2 Canadians in Korea

Welcome to our blog. It's designed to give people back home an idea of what it's like living in South Korea and to allow you to follow us on our journey.

I've been blogging a lot of facts and I feel I should say that some of it is copy pasted from books, the internet and the signs that I took pictures of at the tourist site itself.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Meat Department

Meat has been a small challenge in South Korea. We miss beef. To our parents reading this, we would like to place a order for the best and biggest steak (Angèle wants mushrooms) when we get back to Canada.

They eat a lot of pork in S. Korea and they don't clean off the fat as much as we would like. The only clean piece of meat that we found was pork tenderloin which was reasonably priced at approx $2.50 cnd for 1. We bought what we thought was bacon, as you see here with bone in it, but it didn't taste like bacon at all. We are assuming that in Canada they cook, smoke and season the bacon before packing it. We think this is bacon straight from the pig, untouched, bone and all. So, we'll have a side order of bacon with our steak.

Ground beef isn't common in S. Korea either, we only found chopped beef which is extremely expense as you see here this pack cost approx. $11.00 cnd and tasted like steak in our spaghetti sauce. We aren't sure if we will do that again.

We have yet to find a clean, boneless, skinless chicken breast either. They seem to only pluck and gut the chicken then chop it up into small pieces, in no particular order, and price it for sale. *Yummy!

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*hint of sarcasm.

Produce Department

There is a grocery store called the GS Supermarket that is 10 minutes away on foot and we buy most of our products there. We find just about everything we could need there but it is more expensive then the market shops. The produce department is pretty good and the cheapest item that we purchase would have to be oranges. We buy about 25-30 clementines (Christmas oranges) for about $3.00 cnd. You could buy them by the case, bagged or loose. If you bag your own you must give your bag to the produce employee who weighs it and prices it for you which is something that is usually done at the cash register back home.

One really cool thing is their lettuce. They don't seem to eat bowls of salad like we do, they mostly use lettuce to wrap the meat they BBQ. So buying a head of lettuce or romaine isn't common. Some poor Joe's job at the grocery store is to separate all the leaves from the heads of lettuce for sale by weight. This pile looks kind of picked through so the leaves aren't nicely placed like it usually is but you get to see the cool fog machine that keeps them moist.

We can buy watermelon (with seeds) and they are the size of a cantaloupe for $21.00 cnd. I hear they are huge and cheap in the summer so I'll have to wait. One item that we haven't seen is celery but I was never a big fan of celery anyway.

I know this isn't produce but I don't want to make a blog on just eggs. You can easily find chicken eggs all over and if you shop around you can get 10 eggs for $1.50 cnd but they only have brown eggs and we find that the yolk is much darker and has a stronger taste. The coolest thing that we got to try was Quail eggs which are also all over the place. We only had a hard boiled one at a restaurant as it came as a side dish with one of our meals. To our surprise, it tasted just like a normal egg but smaller.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Finally Made It To The Top!

After three attempts to make it to the top of Daeam mountain, we finally made it! We realized why we couldn't make it the first few times, we were carrying to much weight, so the third time up we didn't bring the camera. The problem was once we made it to the top we realized that we had no proof to show that we were there. So, naturally we had to do it again.

We have since been up to the top 4 times and have managed to drag along other foreigners with us and we created an unofficial mountain climbing club of 6. We go up every Sunday. It takes us approx. 1:45 hours to make it to the top and approx. 30 mins to get back down but we feel the burn for 1 to 2 days.

The hike continues around the mountain tops for about 9 km's and if you want you could somewhat make your way around Changwon City on mountain tops. We would like to do this with 1 overnight camping experience but we haven't decided if we will or not. If you are wondering about the wildlife, we have only seen a few birds during our hikes.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dick Sticks, Booby Bands and Body Yogurt....

Could this be an embarrassing purchase at the grocery store or a novelty shop? Nah, just a regular day of shopping in South Korea! This was actually some purchases that we could've made at the market, all in a day's work.

To our surprise, Dick Sticks, which can be purchased at the bargain price of about $1.50, are actually chocolate covered bread sticks. We're guessing they wanted to say, Dip Sticks, but we could be wrong. This could be a very effective marketing ploy. It sure made us look twice!

I know what you're thinking, Booby Bands? Maybe some fancy nipple covers? Nope, just some cute band-aids for kids. A whole pack for just $0.40! Perhaps they meant Boo-boo Bands, for when you fall and get a boo-boo. The best part is that in smaller font under the name, it reads "Spring is Booby's season!" We think there might be an entire line of Booby products.

A little Body Yogurt to top it all off? This moisturizer must be a little thicker than the line of 'body milk' creams that we sell back home. There's something about the word yogurt, however, that sounds less appealing...

So, a clever marketing ploy? Or another case of Konglish? I hope they're not paying these translators too much money!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Public Toilets

I'm sure a lot of you are wondering how the toilets are in South Korea, so here goes. The public toilets are less than desirable to say the least. Let's just say I would really, really have to go to use some of these facilities.

Most restaurants don't have their own toilets but there are toilets on each floor of every business building and each business share these toilets. They are usually not heated and are poorly cleaned. You could find a mop hanging somewhere in the way in just about every toilet.

Most toilets are the western sit down style and some of them have electronic options on the side that I have yet to figure out, but I think you could give yourself a little spray for cleaning and the flush is on there as well. They don't flush toilet paper in South Korea (I think it's to avoid clogging) but they have little garbage cans in each stall for your TP. I wouldn't want to have to pick up the trash! We just flush it anyway.

Most toilets do not have toilet paper, soap or paper towels so you have to bring your own. We carry TP with us a lot and we bought some hand sanitizer.

The scariest toilet has to be the whole in the ground. I have yet to try one of these and I hope I never have too. Angèle, however, has had the pleasure of using these toilets on several occasions, as many of the women's washrooms only have squatters.

I'm sure we'll encounter stranger toilets along our travels through South Korea, and we promise to bring you all the 'crappy' details!

Monday, February 18, 2008

South Korean Police

Oh no, it's "5-0" in the park! Nevermind, they're sleeping.
We haven't seen too many police officers around Changwon but the few that we have seen look more like security guards. They are very young and they don't carry firearms, so Angèle and I are guessing that they are cadets and that they use cadets a lot. The police officers in the cruiser looked to be older and probably do carry firearms but we couldn't tell since they were in the car and I didn't ask if he was packing heat.

We have not seen one police officer pull anyone over on traffic violations, which would explain why everyone drives like maniacs and treats red lights like Yield/Stop signs. We also noticed that taxis have a lot of radar equipment and we think that they have radar detectors which might be part of that problem. We also found a police station by luck but we think its a community police station since it was closed during the weekend and they used a bike lock to lock up the doors.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spam it up!

Lunar New Year was kind of like Christmas back home. Everyone visits family during their 5 days off and people buy each other gifts. Angèle's school bought every teacher a very popular gift set of Spam. Yes, Spam. When she first saw the gift set, Angèle thought it must be really good but thought she would wait to be home with me before opening it so we could share the surprise. Imagine our dumbfounded look when we opened it and found 10 cans of Spam!

I alone have been eating it and it's not that bad when it's fried. So far my favorite dish has been Spambled Eggs as you can see in this picture. Not Bad. The gift set came with a pamphlet that gives you ideas of what you can make with your Spam and our favorite one was Spam-uffins. Doesn't that sound appetizing? Picture a little muffin with Spam chunks in it. Angèle refuses to eat anything that comes out of a can smelling like wet dog food so it looks like I'm on my own with the Spam.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Busan Subway

The subway in Busan is very similar since it has the same basic principals as every other subway but here are some differences.

You must purchase your ticket from a computerized terminal by entering how far you want to go. It cost us about $1.10 cnd to go about 10 stations along the line with a transfer so it's pretty cheap. You take your ticket and proceed to the entry point which controls entry to the trains. You enter your ticket in that machine, it lets you in and spits back out your ticket as you will need it later. You take your ride and get off where you said you would and on your way out there is another machine that you place your ticket in again to ensure you got out at the right spot. A security guard monitors (at random I think) the exit to ensure you are indeed getting off where you are supposed to.

If you have ever taken the subway in Toronto you will definitely notice one difference which is the cleanliness of the subway cars. I have never seen public transportation this clean.

The picture of the Korean guy wearing a sports jacket was very interesting to see. There are salesmen that walk from car to car trying to sell their items. In Toronto they would get kicked out or arrested for harassing others but this was quite pleasant considering what it was. The salesman made his way to the middle of the car, gave his sales pitch that lasted 1-2 mins, never directed his pitch to an individual giving you the opportunity to listen or ignore, asked if anyone was interested and made his sales and left. We saw two salesmen in total during our subway trip, one was selling LED flashlights that had a magnetic bottom and was able to shoot a straight light beam to the end of the subway car and even with all the lights on we were able to see it and the guy you see here was selling a pocket size electric shaver.

Busan Fish Market - South Korea

We have seen many markets in South Korea and most have a variety of booths that sell different things but in Busan along the ocean shores there is a market that is strictly fish. I didn't see anything that looked like what I would call fish for sale though. This picture shows less then half the booths that were set up and everyone was selling the same things.

The second picture really reminded me of, well, I'm sure you see it too.

The third is full of small octopuses that people eat raw and alive. I've only seen a few video clips on "youtube" but they dip these little guys in a sauce and eat them head first. The tentacles wiggle around their faces and try to get out but of course they fail since they are being eaten alive. I'm told that if you don't chew the tentacles enough they can stick in your throat and choke you. I'm not a "save the animals" kind of guy but this is cruel in my opinion.

The forth is squid which we see a lot and it's funny to see them swim in tanks as they don't maneuver much and just have a big burst of speed in 1 direction and hit the tank walls.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Crossing the Road

Crossing the road in South Korea is a lot more controlled than it is in Canada. I don't know what the penalty is for "jay walking" (is that how you spell that?) but not too many people do it here. They have two controlled ways of crossing the road. There is the simple crosswalk and the underground passages.

The simple crosswalks have the big white lines as you see and they have a red/green stick man light indicator. The fascinating part about this is when it's green and time is running out rather than the flashing green man like back home, they have an arrow indicator on the left that counts down. It takes forever to get a green crosswalk signal and the amazing part is that most people wait for it. I still sometimes just look both ways and cross if there aren't any cars.

They also have underground crosswalks. The major intersections have an entrance at each side and everyone walks down and comes up where they need too. I think this would be very useful in downtown Toronto to control pedestrian crossings. However, they would have a hard time building it now and I wonder how many people would actually use it since they're all used to crossing whenever they want.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Korean BBQ

Angèle, Erin and I went to a Korean BBQ today. We didn't have much choice since a lot of places were closed for Lunar New Year but we finally found a place that was open and lucky for us they had a 'half sitting on the floor' area and a 'half sitting on chairs' area which was great. I don't like sitting on the floor because you have to take off your shoes and well, having my feet close to my face while I eat isn't my favorite thing.

What is a Korean BBQ?

They have a little BBQ in the middle of each table, some are charcoal and some are natural gas. Some have a BBQ grill and others have a hot plate type surface. I prefer the charcoal with the BBQ grill however it sucks when you drop a chopstick in the fire through the grill but you look around you to see if anyone saw then you shrug it off.

You have a choice of a few meats that you can see posted on the wall in the seated areas and they bring you several side dishes that you can either cook with, use as add ons when you eat or eat just as is. They usually just bring everything to your table and place as much meat as they can on the grill and you’re on your own to do the rest but because we were foreigners that looked lost the waitress helped us along by cutting our meat in small chunks for us.

How do you eat? Well, there is no clear separation of individual foods, we all share. You pick up your chop sticks and poke at whatever you want on the table and go nuts. Picture a bowl of coleslaw and everyone’s sharing out of the same bowl with chopsticks, no word of a lie. You can also make yourself a little lettuce wrap which goes like this: 1 piece of lettuce (red leaf or some minty weird leaf) and you take a piece of meat off the grill and dip it in whatever sauce you want that we all share and you place your piece of meat on your leaf, then you place the side dishes like onions or garlic slices that you grilled with the meat or raw and you place that on your leaf and then you roll your leaf up like a fajita and you eat it all at once. Very yummy.

The only thing I don't like very much about all this is they don't clean the meat very well. You get a lot of fat with your meat and it's sometimes hard find the actual meat.

The entire meal for all 3 of us and 2 bottles of beer cost $22cnd.

Fast Food

So, food. Angèle and I have tried several things and some are good, some are not. We have come up with a saying and it goes like this "That tastes like Korea" which loosely translates too that taste like that gross taste in the air you get when all the markets are up and running.

They have several kinds of restaurants in South Korea. They have the market style which is kind of like the Korean version of the "Street Meat" hot dog vendor back home but they sell Korean stuff. They have traditional Korean restaurants which are mostly Korean BBQs that you have to sit on the floor. We have seen some Western name brands like McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, TGI Friday's, Dunkin' Donuts and Subway and we have also seen some look 'a' likes that seem to be very much the same until you go in and look at the menu and notice that they put pickles on every pizza as it's melted in with the cheese. A plain cheese pizza also has pickles.

I have yet to try to eat at McDonald's since my favorite part is to wash it all down with a Super Large Diet Coke but they don't have diet pop in South Korea. I have found Coke light which seems very similar but not quite and they don't have it at McDonald's. We did eat at 1 fast food restaurant called Lotteria (I thought it was a store that sold lottery tickets until I went in) and we ordered a "Bulgogi set" AKA Cheese Burger Deal but it "tasted like Korea". I think it's the sauce they put on the burger so we will have to try another one sometime before we leave. The "set" was the size of a kids meal back home including the size of the pop and it cost $4 taxes in.

McDonald's appears to be similar to back home but one thing that stood out was that they have an option for a side of corn instead of the fries.

I will be posting on the other kinds of restaurants that we have experienced and the funnest has to be the Korean BBQ which I plan on eating at tonight and I will bring my camera. I think I may have gotten food poisoning there last time so we are going back to see if it was really that restaurant or just some bug. Luck favours the brave.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Korea Celebrates Lunar New Year

From Feb. 6th to Feb. 10th, Koreans are celebrating Seollal or Lunar New Year.

According to our Lonely Planet book on Korea, "The Lunar New Year is celebrated on the first day of the first lunar month, which falls between late January and early February. Lunar New Year is one of the two most important holidays in Korean culture, during which half of the country ventures to their ancestral hometown to pay respects to deceased forebears with a big feast."

I’ve asked many of my students what they will be doing, and over 95% of them are headed to their grandparents. From what I can gather, there are no New Year’s fireworks, or huge celebrations. This is simply celebrating a new year according to the moon, and enjoying the comforts of family and friends. Most family run restaurants and stores will also be closed during this time.

Here is an article I found in The Korea Herald, an English newspaper that explains just how many Koreans will be travelling around the country, as well as coming back to Korea to visit their families.

Long Seollal Holiday Starts

Some 6.7 million people per day are expected to be traveling during the Lunar New Year holiday, raising concerns of traffic congestion. Highways across the nation are likely to be most congested today and on Friday, according to a Korea Highway Corporation survey of 5,000 households.

Half of the respondents said they would go back to their hometowns today and some 33 percent will return to Seoul on Friday, the survey showed. The first day of the Lunar New Year is on Thursday.

The survey also found that over 85 percent of households would be driving, 9.7 percent said they would take buses, 3.0 percent said they would go by rail and 0.4 percent said they would go by plane. An estimated 3.4 million cars per day will be on the expressways, an increase of 3.9 percent from last year’s Lunar New Year season, the KHC said.

The KHC anticipates that the average car journey between
Seoul and Busan will take over nine hours, six hours between Seoul and Daejeon, and eight hours between Seoul and Gwangju. Motorists using the lanes reserved for cars with more than six passengers will save one or two hours, the KHC said.

The Road Traffic Safety Authority cautioned that car accidents could exacerbate the severe traffic jams. The number of injuries from road accidents typically increases by more than 20 percent during the New Year holiday season.

Meanwhile, hotels, condos and ski resorts are inundated with funseekers making the most of the five-day holiday. In
Gangwon Province, famed for its ski resorts, over 1,900 guest rooms in condos and hotels were already booked up some 20 days ago.

Incheon International Airport expects 400,000 overseas travelers from Feb. 1 throughout the holiday.

By Song Sang-ho, The
Korea Herald, Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Monday, February 4, 2008

What would you like to see?

This is a post for you to comment on and tell me what you would like to see or know about in Changwon, South Korea. If it merits a post then I will work on it and if it merits an email than I will do that instead. If you wish to ask me something personally, just say so and I will not publish your comment.


One method of transportation that is considered strange and socially uncool in Canada is scooters. They are everywhere here and that's probably because of the lack of space and the small distances needed to travel.

Changwon is 292KM2 compared to Sudbury, Ontario which is 3 200KM2. The population of Changwon is 549 507 plus Angèle and I compared to Sudbury, Ontario which is 157 857 minus Angèle and I. If you do the math Changwon has a population density of 1 803/KM2 and Sudbury is 49/KM2. Things are a lot closer here than they are back home so buying a car isn’t as necessary.

We have seen all kinds of scooters being used for all kinds of reasons. They are used for personal transportation, deliveries and moving stuff around like you see here, now that's a powerful scooter. They drive really fast on these things and they honk when coming near to intersections they plan on driving through. I think they close their eyes sometimes and
hope for the best.

This is scooter parking which is also just about anywhere they can squeeze the little things. I've seen them park in a parking spot with a car and the guy who owns the car just moved the scooter to the next parking spot so he could get his car out. If I would have seen that back home I would have thought he was going to steal the scooter.

We have also seen a few funny accessories like a clear visor that is strapped to their head and can be pulled down much like a welding mask to protect against the wind since they don't always wear helmets. I would like to learn about the traffic laws to see how different they are from ours. Green is go and red is stop but the rest here is just a big mess.