The Colours (and smells) of Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

Yesterday morning, we popped open our umbrellas and hopped through puddles to get to Seoul’s ‘Jewelry City’. Yes, that is a real place in Seoul, and yes, we finally bought wedding rings as a proclamation of our love. We hadn’t planned on it, but Gwangjang Market was located right next to the city of jewels. We had really been wanting to go there for a long time, what a cowinky dink. My husband is particularly keen on street food and was in heaven at the market.

I’m not sure why I thought otherwise, but shopping for wedding rings is so difficult. Why do western men have to shop alone for engagement rings? What a terrible culture. We went to four different sellers, touched a lot of hands and saw a lot of fake diamonds (they don’t put the real diamonds on display for some reason??). Because of this difficult shopping decision, we had to take a time out and feast on street food. We decided to eat some 족발 (Jokbal – pig’s feet), 잡채 (Japchae – sweet potato noodles) and 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes). We then went in for a second sitting and ate 빈대떡 (mung bean pancakes). What’s was even better was the stall seats were heated. You definitely need a warm bottom to consume things like pig’s feet and mung bean pancake.

It was a happy accident that I had my camera in my bag yesterday. I just woke up with that feeling that a good snap was waiting for me, you know? Despite the cold, the rain and the difficult decision making, we ended our day with full bellies, three wedding rings and the realisation that my husband and I have the same ring size! Enjoy some of the pictures I took, but just remember that I was really hangry whilst taking them. Let me know if you’ve been to the market, I’d love to hear about what you ate!

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Hiking Gwanhaksan

Yesterday, I started my day with full mobility of my lower limbs. I ended the day drunk on makgeolli (Korean rice wine), with shaky knees and frozen fingers. This is of course because we ventured to Gwanhak Mountain, located next to Seoul National University. With autumn in full swing, it was so magical to wander through a trail lined with red and yellow trees, crunching on leaves as we hiked 600m above civilisation!

I wanted to bring my fancy camera but, being a novice hiker, I decided to stick to my camera phone. I didn’t need any unnecessary weight holding me down. Hiking is incredibly popular in Korea so we had many buddies along the way. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful temple. Because a lot of high schoolers have their SATs this Thursday, there were prayers and wishes hanging from red lanterns. I wanted to soak in the beauty of it all but the temple was on the edge of a cliff and my hands were turning blue. I was joined on the trail with my husband, two classmates and my lovely Korean teacher (oh, and a lil puppy).

I hope to start hiking more regularly! However, it’s starting to get real chilly and there is no way I’m going up one of these Korean mountains in the winter! There was one very smart businessman selling icecream in the middle of a rather gruelling flight of stairs. By the time we saw his little esky, our sweaty bodies were ready for an icy treat and we (obviously) proceeded to buy them. Little did we know that 30m later, we would reach freezing temperatures and lose our craving for refreshing icecream. Had he sold his popsicles at a higher altitude, he would have had to carry a lot of melted bags of ice down the mountain. A very savvy businessman indeed. Enjoy some pictures! The air was not so great on Sunday so there is a bit of a fog situation! Have a happy week and go to my blog to read more about my life in Seoul, South Korea.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace: Hard to spell, even harder to take a bad picture of!

Yesterday, my fellow Korean class members and I ventured out in the dust to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace is kind of the pulsing heart of Seoul, the lifeblood of the city. Everything around it is more or less using this palace for energy. That’s the way I see it, anyway. It’s by no means an official tourism slogan… yet.

The last time I visited the palace, it was snowy December and I was with my parents. This time, I was able to see things in a less covered-in-snow way. It was so nice to walk around, snapping pictures of just about every texture and leaf in sight. I also loved uploading my pictures to my laptop to find that half of them are blurry or overexposed. That’s always a cool little surprise. It doesn’t really matter though, because, in the photographing moment, I’m having so much fun! Here are some of the pictures that I was so happy to see after a long day of walking and imagining I lived in one of the traditional Korean buildings. Enjoy!

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NUTELLA HOTTEOK!!!

Korean Cafe Vibes ft. eating an $8 Tart in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea

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The cafe I went to today was called Urban Rabbit, located in Gangnam nearest to exit 11 on line 2 or Sinnonhyeon exit 5 on line 9. The tart wasn’t overly tasty but I was in a dessert mood. The tart cost 8,000 won (what the actual heck) and it was 90% whipped cream. The pastry was dry and the chocolatey part wasn’t very moist. However, tart aside, the coffee was great, and I went there in the afternoon so I sat upstairs for 2 hours and wrote in my notebook. I guess you pay for the experience more than the food! I had been there before with a friend in the winter. Despite their price tags, the drinks are great and the mood is nice. Korean cafes just have that ability to chill you out and inspire your creative side! There are many cafes and restaurants in this area so you’re bound to find something tasty and cozy! Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you had a great week!

What’s going on at the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture

Today, I wandered around Gwangwhamun, the cultural hub of Seoul, with a camera in hand and no particular plan. I stumbled across this ‘interactive balloon surface’ at the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture.

The space was not overly conducive for interactive, fun play (in my design opinion). Oh, that’s right, I have a real-life degree in Industrial Design from a real, certified university, I’m allowed to critique things. I do feel that this installation would work better in a more open space. It felt quite cramped, and as the balloons were tipping over with the wind, it kind of felt like they were caving in on you.

However, the soft shapes and stark contrast with the concrete jungle around it was quite a fun thing to look at. I always feel that installations like these can make even the most hardworking, suit-wearing corporate human show an interest in art and the world around them. You know, beyond the world of spreadsheets, awkward co-worker banter and instant coffee. If you’re in Seoul over the next 1-2 weeks (who knows how long it will be around), definitely check it out! I also threw in some bonus pictures of buildings and cars and colours and textures and other things that really flatten my tortilla.

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Is anyone else of the opinion that walking around with a camera all day is kind of like Christmas? Not being able to instantly upload them to Instagram or properly see how the shots turned out is so exciting. Each picture is like a gift from Santa himself. Opening up the files and flipping through each image… wow, I love it. Do you? Great. We’re not alone. Have a great day! If you take photos for fun on your blog, be sure to comment below! I really want to connect with likeminded bloggers!

What my eyeballs saw today in Dongdaemun, Seoul, South Korea

Today, I forced my couch potato oaf of a body out to Dongdaemun to investigate the famous fabric market. I recently (two months ago) purchased an embroidery starter kit with every intention of learning how to punch needle (seriously, what the hell is punch needling?). After a night of failed punch needling and red wine drinking, I decided that I wanted to stick with good old Sansa Stark needle and thread embroidery. However, I lacked the main ingredient for this ancient handicraft: a needle.

The fabric market in Dongdaemun is a mammoth of a building and would be the perfect place to hide if you were running from the law. They would never find you. I am, in fact, introducing the market as a huge, labyrinth-like fabric mecca in order to get to the punchline ‘there I was, searching for an embroidery needle in a haystack’. Which is exactly what I did. I wandered up to the fifth floor, found my needle and proceeded to have a fluent conversation with the lovely old lady in the stall. Crafts and language learning at the same time? Whoa. Who needs sports when you have low-impact hobbies like mine?

Sadly, I didn’t take pictures inside the market. I was actually extremely busy losing my mind looking at all of the shiny things. I spent 50% of my time losing my mind, 5% of my time looking for a needle in a haystack, and 45% of my time trying to get the hell out of there. I do plan on going back very soon in a more prepared state of mind. So, I will be making a concise post about how to get there and what the deal is (as per usual I got very lost because I’m stubborn and think I can go places without maps). Instead, as promised in the title, here are some of the things my eyeballs witnessed today on my journey! Enjoy your life!

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It’s hard to be a travel blogger when you’re no longer a traveller

The title of this blog post is every travel blogger’s existential crisis. Allow me to explain myself…

I began this highly profitable and informative travel blog back in August 2017 when I was embarking on a study abroad trip to South Korea. Since then, I have completed said study abroad, travelled here on two more occasions and eventually moved here permanently at the end of 2018. Now that I’m a full-blown Korean woman, it has been really hard to maintain a travel blog. The main reason for this is: I’m not really travelling anymore. I’ve been staying put for most of the time with a few road trips and getaways thrown in between weekends and public holidays. Everything that initially excited me about Korean culture is now somehow part of my daily life? What madness!

This week, I went to Hongdae to try and snap some pictures the way I did when I first came to Seoul by myself in 2017. I tried to splash on some fresh eyes to feel like it was my first time there. A lot has changed. The fresh eyes were undermined by my ‘but I’ve been living here for almost a year’ eyes. I no longer find myself taking pictures of absolutely everything. I no longer find myself taking pictures of random people and stopping in the middle of the street to do so. The moments are no longer fleeting. I know that I can always just come back next week if I miss a shot or get sick of walking around. So, for these reasons and for life just kind of happening, I began to lose direction with my blog this year. I was working full time and felt like a subway zombie most days. Blogging was the furthest thing from my mind. I need to find my trigger happy camera fingers again!

What’s Next…

I am going to take the next few weeks to regroup my South Korean-ness and see what I can bring to this little internet oasis blog. I have also decided to open up an Etsy shop where I will sell digital prints, planners and templates to try my luck at a “side hustle”. I will do a semi-official launch when I am happy with the shop and will open up a separate page on this blog for you to see what I will be selling! So, if you have seen some of my illustrations, stick around because soon you will be able to purchase high-resolution downloads to print out for your own home! My Etsy store is called ‘Korean Picnic’ and I can’t wait for you to come and join!

Strolling Aimlessly in Hongdae, A Novel

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Fresh tips for moving overseas and how to avoid homesickness

Hello, intrepid traveller, today I’m coming at you with some fresh tips on how to move countries and live like an anxiety-free human person. These tips are super fresh so make sure you consume them before their use-by date. Fruits and veg in South Korea have a tendency to go from crispy fresh to dead and wrinkled in a Pyeongchang-minute.

The Backstory

In December 2018, I moved from cushy, livable Melbourne, Australia to very foreign and very Korean Seoul, South Korea. I did this in the name of love and to put an end to one year of loving another human from a long distance. I had been to Korea before, dabbled in studying the language and had eaten my fair share of Kimchi. This made the culture shock relatively smooth… wait what am I saying? No amount of kimchi could have prepared me for the ensuing culture shock. The culture shock ricocheted off of every crevice and subway passageway in Seoul. Aftershocks of my culture shock are still being felt throughout the city. Alas, I am here to help you!

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What the fork is Culture Shock?

So, let’s talk about culture shock. It’s real. It’s messy and it can also happen in reverse. Yeah, that’s something they don’t tell you on Buzzfeed. Culture shock, to me, is dealing with all of the new things around you in a new place that makes living a little bit uncomfortable. Kind of like when you sit on a wet patch of grass and have to walk around in discomfort for a bit, but then you’re fine because it’s only wet grass. Here’s some culture shock that you may experience in a place like South Korea:

  • The language can be a bit of a culture shock because you thought that watching a few K-dramas would be enough to get by (I’m partly joking).
  • It might be hard to have a successful shopping trip to the supermarket because the things you would normally buy are either not there, or are five hundred per cent more expensive than back home.
  • If you’re in a new place where you don’t look like everybody else, people might stare at you constantly and try to talk to you and objectify you as a token foreigner. This is very uncomfortable and makes people feel stupid, do not do this to foreign-looking people. Shockingly, they’re actually people.
  • People might do everyday things like taking the subway very differently to people in your home country. For example, people in South Korea love to PUSH you until they’re off the train without any ‘excuse me’s’ or ‘coming through’s’. Also, people here don’t give up their subway seats for the elderly and that’s a culture shock!

Boy, I could write a whole POST about culture shock! I kind of did write some back when I first came to Korea and you can read it here! Okay, let’s begin all the ways to help your sorry self mitigate these culture shocks and how to prepare your life for emigration (aka the point of this blog post).

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Let’s get some fresh tips on how to Taylor Swiftly emigrate!

1. Bring all of the things you rely on in your home country. They may be available in the country you’re moving to, but may be hard to find and super expensive. Besides, you’re going to need time to figure out where to buy things, where not to buy things etc. Just equip yourself with enough to last 6 months. For example, I brought Vegemite, skincare, Colgate toothpaste, shoes for my clown feet and more bras than a human could possibly need. I wasn’t sure how readily available these things would be. I’ve been in Korea for 10 months and I still haven’t managed to find shoes that fit me properly.

2. Take photos of all of your pals, places and things that feel like home. Sometimes, you just want to be reminded that you have stuff that makes you who you are. You can also find new things in your new country to add to that list, but it’s nice to be able to remember who you are. It can be hard to remember that when you’re in a completely new environment with minimal friends and you’re referred to as a ‘foreigner’ on a daily basis.

4. Bring oodles of passport photos and documents and photocopies and digital copies and a portable scanning app and a pocket-sized accountant and an on-standby lawyer and you get the gist. Trust me, you don’t want to go to a Japanese convenience store at 3am to print out a passport photo because you have to be at the Korean embassy at 9am to get your Visa. It’s just the type of stress one does not need in their life. Bring copies of everything important, back them up on your digital world and give some copies to a loved one in case you somehow lose all of those.

5. Don’t overpack. You think you’ll need stuff but you know you won’t and you know you’re going to want to buy all the things in your new environment. Just bring the things that will give you the most comfort in your life. For example, I knew that I didn’t need to pack my own Marimekko plates but I also knew that mealtimes might be a shade duller without them.

6. Make sure you will be financially set up to visit your home every once in a while. Family is important. Don’t move overseas if you don’t think you’ll be able to make the money/time to come home every once in a while unless you’re only going for a hot minute.

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Lightning round:

  • Get all of your shots
  • See your dentist
  • Pop into grandma’s
  • Stock up on pain killers and cold medicine
  • Hit the books – learn about the language, culture, manners and all that shiz before you move countries
  • Tell your government how you’ll vote in elections
  • Organise your digital living space (computers, iPads, hard drives etc)
  • Tell your bank you’ll be out of town so they don’t lock you out of your account
  • Clean out your bedroom and turn it into a place your parents can rent on Airbnb
  • Cancel your gym membership, phone plan, library card etc.
  • Make sure your passport is good for a while
  • If you’re Australian, let Smart Traveller know where you’re going and check their information about your destination
  • Have a party for your friends even if nobody shows up (it’s the thought that counts)
  • Make a budget spreadsheet and pretend you’ll stick to it
  • If you’re moving to Asia, say goodbye to clean air
  • Write down important addresses where you won’t lose them
  • Savour your last sip of coffee from your fave cafe, it may be your last
  • Kill all of your indoor plants or give them to green thumbs
  • Take out about 5 things from your suitcase at the last minute because you know you’re kidding yourself
  • Set some goals for yourself so you’re not running around without direction
  • Take note of where embassies are and how to get there
  • Make sure your life is sorted on the other side (house, job, school)
  • You can sort out phones, banks and other life admin at the other end
  • Last but not least, get ready to get a bit emotionally messed up while you adapt to your new country

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Whether your moving for six months or for eternity, no amount of blog post writing and list-making will really prepare you for moving your life to another country. Just make sure that you remember every awkward encounter and savour it as a memory of that time you moved country and everything was hard. For me, it has been almost a year since I left home. My language skills are getting better each day and I no longer feel like a tourist. I still have moments that make me want to cry and curl up into a ball because of something awkward that happened with a shop assistant or a stranger who has stalked me off the subway to ask if I have a boyfriend. You know, stuff that happens in any country. Culture shock is a given and emotions fluctuate. Don’t you think experiencing a new culture like a local in a new place is worth all of the awkward encounters in the world?

Let me know what you’d like to see on my blog. I am working hard to write more and more, so stay tuned for regular posts. I would love to hear your feedback, so leave a comment below or let me know about your experience moving overseas. Have a great week, internet world!

 

 

A textural photo essay

Do you ever just wander the streets of your city and snap away with your camera phone, living like there’s no tomorrow? No? Nor do I? How bizarre. Obviously, I do, this was my cute little way to introduce something I feel weird introducing so I made a weird little joke at my own expense. I do this in real life, too. Don’t worry. I digress. Here is a little snapshot of a collection of all the things I like to snap on a weekly, daily or sometimes hourly basis. These are the kind of photos that don’t really make any sense in a blog post so I’m just going to whack them all together now for you. So, without further ado, I give you my textural photo essay from the past 9 months of my life living in Seoul, South Korea as a pretty amateur smartphone photographer.

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