Chiang Mai take 2

Chiang Mai, Pai, south east asia, Thailand, Travel, trip

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I went back to Chiang Mai for a quick trip. It was only a week but I’m glad I went back. I got to do things I hadn’t done before and really just had a better feel for the area overall.

I drove up to Doi Suthep which for whatever reason I never bothered to see the first time. The stairs to get to the very top destroyed me way more than I thought they would.  While driving up to the temple I tried to see a waterfall too but it was closed because of flooding.

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I went to Pai for a couple days too. Which I finally got to see Lot cave. However like I mentioned earlier the cave was partially closed. I wrote about that trip here.

I was there during an interesting time though. The king of Thailand happens to be a very big deal. I was there for the week/day of his cremation. Not much was different except for the fact that nearly everyone was wearing black.

I also ate at a lot more places and did more exploring on a bike. Also was able to see the local university there. Are all college campuses the same world over?

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look at all of them

After this I flew to Malaysia and Singapore! Much more exciting I think.

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Cambodiaaaaa

Cambodia, south east asia, Travel, trip

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So from Thailand I went back to Korea for a week. I think I covered that place enough recently so I will skip the coverage in favor of the trip to Cambodia. I was supposed to go to or at least originally planned to go to Laos, but I decided I want to go to Angkor Wat so I went to Cambodia instead.

As in most places I have gone to I didn’t really know what to expect. I went straight to Siem Reap because that was pretty much the whole reason why I went here in the first place. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I made the right call.

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Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century. Sauce

20171019_214309The hostel was pretty accommodating and almost right away I met some fun people that I could talk and hangout with. Better yet there was a pool too. The hostel had a really relaxed feel. Not only was it possible and easy to meet people it was also a good spot to get things done and really had a good mix between social vibes and letting other people do their thing. What took me off guard was just how under developed it was in the area. IMG_8643

Now Thailand isn’t broke but that was pretty much my measuring stick in these situations. However I just was unprepared to how under developed it was.Driving or walking down the street there would be various building but nothing ever really got going to forming a metropolis or really just a coherent town. It had some areas to be sure but it was mainly some random strip of random buildings followed by long empty strips then another row of random buildings. Coming from the airport made me feel like I was going through a distorted Vegas. There would be massive glittery hotels then absolutely nothing closer to 5 minutes to it. Siem Reap has at its center a French core that unsurprisingly is pretty well kept and is where a lot of activity can be found.

Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues.

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Cambodia is cheap, and I mean cheap. Which is great for me, but also mildly depressing for the actual country. Cambodia has had a rough history. What I didn’t really understand before going there was just the extent to which Pol Pot and his regime devastated the country. Now it isn’t purely on his shoulders and problems and the decline of the country started way before him, but what happened under his rule is just tragic.20171020_124219Now I spent most of the time visiting the temples in the area. Apparently back in the day each ruler started building temples under their rule so there are tons of these things around the area. I was lucky enough to meet some cool people so I spent the whole day going around with them.

Either way the temples were all pretty neat. They were definitely different than what I was used to seeing. What is definitely worth noting however is the condition they are in. Yes they have entire families trying to sell you magnets for a dollar, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If you look at the picture below and really look close you can start to make out that the wall on this bridge is actually not a wall. In fact it is lined with a ton of headless statues. This unfortunately is prevalent all around the area.  Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues. Here is some more reading about it if your interested. 20171020_13515220171020_12543020171020_123537

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Is it a picture of my sandals or the stone?

20171020_14231720171020_150120IMG_8603We nicknamed this the water temple from Zelda. It was actually pretty unique. We had to cross some small walkway spanning a shallow swamp to get here. Then like the picture above shows it was just a small tower in the middle of what is basically a pond.20171020_152324

We spent what seemed like forever waiting at the last temple to watch the sun set. While we were waiting it sure filled up.

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The next day I was by myself so I also went to see Angkor Wat which was pretty cool. The amount of area it takes up is pretty massive. I have seen so many pictures of this place. So it was cool to finally see it in person.

20171021_11524920171021_11475320171021_115810There are a few walls decorated like this and they all tell a different story. From fighting brothers fighting demons to the Khmer marching off to fight the Vietnamese. 20171021_12045320171021_12150520171021_12172820171021_122847

Looking at all of these temples and learning a bit more about the country of the past couple days the thought of  “what happened” kept popping up in my head. These structures all pretty impressive and if you look at the extent to which the old Khmer kingdoms stretched it was fairly large as well. What made it all collapse? Like always there is an answer. Colonization did the country no favors either.

I went to myriad of other temples too, at this point I was totally burned out from temples. However I paid to see them all so see them I did!

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Not really sure what was going on here but there were faces on everything. Large faces. IMG_8717IMG_8688

Now I ended up staying a pretty short time in Cambodia. I had some friends returning to Thailand so I went back to see them. In the future I would definitely go to for longer. Not to disparage either country but it seemed like a more relaxed Thailand. The places I would like to visit should surprise nobody. They would be Phnom Penh first. I regret not seeing the killing fields. I’ve heard it is one of the most sobering things out there. Then next is Koh Rong because, well, beaches.

Next up, a quickie on Chiang Mai!

Thailand South

south east asia, Thailand, Travel, trip

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After Pai, I went down south to Phuket. However, I was really only there for an intermediate stay before heading to Koh Phi Phi, so didn’t gain too much insight into the area.  Did manage to see how seedy some parts of the city were.  After bumming around in Phuket for a day or two, I took the boat headed over to Phi Phi, my main target.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from Phi Phi, but it really was one of my favorite stops on my travels. I’m not sure if I could spend a very long time on the island, but I’m glad I went, and equally glad I met the people I did. Phi Phi was tiny, much smaller than I thought it would be.  Instead of roads, there was only a golden walkway winding its way through the small buildings. Apparently, the walkway is a new addition to the area. 

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I was there during the off tourist season so by all means the whole island was dead. If you just walked around for a couple minutes, you could see how many bars per inch there were and how geared up the town was to have a party every night during peak season.  It felt a little odd walking through an area that was just itching to have a ton of college aged tourists to come and drink themselves senseless.

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Either way, the weather was decent enough. It rained pretty much everyday, but only for about an hour and then it was sunny all day. So, it really just meant some extra hanging out at the hostel.

The hostel that I stayed at was really nice. The amenities and everything else were pretty standard, nothing really special about them. The blankets were super thin and the bathrooms were what you would expect. However, the owner and the people that I met there really set it apart. Out of all the hostels I have stayed in, it became one of my highest rated places. I can’t say enough about the owner and how great he was.  He really brought the people staying there together. I will never forget when I was feeling sick how he kept checking in on me to make sure that I was fine and wanted to give me anything to really make it better.

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So while it was warm, it was overcast pretty much the whole time and it was rainy, so the water was a bit muddled. Either way, the beaches were still looking fine.

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I stayed a few days in Phi Phi and did some sightseeing.  I went on a typical boat tour that takes you around to the islands and several other activities. This included Monkey Beach, which has monkeys, go figure. The tour also included snorkeling, random beaches, and swimming with plankton.  We had to pay to get off the boat to get to Maya beach, which was not worth it.  It was poorly explained and nobody knew what was next or what was going on.

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I spent most of the remaining time I had there snorkeling and trying to see sharks. Unfortunately, I only saw fish, and cut up my feet pretty bad. Still it was worth it, and I was just so glad I could go swimming. I thought it was cool just how close the fish would get to you.

I had a really good time on Koh Phi Phi. Eventually I needed to move on and so I left towards Koh Tao. 20171006_114801.jpg

I was headed towards death island with no way out.

I stopped for a night in Krabi then took the boat over to the small little island of Kho Tao. I spent a decent amount of time on the boat to get there. What really gave me the chills was what I read on the way over there. I didn’t really know much about where I was going ahead of time. So I googled “Koh Tao” and the first thing I read is about all the murders that happened there. So at this point I’m freaking out because I was headed towards death island with no way out.

Of course, everything was exaggerated and blown out of proportion, but it did make me approach the place with some caution. Luckily, my hostel was right next to the pier, and I only had a few minutes walk.

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I spent the better part of the first day snorkeling around and trying unsuccessfully, yet again, to find sharks. The next day I did some much needed shopping that I had meant to do the entire trip.

The main pull of the island is the diving.  There are an insane amount of dive centers located around the tiny island. It’s mildly ridiculous just how many there are. So with not much else to do, I decided to give it a go.

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I talked to my hostel and some random people, and they all said that Master Divers was a competent diving school. So that that is what I went with. I signed up for a dive the next day. The one thing that really changed with this decision was I had to wake up at a decent hour which I have been so used to not doing. I guess I have to make some sacrifices right?

Either way, the first day was pretty cool. It wasn’t as difficult or generally complex as I thought it would be. My instructor was an entertaining guy, and with him I felt pretty confident I wouldn’t be found floating in the water later that day.

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I decided to get certified at the end of the first day. I mean, why not? I had the time and who knows when I would be here again. The decision was even easier when I learned I’d have the same instructor and also be 1 on 1. Couldn’t pass that up!  I went back to school and spent my free time watching videos in my room.

For three days I was the only one in my hostel. So it did make studying and just being able to decompress very easy. Since there was nobody drinking, the bartender at the hostel just started driving me around to different places.

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The whole course went on for three days which was quicker than I expected. Everyday I came back super tired but it was always worth it.

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I got to see some creatures I never thought I would ever see. I was super pumped about seeing eels and some bluespotted rays, as well as barracuda and much more. I also got to go swimming everyday in water that was just awesome.  I’m very glad I got the opportunity to learn some new things in such a sweet environment.

That was pretty much my entire time in Koh Tao. I had an extra day to do some more snorkeling but for the most part I was packing my bags and getting ready to go back to Bangkok.

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Bangkok was meh.

Remember if you want quicker updates look at find penguins for them.

The Life and Times in Pai

Pai, Thailand, Travel, trip

20170920_132715After Chiang Mai I went up to a little place called Pai. It’s not exactly off the beaten track but it still is a nice place to go see. Some people have gotten totally stuck there and it isn’t that hard to see why.

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Pai is a 3 hour roller coaster of a ride by bus from Chiang Mai. The ride is very windy and the drivers are equally as twisted. However it’s survivable and you know they are thinking about your safety as they go into the wrong lane doing 60 around a corner. I was told the trip used to be 2 hours but since there were too many accidents the drivers were told to slow down. So now we have a 3 hour ride, much safer!

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Pai itself is basically a small hippy town. It is really relaxed, things move slowly here. There are more tourists with dreads here than there are roads.

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Pai was once a quiet market village inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Tai) whose culture is influenced by Burma. Today, Pai primarily thrives on tourism. Well-known among backpackers for its relaxed atmosphere, the town is full of cheap guesthouses, souvenir shops, and restaurants. In the environs of the town are spas and elephant camps. sauce

|The real magic of Pai is whats outside of it.

There is not a whole lot to do in town except walk around and check out the random markets that pop up during the day or the night market that’s always around. Or you could check out one of the many cafes around if that is your thing.

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However, being what it is, Pai is very relaxed. Time moves very slow and the people are all relatively nice. It is an easy place to just do nothing for a few days. Which is great because I got sick and was glued to the room for the better part of 3 days.

The real magic of Pai is what is outside of it. Jump on a bike and just drive.

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The countryside is extremely pretty and peaceful. There is just a lot to see. Fortunately, I had all the time in the world to see it. There are a number of waterfalls in the area and since they are free, they are all worth seeing. There is a viewpoint that goes through china town that is also worth seeing too. The road up is a pretty narrow one that winds its way up through an intimate small town on a hill.

20170920_12350020170920_124548There are also a few hotsprings but they charge for them which is lame so they’re avoidable. The coolest place was probably Lot cave. At least the travel to the cave was sweet. It was about an hour long. The road went through the mountains and got pretty windy. The drive was actually really fun and scenic too.

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Unfortunately, the cave was partially closed due to rain. There are like 3 caves total but 2 of them were closed because the water basically floods them. Because of this I could only see one of them. The best part was jumping on a bamboo raft and being pushed to the other side of a pool. The cave itself was massive. Like very huge, it was crazy how much space was there.

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On the way back from the cave my bike got a flat tire! So I had to spend what seemed like a helpless time trying to flag down trucks to pick me up. Luckily one did and they helped me load the bike on the back and drove to town. They also stopped by a shop and in a few quick minutes it was back to normal. So mystery thanks to those people who helped me out. I have no idea how I would have gotten down without them.  ♡

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There are not many places I have found with the same atmosphere as Pai. It is a great place to get stuck in, and many have.

September – Thailand Stop 1/Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand, Travel, trip

If you want some recent updates about where I have been inbetween blog posts, please check out my FindPenguins page! Links at the bottom of the post.^^

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I’m on my way to Thailand! I was a little unsure how my trip was going when I was on my way to Bangkok.

I didn’t spend very long there. After taking a day to relax, I then promptly go out of there and went up north to Chiang Mai.

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[Chiang Mai] the largest city in northern Thailand. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province and was a former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768), which became the Kingdom of Chiang Mai, a tributary state of Thailand from 1774 to 1899, and finally the seat of a merely ceremonial prince until 1939. It is 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok and is situated amongst the highest mountains in the country. Source

I’ve been following the usual track for backpackers visiting Thailand. The only difference really is where on the route you start and the order you go in.

I started by going north to Chiang Mai headed upwards. Then I plan to head down south and visit the islands. I’ve met plenty of people who did the islands first then went up north. So, I’m doing the north to south route with Chiang Mai as my first stop. Yay!

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Every shirt is the exact same….actually, everything is the same

Chiang Mai as a place is fairly decent. I was pretty surprised the amount of infrastructure in the city. I haven’t explore everything but it has become one of my most traveled areas.

Chiang Mai has a tourist feel for the most part. Can you get away fromthat? sure, but it can be unavoidable in some areas. The city is a lot smaller then Bangkok, which is no surprise. Most of the buildings are only a couple stories tall. The tallest places by far are the hotels which tower above pretty much everything else. I’m not sure how to exactly explain how it looks and feels other than it’s like a small city with small buildings but it seems pretty chaotic just because I understand pretty much nothing.

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This map doesn’t show the whole city but it shows the main parts that I find relevant. I first stayed pretty close to the Warorot Market on the east side. What I find the most interesting is the square in the center of the city which is where the moat is and the city wall was. It’s cool to have such a distinct border in town. Surprisingly I don’t have any great pictures of the area.

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For the most part walking around is fine, and with time you can get pretty much anywhere. In some places it can get a bit hairy and you’ll have to share the street with cars or dart across traffic to get to the other side of the street {cross walks please}. If your not in the mood to walk you can also take a shared taxi. These are red closed top trucks where you can just jump in with other people for 30 baht and go where you want. So in a way it’s kind of like a small bus. I didn’t realize this for so long and always wondered how people got in those things. Uber does exist here though, and so does a taxi app like uber called Grabtaxi. However, unlike Uber there are promotions on Grabtaxi and you can get rides for literally free. If your in Thailand and want to use Uber I recommend giving Grabtaxi a spin first.

Chiang Mai also is home to a university named CMU. I’ll let you guess what it stands for.

has a strong emphasis on engineeringscienceagriculture, and medicine. Its instructional mission includes undergraduate, graduate, professional and continuing education offered through resident instruction. Its main campus lies between Chiang Mai downtown and Doi Suthep in Chiang MaiChiang Mai Province.

The university was the first institution of higher education in northern Thailand, and the first provincial university in Thailand. source

I was able to drive around the main campus in the west earlier, and the thought of going there did run through my mind.

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When actually getting to the city I didn’t really have any idea what to do so I signed up for a trip to see some elephants. Elephants were cool and really really weird. I’m very glad I went to see them because it was really interesting. The most exciting thing that happened with them was when I got trucked by Dumbo the little baby Elephant. He got a good swing in there with his head and sent me flying! Afterwards we ate a ton of watermelon and then went to mud up and wash the elephants down.

 

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Seriously though, they are some weird creatures. Cool but strange. What I thought was most impressive was how they used their trunks. I guess it’s really no surprise they can use them like hands, but still, I can’t use one hand with as much dexterity as them. What set it apart was the deliberate actions and obvious intent on their parts to strip all the stalks clean of leaves. So that was cool. Other than that, their mouths are very freaky and the tail was not at all what I was expecting feeling a lot more like nails than hair. How much extra sin they had was also quite different. It’s so saggy and baggy but at the same time so rough and funky.

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The best part though was the baby elephant Dumbo, who not only hit me but also chased one of the Thai guys up a tree. He also was rough housing with his brother in the water. We spent the whole afternoon listing for his bell and staying alert of where he was.

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Dumbo chasing the guys. He couldn’t go up the hill.

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The little devil^^

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I met some really nice people there too and we ended up going out later to see a rady boy cabaret show. That was entertaining for sure. Luckily we had good seats and didn’t get pressed into service of the show, or approached by anyone. So we could comfortably sit back and laugh at everyone else’s misfortune.

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The next day I again had nothing to do so I went to a cooking class which was meh, but hey better than doing nothing. Funny story I just met someone in Cambodia who did the same class I did. Coincidence? I made stir fry and a couple other things which was some of the most cooking I’ve ever done in one sitting.

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I made sure to drown it in oil

The people were nice enough but it was a different crowd than usual.

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20170915_151316Trying to figure out what to do next I went zip lining, never done it before so I wanted to check it out. It was fun. Meet a nice couple from Portugal and we did our thing. They were friendly and made it a good time. Especially since the two Chinese girls were not being super enjoyable. It was nice to do at least once. Would I do it again? probably not, but it was nice to do for at least once.

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wheeeeee

Since that time I have come back to Chiang Mai two more times actually. This makes it my most visited place! *clap* *clap* My internet is laughable right now and for the sake of being in order I’ll talk about them later. I’ll use the following picture as a teaser though. Oh and the main image, that’s totally from today.

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After I did all those few things I rode a bus out to….

PAI!

Where only good things awaited.

Also since I realize that these posts are pretty long and delayed I started writing on FindPenguins. So while you wait for these posts, if you want some up to date and quick posts about where I have been please check out my page! HERE

 

What did you think of Chiang Mai? Or what do you want to do there? I look forward to hearing some stories.

September – China Stop 1

china, Travel, trip

 

It feels like a long time but it has only been a month! On sept 4th I left Korea and started my trip. So far it has been pretty fun if not most importantly relaxing. It did feel a bit weird to leave Korea and no matter how much I knew it was coming leaving still felt a bit sudden. Especially when I landed in the airport in Beijing. Which I wasn’t totally prepared for. So it did take a while for me to get into everything again and not being a grouch that I left. Did find the groove eventually. I am going by myself on all of this so it has been a bit different than pretty much all my other trips where I have been with someone.

I started off my trip going to Beijing and have ended up now in Kho Phi Phi in Thailand. In between I haven’t done a whole bunch though. So far I have stayed in China and Thailand only. I’ve been in Thailand for almost the whole month doing what I assume is the usual circuit for people who come over here.

I can say Thailand for me has been a lot more fun than China was. I stayed four days in Beijing and then three in Shanghai. Beijing I wasn’t the biggest fan of for a few reasons. Some might just have been my attitude at the time but I found I just wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I would have liked. If i were to find excuses it would be the hostel that I stayed at was pretty abysmal. It was dirty, unfriendly, didn’t really offer anything and worse case didn’t have a chance to meet anyone there. The location was ok I guess, it was central so I was right next to Tienanmen square and the forbidden city. I  was able to see them everyday. However nothing I saw in the city really seemed that cool except for the summer palace. That place was pretty sweet and would recommend it. The square and forbidden city were pretty boring, the history sure is there but to look around it’s all kind of lame.

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The city was dirty and I developed a terrible cough that unsurprisngly went away after I left the city. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the aesthetic there either.  However it was interesting how hard they tried to reconstruct the traditional feeling of the buildings and keep it in line. For the capital city of one of the wealthiest countries on Earth I was expecting a lot more modernity and just better infrastructure. Instead it felt like I was in a bigger Vietnam all over again.

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Jesus Christ

One of the strangest things I experienced was just the checkpoints in the subway. While I guess it makes things safer and it never really took extra time just the thought of it felt way too imposing. It felt like I was in a really dangerous area and was super uncertain how safe the place actually was. Going through the metal detectors and having to put your bags through screening just to use the subway seems a bit much. Instead of feeling safe it made it seem a lot more dangerous.

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However the food was pretty good and the people were all fairly nice. I don’t think my few days in Beijing were totally representative of the city though. I didn’t push myself to do to much and I’m sure that maybe I missed the good areas or fun things. So I’m willing to accept it if someone want’s to change my mind. That being said I found the sites that I saw to be pretty boring and wouldn’t go out of my way to ever see again.

 

 

A huge fan of those dumprings, and finally got have duck which I’ve wanted for years after seeing it in London. So it’s been a long wait.

I spent the first day going to the summer palace which was really cool. The palace parts are as same and undistinguished as any other palace or temple you can see so that wasn’t that great. Also a lot of these places have giant walls which make the place seem very grand in scale, but rather boring to look at since it’s just a giant blank red wall. SO pretty bland. The whole compound of the summer palace though is what made it cool. There is a giant lake that it surrounds and the scale of everything is really impressive. It is also very relaxing and nice place to just sit down. That is until some parent lets there kid take a piss in the middle of the walkway. Still there was a lot to see and just enjoy for the most part. The only upsetting part was realizing I had to go back to the center of town again.

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Which reminds me, the subway stations never seem to be in the right place ever. Always a block away from where they need to be.

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On a good note I did do a tour and did a hike of the Great wall. That was worth it and was actually really cool. We walked for a few hours along the un-restored portion of the wall. It was really great to see and there were views everywhere so it was a good time. The guide was a pretty entertaining guy too. He was very adamant the he buy us Snickers for some reason. He also was very distraught when we didn’t really want to eat the 7/11 sausages that had been cooking in our bags for like 4 hours. The wall is unsurprisingly massive like you can see in pictures, but it was a bit more epic seeing it in person and actually grasping the scale of it all. Unlike everything I had seen in China so far it was large and impressive. Don’t know if I would go back to see it, but if your in the area it’s a must. 20170907_103315.jpg

 

 

Plus i got take love shots with the tour guide with what was probably just gasoline. Whats not to love!

With my time in Beijing up I ended up going to Shanghai for the weekend which was a sweet change and really made China great again.

SHANGHAI

After being delayed for half a year in Beijing airport I flew into Shanghai. Finally the trip was taking off! I met up with a friend in the airport, after that the number one priority at the time was to take a shower and finally get clean again. It was a smashing success and my hair had never felt better, thanks to some Korean shampoo goodness.

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The next day we went to an old town which was really cool. Finally had all the food I wanted and gorged myself on lamb and everything else on a stick. Tried some stinky tofu and might have had too much than what I could have handled. I got pretty stuffed after everything. Except for maybe one thing I don’t think I had something that was just tasted bad in China and it stayed strong here too. The whole area was really nice and had a good atmosphere. It rained a tiny bit but never really got annoying.

 

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We then went to another area which I have no idea where or what it is called so I know it’s a great help. Either way it got even cooler there. There were really Chinese looking buildings and narrow walkways going through them. There were tons of touristy shops there which wasn’t too crazy but the way the buildings just loomed over the alleys was awesome it made everything feel so cozy and like the last place the atmosphere was just there.  For whatever reason it reminded me a lot of Spirited Away.

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Shanghai was definitely more active than any of my time in Beijing. After this we just walked around to the river and saw the well known skyline. I’m not the biggest fan of the giant round 80’s looking space ship but I think I can live with it. I really enjoyed the mixed in European architecture and feel of the whole area too. We walked around a bit trying to find a place to eat. I’m pretty happy where we ended up too.

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So the place we ended up was like nothing like the commercial, but I still felt like it had a similar vibe. Everything that I saw in the streets and in the restaurant was exactly what I thought china would be like.

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Things in the restaurant were bustling and what I thought was cool was everything was it’s own stall/booth. Ambiance through the roof! We ordered quite a lot and none of it was bad. Although the best thing I had my entire time in China was from here and it was only beans we ordered as an afterthought. Like seriously they were great beans I still miss them.

 

 

Just look at that goodness

After that we just went out to meet some people, and then Shanghai was pretty much done! Actually before leaving I finally got to ride a proper fast train.I wanted to ride a bullet train in Japan but I missed my chance. So when we took the Maglev train to the airport I was more than happy.  I was happy with all of Shanghai actually.

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After Shanghai the next stop was off to Bangkok and Thailand!

I’m still in Thailand now and will do another write up for it probably in a couple of parts.

Also feel free to comment if you have any ideas for what you want me to do next. ^^

Idea #2 places to go Naksan Park

korea, tips

20170726_175811naksan.jpgIf your here jin Seoul for a little bit, Naksan park is one of my favorite places to go. It’s a small walk but the atmosphere is very nice. It has tight cozy streets but at the same time interesting vistas of Seoul. It also passes through Ihwa Mural village. The word quaint is pretty accurate here.

“Naksan Park gets its name from its camel hump-like appearance. In Korean ‘nakta’ means camel and ‘san’ means mountain. So people refer to the park as Nakta Park or Naksan Park. The mountain is a solid granite bedrock. The Joseon royal family enjoyed the natural beauty of the granite mountain, but during the Japanese Colonial Period, a hasty manner of urban planning resulted in the demolition of most parts of the mountain. In an effort to save the remaining green belts, Naksan was designated as a park on June 10, 2002″ Korea tourism

Starting at Dongdameun or Hansung Univ. You can catch the park.

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Walking down from Hansung look for a gate of the old wall next to the road. On the opposite side of the street is a set of stairs going up a hill and that is the entrance to the park.

Dongaemun is even easier to find. From the subway station just head to Dongdaemun park. When you get there just follow the wall up the hill and just keep walking!

Personally I like going from the Hansung side.

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You go up a bit of a hill coming from Hansung Univ. It’s pretty nice. To the left is a part of town that is built on the hill.

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This is looking down  a little bit of the way past the first picture.

When you keep going and head to Dongdaemun the road becomes pretty narrow but it gets nice and cozy. On a nice day it feels pretty snug. At the same time you can walk up to the wall and look out over the city again if you want your space. 20160918_150432

If you walk to Dongdaemun this is what you will see When arriving at the park.

If it’s a nice day out and all you want to do is take a nice walk around town Naksan park is a great place to go. It doesn’t take too long to walk and it is definitely worth seeing.

Vacation times and the end of times

Hong Kong, Japan, korea, Travel, weekends

20170819_151659As of writing this I have only have a few days left. I’m in the final stretch! It’s pretty weird really. I will probably do a big run down of my time here but that time isn’t now. That being said I definitely have some very mixed feelings about leaving. It’s been a ton of fun and quite a time that’s for sure. I didn’t expect any of this before I came. So it’s a bit upsetting all in all, but all good things must come to end right?

That out of the way lets talk about the past few trips I have been on. There have been a few of them too! After taking almost  0 vacations all year I loaded them all up near the end. So I went on three all within a couple weeks of each other. I have been pretty occupied because of that! I’m going to write about them in reverse order for no particular reason. First up is Tokyo!

TOKYO:

Tokyo was a city that was everything and at the same time nothing that I thought it would be it was weird. I think the biggest misconception I had going in was going to be the size and cramped space of the buildings. Sure the first picture won’t refute my claims but i’m serious. I expected towering apartments and jammed up cramped spaces. Actually pretty similar to what Hong Kong was. I was expecting something kind of like below. Not exactly that but I was imagining there to be a alot of vertical space to be taken up. Seeing how big it is I think I was looking for something like a hive.Image result for smoggy anime city

Maybe it was just the area that I visited but I didn’t get that vibe at all. Sure things were a bit small and there was definitely some packed aspects to it. There were also your fair share of sky scrapers. What I didn’t see however was the mega apartments that take up the skyline in both Seoul and Hong Kong. Instead there were a lot of 5-6 floor buildings crammed together. Even down some pretty narrow alleys. Though everything seemed to breath better and there felt like more room then there really was just because the scale of all the buildings was quite small.  Nothing ever got oppressive “city” it all seemed kind of spread out.

I’m not the biggest fan of anime and I’m not sure if i’m doing a disservice to Tokyo by saying it but I definitely got some anime vibes. Not sure what it was, but from the art, the buildings, streets, and just pretty much everything it just seemed like there was something I could relate to after watching something. It just felt right I didn’t even watch a single thing there or have I watched an anime in years but after coming back I’ve had a strong hankering to watch something.

Tokyo was awesome, it was definitely one of the best trips I have been on and it blows the last time I was in Japan out of the water. I’m glad I went back and gave it another shot. Something I won’t forget for at least 6 more months.

Lets talk about the trip for a bit though!

I had a flight at around 7AM. So I slept in the very comfortable chairs in one of the many lobbies. When I woke up I shaved away half of my hip from grinding it into those wooden chairs all night.

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I stayed in Shibuya which is on the west coast of the city. It also has a lot to do there. After having a bit of an incident on the train I finally found my way there and exited the station. I had a ton of time to kill before I could even check in. So I got to the station and all I could really do was walk around. I wasn’t looking for it but right there was the scramble. The scramble is the big famous cross walk in Tokyo. When ever you see pictures or a time lapse of people crossing a big busy street that is probably the place. It’s famous for possibly being the busiest cross walk in the world. It is also just kind of cool to begin with. I did a ton of walking and after 3 hours meandered my way to the hostel where I dropped off my bag.

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Dog

I walked along this river waiting for my friend to land in the airport. I ended up taking it way to far and not really knowing where I was. Out of all the possible pictures of the canal this is the one I took. Way to go me. There were way cooler areas trust me. It’s a one way road and most of the way up and around were windy roads with small restaurants, stores and cafes. I’d give it a 9/10 in atmosphere. Then out of all that this is what I take. With none of that in sight! 20170818_15102620170818_154154

Unlike Seoul they kind of added side walks in the back roads like this. Sure it’s still walking on the street but if you look to the left the railing sets a definite walking area. I wouldn’t say this is better or worse than the freedom system here in Seoul but it was nice to see since I haven’t before. However what really made this trip was Saturday and hanging out with friends all day and eating some amazing food. After waking up at a fashionable 11 we got underway and met a friend at the station where we went further in the city to get something to eat.

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We went to a sushi place that was just awesome. I have never heard of a bonito fish before and I never realized it was my favorite thing ever. If your wondering it’s the most normal looking meet on the plate above. What I wasn’t really expecting was how much was going to come.  My previous sushi experiences have all just been a plate or two all which was pretty good but never really anything to write about. This time though there was an entire thing. The plates kept coming and I was surprised every time. I didn’t take pictures of all of them but I think total there were 5 or 6?  All of it great.

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It also was probably one of the most expensive dining experiences that I have been apart of. I give it an easy 12/11 mainly because my zero key is broken.  I would do it again in a heart beat. It was really close to the Imperial palace so we decided to walk on over and take a look. It was as cool as you could get without actually going in the place. Apparently it’s only open like twice a year.  The only thing that really came of it was just highlighting the more European influence. 20170819_15160520170819_153240

Went to Asakusa where it rained a lot. There was a temple or something that I looked at from a far. There were also a bunch of shops. It would have been nicer if I had an umbrella and was trying to dodge the rain the whole time.

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Better yet though we played this drum arcade game that I just love. First played in Taipei and I play it every time I can. 20170819_17491620170819_181733.jpg

Walked around in the rain some more, saw the SkyTree and got something else to eat. The cool thing about the Sky Tree was how the top of it was in the clouds. The two things that I ate to this day had to be the best thing I have had in a while. 20170819_184738

There were 2-3 more plates after this guy. All were great.

Last day we went to a ramen place that was just cool. It was the normal Japanese setup with the U shaped counter and the staff in the middle.

This time though there were private stall the whole way around. So you really didn’t have to see anyone ever. In fact you didn’t have to talk to anyone. You order at a machine then give your slip to whoever is on the side. Hopefully the pictures above give you an idea. Then after you order they put down a flap down over your one “window” so you are even more secluded. The picture below shows it with the flap down. I was pretty excited over having water on tap though.

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The ramen as expected was great. I swear it wasn’t as gelatinous as looks in the picture. You could choose how much of whatever you wanted in it, and how soft or hard you wanted the nooders too. After this we quickly made our way to the Tokyo Dome because we had a date with a baseball game.  20170820_154820

The Tokyo dome is huge. It’s the first time I have been to a closed stadium too. The actual game itself was at a higher caliber than whats on display in Korea. Just the players were better. The Giants which was the home team quickly got out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and sat on it for pretty much the whole game. The atmosphere there was comparable to Korean games but I want to say it was even more rowdy than here.  The chants were non stop and the crowd was just living it up. There were trumpets there were flags there were crazy people. Asia knows how to watch baseball. Well atleast Korea and Japan do.

A few things stuck out to me in the game. One was concessions inside the stadium. This is the norm at home, but it isn’t at all in Seoul. It definitely ads to the atmosphere if nothing else. I didn’t do a whole bunch of snooping but it didn’t seem like anything crazy was really being sold there. Another thing I wish I took a picture of was the beer girls, and how many there were. They were everywhere at every second. Looking down in the lower bowls they looked like bees buzzing around or ants warming around a colony. There were so many of them and they were so busy. That would be a tough job for sure.

Lastly how busy the area around the arena was a bit surprising. Not because it was pack and going crazy but really the lack of anything going on. Arriving at Jamsil stadium you are smacked in the face that a game is happening. There are people and cars everywhere its very obvious and speaking of atmosphere pretty cool. While in Tokyo there was no body around. I easily could have been in the area and have zero idea that something was going down inside.

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Yay baseball!

With the game done we hustled our way to the airport where nothing eventful happened. Besides that we flew!

HONG KONG

Hong Kong in general was what the doctor ordered. It was just a great time and well timed too. Well for the most part. I wen there on a Sunday but everyone I went was going with was already there. So I had to meet them later. My only problem with HK was where we stayed and the lack of signs for the place. I spent a good 40 minutes or even more trying to find it. The only reason I found it was because I followed another white person.

To get it out of the way the weather here was terrible. It didn’t rain but it was humid like no other. Within minutes of being outside my shirt was drenched I can’t explain how sweaty and gross everything I owned got within a few minutes. You could tie your shoes outside and immediately have to go back in for a shower.

I got in pretty late on Sunday so nothing much happened then. The next day we went to the beach which was permanently overcast but nothing happened. Which was really surprising. Either way the beach was great and the water was just as great. We also went Kayaking for a bit too.

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At this point I’m actually a little fuzzy on the order of events so I’ll just talk about things as I see them.

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I had maybe only one bad thing to eat in Hong Kong. It wasn’t even terrible though. Everything else was just awesome. The service tended to be hilarious and the food added even more to the experience. There was nothing lacking in this department. The picture is at a dimsum place we went to on the last day.

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We went to the place of 10,000 Buddhas. We just walked up and up a path with a ton of gold painted statues like in the picture above. There were some pretty weird ones. Also there were a few missing so it wasn’t exactly 10k Buddhas, but we can let it slide. 20170801_13122920170801_131148

This is what to see at the top of the thing.

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Definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip was the all you can eat sashimi place we went too.

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Jesus

 

Hong Kong reminded a lot of home in some ways. It had a classic city feel to it. Also what it is worth noting is how varied the people were. Everyone looked different, there were people from other countries everywhere.  The city was also very crowded the building and apartment situation I thought was the most interesting.

There were so many different kinds of apartments. In Korea there are swaths of identical apartment complexes everywhere. Here there were many apartments but not a single one was the same and it didn’t seem to matter where you were. There were dozens of ramshackle sardine can apartments. Then right next to it would be a super modern 1000 story building. This was happening everywhere. Someone I was with said it the best, the situation was ruthless. It was apartment chaos. Also the AC dripped all over the side walk which I was not a fan of.

 

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With the trip being done, I have some serious reservations about HK express.

JEJU

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My sister came to visit for a few weeks so we went down to Jeju. Compared to the rest of the trips this was surprisingly the most difficult one. We stayed in the middle of nowhere in the south western part of the island which did us no favors. The one upside was that it was right next to Sanbangsan. So we could walk there in around 10 minutes. 20170725_10460020170725_122618.jpg

We spent the majority of the time at Jungmun resort which was not a day wasted. We saw waterfalls, banana milk cafe, and at the time I finally got to go to the beach.20170725_130752

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You have to be careful

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Hi Caroline!

The highlight was probably seeing my friend which was kind of a blast from the past. He was probably one of the first people I have ever met in Korea. I met him when I went to the Fire Festival in the first few weeks I was here. The last time we saw each other was last year when he was in Seoul and we went to a baseball game.

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I look creepy

 

 

He doesn’t even live close but he and his his parents came down and picked my sister and I up and took us to eat around a much cooler area whose name I can’t remember. They then took us to the guest houses they have been working on. My mind filled with regret realizing that we should have stayed here. To be fair I did ask if we could before we even came to Jeju. They eventually drove us back, but it was an awesome time and I’m really grateful for them going out of their way.

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Much nicer

Here are some pictures of what Caroline and I did while she was here!

The last one is worth talking about because, who really wants cheese with mango ice. I mean what? Either way I hope she had a fun time when she was here.


Well that has basically been the last month in a nutshell. It has been a very exciting and fascinating last month or two. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Jeju were all great. Though if I had to rank the trips Tokyo was my #1. I can’t say enough how much it restored in my faith in Japan being a fun place.

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The sun is setting on my time in Seoul

When all is said in done it is Friday here and I have only one work week left here. I’ll be doing my last runs of places and saying my goodbyes for the week to come. So my time is winding down. I’m sad it’s all ending but really it’s a good thing I even had the opportunity in the first. place. Why stop here though? Lets keep this train running!

 

Talking about beer

korea

 

 

 

 

Korea has a pretty big drinking culture. While the most well known drink is Soju, there is definitely a lot of beer to go around. Cass is like any light beer but it’s one of the most heavily promoted. At least around my area.  The biggest difference between these posters, is whether or not there are people in them. Beyond that pretty much everything else is similar and there are quite a bit of reoccurring elements.

 

 

 

I don’t have any problems with any of these really. The top two stand out to me as being the most different. Probably because they aren’t a good pairing with the others.  That being said all of these have some common elements and even if they are different the majority are still there.

Things they share in common are:

  • color pallet, it’s all blue and white apart from the beer. The words are blue and white, and even the clothes are blue and white.
  • Water everywhere.
  • The name is shown on the bottle/glass , usually the most prominent too.
  • motion. Things are moving even when it doesn’t make to much sense
  • nothing is straight. Everything is at an angle.
  • basically the same point, but the beer is never straight up and down. The closest it gets to that is picture 1.
  • the same beer is in picture 3 and 4
  • strange poses

Speaking of the tilt it’s another reason why the first two don’t so cohesive as the the other four. All of those bottles and angles are going left to right while 1 and 2 go from right to left. There is also a big glare coming of the bottle in 1 which makes it look like a different campaign all together. Either way they all achieve the look of being edgy, cool, and probably most important refreshing. None of them look stoic and reserved or dry even with not a lot of elements they are pretty dynamic.

In order these are my favorite:

#1

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Does G-dragon look cool or what. I really like the tones of the whole picture. In fact I really like them. The only thing that bugs me is how he is holding the glass. I get it, hes wiping his mouth which is apparently what people do when something  is fresh. Cass commercials remind me a lot about sprite commercials.

“we sold more more apartment buildings yaaaaaay!”

*Note how they were able to drop damn.

#2

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Number 2 just because the more I thought about where the water came from it just got more silly. Still like it though. The splash is great and really helps pull everything together. It’s like a fresh cool moving hand. Imagine if the bottle had nothing else to hold it. It’d be in space.

#3

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I really just enjoy the simplicity of this one. It achieves the dynamic look all the other ones have but it’s simple. The long blue space is what draws it together. I actually like it a bit more than #2 but the beer coming from the tap just looks so strange. To be fair, I only noticed it after I looked at it for a long time.

#4

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Fourth because I’d  argue that this one isn’t the right kind of busy because of that bottle being added. Also the bottle is the same from#2.

#5

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I might put this one in 4. I like how it’s a different feel because of the mug but still has the same elements. Really comes off like someone threw it down in a pile of ice for some reason.

#6

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It’s lacking any movement that makes the other ones fun. Also the glare is strange. It just doesn’t have the same flair or excitement.

The glare is seen on tv.

While it is consistent it still doesn’t make me like it anymore. Just reminds me of this. Image result for LM312V04 Victory Gundam face

Staring at these ads a lot of strange things come through. While it’s easy to nit pick and bash them for that, that’s not really fair at all. I see theses multiple times a day but never really more than a few seconds. If you spend forever on one picture things are bound to get silly. #4 has the most things that pop out to me as strange. What is she doing with the bottle? Is she thinking, opening it with her forehead? What is she doing?

After walking past it for months I never once really noticed what was going on. I just saw Girl + Cass. Which means that it’s doing the job. It’s easy to rip something, but these 6 posters are good and do what they are supposed to do.

Weekends

korea, weekends

 

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This is over the past two weekends. I didn’t do much last Saturday except for watch the new Transformers movie. I won’t call it great, but I won’t call it bad. Compared to the last one it was definitely better. It was also pretty long, and I was actually tired at the end of it.

Since I did nothing on Saturday the pressure was on to do something Sunday. Having no idea what that something was I decided to just walk, again to Itaewon. I was able to see some old things I haven’t seen since I first got here and some new things too. So I’m glad it went down. It also helps give a better perspective of where places are in the city.

I got off around chungmuro because I couldn’t remember if I had ever been there or not. Which was a good thing because I instantly saw two things I recognized and one is newer than the other. First I saw the market. The market was a cool reminder because I went there in the first 3 months of me being here and totally had no idea where or what it really was. I did get my glasses there though.  Then I saw an addition of what looks like the Seoullo 7017 walk way thing.

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I remember seeing this guy!20170625_15355120170625_153850

Then I found Namsan park. I can’t believe I haven’t been here before. 20170625_15385820170625_154031

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The haze

Like I said i haven’t been here before. Don’t know what percentage of the whole thing I even saw. I don’t think it was much though. I really only saw a small section of it and a parking lot that I passed through on my way down.

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Going through HBC I really just wanted to show how hilly the area is. The whole thing is on an incline.

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Look at those slopes! The pictures are a bit of a let down though because they don’t really show just how steep these places are. 20170625_160826

At the end I met my friend at the Flying Pan in Itaewon. would I go back there again? Maybe it was really expensive and that would be my main problem with it. Sure it was good but it’s hard to justify spending $20 on a smoothie and brunch. 20170625_16503920170625_170921

In case you were wondering I did not eat the tomato. Speaking of food a new burger place opened up a few seconds away from my apartment. The reason why this is awesome is because it’s a burger place that isn’t an hour away and also isn’t terrible. The guys who work there are seem to be pretty agreeable.

I waited forever{one week} for this place to open and it’s actually really good. Better yet it’s right next door. For comparison, it blows Shake Shack out of the water. Although SS might easily be overrated.

I also went for a bit of a walk to Dream Forest near Mia. It was more of a walk to there since didn’t really walk around the park too much.

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This street was busy, with signs

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Went to the top of that thing

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Saw something like this

That was pretty much the weekend. I’m realizing that I’m down to two months left. Kind of freaky. It stills feels far away but also inevitable. It’s also rained a lot the past few days. Apparently it’s rain season and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon. So that’s exciting.

I’ve also been trying those claw machines more.  I won groot. Although the face gets pretty saggy sometimes and it looks like kind of creepy.

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jerry