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Seoul, City of Love

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Love takes many different forms in Seoul, from the sensuous to the scary. Here are three of them:

1) Love terrace

seoul love terrace

A wonderfully romantic spot on the way up to the Seoul Tower, this terrace is designed to celebrate love. It even has specially sloped benches, so that when you sit on them you’re pulled close to one another. Awww.

2) Love motel

love motel korea

Pretty much what it says in the description. A motel for lovin’ – you can hand the money over to an anonymous pair of hands behind the frosted glass reception desk and buy anything from a 2 hour “rest” to an overnight stay. Rumour has it the rooms are fully kitted out for their purpose, though if you’re looking for flowers and champagne you may be disappointed: it’s more likely to be adult movies and mirrors on the ceiling. Did we stay in one? Certainly not! (My mother is reading this).

3) Love of foreign women

Seoul old man

Even more frightening than the concept of a love motel is a certain old man who spends his time hanging around tourist spots in Seoul to con unwitting foreign women into posing for photos for him. After some innocuous-seeming conversation outside Gyeongbukgong Palace about how much we liked Seoul, he asked me to stand still and look upwards at a tree. As I did so, his camera appeared and before I knew it I had been added to his photo gallery, which he then proceeded to show us. He’d collected photos of various beauties from locations as diverse as Germany, Sweden, Canada, China and Japan. The only criteria for receiving the dubious honour of being in the old man’s gallery appeared to be as follows: young(ish), non-Korean, and female. Ick!

Written by Emily

November 19, 2011 at 8:09 am

An Asian Extravaganza

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Apologies for the recent absence of any new blog pieces. We have a range of excuses for your reading pleasure including, but not limited to: No WordPress access in China; unreliable internet in other parts of Asia; constant jetlag, tummy trouble and other ailments; and too many fun things to do besides update our blog.

The time has come, however, for us to share with you some of the finest moments from our 6 week Asian expedition, as we have now arrived in Australia and are about to embark on Phase 2 of our round-the-world trip.

For anyone who hasn’t been avidly tracking our every move (i.e. everyone except my Mum), this is where Phase 1 has taken us:

1. Beijing (5 days)

2. Seoul, Busan and Jeju Island, South Korea (2 weeks)

3. Shanghai (6 days)

4. Nanjing (4 days)

5. Hangzhou (3 days)

6. Hong Kong (6 days)

7. Singapore (2 days)

8. Bintan Island, Indonesia (3 days)

Here are some of our most memorable experiences:

  • Walking the Great Wall of China, as discussed in a previous blog post.
  • Making the good people of Beijing collapse in hysterical laughter by driving a funky yellow car around the park.
Only for kids? Not if you're British!

Only for kids? Not if you're British!

  • Having a Korean barbeque with our friend Goeun in Seoul. She taught us the Korean phrase for ‘thank you’ (‘kamsahamnida’) which came in handy for the rest of our time in this wonderful country, which is full of people who are happy to help you without wanting anything in return.

    Adrian with Goeun in Seoul

    Adrian with Goeun in Seoul

  • Drinking soju with the self-titled ‘Beetle Circle’ (i.e. a group of trekkers) whilst climbing Mt Halla, South Korea’s highest mountain.
  • Riding the wonderfully tacky Bund Sightseeing Tunnel with cousins Philip and Cathy who happened, in a bizarre twist of fate, to be visiting Shanghai at the same time as us.

    With Philip and Cathy in Shanghai

    With Philip and Cathy in Shanghai

  • Spending 7 hours wandering around the incredibly romantic West Lake in Hangzhou, China.
  • Eating ‘delicacies’ like bullfrog, chicken livers and duck hearts due to our lack of Mandarin language skill.
  • Alternatively laughing and crying at our windowless cell in Hong Kong, which cost us more than double the price of our luxury four poster king size bed the week before in Nanjing.

    Call that a double bed?

    Call that a double bed?

  • Spending Halloween in Hong Kong. Ady had recently received his Masters results – high distinction, if you’re interested 🙂 – so I treated him to Halloween at Ocean Park (a big theme park). As well as the usual rides, there were 8 specially constructed ghost houses ranging from a laser quest ‘shoot the zombie’ game to an otherworldly paper doll party house. The evening was rounded off with a delicious four course dinner in a restaurant overlooking the famous Victoria Harbour.
  • Accompanying our friend and professional anthropologist Nick Long as he carried out fieldwork in TanjungPinang, Indonesia, affording us a glimpse of the country that few tourists are able to see, including a visit to a local school where the children were very excited to see us, and a fantastic meal of stingray and rice at a local restaurant.
  • Shopping for just about everything we need for the rest of our trip during our brief time in Singapore, including some 32 GB USB memory sticks – for which Ady bargained hard – that are enabling us to store and upload our ever-growing collection of photos.

We hope this gives you a flavour of what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks. If time and internet access permits, we will upload more detailed pieces of some of our more entertaining stories from the Asian phase of our trip. In the meantime, we’ll be heading off on our Australian road trip: Cairns to Brisbane in 10 days! As they say in showbiz, don’t go away, we’ll be right back …

Written by Emily

November 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

Emily and Adrian’s Korean Adventure, Sponsored by Lotte

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Lotte is everywhere in South Korea. Literally everywhere. What began life as a fledgling enterprise selling chewing gum to schoolkids in post-war Japan is now South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, employing more than 60,000 people.

What amused us was the way in which this company – which is still run by its founder’s family – has managed to grab a slice of just about every market. Sort of like Virgin, but much more ubiquitous. If you go to South Korea, you can stay in Lotte Hotel, shop in Lotte department store, watch a movie in Lotte cinema, eat a Lotteria burger … and pay for all of it with a Lottecard. You can even watch the Lotte Giants play baseball, and buy some Lotte insurance in case you’re unlucky enough to get smacked on the head by the ball.

By far the best Lotte money-spinner, however, has got to be Lotteworld, in Seoul – South Korea’s answer to Disneyland, and in some ways very reminiscent indeed (see photo!). Lotteworld is an indoor theme park set over 4 floors with an ice-rink in the basement and a bridge leading to an outdoors ‘island’ with yet more exciting rides.

Magic Kingdom, anyone?

Magic Kingdom, anyone?

We were astonished that Lotteworld was in fact a proper theme park – being indoors we assumed it was probably more like a fairground, with a waltzer, a carousel and not much else. Well, it had a waltzer, it had a carousel … but it also had some seriously impressive rollercoasters, a ghost house, several ‘gyro drop’ contraptions, an indoor boat ride through Pharaoh’s temple (yes, really) and, possibly best of all, a balloon ride suspended from the ceiling which circled the perimeter of the park.

Look down for ice rink, up for balloons!

Look down for ice rink, up for balloons!

Even though we visited on a Friday, Lotteworld was packed with schoolkids who were clearly having a marvellous time. A group of them even cajoled us into posing for a picture for them outside the Ghost House. [Directorial instructions: “Make a scary face. No – more scary! No – even more scary!”]

By about 4pm, the kids were marched away and we enjoyed an evening of many rollercoasters with reasonably short queues. Unlike the UK, Korea has the sense to keep its theme parks open until 11pm, because there’s nothing quite like strapping your exhausted body into a motorbike-style coaster seat and plummeting face-first into a terrifying abyss … go Lotteworld!

Written by Emily

October 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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