Sunday, 21 February 2016

Renting in Korea

If you come to Korea as an English teacher, like I did, you will usually be offered housing with your job. You can find a bunch of information about this on the internet. However, instead of providing housing, many schools offer 'housing allowance' as an alternative. This means that they do not provide an apartment for you, but pay you some extra money with your monthly wages, that you can use to pay your own rent.

Personally, after a few years of living in housing provided by my employers, the decision to switch to renting by myself was one of the best decisions I made in Korea!

If you have decided to rent your own place, scroll down for my tips on renting in Seoul.

If you're thinking about renting but not sure, read on ...

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Seoul's Doll Cafes Revisited

I did a post almost a year ago now about some of the doll cafes in Seoul (link here), and I decided to make an updated post after recently revisiting a couple of them.

For anyone interested in BJD (ball joint dolls), the place for you to go is Hongdae (Hongik University area). You can visit the Volks store there, and there are these two great cafes:

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Korean Weekly(ish) Vocab #3

cactus  선인장  仙人掌

I don't know why, but the word for 'cactus' keeps coming up in conversation for me. However, I still have trouble memorizing it. The characters literally mean "celestial being, palm of hand" ... so I've got no idea what that's all about ... Is a cactus the hand of a god??

ring-necked pheasant  꿩

This is a nice word to know if you are interested in historical art and design culture, as the pheasant is a motif that often appears in artwork and textiles. It symbolizes nobility and can be seen in designs embroidered on royal clothing.

pocket notebook  수첩  手帖

I'll be honest, I never actually knew this word before, because I always just call it a 노트 ...

help, assistance  협조  協助

This word I learned because I saw it on a sign on an elevator, asking people to assist disabled people.

Finally, here are some useful hanja from this week's words:

手  수  hand (손)

This character can be found in the words: 수갑 (handcuffs), 수건 (hand towel), 박수 (applause, hand clapping), 수공 (handicrafts)

人  인  person (사람)

This is a really easy beginner hanja. It can be found in lots of common words, including: 인사 (greeting), 개인 (individual), 인간 (human being, humankind), 군인 (soldier), 인생 (one's life), 외국인 (foreigner), 한국인 (Korean person)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Korean Weddings - A Guide for Guests

I went to a wedding last week, and thought it would be useful to do a post on the etiquette of attending a Korean wedding, with some vocabulary too. So if you've been invited to wedding in Korea and you're not sure what to do, just follow these steps:

Monday, 16 November 2015

Goguryeo Blacksmith Village, Achasan

A few months back I posted about Achasan (아차산), a mountain in Eastern Seoul, and mentioned that I was hoping to go back to visit the historic village there. This weekend, I did, and it was great!

Goguryeo Blacksmith Village (고구려 대장간마을) was built as a set for filming the TV drama '태왕사신기' ('Legend'), and replicates a Goguryeo era working village, complete with a large water mill wheel and a brick oven. Although originally built for film, it now serves as a historical attraction and has exhibiton rooms with various Goguryeo artifacts on display, including many that were actually excavated at Achasan. It's actually really cool and interesting, and I didn't even have to pay an entrance fee!

Inside one of the houses
Goguryeo (고구려) was one of the ancient 3 kingdoms of Korea, from 37 BC to 668 AD. The significance of building this village here at Achasan, is that the ruins of several Goguryeo era forts are located on the mountain. So if you want to do the historical trail and visit the fort sites, the blacksmith village would be a great place to include in your trip, just to see the era 'brought to life'.

To get there, take the subway line 5 to Gwangnaru station (광나루역), come out of exit 3 and walk straight a few metres to the bus stop. Take bus 1, 9, 15, 92, 93, 95, 96 or 97 to 우미내검문소/고구려 대장간마을 (only 2 stops away, but takes a few minutes). Then cross the main street and follow the signs.

Alternatively, you can go there at the end of your hike by following signs from up on the mountain.

If you want to hike the mountain after visiting the village, just walk across the car park, and you will see a trail entrance with a sign to 'Stone Face' (literally a big face in the stone). You can follow the sign to see that easily, or pick another trail. Personally I went to see the Stone Face and then just continued up towards 대성암. The trail was very easy and gentle, quiet with not many other hikers around, and absolutely beautiful with views of the river visible after only a few minutes hiking upwards.

A better translation would be 'Big Rock Face'
After passing 대성암, the trail got a tougher with a steep rocky part, but that was only for a short way and then I found myself on a popular main trail that was very busy with other hikers, but which offered some more beautiful views of the city. I saw signs to all the fort ruins, but just headed down back towards Gwangnaru subway station.

When I got to the bottom of the mountain, I found that Achasan had another surprise for me - an 'ecological park', which looked absolutely splendid in vibrant autumn colours! Seriously, for such a small mountain, it really is packed full of hidden treasures and just keeps surprising me with something I didn't expect every time I visit! I think it's becoming my favourite mountain in Seoul.

Achasan Ecological Park (아차산생태공원)
I really recommend this mountain if you want to hike in Seoul. You can pretty much just go there with no plan and start walking on any trail, and I'm sure you'll find something fantastic wherever you end up.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Korean Weekly Vocab

I've hit a point in my Korean studies where I'm needing to memorize big chunks of vocab at a faster rate than I'm able to actually put the words into practice in daily life. So I thought it would be helpful to me if I make some vocabulary blog posts, and I hope some of you out there may find it useful, too!

Here are this week's words:

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bukhansan Hike Video

I haven't had time to post much on here recently, but we did film a short video while hiking a few weeks ago. Enjoy :)

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Dongdaemun Shopping

A few weeks ago I went fabric shopping with my vlogging partner-in-crime, Megan. We filmed a little bit while we were there and put together a short video:

Basically, if you need to buy fabric or any kind of sewing supplies in Seoul, Dongdaemun is THE place to go. The indoor market is a mega 5 floors packed full of every kind of print, lace, ribbon and bead you could imagine. Personally I find it suuuuuper daunting and difficult to navigate, but it is amazing. Thread is on the basement level, trimmings on the first and top levels, and fabric everywhere in between.

You can get there by coming out of Dongadaemun subway station exit  8 or 9. The fabric market is inside the massive building behind the fancy new hotel which is right outside the station.

While we were in Dongdaemun we also had a look around Doota, which is a very popular store for designer fashion. There are a lot of different brands there, some of them more interesting than others. A lot of people like it, whatever.

Dongdaemun is full of fashion markets, including the ones that open all night, but many sell only cheap quality clothes. Shopping has always been a big reason for people to visit the area, but now of course there is also the Design Plaza, which is a pretty cool building to look around and they have some exhibitions and events there. You can also walk to/from Dongdaemun along either the Cheongye stream or the old fortress wall, which is nice.

Anyway this was a kind of half-hearted post for our half-hearted video! But if you are into sewing and making stuff, do go and check out Dongdaemun fabric market, because it's awesome :)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Independence Day - What to do in Seoul this weekend!

Posting this a little late, but if you're wondering what to do this weekend (or what's left of it, at least!), how about getting out and about and educating yourself on the history of Korea's independence?

Here are my suggestions of places to visit in Seoul, to celebrate National Liberation Day:

1.  War Memorial of Korea (Click to read post)


Situated by Yongsan military base, in between Noksapyeong and Samgakji stations, this military history museum and memorial is free to enter, and offers an up-close look at machines, vehicles and weapons that were used in the Korean War, World War II and the Vietnem War.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ihwa Mural Village in Hyehwa

Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을) is a fairly well-known tourist spot right in the middle of the really popular Hyehwa area, but for some reason I had never been there before, in all the time I've been in Korea. Well I'm glad I finally went!

Actually, after finding a much smaller-scale version of one of these 'mural villlages' near Achasan the day before, I decided to make it my new project to try and visit as many of them as possible from now on. I had already really enjoyed looking around the 'Ant Village' on the edge of Inwangsan, and Suamgol in another region of Korea, and it seems there actually loads of these old mountainside villages that have been dolled-up with colorful murals, instead of being demolished, re-built and modernized.

So, to add to my list of these painted villages, I definitely had to take a trip to what is probably the most popular one in Seoul, Ihwa Mural Village. Plus it's like a 20 minute bus ride from my house, so I really had no excuse not to go.

Painted flowers ...