Thursday, August 31, 2006

Updated photos

Some photos are updated.
Anywhoo - you can have a look through - they are not quite in order (but almost) and mostly un-named...but I will try to fix all that at a later time.
It is pouring rain...I actually got a shock when I tried to connect my camera to the computer - My fear of electricity renewed...think I will let the little lady that works here unplug it for me.
Anyways, I didn't download everything 'cause it's tak'n foreva...but tried to get the best ones.

Off to Pai in a few hours...hopefully the roads up the mountains aren't washed away from all this rain...crazzzy!

Love Colleen

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Going to the north country

Been in Chiang Mai just 2 days now and I am totally in love with the city!!
The people are great, the food is excellent and the weather is almost perfect.
There seem to be a million different Wats (temples) in the city and I might have walked to almost half of them on my first day. If it wasn't for the downpour of rain I might have seen a few more. Then I went to a day market for some light shopping....which actually seemed to have the standard things most foreigners like to buy as Bangkok , but at much lower prices.

Yesterday I spent the day 'chilling out at my guesthouse and went for an amazing Thai massage. I think the woman must have been an angel (you all know my back issues) because it feels like she fixed whatevertheheck has been wrong with my back for months. Incredible!!
(and sooo cheap - it cost me less then $4 for almost 2 hours of massage). Fell asleep easily last night (although it was likely the combination of massage and a few beers on the roof terrace that made it so perfect).

Today I spent the whole day taking a Thai Cooking course - well worth the 800 baht!
I learnt to cook 7 Thai dishes including Pad Thai and green curry, as well as one dish that we got to set on fire (be patient the photos are coming soon). Basically, a full day of cooking and then eating. The course was excellent and we were given many helpful hints (examples of things to substitute etc) to help make it easier to cook at home.
Yes friends and family - I promise to cook you some authentic Thai cuisine when I return (and for the Vegans in my life...I've got ya covered too!!)

Now my belly is full and I am going to take a rest again in a hammock at my guesthouse. Tonight I might go to the night market for an hour or so then go to meet up with my teacher and some people from my cooking class for a few beers.

Tomorrow I am taking a bus up to a small town called Pai (pronounced 'Bye'). Apparently it is one of those towns that we foreigners go to for a few days and end up staying a week or two. Not really 'Thai - but more of an artsy, hippy-ish village with a nightly live music scene and plenty of cheap international cuisine. It is set up near in the north west of Thailand amid misty mountains, large waterfalls and even has a hot spring. It should take about 3 or 4 hours tomorrow by minivan to get there.

So as you might have aniticipated, my original plans are changing - I think I might stay up north for another week or so before I head down south. The temperature is much cooler (easy sleeping at night), the people are kind and everything is really cheap. Other foreigners are telling me that the beaches are great - but very expensive (in comparison) and the people less friendly (yet another undeniable impact of too many travelers...hmm) so I am trying to soak in the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere here in the north before I leave for the south.

I keep for getting my USB cord to download photos - but will try tomorrow morning again.

Love you and miss you all

Monday, August 28, 2006

Traveling in Thailand (finally)

Just a short update to let everyone know I arrived (no thanks to the drunkards I left behind in Korea who dragged me and my backpack out of my apartment at 1am on my last night for one last night of Korean-style know who you are).
Thailand is amazing. I spent the first 24 hours in Bangkok ...seeing the sites on Khaosan Road, Wat Pho and visited a weekend market to do a little shopping.
Then I caught a train last night to Chiang Mai. The train was a slow and bumpy 14 hours overnight and I arrived at around 10am this morning.
I am staying at a very funky little guesthouse called Julie's Guesthouse and have a gorgeous private room in an old teak house. Having already put the futon to some good use this morning, I am off to wander the city a little and see what there is to offer.
I promise to update photos in a few days before I head down south to Ko Chang. Right now I am loving the cool northern air and the laid back style of everyone I am meeting....why did it take me so long to get here? hmmm.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Comings and goings

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Sorry to everyone for being such a slack about updating my blog...but I am sure you understand.
Since I am now computer-less, I find myself back at my local 'PC bang' to compose my last entry before I take my much-needed trip....ahh the perfect ending to my last year in Korea non?
Most of what you are going to read centers around drinking, packing and drinking some more...all of which are crucial elements to leaving Korea ( or anywhere for that matter) I apologize for the second time if it tends to ramble on.
My mate Helen came up a few weeks ago to help me move. We pretty much spent most of the weekend eating, drinking and the rest of the remaining hours driving to Busan to dump my belongings at her apartment. I was literally there for 20 minutes (just enough time to catch a whiff of the ocean air, lift everything into her apartment and say good bye) before I had to jump on a bus back to Seoul.
Thanks again for Helen for the help.
My apartment is now empty, except for the backpack that I am taking with me and a few odds and ends I have left for Kathryn (yes..the wine glasses are yours :)
Kathryn arrived last Saturday night. My manager Scully and I went to the airport to meet her. We arrived at my apartment, had some dinner and went to meet some friends for the last 'slum-run' of the season. It pretty much consisted of us drinking outside of no-less then 6 different GS-25 convenience stores until the sun came up on Sunday morning. Good times.
Considering I had been out to almost 5 am the night before, I was impressed with my resilience...not 19 anymore - but I can still drink with the best of 'em.
We managed to make some new 'friends' and as you will see by the photos below, it was a good time for all.
Kathryn held her own too- considering she had just got off a trans-pacific flight a few hours earlier - and managed to stay awake for the entire night (initiation successful!!)
Now I have just 2 days left before I head to Thailand.
My plan is to arrive into Bangkok on Saturday, head up to Chiang Mai on an overnight train Sunday for a few days and then make my way over to a beautiful island, Ko Chang, for some beaching, hiking and other R &R necessities.
It's going to be a sad few days - already had a few teary moments with my students and coworkers...but it feels good to be leaving Korea on a good note this time.
More good times to stay tuned.
As mentioned, I will be updating weekly and will have a link to my photos on this page.
For those of you at home - I will see you in 3 months - whoohoo! and for those of you I am leaving in Korea - thanks for an awesome year (you know who you are).
Next stop: Thailand!!


Helen, me, Sue and Justin at John's BBQ (obviously inside: we got kicked off the roof for being too loud...silly weguks! )

Sue and our new buddy Frank

I guess someone had too much Indonesian moonshine...uhoh Posted by Picasa

My manager Scully, Bona and Kathryn at dinner the other night...mmm..last galbi dinner for a while. Posted by Picasa

Some photos from our 'slum run'. Basically a drinking extravaganza at a series of convenience stores....(soju sold seperately)....ahh Korea...I love you!
(Clockwise: John and me; some new friends we made...(hey is that Vince Vaughn?); Kathryn and me; Sue and me) Posted by Picasa

Here is a collage of some of the photos taken in the last couple of days at school. My students are just too awesome for words. Posted by Picasa

My director's wife Helen and me. She really has been like a mother to me over the last year. Posted by Picasa

One of my favorite students, Jimmy. Such a good photoI just had to throw it in here with the rest. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Packing...well almost

Right now my apartment is in a state of chaos...boxes half packed, clothes scattered across the floor, and a surprisingly amount of things to do in the next few days.

I will be moving my things to Busan this feels like I have been saying that for a while now...but really...this is the weekend!!
Helen is arriving tomorrow and we are going to spend the weekend catching up (the last time I saw her was on our hiking trip in March), enjoying BBQ with some mates of mine and then we will drive down to Busan on Sunday to unload my things in Helen’s apartment. Again, I must give huge thanks to her for storing all my stuff – it is really a big help!

So, with time running out...I am in serious ‘packing-mode’. To be honest, I am not actually in serious ‘packing-mode’... I have spent the last 2 hours listening to music and thinking about packing....but I am sure that counts for something.

Anyways, it will all be done by tomorrow ... hopefully.

I finally told my students that I will be leaving. Their reactions were as expected: mixed between confusion and sadness.
I was surprised that they all had several questions as to why I was leaving and why I am not returning, which I tried to answer honestly. I know it will be a tough transition for them as well as me – but I am trying to keep them focused on the arrival of their new teacher, Kathryn.
She is actually a friend of mine from University who has decided to cross over to the dark side...giggle giggle.
Seriously, I know she will be a good replacement for me and the students are looking forward to meeting her.
Kathryn arrives next weekend and will be shacking up with me in my apartment for her first week in the country (my last week).
Considering the small size of my apartment – it is guaranteed to be cozy.

Since my computer will be moved to Busan this weekend, I am going to be severely limited in my internet access over the next few months. The plan is to try to keep a weekly update of my travels but we’ll see how it goes.
As I plan to be taking lots of photos while I am in Thailand and India, I am going to try something new. Instead of adding the photos directly to my blog I am going to upload them to a website so that you can view them in all their glory. Not sure how it will work, but I am willing to try it for now.

Anywhoo...I am off to finish the whole packing catastrophe once and for all and to attempt to clean the areas of my apartment that haven’t seen a wet cloth in the last it possible that there is something growing on the floor behind my fridge? Eewwwee!

I will definitely be blogging again before I leave Korea on the 26th so stay tuned friends.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Where the heck is India? I mean the Embassy

Ok, the rain finally stopped...and just in time for my vacation. Horary!!
I am very excited that it is very hot and sunny now – I think I was becoming deficient in Vitamin D.

I had to visit the Indian Embassy in Seoul today to apply for my tourist visa and ended up making a day of it.
I arrived in Hannam-dong (area) around 10:30am since the Embassy only takes applications between 9:30-12:30. The website stated that the embassy was about a 15 minute walk from the subway – well I guess 15 minutes would be correct if one was to find the place right away. In my case it took closer to 45 minutes.
After walking in the wrong direction for 15 minutes I managed to flag down a man who worked at a flower shop. He patiently listened while I made a pathetic attempt at speaking Korean and then kindly pointed me in the right direction
Yongo-ru ashimmikka? “ odio?”...which translates into “do you understand English? ...where is India?”...guess I should have looked up the Korean word for Embassy...for future use it is “taesagwan”
– yes...he was laughing at me...but after I showed him my map he quickly understood I was in search of the Indian Embassy rather then the country, India.

Arriving at the embassy (profusely sweating at this time...did I mention it is really hot here?) I managed to get an application, borrow a pen, fill out my application and finally get in line for my interview behind no less then 25 other people. (Yes...still profusely sweating...but this time in front of 25 other people)
The interview was very quick...”Where do you live? How long did you say you will be in India for? How long have you taught English in Korea? It sure is hot today.”
Then I dropped off my passport and decided to try to discover a new area of the city.

I made my way to Yeouido Park, which is located along the Han River and is one of 12 riverside parks. The park is actually split into 2 sections. The first part is across the road from the river and is home to an ecology forest and pond, a grassy area (and another pond) and a traditional Korean forest (and of course...wait for it....another pond).
Each is very beautiful and offer a little bit of greenery in-between some high-rises.
There are tons of trees, plants and many insects....the least of which were the cicadas.
They were almost deafening in some spots. However, even despite the high-pitched shrieking of the cicadas, it was all very beautiful.
The second part of the park extends alongside the actual river. It is much smaller, and doesn’t really have many trees...mostly just grass...but is still quite lovely.
On my way to the river park I came across something quite strange. I like to refer to it as Speedo City.
Beside the riverside park there is actually a small water park that seems to only have 1 large pool surrounded by tarmac. No slides, no sand....just 1 pool and tarmac. It was VERY crowded and appears to be much more popular then the riverside park beside it (see photos below). I really can’t understand the appeal. I mean, it wasn’t like it was just for kids. In fact, there seemed to more adults then children. Most of who were just standing around in their Speedos and bikinis (surprising considering Koreans fear of the sun) talking to each other.
Anyways, I didn’t stay long – just walked past to get a photo and then made my way down to the river.
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the river, taking photos and enjoying the breeze. All in all it was a great Wednesday!
I was planning to go to a different park tomorrow but as it turns out, I may be moving this weekend after all... not definite but a big it means I have a lot of packing to do this week if I am going to be ready if/when Helen comes this weekend.
Might see how much I can get done tomorrow morning and then try to get to a park for the afternoon – don’t want to miss any of this great weather!!

Just some photos I took while looking for the Indian Embassy Posted by Picasa

Yeouido Park Information Board  Posted by Picasa

The boardwalk that runs through the Ecology park in Yeouido Park (my favorite part of the park)...minus the shrieking cicadas. Posted by Picasa

The grassy area in Yeouido Park...not really as manicured as the picture makes it look Posted by Picasa

nature in the city Posted by Picasa

I think this is part of the traditional Korean forest (and pond) in Yeouido Park Posted by Picasa

One of the many ponds in Yeouido Park Posted by Picasa

Speedo City....amazing that people are choosing this over the beautiful park next door Posted by Picasa

Empty Riverside Park at Yeouido (next door to Speedo City) Posted by Picasa

The Han River and Seoul skyline Posted by Picasa

Not too many people out for a walk along the river today (they must all be at Speedo City) Posted by Picasa

Some prertty sunflowers I found planted along the river. Posted by Picasa

The mighty Han River !!!! (and Seoul tower in the background) Posted by Picasa

This is one of Korea's most famous buildings...Building 63. I think because it has 63 floors. Anyways..maybe it has more...I think it is the tallest building in Korea. Apparently it has good views from the top. Posted by Picasa

me and my sunburn (I forgot to bring sunscreen with me...I know...bad bad !!) ..also my new hat - sexy non? Posted by Picasa