Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Loveland in Jeju.

Turns out, there are about 100 museums on the island of Jeju which seems a little strange because the island is not large. Because we are only on the island for two full days and most of that time was to be dedicated to catching up with old friends and colleagues, we sadly had to limit ourselves to only one museum. We chose Loveland -- a statue park and museum featuring scenes of love and lust --mostly because that seemed pretty intriguing in comparison to every other museum any of us have ever visited. And it did not disappoint our intrigue; the museum/park features a plethora of items for viewing (and tasting) pleasure including gardens with statues and dioramas depicting various sexual positions and interactions, display cases of enhancement products from around the world and throughout time, and even love-themed treats in the cafe.  

I am not going to lie, I am a bit sad our choice was not the Hello Kitty Museum, but, alas, Loveland ended up being a pretty cool way to spend the afternoon. Entrance is 9,000 won (7.50 usd) and takes about an hour and a half to fully explore.

Dak Galbi

The popular Korean dish, dak galbi, begins with the lighting of the propane tank. My friends and I circle around a knee-high table and watch as our server reaches below us to light the heating source while simultaneously placing a giant circular skillet on top. As the pan heats, the warmth penetrates the cool air, providing comfort to my chilled face.  My body, now acclimated to the intense heat of Vietnam, constantly shivers in the crisp fall weather it met in Korea.

 Once our pan is hot, our server piles it high with rice noodles, potato pieces, cabbage, spinach, chicken, and garlic. It is cooked right there in front of us; the steam heavy and the air becoming thick with the savory scent of chili powder and garlic. 

The rapid stirring stops and a mound of grated white cheese is added. The pot is covered for a bit and it all simmers together, the cheese melting into a blanket beneath the metal lid.  I notice that with dak galbi, there seems to be no attention to detail; it is quite simply: dump, stir, stir again, simmer.  

As we wait, we sip on cold Cass beers and nibble on kimchi. We talk about our international travels and because we are all teachers, we talk about that too.

And then it is ready. We use chopsticks to eat straight from the pan. My mouth becomes hot, both from the temperature and the chili spice. It is delicious. And the sauce is thick; it lingers in my mouth, coating my palate red chili and grease.

When we finish, the pan is reheated and bap, rice, with dried seaweed and a salty red sauce is added.  All the leftover pieces and sauce is mixed up with the rice and heated thoroughly.  This takes only moments, and although completely full, I manage to consume an entire bowl.

     I have never been much of a foodie, but I will say that Korean food alone makes the country worthy of a visit.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Running the Cheonggyecheon Stream

While running the pedestrian path surrounding the Cheonggyecheon Stream, I found it difficult to believe that it had once been covered and used as a highway, restored only recently in 2003.

The 11 km (6.8 m) path offers a nice nature respite away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Located in Jongno, the path is popular amongst tourists and locals and is the perfect place for a leisurely walk, run, or stroll.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Peterson Girls go to Bangkok.

We make a huge mistake when we leave our hotel our first morning in Bangkok:  we fail to bring a map.  Anyone who has ever traveled with me is probably unsurprised by this – we would all think I would stop continuously failing at maps by this point, but alas, after all these years traveling internationally, I remain perpetually map-less. We also neglect to look up the opening hours of the tourist sights we intend on visiting.

So, we quickly find ourselves lost, sweaty, and staring at multiple closed signs.  In all fairness, we are also quite distracted with the art of “catching up.”  It has, after all, been months since we have seen each other, so we toss away our original plan of a heavily-packed day of tourist attractions, and decide, instead, to have a beer on Khao San Road, infamous for its backpacker party scene, and focus on being sisters instead of being tourists for a bit. 


It is here, amongst the ticky-tacky tourist shops, massage and tattoo parlors, tuk-tuk horns, and crowded open-air restaurants that Susan experiences her first Chang beer. 

It is also where she first tries Pad Thai in its homeland – only one of the many times she will enjoy the dish on this journey – and where she experiences her first Southeast Asian torrential downpour. The first two she loves; the later, she loathes. 

When the rain finally stops and we finish our third round of Changs, we stroll through the city, eventually discovering Wat Chana Songkhram, a Buddhist temple, crafted during the Ayutthaya period.  

The buildings within this Wat are all intricately decorated; tiny angular patterns of gold and jewels rim the windows and doorways and countless gilded Buddhas line the interior walls.  I often find I could stare at the faces of temples for hours and notice a million different artistic wonders.  This one proves no different.  

Visiting the temple marks another first for Susan, a detail I find humorous, as this element has become so ordinary in my current life, I hardly notice them anymore.

At night, we opt for a cruise on the Chao Phraya River.  Admittedly, this is a huge tourist activity with overpriced drinks and a cheesy atmosphere, but we find it an easy, lovely, and relaxing way to spend our first evening in Bangkok. Traditional music and dancers serenade diners and the performance is quite mesmerizing.  The dancers are dainty and beautifully adorned in colorful costumes, gold jewelry and gold head pieces, their tiny fingers bending rhythmically back and forth, almost as though they are not fingers at all but rather flames dancing atop a candlestick.

After dinner, we watched the sights of the city come and go from the upper deck of our boat.  

The Royal Grand Palace, bridges, skyscrapers, and Wat Arun, now lit, create a path for us down the darkened river.  The sight of the thousands of lights reflected into the water is beautiful and soothing. 

As the evening draws to a close, we climb off the boat, very much ready for bed, and for a new day of adventure and sisterhood.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekend in Nha Trang or Thao's Last Sail before the Veil.

Introducing Thao.

Our beautiful bride-to-be and our reason to head out of the city to the lovely beach town, Nha Trang. Located about 430 km (267 mi) from Saigon, it is a perfect place for a girls' weekend.  

Photo Cred: Sara Roberts
And because we were at the beach, we decided to go for a nautical theme, complete with captain hats, nauti goodie bags, and messages in a bottle for the lovely couple.

Phot Cred: Thao Tran
But perhaps the most nauti thing we did was spend the day on a private boat cruise on the South {China} Sea, drinking, dancing, and smiling in the sunshine.


Right before sunset, we headed back to shore and got ready for the evening which included a photo shoot, a nice dinner at Sailing Club (I recommend the salmon with noodles), and some dancing at the clubs.

Photo cred: Someone

 Day two was spent recovering and reclining at Louisiane Brewhouse's beachfront.

And with coffee, Vietnamese food, and swing time back at Sailing Club.

It was a relaxing and beautiful weekend, and although we were celebrating Thao and her upcoming nuptials, I think it was a bit of a last hoorah for all of us. Several of the ladies present will be heading to new places when the school year finishes, changing the friendships and sisterhood we've created during our time in Southeast Asia.  Of course I wish them all the best in their new adventures, yet, it is hard to ignore that HCMC will become a little less special without their presence.