Hong Kong like you mean it…

…cause I sure did. Joy of joys, last weekend was a five day weekend so I did as any self respecting woman would do and got myself the hell out of Korea, this time to Hong Kong, which was faaaaabulous. It was an exhausting trip since I arrived very early one morning, had three full days, then had a red eye flight back to Korea, found out my train to my home city had been cancelled and, to make an INCREDIBLY BORING story short, by the time I got home I had been awake for twenty seven hours and my eye lids felt like they were going to GIVE UP THE GHOST. And yet Hong Kong was still worth it which I think says a lot.

So, as I said, I arrived very early Sunday morning. Literally the moment I left the airport I could feel the heat like a wall–and this was at 3 AM. It was so, so intensely hot and remained so the whole time I was there, which took some adjustment. Getting from the airport to my hostel was really easy, so I arrived without incident and my hostel was in a really well lit and central area. I wasn’t really able to sleep at all, I was too excited, so I woke up at the crack of down and bounded out into the city. Hong Kong is a really weird mix of poorer and wealthier than Korea, like the area I was in (which seemed pretty standard for most of the city I saw), looked like this:

wanchai

And an equivalent neighborhood in Korea would look sort of cleaner, crisper, newer (I would supply a photo supporting that but honestly a lot of this is just based on ‘feel’) and have a lot more shopping. But then Hong Kong had multiple neighborhoods of high end store after high end store and nowhere in Korea has that, not even in Seoul. So that was interesting.

Once I had made my sociocultural observations for the day I started in on the sites that were closest to my hostel. In general I found that all the major tourist sites were really, really easy to locate and navigate to, which was great. My first stop was the Pak Tai Temple, which I was kind of glad I had not gone wildly out of my way to see, because it was TINY. However, also delightful:

A pretty courtyard!

A pretty courtyard!

Some delightfully understated statuary.

Some delightfully understated statuary.

Also thought the lotus lamps were beautiful.

Also thought the lotus lamps were beautiful.

As an aside, all the temples I saw in Hong Kong were WONDERFULLY gaudy and over the top, which I appreciate partly because I am a deeply tacky person and also because temples in Korea are usually kind of…boring. So it was a nice change.

After the temple i headed for Hong Kong Park, which is a truly gorgeous green oasis that in hindsight I should have taken the subway to because by the time I got there I felt like my eyeballs were sweating. However, it was really beautiful:

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There was a small child (not pictured) who kept trying to jump into the fountain and his mom was yelling at him and I was like TAKE ME WITH YOU.

There was a small child (not pictured) who kept trying to jump into the fountain and his mom was yelling at him and I was like TAKE ME WITH YOU.

Waterfall! Signed, Captain Obvious.

Waterfall! Signed, Captain Obvious.

I actually spent a lot of time in the park because in addition to all the outdoors stuff they also had a conservatory that was air conditioned (sweet, sweet air conditioning). The conservatory was mostly unremarkable except that for some reason they had teddy bears as decoration:

Undeniably charming, but...a LITTLE strange, right?

Undeniably charming, but…a LITTLE strange, right?

Also until I posted that picture I had forgotten that the teddy bears are on a broomstick. Because the only thing stranger than teddy bears as greenhouse decor is WITCHY teddy bears as greenhouse decor.

My next stop after that was to take the tram up Victoria Peak which is the highest point in Hong Kong. The tram is conveniently located inside Hong Kong Park which I of course did not realize until I had LEFT the park, but nonetheless I trudged back and waited for the tram in the WORLD’S LONGEST LINE:

And this was only half of the line. I think a part of me died there.

And this was only half of the line. I think a part of me died there.

I had also forgotten that when it’s THAT hot I don’t really get hungry, I just very suddenly get physically weak, so halfway through the line I started to feel like I was going to faint and I had to sit down on the concrete while various tourists tried to edge their way around me, like, hello, my eyes can barely focus but I think I remember my place in the line of death, thank you. I didn’t really pay attention to the views on the tram on the way up because I was focusing on not vomiting in public, but once you get up the vista really is spectacular:

This is the sunniest it was while I was there, for reference.

This is the sunniest it was while I was there, for reference.

It was a liiiiiittle windy....

It was a liiiiiittle windy….

For context: you take the tram up, and it dumps you into what’s basically the Victoria Peak mall–tall, cylindrical building with a bunch of shops and restaurants and each floor of the building has a balcony all around it that you can take pictures on. What I’m trying to say is that there was a Burger King behind me when I took this picture:

But you'd never guess!

But you’d never guess!

There was also a coffee shop with a balcony, so obviously I hung up out there for a while. I decided to get all my “for the view” stuff in at once, so after Victoria Peak I headed to the promenade along the waterfront which was basically exactly what it sounds like. Very striking, though.

The smog is kind of clouding the majesty here but you get the general idea.

The smog is kind of clouding the majesty here but you get the general idea.

IT GOT WINDIER.

IT GOT WINDIER.

At that point I had been awake for sixty-something hours with two hours of sleep, so I crashed really early and woke up correspondingly early the next morning to see the creatively named Big Buddha which is, as you might guess, a large Buddha. The Buddha is on Lantau Island (as opposed to the main Hong Kong island, which is where my hostel was and where I stayed on my first day), but you can still take the subway there for which I was grateful–I saw the ferries when I was on the promenade and they looked superbly chaotic. So, I took the coward tourist’s way out via the train and headed for Lantau. The subway takes you to a town on the island and while usually you can then take a cable car from there to the Buddha, when I went the car was closed for repairs. Which was a little disappointing, but the bus does drop you very close to the Buddha’s steps. Even as you’re approaching the steps you can see the Buddha looming in the distance:

It is seriously HUGE.

It is seriously HUGE.

And then you walk up the many, many steps to get to it:

I did briefly consider just...not going up the steps.

I did briefly consider just…not going up the steps.

Also you can tell from that picture that it was not crowded at ALL. Nothing I visited my first two days was, which really surprised me because my long weekends are basically eastern Asia’s long weekends. Anyway I spent a million years going up the stairs but at one point I stopped to take a picture of some flowers/return to my resting heart rate.

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So...close....

So…close….

MADE IT.

MADE IT.

The Buddha is on a large platform, so you can walk around the base, and there are a few sections with stairs where you can go up a little higher. The fog made for dramatic pictures but also meant even though I was so elevated I couldn’t actually see anything, so here’s a picture of my face. IMG_2957

There are also a bunch of statues around the base of the Buddha. This one was my favorite, although honestly my favorite thing about this picture is the deeply sassy pose on the elderly woman behind me.

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Near the Buddha is a monastery and temple complex (unsurprisingly). I did walk over to it, but there were a lot of people actually praying and I felt uncomfortable taking pictures while they were doing that, so here is a picture of the outside where no one was praying:

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That all took a really long time (the subway ride itself was an hour, then the bus was about 45 minutes, then I spent a lot of time contemplating my life choices while going up the stairs, et cetera) so the only other thing I had time for that day was another temple, this one the Man Mo Temple. Again very small and very gaudy, but who’s complaining?

I could NOT get a good picture of these, but they are big cones of incense and they're all lit, so the temple smells SO good.

I could NOT get a good picture of these, but they are big cones of incense and they’re all lit, so the temple smells SO good.

Actual Chinese paper lanterns in sort-of China.

Actual Chinese paper lanterns in sort-of China.

The next day was my last day and honestly at that point I was a little tired, so the only site I went to was Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (say it five times fast). This was the most crowded place I went by FAR, I assume because by then it was Children’s Day. But, it was also the prettiest temple I went to and very big.

The entrance and tilt I can blame on the random tourist I waylaid. Also, horrible day for the hair, excellent day for the dress.

The entrance to the complex and a level of tilt I can blame on the random tourist I waylaid. Also, horrible day for the hair, excellent day for the dress.

Nifty temple entrance.

Nifty temple entrance.

An up-close of the lanterns which I just loved, I think they're so pretty.

An up-close of the lanterns which I just loved, I think they’re so pretty.

There were a LOT of people praying here, too, so in my effort to not be a rude white person I didn’t get any pictures of the temple interior. But you can get some sense of its ornateness here:

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Behind the temple there was a garden that was also really beautiful:

Also I swear I am not being a horrible person but there is a bridge in Mulan that looks remarkably like this one.

There is a definitely a bridge just like this in the Mulan movie. She crosses over it when she sings Reflection. Ahem. 

Waterfall selfie because you truly can't have too many.

Waterfall selfie because you truly can’t have too many.

A very lush yin yang.

A very lush yin yang.

I went to one more temple that was so tiny the only picture I have from it is of a stray cat that wandered in, which I think just about sums it up. I spent the rest of the day shopping and eating which aside from the fact that I very nearly bought a hat the as wide as I am tall, was uneventful. Overall my biggest disappointment is that Hong Kong doesn’t stamp passports anymore so I do not have a cool passport stamp to treasure forever, but it was such a great trip and I’m so glad I went. I have two more full weeks of school, then i’m going to Japan, four more full weeks, and then I go HOME!!!!

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Bballi Bballi to Bali*

(*Bballi bballi means “hurry up” in Korean and is also more generally used to describe the fast-paced Korean lifestyle. It was one of the first phrases I learned which means I have been waiting almost 18 months to make this joke. That’s how you know I’m cool and also extremely dedicated.)

So: Bali! I was there! For three weeks! There were ups and…more ups! Seriously, it was such a good vacation and so, so good to get out of Korea and see my mom.

I arrived in the Denpasar airport very late at night, having only barely gotten onto my flight in Seoul and then missing my connecting flight in Jakarta. I met up with my mom and our hotel owner/driver, got to the hotel without incident, and we promptly began our sightseeing the next morning. Our first stop in Bali was Ubud, which is the cultural center of the region (she said in her snottiest voice–perhaps more accurate to say that the ratio of drunk Australians to actual Balinese people is lower here than anywhere else in Bali). Ubud in general was a bit mixed–all our activities were really great, but it was extremely loud due to motorbike traffic and the sidewalks were unsafe enough that they occasionally veered into being outright scary. But, undeterred, our first morning we headed for the monkey forest which is…what it sounds like. Trees and also monkeys, monkeys everywhere! It is very cool, felt very Indonesian, and also a little scary because the monkeys have teeth like this;

I realize this picture is kind of blurry and far away but I hope you can see enough of its teeth to understand why I didn't get closer.

I realize this picture is kind of blurry and far away but I hope you can see enough of its teeth to understand why I didn’t get closer.

And in addition to the teeth they are NOT SHY–there are signs everywhere saying not to feed them but there are also people selling bananas (mixed messages much?) so they are extremely comfortable with human contact. About five minutes after we entered one of them stole my mom’s water bottle which felt like enough of a wildlife encounter for both of us. A lot of my monkey pictures aren’t great due to me being…scared but I did brave the hordes enough to take nine million pictures of a baby monkey:

I can't exactly show you the world, but I could show you many more pictures like this one.

I can’t exactly show you the world, but I could show you many more pictures like this one.

The park itself was really beautiful, very lush, and there was some only-slightly-hokey statuary:

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Later that same day we headed for the Blanco museum which was incredibly bizarre and also what you would expect from someone who thought being friends with Michael Jackson was something to brag about. But outside the museum there was a bird sanctuary with some extremely flamboyant specimens.

I couldn't get a better picture but you get the idea. The chickens dragged it down a little.

I couldn’t get a better picture but you get the idea. The chickens dragged it down a little.

And after that we trudged back to the hotel and promptly collapsed. We walked SO MUCH that day, to the point of exhaustion, which might not seem that unreasonable except that we walked past a taxi driver every, oh, five feet or so. Taxi drivers willing to drive us to our hotel for the EXORBITANT price of not-even-$5. Fortunately our sanity came to us for the rest of our vacation and we, you know, actually used the taxis, but that first day was murder.

The next day took us to Ubud Palace–pretty but very small–and a traditional dance performance which was REALLY great. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the dancing because I wanted to avoid watching it through a screen, but this picture sums up the most striking aspect of the dance:

Which is to say: EPIC SIDE EYE. I don’t know if all the dancers have some sort of surgery or if only dancers with freakishly large eye-whites are allowed to make it to the big time but either way the constantly twitching, judgmental eyeballs are really what make the performance. It was a delight.

On day three we took a day tour to various temples and palaces that were too far to be easily accessible one-by-one. This was another really good day although as always in south east Asia I don’t really know anything about the art I’m looking at. Our first temple was Goa Gajah Gianyar and it had fountains:

Not pictured: people who were bathing in the fountains which looked extremely refreshing but would have felt vaguely disrespectful for me to do.

And much greenery:

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I foolishly did not take a picture of the sign to the next temple so of course I do not remember what it was called and it was architecturally very similar to the first anyway. We were then driven up a very great height for the specific purpose of taking pictures with a mountain in the background so I, you know, took a picture with the mountain in the background:

Me, mountain.

Me, mountain. One of us is lovely, one of us has opposable thumbs. 

Our next stop was a temple that was wonderfully foggy, which made even my mediocre pictures look extremely dramatic, a quality I appreciate in my weather patterns.

DRAH.MAH. And a warning sign.

DRAH.MAH. And a warning sign.

Misty Mountains, east Asia style.

Misty Mountains, south east Asia style.

Next stop was some lovely terraced rice fields. There are rice fields very close to where I work and I sometimes walk through them during lunch time, but they look nothing like this.

Up your rice field game already, Korea.

Up your rice field game already, Korea.

Our next and final temple had many paintings and carvings, all elaborate and beautiful but I don’t really know the stories/myths behind them. But you can still appreciate the detail that went into them:

Appreciate the unknowable.

Appreciate the unknowable.

The grounds were beautiful as well.

The grounds were beautiful as well.

The next day we did white water rafting and I don’t have any pictures due to water/lack of way to keep my phone dry BUT it was so fun! The perfect level of white wateriness (i.e., not actually that dangerous) combined with natural beauty combined with our guide’s astute observations on people from other countries (“Chinese always very busy. And very loud. I think it is their culture.”). Then the NEXT day we did a cooking class that was ALSO super great. Before we cooked anything we got to make offerings that looked like this:

Offerings like this were  EVERYWHERE in Bali, on the sidewalks, in store entrances, and of course in the temples as well. Obviously most of them are made with more skill than I have but you get the general idea.

Offerings like this were EVERYWHERE in Bali, on the sidewalks, in store entrances, and of course in the temples as well. Obviously most of them are made with more skill than I have but you get the general idea.

And then we cooked!

Some of us with more enthusiasm than others (MOM).

Some of us with more enthusiasm than others.

All the food was traditional Indonesian food and like any good cooking class, no actual cooking skill is required and your hand is held through every single step. But, that is why it tastes good.

A day later we headed for Lombok, which we intended to be the fun and beachy part of our vacation. It was not. Suffice it to say that the highlights of our time there were:

1) Leaving early and

2) Being offered magic mushrooms by a man patrolling the beach (Mom: I am her MOTHER. Guy: So…you’re saying you want TWO magic mushrooms?)

Enough said. After that ill-advised venture we returned to the loving arms of Bali, this time to the town of Seminyak, which has a beach and was notably more touristy than Ubud albeit not in a bad way. Our very first order of business was a drink on the beach:

Portrait of the artist at her best.

Portrait of the artist at her best.

We also, thanks to my mother, landed a truly amazing hotel room so of course I took a picture of the bathroom:

I feel a little hillbilly-ish for posting this but on the other hand it was so beautiful I almost wept.

I feel a little hillbilly-ish for posting this but on the other hand it was so beautiful I almost wept.

Our time in Seminyak was spent primarily like so:

It looks like a fake brochure picture but it was real. I lived it.

It looks like a fake brochure picture but it was real. I lived it.

With occasional breaks for food:

At first we were like "why is pork belly on the menu everywhere?" and then I ordered it and we were like "THIS IS WHY."

At first we were like “why is pork belly on the menu everywhere?” and then I ordered it and we were like “THIS IS WHY.”

And drink:

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And of course I got a tattoo! It was SO EXCEPTIONALLY PAINFUL I think at least partly because my skin was so sunburned. BUT the shop I had planned to get it lost power and once it became clear that it wasn’t coming back on any time soon, they offered to just come to our hotel room and do it, which made me feel EXTREMELY rock star-y.

Frankly just looking at this picture is making my spine twinge in memory buuuut I still wanted to share.

Frankly just looking at this picture is making my spine twinge in memory buuuut I still wanted to share.

Once we had thoroughly recuperated in Seminyak, we flew into Singapore. I was only there for a day and half, but that was enough for me to be SO incredibly impressed and entranced with the city. Especially coming from Bali and living in Korea, it just seemed like the perfect place; so well run, so organized, so easily accessible, and such an incredible mix of cultures on top of all that. Plus, everyone speaks English which I consider a plus in any country. I obviously did not see a whole lot given the short time and Mom and I were both tired by that point, but we managed. We walked past Raffles, which was beautiful and I only had five minutes of sadness over not staying there:

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We went to the Botanic Gardens as well, where I took about five million pictures, but will attempt to restrain myself.

A black swan!

A black swan! *Not* a psycho lesbian despite what any movie would have you believe. 

Cute li'l turtle family on a log!

Cute li’l turtle family on a log!

Flowers and also me.

Flowers and also me.

Who doesn't love a waterfall.

Who doesn’t love a waterfall.

A more traditional white swan that I seriously took about TEN JILLION pictures of assuming at least one of them would come out.

A more traditional white swan that I seriously took about TEN JILLION pictures of assuming at least one of them would come out. I was right, precisely one of them came out well. 

And then it was back to Korea’s slightly unwilling arms, although it hasn’t been as difficult to adjust as I thought it would be (NB: I am still counting the days). I don’t know yet when my next out-of-the-country vacation will be (other than not soon enough), but I am really hoping to make it to Japan again and at least one other country before I leave. Fingers crossed!

Cambodiaaaaaaa

FRIENDS. It has been so very long since I posted here, mostly because part of my contract stipulates that I can’t criticize Korea and while I am not so vain as to think that the Korean government had my little blog in mind when they wrote that, I still think it is probably not a good idea for me to outright violate a contract that gives me a job. And so when I am actually in Korea, I have very little to write about. Fortunately, I have just returned from a ten day vacation in Siem Reap, Cambodia that made me feel as if I had briefly ascended to the heavens and so I finally have blogging material. 

Traveling Companion (same as my Thailand TC, even though she will soon be leaving me to return to America’s golden shores. Traitor) and I arrived into the Siem Reap airport very late at night, stumbled through the visa process and customs (customs in Siem Reap=putting your customs form into an unattended box) and met up with the tuktuk driver our hostel had arranged to pick us up. Our driver’s name was Kim and he was an endless delight. Between Cambodia and Thailand I have at this point been in more tuktuks than I care to count and not once have I had a driver who spent the drive singing loudly–and yet melodically–to himself while constantly gesturing with his left hand, his one overgrown pinky nail glistening in the moonlight. We loved Kim. 

Anyway, post tuktuk we got to our perfectly adequate hostel and got up early the next morning to see what we had REALLY come to see, Angkor Wat. We did what our hostel billed as the ‘mini tour’ which meant we hired a tuktuk for the day and saw a bunch of smaller monuments before seeing Angkor Wat as well. Our first step was to get our three-day Angkor Wat pass, which requires that you take a picture and is incredibly professional looking:

This is my excited face.

This is my excited face. Also I just realized you can’t see the picture of me on the pass, but you will just have to take my word for it. 

And then it was on to the first temple of the day, which was Bayon Temple! 

Impressive temple, less impressive Korean tourists.

Impressive temple, less impressive Korean tourists.

(Aside: I was shocked at how crowded everything was. It wasn’t unbearable or anything, but since we were there in the low season, I had assumed that there would be very few people around and that wasn’t the case at all. I forgot that other people also have time off in the summer.) Anyway, Bayon Temple apparently used to have 54 towers, one for every province in what used to be the Khmer empire, so as you can see it has fallen on hard times. Nonetheless it still has an air of grandeur, and a lot of the carvings have been very well preserved: 

You can get some sense of the scope of the carvings here, they were incredibly detailed and the walls are absolutely covered in them, up to a very great height.

You can get some sense of the scope of the carvings here, they were incredibly detailed and the walls are absolutely covered in them, up to a very great height.

Did you not believe me when I said grandeur.

Did you not believe me when I said grandeur.

And then we left the temple and found…monkeys! They were running absolutely everywhere. Some tourists were brave enough to get very close indeed and some were even feeding the monkeys, but I was not so stupid courageous, so here is a monkey photo taken from a safe distance:

Please accept this offering of two blurry monkeys.

Please accept this offering of three blurry monkeys.

After that we walked over to Baphuon Temple, which was built around the same time and architecturally pretty similar. Strangely (to me) this temple had rules regarding what clothes you could and couldn’t wear inside–no bare shoulders, knees, etc. I am obviously the last person who should decide what is appropriate in that situation, but I was surprised only because Baphuon Temple did not seem any more like a functioning temple than Bayon had. But, that is not for me to decide. Sadly TC could not enter Baphuon due to her visible shoulders, but I could so I ventured around a bit:

Still more grandeur.

Still more grandeur.

Still more carvings.

Still more carvings.

A carving and also a me (this was before my nose got sunburned. My face is basically a different color now.).

A carving and also a me (this was before my nose got sunburned. My face is basically a different color now.).

Baphuon Temple was part of a larger complex of interconnected sites, all of which were easily walkable. So from Baphuon Temple you could almost immediately walk to the Royal Temple (whose Royal Temple? It is not for us to know. There was one sign indicating the name of each building and that was all the information given. However, my thorough Wikipedia research indicates that most of the Khmer rulers were named Jayavarman, so we can safely assume this palace belonged to a Jayavarman). 

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On the other side there were actual functional stairs one could climb, but at that point TC and I were seriously dehydrated and flagging (we didn’t realize this at the time, but we were REALLY lucky that it was overcast that day, in the sun it would have been unbearable), so we just trudged on to the Elephant Terrace:

Elephants on a terrace. The classy historical version of snakes on a plane.

Elephants on a terrace. The classy historical version of snakes on a plane.

And Ta Keo Temple:

Only a very cruel person would mock me for taking a crooked picture when my hands were weak--WEAK--with dehydration.

Only a very cruel person would mock me for taking a crooked picture when my hands were weak–WEAK–with dehydration.

What an attractive and not at all sweaty person.

What an attractive and not at all sweaty person.

Then AT LAST we finally and mercifully had lunch. Much revived, we went to Ta Phrom, which was probably what I was most excited for. Unlike the other ruins, nature has been allowed to half-take over, so you have the architecture itself and then trees growing out of it, like so:

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Moss over everything, everywhere, so pretty and also weirdly eerie.

Moss over everything, everywhere, so pretty and also weirdly eerie.

Tree roots! This was my favorite part.

Tree roots! This was my favorite part.

And then finally Angkor Wat! Angkor Wat was wildly impressive for any number of reasons–the biggest, the best preserved, etc–but this is all enhanced by the fact that you have to walk up to it from a fairly long distance rather than being dropped off at the gate, so it sort of comes up on you. On the way there are several smaller buildings on each side of the road, which I assume were small temples:

Too cool for school.

Too cool for school.

And then you approach Angkor Wat!

Too frazzled for school.

Too frazzled for school.

You can’t go up through the main entrance, so we went off to a side doorway:

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And there are SO many reliefs, more than we saw anywhere else and so well preserved. Also, Angkor Wat actually had English descriptions accompanying the reliefs and while I of course do not remember the descriptions now, at the time it was really great to be able to to put the art into some kind of context, even though I am really lacking in knowledge of far eastern art. 

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I climbed up a thing and my minion stared at me in awe...I only have one minion.

I climbed up a thing and my minion stared at me in awe…I only have one minion.

More reliefs.

More reliefs.

The next morning we again rose bright and early, this time to go ziplining! I don’t have pictures from that for reasons I assume are obvious, but it was SO fun and obviously made us feel badass (we aren’t. It was an illusion). We got to do ten different ziplines and it was just amazing to be so elevated, you couldn’t see the ground at all (which frankly made the actual ziplining a lot easier to handle). Then that evening we went to the Phare Circus–it was included in our ziplining ticket, so it was more of a ‘why not’ than anything else, but it was actually really great. The performers were really talented and enjoying themselves in a contagious kind of way, it made for a really good show. Also at one point they lit a jump rope on fire and then jumped with it:

They just all JUMPED over it while it was MOVING and also ON FIRE. Also abs you say I didn't even notice.  (picture courtesy of pharecambodiancircus.com)

They just all JUMPED over it while it was MOVING and also ON FIRE. Also abs you say I didn’t even notice.
(picture courtesy of pharecambodiancircus.com)

The next day we decided to have a vacation from our vacation, so we spent the day lounging poolside. 

If you think I did not take a picture of nearly every pool we visited you do not know me at all. I have never relaxed so aggressively.  (picture courtesy of fcccambodia.com)

If you think I did not take a picture of nearly every pool we visited you do not know me at all. I have never relaxed so aggressively.

The next day we took a cooking class. It was just fine, nowhere near as good as our one in Thailand, but we did get dorky chef’s hats as part of our uniforms:

The most Korean picture ever taken by two non-Koreans.

The most Korean picture ever taken by two non-Koreans.

And also my food was good because someone else held my hand through making it:

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The next day brought our last day of really, for lack of a better phrase, Doing Stuff, as we went to Beng Mealea, which is a temple far out of Siem Reap that has been almost completely taken over by the jungle. The temple is really far away from the city, the tuktuk ride took almost two hours, and it was so strange how everything became less touristy and more obviously poor the moment we left the city. I couldn’t take pictures on the tuktuk, but it was remarkable. Since most of the trip was rural we didn’t see very many people, but at one point we passed through a market and people actually stared at us as if tourists were a novelty, which certainly never happened in Siem Reap. 

And the temple itself was so amazing! Ta Phrom was a good jungle temple too but since it’s not as rural there’s a limit to how wild it could really be. Not so at Beng Mealea, it’s completely overrun. 

Tree growing out of the ruins.

Tree growing out of the ruins.

Wilderness'n'stones

Wilderness’n’stones

One of the few places that would be good for a horror movie but also for a remake of The Secret Garden.

One of the few places that would be good for a horror movie but also for a remake of The Secret Garden.

I was there too!

I was there too!

I go walkin' after midnight and also in broad daylight.

I go walkin’ after midnight and also in broad daylight.

So that was amazing and completely worth the trip out. The rest of our trip was a little of this:

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And also this:

Unlike Thailand, here we could pay to use the pools in nicer hotels than ours (i.e. all of them).

Unlike Thailand, here we could pay to use the pools in nicer hotels than ours (i.e. all of them).

And then finally on our last day we both got tattoos! (Mine is very small.) (Mom.) TC was up first:

Pictured: charmingly accented French tattooist with some strange ideas about feminism, TC's arm.

Pictured: charmingly accented French tattooist with some strange ideas about feminism, TC’s arm.

The gorgeous finished product!

The gorgeous finished product!

And I was up next, I just got a very small semicolon behind my left ear:

I lurve it.

I lurve it.

Then we had the dead skin on our feet eaten off by fish, as you do:

We did this in Thailand, too, with fish about a quarter the size of these. These are 'roided-up Cambodian fish.

We did this in Thailand, too, with fish about a quarter the size of these. These are ‘roided-up Cambodian fish.

And then we came home! I do have a bit of post-vacation doldrums, as I knew I would, but fortunately our hostel in Siem Reap had a book exchange, and in that book exchange was a guide to my next vacation:

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So I have a lot to look forward to! 

Kyoto Kyoto Kyoto

And again it’s been so long since I posted here! A big difference from Turkey where I traveled every other weekend…adulthood, not for the faint of heart.

In happier news, on Saturday I got back from a long weekend in Kyoto, which was an absolute delight. Last Wednesday I flew from Busan to Osaka and took a train from the Osaka airport to Kyoto. I mention my flight only because I flew peach airlines which is, to my knowledge, the only airline in the world with pink and purple airplanes:

This is what all the aircraft on my home planet look like. Also the stewardesses wear jaunty pink cardigans because of course they do.

This is what all the aircraft on my home planet look like. Also the stewardesses wear jaunty pink cardigans because of course they do.

I didn’t arrive at my hostel until around 8:00 that night and I had been on public transit since 11 that morning, so I didn’t do all that much on my first night, but it is worth noting that the dorm room in my hostel was ALSO  brilliant pink:

Picture courtesy of the hostel website--the fact that they hauled out their one orange blanket for this picture really throws off in the effect. In reality the room looked like it had been decorated by Pepto Bismol. Obviously I loved it.

Picture courtesy of the hostel website–the fact that they hauled out their one orange blanket for this picture really throws off in the effect. In reality the room looked like it had been decorated by Pepto Bismol. I loved it so much that it’s entirely possible I dreamed it into being.

Equally worth noting is that my first meal in Japan was at the closest restaurant to my hostel (it was wretchedly rainy) but considering that, it was actually fairly decent ramen:

It tasted different from American ramen, I swear! And unlike Korean ramyeon, it is not designed to test the endurance of your taste buds. I think you can tell a lot about the difference between Japan and Korea right there.

It tasted different from American ramen, I swear! And unlike Korean ramyeon, it is not designed to test the endurance of your taste buds. I think you can tell a lot about the difference between Japan and Korea right there.

But for all that the next day was when I did stuff that was actually interesting. I had booked a tour at the Kyoto Imperial Palace so that was my first stop. The tour itself was not especially informative because there was a huuuuuge crowd of us and a not very loud tour guide, but nonetheless the architecture is remarkable, as seen here:

Entrance gate

Entrance gate

Dramatic pavilion

Dramatic pavilion

But the real star, both here and everywhere else I went, was the garden, which was absolutely beautiful and completely unlike anything I’ve seen in Korea because I never see anything green in Korea. Also very cool in that the gardens are obviously meticulously designed but not at all in the way that, say, the gardens at Versailles are meticulously designed–there’s a much greater focus on making the crafted plants look natural rather than tweezing every single branch to perfection.

Dramatic garden bridge

Dramatic garden bridge

Equally dramatic plants reflected in water.

Equally dramatic plants reflected in water.

After that I had a tour booked at the Shugakuin Villa, which was beautiful but also took me hours on various buses to get to. Were I to go to Kyoto again, I do not think I would bother going to it. Mostly because at one point I thought I was going to die on Kyoto public transit or that perhaps I had already died and endlessly riding the same Kyoto bus over and over again was my version of hell. Once I actually got there, though, it was absolutely beautiful–the grounds are massive and you can hear running water regardless of where you are in the villa (note that the sound is not accompanied by omnipresent bathrooms, which seems to me a grievous oversight in the design process).

Lush prettiness!

Lush prettiness!

Elevated view of lake!

Elevated view of lake!

So rainy my hair swelled three sizes!

So rainy my hair swelled three sizes!

Oh and there was some architecture too. I included this mostly because in the brochure it said the Villa was especially remarkable for its harmony between architecture and nature but I didn't really think it was harmony so much as it was paring down the architecture for nature's sake. When I think of harmony between architecture and nature I think of something like Fallingwater or even Philip Johnson's Glass House--architecture that incorporates nature rather than architecture that minimizes itself for nature. Anyway here's a pretty picture.

Oh and there was some architecture too. I included this mostly because in the brochure it said the Villa was especially remarkable for its harmony between architecture and nature but I didn’t really think it was harmony so much as it was paring down the architecture for nature’s sake. When I think of harmony between architecture and nature I think of something like Fallingwater–architecture that incorporates nature rather than architecture that minimizes itself for nature. Anyway this is a pretty picture.

The next day I had been completely burned out on buses (although, for the record, the buses of Kyoto were excellent and extremely easy to use. I just don’t recommend spending multiple hours on them) so I stuck to the sites I could walk to from my hostel. Fortunately, there were plenty of them. I started with Maruyama Park and the Yasaka Shrine which was right next to it:

Behold the waterfall!

Behold the waterfall!

Behold the rather searingly colored shrine!

Behold the rather searingly colored shrine!

Intimidating statue!

Intimidating statue!

Right after that I hied myself over to Kodaiji Temple or, more specifically, the giant Buddha that was erected right near Kodaiji Temple. The Buddha was put up as a World War II memorial, so obviously it’s relatively new, but it’s still very physically impressive:

This was also the only place I went where there were people actively praying, which is why I didn't take any picture closer up--it seemed a little disrespectful.

This was also the only place I went where there were people actively praying, which is why I didn’t take any pictures closer up–it seemed a little disrespectful.

And after THAT I went to Kiyomizu Temple which, you can tell from the pictures, was the only place I went that was at all crowded. All the temples I went to were located up a hill (not one that you had to hike, but you did have to walk up a steep paved road. You think my life is easy when in fact it is FILLED with difficulty), but this was the only one where the hill was lined with shops that were obvious tourist-bait.

Guard animals were an overall theme.

Guard animals were an overall theme.

Beautiful but also filed under 'things that would be more impressive if they hadn't been repainted in the 80's"

Beautiful but also filed under ‘things that would be more impressive if they hadn’t been repainted in the 80’s’

Probably the most people I saw in one place in my time there, but I mostly included this picture because I thought it was cool that most tourists there were Japanese and not foreigners.

Probably the most people I saw in one place in my time there, but I mostly included this picture because I thought it was cool that most tourists there were Japanese and not foreigners.

So, those were my Japan highlights! It was a great trip and I was, somewhat embarrassingly, surprised by how different it was to Korea (I haven’t gone that long without seeing a cosmetic store since I got back from Thailand and my one moment of culture shock occurred when I walked for 45 minutes without finding a coffee shop–in Korea that would be a physical impossibility). I will almost certainly go back–now that I have had a cultural trip to Japan I will feel no guilt at all at taking a second trip to see the Hello Kitty theme park. But for now I’m devoting my energies to planning my Cambodia trip in August!

Two weeks in Thailand condensed as much as possible

It’s been so long since I wrote here! At 6:40 yesterday morning I arrived in Seoul, at 9:00 I boarded a KTX train, at 10:47 I was in Daegu, at 11:30 I was back in my apartment and by noon I had taken the most glorious shower mankind has ever known or, indeed, ever will know. Prior to that I had spent two weeks in Thailand, which is what this post will be about, but I just had to give a shout-out to the shower.

Traveling Companion (TC) and I split our two weeks in Thailand over two different locations: Chiang Mai, which is a city in northern Thailand and Ao Nang, which is a beach town on the coast. We started in Chiang Mai and oh how we loved it. The city itself is beautiful–I didn’t realize this until I got there, but I haven’t seen a real tree since I got to Korea in August. And you know what? Trees are pretty! So is nature! There was also the perfect number of tourists–I mean, the whole place is crawling with them, but it rarely felt crowded and after being in Korea it was nice to be somewhere where no one looked twice at foreigners. I don’t think it’s possible to find a place in Thailand that’s an ‘undiscovered gem’ (or, rather, if you do find one there’s probably a reason it’s undiscovered), but as touristy places go Chiang Mai was pretty much perfect. There are two ways of getting around Chiang Mai: via a songthaew, which looks like this and functions like a bus:

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Or via tuk tuk, which is the Thai equivalent of a taxi. Riding in the back of one makes you feel incredibly imperialistic, but also incredibly like you’re in Thailand so it’s worth the slight uncomfortableness:

Revel in the imperial splendor of it all.

Revel in the imperial splendor of it all.

Our first day was mostly spent wandering around to various temples. They were all beautiful and they all had little to English signage–which on the one hand was nice because, hey, we are in Thailand, but on the other hand I know absolutely nothing about Thai Buddhist architecture and it would have sometimes been nice to have more context for what I was looking at. But here, have some pictures:

Found this temple walking down the street, no big.

Found this temple walking down the street, no big.

NATURE! It's been too long. You can tell I live in Korea because I took a picture of..a tree and some bushes.

NATURE! It’s been too long. You can tell I live in Korea because I took a picture of..a tree and some bushes.

A dragon! They were everywhere so I eventually stopped taking pictures of them. Don't you wish Mulan had taken place in Thailand so you could make a non-offensive Mushu joke right now? I do.

A dragon! They were everywhere so I eventually stopped taking pictures of them.

 

An altar, one of the classier ones we saw--some of them had offerings of, like, deodorant and nescafe. This one clearly had a higher standard.

An altar, one of the classier ones we saw–some of them had offerings of, like, deodorant and nescafe. This one clearly had a higher standard.

A cool elevated structure that was not labeled in English. Rude.

A cool elevated structure that was not labeled in English. Rude. We think it may have been a chedi. 

A gong and a me! Now is a good time to note that I did laundry halfway through this trip, which is why I am wearing this dress in pretty much every picture taken over two weeks.

A gong and a me! Now is a good time to note that I did laundry halfway through this trip, which is why I am wearing this dress in pretty much every picture taken over two weeks.

So that was all very spiffy and beautiful, but completely outdone by what we did the next day, which was our elephant ride. Which was the BEST THING EVER. We were picked up at our hostel and then, along with about ten other people, taken to the countryside about an hour outside Chiang Mai. Once there we were given incredibly attractive and flattering outfits to wear:

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We were told that we wore these so as to make ourselves more familiar to the elephants, that if they were approached by a bunch of different people wearing different clothes it was too much, but the identical clothes made it easier. I am inclined to think that the elephant park had found it easier to just give tourists clothes than it was to make sure tourists came to the park dressed appropriately, but whatever. Also, is that one of Jupiter’s moons or just my hips? WE’LL NEVER KNOW. 

And then we got to feed the elephants! Elephant feeding (pheeding? No.) is just the best–you hold out the food, they curve out their trunk and then you place the food at the end of their trunk so that they can ferry it back to their mouths. Here I am having just given him a bamboo stick:

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Cute little baby elephant!

Cute little baby elephant!

 

The elephants here are all incredibly docile (well, obviously, the last thing they want is a stampede all over the tourists) and feeding them is so much fun! So we did that for a while, and then they had us do a test run on the elephants. Our tour guide taught us some commands, none of which actually mattered–when we did the real elephant ride the mahout (elephant trainer) came with us and he was the one telling the elephant what to do, so teaching the commands was basically just to make us feel like we were doing something. We were not. But! Still, this was the first time we got on an elephant, so it’s still pretty cool. Here I am looking awfully apprehensive about it:

And yes, this elephant was tiny. We got to pick which one we wanted for the test ride and I chose the smallest one possible because I was scared. I am not especially embarrassed by this.

And yes, this elephant was tiny. We got to pick which one we wanted for the test ride and I chose the smallest one possible because I was scared. I am not especially embarrassed by this.

And then we got to do it for real! It was so amazing, if not especially comfortable. You have a rope to hold on to and it didn’t feel at all insecure but it is, you know, an elephant and not a couch. They have really thick skin and very coarse hair and they make you feel completely badass. Observe:

TC and I valiantly trying not to look as nervous as we feel.

TC and I valiantly trying not to look as nervous as we feel.

Ridin' along. On an elephant. What of it?

Ridin’ along. On an elephant. What of it?

And after that we bathed the elephants, which was less fun than it sounds because they all poop in the water. The water that you are currently in. The water that the mahouts splash you with because to them elephant excrement is no big deal when in fact it is, let me tell you, KIND OF A BIG DEAL.

Me'n'the TC. Also pictured: our mahout. Sadly not pictured: our mahout's truly glorious mullet, the first of many mullets we would see in Thailand. Did it stage a comeback or did it never leave? We may never know.

Me’n’the TC. Also pictured: our mahout. Sadly not pictured: our mahout’s truly glorious mullet, the first of many mullets we would see in Thailand. Did it stage a comeback or did it never leave? We may never know.

So basically that was all just…the best day ever. Everything that could be perfect was perfect. I want to say this was the best thing we did–and it was–except that makes it sound like everything was downhill from here, which was definitely not the case. In an overall perfect two weeks this was just the…crest of perfection, if you will.

The next day we went to a cooking class which, credit where credit is due, was entirely my TC’s idea and was SO much fun. You make an obscene amount of food, to the point that I didn’t eat my last course at all so that I could focus on dessert. You cook four courses yourself and then they give you dessert. For each course you can choose one of four options and I chose to make chicken coconut soup, pumpkin curry, fried big noodles, and ginger chicken. Even in my incredibly inexpert hands all the food turned out delicious. I left my phone in my bag for this, but courtesy of TC here is a picture of people making drunken noodles–this is right after they put the alcohol in the wok:

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Clearly a fun time for all, although perhaps not best for the drunk people.

The next day was our last full day in Chiang Mai and we went to Doi Suthep National Park, which is centered around a mountain. There’s a lot you can do there, but we just hit the two highlights: the temple and a waterfall. To get to the temple you take a songthaew up an extremely long and winding road and you get dropped off at the bottom of a massive set of stairs (you can tell from this picture, too, that this was really the only place we went that was crowded):

IMG_1473In days of yore climbing the steps to the temple was supposed to be meditative in and of itself, but now you just hustle your way up there with a crowd of other people and ignore the old ladies perched on the side trying to sell you things. But the temple itself, once you get to the top, is magnificent, easily the largest and most ornate one we saw:

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View from the temple’s balcony. You can’t really see it in this picture, but there’s a ton of smog. Not a China-like level, but enough that you can’t really see very far.

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And then we went to the waterfall! It took us an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to get there–we asked a few people who didn’t know/didn’t speak English, we looked at a map to no avail, we walked in a few different directions, and then we realized that if we so much as looked in the general direction of the songthaew drivers they would ask where we were going then take us there for, oh, less than three dollars. So. That was how we got to the waterfall, which was absolutely beautiful and very serene:

IMG_1516As you can sort of tell in that picture, to get to the waterfall you had to climb over a bunch of rocks and to get back down, we both had to get on our butts and sort of…scoot down the rock. Anyway here is a cute butt-scooting selfie:

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The next day we got a Thai massage from which there are no pictures (thank goodness), but suffice it to say that it is VERY PAINFUL INDEED, having a Thai woman apply extreme amounts of pressure to your inner thigh is nowhere near as fun as it sounds, and I found it impossible to get through the whole thing without giggling uncontrollably. I did emerge feeling extremely…kneaded and relaxed, though, so it was well worth it.

The next day we flew to Ao Nang (aside: the lack of efficiency on the part of Air Asia made me extremely appreciative of all things Korean), which was completely different to Chiang Mai. The tourists seemed to dramatically outnumber the actual Thai people (there were days I felt like I saw more tourists than people actually living there), it’s a little trashier, and the whole thing is designed entirely to cater to tourists. This wasn’t a completely bad thing–they had tons of Western restaurants serving food we hadn’t had in close to five months and certainly we indulged in that and most people spoke very good English which is always helpful. But it did feel a bit like it could be a beach town anywhere, there wasn’t anything very Thai about it. Anyway, on our first night there I had deep fried pork intestines, which tasted the same as every other deep fried thing but with the added advantage of being weird:

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And on our first full day there we mostly did this:

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Then the next day we went on an excursion where we kayaked (me! I kayaked! I engaged in physical activity! You cannot possibly be more shocked than I am) to see what they called an underwater cave, but was more like an underwater…tunnel, maybe? Anyway I am not complaining, it was beautiful (photos thanks to TC as my camera helpfully plonked out at this point):

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The day after that we took what was delightfully called a four-island tour which is basically what it sounds like; you get on a boat, and then you get transported to four different islands with a little time spent on/near each. This is the fourth time I’ve done something like this (twice in Turkey, once in Athens) and it was better than the ones in Athens but not as good as the ones in Turkey.

Extremely windblown on the boat on the way over.

Extremely windblown on the boat on the way over.

Island prettiness

Island prettiness

And that night we went to a ladyboy show! It was basically an Asian-style drag show–a lot of Thai (? I assume) songs (although they did do Gangnam Style) and the dancing was what you would find in any k-pop video–a lot of hand/arm movements, not so much full-body moving. But it was great fun, and here I am with some of the ladies before the show:

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After that we spent a few days lounging which isn’t very exciting, but at one point I did eat friend rice out of a pineapple, which felt like a suitably touristy thing to do:

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and then I got a tattoo! I am so, so happy with it, I’ve wanted it for so long and being able to say I got a tattoo in Thailand makes me feel badass. Here I am being worked on:

 

Not pictured: my white-knuckled hands clutching TC's hands. She was excellent moral support.

Not pictured: my white-knuckled hands clutching TC’s hands. She was excellent moral support.

And the final product:

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It hurt so much. I want five more.

After that it was one last night in Ao Nang, a flight back to Chiang Mai and from there a red eye into Seoul. This was one of the best vacations I’ve taken for any number of reasons (Thailand would always be amazing, I actually have a job now so vacation is that much better, etc) and I’m obviously already planning the next one. Some combination of Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos is calling my name….

 

 

Spanking, shots, and frustration galore–or, going to the doctor in Korea

To make the boring part of this story as short as possible so we can all get to the spanking: about two weeks ago I started feeling sick, a week ago I started feeling slightly better, and then five days ago I started feeling the relentless ear pressure that I (sadly) knew to be the mark of an ear infection. It took much agonizing over finding a doctor on my own before I realized that asking for help isn’t actually a sign of weakness and so today my co-teacher took me to see an ENT.

A few things to set the scene: there are clinics here like we have in the U.S. but many doctors operate out of hospitals so it is not uncommon for Koreans to say that they “went to the hospital” when all they had done was  a routine physical. I went to a clinic today, but am going to a hospital tomorrow (FORESHADOWING). Also, Korea has nationalized healthcare. That isn’t actually all that relevant, except that this whole ordeal was at least extremely cheap. Whee!

My CT drove me to the clinic, we got in (despite the lack of appointment, there was zero wait time) and we were taken to see the doctor. CT explained my symptoms and the doctor then shoved a camera down each of my ears and up each of my nostrils. Do you know how I know it was a camera? BECAUSE THEY SHOWED THE VIDEO ON A SCREEN RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I will tell you that I have never before been so glad that I clean my ears so zealously and also did you know that the part of your nose that has hair is actually pretty small? I know this because the camera made a THOROUGH INVESTIGATION of my nasal passages. And just in case I had not already had sufficient joy in learning about my innards, the doctor then used a little suction…thingy to SIPHON THE SNOT OUT OF MY NOSE. Did I mention that the snot-siphoner was ALSO A CAMERA. There is nothing weirder than watching your mucus being vacuumed out of passages in your body you did not know existed. Or, more accurately, if there is anything weirder I don’t want to know about it.

Having thoroughly investigated me, the doctor told me (via translation with my CT) that my ears were fine, but since I had been complaining about my hearing (due to the ear pressure) they were going to give me a hearing test. I explained that I have a hearing problem, the test would indicate that, and privately thought to myself that I would try and go to a second doctor. The doctor said he understood that and to the hearing test I went, where I promptly failed (now feels like a good time to mention that this is the one and only kind of standardized test that I am not good at). For those who have not had frequent hearing tests, the whole ‘procedure’ means I wear headphones, the tester plays a series of beeps and boops, and I press a button when I hear them.

Test results come back and the doctor and I have the following conversation (all of this translated by my poor, poor CT):

Doctor (pointing to graph): Your hearing is below the line, normal hearing is above the line.

Me (looking at a graph that has looked the same since I was five): Yes, I’ve been below the line since I was five.

Doctor: Sometimes hearing loss indicates a virus.

Me: In my case, a virus I had when I was five.

Doctor: Maybe you didn’t press the button hard enough during the test.

Me: Maybe I have had a problem hitting the button since I was five.

Doctor: If you have a virus, your hearing could get steadily worse.

Me: Your face is getting steadily worse.

I was a little irritated,  but the conversation was interrupted by the nurse pulling me into a different room for The Shot. I did not and do not know what the shot was nor did it immediately make me feel better. But I had been warned by fellow foreigners that a visit to a Korean doctor meant getting a shot and that the shot was, shall we say, not in your arm. So when I entered the room and the nurse immediately barked “BUTT” I was prepared. What I was not prepared for is that it is really, really hard not to giggle when a Korean nurse is robustly slapping your upper cheek while you’re braced against the operating table. Like, so hard it’s almost impossible. Fortunately, the whole thing was short–I didn’t even notice when she did the injection, mostly because I was so focused on not laughing while the nice lady spanked me.

BUT THEN THE LAUGHTER ENDED. Partly because I had gotten the shot and the fun was over, but mostly because the doctor was so unconvinced by my hearing loss explanation (I mean, what do I know, they’re just MY EARS. Which have been attached to my head SINCE I WAS FIVE and also five years before that) that tomorrow I am going to a hospital where they are going to…make extra super-duper sure that I’m not lying about having a hearing problem? Because maybe I think having one makes me sound cool? I am more than a little irritated that this has been deemed necessary at all and the absolute best I can hope for is that it is brief. Harrumph. I was, however, given a bagful of medicine:

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From left to right–unidentified pills, antibiotics, medicine meant to ease the effect of the antibiotics on my stomach. That last one tastes like Satan’s breastmilk.

Which does, at least, give me the feeling of having gotten something done despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Photo dump galore

This is just a random mishmash of what I’ve been doing since the last time I posted. Nary a narrative to be found, but then I never promised that.

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Eating out in Korea! This here is the massive kebab of meat and vegetables that was brought to our table where we grilled it ourselves. The grill man can be seen attempting to gracefully duck out of the photo.

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A tumulus! Otherwise known as a large mound where someone important was buried. As you can tell from this picture, you can traipse all over the tumuli–they’re really not too fussed about respecting the dead.

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DRAMATIC TEMPLE SHOT. This is really the temple’s best angle.

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Temple detail–note the cool dragons.

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Ludicrously scenic path near the temple. It would’ve been even better if the path had actually gone on for more than 50 meters. Which it did not. It was a very short-lived hike.

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Buddha statues instantly make any picture cooler, don’t they? This was also near the temple.

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Cliche monkeys ahoy! This was at a different temple.

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DRAMATIC TEMPLE SHOT.

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I went to a cat cafe! Which is what it sounds like. They serve tea and you can play with cats. It is magical…

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…but for some reason I made this face? DON’T HATE ME CUZ I’M BEAUTIFUL.

 

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I went four-wheeling and looked like a badass.

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And was 1/3rd of a four-wheeling selfie (thanks Chouaaaaa!). You might think my peace sign makes me a loser, but in actuality it makes me exactly like every Korean taking a selfie. Trust me on this one.

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And finally, this is a note one student wrote me on Pepero Day. Pepero Day is a very fun and very manufactured holiday (on 11/11) when you give people pepero cookies (they are long and thin, so the thinking is that the cookies themselves look like the number 11). My kids spoiled me with tons of cookies, but this girl gave me a thin wooden dowel that she had decorated and this note. For context, she is one of my most advanced students–most of them couldn’t produce anything near this level. Also, the last sentence is her warning me that I can’t eat it. Very caring of her.