(merkit hukassa)

Adventures in Korea

Tag Archives: vegetarian in Korea

Culture shock

Hey, someone has been bullshitting me about this culture shock crap. I didn’t get any symptoms during or after my exchange. No wait! I got a bit irritated once. No wait again! I didn’t remember how to use my credit card here in Finland, and I still hand everything with both hands.

No need to describe me the phenomenon – I’ve been through it over and over again. Surprisingly enough, I got the biggest shock when I moved to my university town Jyväskylä, in my own country! Had I been a bit weaker specimen of my species, I would have needed medication. Have a Prozac and smile! I quite a shock with Canada too, after most of the exchange students I knew left after the first semester and the rest of us got tired with each other. I only stayed three weeks in Japan but got a shock worth mentioning – didn’t speak with my travel mate for a month. But no shock with Korea. Nothing.

This time I was pretty sure I would only stay there for 5 months, nothing was for forever, I had nothing to get excessively irritated over. And on the other hand, the life I came back to in Finland was good to begin with: friends, family, well paying job, summer. I know I can go back to Korea whenever I want to.

I must confess I took precautions to bypass the culture shock. The Japan experience was a great help. I knew my weaknesses and how to get over them.

Precaution number 1: Make sure you get enough food.  – As I have been living with myself for good 27 years I know for sure the monster inside me wakes up when I’m hungry and tired. I knew Korea (like Japan) is and was a nightmare for a vegetarian, and I was a vegan. VEGAN! Nothing, nothing from animals I ate. I asked tips from other vegetarians in Korea (didn’t help that much) and for the first weeks I just tried to slowly accept the local cuisine. No heavy drinking, no heavy sightseeing, no “let’s experience everything new right now” attitude. Just chillin’. It paid off! I had to make compromises: trying to stay vegan without understanding Korean would have been too hard, and I also started eating food with meat broth or chunks of meat in  – luckily I had carnivorous friends, who bravely suffered my share of meat.

Precaution number 2: make friends. Lotta was a great help – I’m slow and lazy to make friends so I just let Lotta do the filtering and collected the prize.

Precaution number 3: don’t stay too long. Two semesters in Canada was a bit too much. Three weeks backpacking in Japan was too much. One semester in Korea was just enough to leave me hungry for more. I didn’t have enough money to stay longer.

Precaution number 4: don’t expect. Don’t expect anything from the country or the people (yourself included). The experience is offered “as is”. Most of the ridiculous stuff can be explained logically when put in the cultural context. People in most cases are not better or worse than you, even if they act differently. You yourself are responsible for your mistakes or successes. If you expect too much, it’s your fault you get disappointed.

Precaution number 5: accept all the weird invitations. And here I don’t live as I preach. I didn’t go to the host bar, even though my friend kept asking me to go. Nor did I go to the Wedding Cafe. Maybe next time?

???
Profit

Maybe it hits later, the shock. But honestly, I’d like to think, patting myself to the back, that I’ve achieved the cosmopolitan attitude I’ve been striving for… or is it because I’m happy with (or full of) myself that I don’t need to stress over irrelevant stuff? I’m pretty sure the wanderlust hits me sooner than the culture shock.

PS. Yesterday I sent the final documents to my coordinator. Soon it’s officially over.

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.

Haircut and X-rays in Korean

I’ve been doing so much I have to do several entries…

On Monday I went to get a mandatory health check-up at the University Hospital (Occupational Health Center in Ajou University Hospital Annex building, 1st floor). I walked in, filled a form, paid 11000 won, gave them my student ID, changed into a sexy hospital shirt, walked into the examination room. The guy there made me stand against some weird device, complimented my neck piercing and after 2 seconds of standing still holding my breath I was ready to change back and walk out. Pretty effective. All this without official appointment.

Because it was so fast, I had time to go and get my hair cut. I’ve been meaning to do it for three weeks. My friend recommended  Tamasi (たましい) hairdresser, so I just walked in, gave my jacket to the guy at the counter and waited, until it was my turn – I’d say half an hour, they had eight or nine people working there. The guy at the counter gave me a model book to look at, but all the girl’s models here are for long hair, not short like mine. But on the other hand I couldn’t find a decent model from the guy’s version either, so I just sat down and let them do what they wanted. So I ended up with the same model I had, but a bit neater and with Korean bangs <3 All this for w10000, which is 7€

Korean haircut

Even though they were all very young, they couldn’t speak any English. I was only able to communicate with the young intern, who was  wise enough to use simple one or two word phrases like: “From where?” “아주대학교? (Ajou University?)” or “Your eyes, very beautiful!” I got a membership card, so I might go there again. I think I need something crazy for the spring, right?

OTHER STUFF:

  • School has been keeping me horribly busy. I had to skip one lesson to go to the Immigration Office (to get an Alien Registration Card) and it was so hard to follow the next lecture, so I guess I can’t skip anymore. And these people here have homework! Dude, homework! And presentations. Speaking on which, I have one next Monday too… should start doing it while I still have time.
  • Did I mention I auditioned for a band Spiders and got rejected ;_; But I joined GLEE club (choir) and Friends Club (Party!) and AJESS (English conversation) The GLEE members were really good singers – I heard it in 노래방 (noraebang) the Korean equivalent for karaoke.
  • I’ve been teaching myself to use Korean keyboard… it makes me confused since the roman layout is same as in US models – which is different from Finnish layout. I made little stickers to find the 한굴 (hangul) signs. I’ve also made some flashcards to learn words and phrases.
  • When I was in Japan I loved Qoo apple juice. It was so different. I found the same taste in this (featuring a tiny milk carton):

Toodles!

Whoa! She’s a nuna!

I’ve been doing so much these days I don’t know where to start? EDIT: some random pictures here

Creative parking Suwon Suwon I insisted people here should call me unni (언니 ) or nuna (누나) (the former one is how girls address their older sister and the latter how boys address their older sister). It sounds cute, but now I regret revealing my age – I can’t call anyone oppa (오빠) – which is how girls call older guys.  It all sounds very, very whiny and cute, but the boys here said they like it. Apparently they feel very masculine when they can do something for the girls. I feel so very old here. And masculine too. Before I know, I’ll start answering when ever somebody calls “Oppaaaa~!” I’ve found lovely people here, really cute and awesome girls to hang out with. The guys are nice too, especially the tutor guys, who are soon gonna get tired of us if they keep that up. School started for real – I’ve already missed two of my classes (messed up my schedule, not on purpose). Two of my classes – Ecodesign I and Biological wastewater treatment – are taught by professor Lee Kun-Mo, who gave a really pleasant and professional first impression. He seems to be strict, he speaks fluent English and the courses don’t seem too hard by far. So I really recommend his classes – based on first impression. I’m considering taking Ecodesign II too, but I’m already taking six courses in total, that might be too hard for my lazy ass – especially if I stick to all those clubs I signed for today. So yeah, it’s all like in anime – they have stands where they lure in innocent minds for clubs and associations – varying from religion to astronomy and from rock band to study groups. I signed for choir and English conversation. At the choir stand I had to fill a form where I needed to tell my birth year – and the guys started whispering: “Oh, she’s a nuna!” I also signed in for band audition. There are two rock band clubs, but the other club wasn’t exactly welcoming  – they basically shunned me away. The other group seemed nice, so I’m gonna try my luck. The weather has been awfully cold. It was snowing on Tuesday morning when we left to Seoul. It was the March first movement day – the day they remember their fight for independence and those who died in wars. There were quite a many activities in Seoul and we also went to Kimchi museum in COEX mall.

Statue of Hammering Man in Seoul

The beauty of Koreans is starting to hurt my eyes. I think I might start feeling inferior pretty soon. Well… at least I managed to impress the locals in my class a couple of times. I’m not sure whether it was me answering professors’ questions correctly, me speaking English rather well and using long sentences, or me just being able to talk to the professor as an equal. Be as it might, I have to admit I kinda liked how the whole class went “whoooa”. (Note: Back in Finland I’m the crappiest student in my class.) I caught a cold, so I had to stay at the dorms tonight, although the girls went out to party. The hot food seems to help and it’s not that hard to find vegetarian food anymore. You just need to know what to ask. So long – diet! Today we found a really good and cheap toppokki place and yesterday we ate bibimbap… ah, the food is awesome, but it makes me crave for beer!

And yeah, we’re gonna get our own Ajou Uni baseball jackets… They look warm and comfy! Look, here Sub is wearing one, ain’t that cool?

Anna-Maria & Sub

I’ll post some pictures when I have time… now I really need to start preparing for tomorrow’s classes. 안녕~!

BIG SHOW… and yeah the school started too

The orientation day at Ajou held in just as many PowerPoint presentations as I expected. Quite a many that is. But the information was useful and very down to earth and the lunch buffet was overwhelming and huge. Lots of vegetarian choices too! The OIA staff seems really nice and helpful and the AGA members are hard working folk. I figured out my course schedule and I have Fridays off! Yay!

Awsome lunch is awesome.
Spot the Finns

Then the main course – BIG SHOW 2011, first one of the three Big Bang concerts. Korean pop – K-pop for short – is a huge thing all over Asia, as well as among freaks particular music diggers all around the world. Big Bang has been one of the most popular groups for years – if not the most popular. It was also my first contact with K-pop so I didn’t think twice when Ryo mentioned Puu had and extra ticket (I didn’t even know it was possible to get the tickets, but Puu’s amazing). Here’s a shining example of their music (with Seagways and a tank) – GD&TOP’s 뻑이가요.

There is a straight bus from Ajou to where I was aiming, but I was too stupid to find it… and I was running late so I just took the route I knew. A long route. And crowded. And sweaty. Quite a lot of staring occurred too. But I got there on time, finally, and managed to spot Puu’s amazing pink hair in midst of thousands of screaming tiny fans. After hours of waiting we finally got to our standing area, which was pretty well located – we managed to see the guys up close, really close.
Big Bang

Every Big Bang fan.
Every Big Bang fan.

The show was big business. Thousands of screaming fans holding up their crown-shaped light sticks and chanting fan chants to every song, laser show, fireworks, Seagways, pink tank, hilarious parody fan service version (which might have been a bit gay) of popular drama Secret Garden, confetti and the amazing charisma those guys ooze. Even my hardened iceberg of a heart fluttered, and not just a little. Oh I just admit it, I was totally into it, in my moderate Finnish way. Not as much as those little ones though, they were a bit scary, but luckily so small that I could hold my place if I wanted. Nothing compared to moshpits of huge drunk neo-nazis back in Finland.

The taxi ride from Olympic Park to Hongdae was scary, but Puu said it was actually pretty good compared to average. IT WAS FREAKING SCARY. I calmed down when I got food. Really spicy tofu soup and those good side dishes they offer at BBQ places. That place’s gotta be my favorite, the staff was lovely. And I almost cried when I got back to the hostel and saw a group of good people I met last week. I was so happy to see them again and it felt like coming home. And I was only away for one night.

So I guess this is the honeymoon period of culture shock? I’ll give you pictures when I get back to dorms tomorrow.

PS. Wives, I would have bought some fan stuff for you but they sold it out hours before I got there.

PPS. For some reason everything I’ve done so far has been a bit gay… and this was supposed to be a conservative country! Or is it just me?

English and engrish

Most of the exchange students utilized local tutor organization’s pick up service from Incheon airport, but me – I wanted to be different. Such a hipster I am. So I took my T-money card and the tube to Suwon station, where (after some aimless, sweaty wandering) I found the right bus. Oh, you handy T-card, I love you. You work in Suwon too! The ride from Hongdae cost me just a bit over 2000 won and took about 3 hours- of which one hour was just me screwing up and finding myself on wrong platforms AND hopping off the bus too early. I actually had no idea where I was, but thanks to my amazing luck I just ended up at the Ajou front gate.

Here I am now. Lotta got here yesterday and she already went to home plus and bought me a pillow too. Me love you long time! The room is surprisingly cozy to be a dorm room. It is kinda… dormy, but I expected something more dirty and cold. It’s warm, Internet works, the bed is wide – so it’s perfect! Gonna hang up some posters and it’ll be great. Gives me the feeling of youth you know, the feeling of student accommodation. Party hard! (Not really, I’m too lazy to party hard. Got my share in the nineties, you youngsters you!)

The student tutors here are absolutely amazing and they work really hard to keep us happy (and from getting lost). We (a group of 60 exchange students) went to Korean BBQ and I actually managed to find something to eat. Love those guys. And their English is very good. The language I see on info-signs and “rules of the dorm” posters here is closer to Engrish though.

Tomorrow: orientation day and Big Show!

PS. Only got crappy pictures, don’t want to post then, try to live with it. I’m changing my picture blog to Picasa these days so… wait for it.

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.

Noraebang and free dinners

I got real home made tteokbokki  – there’s an awesome lady staying at the hostel and she makes delicious food! Tteokbokki is a sort of Korean pasta stew. There is strange, but delicious rice pasta, chili sauce, onions, spring onions and fish cake in it. (I gave my fish cakes away and tried to ignore the possibility of fish sauce in the broth.) The taste was rich and a bit hot. I was afraid it would be more spicy, but it wasn’t too bad.

I tasted Hongdae nightlife yesterday with my new-made friends from the hostel. Of course I didn’t bring my camera, who would want to take pictures of awesome margarita bongs and crazy fashion, smoke bubbles and shabby karaoke rooms?

Hongdae is, I was told, the mecca for cool kids and freaky fashion. The Americans knew how things roll here and lead us through the masses of party people. We started our night in Margarita Splash, which was a funky and colorful little store that served drinks in bong like huge bottles (15000 won). Too bad I didn’t take a picture, but I stole this from Soul Food blog.

margarita splash

Continuing to Cuccoon Noraebang – a karaoke room – to sing and to try some local alcohol beverages was a great idea. Makgeolli was pretty good, it’s milk colored rice beer and it tastes just like kotikalja but goes into your head. Soju is pretty much Koskenkorva, but made of rice. Weak vodka. The local beers, maekju, are mostly lagers and brewed from rice, so they have no bitter aftertaste and the flavor is rather weak. Easy to drink though. Maybe too easy (is what I have been thinking all day). We finalized the tour with this really funky upstairs bar with sisha and soap bubbles. (Noraebang 15000 won/hour, Sisha 18000 won, local draft beer 4000 won)

EDIT: went there next day to take a picture. A crappy picture.

gr8

Today has been almost useless, but we went to see a movie (9000 won / person) with Luce at Lotte Cinema (right next to Hongik Station). The movie, 127 hours, was based on a true story of a trekker who got stuck in a canyon and spent 127 hours trying to collect his guts to cut off his hand and escape. In which he finally succeeded. The camera work was awesome, but the speakers at the theater were really loud. Next time I will bring my earplugs.

Lotte Cinema

Notions:

  • There doesn’t seem to be any legislation controlling the opening/closing times, so you could probably greet the sunrise happily drunk.
  • You can walk with your drink on the streets
  • There seems to be no legislation controlling the amount of alcohol bars are allowed to serve per customer. I got mine with some eight or ten shots of booze.
  • They also sell drinks to-go. In plastic zip lock bags even.
  • The red light sign in the taxis indicates they’re free. That doesn’t mean they’ll take you on if you are going somewhere near.
  • The traffic is crazy.
  • The fashion is crazy too.
  • You can smoke in bars. Sometimes they have smoking cubicles, but usually not. You can also smoke on the streets, which wasn’t always allowed in Japan.
  • Korean students can have a massive drinking party at the hostel and it can dissolve in seconds. They even wash the dishes.

People, watching

It was my first “real” day in Seoul and I had no idea what to do, so I just buckled up my shoes and started walking. It was a bit before nine, chilly, a bit of snow on the ground and very few people on the streets: the rush hour was already over. There is smog everywhere and the trees are bare – everything looks delightfully boring.

Smoggy mountains

My hostel is in Hongdae, which is supposed to be the center of nightlife, live music and cool kids. Well, the cool kids were hibernating – I saw none. The University vacation might have something to do with it.  None of the shops were open, except for cafés, so I went to see the campus. It seems Korean students are allowed to draw on walls and leave nightmare based sculptures laying around. (Hongik has visual arts department, that’s why.)

More pictures in my picture blog.

I got bored when I couldn’t find a guitar store, so I took my trusted companion (Lonely Planet), and picked something randomly. I ended up on the opposite side of Seoul, in COEX Mall, which is supposed to be THE Mall here. The ticket was 1700 won – pretty good price for half an hour ride. Yes, the mall was big, but it’s hard to impress me with fashion stores.

Nevertheless, it was a perfect place for people-watching. There is an aquarium in the building too and the visiting preschool kids were just precious. Tiny charcoal eyed mini Asians with big yellow backpacks, holding hands and walking in endless rows. One of them had The Awesomest Blinking Lights in his shoes! WHOA!

Later on the place filled with dating teenagers. The boys seemed really pleased visiting hundreds of girly-girly fashion stores and endless accessory heavens. They probably paid for everything. I feel for them.

I found a good bookstore. HUGE. Loads of English books. Bought myself Survival Korean Vocabulary (by some Korean Publisher).

I ate delicious traditional Korean delicacy, New York Fries’ Veggie Works. Veggie here supposedly meant half pint of cheddar gravy. But anyways, their queue system was the greatest ever – after I placed my order, they gave me a coaster-like plastic thing, with digital number showing my place in the queue. I went to find a table and when my fries were ready the coaster started vibrating and bleeping!

I wanted to go back to the hostel, but I had to gather my guts to face the human rush hour. I sat down for a while and realized two things: 1) girls don’t smoke (publicly) 2) people stare me a lot. Funny and disturbing. The rush wasn’t that bad really, I suppose the peak was a bit later.

I think I saw a gay girl couple in the subway. I can’t be sure since girls hold hands here a lot but well, the other girl was obviously butch and the glance she gave me said “step back you foreign bitch”. The other queer part of the day were the awesome yaoi/K-pop maniac roomies, who went to see a musical with beautiful guys and a gay scene. “It’s a musical and it’s kinda gay”, is how one of them described it. I have to admit the promo pictures were dangerously divine. I’m probably going to see it with them next week – they want to see it again.

I asked the hostel owner if I could stay here for the rest of my vacation, even though the place is full. He said it’s okay as long as I don’t mind sleeping in the male dorm, which I don’t – I’m a Finn. So yay! I’m exploring Seoul very throughly and saving Pusan for spring.

If Oulu was Seoul, the airport would be in Hailuoto

AHEM! Where to start? This is going to be a long post – so much has happened in these couple of days.

I went on my excessive farewelling tour around Finland. On Monday I went to pick up my 500,000 wons and had an ISIC card made for me (12 €, Kilroy) – just in case I want to get the Korea rail pass. Helsinki in winter is violently boring and slippery.

The journey itself was very non-dramatic, so I tried to concentrate on details and feelings… but to tell about it would bore you and me to death so here’s an outline of my boring two-part series of flights.

I checked myself in on-line the night before, so all I had to do in Helsinki-Vantaa was to walk through security check, wait and queue. Amsterdam from air looked interesting and the airport was way too huge. I saw an amazing frequent flier passport checking thing, where you just inserted your personal card and proceeded through a series of serious cyber gates by fingerprint or iris scanning. The other gates were organized poorly and the Chinese were unable to comprehend.

KLM used ridiculously big boeing-something. They entertained us with a funny remote control – phone – entertainment system. I was amazed when I got the vegetarian meal I had ordered. Usually I end up starving. Not perfect though, I think I asked for vegan food but got ovo-lacto. Still better than nothing. Flight was for 10,5 hours which was enough to get frustrated on stewardesses who kept pestering us every hour. I did sleep a bit but not too well. Against my nature, I actually chatted with the lady next to me. What the heck, that lady was a gorgeous Japanese girl, who wouldn’t have?

Then I got to Seoul.

First impressions:

  • The scenery in general reminds me a tad too much of Hailuoto. With mountains. The airport is on an island.
  • The airport has a nice shuttle-train, whee!
  • I was tired, hated myself and people were staring.
  • I didn’t realize I need to fill in another landing card for immigrations, in addition to that hard-questions-on-a-tiny-piece-of-paper given me by the flight attendants. Even the Chinese grandmas knew better. (You can find the papers on the little desks at the immigration gates, don’t forget!) After that I just walked through immigrations and customs (where I handed in the other little piece paper) and out of the airport.
  • Or not exactly –  the train station is in the airport. Just follow the Airport Train -signs downstairs and through the hall.
  • There are no policemen in Helsinki-Vantaa airport. In Incheon (horribly young) policemen wield assault rifles. In Amsterdam the only weird thing was that all the shop clerk girls seemed to cover their heads with a scarf and be feminists.
  • Buying a train ticket is surprisingly easy when a nice young info-girl does it for you. A ticket from Incheon to Hongik University was a bit over 4000 won. The train was clean, and at that time rather empty, with announcements in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. They also had very clear announcements for transfer hubs. More about trains when I know more.
  • Simple getting-there instructions can be made complicated.
  • People like to talk. Which is nice.
  • TOP is nothing. NOTHING. Compared to the guys that walk on Seoul streets. Or more like, the star style doesn’t really differ that much from the common people style – Seoul people at a glans seem really stylish. I, on the other hand, feel colorful. Were blue jeans a mistake=!=!!=????

I’m staying at Hongdae Guesthouse 2.0 Yellow Submarine, a couple of minutes walk from Hangik University station. The getting there instructions were hard to understand, so I did as advised and dropped by at the first Hongdae Guesthouse. The hostel owner Mary is a charming person: talkative and cute. I sat there for a while talking with her and the part timers and guests and then with Mary’s good instructions and a map I found my way to the second guesthouse. The price for two nights is 34200 won – thats 25 euros. Nice people, if a bit weird. The house is really warm, thanks to floor heating, and now they all think I’m some sort of arctic specialty as I walk around wearing a wife-beater.

So, from now on I have made detailed plans: gonna sleep pretty soon. Tomorrow I will do something. After that I’ll do something else.

PS. No hope for veganism at least for weeks. People were apologetic when I told them I don’t eat seafood. That seems to be the issue. I think I’ll stick with bakeries until I figure something sustainable. Oh, and the fried rice (don’t worry, it’s veggies) had fish in it :D

PPS. No pictures, suckers. I didn’t feel like it.