Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 12

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I know I’d been counting down my time left in Korea since about 6 months in, from then already dreading the impending end. And soon those 6 months quickly became 3, then 1 month, and that became 1 week, then suddenly 1 day. And now I write this after a blur of almost 3 weeks post-Korea from my bed in South Africa wondering where my year in kimchi-land actually went and if it all even happened at all! So, while I fend off the already-present nostalgia, here is my final chapter from my last month in SK.

Mon 05/02/2018 – This one time I was sick. For like a day.
Okay, so I’d only really been sick once in Korea and it was just a couple months into my contract and I should’ve gone to a doctor but things were still rather overwhelming back then so I didn’t. Fast forward 10 months to winter, a sore throat and last minute curiosity, I decided to use this as an opportunity to visit a Korean doctor. And an ear-nose-and-throat doc no less. But more for the experience than the meds. 1

With a recommendation from friends for a nice doc, I rocked up with no appointment and waited about 10 min to see Dr Park. Less than 5 min, a quick chat, check, scope down my throat later I was done and given a 3 day prescription and an invoice for W5000 (like R50!). At the pharmacy they then individually package your pills into morning, noon and night packets per day (fig. 1). So easy and inexpensive! Overall review: unnecessary – maybe. An experience – worth it! 

Wednes 14/02: Galentines Day
When you’re single or can’t be with your bae on Valentines Day, you can have a Galentines Day with your besties and go shopping, beer drinking, curry consuming and beer ponging. On a week night! Yay! ❤
(P.s I miss you guys already! </3 )
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Mon 19/02: The final week
My last week in Korea only had 2 days at school luckily. Monday was my final teaching day (ever!) and I had 5 classes of gr 4 so I drew a tree on the board, gave each kid a leaf-shaped sticky note and I told them I was “LEAF-ing” so they could write a little goodbye note and stick it on the tree. The joke was 90% wasted on them. Sigh. But I got a few creative or cute notes worth keeping and some soppy goodbye hugs. Sweet, man.
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Tuesday, being the closing ceremony day, meant we left at lunch time for our final teachers’ dinner/farewell for a large number of teachers changing schools. This as always, was filled with a lot of food (marinated BBQ pork this time – SO good!) and soju (mostly thanks to my gr5 co, Minkyung/my soju partner in crime over the year with Ms Min (crazy, fun and mother of 2) close behind if not the instigator as well as pourer-of-her-own-drinks. Of course my luck in the seating arrangement was me being placed right next to the principal and vice with the “higher powers” around them. A couple of hours and soju later, I had to say my final goodbyes to 2 of 3 of my co-teachers as we parted ways for the last time.

Friday 23/02: Ms Kang’s lunch
2 days before departure.
As my main co-teacher, personal co-ordinator, Korean translator and teacher of gr 3-4, Ms Kang and I spent the most time together over the year and she kindly invited me to her house to cook for me as a farewell. I got to meet her 7 year old daughter (who was super cute but got frustrated that I couldn’t understand her speaking in Korean) and her husband. My last dose of Korean hospitality.


Sunday 25/02: Departure Day4b
It arrived. And so at 9am I left my apartment for the last time, with two bloody heavy bags in tow to the airport for my flight at 12:45. Yes, I was early. Very early. But the inevitable had to begin at some point, so I’d rather be early than to be left behind. I’d expected the whole leaving thing to feel a lot more final. But it felt so normal. So unexpecting of the finality of it all. After a 2 hour-ish flight I landed in Beijing ready for an 8 hour layover – only to find the wifi would not let me connect. Thanks, ma’China!5

In that time I bought some Yaun (¥), some coffee, drew a bit and walked in circles for 8 hours in preparation for my impending 14.5 hour sitting test on the flight to Joburg.6
One hour into my longest flight (ever!) and I was already questioning how I was going to make it through this! Luckily I managed to sleep through a lot of it thanks to my packed necessities:7
My exhaustion was then met by an awful experience in OR Tambo at Joburg with delayed bags, rude staff and nearly missing my connecting flight due to the short layover time… and some tears, but I made it to PE in the end! Finally home in South Africa after 32hours since leaving my Korean home, and I miss it already…8

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This is sadly the final instalment of my South Korean Travel Journal.
New adventures are in the pipeline though…
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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 11

Part-11-Header.jpgWith a visa in my passport, some yen in my purse, a small carry-on bag as my luggage and a birthday to be had, I set off on my first Japanese adventure!1_noted
Ok, so my trip was solely to Tokyo and only 5 nights long with the first 2 days being a solo adventure to begin with. But yay! Tokyo in winter! (which was surprisingly warmer than Busan).

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Getting from the airport to your accommodation is usually the biggest stress, but I made it, having pre-booked everything though (plan-a-lot-Amy). But then there’s still that moment (or many) when you come out of the subway and slowly do a 360 on the spot trying to orientate yourself in a foreign place while your internal GPS keeps saying “Connection lost. Connection lost. Turn back now.” But then you pull out your phone and things make sense. I don’t know how old-school travelers used to manage before Google Maps. 
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My hostel’s location was great, overlooking the beautiful Ueno Park which includes dams with ducks and also the zoo, and made for an easy landmark for getting back to it. The downside to the hostel was the strict policy for silence within the dorms which seemed to carry up to the common room and kitchen which was filled with people and awkward silence. No chill.  

DAY 1 – 21/01: Akihabara Anime District
I guess the advantage of not really knowing too much about a city is being able to be so much more surprised by what you aren’t expecting. I don’t know much about Anime or that Akihabara is like the homeland of it, but I went to explore with an open mind. I first got “lost” in the 9-floors-of-everything electronics store of Yodobashi which proved to be a sensory overload with so much stuff everywhere! I did stumble upon the Wacom tablet section and found a stationery level. I spent a good 6 hours in the area exploring the comic book stores, vintage console shops and the many arcade/ SEGA buildings (I had a go on Mario Karts too), found an artisanal market and tried my first bowl of ramen in Japan – food heaven!4_Akihabara

DAY 2 – 22/01: Asakusa and snow
I explored what I’ve decided is one of my favourite areas, Asakusa, an area with what felt like mazes of traditional-feeling street shopping with interesting curios and food. There is also the beautiful Sensoji Temple when you make it out of the maze. I even saw some (very cold looking) people dressed in kimono.5_AsakusaI also got to experience Tokyo in sleet and then snow. It’s the most snow I’ve been in before, including walking about 10km over the course of the day in pretty miserable constant windy snow-stormy weather. Despite this unpleasant weather I pushed on and made it to the Ginza area and through more angry weather, later made it to Tsukiji Fish Market (although mostly closed as it’s primarily a morning market and it was well after noon already for me). But I made it, and by the time I finally got back to the hostel all cold and wet, the city was falling deeper into a stormy night white landscape.

DAY 3 – 23/01: Biiiiirthday
I’m officially in my late 20s now! But what a way to turn a year older – welcoming in the new day by sipping on sake with a friend who had just joined me, and then waking up to a magical sunny and glistening Japanese winter wonderland outside. The difference in weather from the day before was amazing!
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Besides the rather treacherously icy walkways, it was the perfect setting to visit the white Sinjuku Gyeon National Garden to eat birthday cake while attempting to walk through snowy slosh. I also got to see Tokyo’s snow covered rooftops and parks from the 42nd floor of the Metro Government Building. Our busy day also included visiting the Meiji Shrine, finally going to Harajuku (much anticipated!) and sipping on birthday cocktails in this iconic quirky “kawaii” fashion area before heading to The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku for a crazy show. This was 90 mins of bright lights, robots, large floats, loud music, people in weird costumes, dancing, singing and corny story lines all within a rather tiny area but totally worth it. A great strange Japanese experience for the books. 

DAY 4 – 24/01: Final fun 
My last full day in Tokyo was spent at the zoo in the morning (I got to see my first panda! As in a panda, he had no friends) before heading to the Shibuya Crossing to walk across one of the 5 cross paths of the famously busy intersection (to the other side of the road – a bit of an overhype but a must do). 7_ZooWe chose to walk from Shibuya to Harajuku which was a great experience that would have been missed had we taken the train. Along the way we found the Disney Store which looked like a castle and further on we found an Alice in Wonderland-themed store hidden through a tiny door into 3 floors of Alice-themed decorations and things. Last stop: Harajuku (for one more time) for more street exploring and shopping. My Harajuku trophy was a “Temaki Cats” shirt with cats in sushi hand rolls on it. I’m chuffed. There was also a large H&M sale on, so that’s one way to use up left over yen notes. Ching ching shop shop. 

After my whole [awesome] trip, I unfortunately came back with 0 beer labels for my journal. Not that I didn’t drink any beer, but all the convenience stores seemed to stock (besides seriously impressive pre-made convenience meals) were cans only. No labeled bottles. So I left with just some sake in pretty boxes. 

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The final instalment of Part 12 to follow soon… Sad face.
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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 10

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Over the course of just six weeks, I will have traveled to Phuket (Thailand), Seoul (Korea) and Tokyo (Japan). Somebody pinch me!
It’s also been my first Christmas spent away from home, but also the first one spent with my boyfriend, and in winter! And although we’ve welcomed in the new year together a number of times already, it’s the first year it’s been just us two. Aww.

Sat – Mon 16 – 18 December 2017: Phuket wedding weekend
When a family wedding is taking place at a stunning beach resort in Phuket, you make sure you get your butt to Thailand, even if all you can get is one day off work. What an amazing whirlwind of a weekend adventure though!
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SUMMARY: Friday: leave from work to fly for 10 hours, arrive at the hotel by 2am Saturday. Sleep a bit, then a reunion with my family after 10 months apart and enjoy a beach and beer day. Sunday wedding, Monday afternoon fly back to Korea, 10 hour transit. Tuesday: rush from the airport at 7am, catch a train home, toss bags and catch a bus to make it in time for school at 8:30am while running on 3 hours of sleep. Done. Not to mention enduring the temperature change from Korean 0°s to Thailand 28°s and back again. 

Sat – Sunday: chill time
What better way to catch up with your brothers and parents than drinking beer by the pool? A reunion with family, and my old friend Chang (we met in August, remember?). Quite unreal to suddenly be in shorts and being able to swim again and not be buried under multiple layers and scarves. We went kayaking out to an island off of Kata Beach, swam a LOT, sipped on coconuts, ate Thai green curry, walked along the beaches and paths and ambled through the street markets with my mom. 

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Sunday: Wedding day
The afternoon came with looming clouds on one side of the sky and sunshine and rainbows on the other, as the 50-odd guests arrived for my step-brother, Simon and Anni’s ceremony. With a 3 piece band playing in the background, the bride and groom were soon standing in front of their beautiful beach backdrop. The reception to follow was just as gorgeous, light-hearted and fun with every bit of amazing Thai hospitality and catering too. The most stunning and special wedding I’ve been to yet. Congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs/Dr Cloete! No pressure for the rest of us siblings…5_Wedding
Tuesday: Hong Kong layover
Getting back to Busan involved reluctant family good byes, an hour taxi ride, two flights and a midnight layover in (an impressive) Hong Kong International. But all I wanted to do was sleep before having to deal with kids in the morning. I also had to do a wardrobe change from a t-shirt back to thermals and a padded jacket.

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Saturday 9/12: Dog cafe
Back in Busan… The bucket list frenzy continued. One weekend I got to tick off two more things: going to a dog cafe (for petting, not eating – just to clarify) and getting a Korean manicure/gel nails.
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The dog cafe was an interesting experience. We were surrounded by a mixed collection of dogs of different breeds and sizes but all had a rather spoilt attitude. They clearly know everything is centered around them and you’ll find that the humans are the ones desperately seeking attention. The dogs basically amble around with the attitudes of disinterested cats. Until, however, someone new comes into the cafe. Then suddenly there is barking and frantic running to the entrance. This often takes away any of your hard-earned efforts to seduce a pup to come and cuddle with you as they fly off your lap (and sometimes, the table) to inspect the new intruder. We also had a little show by the owner who gave the giant fluffy dog a piggy back around, and later pushed a collection of dogs around on a trolley. 

Sat 23/12: Songdo cable cars
With my boyfriend here from Australia for two weeks, it was a good opportunity to tick off going on the fairly new (June) cable cars together. It was worth the effort of the train and bus transfer to get to Songdo Beach, which is scattered with sculptures above the water and a sky walk snaking over the water too. 6_Songdo
The queue was almost nonexistent to go in the regular cable cars, while the glass-floored cars had a queue that’d make you consider scrapping the idea. A lovely afternoon date, which I’m sure is even better by night. 

Mon 25/12: Christmas
Instead of spending Christmas eve in my little flat, we decided to treat ourselves to a penthouse hotel apartment in Seomyeon with no less than a pool and hot tub outside. We heading out to see the Christmas lights in Nampo-dong but were unfortunately met by hoards of other Christmas-goers and could barely move so we decided to tap out early and go to Galmegi Brewery instead.
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Sat – Thur 30/12 – 04/01: Seoul New Years Adventure
Probably the coldest I’ve been in Korea. Man, Seoul was icy and it seemed to enjoy playing in the negative digits, down to -8° often and a bit of snow on the first night. But it didn’t stop us from doing most of our exploring by foot and only catching the subway a couple of times – the advantage of our hotel’s great location near the historic city center.8_Seoul-new-year
Sunday: I couldn’t believe my luck to find that The Seoul Illustration Fair fell on the weekend that I’d be in town! A bit of a sensory overload with so many stands of local illustrators with so much cool work to look at and business cards to collect while trying not to want something from everyone.
Highlights: We adventured around a lot and got to see much more of the city than the first time we were here and happened to stumble upon cool spots as we went along.
Places we went: Myeongdong shopping street (in search of the Hello Kitty Cafe – which we found had closed down – sad face), Changgyeonggung Palace, Insadong Art Street (one of my favourite areas), Ihwa mural village and Gangnum Station. We also attempted Lotte World but the lines to the roller coasters and rides were just too long.
New Years Eve: Braving the cold, we left our cozy hotel room at 11:45pm and headed down the street to watch the Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony at midnight. The streets were closed off, there were some performers and large crowds but the countdown was 
anti-climatic and the crowds dispersed straight after it into a mini stampede. 

Friday 05/01: The great depart
(Back in Busan) Goodbyes in a long distance relationship are the worst. But it was also the last one for us in Korea as new and interesting things lie ahead. But for now, it’s another 3 months apart. Meh. depart-1.jpg

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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 9

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There is definitely a mid-year slump that comes after the initial excitement, when that need-to-explore-at-every-opportunity settles. You slide into a routine. A comfort. You start maybe meeting up for lunch with friends or go shopping once a weekend and the rest of your precious free time you just blob away at home on Netflix (although, around that time of year the extreme heat and humidity is keeping everyone indoors). But then a few months later you wake up and realise you have 3 months left and it’s back to that tourist-frenzy!

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I recently started a bucket list of everything I want/need to do in Korea before my time is up. But the number of available weekends left to get all of these things done has been quickly ticking away. Cue slight panic. But since making this list a top priority I’ve managed to get most of my wishes granted so far and it’s been an exciting time of adventures once more. 

Sat 21 October: Seaside temples and abandoned railways
Probably the windiest day in Busan this year, but plans were already set for Bucket List entry 1: To visit Haedong Yonggungsa (해동 용궁사) – the temple by the sea (which is uncommon as temples are usually found in the mountains).

We (a friend and I) decided to brave the wind and take on the +-8km walk from the temple along the coast, past Songjeong Beach, past a number of lighthouses and toward Haeundae Beach. Half way there our path joined with the abandoned railway (another tick off the bucket list) and we were blown along the scenic track along the coastline passing many other walkers, murals, couples with tripods and a tunnel, and eventually the end of the track.

Sat 28 Oct: Halloween Party
Halloween was actually on the following Tuesday, so parties were planned for the weekend before. Our choice was a bar-hopping opportunity in PNU. Five of us kitted up as zombie tourists dressed in brightly-coloured banana shirts from Vietnam, Thai T’s, sunglasses, fanny packs and plastic binoculars around our necks. We did our zombie make up and stuck tattoos of scars and cuts on our faces. The looks we got while on the subway though…

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Sun 29 Oct: Spa Land and getting naked
This one was more of a personal dare than a “fun one”. Going to a Korean spa means going butt naked in public baths and soaking alongside Korean contemporaries, saggy ajummas and probably the worst – other foreigners. This includes getting naked in the change rooms and showering in open showers (and all the walking around in between).

Going to the spa also means lounging in mixed-gender sauna rooms (in baggy spa robes thankfully), and if you go to Spa Land in Shinsegae it’s basically a sauna theme park. There are 13 different sauna rooms with different temperatures and themes (including: a Finnish Sauna, Roman Sauna, Wave-Dream Room, Roman Room, Milky Bath, Pyramid Room, Bali Room and Ice Room.) This was my favourite part and I’d happily go back for this relaxing and warm experience. I’m not in any rush to take my clothes off in public again though, despite the hot spring baths being pretty great.
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I also pushed my boundaries and opted for an additional “seshin” session – a full body scrub given by a scrub ajumma dressed in a black bikini with seriously abrasive mittens on. You lie face down on a plastic covered table with your bare bum exposed as you get scrubbed down till it feels like your meat is exposed. She then pours a bucket of warm water over you before you waddle out to seek refuse in the hot baths again. This is how baby skin is made. 

Tues 31 Oct: My first Kpop concert
A friend got us free tickets to see the closing ceremony of the Busan One Asia Festival (BOF) held at the BIFF outdoor stage. I’ve never been to a Kpop concert before and I was very impressed! The singers are great dancers, most groups are big enough to be an extended family, there are fireworks, flames, confetti and a lot of loud music, screaming fans and fun times. We also got a goodie bag of free branded stuff… so Korea!
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Sat 04 Nov: Busan Tower and the Trick Eye Museum, Nampo-dong.
It was not just a trip up Busan’s iconic landmark to see the city from above but there are also several photo booth opportunities at the base of the tower of mini cities, moon scapes and black and white city scenes. This was just the beginning of one long day of photos and posing…
5_Busan-TowerOn to the next photo stage: the Trick Eye Museum:6_Trick-Eye
This was a lot of fun, but it was a trap! It felt like it’d never end. There are just SO many photo stages and opportunities, it’s like a production line. You just can’t do all of them. By the end of about an hour, we finally made it to the end of the maze, exhausted and with full memory cards. There’re some impressive artworks though and it’s all a good laugh.

Sat 18 Nov: Gyeongju gallivants 
High up on the bucket list was to visit Korea’s iconic and historical city of 경주. I fortunately made it in time to see this beautiful city (“the museum without walls”) during autumn before the leaves started fading. This however came with the price of being the first real cold spell and we spent the day exploring everything in 4°c. This surprisingly added to the magic of one of my favourite days in Korea.
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Sat-Sun 25-26 Oct: Daegu – A Girls’ Weekend Adventure
What does one do for a weekend in Daegu? Go to Eworld to ride a bunch of roller coasters, scream your lungs out and maybe shed a fear-tear or two, then party by night in town with far too many foreigners around… That’s what. 

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I hadn’t been to an amusement park since Gold Reef City in Joburg 2014 where the lines were disgustingly long and the ride selections were modest. Eworld, however was an absolute joy ride! Maybe going in late-autumn helped, but the lines were pretty short and the rides were abundant and some admittedly too scary to even consider. After our 5 hours there I got my fair dose of loops and being turned upside down to last me for a while.

Winter Wear and the Walking Sleeping Bags
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Now that the temperature forecast is struggling to count to 10 these days, the serious winter fashion is starting to roam the streets. A popular outfit at the moment is the Walking Sleeping Bag, which I kinda wish I had one of too. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And lastly, a delightful hoodie spotted in class:
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Thanks for scrolling! Part 10 to follow soon…

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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 8

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Ok so it’s already October, that means only two more firsts of the month for 2017, let’s not panic. I luckily (or lazily) have a couple of stories that happened in early months that have yet to be told, so let’s distract ourselves with some dinners and festivals that happened back in July before getting into what went down over the October holiday on Jeju Island…

Thur 20 July: Teachers’ Dinner
Sharing meals and drinks is a significant part of Korean culture. This applies to work life too and makes for quite anticipated dinner events among the teachers at my school. So far this year we’ve had a pork BBQ Dinner, a Hike + Duck Galbi Dinner, a Shabu-Shabu Dinner and last week we had a Hike + Raw Fish Dinner (that was an interesting one). But because this is a belated post, we’re skipping back to the July dinner which was probably the most delicious and “eventful” one: Shabu-Shabu. This meal is “a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water,” and also includes (to my demise) a buffet of everything from sushi to fried chicken and pizza.41_Teachers-Dinner

The main hotpot soupy dish sits bubbling away in the middle of the table (with crab legs sticking out of the broth) and you add in all the veggies and interesting things, then dip the really thin slices of meat in with chopsticks for a couple of seconds only. You can use the round rice papers soaked in water to make a little meat, sauce and lettuce package which you shove in your mouth and try deal with the size and deliciousness of it. All this plus being fed beer and soju by colleagues and later the principal and vice.

It never ends there either, there’ll still be a post-dinner dish served, which should be the dessert course, but is a soup and rice serving of sorts instead. And more drinks. And then… you might just land up in a noraebang i.e. a karaoke room which involves singing, more snack foods (including fruit and dried squid, which is the Korean biltong of choice) and more beer and soju. And mind you, all of this on a school night. On vocals for a number of songs was the principal, a dignified 50+ man. Alongside him stood the vice principal, a similarly aged and mannered lady singing Korean ballads with my one co-teacher as the backup dancer and tambourine player. I unfortunately got coaxed into  singing an English song for everyone, by myself. We’ll leave it there. 

Sat-Sun 22-23 July: Mud Festival
Just days after our teachers’ dinner, I was off on a bus with a bunch of friends to Boryeong (about a 4 hour bus trip) to go and get covered in mud, go on mud slides etc at 보령머드축제. The mud is said to have beneficial minerals for your skin, so basically it’s an excuse to go wild for the good cause of skin enrichment. However, the event was packed. The queues to the mud slides and all the fun things in the mud park were too long and we ended up only doing mud wrestling, during which I got tackled too enthusiastically by my friend. We did leave the area fairly muddy, but it’s a rather watery covering which isn’t unpleasant. Luckily the mud park is right next to the beach so we joined the many others taking a natural bath in the magically warm sea, while floating a large plastic beer bottle amongst our group.52_MudfestThat night included the most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen. The ships were anchored off shore, shooting off the fireworks of different designs to the rhythm of the music playing, the lights reflecting on the water while we stood in awe on the beach. This was the definitely the highlight of the trip. There were also Kpop performances on the main stage on the beach and other festivities going on.

 

Tues 19 Sept: Baseball
This was possibly the most fun I’ve had on a Tuesday night in a long time. I’m not much of a sports fan, but it was the end of the baseball season and when next would I ever get the chance to watch this very non-South-African sport? 53_Baseball.jpgWell to be honest I spent very little of my time there watching the game. It was way more fun watching the cheerleaders and mascots in the front while chanting the individual player’s chant with the crowd when they scored. One of the chants was for “Andy Bonzoo” (the American playing for Busan), which I only found out the next day that his surname is actually ‘Burns’. Ah, Korean pronunciation! But our pronunciation of the Korean players’ names was suspect too and we relied on the big screen to try decipher how to say their names during the chants.

Near the end of the game, orange plastic bags are distributed to the audience for trash collection. However, it is customary to take the bag, catch air and tie a knot then put the bag balloon on your head and hook each handle over your ears to make a nifty head-piece while everyone sings the Lotte-Lot-te-Lott-tehhh-Looooooooooh-teeeeh song.
I left the stadium without realising that I didn’t even know who had won.

Fri 22 Sep: Just another day in 6th grade
I’m now used to the kids throwing pencil cases around, tackling each other, erasing things off the board, knocking over chairs, ringing the desk bell and going through the papers on the teacher’s desk. But this story will beat all the other incidents of them being wild between classes:
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Disclaimer: They are better behaved during the lesson, but in the 10min between classes, these types of behaviours can be expected, especially with this grade.

CHUSEOK HOLIDAY
Tue-Sun 03-08 Oct: Jeju Island adventure
Who wouldn’t love a 10 day holiday to look forward to? So after a few free days to play around in Busan, a couple of friends and I went with EnjoyKorea , a great English tour company (free advertising right here) to the honeymoon island of Jeju – a mere 9 hour, 2 bus trips and a ferry worth to get to this large island south of Korea for 5 nights. 55_Jeju-intro

Might I add that we left at 1am in the morning from Busan to get there by 10am, which we used the rest of the day to lie on the beach, eat chips and nap. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite warm enough to convince me to swim as I sat there in jeans and a hoody, I mean it is Autumn here. Our hotel was pretty sweet with a lovely big pool (once again, no swimming for me) with the ocean in view. We were in a room of 4, but luckily there were two single beds, and only 2 “floor beds” ondol style. Beds are a bonus in Korea!

We had a really decent itinerary over the 6 days, which included enough sightseeing to let us see what Jeju has to offer (things are rather spread out over the island though) and balanced with a lot of down-time to chill or explore or find restaurants (and craft beer shops). We also played a lot of cards on this trip, just FYI.

Day 1-2: A temple, Gold Buddha, little Holland, 3 waterfalls and a tequila night with water slides and ball pits:56_Jeju-1

Day 3: Love Land
The sex theme park full of humour and pleasure…

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Day 4: Craters and Caves
We missed seeing the diving ajummas that day because of the bad weather but we did get to hike up the stair-cased mountain to see the large crater and then later go into the volcanic tube caves. 
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We did a good few hours on the bus that day and I can say Jeju has a lot of horses. Random fact. And it’s known for its oranges. And the many dol haraubang stone statues that look like penis men. 

Day 5-6: Free day, beach day.
We spent a lazy day wandering around the nearest town (Hyeopjae), looking at hippie shops (odd for Korea), and chilling on the beach. We also found a rather hipster container yard of shops and restaurants. 
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Namhae Oktoberfest:
After an early start of bus-ferry-bus and about 6 hours later, we made a slight detour to Namhae and its little German Village for the Korean edition of OktoberFest.

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What a random and magical little German-themed town kitted out with beer stalls along the streets selling great German drafts, people in lederhosen and dirndlsworst and of course Korean music for the occasion (?). The closest we can get to Europe right now.
We got home around 9pm and still had the Monday off to recover the next day. A fantastic Chuseok break, I’d say.

Thanks for scrolling! Part 9 to follow soon…

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Illustrated Travel Journal: Part 7

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I’m not sure which is better, just the thought of a holiday (i.e. a proper break from work) or the thought of an adventure to a new country. But on the morning of 14 August, it was finally time for our 8 Thai-night adventure to begin! With bags and boyfriend packed, we were Phuket bound and excited!

*HEADS UP: There are a lot of beer references coming up…

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Mon 14 Aug: Busan > Kuala Lumpur
Our first flight that morning was a 6.5 hour sitting test, but with an extra seat open next to us and the approaching adventure, the time went fairly quickly despite no on-board entertainment.45_Fly-there.jpgBam! In Malaysia with 5 hours to kill, filled with coffees, curries and delayed flights (helps when you have someone to spend it with though). By the way, they use Malaysian Ringgits here. I’d never heard that word before. Ringgit.

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We had booked and paid for a taxi to pick us up in Phuket at 10pm, but after the delays we were surprised and extremely relieved to see my name still held up by a tired driver at midnight. It was pouring with rain, but we were happy to finally be in our new room by 1am (3am Busan time = more tired). Sleep. 

Day 1: Tues 15 Aug
We woke up to the strong continuous rain. We had prepared for this though, I’d been watching the weather forecast for a week prior, annoyed as persistent rains were exacted for our entire stay. After a big-ass hotel breakfast we put on our rain-friendly slops, grabbed the umbrella and went exploring.

47_Stay-there.jpgOnce we got to the beach, the winds were trying to turn my umbrella inside-out so I succumbed to the weather, closed it and was soaked in no time. Prefect excuse to seek refuge in the beach bar and get some cold Thai-brewed Singhas. I also got to fulfill my green curry cravings and go to one of the many markets down the street to buy couple’s matching Chang Beer shirts so we could look like proper tourists from the start.

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Naturally, we had to earn the right to wear these Chang shirts and made sure to stock up with lots of the beer to drink on the balcony while watching the rain, reading and drawing.

Day 2: Wed 16/08: Putt-Putt and Patong
This was a busy day. The rain had pretty much subsided, although still overcast it made our missions much easier and enjoyable. We decided to just walk in the general direction of the next beaches, along the way we found the Dino Bar (something out of the Flintstones, made out of rocks and open nearly right onto the road) and a dinosaur-themed mini-golf course. Yes, we played and yes it was fun (and yes, I may have won…). I’ve been really wanting to play it for months now as I have yet to find a putt-putt course in Korea.
We walked next to the road to Karon Beach, along very narrow and often non-existence side paths, dodging cars and dodgy dangling wires before deciding we needed a tuk tuk to get to Patong Beach. We found out during the ride that it was separated from our current location by mountains – good call.

50_Tuk-tuk-ThailandArriving at lunch time, we spent the whole afternoon exploring the Patong Beach area and its streets, the food and beer and as the sun was eventually thinking of setting, along with our energy and patience (from all the walking, crowds, no paths and the heat), we stumbled upon “Soi Bangla” or Bangla Road. Suddenly we had energy again. A long party street, an-almost-red-light-district that is closed to vehicles at night and is made up of impressive bars with stripper poles, and bars within bars, neon lights and people, more people, Aussie people and sales people trying to sell you suits, glowing toys and infamously… ping pong shows (ask Uncle Wikipedia about that one rather). Once we were finally tired and all beer-ed out, we caught a jamming tuk tuk the 10km back home – with neon lights, wind blowing our hair around in the open-air back seat, blasting some Sia’s Cheap Thrills etc while we took in the lights and energy of night time on holiday in Phuket.

Day 3: Thurs 17/08: Beach day
We spent this day enjoying the much improved weather (and now uncomfortable humidity) on the beach with blue skies and water, swimming in our awesome hotel pool, sipping cocktails, eating lobster for the first time and exploring our area of Kata Beach.

Day 4: Fri 18/08: Big Buddha and Wat Chalong 
Definitely one of the key adventure days, a lot of walking, a lot of melting (my boyfriend may want to add “grumpiness” on my part) and a lot of catching tuk tuks and taxis to get to places the map made us believe were “close”. We started off by catching the slowest, surely-not-roadworthy Blue Bus for 40฿ which supposedly stopped at many various points all the way to the north of the island. It didn’t. After half an hour in the direction of our destination it stopped, and we seized the opportunity to stumble over the other passengers to get off quickly. Just us two. With some broken communication with the driver, we left and carried on with our journey by foot.
Fast forward the heat and walking along busy roadsides for way too long, we made it to the base of the path up to Big Buddha. 49_Big-Buddha

Luckily there was one tuk tuk available at the bottom who took us up the mountain (walking clearly not an option), waited for us for 40min while we enjoyed the scenery at one of Phuket’s main attractions, and then took us down again for 700฿. Big Buddha and the stunning views of the bays far down below were awesome!
“Close by” was the other site to see: Wat Chalong, the largest temple in Phuket, so we made another tuk tuk stop there and wandered around the temple grounds, but by then we were hot, bothered and ready to just be back in our hotel pool. So we did just that, grabbed a taxi and relaxed the afternoon away with piña coladas in the pool because… pool bar!

One lesson learnt today is that tourists don’t really walk long distance here because they ride scooters everywhere and we missed out on a lot by not renting one: energy, money, fun and sightseeing! There are so many hidden gem restaurants, shops, elephant places and viewpoints along the roadsides that your taxi speeds past.

Day 5: Sat 19/08: Snorkeling
Another item on my Phuket bucket list was to experience the turquoise water of Thailand by boat and snorkeling. Phi Phi Island was too time intensive, so we opted for an afternoon trip to Raya Islands to snorkel. 51_Snorkeling

We were picked up at our hotel, taken to the port and suited up in life jackets for about a 35min boat trip before getting to jump off and snorkel in a designated area next to the island. The fish had also apparently gone away on holiday and there wasn’t much to see, but it was a nice experience. Oh, and despite being given sea sickness pills before leaving, there was one dude parting with his guts all the way to the island (just keeping the story real here). We were then dropped off at a small beach around the corner dotted with other tourists, few amenities and an hour to sit unimpressed.
We awarded our adventure efforts that evening with pool swims and a big Thai dinner then beer on the balcony – our evening ritual.

Day 6: Sun 20/08: Beach and beer
I’m that person who sits and peels off beer labels because I really enjoy collecting them and filling odd pages in my journal with them. By Sunday I think I can say we had sampled all the Thai beers we could find and successfully documented them in my book 
forever. Chang took most of our money, so they win hands down as the best. And I’m a big fan of their logo too. 

Thai-lables

ANYWAY! Sunday was another designated beach day, but first we went on a mission to Karon beach to go parasailing. You know, that thing when they strap you in an uncomfortably tight harness, hook you to a large sail with just two clips so your whole body dangles in the air once you’ve had the 5-4-3-2-1-run moment before lifting up to a scary height above the water towed by a tiny boat far down on the sparkling turquoise ocean below. Yes?
Well. It. Was. Awesome!!
I was holding onto the straps near my head for dear life, it was hard to make my hands just let go to put my arms out and trust the clips keeping me suspended. But what a thrill! We celebrated our experience afterwards by sipping on a fresh coconut with a straw in it, and later I had mango sticky rice for the first time. Tropical, much?

Day 7: Mon 21/08: Last day blues
Today’s objective: enjoy the last day to its fullest. How? Watch the sunrise and set. Then just blob on the beach, swim and eat while the sun plays above. 

We also did our shopping for curios for little Thailand gifts, elephant-print pants and the likes. I made sure to get my last Thai green curry fix before going to the beach to watch the sun set slowly and gloriously golden over the ocean to end our last day in Phuket. A spectacular ending.

Day 8: Tue 22/08: The end? Not so fast!
Flying day. You sit alone with your packed bags and itinerary in hand after the seriously hard good byes are over and you think you’ve got it all planned out from this point on. Cue airline disruptions. It’d been 7 hours sitting around at Phuket International as a teary-faced lone traveler holding onto the thought of my boarding time soon approaching, only to find my flight had been delayed by 2 hours! Argh!

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With a 5 hour layover at my next destination I luckily had extra time to compensate for this. Time ticks by. WHAT! From 17:10 to 19:10 and now delayed till 21:00!! In between this, there is uproar with fellow travelers who are now going to miss their connecting flights home. We are moved to an empty boarding gate at the end of the airport. The discarded passengers. Time ticks by. You have got to be kidding me. Further delay to 22:00. And then to 23:00. One has to laugh at the absurdity.

I’d been at the airport for 12 hours before we finally depart, and fortunately an hour earlier than expected, at 10pm. I knew I would have to ruuuuuun to the next boarding gate in Kuala Lumpur to make my connecting flight back to Busan. So I did. We landed and I ran. When I got to my gate… delayed 2 hours. Oh. My. Tired soul. And at 3am, at a chilly and somber boarding gate in Malaysia we eventually boarded, finally I could sleep and know that I’d be home before lunch the next day. 

Thanks for scrolling! Part 8 to follow soon…

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