25 Aug Annyeonghaseyo to South Korea
South Korea was my number one country on this trip I was most looking forward to. I don’t exactly know why but i just had heard such good things about the place so whenever anyone asked which country I’m most excited about.. South Korea. . So i had high expectations.
1) Live Octopus – Before leaving the UK I watched some food programme on South Korea and Live Octopus caught me eye for a thing to try. Now I’ve never eaten anything alive before and this was something I personally wanted to really accomplish to see how it would taste. We arrive at this small local restaurant that has a sign of an octopus outside and then when you walk in they have a fish tank full of yess.. you guessed it.. OCTOPUSES just swimming around!! The waitress comes over and we choose an octopus and she just dips her hand into the tank and pulls it out. She dangles it infront of us for us to take a photo and this thing just wriggling around. The way this is eaten is that they smash the head in and then boil it and cut the tentacles into smaller pieces. Now Octopuses can stay alive for a while and the tentacles have a mind of their own and continue to wriggle around for a while. When I say a while, 40 minutes later when we had finished eating, there was a tentacle left which was still moving on our plate. I picked the octopus tentacle up with my chopstick.. it took me some time to grab it as it was suctioning to the plate and wriggling around so not so easy to pick up. I’m then holding this tentacle above my mouth. Staring at it whilst its wriggling away.. I dip it into some sauce and then take a deep breath and throw it into my mouth. Trying to chew as fast as I can, I can feel the octopus sucking onto my tongue and gums.. so I keep chewing and chewing and finally just swallow it away. Now that was one hell of an experience. It tasted soo strange and rubbery, but you must keep chewing it otherwise what happens to allot of people is they start to choke on the octopus as it sucks onto the back of your throat.. so I ensured I chewed the life out of the thing before swallowing. Great experience I must say.. whats next to eat?!
2) The G Palace – We found this amazing hostel in Seoul, owned by an Aussie guy called Gregg, who is married to a lovely Korean lady called Jenny. Gregg just made us feel as though we was at home. The place had a living room and some comfortable beds. We have nicknamed this place the G Palace (short for Greggs Palace). There is a rooftop terrace and on the bottom floor there is a bar too.. just everything you could ever ask for as a traveller. Gregg was just so on point with everything, everytime we came back to the hostel, Gregg would be like are you guys hungry… then orders us some chinese. Even when we come back at 6a.m in the morning, the legend is still there ready to order us a McDonalds Breakfast. Life just doesn’t get better than that at those moments. The hostel was small, which is our preferred choice and we stayed with some cool people. Two Russian girls, Justin Beiber (A Swedish guy), Mr. Universe (Richard an unknown species) and Jim Carey (A German Guy). We all became like this small family, it was just so awesome. Gregg also has made allot of ex-pat friends and they would drop by for a drink. They were either Aussie or Kiwi but all cool guys and we just cracked allot of jokes with them.
3) Veron’s Birthday – We celebrated Veron’s 27th Birthday in Seoul. As it was Richards Birthday the week after and we was not going to be here, we thought it’d be a good idea if we made it a joint birthday celebration. Double whammy, double the Drinks!. So we started off at the G Palace bar, all of Greggs friends came and all of our hostel came out too. Pumping up the music, nocking back shots and having a good time, I went to the local bakery and got two cakes, one for Veron and one for Richard, with a few candles on there. I was 1 year out with Richards age but what the hell, I think he was grateful for getting him a cake. We all sang Happy Birthday to the both of them. I Decided to buy a last minute gift for Veron.. he’s favourite thing of all time.. A BOTTLE!. I bought him a bottle of Black Label Whiskey… which I will say that got polished off pretty quickly once the shots started to get handed around. We then all decided to do something different and headed for some Korean Karaoke. We let Veron do the honours with the first song… let’s just say don’t pick a song if you only know about 5 words and have no idea how the beat or the rhythm of the song goes. We all then joined in singing different songs and having a few more beers in the Karaoke room. Such a great time. Veron had a few too many so we had to drop him off back home after the Karaoke, but me and four of the others then hit a club and partied on his behalf.
4) Shopping for local products – Everyone knows South Korea is the home of electronics… Samsung Electronics that is! Veron had his wonderful brick (Camera) stolen a few weeks back and said he will buy one when we get to Seoul. I was carrying around a Samsung S2, an old model, which was starting to play up, so I thought id treat myself to the latest Galaxy S5. We went to this shopping mall in Yong San which was for electronics that you can bargain at. After haggling the price down and getting a case thrown in, I got myself a Samsung Galaxy S5 Brand new 32gb for only 320gbp! Can you believe it?!! When I got back I opened the box and you even get a spare battery with a battery holder that you can charge. These Koreans just know how to do it, back in the UK we get nothing like this, just unbelievable. Veron also bought his camera at a much discounted price than the UK and he also was fed up with his tablet as it was pretty useless, so he bought himself the latest Samsung Tablet which the 32gb version is not even released in any other country yet.
5) North Korean Border Cross – We took a day trip to the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) which is the most guarded border in the world. Before you go, they take your passport details down a few days before and the UN check it to ensure everything is ok and your allowed to visit or not. They also issue you with a dress code, long trousers, no open shoes, a collared shirt, no hats, no sunglasses and no shirts that have any sort of visible brands, logo’s or country flags. We was quite intrigued but also a bit worried as to the strictness of the tour. When we arrived at the DMZ area, we had to change into an unmarked UN Bus. We then had a South Korean Guard join our bus and check over our passports again. We then headed off through various points and then to the actual Border. We were not allowed to take photos until we arrived at the border, i think because it would give the north korean side a insight into the south korean set up. We had to get off the bus and walk in two strict lines, with nothing on us except a camera, not even the camera case was allowed. We were told not to point or laugh to much as we are being filmed by the North Koreans and they can use this as propaganda. The border was pretty intense with South Korean guards one side and North Korean guards on the other side, facing each other off showing no resistance.. It seemed a very hostile place where at any moment, a rule broken and something would kick off. We were then escorted by the South Korean guard into a room. This is the room where negotiations between the two countries happen, you have a big table in the middle of the room which one side sits on the North Korean side of the border and the other side is the South Korean side. As there were only South Korean guards inside the room, we was allowed to cross the line inside the room and stand on the other side of the other. How cool we thought.. we was actually standing in North Korean territory. Outside the room you cannot cross over the border, as the last person who did this was snatched instantly by the North Koreans and detained. We only got to spend a few minutes inside the room, as the guards said the North Koreans are coming and want to use the room so we must leave, so we quickly took a few snaps and got the hell out of there. What an experience. I was also delighted as at the border I was able to buy myself a North Korean money note, and as I’m collecting a note from each country I go to, I was over the moon to have obtained North Korean Currency.
6) Mr. Universe aka The Moon Man – At the G Palace hostel, we met a cool guy named Richard. He sounded American, but after asking where he is from, I think we needed to get the coffee out because he has a long background story, but the most fascinating story you could ever imagine. Born in Brazil, but with a background of living basically in every livable country or unlivable country you could think of. Hence why we call him Mr. Universe, but as he could be from another planet he’s also been nicknamed the Moon Man. This guy has a story for everything and is soo knowledgeable.. who needs Google when you can ask the Moon Man???. Such a legend. His Passion is SOJU!! This was his favourite drink alongside some milky alcoholic beverage that you drink from a bowl. If you could think of the most randomness thing in the world.. Richard will have been there and done it or have a similar story.. whether it be being mugged and held at gunpoint in Uruguay to selling Orange juice in the markets of Seoul. We hope to meet up again soon my friend.
Richard has a good blog going, and here is the link to the pieces he wrote about us:
1. The Storm
7) Greggers Famous BBQ’S – Most nights, Gregg would be firing up his awesome BBQ. Now what a life, BBQ every night of the week in the back streets of Seoul. Just Amazing. I cannot stress the awesome life this guy has, from Aussie to Seoul, just in love with life.
8) Thailand prep – after heading out in one of the areas of Seoul where there are many bars and clubs, about 10 of us went to this bar and they served BUCKETS!!! I was taken aback by this, as I didn’t think anywhere else in the world except for Thailand you can get buckets. But Seoul does buckets in style.. none of this nasty ass tasting Samsong/red bull whisky.. it’s a bucket of Jack Daniels and Coke!! Life just doesn’t get better at this point. This was a sure fire way to get ready for Thailand with the guys in the a few week’s time.
9) The flight change – Me and Veron both fell in love with Seoul, the people, the culture, the friendliness, party crazy and the awesomeness of Greggs convincing led us to change our flights the night before departure and spend another long weekend in Seoul. We just couldn’t resist as this is probably the best livable places I have ever been to.
1) Samseung ilchulbong – This is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Looking at pictures online this place was a must to go see, and as I’ve seen the majority of the natural wonders by accident, it’s become a thing that I’m soo close to seeing them all that when there is one I’ll be there. We woke up at 5a.m to hike up in the dark for about half an hour to reach there for sunrise. What an amazing place, on the east coast of Jeju, this hidden Gem is a must see. We spent a few hours up there, had an iced coffee whilst waiting for the sun to appear.
2) Schnitzel, Bagga and Ketchup – Our first night in Jeju in the hostel (kindly found by a lovely girl called Amy who was soo helpful, as we had no idea where to find accommodation), we met a German Schnitzel… and I’m not just being stereotypical here as he is German, but his surname when read quickly basically reads ‘Schnitzel’. And he was such a Schnitzel!! As he was a cool dude, we all had a similar number of days in Jeju so we deicded to travel the island together. A Massively banter filled 4 days with Schnitzel. We became a group of nicknames which could be a bakery name. A Schnitzel (German guy), Bagga (could be Bagel or as we have learnt It means ‘Stupid’ in Japanese) and Ketchup (Either through my surname or we also played truth or dare in the hostel with a few people and I was dared to open up the bottle of ketchup and have a few gulps). On another note, the Schnitzel is on a uni term transfer in Seoul and the guys going to a womens university. Only foreigners are allowed to attend this place, so no wonder the Schnitzel had a grin on his face. Though, everyone we met, I was convincing them he was a ladyboy and that’s why he’s allowed in the university.
3) U-DO Island – Another island just off the coast of Jeju (Yes like Jeju isn’t an island itself, there are other smaller islands surrounding the place). We crossed over on a ferry and spent the day exploring this smaller island with superb views of Samseung Ilchubong and some lovely beaches. We met some cool people on the island, Angela and Christine, they insisted that we must try the famous peanut and mandarin ice cream, highly recommendable if you visit Jeju. They are both fashions designers that design clothes for some top brands that get sent over to the US.
4) Korean Hot ‘n’ Spicy – Me, Schnitzel and Bagga were hungry in this very small town and we asked someone a good place to eat. They recommended this place. Now when we say indian food is hot… bliiimeeeeyyyy.. Korean food blows your face off. We had hot and spicy chicken as one dish and this other noodle soup with seafood. Think of Nando’s Extra hot and times it by 1000. Just ridiculously spicy. We had to keep asking the waitress for a jug of water.. I think we went through about 9 jugs within an hour.. she was laughing to herself as she could see we was finding it hot. Half way through, I had to give up, I just couldn’t take anymore and I knew any more was going to be a long session in the bathroom the next day. Schnitzel, being the german that he is, was trying to be a big man and finished off the rest of the dish. Seeing sweat running down his face and being a white guy.. his face was redder than a tomato. Fair play to the guy. As he polished it off… Now the next morning… hmmm what can I say.. Ketchup and Bagga was fine… mr hardman aka Schnitzell must of had about 7 trips to the toilet. Serves him right for trying to show off. But if you love your hot food, South Korea is the place.. just ensure you carry some ice tissues around with you.
5) Verons B’day Part Two – As we celebrated Veron’s Birthday in Seoul on a saturday night as the clock stroked twelve, the next day we was flying to Jeju, which was his actual Birthday. When we arrived we got on a bus the wrong way and then at the end of the line the bus driver who had no English kind of hinted we need to change to another bus at some random stop. After successfully changing buses, we asked this girl, called Amy, on the bus that we are going the right way. She kindly confirmed that it’s correct. She got off the same stop we did and then as it was pouring down, we had no umbrella and no clue where to find accommodation, so we just stood there for 5 minutes thinking what to do. By this time, Amy had walked somewhere then walked back to the bus stop and asked us what we’re doing just standing here. She is from Jeju and being so helpful she walked us to a few hostels. As she seemed like a very cool girl, we asked her to join us with her friends for dinner and a drink as it would be a nice way for Veron to still celebrate on his Birthday with a chilled out meal. We met her later in the evening with her friend and then we all went out to a bar together. We played some pool (where the losing team has a shot of Soju) and then played some card drinking games later on. We hope to see Amy again as we all had great fun together.
6. Jeju World Cup Stadium – Jeju hosted some of the world cup matches in 2002, with some big teams like Brazil and Germany playing their matches here. I had to give this a visit as it’s such a random place to have a world cup stadium, but i must admit how wonderful it was and to see the coastline from outside the stadium, just fantastic location.
The Five S’ s of Seoul
Stylish (Everyone is so fashionable and dress the part no matter what time of the day)
Soul (Seoul is a vibrant city, has so much going on and is constantly buzzin)
Shopping (from Samsung Products to Stylish clothes)
Suave (People are so cool, generous and polite)
Stunners (Most Beautiful women in the world, absolutely stunning)