one girl's journey across kpop paradise

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Okay, so living on a mountain makes life slightly inconvenient every day when you’re trying to get to places. Make that really inconvenient. And since I have to walk up that hill every single day, I have devised ways to make that hike less unbearable.

Behold my four commandments of walking up Mt. CJ (without hating your life)

1. Walk up at a slow and steady pace. Don’t worry about the losers zipping up the hill. They are feeling the heat as we speak.

2. And this is the most important one: Do not walk on the paved black part in the middle of the walkway. Walk only on the unpaved cement on either side, preferably the right side. The paved black road has more pushing back force, causing each of the steps you take to have an equal pushing back force, which results in increased fatigue.

3. Take a GS25 break in the middle of the hill, if you must.

4. It is easiest talk walk up the hill on an empty stomach. I’ve noticed this several times – if I walk up the hill without having eaten anything or having digested food a while ago, the walk is rather easy. But if I have just recently eaten a meal, walking up the hill becomes ridiculously more arduous. Worst is if you are walking up the hill while eating. I would say never do this (I’ve done this a lot of times, and each time I regret the decision lol).

And those are my commandments for conquering Mt. CJ! And if you have more suggestions, please put them in the comments box and I will add them to the list :)

Today and tomorrow (September 23 and 24) are the KoYon (Korea University and Yonsei University) annual sporting games – and the school spirit runs high. I am beginning to feel that the school games back in the States are nothing like the games here. I am preparing for the worst. I will come back with updates!

But I just wanted to give you guys some dose of daily k-pop. Below is the music video of JYJ’s “Get Out,” their latest song. It is an upbeat song with a typically visually appealing MV.

And if you want a ballad alternative to JYJ, here is the MV for “In Heaven.” This song is absolutely heavenly, and I’m not even kidding one bit. It’s amazing. It’s love. And so is the MV. Watch it :)

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So, I came to Korea for a reason. Well, several reasons. The things I wanted to do here were to learn Korean (to be semi-fluent at least), to eat a lot of Korean food, to visit worthwhile new places, to meet a lot of Koreans/make Korean friends, and most of all, to try to jumpstart my acting career here in Korea.

And I feel like I’ve not made a lot of progress on the goal list front. While I have eaten a bunch of Korean food, I haven’t tried a whole wide array of different foods. And while I’ve visited several places, I still feel like I’ve so many more places to go to. And these both may be a good thing, for it means I always have things to do here in Seoul.

But the things I’m feeling frustrated about are 1) not improving my Korean as quickly as I would like, 2) not meeting a lot of Koreans/making Korean friends, and 3) the fact that it’s almost impossible to act here.

This goes back to the title of this entry, Productivity vs. Recreation, because there are always different things I could be doing. I feel like I’m doing a lot to practice and improve my Korean, but in reality, I’m probably not doing nearly enough because I’m barely improving. If I want to act in Korea, I better be able to speak Korean like a native, and I am so, so far from that. I have the dilemma of do I want to stay in and study Korean or do I want to go out and try to meet Korean friends, who may or may not help me improve my Korean? It’s a big dilemma.

A friend recently told me that despite the fact that he hates working out, he still does it regularly and seriously because his dreams depend on the requirement that he’s fit and fast (he wants to be a professional basketball player). Which had me thinking…why am I not working out all the time? Actresses have to be outwardly beautiful – that’s like basically a requirement – so why am I doing almost nothing towards that end? The realization made me feel, at once, both impressed at my friend’s dedication and ashamed of my own failures and weaknesses. I now must add working out (and eating better) to my productivity to-do list.

Should I spend my time working out, learning Korean, or meeting/hanging out with Koreans? They all help me go towards my goal, but what is my best bet? There needs to be something I should focus on. And then there’s always the nagging desire to go out to eat, to explore new parts of Seoul with friends, and to go shopping (I love Korean fashion so, so much).

I am basically ranting at this point – this post probably has no interest to the vast majority of my readers, so I wanted to post something that I think will be of interest. My friends and I recently went to an amazing ddukbokki place in Ddukbokki Town called “Mabokrim Ddukbokki.” It was by far the best ddukbokki I’ve ever had in my life, and the best meal I’ve eaten here in Korea.

Directions: You get off at Sindang on Line 6 at exit 8. You turn left and keep walking until you see this:

And look for this banner on the left side of the street:

Look how many people are crowded in this small restaurant! The food MUST be good, I thought as I sat down.

It’s self-serve when you sit down and eat.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Omg I’m like salivating looking at the pictures. It was SO good. I plan on going again (several times), so if you’re in Seoul reading this, let me know and we can go together :)


I know there is supposed to be Cute of the Week every week (hence the name), but I’ve been kind of lazy with updating my blog lately, so I’m going to make the post about Lotte World into a Cute of the Week post.

I wasn’t necessarily planning on going to Lotte World (pronounced Loh-tay), but there was a Chuseok (Korean fall harvest/Thanksgiving holiday) discount for foreigners, and a bunch of KU students decided to go, so I thought, what the hell and decided to go last-minute.

Some background on Lotte World: it is the world’s largest indoor amusement park, but it also has an outdoor part that isn’t shabby either. The indoor part was my favorite, though, because I’d never seen anything like it before. Since Lotte World is located in Seoul (it is surrounded by tall apartments), it has limited space. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and it was definitely the case with Lotte World. Since most amusement parks are outdoors and spread out on a large land base, there’s usually a considerable amount of space between rides and shops. Lotte World is crammed in a pretty small space, but the architects/designers did a fantastic, fantastic job with it. With a huge glass dome for a sky roof, an ice skating rink dipping two levels below the main floor, and 3 more levels above the main floor, the indoor park gives off a feeling of being spacious and a fantastical aura of being bigger than life. Here are some pictures if you don’t believe me.

I couldn’t take many panoramic photos because I wasn’t from a high enough altitude to do so. So this is the best I could do :/ However, Lotte World is kind of like a kid’s dream. Just look at the beautiful details!

Here’s a list of rides I went on and my ratings of them:

INDOOR:

The Adventures of Sindbad (6/10) – This was the first ride I went on. It is completely underground, and you are basically cruising along on a cart in the dark. It’s supposed to tell a story – most of the time, you are moving slowly through dark chambers with mechanical dolls voiced over by actors. It has a Harry Potter/Phantom of the Opera feel to it – mysterious, but pretty boring overall. There are two drops in it – none of which I expected, so I was a bit iffy about them, haha. I would recommend this ride if you want a longer ride and don’t mind a bit of bad voice over acting and unrealistic-looking actors. Don’t wait in line for it if it’s longer than 20 minutes.

The Conquistador (7.5) – This is your classic boat swing ride. I was excited for a bit more excitement, so I rode this after Sindbad, and it wasn’t bad. It was as expected, which is both good and a bit boring.

Giant Loop (7/10) – I was kind of excited by this ride, because it is a full loop. Your cart is on this loop train and it never goes anywhere else. You do full 360 degree rotations, and the concept was pretty cool. The speed is rather slow, so if you’re expecting a fast ride, you’ll be in for a disappointment. However, it was enjoyable, as I’d never been on a ride like it before. I would give this ride an 8, but there was one thing about it I really didn’t like. You are belted in on the top well, but the bottom part (your bottom and legs) aren’t secured well. There were times I was upside down and my legs were literally hanging in midair. This was a bit scary…but overall it was a good ride.

The French Revolution (8) – The concept of this ride is really awesome. It’s a fast-speed rollercoaster basically around the perimeter of the indoor park. It looks beautiful and the loops and drops were appropriate and thrilling. The only setback – and the reason I kind of hate Asian amusement parks – is how much the ride made my head and ears throb. During the ride, there were a lot of fast turns, and the way the seats/ride was designed caused my head to bounce violently from one side to the other, hitting the head rest (which wasn’t really cushioned) quite often. Many friends walked away from the ride with the same complaint. The ride would’ve been so much better without this very basic design flaw. I would still recommend it, however.

After this, we moved to the outdoor park, which is called Magic Island. We actually spent a considerable part of our time in this park, considering how small it is in comparison to the main park. When we got to Magic Island, we were greeted with this beautiful castle not unlike the Disney Magic Kingdom castle.

And it kind of astounded me how close Lotte World was to the city of Seoul. Look at those skyscrapers. The people living in them must look outside their window everyday and be like, what is that shit doing here.

Anyway, back to the rides. Here are my ratings for the outdoor rides.

OUTDOOR

Swing Tree (6/10): One of my favorite rides, the swing ride. The first 10 seconds were marvelous – I felt like a kid again (and granted, I was one of the oldest people on the ride. 80% of the riders were below the age of 8). And then for the rest of the ride, I felt like I was going to puke. I don’t know what it was about this ride, but it made me queasy for the rest of the time I was at the park. I don’t really recommend it :/

Waikiki Wave (4/10): Wow, this ride really seriously sucked. Like so bad. I thought it would be like the ride Hang Time in Dorney Park (I’m from PA, lol), which is like a two-row seater where you basically flip up and down in a straight line. But Waikiki Wave was like twisting and turning in all the wrong ways and places, and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Not only was it not thrilling, but it succeeded in making me even sicker than before. Definitely wouldn’t recommend this one.

Comet Express (9.5/10): My favorite ride of the whole park. I feel like this ride is a bit underrated, since I never really hear too much about it. But for me, it was one of the best rides I’d ever been on in my entire life. Basically you are in a circle pod with one other person, and there’s a row of about 10 of these. And all ten of your circle pods swirl into a black tunnel of random bursts of fluorescent light and your pods spin freely during its orbit around and around a black hole. Sounds a bit dramatic and strange, huh? I LOVED IT. It wasn’t scary at all, no drops – and I was smiling/laughing the whole time. Since our pods spun, I could see my friends in the pods in front of and behind us and we even waved and talked to each other! The best time I’ve had in an amusement park – ever. I really intended on going back on it a second time, but when we returned, the line was waaay too long – 70 minutes or some ridiculous number like that. I eagerly await the day I return to Lotte World to go on Comet Express again. I’m going on this ride before I leave Korea – I will make sure of it.

Gyro Swing (7.5/10) – This ride looks intense (it goes really high), but it isn’t. In fact, I was a bit underwhelmed. I enjoyed it, yes, but it was less than a minute, and I definitely waited over 20 minutes for it. The swinging wasn’t as intense as I’d hoped, and it definitely would be improved if it had been longer. Still worth a visit though.

Atlantis (8.5) – Actually, this is one of those rides that look pretty normal but turn out to be a lot more intense than you’d imagine (read: The French Revolution). This ride was similar to the French Revolution, except more intense and partially indoors. It looks like one of those canyon splash rides, you know, where you go up a big mountain and crash down into the water and get all soaked in the end. Well, this ride is nothing like that – you don’t get wet, and the mountain isn’t that tall, and the first part of the ride is REALLY FAST. The moment you get on the ride, the attendant at the ride tells you to hold onto the bar in front of you and lean back, not forward. The sign outside the ride tells you to stretch before you ride. They really should’ve made this clearer. The ride takes off at 72 km/hr and none of us expected this. It whizzes and loops and drops at this same speed for about 30 seconds (the best 30 seconds of the ride) and it was sooo much fun. It was amazing. Unfortunately, like the French Revolution, this ride suffers from lack of care taken to human safety. My friend riding next to me said the speed and the turns caused her neck to sprain slightly. I’m a bit surprised with this ride, because the rides I went on back in the States were NEVER THIS FAST. It was slightly bewildering. In the end, though, I would still strongly recommend this ride.

And that concludes my list/rating of rides, since after that, the park became wildly crowded, and we were too lazy to stand in any lines. I hate it when parks become so crowded that you have to wait an hour or more for rides shorter than 1 minute. It’s kind of really frustrating and at that time, I just wanted to call it quits. There were also several attractions I wanted to go on, such as the Mirror Maze, the Ghost House, and the Tomb of of Horror, but they cost money (around 2000 won each). In retrospect, I probably should’ve tried at least one of them. I’ve always wanted to go to a mirror maze. Alas, there’s always next time.

I’m realizing now that this is probably my longest entry to date, and that’s because I really love reviewing things. I wanted to give you guys an idea of what’s good and what’s not good at the park so that when you go visit, you won’t make the same mistakes as I did. Plus, the park is only empty for so long, so you should get to the rides you like most before the lines get ridiculous.

One ride I really regret not going on is the Pharaoh’s Fury. This is apparently the most popular ride in the park and I didn’t even know what it was. The description on the map was this: ‘Take a journey to find Pharaoh’s hidden treasure.’ Whatever that means. Honestly, the descriptions on the park map are hilariously inadequate. The description of the Crazy Bumper Car was ‘Crash into other cars for fun.’ Swing Pang Pang‘s description was ‘Come to join us. Let’s bounce with Lotty & Friends.’ Awkward/hilarious much? I kind of loved it at Lotte World. The things there were kind of stupidly cute and lovable. I’m not sure when I’ll return, but I would like to return in the future sometime :)

And there’s the conclusion of my rather (extremely) long entry. And some more pictures for your enjoyment!


So…this is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while, but just never got the chance to do it, or had enough reason to do so. But finally I feel like it is time to address this situation.

The situation I’m referring to is…the nightlife culture in Korea. Now, I will tell you off the bat that I’m not a drinker. I was not a drinker in America, nor did I ever desire to drink alcohol. I don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol; I don’t enjoy the results of alcohol consumption; and so I’ve never enjoyed drinking culture and I tend to stay far, far away from it. But here in Korea, the drinking age is 19 and everyone who’s in college drinks. And it’s not like at a frat or house party once or twice a week. People in Korea drink every single day of the week, at restaurants, at bars, at clubs, everywhere in which they can get their hands on alcohol. To them, alcohol (a bottle of beer or soju) is as common as drinking Coke or iced tea back home. They enjoy it for the pleasure and they enjoy it for the social bonding rewards. However, I don’t enjoy either of these things, and in addition, I have a slightly ridiculous alcohol allergy which turns my whole body bright red (it looks like a rash) whenever I do drink, and it’s not pleasant in the least. So you can just about guess how I’m feeling whenever my friends (both Korean and non-Korean) want to go bar-hopping or clubbing.

At first I thought to myself, “Just try it. Everyone drinks here. It’s so simple. Just take the shot glass and drink it. What’s the harm?” But after a few nights of social drinking, I remembered why I stayed away from alcohol in the first place. It doesn’t sit well with my body and I don’t enjoy the taste at all. Am I just destined to be socially outcasted while all my friends have so much fun together, drinking and partying?

I’m not sure. I’m a bit worried. I’ve never felt truly socially pressured to do things that are considered acceptable, because I’m very comfortable with myself and I know what things are important to me. But the drinking culture here in Korea is really so prominent that it makes it hard to ignore.

Some friends say, why not just come drinking with us but not actually drink? It’s more about the company anyway. But to me, it’s not the same. When you drink, you’re not on the same level as sober people. You find the most mundane things more humorous or ridiculous, and you connect more to people who are similarly intoxicated. Sitting there with a glass of water while my friends are all drinking is not my idea of fun, and I will fight you to the death if you believe that drinking alcohol is the primary way of having fun in life. There are many things I love to do, such as shopping, playing board games, trying new restaurants, learning languages, and meeting new people – all things that do not require nor are improved by alcohol consumption. I sincerely believe that for me, alcohol is not a positive thing, but a hindrance to all that I want to experience and accomplish in life.

So in the meantime, while I am doubting my future existence in Korea due to my incongruence with Korean drinking culture, I stick true to my beliefs and views. If you have anything you would like to say, please, I welcome your input in the comments below. With that said, no blatantly negative comments, please.


I’ve decided to make a weekly feature. It’s called Cute of the Week. It’s my chance to blog about cute things I’ve seen here in Korea, and trust me, there are a lot of freaking cute things here. From the people to the fashion to the food to the cell phones to the cell phone straps, there are a lot of things here that are just freaking adorable, so I decided to make this feature.

This week, I will be talking about Jetoy. As you can tell from the picture above, Jetoy specializes in making beautifully whimsical cat drawing products. The only way I can really describe Jetoy’s artwork is like this – stumbling into a fantasy garden, falling through a dreamy underground tunnel, and landing lightly in an alien world of ridiculously cute cats. The brand sells everything from journals, schedulers, stationary, accessories (including the beloved passport holders), wallets, clothes, you name it. If you can put a cute cat on it, it’s at Jetoy. Here are more examples of this amazing brand.

Where to find: I went to the store in Apgujeong, right off the Apgujeong station off of Line 2 (Green). I had to walk a good 15 minutes before I reached it, but it’s not hard to find.

Here’s the map of the Apgujeong location, as I found on their business card.

As expected, the map is entirely in Korean, so if you don’t know Korean, you’re kind of out of luck. At the top of the map, above the WEST and EAST signs, it says Galleria Department Store. The arrow on the left leads to Apgujeong station, and the arrow on the right leads to Cheongdam Station. Personally I would get off at Apgujeong station and walk toward Cheongdam Station. The three stores above the Jetoy sign on the map (from left to right) say Uniqlo, Seven Eleven, and Cafe Benne. I hope this map will be helpful for you, but honestly Apgujeong isn’t the easiest place to be wandering if you’re not a local.

If you’re a tourist, I would recommend you going to Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanghwamun. It has a big accessories/stationary section that includes a lot of Jetoy goods. You can find directions to the Kyobo Bookstore here.

I plan on buying some legit Jetoy merchandise, like the passport case and probably some wallets and journals before I leave, just because looking at these cats makes me so darn happy. I know some people find them a bit creepy, but I think they are just so precious and absolutely adorable.

Visit my blog often for more Cute of the Week!

Jetoy’s Website: http://jetoy.co.kr


I’m feeling a bit better since the sad blog posts I’ve made this past week. Life has been slightly better/easier, and it’s finally the weekend, so my mood is naturally better. Good thing I’m only taking 4 classes and that I have Fridays off. Three-day-weekend every week!! So this Friday, some friends and I decided to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae and explore the area a bit. Hongdae is a bit like Myeongdong and Apgujeong but less expensive, I think. There are a lot of food places, shops, but mostly, it’s known for its popping night life. There are tons of bars and clubs everywhere in Hongdae, and it’s where all the young people spend their nights. But we came to Hongdae to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe, and it definitely did not disappoint me. The pink abound was kind of overwhelming actually.

We got drinks and this cute bread cake thing.

We went shopping around Hongdae.

I got naengmyeong (cold noodles) for dinner. The scissors were a bit disconcerting.

And then my friend Jei was craving non-Korean food, so we went to a burger joint. It was really cute!

I’ll definitely be going back to Hongdae soon because I hear there’s a lot of clubs that are free on the weekdays. See ya <3