A Year in Korea

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Finally a few photos from Melbourne. Although I am on the internet everyday, it's been difficult to find anywhere to upload photos. I usually use the computers in the state library, because they're free (although you're suppose to limit your use to 15 minutes, ssh...), but they don't seem to like me up or down-loading stuff, and when I finally shelled out the dollars to go in a PC bang, the connection was slow so I still didn't get many up. Well, this is Melbourne, part of the central business district, at night, obviously. The river is the Yarra river. I'm not quite on the coast, but it isn't far away. This is the beach at St. kilda, a short tram ride away. I went here for the day with Michael, a german guy from my hostel. The water was freezing and it was overcast for most of the day, so it reminded me of home, in a nice way. This is the State Library of Victoria, where I am now in fact. Indeed, where I can be found most days at some point. This picture only has significance in that it's the last photo I took before dropping my trusty old Canon to its sudden end. Not worth dying for really. And this is my new Canon! Woo, yes, it's much like the old one but with a bigger screen... The view from my hostel roof, where I have spent no time other than the one trip I took to go see what was up there and take this picture. This, although perhaps not the best shot I could've chosen to display the local flora (I saw no fauna), is part of the Dandenong range national park, the first time (of two times) that I've been outside of the city. More here for the curious (ma, you've already seen 'em all).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

10 Memories of Korea that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside

1 Dinners in my room with Christa and Mary. I should say cooked by Christa and Mary, my job being to supply us with tableclothes stolen from the theatre classroom and clean up the carnage afterwards. With a one-hob kitchen it was tricky, but we always made it work. Wine, soju, sake, and dancing into the wee hours afterwards. I never expected to enjoy Christmas day as much as I did, being so far from home and having to work.

2 Salsa - the classes me and Emma gave up in the dance studio on Sunday nights, to our little band of faithful students, and the nights at Bahia when we put them into practice, particularly Emma's leaving night, after all the locals had cleaned out at the sight of us, and the barman supplied us with cowbells and bongos.

3 Chuseok Japan trip with Christa and Amy. In particular our food crawls - I'm thinking the sushi and okonomiyaki nights - and drinking copious amounts of sake and plum wine in our lodges and laughing for no reason.

4 Singing, in many places: In the norae bangs any night of the week of course; I also have fond memories of the karaoke night we stumbled upon at a bar down the road, that we meant to go back to and now never will, where every table had to sing one song each. Christa, Rob and I sang All I want for Christmas, beautifully but in three different keys. I also have to include Rob and I gatecrashing and singing Radiohead's Creep at a Korean wedding reception.

5 Playing cards and dice over at Shawn and Mel's place. Nertz, farkel, Manatoba Farmers. By the time they left to go to Suwon, it had somehow grown into a nightly thing, though I only went over a handful of times. This was during mine and Emma's period of neverending nightshift. I don't remember why I didn't go more often.

6 Poker nights, every Wednesday in the pool class. We started out hosting it in our alternate rooms, but it soon grew to popular for that. I must've won three times in all the time we played. Of course, since the buy-in amounted to less than three pounds, it was never any great loss.

7 Korean lesson with Christa, and Mary too, at the end. It's quite likely that I'll have forgotten half of what I learned when I get home, and I'll rarely have need for the rest when back home, but I'll never regret giving it a try.

8 Although I think Japan tops the list of places I visited, so far anyway, I can't leave out the rest - Vietnam, Thailand, Gyeongju and the other areas of Korea I've visited. I think I could be persuaded to leave Cambodia out of the list.

9 I don't know for sure why I feel compelled to include this - perhaps just because I'd not had a bath for the best part of six months - and I only did it properly the one time last year, but I'll certainly never forget the (naked) Korean bath-house.

10 Seeing Muse live for the first time at Jamsil gymnasium. They were awesome. Best live band ever. Incidentally, I saw them again recently at Pentaport Rock Festival, Incheon, but the second time didn't compare to the first (they were an hour late and I, by choice, was half a mile away).

Disclaimer: this list is neither exhaustive nor definitive, but the fact that these things are the first that came to mind must mean something. Notice the absence of references to work, teaching, and children in the list.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thailand photos

G'day. Since I've been using a public computer, I've been having a hell of a time trying to upload some photos, but I finally cracked it. I've had to put them up on flickr though, as blogger was taking too long and don't even get me started on facebook.

I've uploaded three sets today. The first, requested by young Katie of Barnet, is a bunch of shots mostly if not all taken by Kd, of the mangroves we paddles through when we rented a kayak for the afternoon near Krabi. The monkeys are long-tailed macaques, also known as crab-eating macaques, though they ate the pineapple we brought them with relish. The thing that looks like a crocodile is in fact a harmless monitor lizard.

Next, we have some pics from Koh Phi Phi. I haven't labelled them well as flickr is now being slow too, but they include some shots of one of the beautiful sunsets we saw there, and the day trip we took to The Beach beach (among other places) with young Ryan of Devon who we hung around with for a while on the island. In fact, most of these photos are Kd's too, as she had a waterproof case for her camera and I did not, so I didn't take mine out on the longboat with us. The sunset photos are mine though.

The third is the set promised weeks ago: a random yet representative sampling of my wildlife photos from Thailand and Cambodia (mostly the former, only the bugs are Cambodian).

Friday, August 03, 2007


Hey, have arrived at accomodation in Melbourne. Weather is clear and refreshing! Backpackers place ok I think, haven't met other room-mates yet (they're asleep).  Have 10 minutes free internet so gotta be quick! Don't know what I'm gonna do now, probably just go wander around the city for a while. Flight was ok, though didn't sleep much as usual - oh! somehow found myself in first class on Seoul-Tokyo leg, real luxury, sadly not on the Tokyo-Melbourne bit though!  Later!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thailand and Cambodia

I have around 1500 pictures from the past month's travels (though approximately 95% of them are photos of Cambodia's temples) - I've randomly selected carefully deliberated over the matter and chosen a few to share... We stayed for the first few days on Koh Samet, where we had arranged to meet Alicia. She'd been planning to come with us and then go on to Ghana to do some voluntary work for a month, but due to massive incompetency at the Ghanaian embassy in Seoul as she was trying to sort out her Visa, she never made it. After learning that Alicia wouldn't be joining us until Cambodia (a best-case scenario), we left Koh Samet (and the most beautiful sand I've ever set foot on) for Ayuthaya. We there only for one whole day, and it was a scorcher. We hired bikes for the day, and explored the ruins there. Interesting as they were, they pale into comparison against Cambodia's wats, hence no picture. A ferry, a train, a bus, a ship and a short taxi later, and we reach Koh Pha Ngan. I miss living on the beach. I cut my knee on the coral while snorkeling; still waiting to see if it's gonna scar or not. And I forgot to put in my contacts before the dive so I couldn't see a damn thing anyway. Oh, so this is the longboat we hired for the day when we went snorkeling. We went a saw a waterfall too, but for most of the time we lazed on the beach, read a little, and swam. Oh, and was around this time that we were playing Rummy obsessively. You can't really tell here, but these crazy fire twirlers are children! I swear one of them was no older than six or seven, and non of them can have been more than 12. They were amazing, but it was bizarre to see thre parents just sit back and watch them do it. They were foreign kids by the way, not Thai. Kd's crazy hair on the windswept boat trip from Koh Pha Ngan to Koh Tao (Koh means island). Drunken crazy golf. Don't let the picture fool you, this was the only exciting whole they had. Kd cheated. Afterwards we played old-school 10 pin bowling; there was a guy at the bottom picking up the pins and throwing the bowl back down to our end. Kayaking near Krabi. We were taken through the mangroves where we boarded by a troupe of monkeys in search of food. We also saw what Kd at first took to be alligators, but were in fact monitor lizards. I'll put some more pictures up of all the wildlife we saw later. The only time we really got rained on the entire time - not bad considering we supposedly went in the middle of monsoon season. We're on an elephant ride here. I think. Another rather aggressive gang of monkeys we met on the beach. At the mere mention of bananas they went straight for Kd's bag, and she was in no mood to argue. One of them stole a tube of Pringles from a tourist and sat up in the tree munching his way through them. While the crowd was watching this, a rogue monkey made his way along the beach, searching everyone's abandoned bags. Still a fair bit of tsunami damage around. Koh Phi Phi in particular has lots of building work going on. More snorkelling at koh Phi Phi, and I still look pretty pasty here. I don't know exactly when my tan finally kicked in, but I guess it hadn't yet. Koh Phi Phi again, this is The Beach beach, as in, the Leo Dicaprio movie. You can see why they picked it (although it could do with somebody picking all the trash out of the water). The view from our bungalow on Phi Phi wasn't bad. I must've taken a hundred pictures of this one sunrise. Never seen anything like it. Just stunning. And then on to Cambodia. I have whole memory cards with nothing but photos of the temples in Seim Reap. We bought the three-day pass, so we saw a lot. this here is the famous one, Angkor Wat, built in the early 12th century. It's huge, and very well preserved. We split up soon after getting there, and had failed to make a plan for meeting up again. It took us hours to find each other again. By the time we got to Cambodia we'd been joined by Alicia, finally, and Kd's friend Gema, also a teacher in Korea. I've forgotten the names of most of the wats we visited already. I call this one 'the one you go up to watch the sunrise'. And this one is 'the one that has been left to the trees'. Note tiny Kd hugging the root at the bottom. There's another abandoned wat, which the guidebook says makes the one above look like somebody just forgot to mow the lawn; we really wanted to go to it, but it was just too far. Alicia! And I at 'the wat with the Greek-looking bit of architecture'. It's so sad to see kids on the streets all day desperate to get money out of tourists. Some have books or crafts to sell - the gang here finally broke Kd, she bought six scarves off them - others try to convince you to take a photo of them for money, and some just beg. I don't even know what this is. Let's say the Royal Palace. It's in Phnom Penh, the capital. Phnom Penh was not the best climax for our vacation to be honest - though it was interesting, the genocide prison/museum, and the killing fields, put together with poor Alicia getting her bagged snatched, doesn't really count as ending on a high...