Monday, September 29, 2008

Real men don:t need feelings

My friend Madhav asked me in an email yesterday if I miss home yet.

I:m not sure if I *miss* home (because guys don:t *miss* things, we don:t have feelings on that level pshaw).

I don:t want to be at *home* itself because traveling is still fun, however I do wish I could take a day or two to see my parents and see how they:re doing, and see how my sister and Shash:s baby is doing (I:m sure she:s walking by now). I would love a chance to drive my car on the freeway for a little bit, just so I can feel the acceleration. I really enjoy driving that car, just like I enjoyed driving my old Mustang back in the day. I picture myself sitting in the driver:s seat sometimes when I see fast cars drive ahead of me.

It:s been so long I don:t remember what sitting in the driver:s seat feels like anymore.

I would like to get a western bacon cheeseburger at Carl:s Jr.

I:d like to wear something other than the 5 shirts and 3 pants that I am carrying with me. I:d like to go out looking nice just once. I don:t mind the way I:m dressed now (it:s for a purpose), but when I:m walking through the entertainment area and I see some nicely dressed western people, I can:t help but feel a little jealous that I can:t do that as well, especially in major cities like Osaka, Tokyo, and Seoul, where it actually matters a little bit.

Then after that I would be cool with resuming my travels for another couple of months.

blah blah blah

I:ve been noticing that my blog posts seem really long, at least visually when I scroll up and down, so while writing that last post I had this thought in my mind that I have to keep things more succinct, but that one turned out to be long too.

I guess I:m just too verbose and talk about things in too much detail to keep a concise blog.

Japanese Hostel = Junior high all over again

I:m staying at a hostel tonight in Nagoya. The hostels here are really strict. It:s like living in your parents: house all over again.

There:s an 11pm curfew when the front doors close. After that you:d better check into another place for the night.

The front door doesn:t open until 7am. If you gotta leave before that, I don:t know what happens. I guess you could try to break out or jump out the 2nd story window (if it opens)? I tried to ask the lady at the front desk if I:m going to burn to death if there:s a fire (half out of jest), but she didn:t understand me so that joke burned to the ground.

There:s only 1 communal bath in the place (for each sex of course). You can only shower between 5:30pm and 10:00pm. You cannot shower in the morning. Did you read that? You cannot shower in the morning. What the hell huh? Good thing I normally shower at night anyway. Also, if you didn:t notice yet, the shower closes 1 hour before the hostel does, so if you plan on going out in the evening and then heading back in, you have to head in at 9:30pm at the latest to just get a shower in before you have to wait until the next evening. The people that run the hostel must think everyone has Asian sweat glands (as in, doesn:t smell in the daytime).

There are no elevators, and I:m on the 4th floor. Since I:m so strong and manly, I don:t have a problem with 4 floors of walking up with my bags, but there are other people out (I know it:s hard to believe) that are not as strong as I am that are carrying heavier bags. I feel bad for them.

There:s only 1 key to each room. My room happens to be Japanese style, so we:re all sleeping on tatami mats, which is cool, but there:s up to 6 people in each room. Sharing a key with 5 strangers? It:s not as bad as it sounds because the last person is supposed to leave the key at the front desk when they leave the hostel, but think of how many times you:re going to have situations like this:
1. i:m the only one in the room, i run downstairs to drop the key off and leave and one of my roommates is coming up the stairs to enter the room. They don:t know that I have their key, so they will have to go up and down 3 times with their baggage (please remember there are no elevators).
2. i:m the only one in the room, i leave with the key to go shower, my roommates come by, they don:t know I:m in the shower but they can:t get in the room because nobody is there.
3. this is also a safety hazard, because you have to open the door if somebody knocks because you don:t know whether the person on the other side of the door belongs there or not until you open the door and talk to them. This means that anybody can go knock on anybody:s door and the people inside MUST open the door, no matter what. Cue the creepy guys knocking on girls rooms.

So the question I keep asking myself everytime this happens to me is: Is all this hassle worth saving $20 a night? In the beginning I thought "sure!", but now I:m on the fence. The only real reason why I love hostel rooms is because I get to meet people by the nature of it.


I left Kyoto today and came to Nagoya. I walked out in the morning through the rain to see Haian Jingu (temple) and then the Imperial Palace and then decided I just wasn:t digging the city, so I left.

The city has a lot of temples. I didn:t want to see anymore temples. It was raining so I didn:t like the fact that the city is enormous. Imperial Palace annoyed me because they wouldn:t let anyone inside without permission from the Royal Family or something like that.

The other problem with temples here is that you get inside for free, but then if you want to see the main building they ask for $3. It:s not that much money but for some reason that annoys me more than it should.

I:m having a tough time meeting people in this country. It:s been ok being alone and walking around alone so far, but there are definitely times when I wish I had someone traveling with me, just so I had someone to talk to and joke around with. It would be nice to laugh once an hour or so.

Oh now that I think about it, maybe yesterday just felt really boring because the day before I had the tour guide to talk to all day long. That might have been why.

I was so excited to come to Nagoya today after I saw this morning that there was a Robot Museum here. When I arrived, I checked into my hostel and then ran out the front door to get a couple hours before it closes at 8pm, but when I got to the street corner I couldn:t find it anywhere. It wasn:t even on the signs. So I walked around the block in the rain for 20 minutes or so looking for it and then finally decided to ask a lady at a newspaper stand and she told me that the museum closed last year sometime. HAHA

The people here were staring at me because I was walking around with just a poncho and no umbrella in the rain. I can:t get myself to buy an umbrella which I know I will end up throwing away before I leave. Maybe I:ll cave if it:s still raining for the next week but so far I haven:t.

Tomorrow I plan to wake up early and check out the Toyota plant here. After that I will decide if I want to stay one more night in Nagoya or take off to see Shizuoka or Nagano. I don:t plan to do much in Shizuoka other than try to spot Mt Fuji. Someone passing by last week told me it:s not possible to climb up there right now but I don:t know for sure yet.

Dinner in Osaka

Oh yeah, in Osaka that night we ended up entering a random restaurant that was only in Japanese to have dinner. We had a tough time communicating but it turned out all good because after about 5 minutes of communication struggle she told me she knew Korean so we ended up talking in Korean and she brought out some interesting dishes.

The first one was a $9 sashimi plate that the fish:s body was still on as part of the decoration of the plate. The best part was the fish tail was still moving but the eye was not blinking anymore. I:ve seen that before in Korea but only on major orders of sashimi, like $50 and up. Never on a $9 plate. I thought that was incredible.

Then she took that back and had the rest of the fish (including the bones) deep fried with tempura like batter and brought that back out. It was crunchy goodness, including the eyeballs. I normally don:t like eyeballs because of the feel, but these were good.

After that she brought out this egg omelet type dish that had pork inside of it, with yellow and brown sauce on top. I don:t know if I:ll ever figure out what that dish was called. It wasn:t awesome but it wasn:t bad. The sauce on top just wasn:t my kind of taste. It wasn:t teriyaki but it was strong like it. Tasted a bit more buttery.

I know it:s wrong but...

A couple days ago I met a Kiwi (New Zealand) guy in my hostel room and had this conversation with him while on the subway headed out to the entertainment district of Osaka for dinner:

Him: What would you do if you were in a super packed subway train and some guy grabbed your ass, but you couldn:t move?
Me: I would move.
Him: But what if there was no room to move?
Me: Oh I would *make* space for type of special occasion.
Him: (laughs) ok
Me: What if a girl grabbed you? Would you move?
Him: No.
Me: You wouldn:t move at all? You:d just let her grab you?
Him: Nope. I:d let her.
Me: What if you weren:t sure whether it was a guy or a girl?
Him: (thinks about it for a few seconds) I:d move.

I thought about this topic some more. I guess it:s not that big of a deal. People fondle me all the time when I:m at the bar or nightclub (in the US) when they walk by me. Girls do it more than guys do.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fastest 105 Yen I ever spent

I stopped at an AM/PM to pick up one of those triangular sushi handheld wrap thingies, and opened it outside while continuing my walk from the Kyoto Imperial Palace back to the hotel. The store happened to be next to a manmade aqueduct so I was walking over the bridge as I was unpeeling the plastic and down swooped a huge black bird, probably a crow, and swiped half the thing out of my hands.

Luckily my hands weren:t scratched or anything. I just lost my meal. I thought someone had gone by on a bike and hit me as a joke or something, but no. I left the rest of the food on the bridge arm (I wasn:t going to eat it) and then walked across the bridge to the Family Mart and picked up another one. This time, I shoved it into my mouth before I exited the store. Lesson Learned.

That is now the 2nd time in 3 months that I:ve had a bird steal my food from my hands.

Things I like about Japan

1. You can expect the same great service at every single place you go. It:s always good and never less. The merchant/employee always say hi, always bows in some way, always makes sure that you:re tended to as long as you need something, and they:re very polite the entire time.
2. I have to say that the risque way the women dress sometimes is a bit surprising to me, but because I:m a man, it:s not necessarily bad or unwanted. Going out in public after about 4pm is like going clubbing in Vegas every single night.
3. Most of the food that you can eat feels healthy for you. It:s hard to find something that seems really unhealthy, well as long as you stay away from the western food, like McDonalds and KFC.
4. The train system and subway systems are amazing. The tracks lead to wherever you want to go and they come very frequently. They are also always on time. You can set your watch to their schedules.
5. Everyone in public is very civilized. You don:t see kids running around wreaking havoc. You don:t see skateboarders hanging out on street corners. You won:t find people just randomly loitering in public areas, except in the entertainment disctrict at night of course, and for good reason.
6. The entire place is incredibly clean. Other than a couple of cigarette butts lying around on the ground and some gum stains, you won:t be able to find any trash in public. I don:t know how they do it, considering it:s tough to find a public trash can on the sidewalk. In Seattle you can find trash cans every 150 meters but yet there:s still trash everywhere.
7. The Japanese have mastered the art of single serving packaging, and so when you go to any store, you can always find something to eat at any time of day. At 7 Eleven you can always find seaweed wraps or bento boxes or sandwiches. There is no reason to ever be hungry at any time.
8. Public phone calls only cost 10 cents to make if they:re local.
9. Everything is recycled in its own way. If you find public trash cans, there will be ones for cans, for plastic bottles, for glass, and for paper

Learning English

A couple days ago, in my hostel room, I met a Japanese guy in his early 20s traveling around inside his country for a weekend trying to learn some more about history. I thought that was pretty cool. I asked him if he was with any friends, he said no because nobody else had time that weekend and he had 4 days in a row for some reason.

He spoke a little bit of English. I was impressed at how much he could understand. He:s not as good as my cousins are, but good enough to have a short conversation with some hand signals and fingerdrawings.

He told me that Japanese kids are required to learn English starting in 9th grade for 4 years. I was a little surprised at that number. Korean kids are required now to start learning English in 2nd grade. Apparently Korea finds it much more important that their kids know how to communicate with the western world. That must be part of the reason why most people in the public in Japan that I meet don:t know enough English to say more than just "hi" and "thank you".

I:m surprised because Japan is a first world nation now, and Korea is still probably considered second world, yet Korea finds it much more important to know how to speak English? Funky. Maybe Japan feels that it doesn:t need to communicate in English with the other countries?

Summary of my post 2 days ago

When I went to the Peace Parks, I was expecting some kind of public apology for Japan:s history of invading, raping, and pillaging other countries around them, and that they promise to leave in peace from that time forward. That:s what I was expecting, not the "curse the atomic bomb" and "oh so many innocent Japanese died" and "here are statues from other countries that donated to Hiroshima because you poor innocent people were bombed by the evil Americans, stupid evil Americans". As an American, I don:t like how they make the USA to look like the bad guy.

I think that sums up why I was surprised and the entire point of the post I wrote 2 days ago that was incredibly too long and strongly worded.

Kyoto has the same letters as Tokyo

Walked around the Southern Higashiyama part of Kyoto today, checking out temples upon temples, and monuments, and statues of Buddha. There were lots of narrow streets filled with vendors of all kinds of art and household items, which I couldn:t buy anyway of course. I don:t want to have to carry them for 8 more months. heh

Someday I will have to visit these countries again one at a time (especially Thailand) so I can purchase some things and bring them back with me.

Kyoto is the city in Japan that holds most of the cultural history. There:s something like 1200 temples in this town. That:s 1195 too many for me to see. You can only see so many temples before they all start looking exactly the same. :)

Nevertheless, I got some good pictures today, which I will put up as soon as I get on a decent computer and my gallery is working again.

Last night I went into downtown Kyoto as soon as I arrived and checked into a hotel, so I got to see some nightlife scenes. I walked through the "entertainment district" here just like last time in Nagasaki and noticed the same sort of things. There was a place called "Kyoto Girls Club" that had a couple of very pretty girls in front of it saying something in Japanese. I noticed that they try to attract Japanese customers (including me because they thought I was Japanese) but not caucasians at all. Not sure if that:s the policy or not and why. I couldn:t tell if it was a strip club or a hostess bar or something else. Hard to say when you can:t read or understand what they:re saying.

I:ve had all kinds of different food since I:ve been in Japan. Yesterday for lunch I shared an Okinomiyaki with my tour guide. It was a Japanese pancake looking thing and this one had pork and kimchi in it. I have a picture but can:t share that yet either.

Yesterday I had a beef bowl just like the ones at Yoshinoya. I have to say that after eating what I did last night, Yoshinoya:s food isn:t actually all that far from the truth. I remember when I was a kid I thought Yoshinoya was a total americanized version of some Japanese food that was made to look like tasty but was terribly bad for you, but the food I had last night was remarkably close to what I remember.

It:s almost like going to Italy and finding a pizza place that reminds you of exactly how Little Caesars did their pizza. You know, the company that sold 2 large pizzas for $8 and you:re always wondering "what did they put in this thing for $8?" while you:re eating the pizza at 2am.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Atomic bomb museums and me

After visiting 2 different Atomic Bomb Museums and Remembrance Halls and Peace Parks in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I have gotten my first good dose of what countries do about presenting to their future generations their own mistakes in history. They hide it behind a different issue.

While I was walking through the museums, the main theme was, "Nuclear bombs are bad because they kill so many innocent people."

First of all, I don:t like their definition of "innocent people." If I recall correctly, the Japanese have been the aggressor in the last 2000 years of war in Asia. Those people knew what was going on when the bombs dropped. They were killing and torturing people in other countries out of greed, they messed with one country that they couldn:t handle, and got a 21 kiloton nuke dropped on their heads. How can they be considered innocent? It can:t possibly be just because they were women and children. Not having a penis or being underage does not automatically make someone innocent.

The only people that I personally *possibly* could consider innocent would be the slaves they brought from other countries to work in Hiroshima that were collateral damage. They were the only ones who didn:t support the war. If Iraq bombed me because Bush bombed them, I would not consider myself an "innocent bystander." If you want to skew the outlook like that, you could maybe say they were lucky people, because at least they didn:t get tortured and beheaded like the people they victimized.

Japan has committed murder half a million times in the last 2000 years, and each one was done without an nuclear bomb. So that means they poked, chopped, slashed, shot half a million people. I:m not a math professor, but that sounds a lot worse that 150,000 to me.

Another thing I had a problem with, why are there only monuments to protest the use of nuclear weapons, and not to prevent war in the first place? As if killing a million people with a bayonet is somehow better than killing 150,000 with a well placed bomb? I:m guessing this is because they were the aggressors, and it:s much easier for a country to swallow placing a monument for "no nuclear bombs" than to have a monument for "this is what happens when you try to take over 60 other countries in an attempt to completely rule the entire western hemisphere and then get wasted by a country halfway around the world and have to surrender unconditionally."

I saw exactly 1 set of pictures/words up on a wall in the Hiroshima museum that stated something like "the bomb was bad, but we need to rethink about the mistakes that Japan made in the first place to cause such an incident so that we never make that mistake again". It was hidden in a small section in the corner at the end.

The conclusion is that I don:t like the irresponsible way that they have presented their history to their future generations. If you go through the museums and the monuments as they stand today with tunnel vision, you would think that they signify how America was bad and it was a terrible country for using atomic weapons, but it would have been fine if they had brought in 50,000 soldiers and raped our land completely to win the war, in the process killing 150,000 people anyway. And... if you invade countries by guns it:s not the best but it:s acceptable, but if you use weapons of mass destruction then you:re a really bad person.

That is the wrong message.

What they attempt to do in these museums is show pictures of half dead people and the physical and mental damage caused by nuclear weapons. They:re just anti nuclear weapons museum basically. I don:t see the point of them if that:s the purpose. Everyone knows atomic bombs kill lots of people, why do we need museums to describe that? And why do we need museums at those sites? As if we:re supposed to feel sorry for the people who died *just* because they died from an atomic bomb and not from a knife? If we really wanted atomic bomb museums they should be at locations where they were developed, like New Mexico. That would be a better fit.

I think they are just looking for people to feel sorry for their losses and divert attention from the point of World War II itself using the value of humanity as a distraction.

So I noticed...

The whole Washington Mutual takeover/bankruptcy thing. Wow. I:m glad I am not with them. But WaMu is HUGE up in Washington State, so I wonder if it affects any of my Seattle friends at all.

I was pleased to read that Wells Fargo was bidding on buying them out. That made me feel a little better. They have to be doing something ok if they can bid on another bank.

My investments have taken a dump and left it in the corner of the room to rot. It hurts to look at my portfolio. Like emotional pain. I open up the page and then close the browser after about 4 seconds because that:s about as much as I can take of the red color.


I:ve installed the firefox browser so many times during my travels now that I can install the Japanese version completely without even being able to read any of the words. I:ve practically memorized what all the options mean on every page of the install process.

I:ve been installing firefox because:
1. It:s guaranteed to have tabbed browsing. For some reason, most of the public computers I:ve come across only have IE 6 and therefore, no tabbed browsing
2. It:s guaranteed to give me an option to clear out all my personal information, such as cookies, temp files, and browsing history
3. In case the computer crashes on me, when I open firefox again it restores all my web pages that were open for me before it crashed.

The internet connections in Korea and Japan have been so fast that it downloads the software and I have it installed within about 20 seconds.

The rest of Japan

Here:s what I think I:m going to do for the rest of Japan:
1. Kyoto for 3 days
2. Nagoya for 1 day
3. Nagano for 1 day
4. Sapporo for 1 day
5. One more location on the upper island (Hokkaido) for 1 day, possibly someplace near the northern water border with Russia
6. Tokyo for 3 days

and then fly out on Oct 8th to Seoul. I:ve already booked my flight, so that part is set. The cheapest flight I could find money-wise was about $800 one way, so instead of doing that I opted to use 20k United Airlines mileage points + $130 in fees to get from Narita to Incheon airports.

That:ll leave me 12 days including 2 weekends so more like 8 business days to get my VISA for China while I:m in Seoul. I think that will be plenty of time.

The old capital

Today I:m in Nara, a very old capital of Japan. I didn:t have a chance to walk around today though because it was raining pretty hard. The hostel I:m at let me borrow an umbrella though and I walked around the town area eating some good food including a fish roe rice bowl and some chicken katsu from a stand.

I looked through my Lonelyplanet today and found that there are free personal English tour guide services offered by the YMCA and by students in town, so I called and set one up for tomorrow morning at 9:30am. I:m excited about that. That:s going to be totally cool. A personal photographer tour guide around the city. haha

What nice people, seriously. I assume they do it so that they can improve their foreign language skills and possibly to get people to like Nara more?

(I don:t plan on tipping right now because you don:t tip in Japan?)

Pink traincars

There are pink cars on the subway here that are designated for women only so that men can:t grope them while they:re riding in a packed train. That my friends.... is an interesting concept. I:ll show you a picture of one later.

The rough stuff

For such a civilized nation, some things I:ve noticed behind the scenes are a bit surprising:
1. Women are not treated like equals, in the workplace nor in public. I:m not saying that women have to sit on the back of bus or are denied voting rights, but if you look at the way they dress and the types of jobs that they do for money, it:s quite a surprise for a society that is considered "civilized". I never knew that being more civilized also had the effect of oversexualization.
2. There are men in business suits every single night flooding the neighborhood Pachinko bars (these are like gambling slot machines but you can:t get money back from it. You can sometimes buy prizes though. The rules are weird. I have yet to quite understand the whole concept) These Pachinko machines are funky too. The sound is *really* loud in there and there are video screens playing the same animations over and over. If you didn:t know any better you would think it was some kind of brainwashing system.
3. Before I came to Japan, I thought that being more civilized did not result in less personal professional relationships. I thought that being civilized masters it would be more like they are the best at providing service because they know exactly how to treat each person to perfection, not the world as a whole together.
4. The men really smoke a lot. And they still allow smoking indoors in public places.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Light bulb

I think I understood something today about Japan.

In their effort to become the most modern, most civilized nation in the world, the Japanese have turned into robots in their day to day professional lives (I:m not talking about their personal stuff at home). Let me explain.

I was in Osaka yesterday and it was a big city. It felt like NYC, just without the tall buildings. When I get to Tokyo my head will probably spin.

Their effort to achieve perfection is what causes them to talk to me in Japanese even after I:ve told them I speak English. They:re taught to do things in the best way possible, and they do it that way, no matter what, everytime. It:s their method of quality control. If they:ve been taught to say it, then they will say it, even if I don:t understand it.

For example, when I purchase a food item at a convenience store, they say something at all of these points of transition:
1. when I enter the store
2. when I bring food up to the counter
3. when they scan the item
4. when they ask me if I want a bag
5. when they tell me how much it is
6. when they receive my money
7. when they calculate change
8. when they give me money
9. when they say thank you
10. when they say bye as I leave

When I walk into Family Mart or a 7 Eleven or a medium level restaurant, I always get this kind of experience. Usually right before step 4 I tell them I can only speak English. I can tell they heard what I said (they:re not deaf), but after that they just continue right on with Japanese until the end of the transaction. This is what makes them so polite, they are always polite right down to the 10 step process.

The only problem with this, and I think I now understand why it bothers me, is that the entire process seems so impersonal. I feel like I:m talking to a human vending machine most of the time. There are exceptions of course, such as the nice young man who helped me find directions to my hotel 4 days ago in Fukuoka. He pulled out map after map trying to figure out where my hotel was and then afterwards he gave me directions in his best English on where to turn and how many signal lights to walk in a given direction. Other times I:ll say "No Japanese" to the girls behind the counter and they:ll smile and giggle because they thought I was Japanese until I told them. Then they tell me their sorry that they got confused and I tell them it:s no big deal because everyone else assumes the same. I notice these moments because the display of personality is obvious.

If you compare with Korea, just because it:s so easy to compare similar cultures, I wouldn:t say that the people who work in similar professions are friendlier at all, but they are general more personal, possibly because they aren:t as far along on the "civilized" scale.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I really enjoyed Busan last week while I was there for 2 nights. It was a port city, which meant it had a beach and beach culture, but it wasn:t as busy (hectic) as Seoul is for me because I don:t have any relatives there, but there:s still enough going on that finding something to do is very easy. There:s a nice subway system there. Not as comprehensive as the one in Seoul, but close.

There are really good sushi places, and other seafood restaurants.

On the first evening I got there, I felt like finding people to talk to, so I walked into a bar nearby that I had passed earlier called Hollywood Star. If you know me, I don:t normally like to seek out foreigner traps for entertainment or for dining, but in Korea if you want to get a drink alone, a western place is the only type that is comfortable, because they usually have a big bar where you can sit down and order a beer, just like in the states. The other drink houses are all based around groups of 2 or more. That:s the Korean way. If you drink alone as a Korean there might just be something wrong with you.

Hollywood Star reminded me a bit of Hard Rock Cafe, with picture frames and posters hanging everywhere of all kinds of American culture memorabilia. In the middle of the rectangular bar there was even a raised up motorcycle that was safely chained to the ceiling and to the walls. The owner spoke a little bit of English but since this was still Korea, I still talked to the staff in Korean, since my Korean is better than their English. I found out from talking to them, that the bar was owned by the same owner as a chain called "Thursday Party" and there were 6 of them in the Busan area. There were 2 right on the beach nearby, so I left that bar and headed to Thursday Party.

When I got to Thursday Party, I loved it big time because there were lots of Korean people and English speakers. It was really awesome to be able to understand everyone, and it was very amusing to watch people who can:t communicate very clearly because of language barriers try to interact and socialize with eachother.

Several times I was tempted to jump into the middle of a conversation and translate between 2 people who were not getting eachother, but I held myself back, just enjoying it. Not in a sadistic kind of way, more like watching a game of sport. I smiled to myself, and thought how wonderful it would be to be a professional linguist and know like 8 major languages. You would be a powerhouse.

I was sitting at the bar, a caucasian guy came up next to me to order a drink, I asked him how things are going. He asked me if I was Korean American, I said yes. I told him I was traveling. He invited me over to his group of friends which turned out to be another white guy and like 4 korean girls, which were their girlfriends and their friends.

I would talk in English if I wanted everyone to understand. If the Korean girls asked me a question in Korean, I would respond in Korean though. I wanted to take pictures but my camera had run out of battery, so unfortunately, no momentos of that night in my dica (this is what Seonwoo called her digital camera. It:s a korean shortname)

I hung out with them until about 1am when they asked me if I wanted to go dancing, so I went with them to some other part of Busan nearby. Instead of going in though, we ended up hanging out and drinking in front of the Family Mart until about 5am when they took me back to my motel. It looked really ghetto but since I:d never done it before it was fun and funny. I don:t think I:d feel comfortable doing it again.

Neato stuff that Jim likes

The doors on the traincars on the subway in Fukuoka were open at all times, and so if you looked, you could see the middle walkway of every traincar at once, and if you did this while the train was moving, it was a totally awesome visual effect of each car turning one at a time on curves.

And when the train hits some turbulence, each car looks like a room that is being shaken slightly by a really large hand, or like dice being rattled lightly in a box.

Seriously I enjoyed this so much I was tempted to not get off at my stop.

Today in Japan I saw:

A coke machine selling pepsi cans. I bet Coca-Cola of America doesn:t know about that one.

And in the morning I ate western looking pizza breads at the train station. They were served cold. I don:t know if I was supposed to heat them, but I didn:t due to lack of knowledge and the urge to look for a microwave.

I also had my first Japanese breakfast, which consisted of mackerel, seaweed, rice, sunny side up egg, fried egg rolled up (like Korean food), miso soup, small sausage, japanese pickle, and 1 piece of the yellow salted beet that you eat with sushi. It wasn:t *good* per say, but it wasn;t bad.

I prefer Thai breakfast compared to it, to make it clearer.

Just FYI

I have been unable to upload any pictures to my gallery for almost the last 2 weeks due to a glitch on the server. That:s why I haven:t been uploading any (well it:s also to hide all the naked pictures as well).

I am absolutely sure that Shash, my brother in law is working hard on fixing this issue so that I can continue to upload pictures before I lose my camera and all my videos and I end up terrorizing Japan like Godzilla on crack.

Dear beloved spammers,

Next time you send out junk mail, try sending out only 1 at a time. If I get 3 emails in my Inbox from the same person asking me if I can help wire $333,333,333,333 in funds from Hong Kong I think that makes a little bit too obvious that it:s a scam.

I wasn:t too sure until I noticed the repeated emails, and then a light bulb went on in my head. Even I:m smart enough to know that there:s no way you have $999,999,999,999 in your bank, really. How dumb do you think I am?

Just letting you know so that you can do your job better and make the world a happier place because it:s all about teamwork from now until the future.

Your friend,
Jim Song

Bullet Trains

I take back what I said about the trains being slow. I was apparently wrong. I got on a different train today called the Shinkansen to get from Hakata to Hiroshima and the thing was really fast. Houses were going by so fast I couldn:t tell where one ended and another one started. On the other side, when a train in the opposite direction went by, it was just a blur of colors going across the window. It still shakes a little more than the KTX in Korea though. :)

Oh yeah, I bought a 2 week Japan Railpass while I was in Busan for about $420. Hopefully I will be able to use it enough to warrant that price. So far I think I:ve used the train enough to have spent about $200. That was Hakata -> Nagasaki -> Hakata -> Hiroshima.

And my friend Morgan was right (not that she was ever wrong), they check your train ticket when you enter the platform area, when you sit down, and when you leave the arrival station. They are exact about it as well. The conductor walking through the train cars uses a wireless tablet PC that is connected to the database, and so when someone new gets on the train at a stop, he knows exactly where you:re supposed to be sitting and goes straight for that person in each car to ask for a ticket.

I wonder what would happen though, if someone else who is not supposed to be on the train got on? Would the conductor know?

Hiroshima is HUGE

I didn:t expect this much difference, seriously! The tram is twice or three times as long and there:s like 150 people on each one. I:ve checked into a *real* hostel today. It looks like the ones I used to stay in in Australia or New Zealand (except that it:s Japanese of course).

$25 for a bunk bed in a room of about 10 people. Again, very close price scale to Australia. Best part is there are 3 24 hour computers here for $2 an hour. And skype works on them. Awesome!

I;m a 5 minute walk from the Atomic Bomb dome and Peace Park so I will be walking there in a little while to check out the area. I saw the Peace Park and Atom Bomb drop area yesterday in Nagasaki. I:m getting a wealth of knowledge about atomic bombs while I:m in Japan. Not exactly what I thought was going to happen but hey, it:s mass destruction and violence, what more could a man ask for? (A non-Japanese keyboard would be nice)

There are lots of student groups here and the city is really busy. The train station was massive, with something like 30 tracks coming in and out on multiple levels. Everything in this hostel is written in English and the guy who works the front desk knows English. There are maps of Hiroshima in English everywhere.

I feel like I:m going through Japan in the reverse order of what I was supposed to do. Instead of things getting harder, everything is getting easier!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There:s one thing I love so far about the Japanese

Half of them are utopian comics. They keep talking to me in Japanese even after I:ve told them I don:t understand Japanese. I don:t mean 2 words, I:m talking like 10-20 words.

I found a small room with 3 computers in it for $1 an hour in Nagasaki. It:s like a godsend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thailand has scarred my brain

I ate at an area called Ramen Stadium tonight, how is that for a quick laugh. It was a small part of a big mall area in the middle of Fukuoka. When I went inside there were about 10 little ramen restaurants in the same location selling all different kinds of ramen.

I think I ended up having yaki noodles in a pork soy sauce broth with some pork meat in it. And some fried rice and gyoza, which were both very good as well, for $10, just to give you an idea of the money involved.

While I was trying to talk with the Japanese staff at this restaurant I had to think pretty hard to remind myself not to speak in Thai to these people. I think my brain has popped back into Thai mode because it:s categorized today as "not Korean and not English". I have to keep catching myself to make sure I say domo arigato, and not kop kun khrap instead.


Earlier tonight I was walking through an area with lots of bars/nightclubs (at least that:s what I thought they were) and I saw this sign that said "Internet Cafe floor B1" so naturally I thought, hey I can go down there and use a computer!

So I think about it for a couple seconds and decide yes, so I head downstairs and when I get near the door I notice there is a guy coming down the stairs behind me in a white dress shirt and black slacks, and he says something and then proceeds to open the door for me. I look inside for a second and my instinct tells me that:s not an internet cafe inside. I think I remember seeing a bar and some sofas like it was some kind of lounge.

He asks me to step inside, I just asked him to make sure so I motion something like I am typing on a keyboard and ask him if there are computers inside. He looks puzzled, so I ask him if I can play starcraft or internet in there, and he shakes his head and says something in like 12 words of Japanese. I told him I:m an English speaker but he says another 20 or so Japanese words (i lol;d seriously) and then told him sorry and walked back upstairs. I think he knew I was confused as well so he chuckled and came upstairs with me.

That was weird. There were no other steps downstairs that I could see. I still don:t know what that was.

Sights in Gyeoungju

While I was visiting Gyeoungju, I visited the largest temple in Korea (oh crap I was just about to write the Korean name here and I just realized I don:t think I can because I:m in Japan now). Anyway, in English, it:s Bulguksa.

It had a few nice buildings but it felt a little empty and deserted. There were no practicing monks there at all, just a bunch of tourists. I was expecting more of an actual practicing site before I got there. So that was a little disappointing.

After that I also visited a temple nearby that was created with marble or granite stone (I do not know which) in a cave like (manmade) structure. It was called SeokGulAhm. I wanted to take pictures there but they would not let us, unfortunately. It was a short hike there with my bags, which I generally enjoyed.

I also saw the Gyeoungju National Museum in a short hour or so. It was not long enough but I got a taste of what was there and that was all I needed. The place holds a lot of artifacts from old Korea, from the bronze and iron ages to be more specific.

I also saw an observatory that was used in the years BC as well. It looked like a rock stone lighthouse from the outside. There is nothing on the inside that is still there today.

It was cool to see these parts of old Korea and it felt good to understand more about my people:s history.

So the good news now

When I woke up on the boat today and walked out into Fukuoka, it felt like a dream because a lot of it looked similar to where I was this morning, except now I was illiterate, and everyone was driving slow, and the streets were cleaner, and girls were dressed like anime characters. There are quite a few Japanese people that could fall into a "looks like a possible Korean" category.

About once every minute I walk by a girl that makes me wonder if I:m in the wrong part of town. Seriously, these Japanese girls really know how to buy short skirts and shorts.

Here:s what I:ve noticed so far of this city+
1. It:s clean
2. It:s civilized, very civilized
3. Everyone looks pretty relaxed
4. Everyone:s friendly. I don:t know if this because they really are or if they have to be
5. It:s famous for ramen. There is ramen *everywhere*
6. Family Mart and 7 Eleven have done a solid job of breeding in Asia. They were all over the place in Korea as well.
7. I can only use ATMs at 7 Elevens and at the post offices, so once again, 7 Eleven comes through for me again. I walked around for 45 minutes today trying to pull money out because my hotel only allows cash (and we all know why)

I:d say that it:s a nice place overall. It:s probably like the type of civilized that Seoul would like to be but just hasn:t gotten there quite yet. They:re close though. I:m sure Tokyo is wayyyy crazier (as in larger scale) than here though.

Here:s what surprises me:
1. I:m a bit surprised you can smoke indoors here in public places, but I guess that:s because it:s Asia.
2. The girl:s clothing still as well. I had heard about it before but I didn:t think it was this bad.
3. Oh, my hotel has one old school hole in the ground toilet and a modern one in each bathroom.
4. There:s a definite lack of public trash cans for some reason. If you buy something to drink you should stand there and finish it before you walk away, otherwise you might have to carry it for 30 minutes til you get to your next destination

I:m sleeping in a dorm room tonight. It still costs $28 though. That:s almost as high as Australia was. The dorm room is a bunk bed in a tiny space, kind of like a railcar first class cabin with a television set. I didn:t have a roommate earlier, maybe I have one now. I won:t know until I head back to my room.

p.s. I never realized how many apostrophes I use normally until today

Alive in Fukuoka

It took me soooooooooo long to find an internet cafe today. I just finally stumbled upon one right now. I can't believe it took this long and I hate this keyboard with all my guts. Seriously, I hate this thing.

There's a bunch of Japanese keys on it that I can't read which I won't dare touch anymore because I did when I first sat down and I regretted that one, trust me. For some reason the English keys are moved around, such as having to press shift-7 to get the apostrophe to show up on the screen. If I press the key next to "l" like normal, I get the colon symbol! What the hell, seriously.

And holy crap the internet here is expensive, and so is the food, but the food is not as bad as the internet. It's like Australia all over again, something like $6 an hour. I can't be on for too long even though I have so much blogging to do because I won't be able to afford my trip if I run out of money. Ok small exaggeration sorry. But why so much right? Korea can do it for $1 an hour.

I'm about to give up on the apostrophe thing. I:m going to just write the rest of my posts using the colon and maybe fix it someday in the future when I:m in a country that doesn:t suck in this respect.

My headset doesn:t even have a mic, dear lord.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Headed to Fukuoka, Japan today

I'm getting on the Kobee boat to Fukuoka today. I bought the ticket yesterday when I came by to check out the International Ferry Terminal. It was the only boat with open tickets for today so it was good thing I came by.

This ferry is 3 hours and drops me off right in the middle of Kyushu, which is the western island of Japan. I guess I'll have to go through customs so I should probably hide my bombs and drugs somewhere else. haha j/k to whichever CIA or secret service agent is reading this blog because I just typed those words in and I know you guys are reading my stuff (not because of national security, just because it's *so* damn interesting). Not to brag too often but my grammar skills are HAWT.

I think my first stop after seeing some of Fukuoka will be Nagasaki and then back up north to Kyoto or Hiroshima, I haven't decided which one first. Maybe I'll stop in Nara and spit on royal graves or something like a good Korean.

Internet access on a computer at the ferry terminal is 10 cents every 5 minutes, if only it was that cheap in the United States at public terminals, geez I might actually use it once in a while! Imagine that!

"Do as locals do" they say

Yep, I'm playing Starcraft like a good Korean male. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Something's going downhill

I just opened up to see what's going on in the world during my 12 month vacation from reality.

I don't know if it's because I've been gone (mentally) for so long or what but when I opened it today I was a little surprised at all the bad news. There's so much bad stuff going on in the world today. Markets crashing, wars breaking, countries telling other countries to stop something or get out, people dying everywhere, killing eachother, planes crashing................ yikes.

I'm trying to think, was the world this bad before I left for NZ?

빨이빨이 (faster faster)

There's so much competition going on in this country. Why? You all know asians, and you know they all want to be the best. Put 50 million of them in a country 1/3rd the size of California, and that's what you get. (California has only 40 million people)

So everything needs to be done faster, better, and smarter with respect to each citizen personally, not the country as a whole.

Because of this hurried atmosphere, there are some things I've noticed that cater to that culture.
1. the baseball games (or any sports in general) on tv are not shown in full, they fast forward to the good parts that are exciting. They still show a lot of the game, there's just no dead time between innings while players are running in and out of the field and there's also no dead time shown where the coaches are talking to eachother for no particular reason and spitting out tobacco or sunflower seeds all over the dugout
2. there's a small supermarket, optometrist, and doctor's office within walking distance of every apartment complex
3. driving and parking laws are very flexible. You probably will never get a ticket for speeding or turning a 5 lane freeway into 10 lanes. This doesn't mean you can speed though, because there's so much traffic it would probably get you killed. You won't get a parking ticket in a no parking area unless the specific location has high visibility or someone across the street complained about it. You can run red lights if it looks really empty (such as in the middle of the night at a dead intersection). Sometimes on a T intersection, the cars going straight on the top side of the T will just jump the red if there's no cars coming from the side. Bus drivers will jump red lights to get ahead of cars if there's something in the way of their lane on the other side of the intersection.
4. There are cameras on the road that detect speeders and ticket them automatically using pictures, but the funny part is that every camera is labeled deliberately and unless you're just blind, you will know where every camera is about 200 meters before it sees you. So, if you're smart you can control your speed across all of them and still speed the rest of the way to your destination. Every GPS system that you can buy gives you a warning whenever you're entering a camera zone as well.

Come to think of it, Bangkok and Seoul driving are pretty similar in a lot of ways, but I think Bangkok was worse. Tailgating isn't as bad (or good) in Korea.

Chinese VISA

I went to a travel agent last week while I was still in Seoul that was nearby the Chinese consulate in 명동 and asked the lady there how much it would be for the VISA. She told me $150, my passport, a completed application, and 1 picture. I think that's not bad. The VISA itself costs $130 just for the application fee anyway.

Right now I think you need to show hotel reservations for every day that you intend to spend in China when you apply. She said that I wouldn't even need that and that everything would be taken care of.

So I'll be doing this around October 10th when I get back into Korea from Japan. My flight from Seoul to HK is on October 20th right now, and I think I only need 4 business days to get my VISA.

Raising tolerances

Along with my tolerance for alcohol, my tolerance for eating dirty food is rising. I can feel. I won't quite yet pick up food off the ground and eat it, but I'm at the point where I don't look at my plate or my bowl anymore when I get food to check to see if they're still dirty.

After eating food from at least 100 cart vendors in Thailand and in Korea, I'm starting to just get used to uncleanliness in my everyday life. You can trust me that the carts in Thailand don't look very hygienic, especially when you see things like fruit on top of the cart that has flies all over it, but they don't bother slapping them away because there's hundreds, and they'll just come back anyway. You would have to have a slapping machine to actually control them the way you wanted to, because your arm would snap before the flies went away.

Sometimes I ordered soup from them and they just open the top of this HUGE pot in the middle of the cart, scoop out some goodness and put it in a bowl for you. Who knows if they ever clean that pot or what. If you had to drag a 100kg cart to/from your house using your motorcycle every single day to the street would YOU make sure it's perfectly clean?

Part of this foolery comes from the fact that I have an iron stomach. It's one of my few physical gifts that I was blessed with (along with good teeth, no hair on my skin, and don't need deodorant. There's probably more but I'm not really into listing everything good about myself (I know some people who would have fun making fun of that last statement)). I haven't yet gotten sick on my travels. There have been times when my stomach felt a bit funny, but nothing happened that I noticed.

If I go out to eat with people, and they get sick, it's possible that I might get sick as well, but not guaranteed. I might feel a little something move in my belly but that's about it most of the time. If we go out to eat and I get sick, that means that other people are dying on their bathroom floors. If I'm dying on the bathroom floor, that means that my friends are at the hospital.

I've only had the lastly-mentioned feeling once, and that was in El Paso/Phoenix in 2004 on my road trip from Boston to LA. I had decided to cross the border to Juarez and check out the local food there. That was a mistake. I'm very glad that I was alone, because if someone else was there we would have had to go to the emergency room.

So to sum things up nicely, possibly by the time I'm in Peru I'll be dumpster diving for lunch? haha

Changed the title of my blog

I felt like I should be a little more specific in what my blog is about.

In other news, I washed my own laundry yesterday by hand in the sink with some Woolite I brought some home. There are no self service laundromats in this area of Busan, so it's really the only option unless I want to take my stuff to a dry cleaners and pay them $2.50 per item. That's just way too much for a t-shirt.

And yet more news, I am staying in a motel room overlooking 광안리 beach, and there's a nice view of the sand and a bridge out in the water in front of me. I have a computer in my room this time because I'm paying a little more, $50 to be exact.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Understanding the language RULES!

I was at the food court at the Seoul train station and remember thinking to myself happily, "boy it's really nice to be in a cafeteria and be able to actually understand everything on the menu and choose between them, rather than look at strange Thai letters and just pick the ones that have a picture that looks good and/or safe to eat"

Vitamins in Korea are expensive

What money I saved from the hotel rooms is taken from me when you buy any sort of health products of the type you'd find at a GNC.

I bought some cod liver oil capsules here (mmm I know it sounds yummy doesn't it. I've been taking these to prevent dry skin) and they cost me $40!! even though the quality of them isn't as good as the stuff you get for $15 in the states. I visited lots of pharmacies and department stores though and compared prices, there isn't anything better.

2 weeks ago my cousins were asking me to look at an American health products catalog they had received in the mail to ask me if I'd heard of the company because they've been ordering multivitamins internationally for a little while. Even with the shipping cost, it's quite a lot cheaper to order them from the states.

What's a Mac?

I don't think Koreans use Macs. Well at least not in homes or in the PC rooms. The PC rooms are literally PCs all around.

I know Macs are easier to use and crash less but they're quite a lot more expensive and everyone knows that every Korean boy is obviously born with an IT degree so most people know how to troubleshoot a computer.

I did find it funny and cool though, yesterday when I was at the Gyeoungju National History Museum, they were using Ipod Touches for self narration devices. They asked me for my phone number when I picked up the device just in case I left with it accidentally. Apparently nobody has ever purposely left with one of them after leaving a false phone number because they still use this method of retreiving lost devices. It's a nice thought, especially after being in Bangkok.

I have to admit when I got to the front gate I had a quarter second of flash in my brain that pondered what would happen if I just left without returning it.... and just returned it sometime in the future. That must have been the 5% backpacker part of me deep within me rising up to the surface.

Motel rooms

Remember how I said the motels here are good for the money?

The one I slept in the last 2 nights had:
Queen size bed
Clean sheets, they really looked new
40" flatpanel LCD HDTV with about 60 channels
Mini Fridge
Water dispensing machine
Rotating fan
Huge bathroom with tub (2 showers)

...for $30 a night.

I forgot to take a picture. I'll take one at the next place.

Woah there

Yesterday I went back to Gyeoungju to visit the royal tombs that are buried there. Gyeoungju is the old capital of the Shilla Dynasty and so there's a lot of kingly artifacts there. I was amazed by the sight of these massive hills that were manmade to signify the importance of the deceased.

I was walking through Gyeoungju while looking at my map trying to find the park when I suddenly turned the corner around the building and saw this:
If you blow up the picture you can see how big it really is. Those are not small trees. Look at the man sitting on the left side.
Then I looked behind that one and found this one, which is even bigger and reportedly the biggest tomb in Korea.

A little more south I came upon an area where there are a lot of them together and took this picture of the mounds.

Most of them have some kind of tombstone on them but not with any kind of names because the originals have been destroyed. Here's an example:

There was also one that was opened up so that you could go inside and see what the inside looks like as well.

The train honor code

As far as I can tell, the trains are run on the honor system. There is not a single person that asks you to see your ticket to see if you've paid correctly.

You buy the ticket yourself. Then you board the train when it comes by. Someone on staff walks by in the train but they do not ask for anything. If you decide to change destinations you tell that person that you want to change, and they will come tell you how much more to pay. If you decide not to tell them, you just don't pay and you still get off wherever you want. It's just that easy to cheat.

Once you get to your destination, you just get off and then leave through the front door. You could literally decide to steal $60 and not purchase the KTX ticket that takes you from Seoul to Busan, and nobody would know. I can't imagine all these Koreans all being completely honest like that but yet, the country can afford all this public transportation, so maybe there is some decency in this world.

The trains are amazing

The trains are so very quiet and stable. Even the KTX which goes up to 300km/h doesn't really even feel like it's moving until you look outside at the scenery going by. These train systems are built extremely well.

I might be biased here because I just came from Thailand, where riding the train felt like trying to escape from an 18 wheeler filled with gorillas. I've got a funny video of myself trying to eat soup in the Thai railcar which I'll put up on here as soon as I get it uploaded.

The seats are comfortable, the cars are clean, and all that for $2.50 to the next city which is 50km away. This is cheaper than the bus, which is $4.

Ulsan Tourist Information Center

The tourist information centers in Korea are simply amazing, and the one in Ulsan is one of the best. The people in there are so nice and so incredibly helpful. They try to help with everything they possibly can.

They're located right next to the train or bus stations. They look up times for you, costs of transportation, how to get wherever, and the service is all for free to the visitor. I assume they are paid by the Korean government.

The ladies at the Ulsan center even allowed me use their computer behind the desk several times. I've visited them at least once a day already because they can pretty much answer any question I ask them about getting somewhere.

I wonder if they treat me better because I can speak Korean. I doubt it. It's probably a lot easier for them to deal with though.

North Face backpack

I gave up on cheap backpacks and put in $60 today to get the lowest North Face model while walking through Gyeoungju. The other bag I bought in Australia was pretty much totally ripped on the inside between the pockets and my stuff was moving around everywhere. It gets really annoying when you're looking for your camera in the outer pocket and then you can't find it, so you panic and then realize later it just fell into the main large pocket through a hole in the middle.

I don't know if $60 was a good deal or not but I saw the store and just felt the urge to get something decent this time while I'm there in front of it. If I had to find the store on my own it would take a really long time, so I just figured it was meant to be that way.

I forgot to take pictures of the old backpack. I wish I had so I could show everyone the damage.

Oh, and as Koreans always do, I got a free handkerchief and socks along with the bag as part of their service.

Before Mamma Mia

When Katja and I saw Mamma Mia in Bangkok, I was delightfully surprised before the movie started during the previews. They showed a short video clip (~2 min) of specific scenes of the Thai King's history and the audio is the national anthem. Their national anthem sounds really really good. It encompasses the people's reverence very well.

The movie is done extremely well. After the movie was over I still didn't know anything more about the King (really) but I did feel like he really was a great person and it was obvious to me how much the King means to the people. It had a very optimistic effect on me, a very hopeful feeling that everything will get better with time because there are good people out there. It's very touching in that sense.

The thing I'm most amazed about is still the fact that these Thai people, even with all the chaos and random crap that happens outside in the streets and the cities, will stand up together quietly and watch this video together to salute their King, and then go back about their business (in this case it was watching Mamma Mia). Not a single person does not stand up. Every foreigner stands up as well because if you don't, you will stick out like a sore thumb. You get the feeling immediately that it's just really a bad idea to not join them.

From a social perspective I just felt like I had just witnessed something amazing. Something I would have never considered at any point in time would be something that I would see in a country like Thailand. Tears actually came to my eyes as I watched. I had to hold them back so that I wouldn't feel like a dork in the middle of a movie theater. haha

The Thai people love their current king. Apparently he's done some great things for them in recent years and they feel that he really takes care of them. Unfortunately he's getting old and not many people are happy about his son taking over.

If you want to see the video clip yourself, it can be found here.

Lonelyplanet book issues

I picked up the Lonelyplanet book of Korea when I first arrived to the country. I had to go to one of the largest bookstores in Korea to find it because the English versions can't really be found in regular bookstores.

It was pretty expensive to buy in this country, somewhere around $30. It's on for $17, but oh well. There's not much I can do about that. It would have probably been the same price in Thailand and tougher to find.

These Lonelyplanet books of each country have really been helpful for me in finding things to do and where to stay and where to go next. In NZ and Thailand I used it quite a bit but in Australia my schedule was already so packed from advice I received from other travelers that I didn't really need it.

It's been interesting reading the book since I already know quite a bit about Korean culture and geography. There are many things that I nod with because they're right, but then there's a few things where I'm a bit surprised at the things that are written because it doesn't seem completely right. I'm also learning new things as well, such as some detailed history of Korea. You don't really learn this stuff in the American education system.

I remember "World History" class in 10th grade. It could easily be renamed "European History with some iron age and before added in".

One of the most frustrating things about Korean culture is the way they convert the Korean pronounciations to English characters. Coming from someone who speaks both languages fairly well, I find lots of places where consonants are incorrect, such as the sounds of "K" and "G" and some places where english letters have been left off and make things very confusing to read.

In front of the Gyeounju National Museum today I saw 2 signs for the museum. One spelled Gyeoungju with the letter G, the other one started with the letter K. That's just one example of the terrible inconsistency. I don't know exactly how that all started, but I think it comes from the fact that someone who doesn't know English very well translated these names phonetically to English and messed up in the process.

I think it's a bit embarassing to make mistakes that could have been prevented if anyone asked anyone who knows some English how to write things out phonetically. Also, it makes it tough for people like me to read names of places on my map because I can't make out exactly what the Korean spelling is by just looking at the English counterpart. I prefer to use an English map wherever possible but if there's no Korean name next to the English, I end up learning a different word than what should be noted.

There's a simple phrases section in the back of the book. I've considered scanning over that carefully and writing a note to the author to fix a couple of the problems that I see. This is something that I'll have to consider when I'm back home.

Ulsan & Gyeoungju

Instead of staying in Gyeoungju, I decided to go straight to Ulsan a couple days ago. The reason being because Ulsan has much less to see there and my recently new friend Seonwoo works in the daytime lives in Ulsan as well. So I've been sleeping in Ulsan, visiting Gyeoungju in the daytime, and hanging out with Seonwoo in the evenings.

Seonwoo is one of the Korean girls I met in Thailand when I was at Cookie's.

Taking the train or bus back and forth from Gyeoungju is only about 45 minutes and costs about $3 one way, so it's been working out well. And since I love public transportation, I've even enjoyed sitting and watching the scenery go by and people getting on and off. I've popped in my earbuds and listened to music on my BB a couple of times as well.

So tonight I'm writing on this blog from a PC room in Ulsan as well.

In Ulsan I've been sleeping in motels that cost about $30 a night. I know the price seems low but the rooms are pretty nice. They are in good condition and the beds have been very clean. I've been sleeping well.


I had to pick up meds again while I've been in Korea because of some bumps I had on my skin. I went to the doctor that was 200m away from my grandmother's apt to see the doctor. There are apparently doctor offices everywhere near the apartments for diagnosis of common family health issues.

It cost me $28 to see the doctor twice and $35 for 7 days of antibiotics. Once again, I have nothing to report to my insurance because it's too inexpensive and doesn't meet my $100 deductible.

My aunt told me that with her insurance, she pays like $3 for meds and about $2 to see the doctor.

I had these big bumps on my skin around my neck that turned out to be an infection that I got while I was Thailand, either from random bacteria or from eating questionable meat. I don't know which and I probably never will, and I don't think I want to know.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Headed to Gyeoungju today

Today I leave for Seoul Station from my grandmother's house. From there I am going to take the KTX train to East Daegu, then the Saemaul train to Gyeongju. Gyeongju is the old capital of the Korean Shilla Dynasty. There should be some old artifacts and buildings for me to see there. After that I plan to head to Ulsan.

KTX is the newest Korean rapid transit invention to compete with Japan. It's their 300 km/h train system that connects the 2 largest cities in Korea within a couple of hours, Seoul and Busan. Along the way though, it makes a couple of stops at some bigger cities. I am getting off at an earlier stop, which is East Daegu.

Saemaul is a slower train, quite a bit slower but still not bad.

It's a hard life

So a couple days ago my cousin Yong Dae took me to a spa place near Seoul, still within the Gyeong-Gi Do area, at Tae Jeon. The place was called Spa Greenland.

We had a good time. The place was pretty big, had a lot of jets shooting water in funky directions, and very relaxing seats and hot pools. There were different water pools of mugwort, chrysanthemum, wine, and a couple other concoctions that I don't remember anymore. I wanted to take pictures but I thought people might object to me walking around with a camera in a swimsuit and/or naked place.

There was an area for massages and nail care but we didn't indulge. The main reason we were there was because my relatives hope that the water is good for my skin. I don't think it is but it's hard to turn down half a day of soaking in water anyway. I wouldn't say it's *bad* for my skin, I'm just saying I don't expect any magical restorative effects from it that would warrant the $30 daily admission fee.

The place is missing an actual swimming pool. My cousin was a little disappointed after he brought his goggles.

Afterwards we stopped at a self service bbq to have dinner. This is where you pick raw meat on skewers and then serve yourselves from a bbq line and cook the meat over a huge campfire inside barrels that look ilke they came from the Alaskan pipeline, or in this case, the Russian pipeline. Here's a picture from my gallery:

What I have on the skewer there is a thing of Korean pork bacon (삼겹살). You cook it, then slice it up and eat it wrapped inside a lettuce leaf with hot red bean paste. If you've come to eat Korean bbq with me before, you know what I'm talking about.

Green vs. Red and Star is my Craft

I was just watching a Korean finance channel and noticed that the green arrows point down for losses while the red arrows point up for gains.

Weird huh? I couldn't tell which which were gains or losses until they said something later on and realized that all my stocks had crashed today instead of making crazy gains.

Also, this time I seriously watched some of the Starcraft channel, and damn, those guys really are good. They are doing things that I wouldn't even think of.

Example: One guy brings long distance units over in a transport to attack another guy's gatherers. After about 2 seconds after the tanks have started hitting, the defender brings over a plane that has some ground units in it, drops them next to the tanks and then the tanks die. The guy knew the other guy was going to come drop tanks and had units ready in a transport!!! LOL

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hit by Unexpected Sadness

Yesterday on the way home from a good day of the spa and a nice meal, my cousin and I were stopped by a man in the middle of the road waving his arms and standing over a body on the ground. We stopped to the side and noticed it was a man that had been hit by something. My cousin called 119 (that's the Korean 911) and he reported to the police that someone had been hit in the middle of the road.

My cousin wasn't able to tell the police exactly where we were because we didn't really have a good idea on our exact location. Someone else stopped in another car and gave the police the exact location using my cousin's phone.

During that time I ran over to check the body. There was about 2 pints already lost in blood before I got there and it was trickling down to the side of the road. I could tell that it was a grandfather, probably someone around 65 years old and the man standing over him told me that he had accidentally hit him a few moments ago. Judging by the blood speed I felt that it was more like 5 min before we had gotten there.

The guy didn't seem like he was being evasive or anything, but he really should have called 119 first. He had decided to call the police first for some reason. I don't know if that would have saved the man's life but it might have. I think he might have been in shock when it happened and didn't know what to do. There were no skid marks in front of the body though, so either it was a freak accident or the guy was just driving way too fast. The shoe of the guy was about 2 feet from the body but his hat was about 10 feet away. It might have blown away after the hit, I'm just going to assume that for my own sanity.

I basically saw a man die before my eyes for the first time. It really sucked. The man was turned on his side and bleeding from the side closest to the ground or from his nose, and so I couldn't try to stop the bleeding or anything. I did not want to move his spine or his head because I might damage him further. When I first got there he was breathing, but by the time the ambulance arrived he had stopped breathing. The paramedics just rolled his body over quickly and placed him on the stretcher, basically giving me the hint that there was probably no hope there.

By the end the guy probably lost almost a gallon of blood. The man who had hit him was still standing there telling the police what happened. We told the police we didn't see the actual accident and that we were going to leave. The police said that was fine. They have my cousin's phone number if for some reason they need it.

I pulled up his shirt to check for blood on the top side of his neck but didn't see anything so there was nothing I could do. I did see one of his teeth fall out of his mouth when I did that though, that was interesting... to say the least. I won't forget that picture anytime soon.

While I was checking the body I had to flag down the cars going by because they were passing by at regular speed (80km/h) even though they saw me in the middle of the road on top of a body. Crazy Asian drivers.

I felt really weird afterwards, like I wanted to cry but I didn't know why. I think the whole thing was just so sad in that I didn't know the victim and it felt like life was wasted and I couldn't do anything about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Respecting the elderly

Today on the subway I saw a young guy give up his seat for a man that looked like he was in his 60s that was standing in front of him. That was really nice of the boy.

Then in the next 5 minutes, I saw an old man probably almost 60 lecture a couple of boys about random stuff in life for no reason at all. I think he just wanted to give people crap for no reason and the boys looked like a good opportunity.

The thing with Korean culture is that the boys are not allowed to say anything or talk back to the man because he's that much older than they are, whether he is wrong or right. They are allowed to walk away but I think this old man was scaring them a bit because his voice was so loud, so they didn't want to make a huge scene by walking away and having him start shouting at them. The man was definitely loud, everyone in the train could hear him and most people were snickering because the man is so ridiculous.

They had to stand there listening to his oral garbage until it was their subway stop and they got off. I felt kind of bad for them. The last thing the man said to them was that they need to watch out for dangerous girls when they get older and also to not listen so much to their mp3 players and headsets because it's bad for the brain. I chuckled to myself.

After the 3 boys exited the train, the old man walked to the next compartment, probably looking for his next victim.

Pretty Boy Bang Bang

The last few days of Thailand were spent in Bangkok. We decided to splurge a bit to escape from Thailand so we stayed at the Imm Fusion. It was a nice place and while we were in the hotel it felt like we weren't in Bangkok at all.

The things we did in Bangkok:
1. Swam in the hotel pool, which was awesome because it was under a sunroof about 20m high with extremely clean water
2. Visited MBK again to find another bottle of lotion for me. We ended up watching Mamma Mia there.
3. Had dinner at a hot pan buffet (shabu shabu) place near the hotel, which had questionable meat and that annoyed me greatly.
4. Walked around the Siam Paragon area looking at movie theaters before deciding to just watch it at MBK
5. Did the slow nasty river boat and the walk around town that I wrote about a week ago
6. Rode a nicer taxi boat up the main river to view the expensive hotels along the water. This ride cost only 60 cents! The tourist boat was $5 and it does exactly the same thing.
7. I visited the American Airlines office like I wrote in the other post
8. We had udon, omelete rice, and boiled chicken at a shopping center which I can't remember. I think it was in the Siam Paragon. The udon was there because it was the end of the Japan Food Festival.
9. Went dancing at the Sheraton Sukhumvit where drinks cost as much as they do in the states, but the music was great and the dance floor area wasn't too crowded.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ahn Thong Marine Park

We booked a trip to Ahn Thong Marine Park because I was starting to get bored with Koh Phangan even though I wanted to stay at Cookie's.

The speedboat ride was about 45 minutes long.

The first thing we got to do when we got there was snorkel! Here's what a woman looks like underwater when you can't see damn thing on your camera and everything keeps moving around.

This was supposed to be the main highlight of the day. It's the salt water lake in the middle of one of the islands that the book "The Beach" is written about. The movie was taken on the other side of Thailand, at Koh Phi Phi.

This is me showing off how old I can look sometimes and my belly.

And this is to show off how gay I can look as well, haha.

The lunch was a very nice Thai buffett. We also went kayaking in doubles but I wasn't able to take a picture of that, sadly because my waterproof bag wasn't working correctly.

The whole day's trip costed $60. The staff was very professional and they spoke English extremely well for Thai standards. I'd say it's just right. I wouldn't pay more for it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

During my time in Koh Phangan

Things I did while I was vacationing on the beach at Cookie's:
1. Met a girl named Katja that was in Thailand on vacation. She lives in China but is from Germany.
2. Sat and went snorkeling on our beach in front of Cookie's (Ay Pilaleum)
3. Sunbathed and went snorkeling in Haad Salad (another beach up north) There's a real full out reef out there if you swim out far enough. It reminded me of when I snorkeled in Maui.
4. Sunbathed and went snorkeling in Haad Yao (another beach up north)
5. Had a BBQ seafood dinner in Haad Yao. It included sea bass, red snapper, white tuna, and mussels
6. Drank different combinations of fruit lassies. Lassies are those drinks I told you guys about that have yogurt in them. I know for sure I had pineapple and lemon, and mango, and mango and lemon (this last combo was wacky)
7. Had cold fresh coconut drinks right out of the coconut. We did some searching to find ones that were cold because it was *so* hot outside
8. Drank a couple bottles of Sangsom rum. This is the Thai rum that supossedly has a hallucinagetic in it, although I can't confirm.
9. Rented a motorbike from Cookie's to go to all of these locations around the island
10. Walked to Thong Sala (the pier town on Koh Phangan) that was about 1.5km away at midnight to look for a bar to go to. There was only one open, and it was called Jumanji
11. Sat a big rock at the edge of the ocean under the moon and watched the halo around the moon. The sky was super bright in the middle of the night because of the moon. Almost bright enough to drive.
12. Drove to Haad Rin (where the full moon party was) to get a massage for Katja. Her neck was hurting pretty seriously. We went to this Chakra Massage place which sounded really cheezy but this totally ripped guy came out and put everything in order for her. She felt good after that for the week. The massage cost her over $20 and she said it was more like acupressure. While she was doing that I got a regular Thai massage from a little Thai girl (I felt bad) and gave her a nice tip. During a Thai massage there's this maneuver they're supposed to do to crack your back. They get behind you and pull you over their knee, but this girl couldn't do it because I'm so big & heavy for her. I was a bit surprised because I'm not really bigger than most of the white guys are visiting Haad Rin.
13. Visited a Chinese Temple that was labeled "Chiness Temple" on our map, so the whole week we called it Chiness like the end of the word "fitness." This temple was nice to gander at while going by. We stopped inside just to walk around and relax. I donated some money like I do at every temple. I thought about my family some while I was there.
14. Visited Ao Chaloklum at the northern top of the island and decided we didn't want to stay there. The beach area didn't look very nice. We considered taking a taxi boat to bottle beach, but didn't. Bottle beach is a beach that you can really only get to by boat. Ao Chaloklum is where I boarded a boat for my diving day though.
15. Visited the beach at Koh Ma up north. It was ok, but a bit creepy the way they had planted very light blocking trees in a row along the beach. It felt a little bit too manmade. The restaurant there was creepy too. It took forever to get someone to take our order of lassies and the place was really quiet even though the tables were half full.
16. Met a couple from the Netherlands named Erik and Emma that I enjoyed drinking and talking with.
17. Had dinner at several random restaurants on the road along the west coast beaches.
18. Ate lots of Som Tum, which is a spicy papaya salad.
19. Visited Tesco Lotus to get the rum. Thailand apparently only allows sale of alcohol during certain times of the day, so we had to go several times to figure this out.
20. Went out to dinner and drinks with the Netherlands couple the night before they left Thailand
21. Katja made a Thai friend before I met her. Her name was Aomy. She invited us out to dinner at a completely Thai family restaurant where we tried all kinds of different food like frog soup and raw pig bbq. This was a great experience for me. I'm so glad I got to go see that. The DJ there was a singer and he let me sing a couple of karaoke songs on the stage because we were the only group there after a while.
22. Met a couple that was traveling together that had met at the full moon party, Estelle and Chris. They happen to be from the same hometown in England (Birmingham). They showed us a girly bar late in the evening that we thought was cute but slightly uncomfortable (and expensive) of course.
23. Missed my boat & bus ride to Krabi (west coast of Thailand) because I was up too late
24. Missed my boat & bus ride to Krabi a 2nd time because I came in too late in the evening to check out. The office staff was gone and they had my passport because I hadn't returned the motorbike. I had to get on the boat at 7am and the staff doesn't get up until 8am.
25. Went to Haad Rin for the last time to the Backpackers Information center to purchase my boat & bus ride to Bangkok
26. Rode on a swing on Haad Salad that was hanging off a coconut tree on top of the edge of the water.
27. Took a day trip to Ahn Thong Marine State Park.
28. Went to 7 eleven to get a few of Katja's favorite things.
29. Drank lots and lots of water and a significant amount of ice cream
30. Had my palm read
31. Had some awesome Thai Iced Coffee and Thai Iced Teas courtesy of Katja
32. Met a couple Korean girls (Seram and Seonwoo) that I spoke with in Korean

No habla espanol

One thing I noticed when I got on the Japan Airlines plane to Tokyo (on my way to Seoul) was that everyone on staff assumed I was Japanese kept talking to me in Japanese until I said something in English and told them I don't understand Japanese. Just because I look asian, they just assumed I knew Japanese.

This was not a problem. I *am* on a JAL flight and I *do* look like I could be Japanese.

However, I found it funny that when I didn't say anything at all, they would just repeat the exact same sentence over and over in Japanese as if I just didn't hear what they just said, even though the look on my face is an obvious "huh?" They just repeat it over and over, like 4 or 5 times. I was waiting for them to just automatically flip to English because it was obvious I couldn't understand, but they never did.

They must get a lot of Japanese customers that are hard of hearing.

Lovely town, really

Remember when I told you about my last few days in Bangkok and how they were pretty tough on me?

There was about a 15 minute period during that time when I was walking by myself on one of the streets, and I had just gotten an ice cream from 7 eleven. Katja had left me to take a motorcycle up to her friend's house and come back down, so I had decided to walk in the general direction and hopefully meet up with her when she was done and coming back down.

I finished the ice cream. It was one of those wrapped up cones that have specific toppings on them. This one was probably pralines & almonds, because I really started to enjoy that flavor in Thailand (all the stores have about the same limited selection).

I looked for a trash can for about 200 meters while I was walking and couldn't find any. Thailand doesn't really have publicly managed trash cans like we do in the states. You just sort of have to get lucky with the occasional "is this bag (or box, or bowl) really supposed to be trash or did people just throw everything in here anyway?"

After the 60 seconds, I felt annoyed and thought about throwing the wrapper into the bed of a truck that was nearby. There was already trash in the truck but I was shocked my discovery of my personal unhappiness. To think that I would actually throw paper trash into somebody's vehicle because I was that annoyed? I can't remember the last time I was willing to do something like that.

I didn't throw my trash in there, I found a trash can soon after at yet another 7 eleven, but I was still surprised that I had gotten that close to purposefully littering. It was just a culmination of how I was feeling while I was in Bangkok. The city just drags and wears you down. It's dirty and uncomfortable, at least for me it was from the humidity and heat. Other people might feel more comfortable there though.

I remember that street: ugly cars were everywhere, parked which way and that, nasty looking water puddles on the side of the street, cars go by and splash water on your lower legs (that's if they don't hit you first), nobody speaks english, there are vendors prepared to rip you off, the smell in some parts would make your nose fall off if you stayed there long enough.

Gluttony is a gift

I have been stuffing my face with kimchee since I entered Korea. It's been great.

One thing I love about Korean food is that there's a ton of variety. There's:
1. a hundred types of side dishes
2. a hundred main dishes
3. food that you eat when you're drinking
4. food that you eat when you want a quick bite
5. food that you eat depending on what season it is
6. food that you eat depending on how much money you have
7. food that you eat when you want to impress somebody

I've been overeating too often that I think I've been gaining weight back. I don't know if that's necessarily true for sure but my stomach is starting to pop out a little and I think that's because of the late night drinking and eating anjoo as well.

I've been roaming around cousin's houses for the last 8 days or so and everytime I go somewhere my aunts are trying to force feed as much food as possible into my throat. It's hard for me to resist and it's tough because I feel guilty when I say no because all they want is for me to eat. Because of cultural history, they think that if I eat more I'll be happier and more thankful, when actually this is not true (for me). But they don't understand or really comprehend when I tell them this. They think I'm just trying to be nice and appreciative.

I've also been able to walk a lot less in the last 2 weeks, although I've been doing as much subway riding as possible. I've used the subway at least 10 times now, and if you know me, you know I love public transportation. When I say public transportation, I don't mean LA, I mean "effective" public transportation like Seoul, NYC, and Boston.

Monday, September 8, 2008

My new haircut

Here I am with my new girlfriend:

My hair is obviously not styled but it's shorter. I decided not to cut it so short this time because I didn't like the feel the last time.

My aunt (dad's oldest little sister) took me to a place that she goes to. They only charged me about $10 but I was told that's the standard for men's hair. That was awesome considering I pay like $35 in the US.

A good start

I am supposed to go on a date with a girl from Canada that is the daughter of a friend of my aunt (dad's sister). She's in Korea teaching english or something like that. I already forgot the details because I'm retarded.

I left a message and called one more time today to confirm the location of where she wants to meet tomorrow but she didn't call me back. I think this is a good start.

Withdrawal sucks

Once in a while I find myself picking up my bb and turning it on to see if it has magically started working in a country where it can't possibly work. I'm hoping for the Disney happy ending. I love myself.

My first friend in Thailand.... almost

I met a group of local people while I was in Koh Phangan that included a Thai woman named Sayjai. She has a son from a Thai man that she's not with anymore because he passed away several years ago.

I thought it was cool that she was so friendly and willing to talk to me even though I can't speak a word of Thai. One of the guys that was in the group is her boyfriend of several years so everything felt very comfortable. There was no possible way she could be looking for anything more than friends when she meets new people. Or so I thought...

Right when I first met them, she told her the guy she's with was her best friend. He told me she was his wife. I obviously noticed the difference but I shrugged it off to them joking with me. It didn't really matter to me anyway, I have no interest in either of them.

The next morning I went to her restaurant to try some of her authentic Thai cooking, which was really good of course. After the end of the meal, while her "boyfriend" was out doing something, she gave me her phone number on a piece of paper and told me to call her sometime. She said she didn't have an email address yet so a phone call would have to do. I was surprised at her proposal but I assumed that she wanted a penpal, so I said sure. But then she told me a story of how she had gone to a gypsy fortune teller and this fortune teller had told her that a Korean or Japanese man would come into her life and change it forever.

I was obviously a bit shocked so I asked her what about her "boyfriend"? She told me that she likes him for now but has told him she doesn't want to get married, so she's looking for somebody else even though he's madly in love with her. She mentioned that she would like to come visit me in LA sometime when I'm back. I didn't know what to say so I said, "uhhhhhhhhhhhh......... ok" and then we took a picture and I left. heh

It bummed me out a bit because I thought I was going to be making an actual Thai friend in Thailand. She really was cool but I guess I know why now.

Thai flag

While I was in Thailand I noticed that the Thai flag is marked everywhere you look. Thai people either are extremely proud of their country or are very addicted to several colors of the spectrum.

Almost every boat, many buildings, lots of cars, on the back of taxis, on television, it's everywhere. Here's one from my dive boat:

If we had this many flags in the states, I think everyone would make fun of us and call us pompous, but in a country like Thailand, it doesn't come off the same way.

The weight of Korean values

Someone in my family (I don't remember who it was) mentioned to me this week that my grandfather was planning to pay for everyone in my extended family to fly to the US to be at my wedding before he passed away.

That made me feel really sad & guilty, just like the day I found out he had passed away.

Worth the money

Korea is not a cheap country. It's cheaper than the US yes, but it's about on par with NZ, which makes it slightly less but still significant on my budget.

Assuming that, the PC rooms here are so cheap. They cost less than most of Thailand. It's $1 per hour here, and the computers are in stellar condition (unlike Thailand). Pretty amazing I tell you. I'm planning to be here for a couple hours uploading some pictures and updating my blog.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

안주 (anju)

안주 is the Korean term for the food/snacks you eat while you're drinking. I went out the last 2 nights with different cousins and had some interesting things to eat. I found out that you spend about half of your nights money on drinking, and the other half goes to food. So unlike in the states, if you go out and spend $140 in 8 hours drinking, you spent only about $70 of it on actual alcoholic beverages.

I think the concept is fun and very tasty of course. Food always tastes good when you're drinking, but I do feel the guilt when I wake up in the morning and think about the 3000 calories I swallowed the previous night before I went to sleep. There's no way that I'd be skinny in this country if I actually lived here. There's just too much food available to me and I can't control myself.

So what did I eat?

2 nights ago I went out with my mom's youngest sister's son, his name is Jae Hwan. We had only beer that night. For food we ate a breaded dessert with ice cream and butter on it, a spicy fried popcorn chicken dish, and takoyaki (breaded fried octopus bits). It was the best tasting takoyaki I had, which probably means it was really unhealthy. It didn't have a lot of octopus in it compared to takoyaki I've had in the states.

Last night I went out with the first & second sons of my dad's oldest younger sister (Yong Dae and Yong Jin), the second son of my dad's older brother (Ki Baek), and the first son of my dad's middle younger sister (Dae Woo). I know all this sounds confusing the way I'm describing people but this is how everyone in Korea thinks about relationships. They have names for every type of relationship between 2 people. I'll go into that in another post later. I'm serious, it's crazy how detailed the system is.

So anyway, last night we drank mostly soju (rice wine). It's 40 proof, so 20% alcohol. For food we had bbq'd sea snake, bbq'd boneless chicken feet, and pan fried spam with tofu.

The chicken feet didn't even look like chicken feet really. They just looked like boneless pieces of some kind of meat with skin on them. They were bbq'd and flavored pretty hard so it would be tough to recognize even if you ate it without knowing. They look nothing like the chicken feet when you eat dim sum.

The sea snake was interesting. You cook them long ways after you flavor them, and then before you eat it you cut it up with scissors in bite size pieces. When you do that, the intestines expand and fall out on the side. My cousin told me that that's when you know they're ready to eat. haha

My cousin shared a couple of drinking customs with me as well, but they're too hard to really describe here except it involves soju glasses stacked on top of glasses of beer and also throwing beer wet napkins at the wall to see whose falls first.

I have a video of that part, so someday you'll get to see it.