Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Cold

Just wanted to say that it is really cold. Today was freezing. Tomorrow's predicted forecast is the high of 16 degrees Fahrenheit and the low of 4. That's -9 and -16 respectively in Celsius. I sure do miss our Southern California winter. Please think warm thoughts for us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

27 And Out Of The Country!!!!

I was really bummed about celebrating my birthday in Korea. I didn't want to go to dinner or have a night on the town but wanted to celebrate it in my own fashion. So 27 and out the country cocktail party was created. At a Marilyn Monroe exhibit a few weeks back with the girls there was a picture that really caught my eye it was used for inspiration of the party. It was a black and white picture of Marilyn's face matted with a pink hue of light making the picture a striking hot pink color. My goal was to create a party where everyone could get dressed up and forget they were in Korea. Between Dondaedmun (a craft area), the won store (the dollar store), and my husband's help we were able to transform our apartment into a hot pink New York loft. The party was a success food was eaten, my cheeseball was a hit, cocktails were flowing, dancing was had, and I believe everyone in attendance spent the better part of Sunday laid up in recovery mode from the good times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wine Train

On Halloween morning, Dan and I met up with our neighbors Jess and Fran and headed to Seoul station via the M2104 bus. At Seoul station, we met up with Ben, Lydia, and 3 other friends to embark on our Korean wine train adventure. At first we had trouble finding the line for the train then we noticed a long line of Koreans standing in front a sign that said “Wine train”. We checked in and waited for 10 minutes until the train came. The train featured four themes under which the cabins were divided: red wine, white wine, ginseng, and herbs.
On the exterior of the train was photographs of wine while the interior was decorated like a wine bar. We sat in the ginseng cabin; instead of regular passenger seats tables of two or four filled the space. En route to the winery we made about 4 or 5 stops picking up passengers. We sat around talking anxiously waiting for the wine and snacks to be served. Finally a platter of snacks was served crackers, peanuts, muffins, and Kraft cheese slices along with 4 types of wine (red-merlot, white-sparkling chardonnay, grape juice wine, and plum wine). Overall, I didn’t like most of the wines but I’m not really a fan of red wines to begin with. The red wine was too dry, the plum wine tasted like cough syrup, the grape juice wine tasted like wine from communion (Dan enjoyed this one), and the sparkling chardonnay was my favorite it tasted like champagne mixed with wine. We were pacing ourselves to taste more wine at the winery.
The train stopped and we hopped onto a bus to the winery Wine Korea. We were served a Korean lunch with wine (red wine and plum wine). After lunch we walked around the grounds taking pictures and admiring the leaves changing for fall. We followed our wine tour group of about 30 people to a large meeting room and the tour leader told us about the winery in Korean. Being fluent in Korean I was able to understand. This winery has been producing wine since 1998. After about 10 minutes of having no idea of what was being said I assume it was an explanation of the wine-making process. The tour group started to remove their shoes and we followed. I was excited because I thought we going to stomp grapes like on I love Lucy. Instead our group just put our feet in a wine foot bath. After the foot bath, we went back into the meeting room and tried to make a bath ball out of wine. We were unsuccessful cause Ben poured too much wine into our ingredients causing the ball to be to wet. We took a tour around the winery seeing bottles of wine being processed, a museum, and wine-making booths. Anxiously waiting for the wine tasting to begin we were told that the wine tasting only takes place on the train. Slightly disappointed we were told to get back on the bus to head to our next destination.
We headed to Geumsan, a town which produces 80 percent of domestic ginseng. We walked around a ginseng museum and along a street where you can buy ginseng, other roots, and herbs. The locals were happy to see foreigners and invited us to have some dong dong ju and fried ginseng. Dong dong ju is a traditional drink made from rice and has a milky appearance. It is served out of a large bowl and poured into a separate cup with a ladle. The Korean men were especially happy to see Dan and Fran cause of their blond hair and blue eyes. I swear these two get the most compliments I have ever seen. We departed from our new friends and headed back to the bus to catch the train. We hopped on the train and headed back to Seoul. We were served a light dinner Kimbap and hard boiled eggs. Someone in our group found out that the wine was unlimited and let’s just say we drank our money’s worth.
We arrived at Seoul Station feeling good and ready for the rest of the evening. The group parted ways to enjoy Halloween activities Dan, Jess, Fran, and I headed to Everest an Indian restaurant for dinner. This restaurant had the most amazing chicken tikka massala, garlic naan, and chicken tikka. Dan and I enjoyed the food so much that we ended up having it 4 times that week for dinner. We headed back to our town to go to a Halloween party but it started raining and we were all tired from the day so we called it a night.

Beijing (Day 4)

So on day four we slept in a little but still woke up relatively early. We had a few more sights to see and we wanted the evening to relax. We first headed to the Tiananmen Square again to see if the mausoleum was open. At this point we did not know that it was closed for the festivities. After the disappointing discovery we headed to the Temple of Heaven. It was a good walk from our hotel, we did not mind. We were up for yet another adventure.
After about a 45 minute walk we arrived at the Temple of Heaven. We had to pay admission to enter the park that surrounded the temple. It was quite beautiful. There were many flower displays set up for the 60th anniversary. The grounds were well kept and the weather was perfect. We strolled through the massive park for some time. We made our way to the center of the park to see the temple. We knew we were going the right way because we were following the mass amount of people.
The temple was nice. It was quite impressive. It was yet another place for worship and sacrifice. We took many pictures as well as had many pictures taken of us. After the temple museum we made our way to the south gate (opposite of where we entered). We thought we knew where a subway station was according to our map and headed in that direction.
While walking we stumbled upon an interesting public display of anger. A man was standing in front of a bus refusing to move out of the way and was yelling obscenities at the driver. We found a place to sit and watched the drama play out. After twenty minutes of yelling and the passengers exiting the bus it was a stalemate. We continued our walk and could not find the station. Apparently the map we had was made before the station was built and we were a good twenty minute walk away for where the actual station is now.
After finally finding the station we made our way to the center of the city. We had some Outback for lunch. It was pretty good. We picked up yet another Outback pin to add to the collection. After that we went to the Silk Road building. This place was floor to floor of knockoffs. Latanya was in heaven. It made the Bangkok one look like a kiosk. They had so much more fakes than the other one had, as well as good one's. Unfortunately we were on a budget and could not go berserk, though we wanted to. We did buy a sweeter for Latanya, the lady started at $75 and I got her down to $20. I must say, I sure can haggle.
When we left the Silk Road we stumbled upon some interesting neighborhoods. We came to little Moscow, full of Russian writing and advertising as well as a fur coat mini mall. Then we walked through the area with all the embassies. It was fun playing the game, guess which embassy, by looking at the flag. I won. We found North Korea's embassy and threw a rock at the window of the main entrance...not really, just kidding. I did stick my foot under the fence and I can officially say that I stepped foot on North Korean soil. Latanya was angry with me. She thought I was going to be shot or something. Hehe.
Next we made our way to our hotel. Before we got back we got some coffee and relaxed for the evening. The next morning we needed to leave the hotel by 8am to head to the airport. We had such a fantastic trip. The weather was so clear and perfect. We think we did a lot in the time allotted. The Great Wall was by far the best moment of the whole trip, but going to North Korea was a close second.