I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as a Global Seoul Mate this year. This means I will be using my social media platforms to be a tourism ambassador for Seoul, South Korea. I am so excited to begin my monthly missions and share more of this beautiful city that I have been writing about for almost 3 years.
This month’s mission begins from home due to the current outbreak of coronavirus. My heart goes out to anybody facing hardship at this time, wherever you may be in the world. I am currently working and have to continue using public transport and going to my jobs. Unfortunately, this means I can’t be in isolation all the time. However, when I do go out, I wear a mask, sometimes gloves and always make sure to use hand sanitiser or wash my hands when possible.
I hope you are keeping safe, staying healthy and keeping an eye out for your loved ones during this difficult time. We can all get through this together if we follow our leaders and take necessary safety precautions.
I didn’t want to put a damper on my exciting news, but the theme for this month’s GSM mission is ‘Stay home, but travel tomorrow’. We can reignite our travel bugs at a later date! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, follow my Instagram and follow my blog to keep up to date with my GSM2020 experience throughout the year.
Global Seoul Mate has officially started! As an official #gsm2020 I support #StayHome #ButTravelTomorrow
Here is a little cheat sheet if you are coming to Korea and want to perfect your coffee ordering skills. This is great for those wanting to improve their skills here in Korea, or for travellers interested in the Korean language visiting Korea. Keep scrolling for an English translation.
S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer ( You!)
S: 안녕하세요. 주문하시겠어요? Or 뭐 드릴까요?
C: 따뜻한 카페라떼 한 잔 주세요.
S: 사이즈는 어떻게 해 드릴까요?
C: 톨 사이즈로 해 주세요.
S: 드시고 가세요?
C: 네, 맞아요.
S: 따뜻한 카페라떼 톨 사이즈 한 잔 맞으세요?
S: 네, 4,500 원 입니다.
—–beep boop beep boop credit card sounds—-
S: 영수증 드릴까요?
C: 괜찮아요. 버려주세요.
S: 옆에서 잠시만 기다려주세요.
C: 네, 감사합니다.
—–coffee machine sound—-
Barista: 36번 고객님, 따뜻한 카페라떼 나왔습니다.
B: 맛있게 드세요.
—–drink coffee for 4 hours—-
S = Sales Assistant, C = Customer
S: Hello. Are you ready to order? Or What can I get you?
Merry Christmas to the four people who consistently read my blog! I hope you had a great time with loved one(s) and reflected on the year we’ve just had. I have been absent on my blog due to visa struggles and moving house! All of our dilemmas have been solved and we are back to our happy normal life selves. My husband and I recently ventured further south east to Yongin in Gyeonggi Province. We feel so excited to move a little further from Seoul away from the chaos…
Today, we spent our afternoon gliding around City Hall’s ice skating rink in an attempt to enact Frozen 2 on ice. It was my first time strapping into ice skating boots and slipping on ice (I’m Australian, this is all foreign to me, I’ve never even been skiing). I managed to find my rhythm rather quickly thanks to many summers spent rollerblading in my local neighbourhood.
There was ample space for skaters of all varieties: speedsters, grandpas, clusters of friends who all kept falling over, and nervous parents. There was a special section for little kids to learn how to skate and it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. As well as the learning zone, there was a separate rink for kids and parents to fall over in. I also saw some people playing curling and assumed they were Canadian because who plays curling? Does one ‘play curling‘ or simply just ‘curl‘?
In any case, I regretted not wearing a cape for this icy occasion but I’m pretty sure I’m a contender for Disney’s Frozen 2 On Ice Korea Tour 2020. My husband seemed to be a seasoned skater and glided around effortlessly. He’s good at almost everything so it was no surprise that he had skater’s legs and could spin without hesitation!
How to Ice Skate in Seoul:
If you’re visiting Seoul between Jan and Feb, the ice skating fun will be up and running. Just head to City Hall station on line 2 or line 1 and follow the signs! It’s hard to miss. We were lucky to have a sunny blue sky over us as we skated! It costs 1,000 KRW (roughly $1) to skate for 1 hour including skates and a helmet! How cheap! Also, bring a 500 won coin to use the lockers to keep all of your belongings safe (not that anyone would touch them in Korea!)
Hello, internet! I wrote this slightly aggressive post back when I was working as an English teacher here in Seoul. I have since left my job and have a lot less subway anger. Nevertheless, I shall share these words with you as an ode to my former subway taking self.
I grew up taking trains to kindergarten, to the cinema with my grandmother, and to and from high school for 6 years. We even brought our beloved pet rabbit, Maisy, home on the peak hour Melbourne train. I’ve managed to develop a level of train etiquette and surrounding passenger awareness that could take one a lifetime to obtain. Sadly, South Koreans did not go through this rigorous train-ing and have seemed to forget their Confucianist roots.
As an Australian living in Seoul, I think an appropriate amount of time has passed for me to start complaining about everyday mundane life things. My daily commute to work consists of 2 x 40-minute rides on the subway from the Yeongdeungpo area to the Gangnam area. The entirety of my journey is submerged underground; beneath a world of fried chicken, sidewalk fruit stands and political corruption. I am not able to see the light of day until I come up for air at my destination. During these 40 minute nightmares, I have become quite observant of South Korean subway manners, or the lack thereof.
For some reason, Korean people have collectively decided that if you walk into someone or forcibly push your way through a huddle of subway goers, apologies and niceties are superfluous. The same goes for accidental topples at the hands of a trigger happy train driver. The topples happen more often than not because most commuters are glued to their phone screens. I know that this is just a cultural difference, but it’s one that I just can’t seem to get on board with. In other words, it’s hard to be culturally sensitive when someone is pushing into you with all of their body weight on a busy train.
Last week, I managed to get a seat on my gruelling and crowded 40-minute journey to work; a luxury in some eyes. I was seated two seats away from the designated pink pregnant lady seat that was so rudely occupied by a non-pregnant woman. (In Seoul, you need to wear a badge that says your pregnant in order to sit in these pregnant lady seats. The only thing stopping you from sitting there are your morals).
As I sat down, my attention was immediately drawn to a woman amidst a bout of morning sickness who was practically stopping herself from throwing up on neighbouring passengers. She was standing close enough to the pink pregnant lady seat with her pregnant lady badge fully on display that any moderately aware human would see this and apologetically give up their seat. Alas, the occupant was fast asleep and blissfully unaware of the situation in front of her.
By the time I caught sight of the woman, I could see her face almost reduced to tears. This was due to the unfortunate battle she was undertaking with the human she was growing inside of her. The people around her looked around uncomfortably as she practically vomited in her mouth. The sounds were audibly unpleasant yet no one helped her. Before her face was fully flooded with tears and sweat, I reached out to her over a crowd of both seated and standing passengers and told her to take my seat in my best Korean. She looked extremely grateful for this simple, human gesture. She did have to squeeze past a lot of useless people to get to the seat.
Once seated, she continued to offer to hold my bags for me. I was like, ‘girl, I think I can deal with holding two bags, I’m not the one who is with child, holding back from vomiting all over a train full of strangers’. I, of course, didn’t say that and, even if I wanted to, I don’t yet have the Korean language skills to communicate such an observation.
I really feel saddened from this event and can only hope that other commuters on not only this woman’s daily commute but the people sharing a train with elderly citizens or differently-abled bodies will do their best to make people feel comfortable on trains. We don’t need to label seats for these people, they should be able to sit wherever. Sadly, from what I’ve seen, Seoul subway goers don’t want to stand out from the crowd. They don’t want to be the one to help a person in need, probably because they fear the person reacting badly? Which really doesn’t make any sense to me, again, cultural differences.
This isn’t an issue of feminism or politics or infrastructure or healthcare systems, it’s just plain and simple human kindness and having the ability to both be aware of your surroundings and your smartphone screen at the same time. Does it really take a barely literate in Korean foreign person sitting at least 3 metres from this poor woman to help out? I only wish society was accepting of women who stood up for themselves and felt comfortable asking for help.
If this happened in Melbourne, the pregnant woman would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman, a neighbouring passenger would have yelled at the non-pregnant woman and probably every person in the surrounding seats would have stood up at the same time to help her out. Simply ignoring her and pretending her crying and discomfort is her own fault is not the Melburnian way.
Wherever you go in the world, you will always encounter people who are in a bit of a hurry or are just having a bad day. The Subway in Seoul is the most convenient public transport I’ve ever experienced in my life and I hold nothing against it. If the reader should take anything from this, it’s that pregnant women need to sit the hell down sometimes and it doesn’t take much for us non-pregnant, fully-abled humans to stand up and offer our seat to someone who needs it. Even if you think you may offend someone, it’s better to clear up the awkwardness by just trying. This was not an isolated incident, I have seen this happen to pregnant women, children, elderly people etc. I wish I had only observed it on just this occasion.
Moral of the story: stand up, it will make you feel better and you can really change the course of a person’s day by doing this one small thing.
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.
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!
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!
On a lukewarm Friday evening in May, I summoned enough brain and leg power to wander beyond my daily work route of train station to work, work back to train station, and went to Bongeunsa Temple. This miraculous venture just so happened to be around the time of Buddha’s sweet sixteen, so there were lanterns, confused tourists and colours a-plenty. How fortunate and rare that I managed to have this combination of energy, awake-ness and a desire for socialising all at the same time?
I’m currently writing this very important blog post in mid-June and have been sitting on these images and aforementioned boring story without having any clue about Buddha’s Birthday and what it means to the Korean people. After three and a half minutes of strenuous research, I now know that Buddha’s birthday is a celebration for the founder of Buddhism and is celebrated with lantern festivals and lotus flower displays all over the country. It is a long standing tradition in Korea and is a great time for the nation’s Buddhist folk to brush up on their virtues and values and other Buddhism-related jargon. The thousands of meticulously hung lanterns and lotus flowers is a way for Korean Buddhists to light up the sky from their hearts and spread love from South Korea to the rest of the world. What a nice tradition!
If you’re planning on travelling to South Korea in the April/May period within the next thousand years, make sure to mentally bookmark this auspicious occasion in your brain diary. I read that Buddha’s big b-day bash is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar. Between you and I, fellow blog reader, I could not even attempt to try and figure out when that date occurs in earth-calendar times. I trust you to figure that one out on your own. Lunar calendar are riddles that I’ll never be able to solve. Here are the pictures I snapped on my phone after a long day of wrangling 5 year old Korean children and force feeding them a vast and articulate English vocabulary. Everyday is an adventure if you want it to be. Have a great day, friends!
Photos taken on my super Korean Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro 2.58^4 Genius Tennis champion smartphone.