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South River Toastmasters Summer Wine Party

SRTM holds social gatherings every year and our club in particular is known for some of the better ones. That's because we're lucky enough to have lots of people who are good at organising things. Last weekend we had a summer wine party at Casa Mio, which is behind Kyobo Tower in Gangnam.

Like any good summer wine party, it started off with plenty of chatter and catching up with friends. For KRW25,000 there was unlimited wine to drink and some light food. I probably had around 3 bottles in total, because I like wine and I wanted to get my money's worth. These days 25,000 won is a lot of money to me.

More than 8 cafeteria lunches to be exact.

Here are some of the SRTM people after a moderate amount of wine. I love Alice's face (second from the left). She looks like a little bunny rabbit with closed eyes.

On the left is Judy, one of my favourite nuna's (older sisters) here, and in the middle is Chris Lee, who I like a lot. Chris becomes twice as fun when he's tipsy.

Here's James Lim, the president of SRTM, who ironically had a stomach ache on the night of the party after giving a speech on the Wednesday beforehand that was all about a stomach ache he had in China. But, being the Aussie Battler that he is, he dragged himself into the venue that night and gave a short speech to the guests.

On the left is Luke Shim from Neowiz Toastmasters, and on the right is my new friend Anthony who studies in the fungus lab at Seoul National University. He's only here for a few months and is an international student from Uppsala University in Sweden.

The second round was at JJ's in the Hyatt hotel. I had been there before, but it was a long time ago. Quite a trendy outlet although a little crowded.

I ended up going home around 4am that night, only to wake up a couple of hours later and arrive at the lab at 7am. That's because once a year our building shuts down the electricity for maintenance, so we had to pack all the freezers with dry ice. These days I'm tutoring 3 days per week, going to Toastmasters, sampling down at Suwon for the PhD and trying to make sure the honeymoon is planned properly.

I think I'll be able to relax once I step on the plane with my new wife. For now though, I'll take each day at a time and try and make the most of it.

Seoul, by the numbers

Over at the Traveler's Notebook, an occasional series called 'By the numbers' appears talking about one's trip to some far-flung corner of the world. The most recent, from Cuzco, Peru, was fairly interesting - and got me thinking about trying to start counting things myself. Without further ado, here is my first effort in talking about Korea, by the numbers.

The following are the numbers for my average commute to and from work in Seoul, South Korea.

Flyer wavers (ajuma, or older women, who hand out flyers or business cards to passersby): 7

Koreans with dyed blonde hair: 3

Kids trying on adult clothes: 1

People selling something on the sidewalk: 6

Foreigners seen: 3

People wearing masks: 4

Illegal DVD's available from a street seller: at least 100 different titles.

Police officers who passed the illegal DVD seller and kept walking: 2

Ads for English language schools seen: 9

Ads for different English language schools: 4

Koreans seen carrying English books: 5

Koreans heard actually speaking English: 2

Ads that used at least one English word: 6

Ads that used exactly one English word: 3

Motorcycles using the sidewalk as another lane to drive on: 2

Convenience stores passed: 5

Men wearing suit jackets staring at women passing by in short skirts: at least 5

Business cards seen on the street advertising 'massages': at least 50

Number of bars: 4

Minutes spent walking: 14-15



I snagged a toy camera from a little back street stationary store in Nampo-dong last week. The super headz remake of the classic Vivitar ultra wide and slim. No batteries, no settings, just a small plastic box to stuff with rolls of 35mm film. It tagged along this weekend for an excursion up to Gyeongju, some beach exploring, and a Beomeosa hike. I was looking for a cheap and simple analog device and am happy with the shots. Easily slips in the pocket and should be perfect for some off-kilter graphics of the upcoming Asian trek.

Analog Korea

Busan shore

Busan shore

North gate wall, Guemejong, Busan

Beomeosa Pagoda

Bulguksa, Gyeongju, Korea

Gyeongju field

Gyeongju mounds

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged: Busan, photos, South Korea

Lijiang Baba

Lijiang old town, in north western Yunnan, is the type of place that almost seems too nice. With its narrow streets, gushing canals and Naxi architecture there is no doubt that it is beautiful, but nevertheless many people seem to come away disappointed in the town.

What's missing, it seems, is the presence of any sense of the real China. Lijiang is too clean, ordered and touristy to come even close to authenticity. The Old Town looks and feels, for the most part, like a Las Vegas casino could have built it.

It's not surprising that this superficiality is reflected by bad food. With a few notable exceptions, allot of the dining options in the old town appear to be a case of style over substance. Most of the restaurants and cafes are way overpriced, and seem to be staffed exclusively by a breed of young arrogant types who consider any sort of service an infringement on their human rights.

Rise early in the morning however (before the town has had a chance to rouge up) and another Lijiang presents itself. At these hours, the tour buses have yet to arrive and people seem to be doing normal, everyday things. It's at this time that you're also likely to come across Lijiang Baba, the town's street breakfast of choice.

Lijiang Baba consists of a pancake-sized piece of dough, freshly rolled then dropped into a frying pan with about an inch of hot oil. Into the middle is cracked a whole egg and some chopped green onions are also added. The whole thing is then flipped and allowed to cook on the reverse. The result is a piece of eggy bread about the same thickness and texture of naan bread.

As breakfasts go, this one is close to unbeatable. All too often in China fried flatbread is stodgy and saturated with oil. Not so in Lijiang. Here the bread somehow manages to remain crispy on the outside, yet light and fluffy in the middle. The egg, for its part, is well distributed and along with the green onions adds a little flavour. The Baba also comes with two tart and spicy chilli sauces - a real wake up call.

By midday the Lijiang Baba stalls have by and large cleared away and the tourist onslaught is in full swing. In this respect Lijiang Baba serves a second purpose; that of giving you the energy to get the hell out of there!

[Three] Five dishes for newbies to Korean food

I recently went to eat Korean food with my friends and I was surprised to hear that one of my friends, Monica had not tried it before.

So, I have decided to dedicate this blog entry to Korean food for everyone like Monica who have yet to have tried Korean food.

Here are five Korean dishes I would like to recommend for newbies to Korean food :)

#1) Although it is getting close to autumn,it is still summertime! These days, you may have heard about the dish 냉면 (It's pronounced "naeng-myun"). It is a popular cold noodle dish.
If you listen to K-pop at all, you may have heard the song Naeng-Myun by Jessica of Girl's Generation and Park Myung Soo, a famous comedian in the show 무한도전 ("moo han do jun") or also known as "Infinitey Challenge".
(in the picture above, Jessica and Park Myung Soo are singing "Naeng-Myun" live)

When I first heard the song, Naeng-Myun, I thought it was funny that this food dish was used to compare summer love, but this song has grown on me. The dance is really funny too actually. During the chorus "naeng-myun, naeng-myun, naeng-myun", they do a dance move that looks like they are eating the naeng-myun noodles. Even Tae Yeon of Girl's Generation was doing the moves!
I definitely love naeng-myun, especially when my mom makes it for me at home! These days, if you go to a Korean supermarket, you can find instant naeng-myun packs which has the naengmyun noodles and sauce all included in the box. You just have to cook the noodles and make the naeng-myun soup by boiling water with the sauce included and then cooling it in the fridge before serving. Toppings are not included, but according to your taste, you can slice cucumber, cooked beef, a boiled egg and also few slices of Korean pear!
Here's an example of naeng-myun in a box
If you like spicy food, I would like to recommend 비빔냉면 ("bi-bim-naeng-myun") which is a spicy version of naengmyun (also called 물냉면, literally translates to cold noodles in water, to distinguish it from 비빔냉면, which translates to mixed cold noodles)
#2) One of my favorite things to order is 설렁탕 (pronounced "sul-lung-tang"). This is a warm dish, unlike naeng-myun which is served cold. Sullungtang is a warm beef-broth soup that is cooked for a long time (sometimes a few days) to make sure that the soup extracts all the flavours and nutrients from ox bones. It is served with sweet potato noodles and slices of beef. Sometimes it is not seasoned to allow the customers to pretty add salt and pepper and also diced green onions according to their own taste.
Here's Sullongtang served with rice, and two side dishes, 김치/kimchi and 깎두기 (pronouned "ggack-doo-gi")

#3) This next dish I am going to introduce is popular for many BBQ lovers. Korean BBQ ribs (갈비/"gal-bee") anyone?

Usually, in restaurants, the galbee is cooked right in front of your table in the small circular grill that is built into the table. With the galbee, Koreans also like to BBQ mushrooms, onions,  garlic, and sometimes even kimchi*!

*kimchi, pictured above, is a popular Korean side dish. It is fermented/preserved cabbage which is seasoned with various spices and sauces.

And voila, here is cooked BBQ galbee! Bon appetit :) 
 #5) My Chinese friends really like this last dish called 비빔밥 ("bi-bim-bab") which is rice served with a colorful array of vegetables including spinach, carrots, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and egg. 돌솥비빔밥 ("dol-sot-bibimbab") is the same dish that is served in a stone pot.

Here is bibimbab served with hot sauce and sesame oil. Adding the oil makes mixing the vegetables with the rice easier and the hot sauce is for people who likes spicy food!

#4) This fourth dish I am introducing is for all the noodle lovers out there! 잡채 ("jap-chae") I really like this dish as well!

Jabchae is sweet potato noodles with various vegetables that are chopped up (including pepper, carrots, potato, spinach, etc) and fried beef. This healthy dish is sometimes eaten on its own, or with with rice.

vegetables ready to go into the jabchae




Well I hope that you enjoyed this blog entry, especially if you are unfamiliar to Korean food! I hope I have convinced you to go out and try some!

Next time, I will explain what Korean 반찬 ("ban-chan"), Korean side dishes are.

In the meantime, I hope you have a chance to go eat some Korean food.

Yours truly,

Korean Sociological Image #16: Plagiarism in Advertising

( Source: Nevermind ) Korea has a deserved reputation for plagiarism, but it can surprisingly hard to provide definitive reasons for why this is the case. For example, had I been asked, I would have ventured that it was a combination of: • the discouraging of creativity and the overwhelming use of rote-learning in Korean schools. • the [...]


Seoul, Ja-yang Dong - Happy Day Spa

Another Happy Day jjimjilbang. I found this one while searching for more resources to add to my previous post, Hongdae - Happy Day Jjimjilbang. This spa is located near Gu-eui subway station on Line 2. Take exit 4 and turn right at the first large intersection you arrive at (Jayang Sageori / 자양사거리). After walking about 10 min (~800 meters) you pass the Jayang Apartments (자양아파트) on your right, then you'll see the sauna on your left just ahead.

This 7-story sauna looks equally as nice as the one in Hongdae, certainly with greater space and more services to offer. Firstly, it boasts 365 days (which is not unusual for saunas) of excellent services that include fitness and an indoor screen golf system with pose clinic.

Hinoki wood bath found both in men's and women's saunas

The basement contains a Chinese medicine tea shop. In the main saunas there are Mediterranean-style mineral water baths, a ginseng tub, steam saunas, and a special hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood bath. I didn't know before that these wood baths have a sterilizing effect on the water - interesting! In the jjimjil area, you can relax in various hot and ice rooms as usual, or enjoy the yellow-soil and charcoal kilns. The rooftop is also the site of various aqua-therapy facilities.
7th floor: Foot wailing sauna Aqua-therapy baths

서울시 광진구 자양동 685번지
Seoul, Gwang-jin Gu, Ja-yang Dong 685
Open 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week/ 365 days a year

Rates: 6,000 won - If you arrive between 5am & 8pm
8,000 won - If you arrive between 8pm & 5am
There is also a 1,000 won deposit for robes.
(This cost covers 15 hours from the time you arrive, instead of the usual 12.)

Parking rates: 1,000 won for the first 4 hours
Additional 1,000 per hour for every hour after that

Wikimap of Happy Day Spa

Nature in Clingwrap

Lotte department stores are trendy outlets that cater to social classes of higher monetary distinction. They're kind of similar to David Jones in Australia. I tend to avoid buying groceries from them, mainly because my bank statements would probably induce fits of laughter if seen by anyone living above the poverty line. Now though, I have a more noble reason to avoid them. Lotte have decided it prudent to cover their entire fresh food section with clingwrap.

Clingwrap is primarily made from natural gas or petroleum, which is reason enough to limit its use. I must admit though, it is pretty useful in the lab. However, plasticising everything in this way seems a little too obsessively hygienic.

Or maybe it's just so that bloggers like me can take shinier photos.


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