Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Party in Shanghai

I went out last night to a public Halloween party with a couple of cool guys and the hostel owner last night. It was at a bar/club in the Jing An district only about 1-2km from our hostel. I don't remember the name of the place right now.

The people I went with were Dan (England), Dan (New Zealand), and Xiao (China). I don't have a picture of us unfortunately, but Dan got one so I will have to get it off him later.

They were doing a special thing last night which was all you can drink for $21. That worked out beautifully for us, because another place we wanted to check out was $7.

When we got inside, the atmosphere was cozy, it felt like a house party. Almost the entire party was foreigners from all different countries. I had a good time chatting and dancing with different people.

Most of the people were living in Shanghai because they came in costume. I don't even know where to get the costumes so I couldn't really dress up.

I don't remember a particularly good costume, but the tasteless costume winner was a huge guy who dressed up as a tampon. I didn't even know what he was until Dan told me. I didn't even take a picture because it was gross. I am currently trying my hardest to extract it from my memory forever.

On my way to Beijing

The train speed is 250 km/h right now. I am impressed, seriously. I did not expect China to be this developed in their train system. This is on par with Korea and Japan already.

I just started a 10 hour train ride from Shanghai to Beijing. The seats are pretty comfortable too. The car feels more stable than some of the Japanese Shinkansen trains.

Spicy Chicken Sandwich

I decided to try this spicy chicken sandwich at McDonald's because Jesse told me it's really good here. It really is good. It's spicier as well, to the point where Heather and my boss Dave would both probably have a tough time eating the whole thing.

But you know me, I *love* spicy. Even the dumplings I had last night I was dipping into all kinds of chili oil. Yummmmmmm

Jesse also told me that KFC is better in China so I will be trying that at some point as well.

Chinese characters in Korea

I found out while I was in Korea this time around that North Korea does not use any Chinese characters. They only use pure Korean. South Korea has always used some Chinese characters in our language.

Doesn't that seem ironic? North Korea is not South Korea because of Chinese influence. I remember thinking that was weird when I found out.

My nearterm plan

I visited the Shanghai Musuem yesterday with a friend Dan (New Zealand) from the hostel. The museum was great. It was basically a "artifacts from the history of China" museum and was not necessarily about Shanghai.

There was a room full of jade artifacts and a currency history hall and also a bunch of memorabilia from all the different cultures of people who live in China. This room really caught my eye. There was clothing in there that looked so different from eachother. You would have thought that they all came from different countries, but I was impressed they were all Chinese.

After visiting the museum, I think I would rather like to see more of non-metropolis China, so what I'm planning at this point is to spend a couple days in Beijing and then head to Kunming and the rest of southwest China as soon as possible, in case I feel like exploring some serious backwoods areas out there.

I *might* look into going north of Beijing as well when I get up there. It would be cool to go meet and talk to Koreans who live in China.

But first, I have to get to Beijing. I bought a train ticket today for tomorrow morning. It's a 9 hour ride of sightseeing during the day. I tried to get the plush seat for $70 but they didn't have any left, so I went with the seat below that for $45. We'll see how that goes. I'll let you know.

First censored site

I think I found my first censored website in China. I can get to using my phone but not on a computer in my hostel. The page just doesn't load.

Forgot to mention

The city seems really dirty because of the air (just like Bangkok was) and that's bugging me as well. I feel like I'm losing a day of my life everytime I breathe in.

Dirty ground doesn't seem to bother me too much but dirty air gets on my nerves because I feel like it limits me physically.

Preparing for Beijing

I'm currently at the Shanghai Train Station. There's a *couple* of people here with me as you can see.

I've decided to leave for Beijing tomorrow because I don't think there's anything else I want to see in this city this time around.

There's not that much for a backpacker to do here. Everything that seems good seems like you need a reservation or you need to book things way ahead of time to get in on it.

It's a mega city, so the nightlife is probably wonderful but I don't feel like experiencing that because I'm 1. Alone and 2. not carrying the right clothes.

Shanghai seems like a great place to visit if you're on vacation, as in here for 1-2 weeks to live it up. Or possibly it would be nice if you knew someone who lived here / used to live here.

I'm not surprised. This is sort of what I expected before I came.

I'm a lot more excited about Beijing. I am literally tingling at the thought of getting to hike the great wall and to see tianamen square and the forbidden city.


Anyone know why there's a statue of Johann Sebastian Bach in the middle of Shanghai?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's a Republican Halloween in Shanghai

I was looking for something to do tonight and the woman who works my hostel told me to look at and on there I found this poster starring the GOP candidates:


Shanghai Dumplings

Normally when I order these dumplings at Purple Dot I call them Shanghai dumplings. I just realized as I was eating them right now that I'm actually in Shanghai eating these dumplings. Woah? Am I right?

P.s. They were purchased from a roadside stand and they are delicious.


From atop the Jin Mao tower, the 3rd tallest building in the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Smog? What smog?

You wouldn't believe how nasty it looks here. I can almost not see a building that is only about 1km away from me and you can smell it in the air, literally.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm weak today

I just went into a toilet stall that said "for weak only" in huge letters, like size 400 font. It was the only normal flushing toilet. The other stalls were squatters and while I absolutely *love* to bend down for minutes with no pants on trying to clean out my system, I opted for the chair for little fragile people.

I thought I could hear little weak people outside the door cursing me for taking their stall.

Jesse's apt in China

I stayed here in this posh area inside Dongguan. It's around the size and feel of a nice Korean apartment, but in this area it only costs $900 a month. He basically lives in the nicest part of town. The area around the apt looks like a Vegas hotel with less lights.

They have a spare bedroom which was really nice. That's where I slept for 2 nights.

Shenzhen Baoan international airport

I said bye to jesse and kenny at the airport. They dropped me off because it's right next to the ferry terminal that will take them to Hong Kong for their flight to Tokyo today.

They have fishtanks in the airport here like the ones you see when you walk into Chinese restaurants.

Shanghai here we come!

Jesse's friend Kenny helped me book my flight to Shanghai. I am headed there tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

233m Bungy video

And there you have it.

Pretty pictures from Seoraksan

Here are some other pretty pictures that I got while I was in Seoraksan National Park that week.

This incredible boulder formation is called Ulsan Bawi.

This tree had a nice red hue so I snapped a shot of it.

On the trail up to the top.

From the top of the mountain, here's the view I had into the mountain range below.
Some of the stairs I had to climb up to get to the peak.

5km 1700m elevation in 2.25 hours

While I was in Seoraksan in northeastern Korea, I hiked up to the biggest peak in the area. It was 1708m high and the peak was called DaeChungBong.

The trail was only 5km one way, so it was like climbing stairs almost all the way up.

There were lots of people on the trail, because it was during the middle of the foliage viewing season. Most people I saw were middle age, say around 40 to 50, because most other people were probably busy working or attending school. I chose the middle of the week to go because it would be less crowded and also I wanted to keep weekends available for seeing cousins in Seoul when they were (hopefully) more free.

Another panoramic view of me at the top of the mountain.

Here's what I had for lunch that day. It's called JooMukBap and it's basically rolled up rice with sesame seeds in a little bit of oil. I had this with a Kimchee side dish that I bought at a restaurant in the town that morning before I started the hike.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Swarmed by taxi drivers

As I was exiting Champing station, guys wearing shirts from every direction came over to me (because they see my backpacks) to ask me if I need a taxi ride.

It was crazy. I felt my stress level go straight up trying to dodge everyone and protect my stuff.

Arrived in Dongguan

This city that I'm in now is so small of a city in China that it's not mentioned in my lonelyplanet book.

Yet it has 7 million people...

Hong Kong overall

My friend Jesse said it best, it's basically a massive Chinatown.

I did expect many english speakers but I didn't expect that I could get around without speaking a single word of Cantonese.

It's unbanized city with natural beauty entrenched because it is based on a peninsula and a number of main islands. Hong Kong itself is literally an island. It has a couple peaks, trams, an amusement park, and multiple tourist and vacation districts on its island.

For being within Asia, it is a pleasant place for anyone to go that speaks English but has an opening to everything Chinese.

The selection of food and shopping is quite amazing. Prices are about matching those ok Korea so it's not exactly cheap. The food is a little less than in the states though. It's easy to find little restaurants that sell good food quite cheap because they sacrifice look (of the restaurant) to keep the price down.

From what I ate there and noticed from the restaurants, they like the meat in their food. I found it tough in normal restaurants to find food that was mostly vegetables, except for bok choi.

The subway is very nice. The ferries were good. Most everything except cleanliness of alleyways and smog seemed to be up to Western standards.

Smog was terrible though, almost every day I was there.

The nightlife seemed good. I wasn't able to do much because I lack the proper clothing so I couldn't get a good read on that.

2 thumbs up for train quality

I'm going to go ahead and say, the train I'm on today is far smoother and quieter than I had expected. It's actually quite amazingly good. I didn't expect this from China. The seats are nice and soft. It's clean. Lots of overhead luggage space.

I guess this is probably why the girl from China winced when I asked her if Chinese trains were like the Thai one that we were on when we were headed from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Or maybe... This train is only nice because I'm coming from Hong Kong. We will see in a couple days time.

Western fast food score

This is for the trip so far. I'm trying to keep this to a minimum.

# of times I ate at mcdonalds: 2 (sendai and tokyo)
# of times I ate at kfc: 2 (brisbane and tokyo)
# of times I ate at Pizza Hut: 1 (seoul)
# of times I was tempted by Yoshinoya: 4 (Japan)
# of times I ate at Wendy's: 1 (auckland)
# of times I ate at taco bell: 0
# of times I wished Taco Bell would open up international stores: 436
# of times I ate at TGI Fridays: 1 (nagano)
# of times I ate at Papa John's: 1 (busan)
# of times I wished I had In-N-Out: 7
# of times I wished Taco Bell would open up international stores: 437
# of times I wished Taco Bell would open up international stores: 438

P.s. Someone please send 2 burrito supremes and a mexican pizza express overnight mail to the Shanghai Sheraton please. Attn: jim song the hungry

P.p.s. Make sure the mexican pizza does not flip over. I hate borked mexican pizza!

Picked up some food

The sandwiches they sell at the Circle K at the train station don't have crusts on them. I wonder if that's new or if that's how it always was.

This is a smoked chicken and egg salad sandwich and it's ok but wayyyyy too salty. I am having to gulp down my grapefruit juice to get by.

I'm alone again.. For now

Because I've been hanging out with Dawn (Scotland), I've noticed that I haven't needed to blog as often.

This is probably because most of my thoughts are me wanting to point out things and bounce ideas off somebody, and when nobody is around the blog does the trick, but if someone is around, then half my thoughts are satisfactorily responded to so I don't feel the need to blog.

Leaving Hong Kong today

And I'm entering China. I'm excited I get to use my Visa even though that sounds stupid.

I'm headed to Hung Hom train station right now to catch one going to Dongguan which should be an hour away. I'm going to visit my friend Jesse from Seattle.

Money for nothing and chicks for free

I am in a bar tonight called Kangaroo bar in eastern tsim sha sui (kowloon) drinking stella artois and listening to the song by Dire Straits that is in the subject title.

I've signed up to do the bungee jump off macau tower tomorrow at 1pm. I'm getting mentally prepared for it.

I've been hanging out with a girl I met in Tokyo that is from Scotland. She is following the F1 racing circuit from city to city and happens to be in HK with me right now. She is hardcore.


I survived my 2nd bungee jump while I was in Macau. It's the highest fixed bungee jump in the world and it cost me $150 including the DVD.

I will have the video up for you guys in a couple of days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Couldn't finish in time

I was unable to see as much of the history museum as I wanted (british colonial history), but we also headed into the museum of science anyway (which was in the same area anyway), and I decided to go with the weekly museum pass that allows unlimited entrance to 7 museums in the area anyway for a week (because it was 60 cents more), so I will be able to go back in tomorrow or some other day to finish it off.


Garlic salt and green onion fried pork, bok choi, turnip cake with rice. Of course all dipped in hot chili sauce like at purple dot in Seattle. :)

The food here is amazingly good and cheaper than the US. It's about the price of food in Korea.

Museum of history

I've got 45 min before it closes today to run through hong kong history! Haha

Good thing admission was $1!

I'm really interested to know about the british background and stuff though.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Victoria peak

This is a small hill/mountain on Hong Kong Island. If you stick your head over the edge, the wind is going like 40mph. Pretty wack.

The day is unclear so it's not such a great view but it's not bad for $6 including the tram.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Korean car parking video found on Youtube!

I found an ok example of car park tetris. Excuse the HK link, I don't know how to convert it to American.

Sms welcome texts

Most of the time my phone roams to a new network (sometimes multiple networks in 1 country), my phone gets an sms welcome message from each network telling me how I should dial HK numbers locally and what numbers to dial in case of emergency.

HK is the first location I remember getting suggested a phone number for shopping and dining assistance though. That sounds pretty cool but I probably won't be calling them unless I somehow find out how much it is beforehand.

It would be fun to just stand on a corner somewhere and ask for the nearest dim sum under $15 a person or something like that. I think I'd feel important.

Pants pocket process documentation

I've been wearing the same 3 pairs of pants from North Face for almost 5 months now.

I've got a pants pocket process that I've been following for most of that time, and now I've got it down to a science. I think I could get ISO 9001 certified if I documented what I was doing. My boss Dave knows how much I *love* documenting processes (actually I'd rather jump off cliffs sometimes but I thought this one would be mildly humorous.)

My pants have a total of 7 pockets. 2 regular front pockets, 2 velcro front pockets, 1 zipper pocket inside a front pocket, and 2 rear velcro pockets.

In the front left pocket, I insert various things of importance, such as tickets or receipts that I might need later.

In the front left velcro pocket, I have my wallet. I don't put the wallet in the back pocket for security reasons.

In the front right pocket I have my soon to be trashed items, such as ticket stubs I don't need anymore and maps I don't need anymore, and ice cream or candy wrappers. I also have my camera in this pocket. I used to have my camera in the front right velcro pocket, but it was kicking the crap out of my blackberry physically so I had to separate them.

In the front right velcro pocket goes my blackberry (aka satan because it's red) all by its lonesome.

I put my phone and camera in those respective pockets because my phone has a cord on it and I don't like it sticking out of the smaller velcro pocket for security reasons. Also I take my out my camera more often than my phone (surprising, I know) and it's easier to drop in than to open and close the velcro everytime.

In the front zipper pocket goes all my loose change.

Nothing in the rear pockets usually unless I have a huge map that is annoying in my front pocket. I put it there and secretly hope it falls out when I sit down somewhere so that I don't have to deal with it.

Periodically throughout the day when I have downtime, I take out the stuff in my front left pocket and move it to the front right pocket if I don't need it anymore.

When I get to a trash can I throw away everything in my right pocket without thinking about it too much and sift quickly through the left pocket to check if anything big is disposable.

I keep all tiny tickets like subway stuff in the zipper pocket with my change because they're hard to pull out quickly on the go if they're in the big pocket.

Bored yet? If you actually read this far I commend you.

The main dish

Salted fish, chicken, and scallop in black bean sauce casserole over rice

Tonight's appetizer

Assorted mushrooms braised in abalone sauce

Obama 1 Mccain 0

I voted today using a form that allows me to write in whoever I want, including Mickey Mouse, but I chose Obama over Mickey because Mickey told me that his foreign experience comes from his expertise with EuroDisney in Paris and I thought that was a stupid answer for a politician.

First bottle of wine in China

Compliments of Cathay Pacific Airways business class flight attendants. Apparently nobody else wanted any chard, so instead of throwing the bottle away nearly full, one of the ladies secretly offered it to me before I left the plane. Haha

They were entertaining me with conversation almost the entire flight as well. I have to say their service was awesome, even though their in flight media system was archaic and problematic.

Woah mama

I just asked about the size of the double rooms here at the guesthouse I'm staying at. Instaed of showing me an empty room she just opened a room that someone was already using. When I looked inside I was surprised because I saw bags on the floor inside.

First thing I thought when I saw that was that I'm not taking my security belt off while I'm staying here and I'm going to carry my small backpack with me when I leave to wander around.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weird british people

They pronounce the word "schedule" as "shedule" with the c silent. It's bugging me but I'll get over it. :)

I'm watching BBC in the background

Crap the red sox lost. That sucks.

China is freaking massive

I've been reading some of my new lonelyplanet book on China, and have already learned a bunch of things.

China borders India. Did you guys know that? I sure didn't.

Also, Tibet is *inside* China? Chalk me up as ignorant on that one. I always thought that Tibet was its own country.

China is credited with inventing not only paper and gunpowder, but also the sport of football (soccer).

China got their first Olympic gold in 1984. I think they got like 55 golds this year. That's a big difference in 25 years. I think that's a good sign of how quickly the country is modernizing if anything. That's actually a bit scary. It's like a superhuman race coming to existence.

My elevator karma is lower than the basement

When I was younger I used to press every button on the panel before I got off so that whoever got on the elevator next would have to stop at every single floor before they could get off. I know that's bad but hey it was funny back then. Yeah I was that kid :)

I did this many more times than I would like to admit. I did it even in elevators that went to >40 floors. One time I got on the elevator the next day and noticed that someone had posted an angry sign that asked people not to do that, so I did it again.

So yes, my elevator karma is terribly low. And this last week I got on the elevator at my grandma's house and got my first hit of karma. I was late to meet one of my cousins and when I got on the elevator, somebody had hit all 15 buttons and so I had to stand there repeatedly hitting the close door button and debating whether or not it would be worth it to run down 12 flights of stairs. I decided not to run in the end. I didn't want to start sweating before I was headed out.

Btw, some elevators in new buildings in Korea give you the ability to turn off floors by pushing the buttons again. That was totally sweet when I first saw that.

Where's the "baby?"

In Korea, babies are named after birth, because the name depends on what day and time the baby was born, and what the closest religious icon says (monk, priest), what a fortune teller says, what it looks like, what your grandmother thinks (I don't even know if this is true), and other factors I can't think of right now but you get the point.

I didn't know this until this week when I went to visit my cousin's baby and they told me he didn't have a name yet.

They recently agreed on the name Kim Sung Goon (김성군).

I can almost not breathe

Check out the enormous size of my room tonight in HK. It's at the New International Guesthouse. $30 a night

I can almost open and extend my arms without touching the walls!

I think I could find a bigger room in San Diego prison.

My short term life goals

My main goal for today is to find the US Embassy and send in a write in vote for Obama.

Secondary goal is to find out how I'm going to get to Macau in the next few days to do the 233m bungee jump off the tower.

Tertiary goal for today is to eat as much dim sum as I can possibly fit into my belly. Particularly sticky rice wraps.

A couple things to correct

I was wrong on a couple things on previous posts.

I found out from my cousin that the USA baseball team during the Olympics did not play any major leaguers. Everyone was from the minor leagues or from the AAA. Considering that and the fact that they still got 4th place, that's pretty good. Which shows that if they actual had professionals playing the games would have been stupid and they would have had to enact mercy rules every game when USA was up by 100 in the 3rd inning. That explains why Korea was 1st, and not 2nd.

On the other side of the world, Korea stopped their major league baseball domestically so that they could send the best of their best to China so that they would have a chance.

It's gotta be a bit deflating to know that even if you won gold, it's only because the best team didn't play.

That reminds me of back in college, when I held a Quake (computer game) tournament that I didn't play in because if I played, nobody would sign up for it. (There was a little money involved, $5 buy in) I literally had to promise people I would not play in the tourney to get them to sign up.

The other thing I found out from a youngest girl cousin on my mom's side is that Korean and Japanese women wear short skirts because it's more appropriate for them to show lots of leg than show lots of cleavage. When she said that I totally realized that was exactly what was happening. Every girl I'd seen had shown no chest at all, just leg.

So basically their trend is sort of the opposite of the USA, where we think that showing cleavage is sexy but ok, but showing your entire leg up to your asscheek is really slutty looking.

I bet when Korean people come to the USA they initially think the same thing I did.

I just turned spellcheck off temporarily

Because it just detected like 12 unknown words in that last short little blog post and that was way too many button clicks required just to send that email to blogger.

Need a chinese (cantonese preferred) linguist asap

Ok, who knows how to pronounce "Tsim Sha Tsui?" Cause that's where I'm headed to find my hostel. Haha

Apparently it's the part of Kowloon where all the cheap foreigners (like me) stay in HK. There's an area inside Tsim Sha Tsui that is called Chungking Mansions that has like 50 hostels or something close to that number.

Bring on the Hong Kong baby!

Dim sum + croissant + coffee + banana + cheese + fresh baby tomatoes

Taken this morning in the Cathay Pacific business lounge.

P.s. My bb is working again. Woot!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Car Park Tetris

In Seoul, because space is so limited and car elevators are expensive, the parking lot in front of my grandmother's apartment is completely packed every night. And by completely packed, I mean that there's literally one lane of opening in the lot that you can drive through and out of.

The parking lot itself is designed similarly to western parking lots, so there are stalls where people park their cars normally all around the edges.

The "Korean" parking process starts after all the normal spots have been filled. What happens is people come in and doublepark their cars perpendicular to the ones already parked, and they leave the doors locked and the gear in neutral. That way, when someone needs to leave, they will push your car out of the way by rolling it a couple of meters and then pull their car out of the space and go.

This double parking thing happens basically in the entire lot. Almost every open space of asphalt is filled with double and triple parked cars, so sometimes if you're parked in a deep space, you'll have to push 3 to 4 cars around back and forth to get yourself out of there.

The main thing that you need to be careful about is that you don't get dirt and grime from the cars you're pushing all over your clothes when you're leaving to go somewhere. I already did that once. :)

Secondhand smoke sucks

I was in an Internet cafe the other day near my grandmother's house, planning to do some writing on this blog, but got caught up with Skype and chat.

I walked out of there intending to go to the Chinese consulate area to pick up my Chinese Visa which had been approved, but on the way there I felt all dizzy and lightheaded. I thought at first it was because my muscles were hurting so much from hiking earlier in the week but it later disappeared after a couple of hours. I think it was due to the really bad smoke inside the PC place that I was inhaling for several hours.

I've been to that same place before though, and never felt that way before, or just never noticed, so I'm a little surprised. The place *is* basically like a casino though, people smoking everywhere in a small room with tons of vents going. Maybe the air wasn't working as well that day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

um.... wow?

My portfolio has shot up 20% in the last 2 days of trading. I really wish I had some free cash lying around about 5 days ago. I could have made a fortune, especially on like BWEN, which was at 5 on Friday night and hit 14.5 this morning and now it's at 11.

I think this serves as a lesson for me. I need to always have a good amount of liquid cash just lying around just so I can take advantage of these crazy opportunities.

New Life

My cousin Yongdae and his wife had a new baby about a week ago while I was finishing up Japan. It's a very cute baby as well. Currently both mother and son are in a place where they help the mother recover from delivering and the baby to live it's first days outside the mother's womb. It's like a hospital but a lot more laid back because it's just for healthy mothers and their newborns. This is to help the mother out so that she doesn't have to try to take care of the baby while she's recovering and to help keep the baby as safe as possible as well.

I didn't realize this kind of place existed but apparently it's a common thing in Korea. She's staying there with the baby for 2 weeks and then going home.

Here are a couple pictures of the baby:

ADIDAS makes great shoes

There was this white guy at dinner tonight in the restaurant that ordered BiBimBap (비빔밥) and for some reason he was creeped out by the egg that comes on top. If you've ever had that dish before you know what I'm talking about. It's always sunny side up and sitting on top of the rice with all the fixings.

Anyway, he's sitting with a Korean woman and when he sees the egg he says, "disgusting" and pulls the egg out with his spoon and puts it on another plate. He then asks her why he was served a raw egg. He was *not* served a raw egg. It was sunny side up. And while he's eating he keeps asking her what a raw egg is called in Korean and what it would have been called if it was cooked and repeats the word disgusting multiple times.

The first time he complained I felt sorry for him but then after a couple of times I felt like he was trying to belittle the food or something. I started getting pissed off. I think I was getting pissed off because I could understand what he was saying, because nobody else in the entire restaurant seemed to care, except for the lady that he was with.

After a while I started to think he was a jackass for complaining about the safest dish on a Korean menu, and then I slowly leaned toward wanting to kick his ass just so he would shut up.

By the end of my meal I had grand pictures in my head of sticking my foot so far up his ass he could spell ADIDAS with his tonsils but I think I was overreacting a little bit. :)

I do notice myself looking over at foreigners when they come into public places in Korea. I try not to but I keep doing it without thinking about it. It's a bit embarrassing. But you know, a Caucasian guy in a Korean restaurant in Seattle? Not so rare. But a Caucasian guy in a restaurant in eastern Korea is rarer.

p.s. I love it when my post title has nothing to do with the post itself. It's beautiful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I like flow charts

I found this picture on the web today. I think it's awesome. It made me laugh out loud when I was alone in the room. That's how I test when something is funny, if it makes me lol while I'm alone.

Baseball Schmaseball

Like I mentioned before in an older post, Korean sports on television only plays just enough of the game to show the parts that actually matter, such as when a team scores or there is a key strikeout to end the inning with bases loaded. It's pretty awesome. It's like the best parts of baseball (hits, runs, fights) without the worst parts of baseball (commercials, chewing, spitting, deciding, thinking, meditating).

I just watched the entire Korean baseball teams' Olympic route in Beijing on television in about an hour and a half. They played most every game and I was cheering for them the entire time. They were so awesome. I cried at the end when they ran into the field even though I already knew the outcome before I started watching.

The reason that kind of scene makes me cry is that I know how it feels to reach the goal that you've been fighting for. I know what it feels like to want something so bad that you think about it every single moment of every day, and every time you are outside running or swimming a lap or running up stairs or puking your guts out, you are doing it for this one goal in your mind that you are concentrated on. And when that goal becomes yours, it's an amazing feeling. Even if they lost I would still cry, because I've had that experience as well.

One thing that surprised me was that there were a lot of errors committed in the games I watched. More so than most baseball games that I've watched in the states. I wonder what it was, maybe it was the pressure of playing in the Olympics (the true World Series *cough cough*)?

I was also a little surprised the USA did so badly as well. We have the oldest history in baseball and we have superstars every year that we consider amazing and some of the top athletes year after year in general ability, yet we couldn't beat a bunch of small asian people. haha

Yeah, it makes me laugh.

Jayne and Apgujeoung

On Saturday night, I met up with a friend of Leo's: Jayne. We met in Shinsa (신사) which is a district that borders the most expensive area of Seoul, Apgujeoung (압구정). We were planning to go clubbing that night at arguably the most famous club in Seoul, called Circle.

In Shinsa, we ate at an asian fusion restaurant. I forgot what we ate and what the name of the restaurant was. I guess you could say I wasn't really paying attention. I know that dinner was 2 dishes of noodle stir fries that we shared. I don't even remember what was in them. :)

That's where we started on the beer. After dinner, she took me to a place in Apgujeoung called S Bar, where we drank very expensive cocktails in a very Western looking place with techno/trance playing in the background. The only thing non western about it was that nobody was dancing. Koreans just don't dance unless they're at a dancing venue. This I have come to realize. Even if they're wasted and there's really good music playing, they won't dance. They'll sit in their chairs pretending to move their hips.

Vodka & soda at this S bar place was $13 a drink.

After that, we were supposed to meet her sister and her sister's friend at Circle, but when we got there, there was no line and it looked empty. It was 11pm and they told me that sometimes that place gets started a bit later than that, so we headed over into a wine bar where we had house whites and reds for the rest of the night and sort of forgot about Circle altogether.

By the time we exited the wine bar it was 2:30am so they took me over to a late night food area where I had some ramen and then we took cabs home. Or at least they put me in a cab and I went home. I'm not exactly sure how the 2 girls got home. I should probably ask them next time I see them. heh

Normally I would make sure everyone else was getting home safely first, but this time I don't feel bad, since I'm the visitor and I'm the one that doesn't know exactly what he's doing. I was also falling madly asleep because I hadn't slept well the night before, which was funny. I fell asleep while we were still talking in the wine bar even.

The night was a lot of fun even if we didn't get to go dance. I wanted to because I have yet to see a nightclub in Korea and wanted to see what it was like inside. The girls were super cool and the whole evening was laid back, it was just a comfortable environment considering I'd never met any of them before that evening.

Warning: Bi Polar Disorder Imminent

Yes. I think that before I get home I will have the symptoms of this disease. I think I'm already showing some early signs.

Those people I said I met in Tokyo: I hung out with them another night (my last night in Japan) we went all out. First round was buying beers from Family Mart and drinking them outside on the street. Second round was visiting the nearby Karaoke bar. This was no ordinary karaoke though, it was $8 a person each hour for singing + unlimited alcohol. Did you miss that? Unlimited alcohol.

It was obvious we were in Japan as well. We ordered our drinks by looking at a menu and then using the same karaoke remote and karaoke machine to punch in the codes for each drink we wanted, as if we were queuing up a song on the machine. After about 2.5 minutes, someone would knock on our door and a very nice man would come in and give us the drinks we ordered. It was awesome.

Also, the songs we ordered we could either punch into the remote like the regular way we're all used to, or we could use the handheld LCD device that was like a navigational menu system for the Karaoke machine to order songs.

After that we bought more goods from Family Mart and sat in the outdoor tables in front of our hotel(hostel) and hung out for a couple more hours chitting and chatting. Some of us were awake until nearly sunrise.

I had a really good time that night, but when I woke up in the morning, I had to say bye again to a group of people I'd had enjoyed myself with. After I left them all, I could feel a bit of nostalgia already as I boarded my train and it started rolling towards the airport. I'm not surprised anymore by this feeling that I get. I'm so used to it now. I just push forward knowing that I will meet more people and hopefully things can only get better for me in the future.

The consolation prize is that I made some friends that I will hopefully see again when I travel in the future, and I will be hanging out with one of them in Hong Kong when I get there because coincidentally somehow we planned to be there during the same time.

That turned out to be the day before my birthday, and that was the night when I got into Korea that a couple of French speakers sang Happy Birthday to me and they all forgot my name. haha

Sunday, October 12, 2008

From Sokcho

I haven't been really able to get to a computer lately, which is why I haven't been able to update my blog, but not a lot has happened either. I've been doing small things like meeting with cousins and stuff while I'm staying at my grandmother's house.

Today though, I ventured out on the bus system to Sokcho (속초) which is a city on the northeastern part of South Korea. I am about to get on another 25 minute local bus ride up to SeorakDong (서락동) to go check out probably the most famous mountains in South Korea.

The beach here already looks fantastic. The water is hardly warm enough to swim in even in August, but view wise, it's pretty awesome. I guess I never thought it would look this nice over here.

I'm going to try to get into a hostel tonight and meet some foreigners. I'll let you know how that goes.

I have to get off right now because I'm posting from a Tourist Information Center and there's only 1 computer here.

Votages questiones

Anyone know how if there's a way for me to vote in this upcoming election? Not that it matters anyway, Obama is going to win California. (I know that sentence there just annoyed at least 1 person, haha)

I do care, and I know it matters. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

My portfolio is still bleeding out the butt. It is now down 50% in the last 4 months. I don't even know what to do. I haven't had any time to examine anything, so I'm just letting it sit so far.

For my birthday, I went out to dinner with my dad's oldest sister, her husband, my grandmother, and her nanny tonight to go have pork strip bbq wrapped in thin rice cake skins. Very tasty. I took a picture for you guys:

Last night, I decided to stay in a hostel in order to meet some foreigners in Korea. I did succesfully meet a couple of french people and a taiwanese american guy living in Tokyo. They sang Happy Birthday to me at midnight, which was funny, and they all forgot my name, so when they got to the name part of the song, they all went silent. That was even funnier.

Oh, in other good news, my brother in law is helping me fix the gallery database on his server so I will be able to hopefully upload my pictures soon.


I noticed today while on the Seoul subway that in Japan, people say "excuse me" as often or almost as often as Americans do when they accidentally bump into somebody.

Some guy came in the subway car today and basically rolled around me to get to the seat. I turned around (naturally) to see what was going on and looked at the guy, but he leaned over and sat down, never looking at me once. That's when I remembered that in Japan, whenever you accidentally hit somebody, you say "Sumimasen", which means excuse me. I hadn't noticed it while I was there but now that it's missing again, I notice the difference.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Headed back to Korea

I had to say bye to my new friends again today and head out to Narita Airport. I'm currently waiting for my flight to board in a couple of minutes.

I'm mentally prepared to head back to Seoul. T minus 12 days until my bb will work again.

I've got a lot of stuff to take care of when I get back into Korea, including getting my VISA for China.

p.s. it feels nice to be on a regular keyboard again. It also felt nice to see a United Airlines airplane as well. It was a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tokyo = fun times

I:ve been hanging around Tokyo with a couple of people I met from my hostel. It all started with me randomly talking to a guy standing in front of the elevator with me and then it spreaded to the people who were in our rooms. I:m so glad I said something to him. *pats his own back*

Here:s what I saw today:
1. Tsukiji Fish Market - had sushi there which was excellent. It:s about 100 meters from the wholesale market to the counter where I was served
2. Ginza - had more sushi for lunch
3. Sony Building - just got to see the latest in TVs and games and digicams and stuff
4. Imperial Palace - walked around the entire perimeter and then walked through real quick

Yesterday I walked around alone in the morning to check out Akihibara. I bought a micro SD to USB converter device because my other one seemed defective. Then after I met a couple guys, I took them down to see Harajuku and Shibuya just to see what was there. Parts of Harajuku felt surreal, because streets were so lined with western fashion stores that they looked like european areas. There was one store that looked like a upscale IKEA and it was really funky to see in the middle of Tokyo.

Most of the people that I:ve met have only been in Japan a couple of days, so I:ve been showing them around town and directing them on how to use the subway. Also, since a lot of the customs between Koreans and Japanese are similar, I:ve been teaching people a lot about what:s going on around us when we:re walking, chatting, riding the subway, or eating.

They didn:t believe me when I told them that you can drink in public here, so I showed them by drinking a beer in front of Family Mart with policemen standing next to us. It was awesome. I wish I had gotten a picture of that one but I didn:t think of it at the time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

To laptop or not to laptop

I:m thinking about buying a mini laptop instead of upgrading my bb to the next model when it comes out this month.

Here:s a nice web page list of the ones that are currently out:

Anybody know anything about these systems? I don:t know which one I:d buy, but I:m leaning toward HP just because my cousin in Korea works for HP and he might be able to score me one without too much hassle while I:m in Korea. Although the other problem is that he would have to get me a Korean one, and while that isn:t as bad as a Japanese one (stupid keyboards), it:s still not an American one, so the keyboard and possibly the operating system could get annoying very quickly.

I just need something light, small, can do wireless, upload pics to my gallery, blog, backup my bb, skype, easy stuff like that.

uh oh

I have the sudden urge to play World of Warcraft.

of course I can:t, but I felt the urge.

I should add: I:m at a hostel tonight that has a playstation 2 and people are playing Street Fighter 2 on it. And yes, I:m kicking their asses with my *flex* asian gaming skills.

oh woops, I didn:t realize that this was a blog, not a confessional.

Phone factor trends

I:ve noticed that in Japan, the phone trend today seems to be headed toward flip phones. Large ones. Almost everyone is using phones that look like overgrown Motorola Razrs, but I can tell they are much higher tech than our American Razrs. Their screen is much higher resolution. You can see partial web pages on their phones, and the screen can be filled to show like 500 characters at once.

In Korea, the current trend seems to be toward slider phones, where the face of the phone slides upward and it shows the keypad below. Their phones are just as high tech in terms of functionality.

I keep doing double takes

I:ve noticed lately that Japanese and Korean sound similar in some ways when people are talking. At least a lot more than Chinese and Korean. There are some words that are the same as well. I can:t remember what those words are because I didn:t have a chance to write them down when I heard them though.

There are times when someone is talking to me in Japanese or I overhear 2 people having a conversation and suddenly I:m like "wait, did I just understand what they just said?" Of course I didn:t, but it happens every so often and I can:t ignore it.

The general sounds of their alphabet and their intonation and the way the words flow out sound a lot like Korean.

I know for a fact that some numbers are pronounced in similar ways.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pictures: denied

This computer I:m on today is free at the hostel that I:m staying at, and since I have the free time (and there:s only one other person at the hostel), I thought I would load up some pictures onto the blog, but my adapter for my memory cards doesn:t go into the USB port because the computer is quite small and there is plastic that protrudes around the USB port on the computer.

What a shame...

Tokyo to Seoul this week

I bought my flight ticket from Narita to Seoul for 20,000 mileage points + $150 in fees from United Airlines. I thought that was a sweet deal, considering actual flights were looking to be around $950.

I had to get a round trip ticket though. United doesn:t give out reward travel for one ways, apparently.

I:ve never done this before, but if I purchase a round trip ticket and don:t use the return ticket, it:s not a penalty or anything right? As in, the government won:t be looking for me or anything will they?

Does it put me on the terrorist watch list? haha

Nagoya happenings

Remember how I posted about that hostel a couple days ago that had severe rules in place (like junior high)? And then remember that post about "missing" stuff going on at home (real men don:t need feelings)?

Well ironically, I was writing that a nearby internet cafe and while I was writing those posts, a dutch girl sat down next to me on the computers and chatted me up, and then asked if I wanted to go out to dinner, so we walked out to a nearby beef bowl place (think Yoshinoya) and had some dinner, then got some beers and went back to our hostel to chat some more before we went to bed.

That:s right, I somehow randomly met a girl that night that was staying in the same hostel as me, and she was in the room next door. There:s only 1 hostel in Nagoya, but still. I found it rather surprising.

She was really fun and one of the few girls that I:ve met on this trip traveling on her own. I hung out with her the next night as well, after I got back from the Toyota Museum of Industry and Science (which was totally cool btw) The 2nd night, she had met a guy from Switzerland, so the 3 of us went out to look for a foreigner bar called Heaven:s Door (found in Lonelyplanet) but could not find it where it was supposed to be, so we ended up walking into an Irish bar and had a few drinks.

If you remember, the curfew was 11pm at that hostel, so at 10:35ish we started walking back but were a little late, so they were locked out. I say "they" because I had decided that morning to change to a hotel nearby, because I was unhappy with so many things with the hostel. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, that morning one of the hostel staff had walked in on me while I was still sleeping. What the hell right? And then after I came down I asked them if I could leave my bags with them in the office while I visited Toyota that day, and they said no. I was so shocked at that response I stared at the guy for like 10 seconds without saying anything. I think he was puzzled as to why I expected them to hold their bags. It was so weird. Never before have I ever been denied free storage from a hostel that I had stayed at. It was truly wacky.

Since I was staying at another hotel and mine had no curfew and my room was *huge* and had a private garden backyard (i:m bragging now), I waited for them to see if they could get into their rooms, and when they couldn:t, they came back outside to meet me. I was waiting on the curb.

Since there was no longer a reason to go in early, the 3 of us then headed to a Karaoke place to party it up. We sang for 2 hours or so. Man it was super fun. They have more English songs there than we do in Karaoke bars in the USA. It was unbelievable.

After that we stumbled back to my hotel and I let them crash in my room for the night. We sort of had to sneak in because in Japan you pay for rooms by the number of heads that are staying there, not necessarily by the size of the room. So if they found out that I had 2 friends there with me they would have asked me to pay more. Somehow they snuck out in the morning without getting caught. Either that or the staff just decided to be nice to me about it.

All in all, I:m really glad that Marlene (sp? I never got her contact info) broke into conversation while she was sitting next to me. I learned something from her, really.

TV reviews while on the go

As some of you may already know, you can watch video on blackberries. So before I left home, I downloaded a bunch of different tv shows onto my phone to watch during travel time and stuff like that. I bet you didn:t think you:d get tv show opinions from a guy walking around Japan!

Here are my reviews:

I ended up watching a couple of the episodes from season 4 of House. House is the last name of a doctor who has an amazing sense of diagnosis. He really is a very intelligent guy and knows his medical trivia. However, House is a true asshole (I use the word "true" here because he is like a degree of 10^2 worse than me). It:s funny in a way because it:s a TV show, but I could never work with someone like that in real life, unless I was allowed to say or do anything I wanted to him, literally, like punch him or kick his ass (even if he is handicapped). For me, the fact that he is a medical savant does *not* make up for the fact that he:s almost impossible to work with.

Some of the health problems that people have on these medical shows are pretty drastic. They:re sometimes really gross issues. The only nice thing about it is that if people really have these kind of problems in real life, they make my skin problem look like a papercut. I really do feel better about myself after watching some of these shows.

I watched the first season of Samurai Girl. This show was really predictable and stupid. The only thing that I liked about the show was the nerdy guy reminded me of myself years ago, and the girl has a nice body. Those 2 reasons are not good reasons to see a show. I recommend never going near this one if you haven:t seen it already.

King of the Hill, Simpsons, and the Family Guy are all still funny and great for passing entertainment value.

Mythbusters, also still as good as ever.

Losing the insignificant ideas

For the last month without my ability to blog with my bb, I have felt a little handicapped at times. Sometimes I:m riding in the subway and want to post something quick, but I can:t, and I end up forgetting. It:s not even worth writing down on my notepad because it:s not that noteworthy. I just wanted to run it past you guys for a quick laugh or something. You know me, I always enjoy the silly goofs. I think I get off more to it than other people do but either way, it:s entertainment value for some people and waste of life to other people.

My friend Annie once put it best: "Jim, your joke is not funny at all, but your laugh is hilarious, so I:m laughing at your laugh." I didn:t know whether to laugh or cry at that comment, but in the end I took it as a compliment.

But because I can only blog from a computer, I:ve had to wait until later to write what I was thinking exactly and I also happen to only write about the bigger important issues that stick in my head and are also worth paying for computer time to blog about. So I don:t know if anyone else has noticed but my posts since I reached Korea are longer and a little more serious. Well I think they have been at least. And I:ve also been unable to post any random pictures that I see while walking around either.

This will soon change back though, for I will be heading to China on October 20th, and my bb will work there once more!

I ate at McDonalds (oh the shame)

Before I head back to Tokyo I decided to visit one more location in the north where I don:t think a lot of foreigners make it to. I am in Sendai tonight, which is about 200km north of Tokyo.

Sendai itself is not a small city, but I:m currently in a hostel in a part of Sendai that doesn:t seem to have that many people in it (in general). After I checked in, I walked by a Japanese restaurant that looked like it would have good food, but the menu is completely in Japanese with no pictures and none of the staff understood any English, so I decided to give up on that one and ate at McDonalds. That wasn:t the only problem, the staff seemed super busy and didn:t seem really keen on helping someone who doesn:t speak Japanese out at the time.

Normally I wouldn:t eat at McDonalds, but today I:m tired from traveling around, and too tired to walk around to find the next plausible restaurant when I could hardly see anything. There are hardly any lights on in the district of Sendai that I:m in.

It took me 5 minutes just to order a spicy chicken sandwich combo at McDonalds, just because I couldn:t understand when they kept asking me if I wanted the value meal or just the burger. That was a long silent conversation of hand gestures, trust me.

I originally took the train from Tokyo this morning to Hachinohe on my way to Sapporo, but while I was going there, I had second thoughts about going all the way up there. It would have taken me 5 more hours by train but I have to be back in Tokyo by at least the 7th to catch my flight on the 8th, so I would only have 2 days to spend in Sapporo before 9 hours of travel back down to Tokyo. I was a little worried that Sapporo would just turn out to be another city and not be worth the 9 hours both ways, so I got back on the train I came from and headed back south. But this time I stopped halfway to Tokyo in Sendai.

The hostel I:m staying in has an 11pm curfew so I probably won:t be going out anymore tonight. I:m going to shower and stay in, relax on my own. Tomorrow I:m going to try to move to a hostel near the town center (it was full tonight or else I would have headed there instead) where hopefully I will meet some people and walk around town for a while.

The Japanese restaurant looked really neat. There were a *lot* of kids running around inside which made it seem like a fun family place. I wish I could have eaten there.

p.s. the fries tasted pretty good

Friday, October 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom

Thank you for your love, guidance, and for giving me the privilege to go on this trip.

p.s. Don:t worry, I called her already.

At the top of my blog

The picture that you see at the top of my blog is from northern Thailand, when I did the 2 day trek near Pai. It:s not Japan. I haven:t done anything remotely physical in this country unless you count watching sumo on tv as physical. :)

Tough Trivia Question Ahead

Guess who:s in Tokyo? Yep, it:s me. I know that was a tough question, but I:m sure you could all handle it with only a little bit of thinking.

I spent a night up in Nozawa Onsen at a hotel called Lodge Matsuya. Onsen is the Japanese word for hot spring, and this town happens to be a big ski town that has 13 free onsen in it. I went to 3 different ones, and they:re not very different from eachother. They:re quite a bit different from hot springs in Korea. They happen to be just 1 room usually with a changing area and a big spa tub like thing in the middle with hot hot water flowing into it.

The water *was* really hot. I had to get in using a step process of dunking parts of my body one at a time slowly to get used to the temperature. Either that or the other way was to freeze myself really quick using the faucets on the side meant to rinse yourself off in, and then just walk in because then the water wasn:t too hot.

The water comes straight out of the ground. It felt nice on my skin but it was really hot so my skin got really dry afterwards. I tried to ask if there was a cold onsen but the lady at the hotel told me no.

The staff at the hotel was super nice. That:s one thing I love about being in small towns. When I was leaving this morning, there were no busses leaving for the train station at the time I wanted, so the lady at the front desk actually gave me a ride there. She was so super nice. The ride was 10 minutes long to the station.

Then after that I didn:t know exactly what I was going to do, so I rode the train down to Tokyo, since I have to come to Tokyo before I go to Mt Fuji or go north anyway (change trains).

It was around 4pm when I decided I was just going to spend the night in Tokyo tonight, so I checked into a hotel and I am going out for the evening in the Roppongi area, which is an entertainment district in this part of town.

So far in Tokyo, I haven:t had to use any Japanese so far. Almost everyone I:ve met speaks some amount of English, and most of the signs that I:ve used are in English as well. Navigation in this city as an English speaker is way easier than any other city I:ve across in Japan so far.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Since I'm a math nerd

Blogger Analytics is a free tool that you place on your home page it lets you know what kind of people are coming to your site and from where. I:ve had it on there just for the sake of curiosity (since it:s free anyway). I just took a look at it for the month of September and it came up with some interesting facts.

433 of the 585 visits I had this month were from the USA.
323 of those were from Washington State.
9 from the Netherlands.
6 from the UK.
4 from Canada.
4 from Singapore.
3 from India.
3 from Australia.

Average visit time was 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

If you search "vodka bucket contains 350ml samui" on google my blog is the first link that comes up. I don:t know why anyone would search that on google but somebody did.

I didn:t like that title either

I had to change it again. Maybe I:ll switch it back. "Jimmy Does World".. yeah I get it but I agree the bad grammar part is annoying me since I:m a grammar nazi.

I just put the word terror in my title and used the word "nazi" in the same post, so now I:m sure there:s CIA people reading my blog. This is one sure way to get more readers.

In the immortal words of Borat: "Suceeeeeeeeesssssss!!!"

Osaka is 100 miles and -3 days away from me

I just saw this story on CNN and in some way it felt weird to know that there was some terrible story that happened in a foreign country and I was close by. It:s a new feeling for me.

I changed my blog title again out of boredom. Credits go to Ben.