Thursday, May 31, 2012

Food and Drink Korea #1 - Convenience Store Drinks

Today I am going to introduce some commonly found drinks in Korea.  You can get these or variations of them at your local Convenience Store.  Convenience stores are ubiquitous across Korea  - from where I live I can get to at least six in under 5 minutes (not kidding) there is even one in my building so I don't even have to go out if its raining.

These are just four drinks that I have recently tried, I will follow up with some more and maybe some snack foods in the future. As I have said before I am very picky so I don't like coffee or tea and this limits my choices a bit in the drinks department here in Korea.

1. Hot6 (핫식스)
This one is a carbonated energy drink and is relatively new to the market.  Prior to a year or so ago there were no 'engery drinks' per se in Korea.  They had their own vitamin drinks which we will look at in number 4. but when I first got here just over a year ago you could not even get Red Bull in most places, there was only one Convenience Store that carried it in my area.  I believe this was due to the ingredients which were not allowed but I am not 100 per cent on that.  Anyway now most of my local stores stock Red Bull and there are some local variations making their way onto the market.  The one they are pushing the most is this one Hot6 so I thought I would support local trade and give it ago.  I have to say I did not like it, it was too bland and kind of tasted faintly of flowers.  It was relatively sweet but not as sweet as Red Bull.

2. Honey Water (꿀물)
I like honey and water so I thought I would give this a try.  Way too sweet and this is coming from someone who loves sweet things.  According to the bottle it has 20 % honey which was maybe a bit much.  It pretty much just tastes like what it says honey flavoured water.

3. Woongjin Aloe Juice (자연은 알로에)
This one is my pick of the bunch and my new favourite non-caffeinated beverage. There are a couple of other brands of Aloe Vera drink on the market  - one is Del Monte but the one pictured here is the best I have tasted. I did not like the Del Monte brand one at all.  The drink tastes a bit like a sweet green grape juice, its refreshing and has little chunks of aloe vera in it.  The chunks might put some people off and I was dubious at first but they are really soft and small and you don't really even notice them.

4. Bacchus-F (박카스)
This one is a non-carbonated Korean energy drink. It has been around for a long time and was originally sold as a herbal remedy for colds and hangovers.  Korea has a few of this kind of vitamin drink, there are ones that have vitamin C in them for example and taste like orange.  I had tried the vitamin C ones first and they are quite nice, a sweet flavoured orange taste and I could immediately taste the similarities when I tried this one however I did not like it as much and I found it a bit too bland like the Hot6 one.  It is kind of sweet but it does not have the citrus flavour that the other ones do so is not as nice.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Music Monday #3

This week it's back home for Music Monday.  A little bit different as it is not a video clip but the movie trailer for the new documentary about my favourite New Zealand band.  If you are a Kiwi then you will have already guessed the topic of today's post - Shihad.

Shihad are New Zealand's greatest rock band and this month they have released a documentary about their journey - the highs, the lows and above all the music.

I have not seen it yet but its on my list of things to do when I go back home for a visit in July.  So please have a look and a listen and see what you think.

Shihad - Beautiful Machine (Documentary)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music Monday #2

Welcome to the second installment of Music Monday.  This time I thought that seen as though this is a blog about living in Korea I would show you just a taste of K-Pop.  If you don't know what K-pop is - well then what rock have you been hiding under :)

K-pop is apparently taking over the world, well especially if you talk to a Korean person,  it is in fact the most popular music in Asia at the moment and most of the K-pop groups have large followings in Japan for example.  The are also trying to move into the American market and some groups have released songs in English just for this.  Girls Generation arguably the most famous girl group recently made an appearance on 'The Late Show with David Letterman'.

It's pretty much just what it says - Korean Popular music.  However its a bit different than pop in the west, first off - well it's pretty much a religion over here, the majority of your average everyday Korean is going to love K-pop.  Secondly they do not do things half-arsed - its bigger, flashier and more put together than what you are used to. Third they like groups better than solo acts, also the bigger the group the better (I guess they figure if it is big you will be able to relate to at least one member) and finally these groups are made by big companies - they recruit the talent, put them in groups, train them for years and finally release them to the world as a brand new act, they work very hard and don't get much time off.

Also as a side note - my personal opinion - some of the boys in the boy groups are almost indistinguishable from the girls.  Often you see a picture of one of the 'famous stars' promoting a beauty product and not knowing who they are you have to ask yourself - hmmm is that a girl or a boy (case and point in this video today - guy with the long hair could totally pass for a girl especially with the makeup).

This video is a new one from what I would say is the most popular K-pop band (you may disagree).  They are called Big Bang and have been around for a while now.  This is one of the popular new singles of their new album.  Lots of my students at school are all quoting it and making references to it.  I did not know it was what they were quoting until I saw the video a couple of weeks ago after making a music lesson for one of my classes.  Anyway here it is and I think its a great one to show just what K-pop is all about.

Big Bang - Fantastic Baby

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finding Foreign Food in Seoul

I just found a great article about the Foreign Food places in Seoul so thought that I would share it here for you.

It's written by Chris Backe for travelwire Asia - Life in Korea: Finding some tastes from home

It lists some of the different places you can find some foreign foods in Seoul and also where and how to find these places. I've been to a couple of them in Itaewon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Travel: DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)

Where: Demilitarized zone in Paju ,Gyeonggi-do
How: Tour with Adventure Korea
Length: One day

In February I took a one day tour to the DMZ, it was a great trip and I would recommend it to anyone who is coming over to Korea. If you are in Seoul then its not too far away and you can easily do it as a one day trip. I went with Adventure Korea, I have used them before when I went to Jeju Island and found them to be very good.

There are various stops along the way when you do this tour:


Imjingak is as far as you can go towards the North without permission, it was built for the people who had to leave their homes in the North and there is an altar where they can pray for their ancestors.

At Imjingak you can also see the Peace Bell which was built in 2000 and is a symbol for the hope of peace and unification between the North and the South. There is also the Freedom Bridge where they used to exchange prisoners after the war and you can buy some North Korean money here which is a great souvenir.
The Altar
Freedom Bridge

The Third Tunnel

South Korea has discovered four tunnels dug by North Korea to infiltrate the south. They think there could be more but it has only been by chance that they discovered these ones so far. The 3rd Tunnel was found in 1978 and you can walk down into it for a ways – its about 73 meters below the surface. I’m pretty unfit at the moment and it was a bit of a hike – it’s not bad going down but you have to come back up at the end and that was a bit of a climb. There is a little car that goes down but the Adventure Korea tour price does not cover that. The actual infiltration tunnel at the end is pretty small, they give you hard hats so you don’t hit your head and after bumping mine with the hat on (after feeling a bit silly wearing it) I was glad of it.

The tunnel could apparently allow 10, 000 to 30, 000 soldiers to invade Seoul within an hour. Lucky for us it’s all blocked off now.

Tongilchon (unification village)

There are two villages inside the DMZ, which I found to be very strange and interesting as I had not known that anyone actually lived there besides the soldiers.

One village is Daesongdong and the other is Tongilchon, you can see some of the houses and hear about the life of the people who live here. The tour guide was really knowledgeable about this and it was really interesting – there are no gates or anything because there is no crime. There are too many soldiers about for there to be any problems. The villages are famous for their produce as the environment is a lot more natural up there.

Dora Observatory

The observatory is where you can actually see the DMZ and the North. Its pretty far away but they do have some binoculars that you can use (500 won to make them go). You can see some of the cities of the North, again its pretty far so you really just get an impression. Kijongdong is the ‘Propaganda Village’ which was built so that when you looked into the North you could see how prosperous they are.

Dorasan Station

You also visit the last train station that goes towards the North, you can even buy a ticket (really cheap) and go onto the platform to see the train.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music Monday #1

I thought that one way to keep my posts up a bit would be to have something that I do every week.  Sometimes I don't have time to write a whole post and as I usually make then pretty long when I'm telling about a particular topic it can take some time to write and edit.

So I thought that I might include a 'Music Monday' post every week, in it I will post a song that I like.  It might be one from the past or one I have just recently heard.  I will try and include some from Korea (but I'm not really a big K-pop fan as I grew up listening to Rock and Punk so its not really my thing) if I find something I think is worth sharing.  It may just be for the weirdness factor.

Anyway this week's song is from one of my favourite bands of all times. Bad Religion  - its hard to chose one song as this group has been around for over thirty years doing their punk thing.  I have so many favourites from over the years but I chose this one because it always makes me smile.

Bad Religion - Generator
(Warning - there is some profanity in this video - its a punk song so don't watch it if you don't like that kind of language)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Welcome to my Neighborhood - Ingye-dong, Suwon

A short video I took on my new smartphone, it's the first time I used it so its not that great. I had the phone up the wrong way. I think it would be better on it's side next time.

Anyway this is my neighborhood, just after my apartment building and walking along the street for a little way. You can see the big Cinepark building toward the end of the video, it's a big building that houses lots of shops and restaurants along with a cinema.

Also at the very end you can see a great example of 'couple culture'. Korea is very focused on couples, they like to advertise the fact that they are in a relationship. This can be something simple like having the same phone or things like having matching phone charms or other accessories. Or you can get the 'Couple T'shirts' like in this video, the couple at the very end are wearing matching T's.

Only in Korea!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Confessions of a Picky Eater

I am probably one of the most picky eaters you will ever come across (although I have actually met worse).  So you can imagine the surprise of my family and friends when I announced that I was going to Korea.  The most common first question out of every one's mouth was 'What will you eat?'.  That's because most of my close family and friends who have had the joy of dining with me on repeated occasions and the added joy of finding a restaurant where I will be able to eat, know only to well that I don't really eat much 'non-western' food and of that it's also pretty limited.

I had however already addressed this issue, its one of the first things that I have to think of when I am going somewhere.  I did my research and found that Seoul and much of the more metropolitan areas of Korea cater to many western tastes and that there were an abundance of 'western chains' available. I have found that it is true there are a lot of western foods so I am able to find enough to live on.

On the other hand I have found recently that I am getting bored with eating the same foods, there is a limit to what is available and to be honest a lot of it is stuff that's not really that healthy.  What I really miss are the snack foods like chips (I know also not healthy) that are readily available in New Zealand - Burger Rings anyone?  Lucky for me I have a great Mum who sends me over care packages with things like Vegemite to keep me going.

I do find myself constantly wishing that I liked more foods (and yes I do try new things - I like to try something before I say I don't like it). At this stage in my life I'm pretty good at judging if it's something that I'm going to like, if I know I don't like a certain flavour and that is in the dish then there is a very good chance that I'm not going to like it. It does annoy me when people are like 'go on try it', 'you don't know until you try it'.  While that is sometimes true, its not always the case.  I really can't eat spicy foods, I'm a baby when it comes to spice so 'no' I'm not going to like it if its super hot - I know that I don't need to test the theory.

I always feel a bit embarrassed when eating out and I don't like anything, I don't really care if there is nothing I like - that's my issue and not anyone else's problem.  What I don't like is when other people make a fuss, I'd rather just get something to drink be social and then I'll make myself a sandwich when I get home. Sometimes they are just trying to be nice and that's fine but you get the people who are like - 'You should have said you didn't like Chinese food!', however when you are in a group and everyone else agrees on Chinese food then what are you going to do - make everyone change just because you don't like it? Well I don't, I just go and try and find something that I might be able to eat, if all else fails I like rice so I'll just eat that :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Introducing Gmarket

About Gmarket

Gmarket is the most popular online shopping site in Korea, it has an English site which was launched in 2006 and in 2009 itwas bought by eBay. It works in a similar way to sites like eBay where the main site provides a place for many individual sellers to market their wares. This means that you are not really buying from Gmarket rather Gmarket is the intermediary between you and the seller.

There is a wide range of products available from, clothes, books, toys, food, electronics and much more. Because there are lots of different sellers often selling the same or similar goods the prices on Gmarket are very competitive

If you are buying from overseas what Gmarket does is combine the shipping and then send it out to you in one package. So the sellers sends the products to the Gmarket warehouse, if you have more than one item, then Gmarket will then put them all together in one box and send that to you. It means you can combine postage to make shipping the goods a bit cheaper as they only send by EMS (courier) internationally and it can get a bit pricey.

Kiwigirl and Gmarket

So I mentioned in my last post that one of my favorite things about Korea is Gmarket, this is very true and I have to say I am a little addicted.

I love shopping anyway and the ease and convenience of shopping online really appeals to me, I’ve bought so many things off there so far – sofa, printer, shoes, cosmetics, clothes and other accessories to name but a few.

So I thought I might make a start on some posts concerning this great site. Hopefully if you have not discovered the wonderment that is Gmarket or have been hesitant because it looks a bit daunting this will help you find your way.

Gmarket has a couple of sites, the main one is in Korean which is fine if you read Korean. There is also a Singapore version and of course the one that most of us will be interested in, the English version of the main Korean site The English language version of the site is pretty good once you get to know it, it can be a bit confusing when you first look at it as there is a lot going on. Most of the instructions are in English but there is still a lot of Korean on the actual merchandise. In saying that its usually not too much of a problem as there are always heaps of pictures so you can usually figure out what the product is and does, you can also use Google translate to help you out if you really need it.

If you are living in Korea Gmarket is a great resource for furnishing your apartment cheaply and for any other bits and pieces you might need. If you live overseas don’t worry as you can still enjoy Gmarket, lots of the sellers ship overseas. The seller page will have if they ship worldwide marked on it so you can easily see if it is something you can purchase. There are many things that obviously cannot be shipped but there are still heaps of cool things that can.