A Travellerspoint blog

Russia-Russia-Russia

semi-overcast 5 °C

Well as most of you have heard, Russia has been quite the experience. Even before we set out we had to apply to get our visas which was 3 days into Seoul, line ups out of the door and once we fought to the window to apply for them, we had to pay 20 USD more then what was posted on the sign in front of us, and wait a week longer then they told us as well.

Nevertheless we set out for St Petersburg and after a 9 hour comfortable flight we touched down in St. Petersburg. It was late by this time and we wanted to simply get to the hostel so we could enjoy the following day (given we were only here for 24 hours). We got out of the airport and all was dark. There was 'cabs' that comprised of individuals who offered us rides and then one taxi driver that could speak English well enough to understand that we were not able to pay so much to get into town. Rather he explained that we needed to get on a bus that would get us to the subway. This bus needless to say was worth a picture, but I am sure that this would have had us killed for sure. This bus was as old as the cold war and was lit by two lights, one at the back and one in the driver’s cage. We journeyed for about one hour before we got off and went into the subway, where by now we simply wanted to get out of the cold.

The subway was also a treat because we needed to identify Russian characters and pair them up with our English directions. This ended up working and we were off. Once we got off we were basically downtown on the main street. Michael with his ability to read a map headed off for a walk, but this eventually worried Monique as the city lights started to become darker and the random people sitting outside on the sidewalk began to increase. We did however find our way and this meant that since we were still on Korean time, we would be up at the crack of dawn and off to see this historic city.

After a free breakfast at the grand hotel (same franchise as our hostel boo ya!) we set out into the cold (5 – 8 degrees) on a quiet Sunday morning. We walked down the main street to see the classic Russian architecture and headed to the Winter Palace and the Hermitage where St Petersburg’s Museum is located. We spent a fair time looking around at all off the cumulated artwork and then headed back along the main road in the opposite directions to St. Isaac Cathedral and the city park.

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Michael strutting his stuff in Russia
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Just some of the beautiful architecture in Saint Petersburg
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Filled with presents (or bombs?)
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The river near the Nevsky prospects
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The Winter Palace
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A room in the winter palace commemorating all the war generals.
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The picture doesn’t show it, but the design on the roof and the floor are the exact same.
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The Winter Palace
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The arches outside the Winter Palace

Shortly after we already needed to head back towards our hostel and get to the airport. On the way back we spent some time looking at the Kazan Cathedral and the Statue of Alexander The Great. The flight was short and we were once again in a foreign city later at night looking for our hostel, which was harder to find then the first one.

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We don’t know who this is, But it is the spot where Michael got bit by a dog
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Beautiful Park
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Little old lady pushing a baby.
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Statue of Alexander the Great
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Kazan Cathedral

After meeting a very helpful couple who spent 20 minutes getting us to the right place we finally were able to unpack for a couple days and really see some main sights. The following day we went down to the city centre where the Kremlin. This is a preservation of many different architectural masterpieces within its walls. Today this includes governmental buildings, cathedrals that all were built during dramatically different times in the history of Religion in Russia, the Armory which is the vault of many of the collected and donated artifacts, and finally the gardens. The entire site was breathtaking, and very unique. The evolution of this site astounded us, which resulted in us returning the following day to pick up where we left off the previous day. Outside of these events we went to several great Russian restaurants (despite the cost of living) and on our last day in Moscow we saw Lenin’s tomb.

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Governmental building near the Kremlin
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The biggest canon in the world
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One of the many cathedrals
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Horses on the way to the Red Square
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Museum in the Red Square
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Department Store in the Red Square
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Lenin’s Tomb
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St Basil's Cathedral
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Inside St Basil's Cathedral
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Image of Red Square from inside the Cathedral
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Fountains outside the Red Square
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Entrance

That night we spent in a cramped plane on our way to Moscow to transfer to Ulaanbaatar. The day started out nice because we arrived at Irkutsk airport at sunrise, despite having been up for 24 hours at this point. And this is where things started to turn on us. First of all, the airport was a barn, no joke. Then we needed to wait for our connection flight for 7 hours which also was not fun, but we did try to sleep with our belonging at our sides. Then after a little while Michael noticed that flights after ours were appearing on the board; but not ours. So Michael went to ask about it, and when he found out that it was cancelled and was not to resume until November, he began to worry how he was going to tell Monique without her breaking out into tears. However faced with a problem we began to work out solutions, and converted all the US we had and began to weigh our options. We knew about the train and went across town to see if there was a train we could take, and booked a ticket that evening, thinking once we were at the boarder we could explain what had happened, given that our visa was now expiring. This gave us some free time, and so we decided to find an internet café (rare) and call our embassy. This was nice, until the helpful person on the line said in a calm voice that “if you show up at the boarder you will be put in jail for approximately 10 days until an international court can see you, and deport you”. Now Michael had more explaining to do to Monique… Our only option was to get to Moscow (or potentially Irkutsk – yes there was two international governors here) to apply for a 3 day extension and then get the HELL OUT. The problem now was that there were no flights to Moscow, one flight to Beijing that we were not allowed to get on because it was at 12:05 (!!) and the office of immigration was closed until 9 the next day. With nothing we could do but avoid the police we found the only hotel that would take a credit card at a fair cost of $200USD and had dinner and tried to get some sleep before the storm.

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A deceptive image about how beautiful we thought Irkutsk was going to be.
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The baggage carousel at the high class Irkutsk Airport

The next day you can bet we were there at 9 and we found the saint of an immigration woman who would eventually help us. Despite this positive note, there was a fair share of setbacks. First off we couldn’t understand her, but luckily she spoke French so we were on our way. We explained what happened and we told her about the 3 day extension, and after she debated with her collogues for a bit, she convinced them that it would be ok to issue a new visa to us!! This was not exactly ligit as we were about to find out, but basically she persuaded the immigration folk, and a friend of hers at the labour immigration office to allow us to get a employment visa. So we first had to get to this office, which was in a hard to get to part of town for the Mongolian citizens to use. Here we were allowed to cut ahead of a lot of the lines and begin the process. This is obviously a jazzed up version of the true hell we had to go through, but eventually we persuaded the visa lady as well to issue the visa; upon payment of 300 rubles (12 USD). No problem!! Except we needed to find a single bank in the whole city which proved to be very difficult. Before we found it we must have gone to at least twenty banks, and even had two people on the street turned their back to us when we asked for directions. Nevertheless we did find the bank, but after going to through several teller lines, we inferred (after being yelled at in Russian) that there were two government accounts. So Michael ran for 45 minutes across town with a Russian note to ask the immigration office which account we needed. Finally after returning Michael saw Monique sitting on the curb of the bank after she had been kicked out for a break. Once it opened and we paid the money, we ran to the immigration office to only discover that it too was closed from 1 to 1:45. 2 O’clock, 2:30, 2:40 they finally came back, a hour late and processed the visa.

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The now beautiful immigration building that gave us our ticket to freedom
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Above are the only two pictures we took after knowing we had freedom (visas), not sure why but some have described this as the Paris of Russia, we beg to disagree.

For the sake of keeping this positive, we won’t tell you how changing over travelers cheques went, but we were able to trade in a portion of our previously purchased train ticket, and booked our exit from Russia, via the trans-Siberian which we originally wanted to do from mid way anyway!

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Lake Baikal from our train
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Our beautiful chariot that was taking us away from hell.
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We boarded the train and spent 36 hours rolling towards Mongolia. Since the whole train experience was new to us, we came fairly unprepared. However a lovely Mongolian grandmother and her very cute granddaughter who was sharing our berth was able to offer some food to us. We aren’t talking some snacks; she pulled out 6 meters of sausage and some fresh baked bread and fed us quite the meal. That night as we were rounding the beautiful Lake Baikal – the world’s deepest fresh water lake, we met some other backpackers and spent the night talking, drinking vodka and playing cards.

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Our fellow backpacker friends.

The following day we spent 11 hours at the border crossing, which was a bit nerve racking as well, because we hadn’t registered (a process where you pay the hotel to prove your stay) our passports enough times given we had an unexpected extension. However we were sent out of Russia, despite the fact that the immigration officers spent 10 minutes checking our berth while the other backpackers looked on.

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The Russian border where we spent about 11 hours before being allowed to leave Russia.
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Mongolia in the distance
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Mongolian Border
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Officially in Mongolia

Once we were in Mongolia the landscape changed dramatically as we rolled along for another day towards the (present) capital city, Ulaanbaatar. This was a bitter sweet experience, however in the end we were able to see a part of Russia and Mongolia that we would have missed, in both contexts.

Posted by koreaeh 03:20 Archived in Russia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Slightly delayed but our departure from Seoul and Japan

The beginning of the traveling bug.

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Monique on our last ever visit to Youngdo, doesn't she look happy!

This next adventure started out with Monique and Michael heading to Busan. They found a cheap motel and set out do discover the city. Unknowingly they ended up in the "red light district" of Busan which is known for being extremely dangerous and filled with Russians. It was a little warm up as to what they were in store for the real Russia. Nonetheless the Busan trip was a little uneventful so they made their way to Japan on the ferry boat.
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Three hours later they arrived in Fukuoka. Fukuoka is a small port city of Japan which offered a lot of great walking tours and we also got to see some more palaces/temples. One day was definitely enough to absorb all that this port city had to offer.
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Fukuoka at least had some night life.

After the tour of Fukuoka they continued their trip to one of Japan's most loved cities, Kyoto. Kyoto was a beautiful city with a lot to see and do. We only had a few days so we had to make the best of it. We started the day by touring the massive gardens and palace of the Emperor and Empress. This was a huge area of land in the middle of the city which many people flocked to everyday to relax, have a picnic and play some sports. That night we headed out for some night life. We had dinner at a great Japanese restaurant and continued the night with some drinks on the town.
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Monique at the entrance of the gardens.
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A building made out of garden
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We needed to quench our thirst and came across "Sprite, sexier than water"
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Michael and Monique
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You were asked to wash before entering the temple.
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So Monique washed...
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The next day they travelled to Tokyo to meet up with Brent. Brent was alive and well waiting for them at the airport in true style with his cowboy hat and all. We prepared Brent for Japan's extremely hot weather and set out for the hostel. This being Brent's first hostel experience he was a little nervous and scared we think. This hostel offers you a "capsule" (like a coffin) to sleep in and then it is shared washrooms and showers. Brent got over it eventually but continued to fear everything he owned would be stolen. As we were all starving we head out to a little quaint restaurant for dinner and beer. (on a side note, Michael waited forever for his food and when it did come he wasn't impressed, the next day when we stayed in puking all day he was even less impressed).


After dinner Brent was still very tired but he wanted to shower and have some drinks in the common lounge. Everything was going well until Brent asked Monique where his backpack was and she answered, Michael had it, Michael responded no you had it. This lead to Brent and Monique's first panic attack, as they searched their hostel floor from top to bottom. Meanwhile calm and collected Michael retraced Brent's steps and found his bag in the shower room. It was a terrible beginning to that day but it ended up being a good laugh for the rest of the trip.

The next day Monique and Brent set out to discover Tokyo (Michael stayed in bed at the hostel puking from the previous night’s dinner). They started their journey at the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Gardens. They saw some beautiful gardens and scenery but more importantly spent the day bonding and laughing. After the palace and lunch they headed to Asakusa where they visited the famous shrine (Michael finally felt better and joined us here). After a few hours of enjoying the palace and area they headed back to the hostel to get ready for a big night out on the town. They went for another great dinner (on a side note, Japan has the smallest portions of food in the world we think). Then they headed to the red light district where they discovered men standing on street corners with pamphlets of different women their club had to offer. This is how they lured men into their clubs, they even had clubs trying to lure women in. However Monique wasn't interested, she thought all the men looked like Asian Andre Boisvert (sorry Andre, but look at the pics, it's kinda true???). They continued the night in search of the gay district so Brent could get a feel of the gay scene. After searching high and low for this stupid bar that we passed 6 times before noticing the sign we finally went in for a delicious drink. We met some great people from all over the world and had a good time drinking and chatting.
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This is at the gay bar,but it was so smokey that none of us could open our eyes for the photo.

Note: Michael as we said was sick, so there are limited photos for this day and by limited I mean one.


The next day we continued exploring Tokyo and brought along a new friend of ours Romaric. Romaric is from France and unfortunately his stay in Japan started off on the wrong foot by losing all of his luggage. But that didn't stop him from sightseeing. We started the day by heading to the Fish Market. We got to see some pretty "gross" looking things however the market was just closing as we got there, so unfortunately I think we missed a pretty good show. After smelling like fish we left to go to the famous shopping district in Shibuya. This is where the famous 5 direction people crossing is and millions of shopping stores (however everything seemed to be directed at women and Brent was a little disappointed in the lack of men's clothes). After some lunch and shopping we left Romaric to head to Osaka!!!

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Yummy and expensive
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Knives for an obvious use
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Aftermath
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Brent being Brent
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Our new friend Romaric and us for dinner
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Brent praising the oh so cool Shibuya Crossing
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Shibuya Crossing
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Brotherly and Sisterly love


We arrived in Osaka, made our way to our new oh so cute Hotel (however in a very shady district of town). We had our first "traditional" dinner which consisted of cabbage dipped in soy sauce as an appetizer, sushi (tuna and salmon), deep fried cheese and ramen. Brent "forced" Monique to try some of the sushi, Monique reluctantly swallowed some of the tuna sushi, her response was "Ya I still don't like it!". We continued the night with some more beers and ice cream. Brent and Michael went down to the hotels "bath house" to enjoy some saunas and hot tubs.
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Cabbage dipped in soy sauce...mmmm yummy
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Brent's deep friend cheese stick

In the morning the trio set out to do some exploring in Osaka. We visited another of the Emperor's palaces. It was quite beautiful, surrounded by a moat and gardens. We went into the main building, which had been reverted into a museum and an observatory deck on the highest floor. It offered great views of the city and informative information about the Japanese war. We continued our walking tour and headed to the famous Floating Garden building. The building is suppose to look like the middle is floating, it kinda did. Nonetheless the building and the view was beautiful. We went all the way up to the 49th floor, and watched the sun set with a beer. Then we took some night photos of the city as well.
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The Palace Wall
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The palace up close
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Brent being inappropriate with the canon
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Michael and Monique
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Monique ruining a beautiful photo
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After Monique was told to leave the photo she discovered something funny and shared
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The add says "Now I won't have to worry about almost being hit in the face with a lit cigarette"
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The floating garden building
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The "warp tunnel" (escalator) to the top
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The trio
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The night view from the top
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After we headed to the red light district for some dinner, we found a restaurant that appealed to every one's tastes. Had some beers and Brent got silly! After a few too many we headed home to our little hotel.

The next day we awoke and had some yummy breakfast at a neat place Brent had found then headed to the train station for Fukuoka. We didn't spend any time there this time around, we just got on the Ferry boat to Korea (which on a side note we almost missed because of the boys). The Ferry boat wasn't what rent was expecting and the whole time we were all pretty sea sick. We were happy to get off and be on land again! IMG_4228.jpg
Our chariot


We decided to stay in Busan for a few nights before taking the rain to Seoul. In Busan we checked out some of the cool/crazy food markets which kind of made our stomachs churn. After a few hours of walking we headed towards Haeundae Beach for a swim. It was nice and refreshing! On the wait out we stumbled upon some random and interesting items. One being air blowing torches to remove the sand off your body. After 20 mins of blowing the sand off ourselves we continued on to find the Gem of Busan... Coin operated bumper cars, unattended in the middle of nowhere. We all got on and bumped around for a while. As usual Michael picked a dud and lost some money, but it was all in good fun. Brent even picked the one that sang Happy Birthday continuously for several LONG minutes!

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Ginseng root
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Korea's famous red pepers
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Haeundae Beach
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The air spray machine things to get sand off you
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Bumper Cars!!!!!!!!!!!!!


That night we headed out to the bar scene. Monique was craving Nachos and an expat on the street guided us to this bar called the Basement. We ended up spending the whole night here drinking and playing pool. The boys got asked to play a game called Killer Shark where everyone puts in 1000 won and whoever wins gets the pot. Brent won the second round!!!! On the way home the boys sat in the back seat of a cab mouthing off to anyone and anything, they were a sight for sore eyes. This lead the taxi driver to believe Monique needed some saving and handed her a CD/DVD of Jesus Christ and his benefits. It made for an interesting end to the night.

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Brent the pool shark


The next morning was slow moving for everyone. We had some breakfast then headed to the train station to get to Seoul. We arrived in Seoul and unfortunately got taken to the wrong Hotel, it was a bad way to start the day for hung over people, but we eventually got to our hotel.
We started Brent's tour of Seoul in the foreigners district called Itaewon. We had a some Kraze burgers and relaxed. Michael then met up with an old friend Julia who just came to Korea. They went out for dinner and Monique and Brent headed to Dongdaemun for some serious shopping. Monique having no money just looked and Brent bought some really nice and cheap ties

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Michael and Julia


After an alcohol free night and a good sleep we were much better prepared to start the day. We headed to Insadong for some cultural shopping then to the Gyeongbokgeong Palace to show Brent a little history of Korea. We even got the opportunity to wear Hanbok (traditional Korean clothes). It was Chuseok so everyone was dressed up in Hanbok and it looked beautiful. That night we headed to Bundang to show Brent our school and meet our coworkers.

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Us in our Hanbok
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Brent being cute
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The trio
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Brent jumping through the gate of longevity

The next day was uneventful, Brent went to the DMZ and we did banking stuff. The following day (our last in Seoul) we did some more sightseeing at Namsan tower. Then we took Brent to a Jinjilbang (Korean Bath house). That night we went out again with our coworkers. Brent spent his time in the gay district and met up with us eventually and was quite tipsy again! We had a great last night at Polly's and left Seoul on a high note.


This is where our time in Korea ends. After a year in this beautiful country we are happy to say it was an incredible experience. But we are also ready to move on. From here is where we start our incredible 6 month travel journey.... first stop Russia!

Posted by koreaeh 04:29 Comments (0)

And then there was May....

sunny 20 °C

May was an extremely busy month and it is still not even over yet. Not that we wanted it to be over because it was an amazing month full of fun times. The month of May started off on the right foot with a vacation day. We had May 1st off as a surprise so Stephanie and Monique decided to take advantage of the day and go to the Korean amusement park all of our students bragged about, “Everland”. It was a slow start for them to get going but they made it to the bus stop at about 11am, little did they realize that half of Korea would be going to Everland this day. The line up just to get on the bus to take them to Everland was a 2 hour wait. So they bailed on that idea and decided to go shopping instead. Eventually they met up with Michael and spent the afternoon sitting by the river drinking beer after beer after beer.

The weekend quickly came (seeing as May 1st was a Thursday). This weekend happened to be one of two long weekends that we had in May. Michael, Monique, Stephanie and Rose (a teacher at our school) all went on a guided tour of Guemendo and Baekdo Island. We took an overnight bus and arrived at 6am in the morning. We immediately got on a ferry boat for a beautiful view of the Baekdo Islands which means 100 islands in English. It was a great opportunity to take some photos of some untouched islands. After the ferry boat tour we continued to our final destination, a small town (if you can even call it that) of what seem to be about 100 people. We arrived to our motel, which was a typical Korean style hotel that includes a “Yo” (a mat) and blankets. So Michael, Monique and Stephanie cuddle up in a small room on their mats on the floor. The day itself was beautiful we spent it at the beach soaking up the rays, which was obviously not done often by the Korean locals. Many of us got some interesting looks as we sat their in our bikinis basking in the sun.
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On the Ferry Boat
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Monique and Steph being ... well Monique and Steph

Dinner was then served, I suppose if you can call what was served to us dinner. Long story short, we were not impressed with the food on this trip. It was sub par and there was never enough food to feed the 50 people on our tour. It was hardest for Monique who only consumed rice for the 3 day trip, not so satisfying for her. On a brighter note we did find some nightlife in this small town. As we have easily figured out Koreans always know how to party and drink hard and the same goes for those Korean in the middle of nowhere. We actually managed to find a “Nora Bang” (karaoke room). We spent the night drinking and singing. Even Michael was singing a little believe it or not (we have video proof in anyone doesn’t believe!)
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Mmmmm dried fishy
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As you can tell the primary source of food for this area was fish
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Dinner was in one of the shacks across the water
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The next day was a rough one seeing as we got to bed a little late. However it didn’t really matter seeing as there was a torrential rain storm and serious wind (which felt like it was blowing over our motel). This happened to be the weekend that a cyclone hit Korea and we got the tail end of its wrath.

Here are some of Michael's wonderful photos:
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This woman is killing a fish on the road and the motorbike you see ahead just drove over her fish
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The roof had to be tied down so it didn't blow away in the wind!
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This path led to a British Navy Cemetery from when the occupied Korea
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Explanation of the cemetery
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Tombstones
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Look out from cemetery
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As we headed back to the big city of Seoul we made one more stop at a Korean Folk Village. By this time we were really tired and wanted to get back home, but we still managed to make the best of the situation by acting like fools!
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Monique and Stephanie ruining the traditional parade but the guy didn't seem to mind too much
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Monique and Sephanie playing an old school Korean game
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Silly girls
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Stephanie
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Monique
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Stephanie and Michael (looking so serious)
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Some agimas working hard making rice cakes

Monique’s mother and Tim arrived the following Saturday. Monique and Michael were eagerly waiting their arrival and when they finally got here they were so motion sick from the bus rid and over exhausted that they could barely speak. However Michael had the cure for that, he had beer cooling in the fridge waiting for them. The first night we just relaxed and went out for their first traditional Korean BBQ meal. Mom tried some of the dishes but Tim reluctantly looked at the food and decided he would stick with the Korean beer for the time being.

Sunday we all visited the Korean traditional area called “Insadong”. This is the same place that Monique took Ron and Molly with all the Korean traditional sweets. Just like Ron and Molly, Tim and Brenda were not adventurous enough to try the silk worm larvae dessert. Brenda bought some beautiful wall hangings and Tim shopped around for the perfect deal. When the boys got tired of shopping we ventured to a Korean Baseball game. Monique and Michael’s manager had kindly bought us tickets in advance however little did we know the game would be so packed that there was barely any standing room left. We manage to find a quaint little area and watch the game for a while. It was a truly incredible experience watching how crazy the Korean fans can be. Unfortunately as we were leaving the baseball game Monique tripped down some stairs and twisted her ankle. However with some help from Michael and Tim she managed to wobble her way to a cab. Tim decided he was hungry and wanted to treat everyone to a traditional …aahhhhh… Australian?? meal at the Outback.
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Insadong Street
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Brenda helping her little daughter cross the giant river
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Brenda and Monique doing what they do best: shopping
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Making "dok" (rice cake)

Baseball Game Photos
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There was not a spot to sit or even stand for that matter
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Monique being patient with the wild children waving the tubes in her face
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Olympic Stadium

Michael and Monique happened to have the Monday off because it was Buddha’s birthday. So they took Brenda and Tim to the huge flea market. However they moved it, so after a little bit of walking around and exploring we eventually found the new market and we ventured off for some shopping. After we were all shopped out we headed to a unique area in Korea called Itaewon. This area is known as the foreigners’ area because it is littered with foreigners, restaurants and any stores appealing to foreigners. It is kind of like having an “America/Canada Town” in Korea.

On Tuesday, Brenda and Tim were on their own. To quote Tim, “Let’s just get on the subway and go where it takes us!” And that is exactly what they did, they got on the subway and got off at some random stops here and there. They happened to stumble upon the huge electronics market and shopping district.

On Wednesday Monique took Brenda and Tim to visit her friend Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee owns a driving range and a driving institute. He is a very kind man that Monique teaches and has coffee with everyday. He kindly treated Brenda and Tim to a free round at the driving range. We then all went out to a very very nice European restaurant courtesy of Mr. Lee.

Thursday Tim had arranged with a friend he had met in China to tour a factory in Seoul. So Brenda and Tim spent the day being driven around Seoul by a chauffer and toured around the city factories. Thursday night was quiet as we were leaving for Jeju Island at 7am the next morning.

Friday to Monday were spent in the beautiful Jeju Island. This island has been called the Hawaii of Korea and did not let us down. It is a beautiful island with palm trees and beaches. We were lucky and had beautiful weather the whole weekend. The trip to Jeju was set up by Monique, however luckily she had a lot of help. Another lady that Monique teaches (Mrs. Koo) helped Monique find a cottage style place to rent for the weekend that came with a car rental as well. At first we were al a little worried about driving in Korea seeing as they are insane, but Tim jumped to the plate and drove like a true Korean. We also had the help of “Susie”, our navigation system. She couldn’t speak a word of English, however the Korean are so smart that all you need to give the nav system is the phone number of a place and it will take you there. Susie never let us down once; she always knew where to go.
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Our cottage "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
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There was a beautiful area to chill with hammocks and swings. This is Michael breaking the hammock

We arrived at our cottage, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it was beautiful. We quickly started the day by touring some of the beauty of the island. We did a small hike down to see a stunning waterfall. At the same time we got to witness some of the famous snorkelling agimas. These are women in their late 50’s or older who everyday for the past few decades have come out to the sea and dove all day searching for food. They are a very interesting breed of women, but we quickly realized we shouldn’t cross them. We didn’t know taking photos of them was prohibited so when we saw a whole bunch of them walking down the road and we were taking pictures from the car of them; they started screaming and yelling at us. Oops!
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Snorkeling Agimas
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Entrance to the waterfall scenic route
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Before we saw the waterfall we went through this tiny ( and funny) exhibition hall
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On the way to the waterfall Monique found her true love
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The whole gang
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Images of the Emporer's search for immortality
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The beautiful waterfall
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When the Emporer's servants finally found the plant of immortality on Jeju Island they carved their inintials in the rock
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The lovebirds holding hands
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On the way out
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Brenda and Monique trying to ride he horse

We then went for some traditional Korean food, however I guess it was just not doing it for Tim. The first words out of his mouth were “I think I will get SARS if I eat at this place.” Monique and Michael accustomed to the restaurants and foods dug in and were stuffed! That night at the cottage (which was kinda in the middle of nowhere) we decided to have some drinks and play some cards. The only problem was we had no cards, so Monique being the creative teacher type person that she is made some!!! Although Michael and Tim claimed to have lost the game because they couldn’t understand the cards, Monique and Brenda believe it was just the copious amounts of beer they consumed.
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The town where we had lunch
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Monique wearing little Zoe's agima hat (sorry Zoe)
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Playing with the super fantastic playing cards

Saturday we started the day by driving a long a scenic route to take some photos. Our first stop was horseback riding. We were all geared up to go when Tim’s horse’s legs got a little wobbly and the Korean men were unsure that Tim would be able to go. JUST KIDDING, his feet couldn’t fit into the stirrups so it was unsafe for him to ride the horse. Anyway we continued the day by going to the beach and basking in the sun. We also witnessed the traditional “Korean swimsuit” which is; well it is whatever they are wearing. Be it jeans, a sweatshirt and shorts. They go in no matter what!
That night we had a BBQ at the cottage and continued to drink and play cards. Great night!!!!
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Waiting for mom's camera to warm up so it can take a picture
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Don't worry the horse is just sleeping
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Cowgirl Brenda
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Cowgirl Monique
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A little racing for the boys
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Junmung Beach
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World Cup Stadium
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World Cup Stadium
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Sunday was our last full day in Jeju and we toured the world’s largest lava tube. It was a beautiful and interesting site to see. Also interesting was the Korean women in high heels and short skirts wobbling through an underground cave. Korean women will do anything to always look good! Next on the agenda was an acrobatic show that Monique was adamant about seeing. After a little bit of a journey to find the “Happy Town” everyone was amazed by the incredible acrobatic show and Monique was in her glory watching the gymnast and eating popcorn.
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Momma and daughter
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Enrance to Lava Tube
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End of Lava Tube where a mountain of lava was made as it was trying to escape from the cracks
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Happy town
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The little girl in pink stole the show, she was so cute
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At one point they had 7 motorcycles in there

Monday we headed back to Seoul. Mom and Tim had enough time to pack up their bags before they had to be back on the bus to the next airport. It was an extremely sad goodbye but the visit was truly amazing. Thank you Mom and Tim for a great time!!!

After Brenda and Tim left we thought things would slow down a bit. However it has been just as hectic. There was one interesting afternoon that Monique did have that is worth mentioning. The lady that Monique teaches, Mrs. Koo asked to take Monique out for a traditional Korean meal. Obviously Monique agreed because it would be rude to do otherwise after all of her help with Jeju Island.

Mrs. Koo and Monique went to a beautiful restaurant. It was all made from wood and stone and had beautiful carvings and decorations. The interesting part is when lunch was served. Monique had never seen any of the things that were placed in front of her. Also if anyone knows Monique she hates all seafood with a passion. Mrs. Koo then asked Monique to try several of the dishes in front of her. Monique not wanting to be rude obeyed. After eating the unknown food Mrs. Koo finally decided to tell Monique what she was eating. She ate 3 different types of fried fish (and trust me, that might not seem bad to you, but to Monique it is almost the end of the world.) But it got worse. Monique also found out the she had eaten Jelly Fish tentacles and COW BRAIN! When she found it, it took everything in her not to puke on the table. She respectfully finished the lunch with Mrs. Koo and ran home to whimper. Michael’s words of encouragement were “Well this is going to be a good preparation for you for when we travel for 5 months, who knows what we will be eating then.” This is not really what Monique wanted to hear, all she could think of was cow brain. (PS she described it as salty and extremely rubbery and chewy).

One last big event in May that cannot be left out is Stephanie’s birthday. Happy Birthday Stephanie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Monique, Michael, Stephanie, James and Kate went to a recommended area of Seoul that is supposed to be famous for water sports and water activities. I think we all had pictured in our heads something like Lake Ramsey (in Sudbury) where you can swim, kayak, and boat and so on. However what we found was a small dirty river that had paddle boat rentals and who knows what else. We decided to head back to downtown Seoul and party it up in the big city instead!!!

That’s it for May; hopefully we won’t be so slow putting up the next few months. In the next little bit we will be planning out our travelling agendas. Right now the list of places we plan on visiting are: Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, India?, Myanmar?, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, and many more. Once we know our schedule we will send it out to people just in case anyone wants to join us!

Posted by koreaeh 21:13 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

April showers bring..... cherry blossoms?

sunny 20 °C

April was a fairly quiet month as we were still recovering from having visitors in March. However we did still have some more people visit, just not exactly for us. Stephanie’s parents came to Korea to visit for about 10 days or so. During that time Monique spent a few days touring around with Stephanie and her parents doing many of the same things Monique did with her parents. However unlike Monique’s parent’s Stephanie’s father was more than willing to try the “bundaegee”, silk worm larvae. He claims it has the texture of a raisin but the taste could not be expressed in words he said!
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The one interesting place that Monique, Stephanie and Hanka (Stephanie’s mom) did go to is a traditional Korean relaxation house. In Korea they call these places “Jimjilbangs”

Basically the relaxation house is a building that resembles a huge house. There’s a public bathroom that is only accessible to people of the same sex - in here you can either take a dip in the hot pool (naked) or sit by a tap and scrub off dead skin cells. You can have anything done in these places from waxing, scrubbing, and even sitting in a complete mud bath. However these extra amenities are only done in the “naked” rooms therefore you must feel comfortable being scrubbed down by an “agima” (women in her late 50’s) wearing only her bra and underwear while many other people stare at you getting scrubbed down (mostly their starring because you’re a foreigner and different).
Then from this bathroom, you can move on to a huge “living room” where both men and women (clothed of course) just lie around to watch TV, read a book or work on their computers. Surrounding the “living room” are a many different saunas of varying temperatures and these saunas are called “jimjilbang”. They also have an “ice room” with a snowman which is supposed to give some benefit to the body; however we just froze our asses off. Other rooms that surround the “living room” include a movie room, pc room, and sleeping rooms. This building is open for 24 hours and many people just sit/lie around all day and night.

While we were relaxing Michael was busy nurturing his horticultural side. He gallivanted all over town and took some incredible photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom in the month of April. They are truly breathtaking to see.
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Posted by koreaeh 08:00 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

The month of March

overcast 16 °C

As you know we’re trying to catch up on the blog writing. So here is a little bit of what happened in the month of March. Overall it was a calm month with normal day to day activities. Still working hard at school teaching are kids the best we can and living it up in this beautiful country we’re calling home right now.

March is also the month that Monique’s dad and Molly came to visit. They arrived on March 19th after having travelled in China for two weeks. So by now we thought they would be not only exhausted but avid travellers. Unfortunately we were unable to meet them at the airport because we had to work, but with the directions that Monique had made for them they made it to our apartment safe and sound. Along the way (as we told them this would happen) many kind and concerned Korean people offered to help them or let them use their cell phones. It’s the Korean way to help a foreigner in need.

By the time we had gotten home from work Ron and Molly had already toured the town and hit up some delicious traditional Korean food, Pizza Hut. I guess they were missing home a little more then they were leading on.

There first day Monique toured them around the area and took them to some small shopping and boutique like areas. There Molly found the “Paris Baguette” and demanded that she needed a whole cheese cake to eat. That evening they were left to explore the town on their own, Molly and Ron had asked for some guidance in choosing a restaurant. Monique wasn’t sure what they would want so she didn’t know what to suggest, Molly asked “Oh what about that chicken place over there?” Monique responded, “Well I have never tried it, but it looks good, you guys should try it out tonight!” Long story short, Ron and Molly ended up ordering Pork Hoax instead of chicken. The pork hoax was nice and fatty and (from what we’ve been told) inedible. Nonetheless Molly managed to remind Monique every moment she could of this “terrible” situation she had “forced” them into.
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Monique had Friday off work so she, Ron and Molly ventured out to a huge flea market. Monique took them to an area called “Dongdaemun”. It is a huge flea market with pretty much anything you can imagine for sale, and I mean anything! Ron was continuing his search for yet another “Rolex” watch. However unlike in China his bargaining skills were not appreciated in Korea. Molly left with a beautiful red leather jacket and the day ended up being a success. That night Michael and Monique’s co-workers met Monique, Molly and Ron at a restaurant for dinner. (We went to a place called “Pig Day”; it is our loose translation of what the restaurant’s name actually is) This was Ron and Molly’s first traditional Korean BBQ meal and unlike the pork hoax they actually seemed to enjoy it.

Michael was finally able to join the group on Saturday and we decided to go COEX mall which is a large underground shopping area, it is also home to the famous aquarium, check out the photos! Then we headed to one of Michael’s favourite places, “Yongsan Electronics Market” This place is 10 stories tall of simply electronics. Ron and Michael spend hours hassling and bargaining with every camera salesmen in the building. Molly and Monique spent some time shopping in the nearby department story. When they rejoined the boys they were nearly being kicked out of the store by security for all the “trouble” they had caused these salesmen. Nonetheless they had a good time causing all the trouble.
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These fish swim around in constant circle, really neat but nauseating
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If you look close you can see the electric blue lines running through him
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Monique and Molly
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Not really sure what Ron is looking at in this photo but it must be interesting
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Pretty sparkly pirahna
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SHARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Sting Rays
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Isn't he cute, he's smiling at you!
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Monique, Ron and Molly
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Little turtle lovin'
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Monique recently ate her first jellyfish

The day continued with a famous Korean performance called “Nanta”. It is a non verbal performance comedy. The show ended up being really funny and very interactive with the audience. Then we continued the night by meeting up with Stephanie Latreille (Monique’s friend) for another traditional Korean meal of “Duk Galbi”. It is a big mixture of vegetables, chicken, noodles and rice cakes with a red pepper paste sauce cooked on a large frying pan type thing at your table. It is a little bit spicy but over all they enjoyed the meal.
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Nanta
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Duk Galbi
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Stephanie and Ron

Sunday was spent in the traditional village area of Korea called “Insadong”. Here is where you can taste several different traditional treats. Of course Molly once again demanded that she buy every “sweet treat” that crossed our path. We tried pumpkin candy, dok (crushed rice into a jelly type substance with added flavouring like strawberry, ginseng, green tea etc) and rice patties (same as rice cakes at home, but without the pounds of sugar). Monique tried to convince Ron and Molly to try “Bundaegee” which is silk worm larvae in soy sauce and sugar. The kids supposedly love this treat but the smell is enough to make someone puke.

With their trip coming to an end Ron and Molly only had 2 days left. They spent one day on a scheduled tour guide trip to different palaces (Gyengbokgung which Monique and Michael went to their first week here), a Ginseng factory and the Korean Folk Village.

Overall it was an excellent month, and Monique and Michael really enjoyed having some family come to visit.

On an extra note everyone from work (except Monique) went to a soccer game on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. 12$ got us VIP seats and we could bring all the beer we wanted. They divided the stadium into sides that people wanted to support and unfortunately the visiting team had way more fans. But watching them cheer was excellent!
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Erick
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Rose, Erick and Brian
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Rose, Erick, Brian, Julia, and Michael (other one)

Posted by koreaeh 07:24 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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