Seoul Loving

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#1. People have mentioned my love of bread and mayo is strange, and I really don’t quite understand their confused looks when this mayo-carb combination is perfect. Now, when the bun on the airplane to Seoul came not with what I expected ( the usual heart attack inducing yellow block of mass ) but instead something fiery red greeted me as I tear away at the package open. Waves of confused neurons went racing through my brain and for a moment, I was taken aback. Hot pepper paste and bun? The hot pepper paste that I used to cook with meat or mix with rice but now they use it as a spread? This is a whole new level yo!  And that is why I love travelling to another foreign place, to learn things I’ve never knew before, in whatever form, be it strange or unique. It broadens you mind, makes you alive.

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#2. Banchan (or side dish) is served with every meal in Korea. Even though it comes free with unlimited refills, you can be assured of its quality! I especially love the soft, well marinated tofu beancurd skin. We gobbled this down before the mains came, which is not how it should have been eaten. Banchan dishes, which are also cold, are matched with the mains, and act as a good neutralizing agent especially with spicy dishes.So if you can, try holding back till your mains arrive, and enjoy it the Korean way.

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#3. Easily found on the streets, these pipping hot red bean waffles are delicious on a cold day. And for about $1 for 7 of them freshly made ones? I see us urbran-ites scream “What a steal”

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#4. Every cafe would offer these two staples (besides coffee of course). Bagel with cream cheese. And this huge slab of toast (on the right), drenched with caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream that will set your thighs on a joy ride down that one way street to fat-dom with no return.That said, Seoul is a coffee lover’s haven. I know many Asian countries like Thailand or Singapore(which has some of the best tasting coffees by the way) have been sprouting cafes like pigs giving birth on a roll, but Korea has taken this to the next level. Almost at every corner, you can find a cafe, be it a chain or a cosy locally owned one. Just like how you will find trees everywhere you go in Singapore.

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#5. Proof that Asians do not just do math or aspire to be robots. We can art-ized things too. Food, Graffiti. And I like it. I like it when creativity flows. When creativity surrounds and builds off each other, expounding into something magical.

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#6. Korean BBQ is DELICIOUS. Add the word buffet and it sounds like the best thing heard, ever. From sinchon station, walk past MacDonalds, all the way down the street for about 5 minutes till you hit Starbucks cafe at the end of the street. Turn left into the lane ,another left,then a right till you see “8000” on the yellow signs they hang in front of their shops. You have now arrived at the start of your BBQ buffet journey. Enjoy being freely led through heapings of deliciously marinated chicken and beef, noodles and soup and everything that will expand you till you resemble Psy. After, expect to find yourself suddenly lost in the Food Coma Land. You have been warned.

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#7. It definitely helps to speak some Korean, and you should. But if you’re limited to only “Hello, Thank you and I love you” learnt from the sappy korean dramas, and if you happen to speak mandarin, you might just be in luck. Because 99% of the time, when the string of “……hamida” (every sentence seems to end with -hamida) gets thrown at you and you throw a blank look back, they try the next language-对!中文!

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#8. Baos in Seoul have yellow tinged skin. Not the usual white fluffy ones you would normally find around Asia or in Chinese Restaurants. One time, I tried my hands at making my own Baos and they turned out yellow, and I then became the joke of the day. Later, I found out it was because I used baking soda instead of baking powder. Now, is that why these baos are yellow? That said, you can find chucks of red beans in the fillings. 100% made in house.

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#9. Food in Korea is expensive compared to its Asian neighbours! These tasty streetside spring onion pancakes went for about $4. The roasted chestnuts in a small bag(below) went for about $4 too! So did some custard waffles, unlike Laos or Vietnam or Thailand where street food will not go beyond $2.

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#10. The coolest grafitti I came across in Seoul in the 6 days I was there. This was creatively expressed on the construction site fencing. Coincidentally (or not), an old man was working with his craft(chestnut roasting-not widely found these days). It was strange because this setting was quite out of place in the new mint CBD area. Strangess aside, this whole New Age meets Old School combination is magic. I am always happy to see some art or something “non white collared” being personified or channeled out in some way, or actually in any way, it shows some life still exist. I despite the white collar race, yet I am sadly but a participant too.

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#11. The world knows The Little Prince. But guess what? Korea has The Old Prince.And I wonder what China has got-The Fake Prince ; The Phlegm Spitting Prince ; The Ultimate Pickpocket Prince? Hey I’m just stating what I observed when I was in China, the land where everyone spits every 5 seconds and iphone’s fake cousin, 爱 (Ai) Phone, exists. Chinese pickpockets have also developed their skills so well they no longer slash you bags without you noticing and slip off with your brand new copy of The Ultimate Pickpocket Prince and 爱 phone, they now pick your belongings with chopsticks at lightning speed! Staying true to Chinese culture of chopsticks, respect.

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#12. This strawberry seller is truly sick of people touching his strawberries. He wrote it in Mandarin too, which then led me to conclude those strawberry pinchers hail from China Land.

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#13. Making sandles from straw and ratten seem to be an old Asian tradition, previously seen across south east Asia as well as China.

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#14. The people used to ferment wine in vats. Koreans ferment kimchi in them instead.

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#15. The world uses electricity powered heaters. Koreans tap on nature and science. Heat the water running through the ground/or just heat the ground with chopped firewood to let heat circulate throughout the floor in the house. Hot air rises. House is warmed up. Winter and electricity woes solved. Just brilliant.

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#16. The world thinks this cabinet would be built to store books or the likes. Koreans on the other hand, built these to store rice instead. Or red beans.

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#17. Due to poor nutrition and diet in their ancestral history, the average height for Koreans today range between 1.5m to 1.65m. Anything past 1.75m and you will qualify as a giant in K-town.

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#18. Singaporeans are known to queue for everything. It is true, and it is extremely annoying when you are hungry, just want to eat but alas, you need to gun down a million people in front of you before you can seat yo ass down to dig in. In Korea, people queue too, especially so for this pancake (Kimchi or green onions) streetside snack, which I felt was mediocre, compared to the kimchi/seafood pancake or its Chinese cousin-the scallion pancakes. So are they like Singaporeans? Always queuing just for fad’s sake. Or maybe my tastebuds can’t quite appreciate this. Regardless the reason, Singapore still tops my horrendous queue phenomenon list.

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#19. I like Seoul. You don’t really find many skyscrapers here like you would in some cities (e.g. New York, Singapore). Instead, it offers a spectrum of environments you can plant yourself in. Want something laid back and cafe-esque? Head to Itaewon or Insadong. Want cheap shopping, plenty of cafes, little alley ways? Hit up Ewha Women University and its lanes, Sinchon and Hongdae. Want some history? There’s plenty of palaces and shrines to choose from. And nature? The Korean Village provides a little park and beautiful mountains backdrop, or take a train out to Busan, Nami Island or Jeju. All in all, you can find different environments to suit your different needs in one city Seoul, and if not, it’s not too hard to train out and find yourself in a whole new hood.

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#20. I found the art in the subway interesting. They have life size replicas of toy models such as the likes of what I believe to be Pinocchio, or three little pigs in other subway sections, sitting on benches and looking at whoever is beside them. Below them, it writes, “You are never alone”. I’m not sure if I would feel less alone because of these figurines, but I definitely smiled when I saw them.

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#21. They cherry flavor coke here in Korea? Cherry flavor? Really? What is Coke thinking to Cherry flavor coke in this Samsung Land. That is why I am a Pepsi supporter. They don’t adulterate the original. Random, try Coke Light and then Pepsi Light, Pepsi tastes wayyyy better than coke, hands down.

All in all, this trip was really much needed, just to get away and be out there again. As I stood atop a roof overlooking a part of Seoul on evening, I suddenly craved to uproot and live in a new city again. Somewhere in Asia, like Taiwan, China (but then toilets in China?Hmmm) , Seoul, or San Fransisco again or somewhere in US. I would be happy even if it was a short stay. Did I have the liberty to think or feel this because my family came with me on this trip and hence, I was not that homesick. I sound ungrateful, but at least the urge to drop and run is not that strong anymore after the Americas. In life, do you really have to do what you want before you can content with what is before you? Is it because we have seen more and hence desire more. For me, I guess it is quite true. Good or bad, I guess I will not think about that for now and just enjoy what I can daily.

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