Thursday, 16 January 2014

My Dad's Visit to Korea

This past weekend my dad caught a flight from Bangkok (where he regularly spends his holidays) to visit Angela and me here in Seoul. It was a weekend of firsts: his first time in Korea, our first time seeing each other in almost 15 months, and his first time meeting Angela. For such a short visit we actually crammed a lot of activities in, including city sightseeing, several Korean dishes, and lots of alcohol.

I was so happy to have Dad come and visit me after spending so long not seeing any friends or family from back home. Here are some photos we took over the weekend:

We picked Dad up from the airport on Friday night after we finished work, and took him all the way back to our area in Gangnam. We immediately hit the bars, and he and I had our first drinks together for well over a year.
The next day we took the metro to the area around City Hall and Jongno. We took a brief walk down the Cheonggyecheon, a 5-mile long stream that runs through the north of the city.
Though this winter hasn't been as harsh as last year's, this was a pretty cold weekend, and parts of the stream were frozen.
There were even some frozen tree lanterns.
After that, we made our way through Gwanghwamun Plaza toward Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The three of us, before the gigantic throne room.
This pavilion was one of mine and Angela's favourite spots in the palace grounds when we visited last April. Now the lake surrounding it was frozen over, which gave it an ethereal, dreamlike quality.
At the ancient banquet hall.
After leaving the palace we headed to nearby Insadong, where Dad had his first Korean meal: barbecue galbi! During his visit, we also showed him jjimdak (delicious chicken, potato and vegetable stew), yang-galbi-sal (lamb skewers) and of course, lots of famous sides such as kimchi, mandu (dumplings) and makgeolli.
Street performers on Insadong. It was around here that we took Dad to a Korean teahouse.
Later that evening, we went to a few bars in Itaewon for some beers and cocktails.

Getting drunker as the night wore on.
The next morning, we headed for Noryangjin Fish Market.
Among the market's many offerings: giant, dissected octopuses.
Then we headed to Myeongdong and took a cable car up to N Seoul Tower .
Admiring the 360 degree views over the sprawling city.
Sampling souvenirs at the gift shop.
We had coffees and bubble teas while we waited for the sun to set so we could see the cityscape at night.
View from the cable car as we descended back down into the neon-lit streets.
At Myeongdong we went to see Nanta Cookin'. Angela and I had already seen this wonderful show last year, but were more than happy to see it again. It's a really fun performance that combines on-stage cooking with percussion, music, dance, singing, magic, kung fu and comedy.
No photos were allowed during the performance, but this ad gives a good taste of what was on offer.
Later that evening, we went back to the beer bar in our neighbourhood, and Dad got to meet most of my co-workers. On Monday, Angela and I had to go to work, and in the evening we were all three of us so exhausted by the sightseeing and the high alcohol intake that we did nothing but relax at home. On Tuesday morning, I took my dad to the station on my way to work, and set him the right direction toward the airport.

All in all, a very successful weekend, and I'm missing my father already. We've made plans to meet up again while Angela and I are travelling later in the year. We're thinking maybe July, by which point we'll be somewhere around Malaysia or Indonesia. Wherever we meet, I'm looking forward to it already.

Friday, 10 January 2014

A Quick New Year's Update

It's been nice taking a break from this blog these past couple of months, though I am starting to miss posting here as often as I once did. 2014 is finally here, and I'm hopeful it'll be one of the most exciting and enriching years of my life. I'm looking forward to the adventures ahead, as well as to regularly posting here again. In the meantime, here's a rundown of some of the stuff Angela and I have been up to over the New Year holidays.

One afternoon during our vacation it snowed pretty heavily here in Seoul. There was a strange yellowish tint to the air, possibly desert sand blown over from the Gobi Desert, which I know Korea sometimes experiences.
Whatever the cause of the yellowness, we felt like we were in some kind of apocalyptic, nuclear fallout.
Another day during vacation we headed to the area around Namdaemun in Seoul. On the way we passed Prugio Valley, one of the city's more striking buildings.
We explored busy Namdaemun Market...
...and visited Namdaemun itself, the ancient South Gate of the city. It had been closed for refurbishment for the last five years, after it was severely burned in an arson attack in 2008. It was great to see it restored back to its former glory.

We walked around the busy shopping district of Myeongdong, where christmas lights were still in full show.
In Myeongdong we visited a dog cafe. This was our second time visiting one of these establishments, where we befriended a whole array of furry companions.

On New Year's Eve we went partying with our friends at numerous bars, including our usual drinking spot, Ska Bar.
January 4th marked our first year anniversary, which we celebrated by spending a night at a hotel in Yeongdeungpo district. We also had a wonderful restaurant meal, drank lots of soju, and played our favourite card games, UNO and Hwatu, together. Our first year together has gone quickly, but it was one of the best years of my life, and I'm so excited for the future time we have together.
At the restaurant for our anniversary.

The very fun Korean card game, Hwatu (also known as Go-Stop), which Angela introduced to me.
The view from our hotel.

That's it for now. Not much else worth mentioning, except the fact that we are both getting really tired of teaching and are very eager to leave this country and embark on our next adventure. We've already started some preparations, having sent a bunch of stuff home and done some research on the countries we'll be visiting. Apart from that, it's business as usual: lots of work and not enough sleep. This month I'm doing intensives at school, which means going in earlier and teaching a bunch of extra classes. It's a bit of a drag but nothing worse than what I've dealt with before.

Another thing I wanted to mention: though we've had a little bit of a snow and some crisp days here and there, this winter has, so far, been A LOT milder than last year. I haven't had to put on extra layers or even use my gloves or scarf that much. We're not even halfway through January yet, so I don't want to jinx it, but so far I'm really pleased that we're not having to endure the sort of bone-shattering sub-zero temperatures we were experiencing this time last year.

What else? Oh yeah. My dad's coming to Korea! But that can wait till the next post.