Shopping in Seoul

I have been back in Nova Scotia for a week now and the jet lag is just starting to abate. Not much could have prepared me for falling asleep during the day and getting up at 3AM for days on end.  Lucky for  me I have some insomniac friends to talk to at that hour. After a couple of evenings taking an ativan and two melatonin I think I am on the road back to humanity.

I had not told you about the fun shopping experiences I had in Korea, in particular the markets. They say that if you can’t find it in the market in Seoul, then you probably don’t need it. I concur. One thing I wanted to buy  was some colorful, traditional silk materials for my quilting and I was not disappointed. We went to some kind of manufacturers place where there were miles and miles of indoor fabric shops. Unfortunately most of them would only sell a minimum of five yards, so I had to content myself with some sample pieces.

Not a bad haul!

Choices, choices...

With the help of my interpreter Jonas, I was able to swing a deal. And I think that both the lady and I were happy with each other, even if we didn’t speak the same language.

Another market Dan and I went to was Dongdaemun market in Seoul. This place was so huge it would take many trips to see just a fraction of it all. There was everything from underwear, socks, dried fruits, pig heads (I kid you not), dried fish, pottery, teas, and lots of ginseng. This body-shaped root was everywhere, as Korea is one of the few places in the world where it is grown.  It has many health benefit claims but the common folkloric ones are that it is a  stimulant, a good treatment for type 2 diabetes and for sexual dysfunction in men. I didn’t make up that last one, by the way. It tastes not bad, but I think I like ginger better. I did manage to buy a green pottery vase which seems to be the thing to get when in Korea. There were many price ranges for them, depending which kiosk you shopped at. I paid 25$ for mine; when I went to the airport they had the same one, same size at the duty free shop for 75$. So I guess I got a bargain.

There were many jewelry manufacturers in the marketplace. So much dazzle all in one place ! It was difficult to choose, but I did manage to find a few pairs of earrings that, once removed from the glittering wall of them, looked pretty good.

There were coffee shops abounding, but a cuppa joe was costing between 4000 and 6000 won. In the convenience stores they had a ” hot fridge” where there were cans of coffee, and they were hot! You just pop the lid like on a can of pop and ingest your caffeine. What next?

Olympic park was a treat! It was just a five minute walk from Dan’s place, and so we went there for a walk. It was just beautiful in winter; I can only imagine it in summer with all the roses.

The entrance to Olympic Park

People were there taking a walk or a jog and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw an outdoor gym at the top of a little hill, complete with treadmills, elliptical trainers and bench presses with weights. So people would go for a run; then bench press some weights and then continue on. Dan told me that there were outdoor gyms in almost all the parks and they are used winter and summer. No wonder there are no overweight people in Seoul!

Pig heads at the Seoul marketplace

All in all it was a wonderful trip; the first time off the continent for this Maritimer. But the best part was spending time with my son Dan and meeting his girlfriend Sara. Thanks Dan! XO

My Last Korean Food Adventure

I like to consider myself a pretty reasonable person, and I pride  myself on the fact that I’ll try just about anything food-wise. Since my arrival in Korea I have eaten things that I only could have imagined before: octopus, squid, hot things, slimy things, fish things and mushroom things. While on Jeju Island we spent a lot of time sight seeing and I have beautiful pictures to show for it.

We worked up quite an appetite on Friday and so when a cute little by-the-sea restaurant beckoned, we went in. We ended up ordering a fish dish which once again resembled soup, and the side dishes of rice, kim chee, radish and some bean thing. “Don’t complain”, I said to myself several times. What I wouldn’t have given at that point to have had a nice steak and baked potato in front of me…Oh well, the file fish was not bad and the side dishes were delicious. Well, the bowl in the middle of the table had a plethora of things in it to tempt the senses: file fish, pumpkin, stringy looking mushrooms, onions and sliced potatoes, all floating in a spicy red broth. But wait! There were two huge fish heads in there as well! That did NOT look tempting.

My first mistake was in popping a giant green bean into my mouth – it was, in fact, the hottest pepper I have ever chowed down on. Who knew? I almost died from the heat. Daniel insisted that the rice would tone down the heat and it did. Therapeutic rice. Next I took some of the fish soup into my bowl; it tasted not too bad…but then I bit down on something that was white but so foreignly slimy I started to panic. The expression on my face must have said it all becacuse I think Dan was starting to worry. “Fish fat”, he told me. I answered him, “Pass the damn rice. It’s the only safe thing to eat around here”.

That experience was pretty much the end of my Korean food adventure. What can I say?

At the moment it is 3:30AM and I have been traveling for a little over 24 hours. I’m tired and hungry. Therefore I am sitting at a Tim Horton’s restaurant at Halifax airport while waiting for Dave to pick me up. It is cold, stormy and blustery outside but the toasted bagel with cream cheese and large coffee in front of me never tasted so good.

Pass the Rice Please

In Korea, everything is different. I mean, everything that you eat at home is different here. Not always better, just different. They have rice with every, and I mean every meal: rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, rice for supper and everything in between, incluing dessert. Imagine going to Korea and not liking rice? I have been a rice-hater from way back.

We went to Jeju Island for a three day side trip. Our 50 minute flight left early in the morning and so on arrival we were all starved.  (Just give me a coffee and a piece of toast and no one will get hurt.) Well. We stopped for “breakfast” at a little ocean-front restaurant. I put breakfast in quotation marks for a reason. The meal consisted of (you guessed it) rice soup, rice, seaweed soup and side dishes. Well, one of the side dishes was some kind of a mushroom coated in egg and fried. Sort of like a mushroom omelette, but bite sized. I had two bites. Other side dishes included the ever-present kim chee, chopped giant radish with red pepper hot sauce, seaweed, bean paste and cabbage leaves…and all this before 10 AM.

My disappointment in breakfast was overridden by the sheer beauty of Jeju. The beaches and scenery were amazing! There was volcanic rock everywhere: fences were built with it as were pathways, sculptures and just about everything else one could imagine. And while the weather was freezing in Seoul, the orange trees in Jeju were laden with fruit. It was warm!It was easy to forget about my rice adventures amidst all this beauty and adventure. Stay tuned for fish fat