I’m not a K-Pop fan. But, I have a friend that is. Riley wanted to grab a new edition of EXO‘s newest release, and so we popped into SM Town‘s multi story building to pick up her stuff. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure!
Before we could even enter the doors, Riley got distracted by a crowd of girls waiting around at an adjacent car park, and after plucking up the courage to ask fans who the hell we were ‘waiting’ for, we discovered that Red Velvet, a local girl band who were attending a signing event at SM Town, were expected to appear at any moment.
After waiting around for about fifteen minutes, Riley decided that since we didn’t know when they would appear, we could move on. We resumed our hunt for EXO’s “The War: Kokobop”.
We took the escalator up, and here, we found a hall with posters featuring bands managed and produced by SM Entertainment. After encountering some younger Korean ladies sprawled all over the floor in the hall, Riley explained to me that these girls had cards of pop idols that they wanted to trade. That explained why they had merchandise scattered around them. Essentially, when you buy merchandise like albums, they come with cards (like collectors baseball cards) featuring cute band members, and many girls have a favourite member. Often, girls receive cards that they’d prefer to trade for cards that feature their crush.
We stepped onto the brightly lit sales floor. The room was packed with mostly young women in their teens to mid twenties. A few boys were there too, mostly because they worked there, or were boyfriends waiting while their girls shopped.
Here, we found a large open area featuring all kinds of stuff: fancy record displays, live-sized cardboard cut-out pop stars, album displays, posters, tote bags, hats and clothing merchandise. There were even traditional style Korean items usually featured in museums on the display cases.
We got into a line up, and were handed a paper so Riley could mark down what she wished to purchase. At the paying counter, Riley handed over 45,000 won, and in return, received three albums. She explained that she was getting EXO’s The War: Kokobop version a, version b, and a private version, all sung in Korean and Mandarin. Apparently EXO pride market themselves as a band that release songs sung in various languages.
Happy with her purchase, which included poster gifts and trade-able cards, our adventure continued. We meandered up to the next floor, which opened up into another hall. It had a long, central display case of clothing used by band members while shooting videos that later became famous. There were many sexy posters featuring SM’s bands dotting the walls, and plenty more girls sitting on the floor displaying their pop idol cards. The environment itself gave a feeling of close accessibility to the stars, and this presumably, is why so many fans flock to this venue.
Riley explained to me that SM invites clients to experience various degrees of feeling like a star, by offering services like recording a video at their studio, for around 200,000 won (approximately $200 US).
At the end of the hall, was another large room named the SUM Cafe. It was filled with hundreds of girls sitting around tables, displaying their idol cards that they hoped to swap. There was a section dedicated to K-pop food, including tea and snacks, and there was a very long cafe counter, displaying macaroons and other delicious delights to entertain the fans that wile away their time with other like-minded girls.
Marilyn Monroe hair (fan blowing behind me)
My favourite feature was the ceiling lamps which had many idol cards hanging down. The arrangement reminded me of tree-like chandeliers. Everywhere I looked, fans were comparing and admiring cards. Signatures from the SM stars were applied to the backs of chairs and table surfaces. Girls played video games. Riley explained that these games were based on reactions to rhythm, and were designed by some of the pop idols themselves.
Leaving the room, we were about to go to the top floor, which Riley described as the best floor of the three because it contained handprints from EXO and other bands, and fans could place their hands within the handprints of their favourite stars. Unfortunately, the top floor was temporarily blocked off to the public because of the Red Velvet signing event, which presumably was taking place upstairs. I agreed to visit again with Riley as I would like to see the third floor displays.
Overall, the experience was fascinating to me. The entire building seemed like a sacred space for these fans, and I felt like an undercover alien discovering a young female ecosystem. It was fascinating, and I have every intention to return, if only to explore the treasures closest to heaven: the top floor.
Shout out to Riley Haslett, K-pop expat consultant and specialist.
What do you find interesting about the K-pop culture in Korea? Have you visited SM Town or any production studios that you would recommend experiencing?
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Standby for my follow-up blog: my SM visit to the top floor!
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.
Beth at Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace
With Beth in Bangkok
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.
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.
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!
Two berth air con. coach
With new friends
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.
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.
Imepdiments to elephant attacks
Caught Jay in a nice spot!
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.
Interestingly, 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 introducesome new Korean delights to your pallet. Many delicious meals are not included here. Without further ado, let’s delve right in!
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 (맥주) 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
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
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
USEFUL FOOD WORDS
Dak 닭“chicken” (Dakgalbi 닭갈비 “Spicy BBQ chicken”)
Seng sun 생선“fish”
Samgyupsal삼겹살 “BBQ pork belly”
Soon sal순살 “boneless”
Guk국 “soup” (Manduguk 만두국 “dumpling soup”)
Tong탕 “stew” (Galbitong 갈비탕 “meat stew”)
Myun면 “noodles” (Ramyun 라면 “noodle soup”)
Bap밥 “rice” (Gimbap 김밥 “Korean sushi rolls”)
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 juseyo더주세요“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:
Sariska 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.
Buyeon 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 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
Dan 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 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.
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…
At some point or another, every experienced traveller has asked themselves, “Should I invite Jane (or John) on my next trip?” Travel partners impact a traveller’s experience, so choosing who to travel with is an important factor in your travel planning.
This article is the follow-up to Part One https://travelandtash.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/to-travel-with-friends-or-travel-alone-part-one/ which presented my challenges traveling with romantic partners, the importance of communication, compromise, flexibility and patience, as well as the pleasures of independent travel. Once again, Part Two is a collection of experiences, rather than an explicit comparison, and I draw on these experiences to show the positive and challenging sides to traveling with friends and traveling alone.
People have different expectations or ideas about what they want to do while traveling, and these are somewhat dictated by their levels of endurance or stamina. Here, I refer to physical stamina as the ability to 1) walk , trek, or stay out for long periods of time. This is not necessarily a physical fitness measurement as I’ve travelled with people who are not especially fit or strong. Less fit friends can be driven and push themselves longer and harder to experience more things while opportunities are available. Indeed, my own levels of stamina have fluctuated over the years and have impacted my ability to do what I wanted to do.
I also discuss 2), ’emotional’ stamina, or the drive to seek challenges by leaving your comfort zone. Travel always presents challenges, so unless you travel in a bubble, you will no doubt be pushed beyond your comfort zone. Travellers have different degrees of emotional stamina. Some endure challenges while others seek them out.
I became increasingly aware of physical stamina on my latest trip abroad. While in Kyoto, I discovered that my traveling companions (and work colleagues), CeCe and Riley, preferred to stroll through the streets and sites, while I wanted to walk at a faster pace. My energy levels were so high that I almost skipped through the streets. My physical and emotional states were so energized that I wanted to charge up mountains, and I generally found it impossible for the first two days to slow down.
On our first night there, Riley declared that she would not change her walking pace. Suddenly, our differences in physical stamina placed our trio in a tricky position. Either I had to slow down and possibly resolve to not see or do everything that I planned for, or I had to convince her to speed up. About two days into our stay, we both met halfway. I slowed down while she sped up. The interim, however, had been difficult to navigate. Our third companion, CeCe, had been forced to chose whether to walk slowly or walk quickly, and thus had to chose between which friend to spend more time with.
Since the three of us invested time, money and expectations into our trip, compromise was tricky. The potential for resentment to build was present. Thankfully, I had already visited Kyoto, and we were visiting sites that I had visited recently. Not climbing to the top of Fushimi Inari mountain was not problematic on this occasion. But, this would have become an issue for me if we were visiting a location that I had not seen before. To avoid disappointment, I would have split from the group.
My experience at Petra, Jordan was quite the reverse situation. Petra was larger and hotter that I had expected. The famous tomb façade that I expected to encounter was only one in a complex of numerous tombs spread out over a large area. I decided to abandon my usual travel group who were seasoned Canadian hikers ten years younger than myself and all physically fit. They intended to charge around the complex at break-neck speeds to see everything. Thus, I decided to travel with a different crew of friends who wished to savour the experience at a slower speed and were content to see fewer tombs. As a result, I had more time to take stunning pictures and appreciate the site at my own pace.
Travel with Beth in Asia was simple because we had similar physical stamina. We could both walk for hours, and had comparable energy patterns for travel, rest and play. But, when we met Leonor from Paris, she challenged our emotional stamina by getting us to leave our comfort zones. Walking and touring sites together, we had similar physical stamina, however biking was a different story.
In Ayutthaya, Thailand we rented bicycles, and since Leonor was an experienced cyclist back home, she led our little group. Beth and I struggled to keep up with Leonor, while she was very confident navigating through the Thai traffic. Beth and I were apprehensive and were convinced that we wouldn’t survive! We were glad for her confidence and we learned that we weren’t as hard-core as we thought we were!
Traveling alone is very different. I don’t have to consider anyone else’s physical or emotional stamina. I speed up and slow down at my whim. I may seek out ways to take me out of my comfort zone, or avoid situations that may challenge me. The decision is mine alone. If I join new friends while traveling, once again, I have to negotiate these details, however the rules are simpler.
While traveling with my new Australian friend Kevin, I’ve found that we had fewer expectations. We met at our hostel in Kyoto, headed out to lunch, together with our new German friend, Marco and during lunch, we discovered that we had similar plans for the afternoon. We decided to explore Gion together. Neither of us were in a rush to do anything, and so stamina didn’t matter. Kevin patiently accommodated my random souvenir shopping and photo-taking at temples. Later, we parted, and I continued my evening exploration alone. Joining up for adventures and parting ways was easily because there were no expectations which required negotiation.
MEETING NEW PEOPLE
I found it harder to meet locals and travellers when I traveled within my trio. We also stayed at an Airbnb, with the result that we had few opportunities to meet other travellers. Both CeCe and I are outgoing and talk to strangers easily, and travellers we encountered were eager to reciprocate. But, our opportunities to meet other people were largely while dining at restaurants.
When you already have friends to share your experiences with, it seems less necessary to reach out to locals and other travellers. Also, others may presume that because you already have a group of friends, that you don’t necessarily want to meet new people, and therefore not take the initiative to strike up a conversation. Also, our Airbnb accommodation provided little opportunity to meet anyone (see my blog: https://travelandtash.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/airbnb-vs-hostels-my-experience-in-kyoto-japan/).
Whenever I travel alone, meeting people seems more necessary and is far easier. After CeCe and Riley returned home, I met numerous fun people at my new hostel residence. Khaosan Theater Kyoto hostel provided a very social environment. I meet Kevin, Marco, and many other travellers in the kitchen, basement workshop and bar, and repeatedly hung out with them and shared stories and recommendations. I stayed up until 5am talking with Juan on my first night there, and randomly stumbled across new friend Sandra in a nearby restaurant and joined her for dinner. Making new friends while alone was super easy.
To complicate the topic of meeting new people a little further, I will point out that while traveling with Beth in Thailand, as a pair of girls, rather than a group of three, it seemed easier to meet other people. Perhaps our tiny unit made us seem more accessible. This may be an interesting discussion for another blog.
Last but not least, CeCe, Riley and I discussed expectations and budgets in the planning stages of our trip. We talked about the kind of activities we wanted to do and could afford to do together, and figured out how simple or posh we wanted our dining and accommodation experiences to be. CeCe initially explained that she wanted to stay in a classy Airbnb and dine out at a fancy restaurant on at least one occasion while in Kyoto together, while I wanted to spend more cash on evening dinners in general. Riley didn’t want to spend money on souvenir or fashion shopping. We all had to compromise because we all had different ideas about how to spend our cash.
When I travelled alone, however, I decided how much I wished to spend on food, accommodation and so on. I could be luxurious or a penny pincher, and I didn’t affect, or was affected, by others. I was also solely responsible, however, for my finances and if I got into financial trouble, only I could fix it. I couldn’t rely on friends to provide any emergency funds if needed, so essentially, I was forced to become more responsible.
LEARNING ABOUT MYSELF
One of my personal goals this year has been to become a genuine team player. Traveling with two of my work colleagues in Kyoto was a very good way to develop team skills. I learned to hold my silence when I disagreed with something because it wasn’t worth the confrontation, and also had a refresher course of how to compromise. I’ve also learned that I prefer to travel in a pair, rather than a group of three. It’s easier to compromise with one woman than compromise with two. There were at least two alpha females in our group, so that alone kept things interesting. Also, I’ve learned that when visiting new locations, a travel partner needs to be willing to compromise as well as have compatible physical and emotional stamina to my own.
Finally, I’ve learned that I really love traveling alone. I enjoy the time to think, make decisions for myself, and be able choose when I want to socialize. Traveling alone reminds me of just how outgoing I am, how independent and self-sufficient I can be. It is one of the biggest self-esteem boosts I’ve discovered to date. If you haven’t travelled alone yet, I highly recommend it.
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What is one thought you agree or disagree with here? Can you add other reasons why you prefer to travel with friends or travel alone? What have you learned about yourself through travel? Share you thoughts in the comments below.