Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Burgers, Chocolate and Scrabble - What a Sunday

 Woke up a little tired and emotional last Sunday but the sun was shining so we dragged ourselves out of bed.  Where to go though was a problem.  The problem was based on food.  Feeling a little over boozed and under nourished, the regular dose of kimchi and rice just wasn’t going to cut it.  There-in lies the problem.  Where to go in Daejeon to get something to eat if you don’t want Korean food.  We had three options:  Stroll to Gung Dong or Dunsan-Dong and hopefully find somewhere satisfactory or jump the subway to Eunnangdong and similarly keep our fingers crossed.  We ruled Dunsan out quickly enough, comparing it to a Temple Bar of sorts.  Eunhang-Dong was next to go for fear that the hunger grumps would get us after a half an hour on the subway.  To Gung-Dong it was without much hope that we’d find something totally satisfactory.

The River on a Nice Sunny Day

As I said though, it was a lovely day, there was a slight nip in the air but the sun was shinning and there were plenty of people out and about, strolling along the river bank.  After crossing the river and coming up to the road just at the edge of Gung-Dong, Nick let out a little yelp ‘Play Burger! What’s that?’  That’s a burger joint in Dunsan I remember hearing good things about is what it is! ‘Yes! Let’s go!’  Delighted with ourselves, we were too excited to wait for the green man to cross the road and ran across to various stares and the odd car horn beep!

After such initial excitement, opening the door of Play Burger and going in, could have been a massive disappointment but it wasn’t.  It was like we’d just stepped out of South Korea and into a cosmopolitan European city cafe.  Very Exciting!  The first such place we’ve been in since we’ve been here, which incidentally is almost exactly four months now.  The menu was just burgers, not that you’d expect much else given the name of the place.  No explanations, just the names of each one in an altogether too cool for school minimalist menu, but with lovely friendly prices to boot!  The menu said they were committed to using the freshest of produce and that everything was made in-house and judging by what we were presented with they weren’t lying!  I don’t think either of us spoke for about fifteen minutes apart from the old yelp or exclamation of joy!  A burger too big to pick up, crammed with goodies, a massive green salad, a couple of hash browns and a re-fillable drink all for just over a fiver! 

 Nick Lookin' Chuffed With Himself!

The Best Burger in Korea

After eating and drinking our fill we headed off in search of a coffee, feeling pretty content with life!  Little did we know the day was going to get better!  We found this tiny little cafe with kitch decor and a bit of a French feel to it.  I ordered a hot chocolate not really feeling like a caffeine hit and my god was I glad I did when it came.  It was a cup of melted chocolate with a little jug of steamed milk to add to it.  I was tempted to leave the milk out of it altogether!

 The Spoon Was As Delighted As I Was!

I Put Nicks Spoon into My Chocolate Too So He Could Join the Fun! 

We were trying to think of what we’d do next, eating and drinking had been well and truely ticked at this stage which made thinking of something a bit difficult.  I had a vague memory of someone telling me about a cafe near by there where you could sit and play board games so we headed off in search of said place.  We found it, but it was shut.  Done and dusted, never to open again.  Big sad face.  A spanner in our almost perfect day.  Until we turned around and saw it across the street.  Delighted once more, off we went hoping we’d find a game of scrabble, in English and not Hangul.  We did!  I ordered a couple of drinks, Nick went off in search of the facilities, we snagged the game of scrabble and plonked ourselves down at a table.  Next thing I knew, Nick was saying he was hungry and it was 8pm!  What a day!    

Serious Scrabble Face!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Skiing in Pyeongchang

The Ski Season in Phoenix Park officially ended last weekend.  As a result, there were some pretty good deals to be hand.  A company called Adventure Korea was offering transport to and from Seoul, accommodation just off piste, lift pass and equipment rental all for 70,000won (about50euro).  Although it hasn't snowed all that much this winter, Pyeongchang, the area where Phoenix Park is, is due to host the Winter Olympics in 2018 so we figured the snow'd have to be half decent!  We booked the KTX, or fast train, for Friday night at 10, thinking we'd be up to Seoul by 11, find somewhere to stay and then meet up with the group the next morning.

Pyeongchang as seen from a cable car

We'd had a bit of a rough day in work, Fridays in general are never that nice, so when the train came and there was someone in one of our seats we weren't too shy about waking him up and telling him to clear off.  We caused a bit of a commotion, and the man didn't budge.  A ticket inspecter came along though so we thought he'd sort the eejit out for us.  Turns out, we were the eejits.  We were on the wrong train!  It was still going to Seoul though, just going there a bit slower, so it was almost midnight when we arrived, without a notion of where we might stay.  We had planned to stay in a jjimjilbang, but neither of us having been to one yet, we decided that we'd try and find a cheap love motel instead.  We found one without too much hassle and just as I sat down on the bed I realised that I hadn't a notion as to where we were meant to be meeting the group the next morning!  I had to ring a friend in Daejeon to get her to look it up.  With panic number two over I was out like a light.

I'd set the alarm before going to sleep but got woken by a text message.  Who the hell is texting me before half six in the morning I wondered.  The answer was nobody.  It wasn't half six.  It was ten past eight.  Forty mins AFTER the meeting time.  I had somehow managed to set the alarm for 8:45.  Brilliant!  Panic number three!  I've never seen either of us get up and dressed and out the door so quickly!  We jumped a taxi to the bus station and bought a ticket to Pyeongchang, then belted across the road to a PC Bang (internet cafe) to look up the phone number of the guy we were meant to meet and tell him we were chasing them!  Got it, legged it back to the bus station with about 5 minutes to spare and finally let out a massive sigh of relief!

After a particularly wobbly start, everything else went as smoothly as you'd hope for.  We arrived, met the guy, dumped our stuff in our room, got our pass and gear and jumped into a cable car.  The day had been pretty overcast up to that point, it even tried to snow a few times but as we got to the top of the mountain the sun came out.  It was so nice to be back in the mountains on a pair of skis.  I really want to do another ski season, being there just gave me the thirst for blood!

The view from the top

Acting the eejit

Nick stylin' it

The lift passes are structured in a slightly odd way.  There are morning ones, afternoon ones, and two night time ones.  Ours went from 12:30pm to 4:30pm and from 6:00pm to 11:00pm but there was another one you could get from 11:00pm to 02:00am.  I couldn't believe the number of headbangers out on the slopes 'til that time.  I suppose if you do work like a lunatic and that's the only chance you get to hit the slopes you would, still seems a bit crazy to me though.
Night Skiing

This should read 'Play Hard, Drink Hard, Smoke Hard, but only after you've worked hard too'!
The slopes were dominated by boarders.  There were very few skiers to be seen.  And the get up on the lot of them was crazy.  Ski slopes can be fashion shows at the best of times but this was something else.  Everything was brand new and all designer.  They seemed to treat their boards quite carelessly, and it seems on purpose.  There's an overwhelming sense of being 'too cool for school' about the place.  Although I suppose if you work like a lunatic, splashing out on new snowboarding kit probably seems like a very worthwhile expense.
Nick desperating searching through his phrase book to chat up one such boarder! on the slopes and got back into the swing of things fairly quickly.  Had a brilliant day despite my boots being the smallest, most uncomfortable pair in the world and my ski's never having been edged or waxed!  Filled up on a load of sundubu jigae, hit the sauna to ease the aches, had a few beers and fell asleep feeling pretty content with the world!!

Smallest Ski Boots in the World...barely came past my ankle!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

2012: The Year Of Joseph Kony's Demise?

I came across this video ( on Facebook a few days ago. Since then it's been shared and re-shared a mind boggling number of times.  Before I’d watched it, The LRA, or Lord’s Resistance Army, was an organistation that rang very distant bells in my mind, nothing more.  Who they were, or what they did I couldn’t’ve told you.  As for Joseph Kony, the leader of the organisation, my response would’ve been ‘Joseph who?’.

After watching it, I cannot believe that I wasn’t aware of Kony’s existance.  All well and good recognising the organisations name, but not knowing the name of the person or people behind said organisation leaves you a little bit on the ignorant side of things!  Invisible Children, the people behind the above video, state that Kony’s rebel war is the longest running war in Africa.  A war that forces children, known as night commuters, to travel from their homes each night to the relative safety of a town, to avoid being kidnapped by Kony’s cronies.  And I hadn’t heard of him.  Embassing?  Disgraceful?  A typical westerner with a disbelieving what-difference-can-I-make attitude?  All of the above?

Watch the video.  It's half an hour.  Its powerful.  Its moving. Watch it and then decide for yourself whether you should pledge your support to Invisible Children or not. There are always two sides to every story.

If you want the other side, you could start here: