Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Turkish Kebabs (Ankara Picnic and Mr. Kebab) - Itaewon

I should probably preface this by stating that I frickin’ love Turkish kebabs. Seriously. They are delicious. If we had a place in Yeongtong, I would eat there every single day. Just walking by one of the kebab places in Itaewon is enough to make your stomach growl. I’m going to mention 2 different places in Itaewon that I’ve been to: Ankara Picnic and Mr. Kebab. There is also a cart that sets up at night that sells kebabs that I’ve heard is good. Hongdae also has some kebab shops, as well.

So, Ankara Picnic and Mr. Kebab kind of bookend the block across from Hamilton Hotel. Both are open super late – maybe 24 hours even - so they’re a great snack in between bar hopping. I can’t remember if one is more expensive than the other, but a chicken kebab will run you 4000 won and a lamb kebab will be 5000 won at Ankara Picnic. You can spot the kebab places by the chicken that they slice off the skewers. I’ll work on getting better pictures next time I’m in Itaewon.
Or just follow your nose to the smell of amazing deliciousness

I love both of these places – which one I happen to go to just depends on where I happen to be in relation to the shops. However, the frequency in which I have kebabs is rare since I've usually just eaten a huge lunch when the smell of the kebab shops hits me and reminds me how much I love these things. They both also offer chicken or lamb kebabs and will offer to make them spicy or just a little spicy (which is still spicy). I always get the chicken kebabs because I love chicken.

Ankara Picnic will almost always have a line. The inside of the store is tiny and just has a couple of stools. But it’s all good – kebabs can be eaten outside on the go. They also give you a handy little sleeve to put the kebab in to catch the messiness. At any rate, the kebab consist of either lamb or chicken, tomato, lettuce, and a delicious sauce wrapped in a tortilla (I think it’s a tortilla) of some sort. Sorry for the blurry pic - my camera decided to focus on Justin’s leg instead of the kebab.
Blurry deliciousness

Mr. Kebab also will usually have a line, but they have a little bit more seating inside. The kebabs consist of the same ingredients and taste just as good. However, last time I was there, Mr. Kebab doesn't put theirs in a plastic sleeve, so you're bound to dribble the kebab sauce on yourself. They also offer yogurt for the kebab, too. This is an old pic of me and some friends having kebabs there late one night.
Friends and kebabs – perfect!

So yeah, go get a kebab or two. Right now! DO IT!!! And have one for me since I don’t have one near me *sniffle*.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

EunYoung & JaeHa's Wedding - August 18, 2012

Yup, another wedding. Several of my friends have gotten married this year (3 weddings in June) or are soon going to be married, but these are the only 2 I've been able to attend. Eunyoung's wedding came as the biggest surprise - I came back from Jennifer's wedding and Eunyoung tells me she's going to get married in August o_O. We had joked that she needed to get married before I left Korea so I could be there for it, but I wasn't expecting it to be so soon.

I met Eunyoung shortly after starting at Samsung. Since we were on the same team and she spoke English, people would have her ask me questions. We soon developed a friendship that involved us picking on each other and me pissing her off by saying negative things about Korea. She would always soon forgive me if I gave her chocolate or coffee, though. She would also graciously help me with things in Korean if I asked her nicely. Then last year, when I seemed angry all of the time, she sort of became the liaison between the rest of our team and me (except for the lovely Yoon Yi) since everyone was apparently afraid to talk to me - I guess they figured I wouldn't murder Eunyoung since we were friends. It was kind of amusing really: I'd get a messenger message from her saying, "So-and-so wants to know if you can review X for him/her." I'd respond, "Yeah, of course. Why didn't so-and-so ask me? He/She speaks English." "Because you look mad," would be the response. Couldn't argue with that logic.

So, seeing Eunyoung get married and seeing the whole process up to it was like watching my sister get married and it made me a little teary. Sure, I pick on her and give her a hard time and she makes fun of me when I wear socks with sandals, but it's because I love her like family and couldn't be happier for her. I informed her that when she has children, she has to send them to the US to see Aunty Libby and Uncle Dougie for vacations, or if she wants them to live overseas for a bit, they're welcome to stay with me. She said no to that...I can't imagine why...I'd return them (mostly) without tattoos and in one piece.

At any rate, Eunyoung looked beautiful in her wedding gown and in her engagement photos. Jaeha looked very handsome in his suit. I think I can maybe remember his name and stop calling him "chocolate guy" now...maybe.

Eunyoung with Sukyoung

Korean weddings are very interesting events. If you get there about an hour before the ceremony, you can go meet the bride and have your pictures taken with her. The groom is usually at the entryway greeting the guests. Korean weddings also seem to have more of the parents' friends than anything else, so this wedding was full of old Korean men :). Korean weddings are also very short in comparison to American weddings (I've been to a few Korean weddings). The groom comes in, then the bride is escorted in, the officiator reads some stuff (I don't speak Korean), they exchange rings, more stuff is read, people sing, then they present themselves to the their parents then to the guests. Then they will go change clothes then come back and greet the guests at each table. Afterwards they go have private traditional ceremonies with their families. The reception usually consists of either a buffet or a catered meal (this wedding had a catered meal).

I wish Eunyoung and Jaeha a long and happy life together filled with lots of cute little Asian babies that I can steal borrow :)

So, here is the video clip of the early part of the ceremony.

Jennifer & Matt's Wedding - June 2, 2012

So, I realized that I never posted anything about my reason for my trip home earlier this year: my lovely and awesome friend's (Jennifer Nhung) wedding. I haven't even posted my pics on FB yet. *sigh* I'm so behind.

Here's a picture of the beautiful, newly married couple.
Jennifer & Matt

I had promised Jennifer that I would be home for her wedding, so I went home for her wedding and took a road trip with my Dougie to see Jennifer get married. Jennifer is one of the most awesome people that I've met in Korea. I believe the first day I met Jennifer was at Avalon while having my birthday cake out of a paper cup with chopsticks - 5 years ago just about to the day. I could immediately tell she was a super nice, friendly, and giving person after a few minutes of conversation. After that day came many coffee shop and restaurant adventures in Seoul and Suwon.

I also saw a few heartbreaks for my new, dear friend along the way as she struggled to find a guy that wasn't a douchebag. So I was a little wary when I heard about the "hot lab guy" for one of her classes (she was now back in the US going back to school). But Matt, thankfully, turned out to be a great guy and great for Jennifer. Whenever we would talk online, she would gush about how amazing he was. I was just happy she'd met a decent guy!

Then Matt proposed and Jennifer, of course, said yes. The rehearsal dinner before the wedding was very nice, and it was great to get to meet Jennifer's friends and parents that I had heard so much about and to see Ally and Alvaro again - both of whom I had met and befriended in Korea. The outdoor pavilion was decorated with purple flowers and some paper lantern-type decorations - very Jennifer, actually.

Alvaro and Ally

Matt and Jennifer

The next evening was the wedding, and everyone looked gorgeous. And to my surprise, Alvaro was officiating the wedding. He looked pretty dapper in his little vest.
Matt and Alvaro

Not many of my pictures or videos came out decently, so I won't post them here. But I think I nearly got a bit sniffly when Jennifer was escorted in by her father and step-father. However, the ceremony was very lovely. Their self-written vows were very sweet and full of love.

I don't really know what else to say about the ceremony - everyone looked beautiful and it was wonderful to see Jennifer so happy.

Matt and Jennifer obviously love each other very much and I wish them a lifetime a happiness, laughter, and love.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hwaseong Fortress - Suwon

So, I’ve lived in Suwon for around 5 years now but just started this blog in December of 2010. I’ve been to more places than I’ve recently started documenting, so I decided to start posting some of my older pics about places and such and blogging about them. I'm going to start with one of my favorite places in Suwon even though it threatens to kill me each time I go to it: Hwaseong Fortress.

Back when I first got to Korea in 2007, my fellow Avalon teachers and I decided to walk to the fortress since we didn't live too far away from it. Here are a couple of pics from the footbridge over the road to get to the fortress.

Part of the fortress

First, let's give a bit of history of the fortress. King Jeongjo of the Joseon dynasty had the fortress built in the late 18th century as a preparation to move the capital of Korea to Suwon and to house the remains of his father, who was murdered by his own father (King Jeongjo's grandfather).

The fortress wall is 3.57 miles long (5.74 km) and can be hiked within a few hours. Parts of the wall were damaged during the Japanese occupation of Korea and during the Korean War, as well as just by natural wear and tear, but nearly all of the fortress has been restored to its original condition. This is due mostly to the excellent documentation left behind by the architect, Jeong Yak-yeong. Only a small portion of the southern part of the fortress has not been restored. The fortress enclosed what used to be the limits of Suwon and was considered a highly defensible area. Suwon's main river, Suwoncheon, also flows through the middle of the fortress.

Some of the main structures include gates built on the four cardinal points: Janganmun (north), Changnyongmun (east), Paldalmun (south), and Hwaseomun (west). Hwaseong Fortress was a great influence of Korean architecture and design in the follow years. The building of this fortress is also considered to be one of the first times a pulley system was used to lift materials.

Map of the fortress
Inside the fortress - yes, that is a giant, golden, Buddha statue
The east gate
The ceiling inside the east gate - all of the gates have the same painting
See that structure at the top left corner of the gray block? That's the bell tower on top of the mountain and our destination.
A flag in the fortress
View across at the bell tower but at night
Another flag in the fortress
One of the turrets with Suwon in the background
A turret door
The bell tower
A gate
Looking along part of the wall
A turret, I think
The top part of a turret, I think
Suwon at night
Going back across the footbridge at night

All along the fortress, there are also these informational signs posted to tell you more about the structure. Here are a few of those:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Suraon - Seoul

Alrighty folks, don’t have a heart attack, but I’m going to post about *gasp* Korean food! I know, it’s a miracle since I live in Korea and all. This post is about a place in Seoul called Suraon, which is a high-end traditional Korean food restaurant.

It's located near the express bus terminal in Central City in Seoul. I believe there is a map on the back of the business card that I'll scan in later.

A friend and colleague at work -
This guy

- wanted to take me and another friend and colleague at work -
This strange lady with the lamp shade on her head

- out to dinner to experience some traditional Korean food. He apparently takes foreigners here all of the time to eat.

So, I mentioned this was a high-end place, so if you're on a tight budget, I wouldn't recommend it. The sets range in price from 40000 won to 120000 won (about $40 - $120). They have a few dishes that you can order separately, but it's mostly sets. Also, there aren't a lot of vegetarian options, so if you're vegetarian, I don't really recommend going here unless you also eat seafood. Lots of the dishes have seafood, but there are some that don't, thankfully. Drinks are also quite expensive. For example, a Cass or Hite (cheap Korean beer) will run you 8800 won (about $8).

The manager of the restaurant is a super nice lady and was very friendly, gracious, and patient while Sonja was taking pictures in traditional Korean garb.

This is the manager

The interior of this place is super nice and decorated with lots of traditional Korean items. They also have an upstairs area with private rooms that have windows overlooking the stage so you can still see the performances.

In the entry way, if you look up, there is an awesome painting on the ceiling.

And if you walk up the stairs and look out, there is this painted around the walls.

So, one of the things that sets this place apart from other restaurants is that 20 after every hour in the evening, they have shows consisting of dancing and music. Some of the music is Beatles songs being played on traditional instruments. I think Sonja took some videos, so I'll try to steal those from her and link to them later :). Sorry the pics aren't very good (I had a pole in my way and light shining directly at me)- I didn't feel like moving to the front of the stage to get better shots.

You can also have your picture taken in the foyer area in traditional Korean clothing.

So, on to the food! I don't know the names of most of the food items, so this will mostly just be pictures, sorry! The food is really quite good here and worth the price considering you can also enjoy traditional Korean dancing and music while you're eating. It really is quite a unique experience.

A cold soup (left) and a hot porridge (right). The cool soup was kind of a radish flavor while the porridge was chicken flavor. Both were very good.

This was the dish I ordered. It's beef marinated in bulgogi sauce with mushroom. The flavor was excellent, but the texture of the beef was stringy, which I have a hard time enjoying, so I couldn't really finish it :(

This is a rice ball wrapped in a lotus leaf. :) I had never seen this before, but it was pretty cool.

And when you open the leaf up, there is the rice ball. It has red beans, dried dates, and peanuts in it. It's quite good, but you need to let it cool for a few minutes

Dessert was a cold persimmon and sweet potato tea.

So there you have Suraon. If you want to experience some very good traditional Korean food and performances, you should definitely stop in and check it out.