Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deprived No More!

Well, it has been a long time since this little Newfie boy arrived in Korea, and you would think I would be done with missing all those little conveniences and comforts I had to trade in for this worldwind life of fame and adventure in Asia. After all, this is a modern, technologically -advanced country with a great range of consumer goods, restaurants, and cultural offerings - much much much much much more so than when I first came here.Yet there are still those little yearnings that refuse to go away, even as I have come to love and appreciate this country in a way all those sub-decade neophytes cannot understand. I still pray for the day when I will have just a few more simple comforts available here in my own neighborhood: dill pickles, long-handled brooms, a real clothes dryer in my place, pay-per-view porn (joke), oxygenated air (no joke), and a BATHTUB!
But wait! Today, I just to a step back into the warm womb of comfortable North American life without having to leave good 'old Daechi-dong. Yes, they now have portable bathtubs available on home shopping for only 71,000 won, delivered right to your door. Simply take off the plastic wrap and plop 'er right down in your water closet squeezed in between the toilet and the kimchi pots.

Take heart therefore, all those of you who like, as did Napoleon once, to plot your next battle ensconced in the liquidy warmth of a nice hot bath. No need to show your fat white butt to the ajumas and ajashis at the sauna any more. Bathtime is bere.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kimchi Pots

Neatly arranged rows of the famous Korean clay kimchi pot, used to ferment or pickle kimchi. The pots are a common site, especially in rural Korea where, in addition to being used for kimchi, they can also be employed to ferment soy, fish, and soybean sauces and pastes.

According to Wikipedia's entry for "kimchi", this most important of Korean side dishes is often left to ferment underground in these large jars .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ao Phang-nga National Park (Phang-nga Bay) Thailand

In Phang-nga province, sandwiched in between the two tourist giants of Phuket and Krabi, lies this awe-inspiring bay of a thousand jagged limestone islands. At the Tha Dan pier, ear Phang nga town you can hire a fisherman and his long-tailed boat for a three hour excursion around the bay at a price of about 1,500 baht - or about $US 45.oo, well worth it, especially if you have a at least a couple of people - you can stop wherever - go whenever - lay back and sleep - enjoy a few hours of life Southern Thai style.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Spiders - Hilarious

A recent (and much funnier) addition to the classic 1970s-80s Canadian made-for-tv short film series about Canadian animal species, "Hinterland Who's Who's". The voice is the original guy from the series - if you watched the series on the CBC during commercial breaks almost every day growing up as I did, you'll love this.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Evening by the Beach 1

New Year's Eve night at the Ao Saen bungalows (basic shack with private bath for 600 baht a night ($18.00?). One of the least crowded and most private beaches left in Phuket, the cove it is situated on is the main yacht harbor in this part of Phuket - most of the people staying there are boat owners sailing up and down the Andaman and Indian Ocean coasts.

Monday, January 22, 2007


At Batu Feringghi Beach in Penang, Northwest Malaysia, two days before Christmas. All in all there are much better beaches in Thailand I think, and a much better beach scene, but in a pinch, it'll do.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Day on the Scooter in Phuket

Quick snaps of a couple of the things you will see right on the roadside driving around in the less-crowded countryside in the northeast corner of Phuket Island- a fruit shake stand and some marsh grasses.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Another First!

I have slept through several mild earthquakes in the past (including, from a great distance, the one that caused the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami). Tonight, I can finally say I FELT a quake - which turned out to be a magnitude 4.8 -centered west of Kangneung in Kangwon province, maybe 200 km east of Seoul. Lasted a couple of seconds and felt like a soft yet deep shudder, like you sometimes feel on an aircraft just after takeoff. Hopefully there was no damage to report out on the beautiful East Coast.

Paradise Recovering

Two years and three days after the tsunami that swept away most of the structures and people on the densely packed, tiny tourist island of Phi Phi in Southern Thailand (made controversial by the filming of Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach" a few years earlier), I visited there this past holiday season, staying only a few hours on my way from Krabi to Phuket by boat. Having been there three times before, I was a little afraid of what I might find . I have friends who spent time in Phi Phi within months of the disaster and returned with depressing stories of giant piles of debris lining beaches, children left parentless and without schools, and corpses still being found both on land and at sea. Most of the island has now been cleaned up and the tourist hordes and uncontrolled cheap tourist-trap development that, in my opinion, always had largely ruined the place's picture-perfect-south seas tropical beauty, are returning. It is a little sad to see that some lessons don't seem to have been learned very well, and that the government there don't seem to have dedicated themselves any more than before to sustainable development. The hardest-hit end of the village, which was wiped out, is still eerily empty. Where once there were dozens of bungalows (in which I remember staying) there is now nothing but sand dunes interspersed with bits of broken floor tile, pipe, cement from broken foundations, and this longtail boat washed up on land a couple of hundred feet from the shoreline. Having seen the photos of the carnage after 7 meters of water tore ashore with no warning, and remembering people I had met who had worked in the now ruined, empty shell of a dive shop and restaurant, I found it a little hard to get into the spirit of the merry beer drinking European tourist hordes who once again throng the streets of the place. It may be a while before I return to Phi Phi.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

This is the first opportunity I have had to post since coming on vacation - I've been in Southeast Asia since December 15th, first in Bangkok, then Malaysia, and then back to Southern Thailand again. I spent last night (New Year's Eve) on the beach here in Phuket where revellers were celebrating by firing off anything they could get their hands on - which makes for a great show. At the appointed time, all the yachts out on the Andaman sea blasted their horns and everyone grabbed their cans of Singha and whoever they brung and toasted in 2007. A much happier scene than two years before when this very beach was still reeling from the effects of the great Tsunami. Happier days are back again, it seems. May 2007 be a happy one for you too.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Konglish Part 1

It's been ages I know, but the end of the semester is coming and things are hectic (you'll hear me making this type of excuse often:-))

Unfortunately, it is not that often that I find a decent example of mangled English on signs or printed material here anymore - it used to be an endless source of entertainment.
Anyway, I found one not that long ago at Everland, an amusement park near Seoul.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Funny Fashion Photos

Photo courtesy of Getty Images and Chung Sung Jun

Check out's hilarious photo-by-photo commentary on some of the wacky outfits on display at the recent "Ubiquitous Fashionable Computer Fashion Show" in Koyang City, near Seoul.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Korean Culture Through TV. Part One: Women

Korean Tv has evolved in the years that I have been here. Cable and satellite services now provide dozens of channels, some digital, some high definition. There are news, sports, home shopping, religious, educational, documentary, cartoon, and computer gaming channels - not so much different from back home. Many channels play movies and other programs from English-speaking countries subtitled in Korean - thus I never have to miss an episode of the Amazing Race, American Idol, or Lost. Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and CNN offer their usual lineups.

But Korean TV is undoubtedly different, as you would expect. Whether a country's TV offerings reflect or create the everyday reality of ordinary people is always a subject of debate among those who care about such things.

I only wanted to show you some of the things I noticed about Korean TV that people elsewhere might find interesting.

So I recorded bits from TV dramas, movies, and advertising that I felt were representative of what is on screen every day here.




Today, I wanted to show how women are portrayed on the tube here. Feel free to comment. Are these depictions of women different from those you would see where you are from? Are these images positive in your eyes? Are they an accurate reflection of the roles played by Korean women and their character as a group and as individuals? Or are these stereotypes? What message do these images convey?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Jeju Tangerines

This past week was the mid-term break at KIS and I spent four oh-so-relaxing days attempting a return to human (vs. cog-in-a-machine) form down "home" on the island. We are now just about at the peak of tangerine (감귤) season when countless thousands of crates of the honey-sweet, tangy orbs are being harvested from groves up and down the slopes of the grand lady, Mount Halla (nothin' makes me wax poetical like good ole Jayjoo-doh).

Yes, there are three main pillars of the economy on Jeju: tangerines (and an ever-diversifying range of citrus), fishing and tourism. Yesterday, a great friend of many years (Robert) offered to lend me his Honda Shadow motorbike for a tour in the warm mid-November sunshine - an offer I gratefully accepted. It was a truly glorious day for a ride and I was having a lovely time of it until mechanical issues ensued:-) So- I was forced to stop alongside the road at a tangerine orchard where an "ah-joom-mah" (auntie) phoned a bike shop for me. As we waited, we shared some Vitamin C and chatted about the evils of the now-in-negociation Korea-US Free Trade Agreement. I tried to argue the point (one I sincerely believe in, by the way) that Jeju citrus could go head-to-head with anything the states produces and win hands-down. She was not convinced. I expect to see her on TV throwing Molatov cocktails at the next anti-FTA demonstration. Power to the people, ajuma, power to the people.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Palace Guards

From 1392 to 1910, Korea was known as the "Kingdom of Great Joseon" and was ruled by a royal family which was deposed and sent to Japan for re-education after the Japanese occupation began. The capital of Joseon, relocated to Hanyang (later Seoul), was the site of the Royal Palace at Gyung-Bohk-Goong (경복궁). The palace, parts of which were destroyed by the Japanese occupiers, has been and continues to be restored as a tourist attraction. On national holidays and on weekends during the summer, the palace, now a tourist attraction, is the site of re-enactments of royal parades and changing-of-the-guard ceremonies, one of which is pictured here.

I took these photos on a film camera and when I had digital images made from the negatives, the photos turned out rather grainy. I decided to soften the images to solve the problem - it lends a faded, glimse-into-the-past kind of effect that I think is actually quite nice.

Why can't military, police, and public officials have uniforms like this anymore? I, for one, would love to wear hanbok to work every day.