Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

4 weeks. January 31, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 7:55 AM

4 weeks. 4 weekends. That’s all I have left in this adventure in Korea. WOW. Where has the time gone!?

Cait and I were hanging out in my apartment today talking about what happens next. What happens in 4 weeks? Even though we’re traveling for a couple weeks together, it still doesn’t seem real that we’ll be saying “farewell” in the Bangkok airport with a “see you ________” still very much open ended. Even saying “see you later” to Madz and Laura will be hard enough — and Laura and I both live in the K-W, and Madz is just a short trip to cottage country away; it just doesn’t seem real that we all won’t be living in Busan, meeting for weekly girls dinners and shopping and going out on the weekends. I have truly made amazing friends here and I have high hopes of them lasting … but, not without effort of taking and making the time to meet up and visit each other — CAITLIN – you have to be sooooo difficult being all American. Even Kyle lives pretty far away … you didn’t plan this Canadian boyfriend thing very well!

How quickly the time has gone by. I have slowly started cleaning up my apartment and sending things home, but the more I pack up, the more memories I stumble upon from over the course of the last year. The idea of leaving seems so surreal, I think I am almost in denial of it’s actuality. Today I had a moment of “I want to stay” which was immediately followed up with the feeling “I want to go and travel”. HAHA

So what will the next 4 weeks hold? Making my travel plans and booking plane tickets. Packing up and moving out of my apartment. Picking up any last minute things that are cheaper to buy in Korea than anywhere else. Farewell dinners. And most likely, tears, tears and more tears.

At this point I have absolutely no regrets with my decision to come to Korea, and I have little regret about my decision to leave after the one year mark. I know I am leaving a changed person with a different outlook on life, love and responsibility. I feel like I’ve grown and learned a lot about ME over the course of the last 11 months, which was my ultimate goal for coming here. I feel like coming here has brought me much closer to my true friends and family at home … and has made the bonds stronger with the people I love at home. It’s funny, when you eliminate the aspect of physical contact from the equation, how it forces open and honest communication – and I truly am happy for the openness that as developed between me and my family since I came here. We are forced to put into words what we think and feel – and I feel closer to every single person in my family because of this, and almost have a new found respect for each of them as well. Love you guys. xoxo

There are still many aspects of myself I’m getting to know and questions still¬† unanswered — like, what comes next once I’m done traveling? What are my long term goals? blah blah blah … — I know I’m ready to leave Korea, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to come home just yet. I miss my friends and family a ton — but I still need this time to see the world and figure myself out. I need to find the passion within me that I want to make a career out of. Hopefully something stumbles into my lap over the course of the next 6 months! ūüôā

Anyway, I will end this post … sorry for the randomness that this was. I will post again before the end of the month for sure. Believe it or not – I’m trying to get some people together to go scuba diving with the sharks at the Busan Aquarium — who would have guessed I would be organizing something like that!? HAHAHA … we’ll see if I’m brave enough to go through with it. I want to get over my fear of fish once and for all!!

Love and miss you all. xoxoxo

 

Boracay, Philippines – Journal Entries January 24, 2010

Filed under: Philippines — esacc @ 9:50 PM

I decided to attempt to keep a journal while on the road / island of Boracay in the Philippines. I was somewhat successful at it – updating it almost every day, so I figured rather than rehash what I can recall from the trip, I will just¬†transcribe my journal entries for you to hear the experience¬†“first hand”.

Friday January 15, 2010

Travel Schedule:

5:00 PM: Arrive Gimhae Airport, Busan.

7:35 PM –¬†Flight: Dragon Air – PUS -> Hongkong

8:00 AM (Saturday) –¬†Flight: ¬†Hongkong -> Manila

2:00 PM –¬†Flight – Cebu Pacific:¬†Manila -> Kalibo

3:30 PM VAN – Kalibo -> Caitclan

5:00 PMFerry – Caticlan -> Boracay

5:15 PMTuk Tuk (taxi) -> Dave’s Straw Hat Inn

 Notes: Manila Airport: Long lines. Did a lot of waiting and watching. Had to take a taxi from terminal 1 to terminal 3 to catch our domestic flight to Kalibo. Long, SLOW lines at Cebu Pacific check in counter.

Cebu Pacific:

– party plane! club / dance beats playing upon boarding and unboarding the plane. They even played games with us on the plane.

– the flight was about 55 minutes.

Kalibo Airport:

– tiny airport. zero customs/ security checks.

– 200 pesos each got us a van from Kalibo to Caticlan and included the ferry ticket price BUT NOT the extra ferry fees (100 pesos extra fees)

Arrived to Boracay Island around 4:30 ~ 5 PM Saturday January 16th.

********RAINING*********** ūüė¶

Checked into Dave’s Straw Hat Inn (boat station 3)

– cozy and humble, but far from night life area/shopping.

– bare minimum in room, but delicious arrival drinks!

Cait and I walked the beach strip tonight …. there is a “brown out” aka a black out – likely from the high winds and rain – on most parts of the strip. We can’t wait to wake up and see Boracay in the day light! We are exhausted, so are turning in early. We were told that it’s supposed to rain tomorrow – fingers crossed it blows over. We need a TAN! (And I really need to poop!)

Oh… and Dave’s has free wifi, so my ipod is coming in handy – and my bberry works here!

Oh…and there are waaaaaaaay too many creepy couples here – aka old white guys with Philippino, half-their-age-wives. On our walk we counted 38 in total.

I heart Boracay. Please be sunny tomorrow! xo

Sunday January 17, 2010.

We started the day off with a run along White Beach. The weater in a beautiful blu multitone. It’s a bit overcast, but we are making the most of the sun when it peeks through the clouds by veggin’ out on some wooden beach chairs @ 50 pesos / day. Breakfast was pretty decent today as well – american buffet style!!

The majority of the day has been overcast and cloudy, but I have managed to get some sweet color! May be hurting later. Cait and I both got 1 hour full body massages for 350 pesos (~ $5 USD). Then we had some fresh mangos and prickly fruit that we bought from a beach vendor. The amount of creepy couples have quadrupled in the sunlight. It’s sooo weird. And there are tons of Koreans!

Dinner: delicious beach side buffet. All sorts of meats, sides and fruits. I could get used to this life!!

Monday Jan. 18th, 2010

Started the morning off with a light jog along the beach. We checked out of Dave’s and met up with the Q Lodge pick-up guy. After a nerve racking ride through the main road nad side streets on a tyipcal Philippino taxi (tuk tuk); passed the villages, up the “mountain”, passed the goats and wild dogs, we arrived at the gated community of Q Lodge. It was somehwat of a diamond in the rough, but with the warm welcome we received from the owner and the guard dog, Spike, we quickly started to feel at ease. The owners seem very accomodating and offered to put an extra bed in our room and even cook us dinner to help save on travel expenses. We decided to try the Q Lodge out and made what we thought was the long trek to White Beach in less than 10 minutes. And to our surprise, we ended up in the main area of the beach (by D’Mall). We ate breakfast at a cute cafe and then parked ourselves on White Beach in front of Hey Judes.

The weather today is clearer than yesterday – a bit overcast – but the beach is bustling with people. Far more than yesterday. We are in a more populat area today, so the number of beach vendors is noticeably higher, which isn’t as bad when just laying around, but the second you stand to walk anywhere, they are all over you.

Tuesday January 19th, 2010

Night one at the Q Lodge: mediocre sleep. Woke up early to roosters crowing. Instant coffee available in room. Delicious breakfast – omlet, toast and fruit – delivered to our room upon request. Shower: mediocre at best. Very little water pressure, but hot and cold water functioning.

Today we scored some sweet cushioned chairs / beds in front of the Red Coconut. There were hardly any beach vendors bugging us today, which was really nice. The weather was incredible today! Mostly sunny and HOT!! The water was so refreshing. I managed to get some good color / burn. One of our fav beach snacks is corn on the cob. SOoooo good! We had nonstop service all day from the Red Coconut servers. Was not mad about it. Now we need to find a place to stay for our last 3 nights as we aren’t going to stay at the Q Lodge after tonight. There is also a large Russian population here.

Wednesday January 20th, 2010

Cait and I met one of the beach vendors and he’s actually really cool. He has sweet dreds and he helped us get a sweet discount at a beach front hotel in boat station 2 (the good area) for our last 3 nights. Tonight is our last night at the Q Lodge – thank the Lord. We had a pretty scary experience walking down the poorly lit road just after dinner, so despite the delicious breakfast and great staff, we are eager to get out of here. I am pretty burnt fron today – my legs are on fire! Depending on the weather, either tomorrow or Thursday, we are going to do an Island Hopping / Snorkeling trip with our new friend Carrey. Hopefully we don’t have to feed the fish!!

Thursday January 21st, 2010

Yesterday we¬† checked into our new hotel – Taj’s Guest House – and it’s so much better than the other two places we stayed. The weather yesterday was incredible! We got some good color! For dinner we ate at a Thai place in D’mall, and it was really good. We decided to break out of our usual routine of going to bed at 8 PM and we embraced Boracay’s night life. It was really neat. A lot of beach front restaurants set up an ocean side patio, so we camped out in some bean bag chairs and listened to live music. Philippinos are REALLY good singers.

We met some guys from California and headed to another bar with bean bags and live music further down the beach called “Chill Out Bar”. It turned into a late night – 1:00 AM! – so we slept in a little bit today to make up for it.

This morning it was overcast and rainy so we had breakfast at our fav cafe and once the rain stopped, we camped out in front of the Red Coconut again. Hopefully the sun comes out today as we want to the Island hopping / snorkeling excursion.

On another note, it was really cool meeting new people outside of Korea. At least this time we felt like we had a unique experience and a different story to tell from the people we meet. And on the flip side, we get to hear different stories and experiences too. It really makes me appreciate this time in my life that much more.

Oh – last night was the first time I’ve seen the stars and moon in a crystal clear sky in a really long time. It was beautiful!

Friday January 22nd, 2010

Last night Cait and I booked our hotel in Manila for tomorrow night. I can’t believe this is our last full day here. It literally flew by.¬† Today we went Island hopping – our own private spider boat drove us around the island to a couple different snorkeling sights. I actually went snorkeling and LOVED it! I am now feeling one with the fishies. I couldn’t get enough of it!

The weather today was perfect. After about 3 hours of island hopping / snorkeling – oh, by the way, I saw Nemo, Dory and Scar! — we parked ourselves in front of Red Coconut to soak in some more rays. After a few hours, I went and got a $3 manicure, then Caitn and I watched one of the nicer sunsets I’ve ever seen. My camera died on our snorkeling trip, so I will be stealing Cait’s pics. After the sunset we went for a 1 hour swedish massage in the spa attached to the Taj Guest House. It was bomb. We had a delicious buffet dinner and now we are veggin’ out for the night. We plan on waking up early tomorrow to get in a good breakfast and soak in a few hours of sun before we depart from the island around 1 PM. It’s tough leaving paradise!

Saturday Janary 23rd, 2010

Woke up bright and early today to sunny, blue skies! We ate breakfast at our fav cafe – Aria – for the last time – where they had our order memorized. I had to abruptly leave the cafe and literally sprint back to the Taj in fear of pooping my pants! HA! Pooping has been a standard topic of conversation this week – and we did a lot of it – the natural breakfast will get ya!!

We made it back in front of the Red Coconut to soak in the last of the Boracay sun, sand and sea. We took the standard 375 last day photos, packed it in, checked out of the Taj, bid adu to Carrey, ate, ate and ate, then jogied to the ferry. From there, everything happened so quickly! – the ferry, the van ride to Kalibo, the airport check-in — so we are now camped out in a coffee shop at the Kalibo airport – literally 4 hours early. At least we won’t be missing this flight – well, anything is possible with the two re-tards.

Tonight we are staying in Manila – should be interesting… but I hear the shopping is good!!

And this is where my journal entries end .. so the rest I will do from memory.

From the Manila we took a taxi to our hotel, which was supposeably only 7 KMs from the airport, but in reality, it was more like 70 KMs. Anyway, I stood out like a sore thumb – even sitting in a cab – so children were running through the busy streets, up to the cab window to beg for money / sell their necklaces. It was heart wrenching. Once we arrived to our hotel, we didn’t really want to walk around after dark, so we got some delivery and called it a night.

Sunday January 25th, 2010

We checked out of our hotel and made our way back to the airport. The airport was soooooooo busy so luckily we were there super early. We checked in and made it through customs … then did a lot of sitting, waiting and eating. Oh. and reading. I finished my second book of the trip. (again, shocking, I know!). Our flight leaving Manila was slightly delayed, which meant we were late getting into Hong Kong, which meant we had to SPRINT to catch our plane. Literally. hahaha luckily they were waiting for us. And before we knew it, we were back in Busan.

It was such a great, relaxing time. I would have loved to see other parts of the Philippines … but for what we wanted – R&R – Boracay was perfect!

 

I Left My Heart In Tokyo.

Filed under: Japan — esacc @ 8:55 AM

Christmas 2009 – Caitlin and I flew to Tokyo, Japan for the long weekend. It was during our shopping trip in H&M Tokyo that we heard this song for the first time and it quite literally came to be the theme of our trip.

Luckily Christmas fell on a Friday this year, so this meant a 3 day weekend! Caitlin and I caught the early flight out of Busan – leaving at 8 AM, arriving at Narita International around 10 AM. From there we took the bullet train to Akasaka, Tokyo where we checked into our ridiculously nice hotel. We booked the hotel on expedia about a week prior to our trip, and we were lucky enough to find a 24 hour half price sale on what would have been an very very pricey hotel in a great area!

We checked in and quickly hit the streets to do some exploring. We walked for hours (literally), and ended up getting a bit turned around and lost. But there was absolutely nothing to worry about as every one we met and spoke to were more than helpful and spoke perfect English. We decided to ask for a recommendation as to where to order and eat the infamous dish – Ramen – and quickly made our way to a nearby restaurant to try the specialty. We went in with high expectations and unfortunately, at roughly $10 a bowl, we were not satisfied. We left the restaurant, unsatisfied and in awe of the high prices!

After dinner we made our way to some of the famous areas of Tokyo. We started with the Shibuya area – known as one of the fashion centers of Japan – at the Shibuya Crossing – an intersection where literally thousands of people, cross the street, in all directions, every couple minutes. It is also home to the infamous statue of HachikŇć, a popular meeting area for people (One of the most well-known stories concerning Shibuya is the story of HachikŇć, a dog who waited on his late master at Shibuya Station every day from 1923 to 1935, eventually becoming a national celebrity for his loyalty) —- (SIDE NOTE: Richard Grere is in a movie about this!)¬† We grabbed some starbucks and took in the sights of Shibuya Crossing. I literally could have sat there all day. The people were so unique and the hustle and bustle of the city was intoxicating.

From there we decided to walk to Harajuku Station – a fashion capital of the world renowned for unique street fashion. Literally all it is is Japanese youth dressing up in unique, uncommon styles. It’s fascinating! This is also where Gwen Stefani adopted her “Harajuku Girl” dancers from. It really is a lifestyle. We were so intrigued that we ended up coming back here the next day, and of course, making our way to the Harajuku shopping district.

Finally after figuring out the super complex subway system, we made our way back to our hotel to get ready for our Christmas night out. We got dressed up and made our way to a heated patio which was within walking distance from our hotel. Based on the expensive prices, we opted to share a salad and treat ourselves to a Christmas bevie. Soon after we were roaming the streets before turning in for the night.

The next morning, we took our time getting ready for the day and spent some time skyping with friends and family back home, since it was now Christmas Day back in Canada and the US. It was still really hard to grasp the fact that it was actually Christmas – as we were roaming the streets of Tokyo, jacket-less,¬† in plus 14 degree weather. Boxing day held yet more walking as we explored the Ginza District – the main technology area in Tokyo – the Imperial Palace (which is only open 1 day a year, and this day was not that day) as well as met our match trying to track down the only Wendy’s in Tokyo. We were successful in our hunt to find it though, and boy was it worth it! It tasted just like home – but one BIG, notable difference was the difference in serving size – they actually serve what would be considered a healthy amount. (that obviously didn’t stop us from seconds, but it’s the thought the counts). Once we were finished indulging in Wendy’s, we made our way back to the Harajuku district. It was this time that we stumbled upon the Harajuku St (SHOPPING!!!!) as well as H&M and Forever 21. Practicing spending self control, we refused to step foot in Forever 21, but managed to splurge some yen at H&M.

Saturday night we decided to see what the Tokyo night life was all about. Dressed in our new Japanese inspired outfits, we made our way to the Ropongi district. Along the way, we made friends with some locals who offered suggestions on some local places to go. Before long, we were having drinks served to us by a Samari and singing karaoke with our new friends. We also, for the first time, took a ride in the ridiculously expensive Tokyo taxis which was a surreal experience. The fare starts at about 9 dollars US; the passenger seat is actually the driver’s seat; the cars drive on the opposite side of the street; AND the doors open automatically for you! Experiencing this was obviously nothing but hilarious to Caitlin and I.¬† We, once again, turned in at a decent time, knowing we were in for an exhausting last day.

Sunday morning: we woke up, packed up, and checked out the Monterrey Hotel. From there, it was a quick stop at Subway for lunch (obviously had to take advantage of delicious western food! haha). After lunch we headed back towards the airport and made a pit stop in the more traditional area of Tokyo – the Asakusa district. It was here we met our lovable Rickshaw driver, whom we nicknamed Suzuki, and he ran us around the district on a personal tour via the rickshaw. It was a fast and efficient way to see the area in a short period of time. After some photo ops and farewells to Suzuki, we quickly made our way to the train station to head to the airport. And this is where things turned ….

We made it to the train, with what we thought, was enough time. The train made an unexpected, time consuming stop at another station – and once we made it to Narita, Caitlin’s small bladder and confusion took over. Long story short, I ended up on the other side of immigration, waiting for Caitlin to cross after she was turned back to the check in counter. After a few stressful minutes, I asked for some assistance in locating my friend, to which I was informed that she was already checked in and on the plane – and that I was going to miss my plane. From there it was literally a SPRINT through the airport, on the airport train, through immigration – onto the plane that was being held for me. I took my seat in the last row, assuming if Cait was on the plane she would have seen me be the last one to board and would call out my name (as we didn’t have seats together). To my dismay, there was no such greeting. I decided to wait until take off before bothering the flight attendants for her seat number. Once in the air, I did just that, to which I was politely informed – “I’m sorry, I don’t know that name. She’s not on this flight.” – SMILE SMILE SMILE – …. ho.ly.shiat. What did she mean, she’s not on this flight!?!?!?!? A huge sense of regret washed over me as I replayed the whole thing in my head – thinking that I should have turned back when Cait did. I swear, it was the longest flight of my life – even though it was just under a 2 hour flight. As soon as I landed in Busan, I pulled out my laptop and was greeted by a sobbing video from Cait – who was still in Tokyo and would be staying another night there. Basically she was too late checking in and by the time she turned around to go back to the ticketing booth, the plane was full (despite our reserved seats) and the next flight out wasn’t until the next morning. I replayed it all in my head and it was a very confusing process – but I realized, had I turned back when Cait did, as opposed to going though and making the plane, I likely would have had to pay for another ticket home (which, a one way ticket from Tokyo was about $1000) since I was already “checked in”. So it was a good thing I didn’t turn back … but man, oh man, that was a stressful time! hahaha … we joke about it now, constantly, but at the time, it was a bit overwhelming.

All in all, Tokyo was an amazing city. I really did fall in love with it. It was hard coming back to Korea, but once we were back, we had Boracay Philippines to book and plan, so we kept our heads up!

 

Snow in Korea! (Jirisan) January 10, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 8:23 AM

December 22nd marked the end of the 2nd semester and the start of Winter Vacation for the students and teachers of my school. In celebration of this, some teachers from my school decided we should go away on a little retreat. We decided to go to Jirisan (Jiri Mountain) for a night and it was the perfect way to start my Christmas break (or lack there of).


Jirisan is a mountain in the southern region of South Korea. It is often considered one of the three most important mountains in South Korea (the mainland highest point).

The afternoon of December 22nd – Nine teachers, myself included, climbed into a 11 person van – along with an endless supply of snacks, beer and of course, soju – and made the 4 – 5 hour drive to Jirisan. Upon arrival mid-evening, we stopped for dinner before heading to our hotel. We ate the most delicious bibimbop I’ve ever had as it was made with all organic vegetables and was obviously made fresh and hot to serve. So delicious. It was outside the restaurant that I saw a light dusting of snow for the first time in Korea. I was so excited!

After dinner we made our way to our hotel, which in true Korean fashion, had no furniture other then a kitchen table in it. It didn’t take long before snacks upon snacks were offerred up and devoured … along with a steady stream of beer and soju. After a few Koreans games, I decided to offer up some Canadian based drinking games – with the obvious Korean spin on it – but boy did it work out nicely. It was an absolute blast! After a few hours we decided to head to bed as we had a big day ahead of us.

The next morning we woke up and, after breakfast, made our way to Jiri Mountain (Jiri san). We initially planned on driving up as far as we could and then doing the mild hike to the peak – but upon arrival we were informed that the road was closed to cars due to too much snow, so we were asked to park and walk. I was NOT at all mad about this news. Actually, I was beyond excited and basically skipped my way up the mountain. After a couple hours we made our way to the rest lodge just under the peak of the mountain and it was absolutely beautiful, so of course, I needed to climb to the peak. After a short hike to the top, I was greeted with frigid winds and reduced visibility – and SNOW EVERYWHERE! I was beyond excited, my smile was literally frozen to my face.

After some photo ops, we made the descent down the mountain and hit the road. We stopped off at a nearby market for some lunch before heading back to Busan.

It was such a great way to end the semester and start Christmas break as I was missing a good Canadian White Christmas.  I have since been to Tokyo, Japan and am now completing my 3 weeks of Winter English Camp before heading to Boracay Island in the Philippines !


 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! January 2, 2010

Filed under: South Korea — esacc @ 6:50 AM

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays!!!! Just wanted to make a quick post to wish you all a happy and safe holiday season. I will be updating my blog in the coming weeks about my school trip to Mount Jiri; Christmas in Tokyo, Japan; and New Years… followed by Boracay in 2 weeks!!!!

Miss and love you all! xoxoxo