Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Namhae Island for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving)

Koreans also celebrate their own form of Thanksgiving, or rather more of a celebration of traditions. It is called Chuseok and the national holidays fall on the 1st and 3rd of October. This year the first was a Monday and the 3rd was a Wednesday and most schools shut for the 2nd too so we had a very long weekend. It was for this reason that we decided to take a little trip. Most of our friends all left the country and went to the usual places like Japan, China and Taipei. I had been to Taipei over summer vacation and I just feel like 5 days to travel to another country is too short because I want to see, do and experience as much as possible which I feel does not happen when you are trying to squash it all into two days. Also with buying flights home and other payments and all, broke would be a nice way to describe my financial situation. 

This is why we decided to go to Namhae Island. It is off the South East coast of Korea but there is a highway connecting it to the mainland and you can therefore get there by bus, which made our transportation costs minimal. It was also only about a 4-5 hour drive spread across 3 busses which really isn't that bad. I did some research on the Island and found out that the main most popular beach was also open for camping. This made my decision to go all that much better as it would really feel like getting away from the city life that is Daegu.

So very early that Saturday morning 5 of us from Daegu headed off to catch our first bus to Jinju where we met three of our other friends from other parts of korea and took the bus into Namhae. From the main terminal in Namhae you then take another bus to the specific place in Namhae that you want to be. In our case we were heading to Sangju Beach. When we arrived on Sangju beach we realized that there were not many people around and although the website had explained where the campsite was we didn’t know if we were just allowed to pitch up our tents anywhere. However there was no one in information or anyone to ask so we just picked a spot and pitched. Not too long after an ajjushi (old man) came to us screaming at us in Korean and pointing further down the beach. We took this to mean that we were supposed to camp further down. So we lugged our stuff a little further up the beach and pitched everything up again over there. We didn’t get shouted at too much over the rest of the weekend so we assume we were round about the right place. It also turned out that because it was not peak season the camping was free. SCORE. Now this is not what we expected because we knew the whole of Korea had off work during this time and we assumed they would be flocking to the beach as well. As it turns out Chuseok is a very family oriented holiday so everyone goes home to their home towns to spend time with their families and they don’t venture out much from their houses. Which we came to realize over the next few days as there was pretty much just a bunch of foreigners around and only a few Koreans here and there.

Although after crazy city life and way too many parties I was more than happy to just relax and chill. Turns out our camp site was literally just behind the beach so I would roll out of my tent and onto the sand. The days were pretty much spent lying around on the beach tanning, swimming, chatting and eating. We would spend the evenings around fires with Korean berry wine and talk until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. Which wasn’t very long, that sea air really takes it out of you! We took a walk around our area the one day and decided to go rent some fishing rods and do some fishing. Now firstly let me just tell you that this trip entailed 2 South African guys, 5 South African girls and one of our American girlfriends. So needless to say the guys decided that they would find us a fishing spot. A lot of the Koreans were fishing around the harbour and other spots on the Island but oh no, these guys wanted to find their own spot. We ended up bundu bashing and rock climbing to the other side of where the main fishing was being done and I am pretty sure if a Korean saw us we would have been shat all over. It was such a beautiful spot though and I thank the guys for finding it as we couldn’t have asked for a better lookout point! As for the fishing scenario though... after some moaning, screaming and gagging reflexes I finally got three squiring worms onto my hooks(these worms bite by the way) just to cast it off into the ocean and get caught on a rock about 5 seconds later. Yup, pretty much all we caught was rocks! But it was so much fun!

On the last night we decided to go to the Oktober fest on the Island. Yes there was a beer fest in the middle of an Island off the coast of South Korea. The most bizarre thing however was not the beer festival itself but the fact that the beer festival was held in a German village on the Island. There is actually a whole German Village! Complete with German people, great beer and bratwurst. Walking around the village was so bizarre! I felt almost like I was in Europe. The houses were so cute and the streets were even cobble stoned! It turns out that one or two Germans settled there a while back and some more came over and married Koreans and so it grew into its own little German village. I will attach photos to this and you can see what I am talking about.

It was definitely a great way to spend our last night! Most people left very early the next morning but Gabby(my American friend) and I stuck around to catch the last few rays of sun and sand before heading back to city life. These outings into the beautiful parts of Korea make me realize just how much I miss nature, and scenery and mountains! I never thought that I would be that person who says they could never live in a city, or somewhere that is not near a beach. Turns out I have more of my Dad’s sea loving blood than I thought! The beach is my home <3

Gabby and I literally had a toy tent. Haha but it was small enough that we stayed warm and it fit us both so that's all that matters i guess! 

You can see the sea behind the trees. So close :)

Korean chicken and beer for lunch 

The nights were coooooold!

The days were amazing :)

Our fishing spot

My disgusted face. Wriggly worms!

Don't be too impressed. I caught a rock ;)

German village

Cute houses!

German Beer!

A little too much sun i think?

Gabby and I catching the last few rays!

Gustaf being a retard ;)
For more photo's you can look on my facebook page :)

Toodles for now! 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Korean Cuisine

Ok so people quite often ask about what kind of food there is here in korea so I am going to give you a little summary of my favorites and whats popular.

1: Korean side dishes. 

Ok so firstly let me explain about Korean food in general. When you go to Korean restaurants, no matter which one in which city, they will all resemble eachother. When you walk in they place cups and cold water on the table for you and then you order and they bring out the side dishes/service that you get with the meal. Most of the time these side dishes take up the whole table. They range from kimchi, mushrooms, green vegetables, fish balls, radish, pickles, any vegetable it is possible to pickle and sometimes a noodle of some kind or some kind of bean. The Korean dishes will then arrive which if hot will be served in this earthern ware type pot that is usually still sizzling or boiling and if cold served in silver dishes shown below. The sides will change according to dishes but most of the time they stay pretty much the same. The strange thing is that you can eat your food and all the side dishes and request extra side dishes but you will never pay for them. You only ever pay for the actual dish you ordered, thats why Korean food turns out to be so cheap because you are so stuffed from free sides that you don't need to order very large main dishes.
Silver dishes that most meals arrive in

Typical korean side dishes. The big bowl in the mmiddle is tthe main dish.

Pot that the hot meals arrive in.
2: Kimchi Chigae.
This is a Korean stew made with vegetables, tofu and kimchi and sometimes pork. The kimchi makes the stew very spicy and it has a little bit of a tomato flavor to it too. Koreans are always so surprised when I tell them this is my favorite dish because it is so spicy and they think westerners cant eat spicy food. Its really good though! It kind of reminds me a little bit of tomato bredie.
It comes with a side of rice that you can pile into it and various other sides explained above.
This usually arrives still boiling so its nice and fresh :)
3: Japchae.
Translated this is basically just noodles and vegetables. They are light brown glass noodles mixed in with thinly sliced vegetables and meat. This is very popular amongst westerners because it is very much like something you would find at home and it is not spicy.
4: Bibimbap
This is a rice based dish that comes to the table sizzling in one of the pots I explained above. It is a mixture of rice, vegetables and seaweed. You can order beef, pork or seafood in it if you would like. It also comes with a fried egg on top. You then mix it all together and add this spicy red sauce that binds it all together. Its really good!

5: Korean BBQ

Korean BBQ is very popular throughout Korea and is literally on every street corner. The restaurant is filled with an array of tables with silver circular plates in the middle where they pile in hot coals and place a grid above it for you to BBQ the meat on. Each table also has its own suction pipe above it so that the restaurant does not get smoky. You can then choose what meats you want to BBQ and they bring it over for you with little tongs for you to cook it yourself. The sides that come with this are usually onions, spring onions, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, rice, and an array of sauces. You will then take a piece of lettuce, add some meat, rice and whatever sides with some sauce, roll it into a ball and stuff it into your mouth. I say stuff because that is literally what you have to do, it is not the most graceful meal you can find in Korea, but none the less very good!!

It is also a very popular event. Koreans will go for BBQ on a Friday night and order bottle after bottle of soju and makju(beer) and pretty much get wasted with their friends while enjoying a god meal. It is a very social event. And these restaurants do not seem to close until very early in the morning! I have found myself in them at 4/5 in the morning surrounded by a bunch of koreans I just met getting meat and soju shoved down my throat, nevermind that none of us should probably be around hot coals at that moment but hey, when in korea...


6: Fried chicken and beer

Ok so you also cannot go very far in Korea without seeing a fried chicken and beer place on almost every corner. Korean fried chicken is soooo good and it comes in all shapes, flavors and sizes. One I particularly like is the boneless fried chicken that is covered in like a sticky sweet garlicly sauce that you then dip into a bowl of crushed peanuts and then eat. Soooo good! And then when you go for fried chicken you just have to get beer with it, the one just goes with the other!

7: Shabu Shabu

This dish is actually about 3 dishes all together. It starts out with a pot in the middle of the table above a flame with a broth boiling inside. You then have a huge plate of very thinly sliced meat and vegetables which you place into the broth, let them cook and them eat them out of the broth with your chopsticks. After you have finished all the meat and vegetable you add very thick partly cooked noodles and allow them to simmer in the pot for a while until they are soft. You then pile some noodles on your plate while he broth continues to simmer. By this time most of the borth has been eaten or simmered away, you then add a bowl of rice and an egg which binds it all together.
This dish is so good but its literally eating 3 different meals in one so it is very filling and you better go to the restaurant hungry. Most of the shabu shabu restaurants are also ones where you sit on the floor with cushions.

8: Dteokbokkie (No idea how to spell it in English but thats what it sounds like)

This is a form of rice cake that is rolled into a thick rod shape. They are mostly cooked in a very hot sauce and served with vegetables, rice or just alone. Since I cannot stand the texture of rice cakes (kind of slimy and chewy and gets stuck in your teeth) I am not the biggest fan of this dish but it is still however one of the most popular.

9: Kimbap
This is almost like sushi (california rolls) as it is rice wrapped in seaweed but instead of slamon or tuna in the middle it is vegetables. I love kimbap! It is tasty but also SO cheap. You can get it at 7/1 and family foor about R7 a roll and after a night out there is nothing better to soak up the alcohol! They also have kimbap restaurants though where you can go and get it made fresh so tha it is still warm. The most common kinds are tuna mayo, bulgogi(meat) and kimchi. It will mostly be vegetables in the middle but each type also has other ingredients in it.

9: Patpingsu
This is a dessert. It is a bowl of shaved ice with fruits and nuts and milk and turns out to be a lot like fruit salad and ice cream. It is pretty damn good! And you can get flavours like green tea and sweet red bean paste (very popular in korea) which are very different and nice to try. It is also super great on those ridiculously hot days when you want to rip off all your clothes and jump into a bucket of ice!

These would be some of the most common and popular dishes but I will keep educating you on korean cuisine as we along :)
Have a fantastic day. Till next time!