Monday, 20 October 2014


"(Worrying keeps me in touch with my family.)" -- Andrea Gibson

Sunday, 12 October 2014

"Bitter, Sweet, Seoul" -- A Beautiful Depiction of Seoul

Bitter, Sweet, Seoul is a beautiful unnarrated documentary about Seoul. It was put together by brothers Park Chang-Wook and Park Chang-Kyong. The former is one of Korea's most celebrated filmmakers (e.g. Old Boy and Joint Secure Area), and the later is an equally celebrated artist and occasional filmmaker (e.g. Manshin and Night Fishing). The documentary is a montage of video clips that were sent in by residence living in Seoul of whatever they found interesting. The cinematographic selection is clearly heavily influenced by Park Chang-Kyong's artist's eye; while Park Chang-Wook is most likely behind the narrative line. This movie is a professional accomplishment of my amateur attempt of representing Korea on my blog Korean Minute. What I like most about Bitter, Sweet, Seoul is that unlike other typical Korean "promotional" depictions of Korea which seem very one-sided and plastic, only focusing on the beautiful aspects and hiding the negative, this film doesn't hide the grime and uglier parts of Seoul. As a Seoulite myself, I find Bitter, Sweet, Seoul a much more authentic rendition of Seoul than what is usually shown. So, if you have an hour to sit back and just enjoy the sights and sounds of South Korea's captical, then I highly recommend watching this dreamy documentary. As I mentioned earlier, there is no narration, no "story" so to speak, creating a mesmerizing flow of images, allowing the viewer to find their own narrative line. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Some things I did in September

One of the definite highlights of September was to go and have a three course dessert meal at Dessertree in Sinsadong. I've been wanting to go to this place for months now, and finally got to go there. It was a brilliant culinary experience. At one point I cried.

In the pictures you can see:
1. Fresh figs with sour cream sorbet
2. Soufflé with Korean herbs and chrysanthemum
3. Salted caramel, dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream éclairs
4. Fresh fruit with rose jelly and meringues  

Dessertree에: 서울시 강남구 신사동 653-7

On the same day I also had a quick visit with my friend Roni, whom I haven't seen in months. We are both so busy and living relatively far apart, so it is difficult to get an opportunity that we are both free.

Roni owns a lounge/gym in Apgujeong called Roni's Project.

Speaking of food, I got to visit Dochi Pizza, one of the top five clay oven pizzarias in Seoul, and tried their trademark "Star Pizza". Not bad at all.

After one of the dance performances that I attended in September there was a little kiosk outside with French people making Nutela crepes with bananas, fresh whipped cream, and ice cream. Of course I had to try it.


Later in September I came down with serious toothache. The dentist checked (even took X-rays) and confirmed that the toothache is not because of cavities or anything to do with my mouth. So no, all the good food I've been eating is not too blame. Instead, he said, it is tension related. He followed the pain along my temple and down my neck, and showed me that it is because of tension and stress. His recommendation was that I should figure out what is giving me so much stress and that the pain will go away as the tension reduces. Much of the stress had to do with familial matters of the soap opera kind, over which I do not have much control.

In any case, one way in which I decided to reduce my stress was to go for a Thai massage!

I also tried ear candles for the first time. Can't really say that I felt anything. The act of lying there, just waiting for the candle to burn its way down, is probably therapeutic in a ritualistic sense.

The fall season in Korea is full of concerts. When I saw that the National Dance Company of Korea will have another performance, I just had to see it. "Tournament" was not as awesome as "Altar" which I saw in June, but it was still quite a spectacle.

This was just the start of my "season of dance". A friend and I bought a set of tickets for the international dance festival over September and October, a number of which I have already seen.

The four pictures above are from Philippe Genty's dance performance, "Forget Me Not".

Also in September I went one morning the the 2014 Incheon Asia Games to watch some field and track. Actually, I really wanted to go see the Wushu championships, but the venue was unfortunately too far for me to get to, so I had to settle with track and field. Nevertheless, it was quite interesting to see these amazing athletes from greater Asia.

In September I also had the opportunity to spend some time with ITF Taekwon-Do Master (Dr.) George Vitale (8th Dan) who came to visit Korea for a few days. We had wonderful discussions about the state of Taekwon-Do in Korea and around the world.

Well, that's all of the highlights I can remember. Workwise I've been very busy. This semester feels quite heavy compared to previous semesters -- or rather, the way my schedule is arranged makes it feel quite heavy. My PhD studies is also going well. In one of my classes we are discussing ancient Taoism, and their view of the body and immortality. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Some things I did in August

Wow, it is October already! I hope I can remember my August highlights.

In August I finished all but one test to get a Korean driver's license. The only thing I still need to do is do a public road driving test. All that is keeping me from doing that is that I don't have a car to practise driving on the right side of the road on. I only to do so for maybe two hours, just to get a feeling for it, since I'm already quite comfortable driving--it is just that I'm comfortable driving on the left side of the road. Sadly I do not have access to a car and since I don't have a license I cannot even rent a car.

A very fun outing in August was when I impulsively decided to go for a hike along the North Han River. I took the train not to far from my house to Daeseong-ri (about an hour away) and then walked along the river to Cheongpyeong. It was very scenic and beautiful. When I get a car I hope to take frequent trips to more rural, natural parts of Korea like this area, which are a little more difficult to get to via public transportation.

On my little excursion I also climbed up the underside of an express way bridge. It is something I've always wanted to do -- go explore the understand of an express way.

That evening I staid over in Chuncheon. The evening started out quite stressful as I accidentally left my mobile phone in a taxi. Luckily I was able to track the phone with Samsung's Find My Phone service by going to an Internet cafe and phoning the phone and connecting with the taxi driver. That evening I slept in a jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) which was not that nice as it is a bit noisy and the floor is rather uncomfortable to sleep on, especially after many hours of hiking. The hot tubs were quite relaxing though.

The following day, before returning back home I went to a restaurant called Peace of Mind Bakery & Book Cafe. What an interesting place. It is basically a museum of sorts, with some exquisite calligraphy, and other oddities.

For me the pair calligraphy inscribed on bamboo was the most unique of the vast collection.

Another trip I did in August was to Taean. Honestly, I don't like Korea's west coast. The beaches are usually muddy and the ocean is grey and ugly. However, I've been eyeing Taean on the map of Korea that I have on my wall for some time now. It is a large national part known for its pine forests. On a whim a friend and I decided to go and we ended up going to Manglipo Beach 만리포 해변. It was great. It is a beautiful beach -- not muddy, but sandy, with a great vacation atmosphere, but without being overly crowded as is the case for the many of the east coast beaches. Also, it is a mere three hours by bus from Seoul. I did some zip lining and just enjoyed the fun atmosphere.

By accident I discovered a sculpture park in Seoul. I went to a driving school to find out if I can rent a car there just for some driving practise, but they only have package deals requiring you to a thirteen hour course, including the written tests, etc. through them. So while I didn't make use of their service, I did enjoy the beautiful sculptures populating the premises. Apparently the property owner is a sculpture collector and just places them all around the property. I plan to go back there soon, once the fall foliage start to change colours. I'm sure it must be gorgeous then.

One evening I decided that I'm going to make a custard. I made it from scratch, without a recipe using coconut milk, and delicately scented with cinnamon, cardamom, and jasmine flowers.It was quite tasty but not as thick as I had hoped for.

Speaking of desserts, a nice place selling mango bingsu opened up close to my Taekwon-Do gym. It is probably the best mango dessert I've had in Korea so far. Sadly, since Korea is not a tropical country, it doesn't really have a tradition of mango desserts as one would find in for instance Hong Kong or Thailand. Nevertheless, the mango bingsu at Roys is very good.

And, here is a picture of me from the Taekwon-Do gym...

Oh, and I went to the Han River one Sabbath afternoon with some friends for a picknick, which was nice.

Well, sadly that's about all of the highlights I can remember.Hopefully I'll get to writing about the things I did in September before October has passed as well.