Monday, April 23, 2007

Godskitchen in Seoul and lots of food

For Easter, which seems so long ago now, we ate at a sailor's club down at Busan station.

This location is well-known among foreigners in Busan, as a good place to get authentic western food. By authentic I mean things like roast beef and turkey, which they do serve at other places but they always manage to Korean-ify it somehow. To Koreanify any dish, simply add red chilli paste or apple mayonnaise.

This is more traditional Korean style food. We eat like this at least once a week, usually more. Meat or seafood is cooked at an open grill with various side dishes on the table. Here we're eating seafood, after just finishing our pork. That's one thing you notice in Korea, what some people would classify as a main course turns out to be one-of-three main courses. See the blurry hands at work? That's the best thing about eating with Koreans, they just pick up the tools and happily cook away while you sit and talk to them.

And here we are at the Irish bar after a long day of teaching. Eun-sook is demonstrating how to drink an Irish Car Bomb, one of our new staple delicacies at such places. You drop a shot glass of Baileys and Jameson whiskey into a glass of Guinness and then drink it all at once. If you do it properly, it tastes like chocolate milk.

This is John's new motorcycle that he bought for $450 off a website. He's been teaching himself how to drive lately. Driving in Korea can be very daunting, because motoring etiquette here is a little different. I'm in the process of buying a scooter. Hehe.

Another teacher at a different CDI branch, Jane, found out that Godskitchen was coming to Seoul on the weekend. Godskitchen is a touring music festival with international artists.

So we got our stuff together at the last minute and caught the KTX train up to Seoul. The plan was to head up there on Saturday night, go to Godskitchen and then head back down in the morning to avoid paying for accommodation. It worked out pretty well.

Here's Jef and Amanda having a little picnic at the train station before the journey. A typical snack in Korea usually consists of a seaweed rice-triangle and some sort of juice that resembles cordial. Travelling in Korea is good fun and pretty cheap.

We got our seats without too much fuss and settled in for the journey. This was my second trip to Seoul since arriving in Busan, the first time being for a wedding. In this photo, John's innocent looking aloe-vera juice bottle actually has vodka and cranberry in it.

Then, for a $35 entry fee we went into Blue Spirit, the venue for Godskitchen. It was a nice setup, with a decent crowd and good music.

It was a great atmosphere and a refreshing difference to the well-worn mp3-playlists they have in the normal clubs. There were Russian dancers on stage, fire lanterns and free glowsticks.

Here's what it was like at the peak of the night. The lasers stopped for a moment and then a narrow bridge lowered from the roof with some dancers on it. That was pretty cool.

The venue was the Walker-Sheraton Hotel, a six star hotel in Seoul and the second highest rated hotel in Korea. It was well-designed and had a very airy and cosy feel to it. On the bottom floor they have their own casino, which Jef and I went to after Godskitchen. Casinos in Korea are for foreign passport holders only and all food and drinks are free. They're great places for a free lunch, but if you go too many times and don't play, they catch onto you. Before we came to Busan, we ate for three days in a row at the COEX casino before being politely informed that a 'free lunch' doesn't necessarily mean 'unlimited free lunches'. I guess we were affecting their bottom line.

And then, as always happens after an eventful weekend, it was Monday all of a sudden. This is the beginnings of one of my morning classes at the Seacloud Hotel at Haeundae beach. The students are good-natured and quite helpful. At the moment they're organising the chairs and tables for the class, which is always in a seminar room. I've been teaching here for nearly 6 months and will stop soon, mainly because the old boss (who was my friend from Adelaide) has moved overseas.

Here is what my normal classes look like at the language institute, Korean kids lined up and studying busily. Some are a little bratty, but all in all it's an easy job and good money. I give some of the kids their English names (I often name them after people I know in Australia), but others name themselves. Looking at the camera on the right is one of my favourite students, John X. Yeah, John X is the name that he goes by. Other funny student names I have are Madonna, Schofield, Windy and Johnny Depp. Laura has one student called Nike and his friend is Adidas.

Down at Jangsan, a new super-buffet restaurant called D'Maris opened. For $30 you get more than 100 metres of all you can eat buffet. It's a food lover's paradise.

The dishes aren't skimpy either. There are different sections, from Chinese style steamed dumplings to French, Italian and Japanese. So they have exotic things like escargots, sashimi, scampi, king crab and rambutan fruit.

Here's my first plate of the night. In the bowl is crab and seaweed soup, with some kingfish and tuna sashimi along with some other things. There are chefs standing behind the buffet tables who will slice you a fresh piece of fish or steam and fry whatever you feel like eating. It's a good way to put on weight.

Hungry yet? Well this picture is from an oyster restaurant down the road from my house. Oysters in Korea are fairly cheap because there's a big industry here. On this dish there were some raw oysters on a plate. What's in the middle of the dish? That's another pile of shelled oysters, so you get about 30 raw oysters for twelve dollars.

These are some little oyster pancakes that they also make at the restaurant. They were alright. In the end there were just too many oysters, because we also had oyster soup. This place has more than quelled my oyster addiction, I think it has extinguished it.

Last weekend, Ellie heard about a musical put on by a small theatre company in Nampodong. So we went down there to check it out. The crowd were mostly university students and it was a good venue.

It was a nice performance and had some good acting. But in the end, a musical is always just a musical to me. Call me narrow minded, but singing in the middle of a story tends to remind me of those Bollywood movies. Even more so if it's all in Korean and I can only understand about 5% of what they're saying.

Nampodong is a good area with a lot of night shopping. We don't head down this way very often because it's on the other side of town.

Well that's all for me again! Spring has come and the weather is warming up quickly. When I took this photo, I was on a break from work sitting at the beach in Haeundae. I'm enjoying work and life in general. The only problem is that time is just flying by. At CDI we're always saying 'I can't believe it's a new month already!' I guess that's a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

St. Patrick's Day and Yellow Dust

Well it's been a pretty normal time here in Korea. By normal I mean lots of teaching, eating and drinking in no particular order.

We had a staff dinner down at Gwangan again last week. It was to welcome our new teachers and to celebrate Meaghan's birthday. Out the window is a nice view of Gwangan beach, which I am beginning to appreciate a little more than Haeundae. It's nicer and a little more relaxed. Bunny-earing at the far end of the table is Paul, one of our new admin staff.

We had Korean-style raw fish and drank soju. I always appreciate these dinners because the food is good, it's free and we all get to drink together. What more could a staff dinner require?

Here's the aftermath. At these sorts of places they always serve the odd peculiar side dish, like sea squirt (which they serve cold and crunchy) or sea snails (which are more effort than they're worth, in my humble opinion).

On the way to work the other day I saw a Korean demolition team and had to stop for a photo. They've been pulling up a lot of the roads around Haeundae, too. I guess they're preparing for the busy summer season.

And then there was St. Patrick's day, which is only really celebrated by the ex-pat community here. We headed down to the local Irish pub, which is owned by an Australian. Here are the English teachers, packed tightly into a little booth, drinking green beer. I can't remember this part of the night so well.

Recently the pub started selling TaeDongGang beer, which is brewed and bottled in North Korea. Needless to say, I couldn't resist the temptation when I saw it on the menu. It's well priced (about 5 dollars for half a litre) and tastes pretty good. I'd say it's similar to Heineken in taste. The label is what I find most intriguing. I like to think it conveys a sense of post-cold war isolationism.

Then we headed off to Mitch's house to sit around for a while and drink cheaply. John has a lot of friends on the eastern side of town, so it's like a flash mob any time we're at an apartment. They're a friendly bunch.

One of the traditional Irish costumes that were hastily tailored and donned for the night. The writing was formed using electrical tape. Ingenius.

After a moderate and reserved amount of merriment, we headed off into the urban jungle to celebrate whatever it is that St Patrick's day is for.

It was an interesting night and lots of fun. In the morning we decided to eat at McDonald's, which is a ritual we partake in after a long night out. Next to us were these four girls, who remained sleeping like this for the whole time we ate.

Then at some indeterminable period of time later it was Jef and Meaghan's birthday. We started it off with drinks at the New York bar, which has been a reliable starting point for any night out. You may be getting the idea that we English teachers in Korea drink excessively. It's all relative.

We had a couple of cakes that night. I don't care much for cakes in general, but this one had some nice fruit on it. In this picture, it looks like it's Kyungwon's birthday. That's because I was squished in my seat and couldn't get an angle shot with the birthday people in it.

I shot this video a while back at the New York bar. A Korean bartender is impressing the crowd with her skills. In her hand is a flaming bottle. Check it out.

Here's Jef dancing at the cigarette stand in Foxy bar. Because Jef is big and bald, he can always expect a certain amount of attention when he wants it. Right now he's doing his special Club-Med dance.

This video is from a while back and is a little stranger and funnier. On the stage is a dancer we saw in a booking club. He was doing this Zeus style dance for a good half hour or so. Then he pulled off his pants and threw them away. Meaghan and Elisa got pretty excited.

Booking clubs are interesting places which are supposed to facilitate dating. Guys and girls meet in private rooms or in the lounge and hook up. I've been a couple of times and had drinks. Apart from the astronomical alcohol prices and ex-gangster security guards in tuxedos, they're not bad.

The other day we had a lot of hwangsa, or yellow dust in Busan. Hwangsa is composed of fine clay particles that blow in all the way from the Gobi desert in China. It's been more prominent over the past decade due to increasing desertification. You can notice it a lot more in real life, but in this photo it's most visible as cloudiness around the light beams.

Spring has just arrived and the cherry blossoms are starting to come out. This tree is on the sidewalk at Haeundae beach and I walk past it on the way to work. Hopefully this weekend I'll be able to get some better photos.

Next weekend there's a rave party in Seoul, so we might be heading up there. Should be good. See ya!