May travels

Warning. This is a super-long post — I didn’t dare stop in case I never started again. It also probably will need some proof-reading which I will do AFTER publishing for the same reasons. It starts out wordy then gets more picture-based as I stopped being a lazy mclazypants and dug up new pictures instead of recycling Facebook ones.

I have not updated for six months. This is because my trip with James to Nepal and Bhutan happened and there were SO MANY PICTURES (a month in the Himalayas will do that to you). And then straight after I got back to Melbourne, my baby sister came to stay (so busy, lots of pictures!) for two months. And James turned up in the middle of the night for a surprise 10-day visit from Afghanistan. And then my friend Susan dropped by for a few days, and my Supermate Cici came to stay for a couple of weeks. And then my first uni course started up. And then I had a surprise last-minute holiday with James in South Korea. And then uni started up a second time. And now it’s nearly June and the only reason I’m making time to write a blog post is because I have only completed 4 of my 16 chemistry assignments and I OBVIOUSLY need to procrastinate.

So I thought I would come and post some pictures of our time in Jeju Island, but then I realised that means crawling through the hundreds of pictures James and I took between us (well mostly him, to be honest), and then uploading them. If I wait, I’ll never write anything! So I am going to cheat by just using the ones I already put on Facebook (for my non-FB readers) EDIT: THIS WORKED. I ENDED UP ADDING MORE PICTURES.

My red-eye flight to Seoul took well over 24 hours. I had a stopover in Hong Kong so I went into Central for breakfast with Cici which was lovely, I had forgotten how much I love HK and was really glad I had scheduled another 12-hour stopover on my way back. My plans to move to Hong Kong a couple of years ago are not completely forgotten, although I don’t know quite how that would happen!

Then after several delays I was finally reunited with James — seeing each other three times in 5 months, we are spoilt! We had rented a little apartment in Seoul, although we barely got to spend 10 hours there due to my flight being so late.

Together at last!
 photo 641684060073.jpg
Lotteria fast food, pocket cheese, and plum wine: the trashiest, tastiest Korean late night snack.
 photo 641690048073.jpg
The next day was James’ birthday and we had what would be the first of many Korean pizzas for a celebratory lunch before dashing to the airport. I have never missed a flight in my life, due to an obsession with being early wherever I go, but lunchtime birthday beers helped me relax so well that we only made it to check-in 10 minutes before the flight. We rushed through security, only for them to spot a little knife I gave James last year, and which I was very anxious for us not to lose. I whispered to him we should miss our flight rather than give up the knife, but fortunately they allowed us to get it back once we landed. Very accommodating, the Koreans!

And where were we headed? Jeju Island! It’s normally a highly popular tourist destination, but with canny planning we managed to avoid crowds all but the last day. We rented a tiny KIA and drove from Jeju down to Segwipo (the Other Town on the island).

We have a tradition of travelling in shitty cars.
 photo 1C92C299-7211-418E-A2B2-292D33BDCF13.jpg
On the first day we just lazed around in our rental house whilst I recovered from all the travelling. The floors were heated and the weather wasn’t very nice which made it tempting to stay put, and I was supposed to be doing homework but mostly just napped. Then in the evening James coaxed me out of the house for dinner, and casually suggested we check out one of the waterfalls for which the island is so famous. It was late at night and raining, but he reassured me this meant there would be no other tourists at Cheonjiyeon.

 photo 641849209113.jpg
 photo 641849204123.jpg
 photo 641849234063.jpg
 photo 641849194143.jpg
 photo 641849199133.jpg
Why yes, we did get a bit wet. No other tourists though.

We went back to some other waterfalls the next day, when it was nice and sunny. There were some other people around, but we escaped by clambering over the boulders where no Mainland Chinese Tourist has ever been. I was wearing my hiking boots and this allowed me to feel nice and smug and strong as I scrambled about, compared to everyone else in flip-flops back at the waterfall.
 photo IMG_8298.jpg
Jeongbang waterfall is the ONLY waterfall in Asia to fall into the ocean. The more you know.
 photo 641924373483.jpg
Exploring is how we discovered a cave, with a secret Buddha.
 photo 641924383463.jpg
 photo 641924428373.jpg
I did some posing at the entrance of the cave.
 photo 641924403423.jpg
Obligatory (and rather inflexible) dancer’s pose (I explained to James this is what all yoga-practicing show-off traveller girls do so he obligingly took about 50 shots of it).
 photo 641924353523.jpg
Signs along the path warned us that Cheonjeyeon waterfall is apparently invisible most of the time, but the crazy rains we got soaked in the night before meant it was out in full force. Lucky us! (Psst. Check out those awesome boots)
 photo 641924413403.jpg
We found a cave and in the cave we (meaning James, because I was too chicken to follow him down the tunnel) found pickles… I guess they must be super-spiritual pickles.
 photo 641924338553.jpg
Then we packed up and drove to a traditional guest house, Kasan Tobang, the other side of Segwipo. It was INCREDIBLE. Because I am too lazy to go find my external drive with all the photos, here are some I “found” on the internets.

This is our room, which seems almost sparse in its simplicity, but was very delicately decorated, with visible wooden timbers and the plaster walls covered in handmade white paper. I wasn’t too sure about the thin mattress padding but James assured me I would be fine. I was fine… but I still requested an extra mattress the second night, because I am a wuss. I’m apparently too lazy to even find a photo without someone’s backpack. Let’s say it’s there for scale.
 photo kasan-tobang.jpg
Our room was in this hobbit-like corridor, with tiny little doors, just like in the Shire.
 photo 15253262.jpg
The entire guesthouse was in the same style of yellow ochre clay, visible stone and timber, and gorgeous traditional paper everywhere.
 photo 6117073_7_z.jpg
It somehow just avoided being twee, by being very calm and comfortable and sort of… authentic-feeling. Some reviewers on TripAdvisor were distressed about the communal bathroom, which I admit I wasn’t too keen on when we made the booking, but in fact I LOVED the bathroom. It was much more like a spa, with lots of polished wood, warm stone floors, steam-filled shower-rooms, and a general Orientalist touch of decadence.

Whilst we were staying at Kasan Tobang we decided to go climb Hallasan aka the highest mountain in South Korea (which is only 1950m, the North Koreans get all the crazy mountains I guess). Our original attempt was flummoxed when we started on the wrong trail a mile up the road.

This is me prancing around showing off. I laugh now, thinking how different things would have been, if I had been on the right trail… you may well laugh too, once you read about the actual hike.
 photo showoff.jpg
Once we realised our mistake, we hunted down the correct trail, where the man at the gate told us 11am was too late in the day to start the 8.7km ascent — he swore it would take at least 10 hours return, and could not allow us to proceed. We pouted a little then took off to the famous lava tubes, which were quite impressive. The one we visited allows you to walk along the corridor carved by lava flows for a full kilometre underground, and is fun in that they haven’t sanitised it by putting in lots of safe walkways and “tasteful” lighting like they do in France. Obviously in the absence of light, photos are not that easy to take. James took some great ones actually but again… they are on another hard-drive.

Just pretend like this photo actually shows something…
 photo 887B343C-DE0B-4F91-9D33-657E2F5EDA2A.jpg
I once again felt smug in my hiking boots. I had insisted we buy me some warm leggings on the way to the tubes (as I was wearing that tiny running skirt, not really suitable for spelunking), but as we walked towards the tubes I saw lots of women in mini dresses and flip-flops emerging and thought maybe I was over-dressed. Nope! more smug for Rosie! it was COLD and WET down there. I saw one girl with blinged-out white platform wedge trainers hobbling along and felt all kinds of self-satisfied.

So much smug…
 photo somuchsmug.jpg
Once back out in the sun, we decided to go hike an Olle trail, which are a network of paths around the island. The closest one left from a beach, and I was not prepared for how breath-taking the white sand, black rocks and bright blue-green water would be!
 photo beaches.jpg
 photo 642063888893.jpg
Couple Selfie! I make James do these all the time, mainly because we see each other so rarely I need a way to remember how we look together.
 photo 642063883903.jpg
 photo 642063903863.jpg
 photo 642063893883.jpg
More scrambling over lava flows. It was hot and sunny and so quiet, apart from the sound of little crustaceans attending to their duties among the rocks, which make a clicking, cracking sound, making it feel quite exciting as if the hot lava was still cooling. Again, much hiking boot smug.
 photo 642063928813.jpg
Growing on the lava was bindweed, which is my sister’s special flower…
 photo 642063923823.jpg
What next? I think we probably drove home and ate something with kimchi. I don’t mention the kimchi much, but we did eat plenty of Korean food, I just never found it terribly exciting. We had several local black pork barbecue dinners — the speciality being that the pork does not taste like pork. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? of course, it was very tasty. But you know. Pork belly without pork belly taste is kind of… sad?

I’ve just realised I didn’t even mention the women divers — kick-ass elderly ladies who go diving every day for abalone and what appeared to be kelp to my untrained eyes. Go read about the Hanyeo here. They are incredible — and who doesn’t love a matriarchal society? I don’t have any good pictures cos I am incredibly awkward about taking tourist photos of people.

Anyway the NEXT day, we woke up at 5am, determined not to be refused our Hallasan experience. It was raining. And grey. And windy (Jeju is famous for its insane winds). I did some research (aka reading someone’s blog describing their hike up the mountain in the rain) and decided we’d be fine. James had already warned me it was really not a high mountain at all.

I should probably have had a full post dedicate just to that hike. It went on forever. It got wetter and windier and colder and steeper as we climbed, and because we didn’t think it would be that huge of a deal and erroneously believed there was food at a shelter before the peak, we didn’t eat breakfast OR pack any food. I was starving about 10 minutes in, and when we reached the shelter, my ramen fantasies were shattered. We were 3 hours in on an 8-hour-long hike, and the rain was thrashing all around us, and there was no food. I am not kidding — I found the wrapper of a chocolate-nut bar I’d eaten the day before and licked the insides of it, whimpering as James urged me to drink more water to stave off hunger pangs. Of course he is used to going without food, what with the whole Afghanistan thing, so he wasn’t too worried.

In fact, the entire memory gave me the strength to get up and fetch my harddrive and hunt down some pictures. If I can climb that freaking mountain… I can do this.

Started out alright…
 photo IMG_8407.jpg
This is me speeding up ahead to dash to the shelter where I imagined ramen and hot water awaited me.
 photo IMG_8421.jpg
This is not what I was expecting.
 photo IMG_8431.jpg
All I found was fire-fighting equipment, which seemed extra cruel given the weather.
 photo IMG_8428.jpg
“What weather?” you may be thinking, “doesn’t look too bad to me?” That’s because even driving rain does not show up in the photos.
 photo IMG_8434.jpg
And admittedly, the weather there can be worse. For example this used to be a shelter, a proper building, of stone and cement and wood and everything, until 2007 when a storm hit it. Now it’s just a memorial.
 photo IMG_8458.jpg
For a while it was still somewhat scenic in places…
 photo IMG_8445.jpg
But then it just got… silly. That’s a mountain range behind me.
 photo IMG_8477.jpg
Silly and very wet. The path was basically turning into a mountain stream. We took no photos on the way down due to James’ iPhone shutting down from cold and wet, and me not being at all in the mood for photos, but it was not far off a river at that point.
 photo IMG_8468.jpg
The path ahead:
 photo IMG_8470.jpg
The path behind:
 photo IMG_8472.jpg
I can’t remember much about the bit before, during, and immediately after the peak. It was mostly just a lot of this:
 photo IMG_8491.jpg
The wind and rain were lashing at our ridiculous blue rain-condoms and my feet and legs were aching (yes, even with the special boots…). The rain had seeped in through my socks, and I was so hungry and still only halfway done. I only know I got through it because James held my hand instead of running off ahead as is his normal process (actually he was very good on this hike, a potent mix of hunger and pity for me?).

Proof we made it to the top:
 photo 642145171003.jpg
I hear it’s extremely picturesque.
 photo 642145180983.jpg
[I’m already so tired writing this marathon of a post. It feels like climbing that damn mountain all over again — too far in to stop…].

Climbing back down took almost as long as going back up. I did not feel very shiny and I could not believe how far there still was to go, every time we reached a marker I would shriek in despair. My previously amazing hiking boots were like small cauldrons of warm soup attached to my feet. Anyway, I’ll abbreviate the account of my sufferings and skip to the end: We devoured chocolate and cheese in the car and headed home (there was a big, underwhelming but protein-heavy meal of course, but not worth discussing).

The next morning we had planned to do climb up Sangumburi Crater and watch the sunrise. My calf-muscles seized up completely after Hallasan and I couldn’t even stand up unassisted, let alone walk, so the sensible thing to do was to forget about it.

(I’m hoping these are a reasonable size as they are from James’ real camera and I had to resize them in Photoshop… so much effort)
 photo P5150387.jpg
Do I look like I’m in pain?
 photo top.jpg
Worth it.
 photo coupleselfie.jpg
Totally.
 photo worthit.jpg
As you can see, we aren’t quite that sensible, so instead we speed-walked up and down again in 37 minutes flat before dashing to the airport and flying back to Seoul. I must have been half-delirious from the previous day, but I did it. I’m not sure if it made things even worse, or if the DOMS hadn’t yet kicked in properly, but once we were in Seoul my handicap bordered on humiliating.

At this point I am debating just stopping here because I’m tired of writing. But I have to finish! So in quick summary, we stayed in another traditional guesthouse in Seoul, it was very beautiful.

Entrance:
 photo IMG_8557.jpg
Courtyard
 photo IMG_8543.jpg
Our little appartment/house
 photo IMG_8562.jpg
Me limping off somewhere, either a dentist or the museum.
 photo IMG_8567.jpg
Then my last wisdom tooth (remember the penultimate one?) started giving me hell so we went to a dentist. We did get to visit the National Museum of Korea first, and I saw some very exciting ceramics — archaeological ones and gorgeous porcelains. Ceramics make me happy. Especially celadons. Especially celadons repaired with gold!
 photo IMG_5733copy.jpg
Oh also there was some bear beer, apparently.
 photo IMG_8546.jpg
And we say the Grand Budapest Hotel — the poster looks so pretty in Korean.
 photo IMG_5735.jpg
And on our last night the host lit the underfloor fires…
 photo IMG_8560.jpg
So we hung out in the dry sauna for an hour — which possibly helped my legs? But was just very relaxing and smelt amazing. Bikram yoga has made me very resilient to heat so we just lay on the floor sweating for ages, before eventually going to pack.

Ok, I think that’s pretty much all the interesting stuff we did in Korea – I was going to talk about the numerous pizzas we sampled but in hindsight it’s not THAT compelling.

A full 10 days later and my legs have recovered from Hallasan, you’ll be glad to hear. Cici and I got fantastic massages during my stopover in Hong Kong and I was able to return to daily Barre classes (my current exercise obsession) the day after I got back to Australia… no permanent damage done.*

The end!

*Except for the hiking boots. They still haven’t recovered from being soaked and staying wrapped up in plastic for 3 days. I am worried they may never be the same.

January 2012

I was going to write a post about my visit to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in North/South Korea last year, but then I didn’t have all the pictures I thought I did. However flicking through my January 2012 folder, there are a variety of photos and I thought it might be fun to revisit that month!

January 2nd: Not the funnest start to the year, but the first diagnosis of what turned out to be a major case of the Screwed-Up Knees (what James calls a “bung knee” but that expression is so stupid!)
 photo IMAG0539-1.jpg

January 6. Here I am in Seoul! It’s cold, and bright, and cold!!
 photo IMAG0540-2.jpg

There is a long winding riverpath which I ache to run along, and which Stefany informs me goes for miles. However, I wisely did not pack my running gear, as I am supposed to be resting my freshly injured knees.
 photo IMAG0541.jpg

The supermarkets in So.Ko. sell EVERYTHING. Including fish. As in aquariums and their inhabitants.
 photo IMAG0542.jpg

January 7. Our trip to the DMZ! Our guide is the most adorable, slightly camp Korean. I have forgotten his name but I have a feeling it was Kim (safe bet).
 photo IMAG0543.jpg

There aren’t many photos as it is a restricted area (duh) and therefore we aren’t allowed to even point at things, let alone take photos. I remember that it was fascinating but I can’t remember enough to really write about it with any great skill. This is why I need photos.
 photo IMAG0545.jpg
 photo IMAG0548-1.jpg
 photo 5e46d444.jpg

Apparently, we have now left the DMZ. This shop display was amazing, but then the shoplady came over and echoed the DMZ rules: No photos.
 photo IMAG0556-2.jpg

Innocent Bystander! I have gotten blotto on this delightful pink moscato many a night out in Fitzroy’s Little Creatures brewery, where you used to be able to buy it on tap by the jug. It is also known as “Slut Cheowse”.
 photo IMAG0557-1.jpg

Hello Kitty: Unsurprisingly, just as popular in Korea as in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
 photo 407242_10100148764597577_1970198946_n.jpg

January 15: Back in Taiwan, at Rebecca’s Election Day Party. I am eating homemade blueberry cheesecake next to a piano.
 photo IMG_0206-1.jpg

MRT afterparty with Edu & Co:
 photo IMG_0197.jpg

January 16. I was utterly bemused by my trip to see those nuns.
 photo IMAG0566.jpg

January 18. Applying my powers of deduction to this picture of two Kingfisher Beers, I’m guessing that I’m at the Indian restaurant in Ximending, and that my companion is Catherine. I seem to remember us guffawing too loudly and a Taiwanese gentleman asking us politely to keep it down. Loud English Girls. Mortified.
 photo IMAG0583-1.jpg

January 24. A cup of the most delicious tea in existence. I am really quite enjoying this process of revisiting old pictures! I had forgotten that Rebecca had given me a sachet of this beautiful Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. How clever of me to have taken a photo — I must track some down tomorrow and then DRINK IT FOREVER.
 photo IMAG0596.jpg

January 26. This is the sleepy face of a very naughty girl, who has slept in her running clothes in order to wake up early and go for a run DESPITE THE FACT THAT HER KNEES ARE SO BAD. My Australian sports doctor tells me that actually I was right to keep running despite getting injured. However at the time, I was supposed to be resting…
 photo IMAG0602.jpg

A glutton for punishment, this appears to have been my supper that evening. I identify red cabbage and omelette on a bed of lettuce.
 photo IMAG0605.jpg

January 27. A bird in a cage attached to a scooter. Why? Because Taiwan.
 photo IMAG0607.jpg

January 30. My conservator side laughs at this picture. Most people would struggle to see any value in it. I, however, and any fellow hashers out there, will recognise it as a splash of flour. Beautiful, glorious flour, from a run (ANOTHER FORBIDDEN RUN, so much for resting): the Taipei Zoo run, which I had missed the day before, and ran by myself on the Monday.
 photo IMAG0608-1.jpg

The run ended at Taipei Zoo (the clue is in the name), which has some interesting artwork, including this one monument to animal poop.
 photo IMAG0609-1.jpg

And so my month of January 2012 ended, happy and sweaty. Looking at this picture of me, I want to start running again! But I ran for the tram yesterday morning and OW OW OW. Not quite yet. Soon.
 photo IMAG0612-1.jpg

standing still

Things have been a bit non-stop and intense with this filming malarky. Only today (Day 9) did we film the final sequence — and days 7 and 8 were hard work as I had to write, translate and record my voice-overs. Now that my involvement is finally over, I am quite relieved to retire to my own little messy bedroom, after days of travelling around the entire island and sleeping in hotel rooms every night. Little things like my mosquito net and my morning oats are how I know I’m home! Alberto (the director) does this kind of thing for months and months at a time, I don’t know how he manages…

Tomorrow I am taking Maria and Alberto on the China Hash — Alberto will be running and Mariutti and I will walk and talk. It’s weird to realise almost 6 years have passed since we saw each other last — twice the duration of the 3 years we were friends in university! But she is exactly the same person, as if mere minutes had gone by instead of half a decade. It’s hilarious hearing about her adventures in the Mainland, I think I will have to go visit her in Beijing sometime soon.

I am so, so tired. I have a work meeting on Monday afternoon, but on Tuesday I am going to have a nice “ME” day and reboot afresh, so as to concentrate on my new job (and writing?). Cici has a week’s holiday for Easter just in time for my obligatory visa run to Hong Kong — and Maria AND Rosalie are also going to be in HK for the weekend — how perfectly serendipitous! Somehow everything falls so neatly into place.

Finally, this beautiful little ballet, which I have been watching and listening to again and again. I feel it captures exactly the life and relationships that I want to have. Plus it’s set in Seoul! Can’t get enough of it…

with reason

I try to see a positive in everything — it’s a great exercise for me as I tend more easily (far more easily) towards complaining and grumbling. Some times it’s a little harder than others, and this bruised tailbone of mine is hardly comforting or comfortable.

But I realised that it is probably a good thing in that it has really, really forced me to slow down, whilst staying active. I tend to have two modes, lazy and manic, but neither of those are terribly compatible with a sore coccyx. Lazy Rosie will lay in bed or on the couch all day, “researching” the internet. Manic Rosie will get up at dawn and exercise three times in a day, walking up to 10km around the town, and cook a dozen meals or decide to clean the house. But when it hurts to sit or lay down, and also hurts to move around too much, then I am forced to stay closer to the middle ground (unfamiliar territory) of being reasonably active, with frequent but short breaks. Which is kind of more productive than the usual me, and also possibly better for the prospective healing of my injured knees (my tibia appears to be healing very nicely, according to the latest doctor’s appointment).

See what I did there? Silver lining. Done.

Ow though. I hope it doesn’t last too long!

In other news: I really am glad to be done with school. I think 6 months is the maximum anyone should be studying for at any one time. I started out love-love-loving being a student again and disapproving of the lazy university kids, but that enthusiasm burns out pretty quick.

Awesome and totally on-topic window display from Seoul, which I would have cropped the bottom off of if I had anything other than an iPad

korea

I always end up neglecting my blog when I travel; it’s hard because there’s too much to say in one post, and then you put it off, and then you lose the will to write anything at all. Despite all the commentary I wanted to make about my trip and Koreans and all that jazz… I will right now just force myself to smash out some paragraphs, before all memory of Korea is gone!


First up: Korea in early January is COLD. But gorgeous blue skies and sunshine meant that I was happy, if somewhat chilly. Oh yes and HEATED FLOORS <3.

When I got there on Thursday night I was horrified to see my phone wouldn’t work. This however was rapidly solved by hiring an iPhone for a couple of dollars a day — I am blown away by how easy and practical and organized Korea is in contrast to other Asian countries I’ve been to.

The next day was Friday and Stef had to work, so I wandered around Suji, admiring the snow and ice (which I hadn't seen for a couple of years) and trying not to cry every time I stumbled back onto the beautiful long running path that follows the river all the way to Seoul. I intentionally did not pack my running gear, and that was smart of me, because crippled knees or not, if I could have, I would have run.

On Friday night we went for an amazing vegan Korean dinner. It was delicious and so tasty! I should have taken pictures but was too busy stuffing myself — it was a banquet including so many dishes and side-dishes and I needed to cram as much of it into my mouth as possible.

On Saturday we went on an organized trip (well there aren't any other ways of doing so) to the DMZ (demilitarized zone, on the border with North Korea). I hope (dream on, lady) that I will get round to uploading all my own pictures and doing a proper post on the tour, because of course it was fascinating and terrifying all at once. Here are some pictures from Stef's camera:

This was way before we entered the DMZ and actually I think the sign is just for tourists like us who want to feel naughty — our guide told us it was fine to take pictures.

Again, pre-DMZ, we were supposed to admire this massive train and the walls of remembrance ribbons. But everything was in Korean so the significance escaped us somewhat. I wanted another cheesy picture showing the contrast, Stef obliged:

After this we climbed onto a bus headed for the Joint Security Area (forgive me for never explaining or linking to anything, I just assume everyone has Google and isn’t afraid to use it if they are really intrigued). Once on the bus it was drummed into us that we were not to point or wave or move our arms from our sides, lest it be interpreted as a hostile gesture — those NoKos shoot without warning and to kill.

This took the grin off our faces a little — ok, I lie, it just made us grin in a nervous way instead. No photos allowed unless expressly permitted… the tales I could tell… anyway, last picture is a tantalizing shot of Stef and me standing smack on the border between the two Koreas. I’m in North Korea (you can tell by my fearful rictus and lumpen, military-style clothing), and Stef is in South Korea, and in between us, keeping the peace, is a real live solider (yes, we had to look closely to be sure. Luckily he had a pimple so we knew it was a real person).

This is probably the coolest picture I’ve ever posted on my blog, so I’ve made it a link — click for full-screen.

Ok. Then the obligatory exit through the gift shop etc etc. We got back to Seoul and had a lovely evening eating lots of pretzels at a bar called Woodstock.

Sunday we were going to visit a Jjimjilbang (only linking because I had to google it anyway to find the spelling), but due to unhelpful periods decided to give it a miss and hit the supermarkets for an afternoon of free samples. The Koreans really know how to provide supermarket snacks! We ate so much — fruit, sweet potato buns, yoghurt, fried mushrooms, spinach pancake, and some evil/amazing pancake stuffed with brown sugar and spices that burnt our tongues but kept us coming back for more.

On Monday I went to Stef’s school with her and got to witness Stefany Teacher in action. Some of the kids were unbearably cute. I wish I could show you pictures of the 5-year-olds rehearsing their speech contest! I also did most of my Chinese homework on Monday… I reckon that’s the first time in history I have gone on holiday and succeeded in doing the schoolwork I brought with me.

Monday night we went to yoga, which was heavenly, thanks to heated floors and thick, luxurious mats. Stef and I agreed that yoga shouldn’t be done under any other circumstances!

Tuesday morning I hopped on the bus to the airport — only it was the wrong airport. The driver dropped me at the side of the freeway where I stood for 25 minutes stessed and frozen, until another bus came along and took me to Incheon. My worries were not over yet though! At the check-in, there was much concern about my lack of visa/ticket leaving Taiwan, as they didn’t think immigration would let me in. They started to make me panic, and without really thinking it through, I grabbed my ipad, went to Expedia and bought the cheapest ticket to Hong Kong (an AWFUL flight that takes 8 hours, with a middle-of-the-night 4-hour stopover in Singapore. RETARDED).

In the end Taiwan immigration was ok, the guy was originally rather confused by the numerous expired Taiwan visas in my passport, but once we had bonded over the fact that he also went to Zhengda University, he told me he would “give me” a 90-day landing visa. This was what I had planned all along… why are visas such stressful things! I hate immigration. Anyway, now I have a new visa, and a ticket to HK for the end of Feb, and all is well.

Ok! I did it! go me. That was my update about Korea.

in print

After spending 9 hours preparing for my mid-terms tomorrow, my brain is so sick of reading/writing Chinese! I am bordering on braindead. Luckily tomorrow after my exam I will be skipping off to frozen Korea for a long weekend with Stef in Seoul(ish). Not actually skipping of course, as my knees and ankles are getting worse rather than improving 😦

rambling about books which will probably only interest my immediate family

I have been vaguely skimming Amazon pondering how to spend my remaining pounds. I bought an e-book called Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson, because it was 98p and I was desperate for some more british crime fiction after polishing off all my Kate Atkinson novels. Locked In is very obviously self-published, and whilst the plot was acceptable (if a little transparent in the second half), it really suffered from comparison with Atkinson’s writing… Dude needs a good editor. Apart from the typos, the grammatical errors, and the tendency to repeat words within the same paragraph, he just… doesn’t have that beautiful, lyrical way with words, or the sense of humour, which make Atkinson’s books so much more than just crime thrillers. I am debating whether to spend a pound-eighty-eight on the sequel, and see if Wilkinson’s writing has improved…

Simultaneously Elizabeth George’s new book Believing the Lie has been brought to my attention on Amazon! I swear, I do read other stuff than detective novels… I think it’s just a family tradition to cram the winter holidays full of both excellent crime fiction… and a few crappy ones on the side. Anyway, EG’s new novel is 9.96 on Kindle (!), but it is also over 750 pages long, which means that it should, in theory, last me at least a few days whilst I am in Korea (yay, no homework…). Of course, that would pretty much wipe out the remaining funds. I am thinking about it. I haven’t enjoyed her last few Inspector Lynley books, they were too emotionally exhausting and bleak.

Maybe I’ll just download a dozen more free classics on iBooks instead, so I can reassure myself I’m still a SOAS graduate, pale pink intellectuals too cheap to fork out a pound for a book to read on their Apple devices…

win some, lose some

2012 literally started with a whimper (and maybe even a tearful whinge to my housemate Marine): there is no way I could run the China Hash. This is my own fault for not listening to my body; my knees took a real pounding over the last week and I have to deal with the consequences now.

Eventually I talked myself into viewing things in a positive light: for once, I was free on a Sunday. I took myself into Gongguan to buy the thermals I need for Korea (which I hear is very, very cold right now… still I will have the lovely Stef to keep me warm!). I am very pleased with my purchases: a hat, lined gloves, a thermal long-sleeved dress, thermal leggings, and a thermal t-shirt. Oh and some extra-warm and snuggly socks to keep my toes warm! Here I am modeling some of my purchases, along with my beloved Icebreaker merino hoodie: PLEASE DON’T LET ME FREEZE IN KOREA!

On my way to Gongguan I got a call from Adrian and Yuan, suggesting a late lunch and more importantly, a cuddle with their son Lenny who is just 6 weeks old and a real little character! I had a delicious lunch and a lovely time gazing at Lenny, who is really funny.

The only sad note to the afternoon/evening was that I lost one of my earrings — I only have one pair, dangly skull-and-crossbones ones which I love to pieces and which I bought in Hong Kong two years ago. I am consoling myself with the thought that I will be living in Hong Kong soon and will be able to dedicate myself to finding a new pair… I am a little sad though, because that Christmas I bought myself those earrings, a ring and a bangle, and they were all massive favourites and yet all I have left is one earring.

EDIT: Just got a call from the cafe where we had lunch — they did find my earring after all! yay!