat of the day, there would be no getting to Bijindo.

    Instead I took in a deep lungful of the clean, salty air and reminded myself that many of my best travels have been the result of mishaps, happy mistakes that forced me to veer off the path. Surely Bijindo wasn’t the only island worth visiting. The hand of the universe seemed to be nudging me in another direction. Who was I to push back?

    I reminded myself that many of my best travels have been the result of mishaps, happy mistakes that forced me to veer off the path.

    After several stops we arrived at our boat’s final island, Yongchondo, where I was told that I could find some accommodation. I strode off the pier and into the village of Hodu (“walnut”), a cluster of small structures huddled together on an isthmus between two main landmasses. The houses were squat and sturdy—uber-quaint hanok and more homely, modern abodes–clumped together and hunkered down against the relentless island elements. Narrow footpaths acted as the village’s streets, and aside from one van parked at the harbor side, there wasn’t a car in sight,. This probably had to do with the fact that, save a single shore road heading out of the village, there was really nowhere to drive.

    Downtown Hodu

    Soon I found Hodu’s one place of commerce, a house with a hand-drawn sign reading: “Convenience Store. Minbak.” I roused the owner–a woman who sported the tight perm ubiquitous to the Korean ajumma. Even in her late 50’s, she was surely one of the youngest residents of the village. Korean islands, it seemed, were a very geriatric affair.

    The woman led me out the door and escorted me to my minbak (a kind of no-frills homestay). She peppered me with the usual questions as we walked (“Where are you from?” “Are you married?”), and I politely lobbed back my well-rehearsed answers. She was surprised to have a customer in late February. I got the impression that Hodu managed to escape the tourist footprint even at the height of the summer season. In fact, other than my accommodation, I only saw one other minbak in the whole village.

    “Do foreigners ever come here?” I asked.

    “No. Never,” she said, laughing. “You’re the first I’ve seen.”

    Hodu’s other minbak

    After unloading my bag into my minbak, I set off, winding my way through the narrow alleys of Hodu. The little homes were nearly all painted white, though the wind and saltwater air had done their best to strip away the coating, revealing scrapes and splotches of grey concrete underneath. The more prosperous places had tiled roofs of blood red or bright blue, while the simpler huts had to settle for corrugated metal.

    As quaint is it may have appeared, Hodu was still a working village, with implements of marine labor piled and stacked up in any available space. This usually took the form of thick grey ropes, coiled like gnarled worms, or giant, clunky styrofoam floats. In between some of the houses were small plots of cultivated land, home to sprouting green even in late winter. These little fields were fenced in by low walls made up of stacked stones, lending the village a rugged, almost medieval look. For a moment I felt like I could be on the coast of Normandy, New England, or even Greece. It seems that old sea villages share some of the same characteristics world over. They’re often stony and tough, obstinate places standing in defiance of the punishing elements that surround them.

    Like their Japanese neighbors, Koreans have a taste for seaweed of all kinds. February must be prime harvest time for miyeok, the darkish kelp served up in birthday soups across the peninsula, since all around the village the locals were gathering, washing, and drying the stuff on the ground or on racks. It was a miyeok explosion, with the skin of the sea plant hanging from rope lines everywhere, blowing in the ocean wind like ragged clumps of hair. As I made my way to the harbor, I spied an old man hanging up huge strands of the stuff. As I approached, he stopped his work and met my eyes.

    I offered a shallow bow, as well as a formal greeting, but he just cocked his head and stared, taking me in with an inscrutable gaze. It would be a stretch to call these islanders friendly, but they weren’t exactly hostile, either. They just had no idea what to make of me.

    I left the village behind me, strolling up the tiny coast road, whose surface was in disrepair, cracking and crumbling from erosion and disuse. On one side was a wall of rock topped with trees; on the other, the sea.

    As I made my way up the road I came upon an abandoned school in a clearing below. The dirt lot in front of the empty building was littered with piles of rubbish, making for a thoroughly ugly scene. I was suddenly saddened by this school. It had been made useless by time, abandoned by the students themselves, who grew up and sensibly emigrated off the island in pursuit of a modern life. Now there were no young people left. The building had outlived its usefulness and now just sat as a neglected, hollowed-out museum of trash.

    The young people left long ago. Who will be around after the old are gone? Is it possible that much of this country’s rural heart will just be abandoned, left for nature to reclaim?

    I’ve traveled extensively in the Korean countryside, and it is shocking to consider just how aged the rural population really is. Children only appear as visitors, while the local residents are deep elderly–all hunched backs and lined faces. The young people left long ago. Who will be around after the old are gone? Is it possible that much of this country’s rural heart will just be abandoned, left for nature to reclaim?     

    As I approached the island’s second village–a larger settlement lacking the cozy splendor of Hodu–I noticed another, even smaller road, leading up inland to my left. A sign reading “POW Camp” pointed up that way, so I turned off the main track and hiked up the rise, passing through fields of high grass home to a family of bleating black goats. At the top was a clearing with another sign, indicating the physical location of the camp. During the Korean War POW, camps were set up on many of these southern islands, as water makes for the best guarantee against escape. As I scanned the clearing around me, I could make out little remaining infrastructure of the camp itself, other than a half collapsed wall and a round depression in front of me that had served as the foundation of a building of sorts. These ruins looked much older than sixty years old and did little to impress, since there was so little of them to take in. Still, they got my imagination rolling. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been the first foreigner on this island since the last American soldier left in 1953.

    I made my way back to my minbak in Hodu, but this time over the spine of the island. I followed the road, which was now a dirt track, up toward the main peak of the island, into Yongchodo’s deep pine woods. As I pressed on, I heard the sudden snapping of branches to my right, catching a glimpse of a deer bounding off into the underbrush. I had seen deer on a couple of other occasions on the peninsula, but still felt my heart stop.

    Taking in larger wildlife is a rare thing in Korea; any time it happens the moment must be savored. That’s exactly what I did, and it paid off, for just five minutes later I scared up another, this one a buck, and pretty massive by Korean standards. He blazed down the side of the mountain in a frenzied crackle, crushing any brush in his path. By the end of my little ascent I had stumbled across two more – more deer in one hour than I had seen in more than a decade in the country. And the best part was, since climbing up from the second village, I hadn’t come across a single human being. I’m sure they would have just gawked at me anyway.

    The road soon dissolved into a hiking path, which itself disappeared under the cover of the forest. The only thing marking the ascent was a series of orange tape pieces tied to the tree branches and shrubs, stubbornly visible in the dissolving light. I pressed on, sweating hard under my thick winter jacket and fleece, almost running up the mountain in a race with the sinking sun.

    Soon I found myself at the top, where I gasped to catch my breath and took in a partial view through the trees. I bundled up against the piercing winds and looked out to sea, where I noticed a squall some miles out, a black cloud streaking into the churning waves. The storm obscured the sun, whose final rays arced through the fringes of the dark mass in incandescent blasts. Beyond that I could see Tongyeong, with its fat mountain and string of cable cars, and in the other direction, right there across across the water, the twin rises of Bijindo, which would just have to wait until next time.


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    There, and Back (and There) Again

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    It was a rather strange place to be practicing my fledgling Korean skills: atop a volcano on the southeastern coast of Iceland.

    We were slowly making our way across the glacier covering Eyjafjallajökull, a subglacial volcano that made news in 2010 after an eruption that halted air traffic in Europe for over a week. My top priority as lead trip guide was ensuring the safety of the guests, followed closely by ensuring their happiness at all reasonable costs. One of my guests, a waifish woman nearing 60, realized she had left her sunglasses roughly a half mile back up the trail at our lunch spot. I was not entirely sure I could guarantee the safety of this particular hiker, considering her questionable physical state and less than ideal snow-hiking gear, but I figured I could at least make her happy. After assuring her it was no inconvenience, I set off back up the snowy incline to look for her glasses.

    The base of Eyjafjallajökull

    As I came upon our lunch spot, I saw a group of roughly 20 middle-aged Asian men and women, packs set off to their sides, casually munching on the pre-packaged sandwiches sold in all the Icelandic convenient stores, and I couldn’t help but notice a small Korean flag patch stitched onto the small pocket of one of the bright green packs. The scene struck me as a bit odd, as I had not encountered this many ajummas and ajeossis on a hiking trip since seeing the stone Buddha of Seokguram in Gyeongju several years before, but as Iceland has become a favorite destination for travelers from around the globe, I was not entirely surprised.

    Their shock quickly became evident however, as I confidently stepped in front of them and offered the standard Korean greeting when meeting someone new. They nearly choked on the bland sandwiches they had been silently eating.

    I whisked through the introduction and abruptly halted at the edge of my knowledge, not having sufficient vocabulary to explain what I was doing there. After a few back and forth hand gestures, they concluded I was looking for sunglasses and leapt up to help in the search. Despite the unexpected search party, it was clear the sunglasses were gone for good. At that point, I didn’t care so much about the glasses as the fact that I had spoken Korean and actually communicated a message beyond, “Hello, I’m from America,” in Iceland of all places.

    As I had recently moved away from Korea, my thoughts often drifted back unprovoked.

    Much has changed since that unexpected encounter in the wilds of Iceland, and despite living in Korea for nearly two years, I have come to think of it as my defining Korean travel experience. It combines in a bizarre yet revealing manner the way in which I am always attempting to hold on to where I have just left instead of being where I am. As I had recently moved away from Korea, my thoughts often drifted back unprovoked. Instead of attempting the utterly baffling but beautiful Icelandic language, I immersed myself in the Korean language via audiobooks as I completed a weekly six hour solo drive surrounded by the glaciers and volcanos of Iceland. Although it’s rather embarrassing to admit, my Korean language skills increased more in 3 months in Iceland than during all my time living on the peninsula. This phenomenon was a simple continuation of a trend: as when I lived in Korea, my now wife grew tired of my nostalgia-tinted yearning for the countryside of Ohio. I was once again attempting to go back to where I had just been.

    I’m still not entirely sure how I found myself living in the Land of the Morning Calm. It’s a country about which I was comically ignorant. I landed with a suitcase full of teacher-appropriate clothes, several bags of coffee, and multiple tubes of toothpaste, as I had heard Korean toothpaste did not work and I didn’t think I would be able to find coffee there, both utterly false assumptions for which my wife still makes fun of me.

    The author in Seoul

    Beyond the common trifecta of many an ESL teacher: Travel, Student Loans, and Teaching Experience, all I’ve really been able to muster by way of explanation is the common affliction of wanderlust. As a child of the American Midwest Pastoral, my earliest memories are filled with the gently flowing creeks and jade-colored cornstalks of Ohio, memories that never felt more acute than while living in Korea. I was never quite satisfied to be there however, and I scratched my itchy feet with books, the only way I could until a more permanent retreat was possible.

    Nowadays, I find myself from time to time disregarding my present situation in Southern California and thinking rather wistfully of Korea and Iceland both. My wife gently reminds me how good I have it when she scolds me for not wearing sunscreen in mid-February. Indeed, I’ve yet to master the subtle talent of contentment in being where I am.

    Each of my moves has taken me farther away from Korea, yet simultaneously has brought me closer to it.

    Each of my moves has taken me farther away from Korea, yet simultaneously has brought me closer to it. I can now drive 20 minutes in any direction, except south because that way lies a beach, and enjoy the best Korean food outside of the peninsula. I regularly take my car down the street to a mechanic shop my wife and I simply call, “the ajeossis,” as it’s run by two brothers who left Korea some twenty years ago. These little reminders of my time in Korea have gently worn away the sharp edges of restlessness and my wanderlust has been pushed aside by the domesticating influence of having a wife, a development I’ve found to be surprisingly welcome.

    I have also slowly grown more comfortable with the idea that I may not be moving anywhere exotic and unexplored for quite some time, if ever again. As more time passes since I left Korea and returned to my own familiar country, the more content I’ve become taking imaginary trips, fed by the memories I’ve collected throughout my global travels, and sometimes aided by a scalding hot bowl of kimchi jjigae.

    Facing the Reality of War on the Korean Peninsula

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    By Lee Scott


    By Iwazaru

    If you’ve been in Korea for a stretch of five or 10 or 20 years, then you’ve grown familiar with the North Korean situation. Just traveling around the peninsula gives one a good sense of the status quo with military guard posts along the shorelines, uniformed soldiers often in public places, the heavily militarized DMZ, and the rather frequent news regarding all manner of North Korean activities. Recently, as any long-termer can tell you–if they even need to–things have ratcheted up, the sabers rattling a little louder, the brinkmanship going a little further, the foot to the floor in both trucks.

    Undoubtedly, Kim Jong-un has been on a testing streak, seemingly bent on setting new records while dwarfing his father and grandfather. Both the number and magnitude of these tests has increased, drawing attention from far and near.

    Moreover, the ever-increasing missile tests now seem to make the U.S. mainland a reachable target. This too has increased tensions near and far.

    And, of course, there is President Donald Trump who has not refrained from engaging in bombast that might make North Korean propaganda experts envious if not amused. From saying that the U.S. might have to “totally destroy North Korea” and “rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime” to “they won’t be around much longer” and “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump has gone all-in rhetorically. And on October 5, at a meeting with senior military leaders, Trump referred to a “calm before the storm,” prompting reporters to ask for elaboration. “You’ll find out,” the president said. Not exactly comforting language, especially for those on the peninsula. Days later on October 10, two U.S. B-1B bombers flew a nighttime training mission over the peninsula accompanied, first, by South Korean F-15k fighters and, later, by Japanese fighter jets in what was reported to be the first nighttime mission with both Korean and Japanese militaries involved.

    Then, on October 16, U.S. and ROK forces commenced the large-scale Maritime Counter Special Operations Exercise (MCSOFEX) just as the USS Ronald Reagan strike group arrived and the nuclear-powered, cruise missile-armed USS Michigan submarine sat in the southern port of Busan with a “decapitation” team of Navy Seals allegedly aboard. The exercise runs until Friday. Days earlier, the U.S. Navy confirmed that the Los Angeles-attack class submarine USS Tucson had entered the port of Jinhae on Jeju Island but that it had also left for an unknown destination.

    Meanwhile, things have been unusually quiet up North since its launch of a ballistic missile over Japan mid-September. Many watchers expected the North to conduct some sort of test–nuclear and/or missile–around the October 10 anniversary of the founding of its Workers Party. Nothing took place. It’s widely known that these U.S.-ROK military exercises (aka war games) antagonize the North with what could easily be interpreted as plans for an imminent invasion. Combined with Trump’s repeated confrontational rhetoric, Kim cannot be sitting idly by dining on Kobe steak, sipping champagne and smoking cigars, while exercises ramp up.  On Saturday, the KCNA called MCSOFEX a “reckless act of war maniacs,” and the media has reported that North Korean vehicles transporting missiles have been moving. And some amusing propaganda fliers arrived in Seoul over the weekend depicting Trump as a crazy man and mad dog being terminated (torn open and apart in the case of the dog) by the North.

    Further, over the past few days, a couple noteworthy statements have come out of the U.S. First, Secretary of State Tillerson said the U.S. would continue diplomatic efforts “until the first bomb drops.” Of course this must seen in the wake of earlier comments made by Trump while Tillerson was visiting China in which Trump tweeted, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” Second, retired Army General Barry McCaffery asserted that Trump’s bluster has the U.S. “sliding toward war by next summer.”

    Now, of course, some cooler heads over here contend it’s deja vu all over again. Keep on keeping on. And a slew of experts say it’s not in Kim’s interest to start a war that would very likely mean the end of the country and regime his grandfather and father sustained for more than 60 years.

    Perhaps we can all take comfort in that. But with that comfort comes the knowledge that we have two capricious men–one young and one old–who are one mistake or miscalculation away from starting a catastrophic war.

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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.

    Note: There is a print link embedded within this post, please visit this post to print it.

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

    The post Nay Pyi Taw–What if They Built a Capital and Nobody Came? appeared first on the3WM.

    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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    That Girl Cartier


    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.

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