Tag Archives: #food

Jodhpur, India: Possibly the best day ever!

I had dreamed of visiting India since adolescence. The thing was, I had also heard that India is the pinnacle of challenging backpacking and that had made we weary, especially as a single female traveller. Interestingly, this made me even more determined. Apparently, if you can backpack in India, you can backpack anywhere.

I hadn’t been ready to handle the challenge of India for a long time. Two years ago, I travelled Thailand for a month with my friend Beth (see her blogsite, Empanada Girl), and we encountered several challenges. These included encountering scams, being treated like  dollar signs, and nearly knocking myself out walking into a protruding chunk of concrete overhanging a side-walk.

After a later emotional meltdown in Saigon Vietnam due to travel fatigue and feeling overwhelmed from different expectations about my physical safety, I decided that I definitely was not ready for India. My frustration and temperament was not in the right place.

But this Spring, something changed. I had changed, and I felt ready to visit this mystical country, and even do so on my own. I booked my ticket, and on April 22nd, 2017, I landed in India for the first time.

I arrived into Delhi international airport, and after changing American dollars for Indian rupees, I got my passport stamped at the e-visa immigration counters and exited the airport.

The 7pm hot Delhi air hit me immediately. Indian families were waiting outside the airport doors as only travelers were allowed inside. I needed to get to Delhi Cantt train station to get my overnight air-conditioned train to Jodhpur. Taxi drivers approached me immediately, trying to get my business, but I made a beeline for the Police Taxi yellow building in front of the airport. There, I encountered a bunch of men all trying to talk to the teller, and after some skillful and assertive maneuvering, I paid about 300 rupees to a tired looking man in a booth. He issued me a receipt, and waved me in the direction of the nearby rickshaw taxis. I was relieved to avoid haggling with the regular rickshaw and taxi drivers by using this regulated, prepaid service.

I ended up sharing a rickshaw with an education profesor who praised me for traveling to his country. Within minutes of arriving, I was so happy with my decision to visit, and for the immediate validation for having the balls and curiosity to learn about this country. We had a lot to talk about as we both work in similar fields. He emphasized the demand for English teachers to work in India and encouraged me to consider working in India someday. After a pleasant twenty minute conversation swerving through Delhi night traffic, the driver dropped me off at Cantt station.

IMG_20170423_010542
Delhi Cantt railway station

I hung out at Delhi Cantt for about 3 hours, as my 9:45pm train was running a little late. I met friendly people on the platform, including a Jehovah’s witness fella. I must have asked at least five sets of people, who incrementally directed me to exactly where to stand to board coach 3, where the air conditioning section of the train would stop. My friend Jay who lives in Jodhpur and works for the local rail system was sending my pre-booked ticket along with coach employees and these employees were expecting me to rendezvous at coach 3. Also, the train would only stop for a minute, so i’d have to board quickly.

When the train arrived, there was a scramble to get on. Jay’s employee, coach attendant Rajanish, was not evident at first. I furiously looked around as I had a photo of him to identify him. Another fella pointed out Rajanish, who was distracted with his work duties. I hopped onto the train before it pulled away, and when the train did pull away, Rajanish had to run to get up onto the coach. He gave me a ticket, and directed me to an upper berth spot where I could hide away for the next 10 hours.

IMG_20170423_102810
Indian train system: the best way to travel around India! View from my upper berth

The upper berth required some agility to climb onto. I brought my small osprey backpack up with me as I didn’t have a lock and chain to anchor it to the luggage holding area by the doors. The coach attendants provided bed sheets and a pillow, and there was a net support to place my water bottle inside.

People came and went below me, and eventually, as we approached Jodhpur the following morning, I began talking to the people around me. There seemed to be a lot of couples and families traveling together. The men could often speak English, but these women only spoke local languages and Hindi. We hung out while I admired bichudi, ringed toes that signify that a woman is married. Before I knew it, we had stopped and Jay was already in my coach, looking for me!

I gave Jay a big hug and said goodbye to my new coach friends. Jay asked about my trip, and then we slowly headed toward his motorbike, stopping along the way to make appointments with some of his employees. We passed some of the train cleaning staff, ladies in yellow saris who all looked adorable. They kept smiling at me and one lady kept trying to talk to me while Jay was distracted, conversing with employees.

Around 8am, we were speeding through the streets of Jodhpur on Jay’s motorbike, wind in my hair and wearing a light backpack. It was my first experience of the famous Indian traffic that I had only seen on TV. Here, the local vehicles were mostly motorbikes and rickshaws, and Ragasthan, I noticed, was quite sandy. It was frankly, exhilarating. My eyes were like sponges, soaking up every little thing about this new world I had been suddenly transported to.

We passed through the famous Ghantaghar clock tower, just as it began to chime at 9 on the hour. The ground was all cobble stones, and Sadar market was beginning to stir, as it was still early in the morning. I recognized this area from all my previous research and it was thrilling to see with my own eyes.

The first thing we did was head up to LG Paying Guesthouse, a wonderful place which I found through booking.com. On arrival, I discovered that Jay had visited the owner, Jitendva, a day prior to scope out the accommodation. The owner was welcoming, kind and attentive. The guesthouse was located on the side of the Mehrangarh Fort mountain, so the steps were all steep and deep. His family lived on the first floor, while the guests lived above them. The newly renovated area included a central courtyard with a great neighbourhood view, and an enclosed patio which made a nice spot to take tea and breakfast. The guest rooms all branched off of these central spaces.

We snooped around the property, and I admired my new room for the next three nights which had sexy Indian images painted on the walls. The room and bathroom was clean, and included towel and toilet paper, which I later discovered was something of a luxury in Indian guesthouses and hostels. We enjoyed a chai tea on the patio before I freshened up.

Jay and I headed directly to a local restaurant down the mountain to find breakfast. We had paneer with tea as the day quickly warmed up. We were joined by Jay’s acquaintance, Manish who would guide us around Jodhpur. Jay explained that he himself had lived in Jodhpur for four months, and this was his first opportunity to be a tourist in this city.

IMG_20170423_154005
First breakfast in India, with Jay

We were soon joined by Jay’s employee, Varun, and together, we headed to Mehrangarh Fort. After cramming my stuff into my camera bag because security demanded that I could not bring my plastic bag with me into the grounds, I paid the entry fee (500 rupees) plus a fee for bringing a camera. Jay, Manish and Varun, as Indians, paid a significantly smaller entrance fee.

We encountered massive metal entrance gates with protruding spikes to impale elephants if enemies tried to use elephants in warfare attacks. We wandered into restoration projects undertaken by foreigners and locals. The museum displayed chair carriages carried by slaves to transport monarchs, as well as elaborately decorated hookahs and other interesting royal items.

IMG_1630
Restoration projects

We also encountered courtyards made from marble, and gorgeous architectural designs. The view of the colonial cannons poised on the fortress walls overlooking the city was one of my favourites. Elements of detailing on the walls reminded me of the Moorish Muslim palace in Spain, Al Alhambra.IMG_1656 (2)

IMG_1664Interestingly, Indian boys and girls there wanted to take photos with me. I had read about this peculiar custom while researching ahead of my trip, so I expected this would happen. A group of boys asked Jay’s friends if they could take a photo with me, to which they replied, no. I found the situation hilariously funny, although somewhat sexist since they boys didn’t ask me personally. It appeared to be a respect thing, since it seemed I was traveling with an entourage of Indian men. Some of the locals were extremely attractive, with light eyes and gorgeous faces. I was having a splendid time!

IMG_1666
Mini photoshoot in a gorgeous marble courtyard
IMG_1646
View of the lower fortress and the city of Jodhpur

IMG_1644

The day was very hot, possibly 41 degrees Celsius, so we stopped off at an onsite café to have a refreshing Kingfisher beer. The café had a roof, but the front was completely open, much  like a terrace. We were surrounded by paintings of Indian monarchs, and we watched the passers-by while we rested. The waiter had a huge maharaja mustache, and I noticed that many of the staff at the fort, as well as staff at other tourist sites I would later visit donned these huge, impressive mustaches!

Before leaving, we stopped by the gift shop as I wanted to pick up some postcards. Printed images on paper and fabric seemed plentiful, and some of these could fetch a pretty penny! They featured scenes from familiar Hindu stories. I have no place back home to hang these larger beautiful prints, so I contented myself with admiring the images, and buying small postcards instead.

On our way out, we passed a very large and famous Hindu temple. Jay explained that he didn’t want to visit it, so we skipped it and headed out. It was also exhaustingly hot, but if I visit Jodhpur again, I would like to see it.

IMG_1669
My guardians! Jay (in blue), Manish and Varun
IMG_1679
Impressed by the spectacular white marble!

Despite the heat of the lunchtime sun, we speed off to visit the Jaswant Thada (white) mausoleum. It was located about half a kilometer from the fort, so it was a quick motorbike ride over. The grounds had a lush green park, and after walking around a pavilion, we took some photos on the red brick steps which directed guests to the main mausoleum entrance. The interior appeared to be one huge room with ornate architectural features. Many portraits of deceased maharajas were displayed.

Funnily enough, Manish suddenly ‘became’ my tour guide, repeating the information on the wall painting descriptions for me, which I could plainly read for myself. Perhaps he was practicing his tour guide skills for a future job. The interior was cool and airy, and was a huge relief to be out of the unrelenting heat.

Outside, we took photos of the exterior features of the white marble architecture. I wanted to photograph everything, but settled on a handful of pictures. We returned to Jay, who had waited in the gardens because he refused to go into temples. His sister passed away recently, and he just didn’t want to be in spiritual places.IMG_20170423_185737

IMG_1690

IMG_1692
Selfies at Jaswant Thada

IMG_1695

IMG_20170423_190036
With new friends, Varun (brown shirt) and Manish (plum)

Soon, we were on our way to downtown Jodhpur. The fellas all had motorbikes, and I was paired with Jay. Often, we rode in formation, one after the other, but other times, we rode side by side while the fellas slowed on the winding dust roads to chat about directions. It was incredibly amusing and fun. Jay later told me that he had reduced his speed to make sure I felt comfortable and safe riding with him. I thanked him for that. I truly enjoyed riding around together, although every morning, It was a struggle to wash the sand out of my hair.

We went to dinner early, possibly around 5pm, because we had skipped lunch. The restaurant complex named Neralidani contained a downstairs bar, which Jay told me was full of drunks and we needed to avoid. We went upstairs, to a massive, banquet style hall where we four were the only guests. Below on the lawn, the staff were setting up to receive a wedding reception.

I cannot remember what we ordered at the restaurant. Only that the tables were so large that we were seated quite far apart, and also the air conditioner was blowing so hard that we played musical chairs to evade it. Jay explained that the restaurant was very popular, and that later in the evening, the entire restaurant would be packed.

IMG_20170423_235733
Fun times with Manish

After saying goodbye to Manish and Varun, we sped up toward my guesthouse. Since it was located near the top of a mountain, the paths were uphill, narrow, dusty and winding. At some point during our day, en route to my hotel (I forget the time sequence), we encountered a celebration procession of party-goers walking downhill, and we had to stop to wait for them to pass.

All the Ragasthani party women were wearing colourful, traditional clothing, and they seemed to be balancing dishes of food or gifts on their heads. Some were beating drums and playing music, and everyone was smiling and happy. Jay and I just sat on his bike, staring, as they slowly sauntered by. The colourful sights, the delicious cooked food aromas and the accompanying music made for an intoxicating sensory experience.

As if that wasn’t enough, once we resumed heading up into the mountain, passing local goats lingering outside their owners’ entranceways, Jay exclaimed, holy shit! We encountered two huge cows, and one of them was completely blocking our narrow path. We had to wait as we slowly inched forward, while the cow took her sweet time to swivel around. By the time we arrived at the guesthouse, I was so enamoured by my surroundings.

I have travelled to many places, and seen many things. This first day in Jodhpur showed me things I’ve never seen or experienced before. This first day turned out to possibly be the most exciting day of my life so far.

IMG_20170424_014328
Sexy images of royal couples on my Guesthouse walls
IMG_20170424_015029
My neighbourhood, up in the mountain (view from LG Guesthouse)
IMG_20170424_015045
Night view from LG Guesthouse: my local neighbourhood in Mehrangarh fortress mountain

Jay and I agreed to meet the following morning, and I headed up to my guesthouse terrace. There, I chatted with a Korean couple and the guesthouse owner intermittently. Before heading to my sexily decorated room, I snapped some photos of the local neighbourhood at night and marvelled at the grand fortress, touring above the guesthouse. What an amazing place to experience!

 

Subscribe to my page get my follow up blogs… Jodhpur, parts two and three!

Follow travelandtash on Instagram

Follow travelandtash on Facebook

 

Keep learning!

 

What do you enjoy about visiting smaller cities? Please like, share and comment below!

Latin American Festival, Seoul 2017

My close friends, Buyeon and Anita, were heading to Ultra Music Festival Korea on June 10th, and since Buyeon had been itching to dance for ages, Anita adventure seemed like a fantastic scene for the two of them. I was a little sad not to be joining them, but, after an amazing day elsewhere, I was so glad events worked out that way. Here’s why.

I signed up to join The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group  hosted by Mr. Harry Yoon. The plan was to spend the afternoon eating, drinking and enjoying live music at the Latin American Festival. I had attended this same Latin festival a year prior with friends Dan and Sariska, so I knew that we’d have a great time, especially with the sun out.

I rendezvous with the meetup group at Hansung University Station. Harry quickly directed me to a group of expats nearby and soon, we all introduced ourselves. My friend Kate joined too, and I was particularly excited to hear about her recent adventures in Germany.

Latin festival 4
With Kate

Seongbukcheon Fountain Square was filled with expats of all colours: blacks, whites, Latinos and many Koreans, including families. Our group began meandering together from tent to tent, checking out the food and beverages available at each one. There were tents from Spain, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and other tents set up just for sangria and football fans.

IMG_20170610_172631

Latin festival 2
Our crew
IMG_20170610_133123
The chef (in white) was from Barcelona
IMG_20170610_132810
Paella deliciousness
IMG_20170610_133001
The Spanish team

I soon had a sangria in one hand, and a tapa sized paella in the other. The Spanish chef seemed to cook at least one huge saucepan of paella every hour.

Latin festival 8
Sangria! Harry in the blue and white stripes, and Ernesto in white
Latin festival 9
Showing off our paella… are you jealous? You should be…
IMG_20170610_134226
Steve, with nachos chips and spicy chocolate sauce dip

After finding food, we hovered around a table with an umbrella to stay in the shade while we all got to know each other. Steven from the USA had lots to talk about and he was particularly engaging. Harry wanted to take lots of photos so we posed happily. I chatted with Ernesto who had a very interesting cultural heritage, and in some ways, reminded my of my own one. I also reconnected with Tasha who I had met on a previous Meetup event.

The Mexican and Brazilian tents always had massive lines ups. I later got a delicious pork (including chorizo) and vegetable sandwich, again from the Spanish tent, while Kate got skewered meat and a coffee from the Brazilian tent.

IMG_20170610_144643
Getting to know each other in the shade
IMG_20170610_134030
Posing for Harry – with Tasha, green top

Kate and I soon wandered and found ourselves looking at pretty bracelets in the Peruvian tent. I picked out a bracelet to match my colourful Ragasthani bangles.

IMG_20170610_134357

IMG_20170610_163041
Kate admiring Peruvian handicrafts!

But the stage was equally distracting! The performances that really stood out were the Argentinian Tango, the “Spanish K-pop” student performance, and El Combo Sabroso band, which played many classics and got the crowd dancing.

IMG_20170610_134315

Organizers cleared a dance space while El Combo Sabroso played. My new friends took to the dancefloor, particularly Ernesto who was very skilled at Latin dance. I hope to see El Combo Sabroso play in one of the local clubs in Seoul soon.

IMG_20170610_154922
El Combo Sabroso

IMG_20170610_160826

IMG_20170610_155643
Enjoying the dance scene

Daniel Baker‘s dance class was a riot. His energy on the stage was phenomenal, and he had people all over the square following his dance moves. Kate and I were trying to scope out tents for more food, but got stuck mid-way bouncing to Daniel’s moves cause we found it hard to tear away from his infectious energy! Check out Daniel’s page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/zumbaitaewon/

IMG_20170610_163953
Daniel Baker and friends, stirring it up!

The venue had few chairs, so intermittently, we stopped to rest behind the tents which also offered shade from the sun.

IMG_20170610_155154

Later that afternoon, the lingering members of Harry’s group found each other, and Ernesto swept me off my feet as we bounced to the blaring music. The atmosphere was exhiliarating. The tunes were fantastic, everyone had a sangria, tinto de verano or Brazilian coffee in their hand,  while whiffs from nearby sizzling Mexican fajitas filled the air.

Latin festival 7
Posing with pretty ladies, and Ernesto!

The food, music, sunshine, and mix of incredible people made for a delightful afternoon! I was so happy that the universe brought me to the Latin American Festival!

Soon, we all decided to visit the Philharmonic Orchestra concert organized at the Han river later that evening. But that is another story.

IMG_20170610_194717
Evening fun at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Han River

Latin American Festival: June 10th, 2017 (yearly event)

02860  2 Dongsomun-ro (Seongbukcheon Fountain Square), Seongbuk-gu, Seoul                 Travel there: Hansung University Station (line 4), exit 2

A big thank you goes out to Mr. Harry Yoon who provided many of the photos used here.

 

What do you enjoy most at cultural festivals?

Please like, share, and leave a comment  below.

Keep learning!

 

 

Delhi India in 4.5 days: A personal story – Part Three

This was my first trip to both Delhi, and India, and thus far, I had found Delhi huge, overwhelming, the people seemed less happy (and less friendly) than in other parts of India. This is the conclusion of a three part series. In Part Two, I tell the story of meeting Ravi from Jaipur, and traveling around Delhi together, visiting Delhi Fort and Chadni Chowk market, an unpleasant encounter with an unscrupulous cycle rickshaw driver, and finally, a visit to India Gate.

DAY FOUR

I awoke in my hotel, the Su Shree Continental in Paharganj, to find out that my ex boyfriend, Wayne, had passed away earlier that week. My friend Van who was a mutual friend of ours messaged me from Vancouver to see if I was okay, however she didn’t realize that I actually didn’t know the news yet.

Wayne and I had not remained in communication over the last year and a half since our breakup, so I initially wasn’t sure how to learn more about what happened. I have severed almost every tie between us. I found some information online which confirmed Van’s news. At this time, I felt deflated and down, and all kinds of things were running though my mind. During the period of our excommunication, I had felt angry with him, but now, I didn’t know how to feel. I also noticed that the buddist service for Wayne put his age at 59, which was very confusing for me as he had always told me that he was about ten years younger.

I stewed all morning, experiencing conflicting emotions. I’ve never lost a former partner before. Eventually got myself going in the early afternoon. I headed south, toward Janpath lane and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, which actually turned out to be my favourite location in all Delhi. I wanted to see Connaught Place en route, and started walking in that direction. A cycle rickshaw picked me up en route and since Gurudwara would be the easiest place for his rickshaw to access, he took me there. I only saw the back of Connaught Place after all.IMG_20170504_222524

On entering Gurudwara Sikh temple I could hear prayers sung out from the overhead speakers attached to the main central building. I had to first leave my shoes with fellas in the lower level for safekeeping. Barefoot, I headed upstairs, waded through a little pool of water that presumably purified my feet, and then I was free to wander the grounds. The entire complex appeared to be built on a platform raised above street level.

I headed to the right, where a huge square pool of water glistened against the white temple. I walked around the large pool, and watched boys wade into the pool. Later, I saw a Sikh pool guard beat misbehaving boys with a string when they exited the pool. Public corporal punishment seems normal here, I suppose. I stopped there for a while, and recorded a video while a heron meandered in the pool.IMG_20170504_204638

IMG_20170504_204741IMG_20170504_204552IMG_20170504_205443I recorded a second video before leaving the premises, to show off the central courtyard where most of the action was taking place. I have never experienced a religious location quite like this. Gurudwara was an oasis in the mist of chaotic Delhi, and I really needed this peaceful alone time to reflect and rest.IMG_20170504_212155

IMG_20170504_212209On my way out, a friendly and charming guy started talking to me. Before long, I found out that he was a rickshaw driver, looked to drive me to my next destination. I agreed as I wanted to get to nearby Janpath Lane, however I never imagined that it’d take him almost two hours to get me there.

The rickshaw driver somehow convinced me to visit a nearby bazar en route to our destination, which apparently had ‘much better prices’ than Janpath market. It turned out that the bazar was largely aimed at settled tourists, who owned homes and had room to put all the heavy and pricy souvenirs. I, on the other hand, was traveling backpacker style and currently have no permanent home. This bazar was not for me! I returned to my driver annoyed because he had clearly misled me.

While halted at a traffic stop, kids approached, begging me for money. I gave them cookies I had in my bag. Once again en route to Janpath, the driver convinced me again to visit another Bazar, which he explained was an attempt for him to receive vouchers for gas. I agreed to the detour once again, but I was beginning to get impatient. We made a pit stop at the bazar so my driver could get his damn gas vouchers. That entailed me walking around the bazar looking like a genuine customer who intended to buy lots of luxurious items for a home that I don’t own yet.

When I returned to the rickshaw, I demanded that we go directly to Janpath, which was actually not far from Gurudwara, but I was now angry that I was wasting my last full day in Delhi doing what my driver was persuading me to do.

Finally, as I was about to pay him, he declared he had no change from my larger money dominations, and then hinting that I could pay him more, suggested I should pay him what I thought the trip was worth. I was so annoyed that he had wasted my precious time that I decided against tipping him, and with help from another rickshaw driver who broke up my larger bill, I paid my driver exactly what we had agreed at the outset. I was relieved to enter Janpath and be clear of that driver who I had initially trusted. I felt annoyed that I had to verbally battle with him just to go where I had intended.IMG_20170504_223253

Thankfully, Janpath was worth the long detour. The market was compact, short and had vendors selling clothing, costume jewelry, shoes, and belts. Sellers approached me trying to sell me board games, wooden pipes and other wacky items.

I spied a stall that had many pretty Gujarat handbags, and so I chatted with the owner for a while. I picked up some pretty local earrings from other vendors, and then exited the market, hoping to find Little Tibet market, located nearby.

IMG_20170504_224205
Janpath Lane market

 

As I approached Little Tibet, I noticed that shops suddenly became very western, and their prices did too. I was advised by shop owners en route that Little Tibet usually closed around 7pm, and by now, it was already 8pm. I began to feel that the area was in fact a pit stop for wealthy western ‘hippies’, and this was really not what I had in mind. I was actually on a mission to find local incense. I stopped by a store to pick up Delhi candy for my students back in Korea, and also purchased a couple of embroidered fabric pieces from a very grateful street vendor who had her wears displayed on the sidewalk. When I stumbled across Patel Chowk station, I decided to just head back to Paharganj. That night, I ate at a local restaurant in the sketchy alleys near my hotel. I hardly remember a thing about it, so I must have been very tired!

HEADING HOME

My flight was in the evening, so I had the whole morning and part of the afternoon before I headed to Delhi international airport. My flight was at 7:40pm, so I figured I’d leave Paharganj around 3pm. After packing and extending my check out time with my hotel, I stumbled across a local restaurant and ordered palak paneer (mashed potato and cheese sandwiched between hot roti bread) and a mango lassi.

While I waited for my food, more hungry customers arrived. I noticed a man dressed in rags, who seemed to have something wrong with his legs sitting on the sidewalk across the street. I thought how strange it was, for all the customers within to be staring at this man, while we ate and he looked so thin. When my breakfast arrived, I darted quickly across the street with a piece of my breakfast and the remaining water in my water bottle. He looked super happy as I gave him this small gift, and afterwards, I darted back to my table at the restaurant, to reflect on the wealth disparity between the Indian guests staying at my hotel, and the local poor.

Around the corner, I stopped for a sugar cane and lime refreshing beverage, before heading to Main Bazar Road where I intended to spend my last few hours before leaving India. The tiny alleys toward Main Bazar Road were poorly maintained which made wearing sandals a little challenging. I was surprised every time though, when I wondered into a cow on the street.

I initially wanted to find a post office, so I could send three postcards, but this took me quite a while to find as there were no clear identifying signs above the post office. I must have asked at least five people before I eventually found it. It opened at 10am, so because I arrived too early, I decided to return later.

I headed to nearby Krishna café to check out their pretty embroidered Gujarat handbags that I had noticed on my previous visit. They were all too large for my taste, so I just stopped for tea. I ended up striking a conversation with a Japanese man sitting beside me, and he told me about his crazy schedule, visiting multiple locations in India, all within the space of a week. He explained that this was his eighth trip to India, and he was visiting many sites because in Japan, employees get short vacation breaks, and he was making the best of his time away from work.

After tea, I headed back to the post office. I poked my head through an entrance on the right, and headed up a narrow staircase, entered a small courtyard, and within one of the rooms lay the post office. The clerks were friendly, and postage, cheap. I was happy to successfully send my postcards!

The next few hours were a shopping blur. I looked at afgani pants, cushions, wall hangings and backpacks. Eventually, I found myself in a small shoe store, Meenu Traders (1045-46 Main Basar Road), and chatted with the chatty owner, Mr. Manchanda, and eventually bought a pair of colourful leather sandals ( around 400 rupees) that fit me well. I’m apparently an Indian shoe-size 10! The store reminded me of the charming shoe shop I visited in Jodhpur a week earlier.

I decided by now that local restaurants served better quality food, their prices were local (unlike many of the tourist restaurants along Main Bazar Road) and I felt good about supporting the local businesses. I ordered a Thali at the entrance.

The restaurant upstairs-seating opened up into the street, and as my food arrived, some fella started splitting coal on the sidewalk pavement outside. As a result, I breathed in some of the dust that floated up toward me, and I found it interesting that it seemed that many here just didn’t know about the hazards of air pollution. Perhaps one of the benefits of attending tourist restaurants was that guests didn’t receive a complimentary side of coal dust with their birianis.

I made one last pit stop at a jewelers who specialized in silver. I had come across The Ornaments on my first day staying in Paharganj, and had seen a ring I liked. The owner, Raja, had given me his card so I’d find him again. I tracked him down at 1549 Main Bazar Road, and Raja explained that he designs jewelry. I purchased the same silver ring I had seen earlier, which had a dark African amethyst stone in the center. I paid just over 700 rupees for it and felt ecstatic to have landed this beautiful piece of jewelry.

Two memorable things happened while en route to the airport. Firstly, as usual, I grabbed a shared rickshaw from DB Gupta road across the big bridge to the Delhi metro station. I ended up sharing a rickshaw with a fella that in fact was going to another nearby train station. I wouldn’t have mounted the rickshaw but the driver led me to believe he was headed to Delhi metro. So, the driver let me dismount, to haggle with alternate drivers who were driving over the busy bridge. The weather was hot, and I was wearing a heavy backpack, but thankfully, a rickshaw driver soon stopped to see if he could pick up my fare. I hopped on, and all worked out.

At Delhi metro station, I discovered that I needed to locate the actual airport express line station, which was adjacent to the regular metro station. The ticket counter guy was ambiguous about exactly where the airport metro station was located, but a kind Indian fella in the queue approached me and explained that I had to head toward exit 4, where I would find the correct building and ticket booth to travel to the airport. I was pretty grateful for this guy’s help, and two minutes later, after emerging from the metro building and crossing the street, I entered the airport express metro station.

My 60 rupee one way ticket to the airport was cheap, as the airport was only about five stops away. I got to the airport within half an hour. The train was clean, had plenty of seating, and the train journey couldn’t have been smoother.

IMG_20170505_192245
Airport express train

I arrived at the airport, furnished my paper airline itinerary to gain entrance, and had plenty of time to kill. The airport was a delight, with pretty shops in the Duty Free area and plenty of seating. My last little stint of time at the airport quickly evaporated, and before I knew it, I was on a plane headed home. Till next time, India!IMG_20170505_223147

 

Have you visited Delhi, or intend to visit? Please share your surprise experiences or future plans in the comments below. Please click the like button, and share! Thanks for reading.

 

Keep learning!

Delhi India in 4.5 days: A personal story – Part Two

My first ever trip to Delhi was the least favourite part of my India trip, however, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In the latter half of my stay in Delhi, I encountered the most challenging and interesting situations, hands down. The following story picks up where Delhi, Part One, left off.

DAY THREE

I had stayed in contact with Ravi, the manager of the guesthouse I had stayed at in Jaipur. He was visiting Delhi, so we decided to be tourists together, and visit the Red Fort and the famous India Gate.

My foreigner ticket to enter Delhi’s UNESCO heritage Red Fort cost 500 rupees, while locals paid 30 rupees. Foreigners and Indians were separated into different lines, each with different prices paid for entry tickets. While my line to get in was short, Ravi’s was long.

IMG_2021
Entrance to the Red Fort

We were funneled through a picturesque walkway entrance, flanked by souvenir shops which opened up into the fort grounds. The entrance has a museum above, the Indian War Memorial, which Ravi and I visited on our way out. We immediately went to the colonnaded audience hall where the king received guests and heard their petitions. I sneakily listened to a nearby tour guide who was instructing her group in Italian. Her group, it seemed, could hardly hear what she was saying or were too busy taking photos to care.

IMG_2047
Ravi standing in front of the royal Audience Hall

We meandered through the grounds, encountering pretty bath houses, rooms and gardens. Some marble structures were very ornate and gorgeous to photograph, however most of them seemed neglected and were sectioned off, preventing visitors from accessing them. Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, I thought, seemed significantly better maintained!

IMG_2027
Beautiful white marble structures

 

IMG_2033
Intricate detailing incised into the decorative marble panels

Returning to the entrance gate, we headed up the narrow stair case to the Indian War Memorial Museum. The museum was packed, and we were fascinated by the colonial rifles, revolvers, swords and other weapons used by Indians to help the British during the First World War.

IMG_2035
The Red Fort grounds

 

IMG_2041
In front of the Indian War Memorial Museum

Chadni Chowk, the famous massive market, was close by, so exiting the Red Fort, we headed in that direction. A cyclist rickshaw encountered us, and agreed to take us there for 50 rupees. Actually, the minute we hopped onto his rickshaw, we were already within the market as it was only across the street.

IMG_2075 (2)
Jame Masjid mosque

 

IMG_2079
Jame Masjid mosque
IMG_2083
Jame Masjid mosque; Ravi posing like a model. For once, I was behind the camera!

I wanted to see Jame Masjid, so he took us through the market up to the mosque so we could take photos there! It was lunch time, so since Karim’s restaurant was nearby, we decided to end our little tour there. The cyclist convinced us to continue with his services for 100 rupees total, with the agreement that he’d resume the market tour after we ate.

IMG_20170503_195649
Karim’s, Chadni Chowk

Karim’s looked exactly like the photos and videos I had seen from vlogs on the internet, however the restaurant complex was larger than I had expected! In addition to the kitchens, there was a vegetarian restaurant section, and several buildings for client dining. We ordered a mutton stew, dahl (lentils), rice and roti (local bread). The dining environment was casual and laidback and many local families appeared to frequent this restaurant.

IMG_20170503_192640
Karim’s

 

As we stepped out of Karim’s, the cycle rickshaw fella waved us over, and we hopped back onto his seat for our tour of Chadni Chowk. We recorded a video while admiring the saris and clothing embellishments as we slowly progressed through narrow market lanes.

IMG_2096
Chadni Chowk tour

A most curious thing happened when I wanted to pay. Firstly, the rickshaw driver assumed that Ravi was not a friend, but a tour guide. When I went to pay, the cyclist driver began screaming and shouting that we had agreed to 500 rupees payment, and that I was cheating him. In my previous experience, I paid about 500 rupees to have a rickshaw driver’s service for about 5 hours, driving me between tourist destinations which were considerably far apart, so I was surprised at this cycle rickshaw guy. His loud performance drew a crowd around us and made the situation into a spectacle.

Ravi talked to him calmly, while the guy screamed and shouted. The situation made me feel frustrated because I knew this fella was doing this because I’m a white foreigner, and I was embarrassed because about twenty Indian men were all gathered around in a circle, which gave this guy an audience and seemed to validate his accusations directed at me. Also, I felt that if Ravi hadn’t been there, the rickshaw guy would never had behaved like this toward me alone.

I threatened that we’d call the police, and have them intervene, and Ravi, to my surprise, called them up immediately. He spoke to them, and then placed the shouting fella on the phone with them. Ravi later told me that the policeman had told the guy to calm down and accept the payment agreed at the beginning. This didn’t seem to have any effect.

While the guy continued shouting, Ravi and other random men approached me, saying, why don’t you just give the driver half of what he is asking. I felt somewhat ganged up on. I retorted to the driver that his dishonesty makes me feel like never returning to Delhi with my tourist money, and he retorted something (apparently vulgar) in Hindi to me. Ravi became very angry at what the cyclist had said to me, and suddenly shouted at the rickshaw driver. The driver suddenly seemed to calm down, and I finally paid the him double of what we had initially agreed. I walked away feeling frustrated and disappointed.

We then meandered through Chadni Chowk, and I picked up some delicious local cakes. I still felt shaken up by the drama from the cycle rickshaw guy. We cautiously grabbed another rickshaw, and headed out to India Gate.

IMG_2123 (2)
India Gate!

 

IMG_2142 (2)
Night time approached at India Gate

The gate towers in the center of a plaza, and Indian tourists, particularly families, crowded around, taking selfies, while sellers approached tourists with all kinds of random knick knacks. We began walking toward the president’s house, and after resting on the grass that flanked the walkway, we decided to abandon the walk and get dinner instead.

We grabbed a rickshaw that dropped us off at restaurant in Paharganj. We ordered overpriced, mediocre Indian fare, ate and parted ways.

Stand by for Part Three.

 

What was your experience of Delhi? Have you visited the Red Fort, Chadni Chowk, Karim’s restaurant or India Gate and had similar experiences? What about these locations inspire you to visit Delhi?

Please like, comment, and share this blog!

Keep learning!

 

 

Delhi, India in 4.5 days: a personal story – Part One

Let’s be honest. Ragasthan is way nicer than Uttar Pradesh. I loved Jaipur, and especially Jodhpur, but what I saw of Agra and Delhi didn’t grab me in quite the same way. In fact, of the four cities I visited in Northern India over two weeks, Delhi was my least favourite.

The people didn’t smile like they did in Ragasthan. Delhi is huge and sprawling, so it took time to reach sites. Also, economic inequality seemed more prevalent in the tourist areas that attracted many beggars, and some beggars were quite aggressive approaching tourists.

I had read articles by other writers prior to my travel, and they often professed dislike for Delhi, but I wanted to experience it for myself and make up my own mind about it. In preparation for my visit, I had prepared a loose itinerary of sites, including temples, forts, palaces and markets that I really wanted to see. I was also eager to eat my way around the city. Here’s my story.

DAY ONE

I arrived into Delhi on the express train from Agra. I traveled with another solo traveller, Chrisie, originally from Germany, whom I had met in Agra three days prior. On arrival at New Delhi train station, I headed to Paharganj, located just behind the station. A wee bridge, filled with trash along the sidewalk, made crossing it difficult, however when I arrived at my hotel, the Su Shree Continental, I was delighted with my room. It was clean, well presented and the temperature was cool, although the room had no exterior window, and lunch on the hotel roof was a little boring as there was no view.

IMG_20170501_194739
Su Shree Continental hotel

 

IMG_20170501_205648
Late lunch: Aloo Gobhi (Potato curry with rice)

Soon, I discovered the winding allies and general touristiness of my local neighbourhood. I stumbled across a newly constructed guesthouse called the Jyoti Mahal. The architecture and furniture looked old, and was styled in a colonial Indian fashion. I snooped around, exploring the rooms, and enjoyed tea in the lobby area. The reception staff explained that their rates are usually around 2,000 rupees ($40) per night in off season, and 2,500 ($50) in peak season. If I revisit Delhi, I’d like to stay at this guesthouse.

IMG_20170501_222007
Jyoti Mahal

 

IMG_20170501_221744
Joyti Mahal
IMG_20170501_221851
Joyti Mahal

IMG_20170517_130214I meandered on, discovered a neat shop which sold bed coverings, and told the sales fella how to better display his items! Afterwards, I stumbled across Main Bazar Road, where I discovered cafes, silver jewelry shops, pretty craft shops selling leather items, local handmade bags, and basically, everything a tourist could be enticed by. After a nice walk, I returned to the Su Shree to sleep.

IMG_20170502_011249
Grocery bag souvenirs

DAY TWO

Qutub Minar, the archaeological site housing the tallest minaret in the world, was highest on my to-do list. After a late morning start, I headed to the Delhi Metro station as I discovered that the yellow line would take me directly to the Qutub Minar. I hopped onto a shared rickshaw which took me to the Delhi metro station for 10 rupees, and bought my metro ticket at the booth for about 20 rupees. The metro station was large, and the trains air-conditioned. The train carriages were full, and everyone was squished together, like packed trains in Seoul, S. Korea. While traveling, I read up on my destination, so I knew a little about the structures located there. When I emerged, I shared another rickshaw with tourists going between the station and the Qutub Minar site. Within the rickshaw, I met two young Indian girls who I’d bump into later.

The Qutub Minar entrance fee was 500 rupees (or $10), as seems to be the usual foreigner price in Northern India for entry to sites of this scale or fame. The site was filled with Islamic tombs, made from red-stone, sand stone and marble. The weather was hot, and while resting, I got chatting with a Afgani-Japanese couple.

IMG_20170502_143630
Qutb Minar

 

 

IMG_20170502_143854
Qutb Minar

Shortly thereafter, I left my bottled water on the ground while I took a photo, and meanwhile, a local child walking by with his family furiously kicked it over. I demanded that the child pick it up right away, and when he didn’t, the mother came back and picked it up. Seeing this, an Australian tourist, accompanied by her husband, expressed her approval of my admonishment of the child. I explained that I’m a teacher and deal with children all the time. She then explained she was also a teacher, and so we got chatting for twenty minutes about their travels. We were soon besieged by locals who asked to take photos with us. I replied that they could take one photo with me, but after that, I’d begin to charge. The couple found that funny, but the new Indian friends didn’t know what to make of me.

I had talked to the couple about experiencing diarrhea in Jaipur, and how I wasn’t even sure whether it was heat stroke or something I ate that caused it. They explained to me that over their numerous travels throughout Asia, they always take a supplement called Acidophilus. They said that this product taken daily whenever they travel helps balance their stomach acids and thus far, in combination with being careful to avoid unfamiliar bacteria, they have never fallen sick. Perhaps I’ll look into this supplement for my next travel adventure.

And then I bumped into the girls from the earlier rickshaw. I learned that Nandini was visiting her cousin Samia, who lived in Delhi. Nandini was quite the history student. We walked around taking photos together, and discussing Persian monarchs in India’s history.

IMG_20170502_151718
Samia (black trousers), myself and Nandini

 

IMG_20170502_152900

IMG_20170502_160608
Qutb Minar: Smith’s Cupola

Finally, they invited me to join them in Sarojni Market, which was the next stop on their agenda. I had planned to go to Chadni Chowk market, but I wanted to see Sarojni too, so together, we headed to INA station, where we grabbed another shared rickshaw which brought us to Sarojni. To my surprise, the rickshaw driver piled four of us ladies into the back seat, and another next to him in the driver seat to maximize his profit. I was glad to be crammed alongside ladies, not fellas, and happy to be traveling local style, experiencing India as the locals do.

IMG_20170502_193709
Riding Delhi’s metro system!

At Sarojni market, Samia and Nandini weren’t messing around! They were serious shoppers. I wanted to hang out with them, just to enjoy the experience of hanging out with locals and learning about their culture, but after spending at least ten minutes watching them trying on watches and fifteen minutes rummaging through clothing in a shop, I excused myself so I could meander at my own, faster pace. Aside from shops with western clothing, I discovered lady’s ali baba pants that go under traditional suits, entire indoor market stalls of dedicated to saris, stores with shelves loaded with two piece suits, and a corner of the market where machinists tailored newly purchased suits for clients.

The best location was Mahendra Sweet House. I walked up to the counter, and a friendly manager helped me select a meal. I paid another fella at a cash register for a token equivalent to the meal price, and then submitted my token to receive my delicious dahl and rice lunch. Before leaving, I purchased some delicious local sweets! I got a spongy green sweet made from ghiya burfree (bottle gourd vegetable), and also a coconut sweet. I had these packaged up for a later snack.

IMG_20170502_182156
Sarojni market

 

IMG_20170502_182112

IMG_20170502_175957
Dahl and rice at Mahendra, Sarojni market

I ate my sweets later that evening, on the corner of my street (DB Gupta Road) by Su Shree hotel. They were oily and delicious! There, I ordered a street chai tea, and sat with some local men on a make-shift seat beside the tea wagon. It was fun observing the tea specialist throwing spices into a boiling pan, and then after a couple of minutes, straining the tea into a small cup.

IMG_20170502_202350
Street chai tea, with delicious sweets from Mahendra

After tea and a quick stop by my hotel, I headed out to find postcards and food. I ended up in Krishna café, having been enticed by their pretty bags hanging outside their stepped doorway. I ordered a Paneer Butter Masala.IMG_20170502_225733

 

IMG_20170502_225605
Paneer butter masala

 

IMG_20170502_225834
Street view from Krishna café terrace

An older German fella, Winfried, asked if he could join me, and after listening to his adventures, as well as upcoming retirement plans, and intentions to do the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, he decided I was amazing, just what he was looking for, and if only he had met me earlier in his travels. It was an interesting evening.

Standby for the next blog, Delhi, Part Two.

 

Have you visited Delhi? What are your must see sites, or your experience of Paharganj? Please leave your comments below, like, share, and subscribe to my blog! Thanks for reading!

Keep learning!

 

Pyeongchang Camping Festival: Anticipating the 2018 Olympic Games

I’ve camped twice. Once, under the stars with the Bedouin in the Jordanian desert. That was a warm and comfortable experience. The Bedouin are pros at desert camping and they take good care of guests. My other camping experience was in Canada, Victoria Island, BC. The October weather was rainy and miserable.

My friends sat in a circle, mostly strummed guitars, and sang popular rock songs. I was bored to tears. I hardly slept because I was cold and uncomfortable. Also, all the campers were constantly reminded by one friend about how amazing their previous camping experience was, when apparently, everyone slept with everyone. That story alone made this boring camping trip forever embedded in my memory. I hoped that the Korean Pyeongchang Camping Festival event would be completely different.

I heard about the Pyeongchang Camping event through Mr. CC Pak while hiking Ansan with Climbers In Korea (CIK) last month. CC explained that Mr. Kim, the organizer and director of CIK, was running  a program, sponsored by Pyeongchang county, Gangwon-do and the Korean Tourism Organization. The purpose was to promote the upcoming Olympic Games here in Korea. All expenses were covered by Pyeongchang county, and there were a limited spots available. The last count I saw anticipated 280 guests.

I signed up, reserved my spot, and showed up at with personal items on Saturday April 8th, before 8:45am. All camping supplies, including tent, mats, lanterns, sleeping bags, and food would be supplied. We were provided with an itinerary so we knew exactly what events we’d participate in.

ITINERARY

Saturday April 8th:

  • 9am – Leave Sports Complex Station
  • 3:30pm – Lunch and Welcome Ceremony/ 2018 Olympics promotion
  • 6pm – Attend hockey match: Women’s league: Netherlands VS. Korea
  • 9:45pm – International performances (camping guests perform)
  • 11pm – Open air movie

Sunday April 9th:

  • 7am – breakfast
  • 8am – Korean yoga
  • 9am – Camping safety training
  • 11:30am – Head to Pyungchang traditional market for lunch
  • 1:40pm – Head to Gangwon-do coastal walk (East Sea)
  • 4pm – Return to Seoul

I’ve listed the times as I remember them taking place. The schedule deviated from the initial plan due to changing circumstances like traffic encountered traveling to our destinations.

LOGISTICS

As already mentioned, Pyeongchang county and Korean Tourism Organization funded the event to promote the upcoming Olympics. Mr. Kim, the director and organizer, managed a group of volunteers who in turn managed their respective groups. The volunteers received group updates via instant messaging to their phones while we travelled together on buses, and they quickly imparted the new updates to their groups.

kims photo volunteers
Director, Mr. Kim (far right), and our amazing volunteer team; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

Several buses were used, and while traveling, the bus drivers lined up the buses conveniently in chronological order so guests could locate buses easily. This was especially useful when we made short toilet breaks at intervals during longer bus commutes, like driving to and from Seoul.

Pippa 3
Buses A to F; photo curtesy of Pippa

On arrival at the festival camp, Pyeongchang camping organisers had prepared tents, distributed sleeping items and outlet equipment so each tent had access to electricity. Cooks prepared our meals. The camp had hired an MC, a band, and prepared giveaway prizes for performances. The festival also had an onsite café and food truck just over the little bridge from where the CIK guests were camping.

Brooke Yay tents
Campsite; photo curtesy of Brooke Yay
kim photo tents
Campsite; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim
Brooke Yay photo
Excited for a hot lunch on arrival at the camp site; photo curtesy of Brooke Yay
Catherine
Props to the chef! Hungry campers; photo curtesy of Catherine
kim food 2
Yum! Photo, curtesy of Mr. Kim
my pic
Kate and I enjoying lunch!
Pippa 2
Happy fellas! Photo curtesy of Pippa
my pic 4
2018 Pyeongchang Olympics promotion and Welcome ceremony
my pic 2
CIK friends trying out workout toys!
my pic 3
Armed with souvenirs! The weather was lush!
Minjeong forest
Volunteer conference! Photo curtesy of Minjeong

MY STORY: MY TOP FIVE HIGHLIGHTS

HOCKEY MATCH

The journey to the Kwandong Catholic University Campus (관동 대학교) was long because of traffic, but we were very happy to be admitted and seated fairly quickly on arrival. Everyone wanted to pose for photos with the Olympics backdrop and fun characters. Most of us stopped by the merchandise table and collected Korean and Dutch flags to wave in support of our female hockey teams that were battling it out for a lower league title.

Kate Chang
Fun times; photo curtesy of Kate Chang

 

my pic 6
Approaching the stadium
at hockey rink
Posing!

mine

The stadium was small compared to the stadiums I had visited in Canada, and I wondered if this stadium would be used for any of the winter Olympic events in 2018. The nice thing about a smaller stadium is that the action takes place near you! Unlike previous games I’ve watched in Canada, here, I didn’t spend my time watching the big screen rather than the action on the ice itself.

my pic 14
Feeling Korean Fever!

Our crew was pretty tame compared to a bunch of Koreans to our right who seemed passionate, shouted a lot, and frantically waved their flags. Partway through the first twenty minutes, a young Korean fella working for the stadium wearing white was assigned over to our calm crowd and he began revving us up.

my pic 16
Motivation!

Thanks to his motivation, Kate and Vass and myself had a really good time! We bounced to the DJ tunes during time outs, shook our flags, slapped promo balloons together and let the young Korean fella teach us new dance routines using our promo balloons. Kate and I joked about how handsome he was, and whether he was in need of a girlfriend.

As the match wore on, entertainment ensued. Kate and I shouted more and more furiously as exciting collisions occurred between players, an angry shove emerged from a goalkeeper, two goals smashed into the Dutch net, and bodies slammed full speed into the Plexiglas separating the players from the audience! Soon, we were fully decked out, complete with temporary tattoo face-stickers and flags pledging Korean allegiance wrapped around our bodies.

Vas and Kate 2
Myself, Vass and Kate; photo curtesy of Vassilina Mozajeva

It was funny to notice that many Koreans had flags for each team, including Kate, suggesting that some people didn’t really care who won anyway and patriotism was not a big deal at this event. At the last minute of the game, I grabbed Kate’s Dutch flag, viciously waved it around demanding one goal for Dutch honor, but the fabric flag flew off the white handle, and me and my friends laughed heartily. Korea was destined to reign victorious.

my pic 11
Mr. CC… looking good!
indian friends 2
Happy CIK friends! Photo curtesy of Varun Bansal

PERFORMANCES BY THE GUESTS

On Saturday evening, we were treated to an international performances show. Apparently, Korean style camping often involves some kind of entertainment, so a stage and seating is usually situated within the camp site so campers can easily access the show. Across from our camping area, families were also camping and therefore attended the festival. It made for an odd mix of “foreigner” twenty to thirty somethings age group, and then parents who were eager to have their children up on stage. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t our age demographic that showcased inappropriate performances.

One performance showcased a little girl no older than six years old, lip-syncing and dancing to a popular KPop song. She took to the stage wearing a sexy, adult outfit: a belly top and short skirt. The evening was cool, and I was wearing a hoodie, hat, and scarf so she must have been cold. In her performance, she imitated the sexy dance moves of the adult song version. My friends and I felt uncomfortable watching this because we felt like this child was being objectified. Interestingly, the MC actually awarded her first prize for her performance.

Injong Kim photo
Live band; photo curtesy of In-jong Kim

 

Injong Kim 2
CIK performers! Photo curtesy of In-Jong Kim

CIK guests were invited to perform onstage, whether dancing, singing or introducing their home culture in some way. These performances were incredibly entertaining, and included a Salsa duo, modern dance, Indian dances, and acoustic songs from India.

Punil, who performed at the end of the show, was quite the performer. He refused to leave the stage. He sang song after song from the Punjab, while we in the audience clapped in rhythm to his soulful ballads. His eagerness to share his culture was infectious. Toward the end, he invited his friends to join him on stage. Indian Bhangra music blasted from the stage speakers, and we in the audience wanted to hop up and dance along! It was an incredible feeling to observe this all live. I felt like I was inside a Bollywood movie, and wished we could have cast aside our wretched, confining seats, and burst into dance too.

EVENING CAMPING

Later that event, Peter, an older British fella, invited me back to his camping spot to enjoy some Makkoli (local rice wine). Kate, Yoona, Brooke and others joined, and after an hour or so, we drifted elsewhere. I wandered over to CC and friends, who had a campfire set up. CC was discussing martial arts with Alex, a fella from Australia. Everyone was drinking, while I was invited to enjoy some sashimi that several members of the group had ordered in. No guitar playing, no singing, no talk about who slept with who on previous camping trip. This was a much better experience so far.

Our party soon dispersed as the rain began to come down. By 2am, I returned to my tent. To my delight, my tent-mates, Yoona and Kate had also both arrived, so we settled down for the night, enjoying the heat supplied from our electric heating pad.

 

Pippa
Photo curtesy of Pippa

 

MEETING NEW INDIAN FRIENDS

The following morning, we ate a (mostly) hot breakfast, and then participated in open air yoga. After a rainy night, the morning was cool, and everyone seemed to be warming their hands using hot packs which had been distributed the evening prior.

After yoga, I had the fortune to talk with some of the India fellas who had been part of the performance the night before. I met Punil, Gautam, Varun, Vivek, N Gyan, and Manoj. This encounter was the highlight of my trip! I explained to them how much I enjoyed their contribution to the International Performance show, particularly Punil’s songs, and everyone’s dance! I learned that they are engineers, and some of them live in Delhi, which is precisely where I’m headed later this month.

indian friends 3
Our stars from India; from left: Manoj, Varun, N. Gyan, Punil, Vivek, and Gautam

We joked and laughed, while I practiced my very limited Hindi skills. They were so encouraging with my language learning, and offered to help me while in Delhi if I need anything. The camping safety demonstration began over the speakers, and after exchanging contact information, we soon dispersed. I walked away with a warm feeling in my belly.

Arijit Sarkar 2
One last walk around the camp site; photo curtesy of Arijit Sakar

 

Arijit Sarkar
Photo curtesy of Arijit Sakar

WALK ALONG THE EAST SEA

We made a quick stop at Jung-Ang market (중앙시장) in Gangneung city (강릉시) to eat lunch.

kind voucher for lunch at market
Complimentary vouchers, provided for lunch at Jung-Ang Market

 

Lunch at market
Lunch at Jung-Ang. Final bonding experience with tent-mates, Kate (far left) and Yoona (right)

We then embarked on a private coastal walk along Jeongdongjin beach (정동진 해변 ), patrolled by the Korean army due to its proximity to North Korea. We were lucky that organizer, Mr. Kim, arranged for this tour as Jeongdongjin is not open to the public.

Once we descended the wooden steps from the guarded entrance to the coast itself, we walked along a metal platform, secured by rods and drilled into the large rocks below. I was happy to be by the coast, surrounded by blue sea, crashing waves and salt spray. The sun was shinning and warm, and we all walked along our designated route, the same one that the Korean guards use to patrol the coast.

Wooden look-out posts along our path were forbidden locations to photograph. I saw no boats. Nothing was traveling down from North Korea. We were alone, walking along and snapping photos together in groups. The large boulders along the coast has some interesting markings, and Peter remarked that, based on the striation markings on the rock surfaces, over time, these horizontal rocks lying on the sea bed had gradually been erected vertically. They were fascinating to look at.

Romaine Smith photo
Photo curtsey of Romaine Smith

 

tash at beach 1
Enjoying the coastal walk

Finally, we stopped off beside Sun Cruize Resort, and after examining the grounds and absorbing our last few weekend rays of sun, we hopped aboard our bus that promised to return us to our daily routines in Seoul. We were all sad to leave.

with the indian friends
With new friends, at Sun Cruize Resort; photo curtesy of Varun Bansal

 

Kim beach
Preparing to leave; photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

MY OVERAL IMPRESSION:

PROS

There were numerous amazing things about this trip. First and foremost, organizer, Mr. Kim and his team, including my fantastic tent-mate Yoona, ran the event smoothly and professionally despite the challenges encountered. The entire event was fully funded and we guests hardly spent a dime!

We were provided with food, including two hot breakfasts, dinner snacks on the bus, and vouchers for lunch at Jung-Ang market. I never had a chance to get hungry throughout the trip. Not only were tents, mats, sleeping bags and lanterns provided, but we also received heating blankets and long-life hot packs (lasting thirteen hours) for our hands. All our transport was included to and from Sports Complex station in Seoul. In addition, we received entertainment for almost every moment that we were not on the buses.

CONS

Unfortunately, some seats on the bus were empty, so due to some no-shows, people that wanted to attend the event missed out. We encountered traffic, particularly en route to Pyeongchang, and between the festival campsite and the hockey stadium. We observed plenty of construction on the Gangwon-do roads. Pyeongchang county is constructing lanes to make the city more accessible for the upcoming Olympics. I got the impression that congestion will probably be one of the major challenges that Korea will face during the 2018 Olympics, and since Korean terrain is mountainous, this is no easy task to address.

Pyeongchang County and Korean Tourism Organization were so industrious in their efforts to provide us with a special experience that we were often rushed for time. This was exasperated by the traffic between locations that often put us behind schedule. Everyone seemed to sigh a breath of relief when we returned to the campsite Saturday evening, because we could finally camp and enjoy free time.

I appreciate all the effort put into the planning and execution of this trip, but I think we guests would have been content with fewer plans. Finally, some friends had experienced hiccups, whereby one tent didn’t receive a heating blanket, and another set of friends had no tent allocated, so a tent was set up in a hurry, but later leaked during the overnight rain. Nevertheless, these friends appreciated that the volunteer team did their best, and minor oversights were bound to happen. Everyone was just happy to be part of this memorable experience.

WOULD I DO IT ALL AGAIN?

Absolutely! I am grateful that I had the chance to see the Korean preparation for the upcoming Olympics. I can begin to understand the scale of the challenges faced to accommodate international visitors to a mountainous terrain in a country plagued by excessive traffic.

I observed coastal sights I may never see again. I savoured experiences, like enjoying my first Korean hockey game, and bouncing to Bhangra tunes with new friends. I am so thankful to have been included in this experience.

I’d like to thank, Mr. CC Pak, for inviting me to this event, and both my tent-mate and friend, Kate Changhee Lee, and Mr. Varun Bansal, for helping me document our trip  as accurately as possible. Finally, thanks so much to Mr. Kim’s efforts, and his brilliant volunteer team, who put our experiences and needs ahead of their own.

Group pic - Mr. Kim
Our crew! Photo curtesy of Mr. Kim

 

Have you visited Pyeongchang to see the changing infrastructure in preparation for the Winter Olympics, or had a chance to visit any of the locations designated for Olympic events? Please comment below to share your experience or opinions.

Keep learning!

A guide to ordering Korean food

I’m totally down if you wanna eat at the new Korean restaurant, but you can order for us cause your Korean’s much better than mine, and I’m not even sure what all that stuff is on the menu.

Does this sound familiar? Korea has been my home for over two years, and yet,  I still get anxious if I go to an unfamiliar restaurant and order from a new menu. This is especially true when the restaurant staff look busy, I feel that the staff will have little patience with me, and the menu is exclusively in Korean. I can read Korean, but I often let Korean friends both decide what we eat and communicate our order. But I’m fed up of being dependent on others. I need to finally learn how to recognize meals, and communicate basic orders with confidence.

On my quest for enlightenment, I’ve enlisted the help of foodie experts and local Koreans, all of whom know a ton more about Korean food and language than I do. Together, we present Korean grilled meals (cooked before you), meals brought to your table, useful words and phrases, and our personal favourites you must try! A big thank you goes out to Buyeon Kim who translated much of our menu list into hangul so that readers of Korean can identify these meals on street posters and menus.

Rather than attempt a comprehensive list of Korean meals, this is a simple guide, designed for tourists and expats. Hopefully, we’ll introduce some new Korean delights to your pallet. Many delicious meals are not included here. Without further ado, let’s delve right in!

IMG_20170318_135942
Tour guide and socialite, Johncito (Seoul Village Meetup), giving us a tour of the delights in Kwangjang Market, Seoul – bottom left: Dduckbboki in red sauce

Dduck bbokki (떡볶이) is an incredibly popular street food among local Koreans. Servings are made from thin, long rice cakes drenched in red sauce, and take-out portions are usually around 2,000 won. As a child growing up in Korea, I always dropped by a local restaurant en route home, and picked up dduck bokki. Today, I still love this tasty snack. Dduck bokki is available at pretty much every Korean market, however, you can also make it yourself. Bring water to the boil, add pre-purchased rice cakes, heat and drain. Add red pepper paste to add spice and flavour, and a little sugar or soda pop to sweeten. Stir in sliced green onions and allow flavour to soak into the rice cakes and enrich their flavour. Enjoy! By Buyeon Kim

OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS COOKED ON A GRILL AT YOUR TABLE

Bulgogi (불고기) 8,000-32,000 won (per person)

IMG_20161022_034647
Friend Siri, excited to eat bulgogi!

Origogi (오리 고기) smoked duck meat on the grill, 10,000 won (per person)

Samgyeopsal (삼겹살) prices based on cut of meat; 6,000-12,000 won (per person)

Samgyopsal

I’m always up for Samgyupsal (삼겹살 6,000-12,000 won per serving ) pork belly barbeque. The pork must have a perfect ratio of lean meat to fat, and the side accompaniments play an important role. Samgyopsal is usually served with greens (lettuce, kale, sesame leaves, beet greens, and others) used to wrap the meat and side dishes (banchan 반찬). Fire sources are charcoal or gas, and the hardware is often a grill, stone slab or iron pot lids. The iron pot lid have a large surface area which often hold onions, mushrooms, sour kimchi, sliced garlic, spicy bean sprouts, and of course, the pork belly. The meat and trimmings are traditionally eaten first. Round two entails servings of rice and a hot pot of soybean soup called Dwenjangjjigae (된장찌개). If you have room for round three, Bimbim Nengmyun (비빔냉면), cold, spicy noodles, or Mul Nengmyun (물냉면), cold, brothy noodles  are recommended if you are particularly hungry! This makes the perfect meal. By Ji-Young Kim

Galmehgisal (갈매기살) 7,000-10,000 won (per person)

IMG_20161001_034040
Buyeon enjoying Galmehgisal

My favourite Korean meal is a type of Korean grilled Samgyopsal called Galmaekisal (갈매기살). I enjoyed this dish with Buyeon at a chain restaurant in Hongdae, Seoul, and the price was around 10,000 won per person. The grilled pork is cooked on a circular table grill accompanied by an omelette.  The omelette cooks around the perimeter of the grilling dish. We also ordered a salty, soybean soup which complemented the meal very well. The galmaekisal cut of meat is one of the most tasty cuts I’ve ever tried. Also, making the omelette is a lot of fun because you get to distribute little vegetables, provided in a side dish, into the circular grill mold where the omelette cooks. Then you add the prepared egg mixture by pouring it over your vegetables. This meal is so much fun both to cook and to eat!”  By Natasha Banky

Moksal (목살) leaner cut of grill meat, 6,000-14,000 (per person)

Deung Galbi (등갈비) 9,000-25,000 won (per person)

Gopchang (곱창)  7,000 won-15,000 won (per person)

SengSun Guwee (생선구이) 6,000won-40,000 won (mixed platter)

Jang-Uh Guwee (장어구이) 7,000won-50,000 won (mixed platter)

Chadolbagi (차돌박이) 10,000-25,000 won (per person)

Haemul gui (해물구이) fresh steamed or grilled seafood available at waterfronts and port towns; 25,000-90,000 (mixed platter)

Dakgalbi (닭갈비) 8,000-13,000 won (per person)

IMG_20170325_160738

My favorite Korean food has to be Dalkgalbi (닭갈비 – 8,000-13,000 won per person)!  It is an amazing combination of shredded chicken, rice cakes, cabbage, onion, pepper and red pepper paste, fried on a grill over an open fire in the center of a table. It is great accompanied by beer mekju () or rice wine makkeoli (막걸리). You can choose how spicy you want your platter, from #1 being the lowest, to #5 being super spicy. I usually request spice level #2 or #3 to help bring out the flavor of the dish. Usually, it is served with lettuce, cabbage and perilla leaves to wrap the chicken mixture in. Of course, there is always the usual banchan (side dishes) including kimchi, salad bean sprouts, and garlic that accompany the dish as well. Finally, there is often an option to add shredded cheese. When you have finished your meal, the server will bring out Bokembop (볶음밥)to cook on the same dalkgalbi grill. Bokembop is a mixture of spiced rice, seaweed and egg. It is a great way to finish this hearty meal. By Dan Schmidt

OUR MOST POPULAR MEALS BROUGHT TO YOUR TABLE

Mul Nengmyeon (물냉면) 6,000 won

Bibim Nengmyeon (비빔 냉면) 6,000 won

Bibimbap (비빔밥) 9,000 won

Dongkas (돈까스) 7,000 won

Kimbap (김밥) 2,000-5,000 won

 

IMG_20170302_142612
I regularly eat at my local Tomato Kimbap, located by Hanti station

 

When you’re in a rush, or want a low calorie food item, Kimbap (김밥)  is an excellent choice. It consists of vegetables, pickled radish, and is often offered with Kimchi, tuna or spam rolled in rice and dried seaweed. Kimbap toppings and ingredients have transformed due to changing tastes and globalization. Kimbap is offered everywhere, from small kiosks to larger restaurants, and prices vary between 2,000 to 5,000 won. Popular chain restaurants include Kimbap Nara and Kimbap Sarang, while  Baruda (바르다) and Gimsongseng (김선생) are well known for their quality and composition. By Sophie Kim

YuggaeJang (육개장) 7,000-9,000 won

Shabu (샤부) 9,000-60,000 won

Jok bal (족발) 20,000-40,000 won

Jja jang Myun (짜장면) 3,000-7,00 won

Jja jang Myun (짜장면)  is a Korean adaptation of a Chinese meal, which Koreans have made their own. It is very different from the Chinese original, and it can be found in Chinese restaurants in Korea. The meal consists of thicker noodles served in a black bean sauce(Chunjang), and both the noodles and sauce are typically served separately. The client usually mixes the sauce and noodles together. There are variations of this meal which add seafood, and include different side dishes such as kimchi and radish to the basic noodle and black bean sauce combination. These meals are usually around 7,000 won, however, depending on the type of restaurant you go to, it can vary between 3,500 to 10,000 won per serving. These soups are even available in instant noodle form (Jjappageti) at supermarkets. By Buyeon Kim

Soondubu Jigae (순두부찌개) 7,000 won

Samgehtang (삼계탕) 10,000-50,000 won

Bo Ssam (보쌈) 20,000-40,000 won

received_10154268882987056received_10154268883267056

I fell in love with Bo Ssam (보쌈 – 20,000 to 40,000 won) the first time I ate it. Initially, it was more of an emotional connection than about the food and flavour itself. It was served as school lunch one day when I had been in Korea for maybe two months. I remember being homesick to the point of almost crying that morning. When lunch came around, I served myself, and the other teachers explained how to eat the food. I tried the meat on its own first. It tasted exactly like one of my mom’s meat dishes, and it was comforting and precisely what I needed at that moment. It felt like a hug from home. Bo Ssam is pork belly that’s been boiled instead of grilled and it is less greasy with a softer, more velvety texture than samgyeopsal. It is also served in much the same way as samgyeopsal, except that it comes to the table already cooked. A little packet of ssamjjang, raw garlic, and lettuce, with a slice of bo Ssam and some bo Ssam kimchi makes the perfect mouthful of flavour. Bo Ssam kimchi also happens to be the best kind of kimchi in my opinion since it’s still quite fresh and a little crunchy. The relative lightness of the meat and the freshness of the kimchi makes this a great alternative to samgyeopsal. By Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt

jogiyo button
Best call button ever! Discovered at a duck restaurant near where Dan and I used to live. The top button is possibly for “service.” The bottom right is for mekju. Bottom left is for soju. Usually, call buttons are only one button for all requests. – Sariska Fortuin-Schmidt

USEFUL FOOD WORDS

  • Galbi 갈비 “meat”
  • Dak  “chicken” (Dakgalbi  닭갈비 “Spicy BBQ chicken”)
  • So “beef”
  • Seng sun 생선 “fish”
  • Ori 오리 “duck”
  • Samgyupsal 삼겹살 “BBQ pork belly”
  • Soon sal 순살 “boneless”
  • Gyeran 계란 “egg”
  • Twigim 튀김 “fried”
  • Guk “soup” (Manduguk 만두국 “dumpling soup”)
  • Tong “stew” (Galbitong 갈비탕 “meat stew”)
  • Myun 면 “noodles” (Ramyun 라면 “noodle soup”)
  • Bap “rice” (Gimbap 김밥 “Korean sushi rolls”)
  • Mekju 맥주“beer”

USEFUL RESTAURANT PHRASES

  • Yogiyo! 여기요“Excuse me/ over here please” (used in a casual restaurant)
  • I inbun juseyo 이(two) 인분 주세요 “Please give me food for two people”
  • Yang-i ulmankum na wha yo 양이 얼만큼 나와요 “How big is the serving size?”
  • Mul jom duh juseyo 물 좀 더 주세요 “Please give me more water”
  • Dul mep gae haejuseyo 덜 맵게 해주세요 “Please give me less-spicy food”
  • Doe juseyo 더주세요“Give me more please”
  • Kimchi jom doe juseyo 김치 좀 더 주세요“Please give me more Kimchi”
  • Mul tee shoo  juseyo 물티슈 주세요“Please give me wet wipes” (to wipe hands)
  • Ap cheema juseyo 앞치마 있어요? “Please give me an apron” (Most BBQ places have these so you don’t get oil/food on your clothes)
  • Hwajangsil udieyo? 화장실 어디에요? “Where is the toilet?”

MEET OUR CONTRIBUTORS:

SariskaSariska Fortuin-Schmidt is an enthusiastic eater from South Africa. For the past seven years, she lived in South Korea and fell in love with the country’s cuisine. She is currently back in South Africa with her husband and hopes to continue their culinary adventures in the Middle East, and someday, have a restaurant of their own.

BuyeonBuyeon Kim is a 30-something Korean, professional language instructor, and global traveller. She has lived in Canada, enjoys touring Europe, is constantly planning her next trip. She dreams of living in new cities.

Ji-young KimJi-Young Kim has resided in South Korea since December of 2006. She loves the outdoors and trying new things, especially food. You can see her and her dog (Conan) hitting the trails, biking, or on a picnic at a park. She’s loving her life in Korea. Follow Ji on Instagram: conan_from_korea

DanDan Schmidt is a foodie at heart. After eating his way around Korea for six years, he has settled in South Africa with his wonderful wife. He is planning his next adventure in Saudi Arabia to not only teach English but also learn the art of Middle Eastern cuisine. He aspires to attend culinary school and transition career paths into the food services industry.

Sophie 2Sophie Kim is an international Korean, currently living in Berlin, Germany. Sophie grew up in Seoul, S. Korea, has lived in France, and travels frequently to get inspired! Sophie speaks Korean, English, French, and is currently learning German. She is an avid hiker, enthusiastic socialite and one of the most driven persons I’ve had the fortune to meet.

IMG_20161113_023529
Enjoying papingsu in Gangnam

Author, Natasha Banky, is an English teacher, travel writer, yoga enthusiast, salsa-dancing wannabe, and loves outdoor activities, particularly hiking and weekend trips around S. Korea. She has lived in England, Canada, and now works in Korea. She plans to see, and eat her way around the world.

Papingsu 팥빙수 shaved-ice dessert; perhaps a topic for the next blog

tash and buyeon
Seriously enjoying Papingsu in Hongdae, Seoul

 

Follow travelandtash on Instagram

Follow travelandtash on Facebook

 

What are your favourite Korean dishes? Do you have any recommendations or tips to share?

Please like this page, subscribe, and comment below.

 

Keep learning!