(merkit hukassa)

Adventures in Korea

Tag Archives: this kinda sucks

It’s over, or is it?

If all goes as planned, this is my last night in Korea for now. My flight is supposed to leave from Incheon today at 14.30 – but let’s not bet on it yet. Typhoon Meari will hit Korea later today, and might lead to flight cancellations and even more severe stuff. I’ve never experienced a typhoon, so I’m kinda excited. Also, I’m thankful for leaving some air on my schedule – if the flight departs on time, I might have enough time to drag my ass from Busan to Incheon.

So, I’m in Busan now. I’ve done close to nothing spectacular.

I took a long stroll along Haeundae beach on Thursday night. It was cloudy, but it didn’t rain yet, so I got to see the beautiful beach, Diamond bridge and the skyscrapers. The next day I just slept – it was raining and my eyes were hurting. Reason? Found out yesterday after visiting an optician. My vision suddenly went from -2.25 to -3. Lack of vitamins? Sure, my diet here has been retarded.

Other things I did yesterday were visiting the PIFF square (just tumbled upon it) and shopping – I hate shopping, but it was raining like crazy and the wind kept breaking my umbrella, and still I didn’t want to stay cooped up at the hostel since I went through all the trouble to come all the way to Busan. Oh, and I went to get a new haircut again (got the last one a week ago). I didn’t really like the previous one, so I went and got a mohawk. Or mohican, as the Koreans call it.

The hostel I’m staying in, Pobi Guesthouse, is mysterious: a British girl I met on my first week in Korea, in Hongdae, is now staying at the same hostel in Haeundae. Also, two Korean girls from Ajou stayed in the same room on my first night here. What a small world. The hostel is very new, clean and well located between Haeundae subway station and the beach. It’s easy to find – take Haeundae stn exit 1, keep walking until the first bigger intersection, turn righ and keep walking until you start to see the road ending at a T-intersection. It’s on the left side of the road and well marked with yellow signs. Knock the door, it’s usually locked.

Super nice young lady Jeong Eun owns the place and this friendly guy who’s name I didn’t ask also works there. The only small minus point is the neighboring club, which can get a bit noisy on weekends. But it can also be a plus to party people – very convenient to go party! They just played Imogen Heap, can’t be bad!

So, I’ll leave in less than five hours. Taking KTX and hoping it’s on time. And hoping there is enough room for my bass – the conductor lady gave me a whole car to choose from when she saw it on my way here. I wonder if I should take a bus to the station or just ride the subway. It was pretty okay from the station to here, and knowing Korean buses don’t have much space I might end up choosing the subway. Oooor I could take a cab. It’s about 15 000w and I have 18 000 left. Dun dun duun, let’s see what I end up doing.

So, bye bye Korea. Please let me leave and don’t delay my flight.

PS. Things I noticed about Korea:

1. They really love singing fountains.
2.  The umbrella bags they provide in every store on rainy days are convenient and I’m gonna miss them.
3. Busan has an awesome bakery chain OPS. They have non-sugar coated veggie stuff. I love!
4. Why Korean people don’t feel cold indoors even when the ACs are making me freeze?
5. Summer fashion this year is hideous. HI-DE-OUS! Why did you come back, early 90’s? Go back where you came from! You don’t look good even on pretty Koreans.
6. I feel utterly ridiculous dining alone in Korea. Or just having a cup of coffee. And the hairdresser dude was truly amused when I told him I’m traveling alone.

…and it’s kinda gay

I went to check out the gay clubs in Itaewon last Friday. Certainly, a lot of gays and very friendly atmosphere. Totally different from earlier on the day in the same area. Itaweon in daytime was super intimidating, after I’ve gotten used to the reserved Korean manner guys. Honestly, I wonder if the guys there really get lucky with the aggressive approach. Don’t try it on me, I get annoyed.

Back to the homo hill, there weren’t many girls there, and the lesbians I could count with one hand’s fingers. My friend told me there are lesbian clubs in Hongdae, but isn’t it just boring and prejudiced to separate rainbow people by gender? If I went out with my gay friends in Finland, why would we want to go to separate bars just because some of us have something hanging between our legs and some don’t? I don’t get it. Well, doesn’t matter, we had fun.

I got all happy the next day to see so many cool indie kids in Samseong,  I got a ticket from my friend Vanessa, for this band I had never heard of before, but which was very awesome. Mellow and massive and cute. Check them out: Dear Cloud (디어 클라우드). There was this coolest girl ever sitting beside me, but of course I was too shy to talk to her. By the way, again they gave out freebies. I guess they do it often here. And the concert was awesome, but way too long… more than two hours of mellow music is just a bit too much in one go.

So, by the time it was over, I was hungry and tired and since it was such a long time since I last took a bus from Gangnam, I forgot from which exit it leaves and spend a long time looking for the right bus stop, since of course Koreans can’t put the information on any maps – they just have like 12 tiny bus figures on the map but no info of which bus leaves where. And, no north arrow either, so I couldn’t even figure anything out by compass points. Of course I could have asked, but I’m from Finland, we don’t ask.

Yesterday a couple of Lotta’s friends from Finland came to Suwon and we had great time. Of course we drank excessively and today I’ve been feeling not that fresh. I ended up causing some trouble, even though I had no intention whatsoever, nor did I start it, but oh well, I got the blame since I’m older and look oh-so-manly with my new summer haircut. It was nothing serious though so I guess it’s okay now. And I’m leaving the town anyways kkkkkkkk

PS. They are opening a new store called ㅋㅋㅋ down the street. I wonder what kinda business it is?

Julius and different kinds of pools

My Finnish friend who is studying in Japan came to Seoul for vacation and of course we needed to meet. He was very much the same as back in Finland – it was good to see him again. We went venturing Myong-dong and N Seoul Tower. Here’s evidence:

Lately I’ve been horribly busy with studies. I dropped two of my six courses coz I didn’t have enough time to do the homework. Even now I should be working on an ecodesign project. Basically I’ve been relaxing by playing pool with my friends. My skills suck and the old guys try to peek under my skirt, but it’s fun. There are tons of pool places around the campus, but only one has the normal pocket ball table – here they play four-ball.

Another kind of pool that has been very relaxing is in Jimjilbang – Korean public bath. A variety of tubs with fantasy colored water in different temperatures, very hot saunas where you sit on the floor (comfier than in Finland, IMHO), massage tables, a common area where you can take a nap, several different steam rooms and even an ice room. Apparently the fancy jimjilbangs in Busan even have strawberry milk baths… Well, we went to the nearest jimjilbang (6000w, 4,5 e) with Lotta today and boy it was smooth! So relaxing. It’s gonna be our Sunday tradition from now on.

What else? The magnolias are blooming. Soon it’s the cherry blossom season. The weather is awesome (17 degrees), except for the yellow dust.  And we got our university baseball jackets. Cool, eh?

Anyways, ask me questions and I’ll answer. Toodles.

I accidentally tourist hell

A stream near Euljiro 3-ga

I only had one think on my shopping list when I came here – an acoustic bass. And I heard there is this place called Nakwon Arcade in Insadong. Insadong’s main street is Seoul’s souvenir hell, offering everything from traditional costumes to genuine crafts (most likely made in Thailand). When trying to locate the arcade I accidentally ended up in that whirlwind. It was kinda good though, I needed to buy chopsticks and they had plenty.

Nakwon Arcade was really hard to locate. Mostly because it wasn’t open – Sunday, who closes a mall on the best shopping day of the week? I’m going back there tomorrow, but first I need to check the store in our Subway station. One of the lodgers recommended it.

While walking around I had time to think quite a lot. Here’s what I thought:

  • It was almost +15 Celsius and they are still wearing  winter jackets.
  • The girls wear such high heels they need a boyfriend to keep them from tripping over all the time. That same boyfriend also carries their handbag – which IS NOT what men are supposed to do. Except if they share cosmetics, which might be the case here. Men here are beautiful.
  • There are maps everywhere, especially near subway stations. They don’t operate with street names, more with landmarks. Distances on maps look scary, but are in fact not that bad. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to walk to the next subway station than try to find the right platform for your transfer train. The stations are endless. Especially Euljiro 3 -ga, never transfer there if you don’t have to.
  • Korean city layout is not meant for Finnish mind set. I would go crazy if I needed to call for directions every time I wanted to visit a new store or company. That’s what Koreans seem to do. And they use landmarks. And the little alleys seem to either not end at all or they just end where you least expect.
  • At least those parts of the city I’ve visited can’t really brag with architecture. The blocks look almost organic – this house grew to fit this place and that house there grew a bit too much…
  • Koreans can park in amazingly narrow alleys.
  • The air in Seoul is really dry and the sun is bright. My nose is full of sand and I couldn’t take decent pictures with the light today.
  • I can’t stop admiring the amount of good fashion I’ve seen by far – both men and women dress really well (and they have an expensive taste). Of course there are other country pumpkins like me, who don’t care what they’re wearing.
  • Recycling here includes blue plastic bags on the streets and cars with loudspeakers.

Also, just to be mentioned. I had the most awful “dinner” tonight, in the form of revolting cheese flavored noodles. Here’s a picture and in the picture blog there are more. yuk
I’ll also update yesterdays entry with a picture from Sisha bar gr8, first thing tomorrow. Yeah, the jet lag kicked in. I’m a mess atm.

How to apply for a Visa on drugs

Applying for Visa is hard. It’s even harder after being high on drugs for the whole week. Legal drugs, LEGAL! Good stuff nevertheless.

I got really, really sick on Monday night and the paramedics took me to the Oulu University hospital. I’ve been pretty much sedated ever since so my Visa application has taken few steps backwards. I was in no condition to form a coherent sentence, nor to fill difficult forms with too small blanks.

I finally got the papers from Ajou via Jamk on Tuesday. My dad brought them to the hospital next day but I was obviously too out there to ask for my passport and my passport pictures… and I was going under a surgery so obviously that wasn’t the day to do it. Today I got out from the hospital but didn’t still have my passport pictures with me, so I left the form-filling until I got home – where I instantly fell asleep after munching my long awaited pizza.

It was almost too late to send the forms today when my mum woke me up and told me to get to the business. I went through the forms and realized I should have asked for a Study Certificate from JAMK, so I send them an email and they promised to send it straight to the embassy. Then I realized I have two sets of forms in the envelope I got from Ajou. Hmm? Me and Lotta had been wondering where Lotta’s papers were, but the mystery was solved. They were together with my papers – addressed to my international coordinator (Lotta is majoring Tourism so another office handles her exchange).

So a priority mail to Lotta and a registered mail to the embassy with the Visa form, my passport, Letter of Acceptance and Invitation Letter from Ajou and 40 euros… and a registered return envelope so they will hopefully send me back my passport with the Visa.

They asked so many questions which make no sense to a Finn; such as: “who will pay for your trip?” – duh… me “Who will sponsor your Visa?” -duh… didn’t I just pay 40 euros for it? And then “your address in Korea” with a blank space so small my ID number wouldn’t have fit in it. I still scribbled my address-to-be there. Hope they can make something out of it.

Now imagine doing all this high on drugs. Luckily my mother was there acting as a voice of reason and toning down my illusions, which were rather… interesting – reading an urban fantasy novel on drugs wasn’t a best possible idea.

Insurance & good news & not so good news

Three topics today:

1. I need to prove that my insurance covers my health care in Korea. Today I sent them:

  1. My insurance contract (pages covering travel insurance). Mine is part of my home and personal insurance plan from Pohjola.
  2. Terms of Insurance
  3. Copy of my insurance card
  4. Insurance brochure (just in case, since it’s clearer than terms of insurance. It actually tells what my insurance DOES cover… ToI just tells what the insurance doesn’t cover)
  5. Contract and receipt for travel insurance for the exceeding two months. Finnish travel insurances cover 3 first months by default and you have to pay extra to get more months. Two months were a bit over 90 euros.

Basically the insurance covers just sickness and emergency treatment, but what else would I need during five months? I hope they are okay with the documents and I don’t need to do any more rain dancing and shadow boxing or any other magic tricks.

2. My international coordinator (JAMK) told me she received my information package and sent it to me today! JAY! I’ll finally get my Letter of Acceptance and can apply for Visa. Niiiiiice!

3. I still haven’t received my student number and other information I need for housing application. The deadline is tomorrow 17.00 Finnish time, so I’m a bit nervous. Especially knowing how strict they can be with bureaucracy in Asian countries.

I made a mess

Oh man. I made a huge mess while I was trying to pack my stuff – just to check will it fit or do I need to re-think my high-flying plan: hand luggage only – screw check in. And I’m not talking about those cabin approved suitcases here, I’m talking about a normal high school kid’s backpack.

Yes, I do know it sounds stupid, especially for a woman. But I’m not that much of a woman. I’ve been doing fine with two sets of clothes for a month already. They are washable – clothes I mean, and I pretty much plan on getting ridiculous amounts of stupid fashion crap from Korea anyways. And yeah, it doesn’t seem desperate yet. My backpack isn’t even half-full and all my clothes and tech-stuff are in there already. Quite a bit of miscellaneous stuff is yet to be packed. It’s in the middle of the night and people are sleeping so I’m trying to keep the rustling and bustling noise level down. I’m going to publish this tomorrow after I finish packing and take a picture of what I’m taking.


Oh my, oh my. Look at this:


That’s all I’m gonna take with me (four pairs of shoes, including the pair I’m going to wear!) And it fit well in this:


I measured the backpack and it fit’s in the cabin regulations if I don’t pack the front pocket. And I don’t need to pack it, as everything fits well in the other two compartments. I didn’t put in my travel guides yet, but they turned out to be compact. Without the travel guides all this weights  only 8.9 kilos, which I’m happy to carry around while traveling. The weight is going to increase a bit, I still need to pack some papers and some souvenirs…

Yesterday I went to the bank to sign my credit card papers and to the pharmacy – only to hear I will get my Japanese encephalitis vaccination today. A day too late to get the second shot in time (there should be 28 days between the first and the second shot). To be honest, I regret getting that vaccination already. It’s bloody expensive 130 e per shot, two shots)  and the risk isn’t that high anyways.  I really need to be out and about every freaking weekend to make it worth it. But I went to get the shot today. Been feeling a bit dizzy afterwards, but nothing too bad. The nurse was nice and I’m sure I should know her somewhere (maybe an ex classmate from high school or something).

Still waiting for the Letter of Acceptance :S

Now it hit me

You’ve got mail!” said my email app. Or would’ve said if it was able to speak. Good grief, I’d go crazy if it was. Anyways, Ajou sent me an email stating I should get tested for tuberculosis, get a health insurance, reserve housing, wave my light saber, do a rain dance and practice yoga. The health insurance part I got covered ages ago, hope they’ll accept my all-mighty Finnish insurance of win.

They also suggested I might be interested applying for visa. WELL YES! The ever-so-slight problem is they are sending the Letters of Acceptance this week. Gee, thanks!  For the letter to arrive to my school will take at least 3 workdays and for them to forward it to me will take another two days. Then I’ll send it to the embassy – 2 more days -, they process it – one week -, they send it back – two more days. If everything goes right.

I ordered books from Lonely Planet (LP Korea, LP Seoul and Korean Phrasebook) for 40€. Quite a good bargain, but I have mixed feelings about travel guides. You see, it would be lot easier (and less to carry) to buy a smart-phone with travel guide applications. Then again, the tech-freak I might be, I don’t trust the smart-phone technology yet and I find it huge waste of money to buy crap. I might change my mind if I find something fancy and blingy (with English OS) from Korea – the land of Samsung and LG.

Be as it might, I’m excited and bit scared now. I haven’t learn the language yet. I haven’t even started, to be precise. But I got some info about vegetarianism in Korea ( from this nice guy of Internets, thank you!) Good news is – I’m gonna get thinner. Bad news – I’m gonna get hungry. Seems to be quite hard to find vegan or even vegetarian food over there.  So better eat a lot now!

Sour starters

Hey! North Korea just bombed South Korea today. Way to go, North Korea…

Anyhow, I don’t believe the North actually has the power or money to start the war, or that South and West have the will to engage themselves in a war. Especially, considering the economic situation in Europe and how China doesn’t want to have part in this mess.

Well, I still have some more months before I’m supposed to go there. And like my dad said: “Well, didn’t Aarne Tanninen (Finnish reporter and correspondent) also go all the places where something was going on?”