Category: travel

Where I’m from.

This post has been inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s September Photo a Day challenge x

10492238_10152266809443218_1135838633714325634_n

 

When people ask me where I’m from, it often means “Why are you an Asian looking person living in Australia? How did you get here?”

I’m fairly happy to answer that I’m adopted and that I’ve been in Australia all my life – it’s pretty much all I’ve known! Earlier this year, I got to visit my birth country (South Korea) for the first time. The photo above is a shot I took at night time on the beach of Busan, the city I was born in. While it brought up a lot of feelings for me, it was also a really cool place. I’m so relieved I liked it so much!

Visiting Korea really taught me a lot about myself. Clarified for me a lot of feelings I’ve had surrounding my adoption. I am so glad I got to experience it with my family – Mr Unprepared, the Little Mister, my parents and my brother (who was also adopted). Today, if you were to ask me for my honest answer about where I’m from (and were willing to hear the true answer straight from my heart), I would tell you nothing has changed. My answer is ‘Australia’. It’s my home. It’s where my real family are from – the family I’ve known and loved (and been loved by) all my life. I am very happy with that. You know, hashtag blessed and all that.

You can read more about my experiences visiting my birth place here:

Busan: The city I was born in.

How it feels to revisit the place I was born.

~~~~

On a whole other note, today marks the last day of September. That means that the challenge I set myself – to blog along with Fat Mum Slim’s Photo a Day challenge for the whole month of September – has come to an end! I must say it has been so wonderful to do. I was feeling a bit ‘blah’ after I’d finished blogging about our big trip to Korea and Japan, so this came along at a great time, when I needed my creativity to get sparking again. Some posts have been better than others this month (oops), but I have really enjoyed writing a lot about stuff I might not have thought of, had it not been for Fat Mum Slim’s daily photo prompts. Thanks, lady! 🙂

I admit that it was very time consuming and at times, tiring. I found that weekends were the hardest. I skipped one day. I wrote some of my blog posts a little late. By the end, my posts were getting a bit short. By the end of the month, I was kind of secretly looking forward to today. I am so grateful for my new followers, who I am assuming came to me, because some stuff I wrote during this challenge caught their attention – hello! I am so glad to have you here! I loved that blogging daily (or almost daily) kept me motivated and documented my daily life in a way that tells my story for a snapshot in time. I really hope that after this challenge I am able to find my own daily inspiration (although days off will be great too)! For those who have stuck by me during this month, while I tried something different, thanks! Back to regular programming as of tomorrow (whatever that is)!

I will just stick to Instagramming my #fmsphotoaday from now on, I think!

You can check out Fat Mum Slim’s prompts for October here, if you like! If you choose to blog it, let me know! I’ll cheer you on! x

See you in October, everybody (that’s tomorrow so you won’t have long to miss me)! 😉

Orange…and black.

This post was inspired by Fat Mum Slim’s Photo a Day challenge x

unnamed

These are the hats Mr Unprepared bought while we were overseas. The top one is from Japan and the bottom one is from Korea. Both countries are absolutely mad for baseball. Both have teams called the Giants. Both teams wear the colours orange and black, which is quite a striking combination. Haha striking. Baseball. Get it? Unintentional puns are my specialty.

We’d watched a travel doco about South Korea before our trip and it had featured a bit about the baseball culture there. We’d learnt that the team for my birth city was the Busan Giants and it was quite amusing seeing the different chants and dance like rituals the fans undertake while watching the games live. It looks like amazing fun! Mr Unprepared decided that, despite us never giving baseball even a thought, he would adopt the Busan giants as ‘his’ team. Which was actually quite touching because I was born there and it was his left of centre gesture (very him) to show me he’s got my back. And that he likes sports, but mostly that he’s got my back. That trip was a pretty big deal, being my first time back, you see.

So we got the Little Mister a shirt to grow into for next summer and Mr Unprepared found a hat.

Then we got to Japan. We figured out pretty quickly that the Tokyo team is also named the Giants and by now Mr Unprepared was on a roll. We were hanging about outside the Tokyo Dome (a huge stadium) one night and there was a game on. Oh how we wanted to go in!! We had an early start the next day, though, and it would probably be just a bit too much for the Little Mister to deal with. We were SO CLOSE. You could just about feel the excitement. One day we’ll do it!!! One day!!

Mr Unprepared had just bought a hat and I think he liked being a part of the crowd – he almost looked like he was going to the game haha.

I have no idea how each teams’ seasons ended. Or anything about them. I doubt we’ll ever remember to check in during their baseball seasons. But it’s fun to think of them as ‘our’ teams anyway. The hats are fun souvenirs, with good memories attached.

Have you got any cool (or even daggy) travel souvenirs? Tell me about them by leaving a comment!

We broke all the rules, but that’s OK.

10295242_10152344933403218_7863992835697558531_o

Before we headed away on our big holiday, things were going quite well in the toddler stakes. The Little Mister hadn’t needed a dummy (when not sleeping) in a really long time and he was toilet training like a little champion! He’d even recovered from his night time anxiety and was sleeping again after a rough few weeks (his last molar not doing us any favours with teething). Things were looking optimistic!

We’ll just give him his dummy and his giraffe blankie (“Giraffey”) when we’re in transit (on trains or planes) in the hopes he’ll nap and we’ll figure out a way to get hold of a cheap potty training aide of some sort (like a toilet seat or a portable potty) to take around the place with us for the hotels. Easy, I thought. 

YEAH RIGHT.

One thing about life is that you can never fully predict how things are going to be when you jump into the unknown. Especially when a toddler is involved!

Of course we got overseas and everything went right out the window! The Little Mister wanted his dummy EVERY minute of the day and everyone knows that Giraffey comes too! It was hard to accept because it felt like a massive backwards step for him. He was dribbling everywhere (despite not teething anymore), you couldn’t understand any of what he was saying on account of the dummy, and he was chewing on it when he was anxious, which seemed dangerous when he broke them. If I’m honest, the ‘from back home’ me was also expecting to be judged for it like I am at the bloody supermarket here. Silly, I know. If someone was to ever judge me, I should have just thought my usual mantra, “F*ck them. I know my truth,” but I think I was feeling vulnerable with the whole ‘visiting my place of birth for the first time since I was adopted’ thing. I wasn’t my fierce mama self and we were all in a crazy, new situation to adapt to. It was no surprise that the Little Mister was searching for more security and comfort too. Besides, it wasn’t even an issue in the end. No-one cared. They still thought he was incredibly cute. They saw past the dummy and blanket and that was it. A kid is a kid. In fact, it was refreshing!

May I also add that the fear of losing the one and only Giraffey was nerve-wracking haha. Our whole family group was always on Giraffey patrol which could be exhausting! Make sure he doesn’t drop it on the train tracks boarding a train! Make sure he doesn’t drop it when he falls asleep in his stroller! AAARGH! We had to rig up a complex (haha) system where Giraffey was attached by the neck to one end of a safety restraint (a wrist to wrist strap designed for parents and toddlers) and the other end hooked over the handles of the stroller (or to him when he was walking)! I have done some scary things before in my life, but nothing was as important as keeping Giraffey in one piece!!

As for toilet training, well that was a bust. We had hoped that he would toilet train when back in the hotel and that we would just use nappies when we were out and about. In our minds, we thought it would help keep his training topped up and we could just be more intensive when we got back home. I didn’t want him to forget any of the progress he had made before we left home.

In reality, this wasn’t going to happen. We were always on the go. We changed hotels every 3 days on average (sometimes more than 3 and other times less). We were always in transit. It wasn’t the ideal ‘toddler friendly’ holiday but we had so much to see and it was a group effort. The Little Mister was often overtired or looking for comfort and familiarity. He was also intimidated by grown ups’ toilets (as opposed to a smaller potty – something we had a hunch would happen before we went away). We did find a rather nifty toilet training seat at Gangneung (where my brother was born) on one of our crazy looking for ‘diapers’ missions, but would he have a bar of it? No way! He did love that the seat had Pororo (a friendly cartoon character) all over it, at least.

Not-so-helpful (or even slightly rational) thoughts ran through my head when I was tired and weary.

What if he never toilet trains again in his life?! What if he takes a dummy with him to high school?! THIS IS A DISASTER! 

But let me tell you, Holiday Kez. Everything will be OK.

The Little Mister was obsessed with his dummy and Giraffey for maybe 3 days when we got home. After that? Back to normal as if nothing had happened. On our first longish outing since we’d got back, I did secretly pack them in my bag in case of an all out, ridiculous meltdown but that meltdown never happened. Awesome.

Oh, and 3 days before we headed for home, the Little Mister asked me out of the blue if he could use the toilet. And sat on it. And did a wee on cue. And was so proud of himself. I wanted to jump up and down and throw a parade, I was so proud of him!

We’ve been home a month now and toilet training is progressing. We had some accidents as he tried to adjust back to winter weather and the need to wear warm pants around the house (he now has learnt how to take them off properly and is working on going on his own without being scheduled or prompted again). It feels like we’ve started again in some ways, but it’s great because he’s a few months older than when we started and understands so much more easily. The world did not cave in on itself. I know am hopeful that we’ll be kicking arse at it by the end of the coming summer. Everything’s coming together. Yay!

Another thing we did while we were away was to try and save money by sharing a bed with the Little Mister. We tried to get twin double rooms in some places and king sized beds in others. Sometimes I shared with the Little Mister in our own bed and other times the Unprepared Three huddled in together. We did struggle in Tokyo with a rather small bed between all of us (the cute little improvised bed we made for him on the floor was great until he woke in the night and thought he’d fallen out of bed and got back in with us EVERY TIME). He got used to being with us in bed and it comforted him as we were in all these strange places, with no room being the same as the last. When we got home? He wasn’t that anxious at all. He knew he was home and while he wanted his room floodlit (I hear it’s a pretty normal phase for this age anyway), he started to settle well within the week.

Discipline wasn’t always easy while we were away either. There’s no place for time outs – something that had been so effective at home. That was difficult. I would have to continue to cuddle him while he played up because we were stuck together, so he’d get more hyped up and think he was being rewarded for his behaviour. It made life harder for us as parents too. We had nowhere for ourselves to get away for a few minutes and cool down when we felt our patience evaporating. We’d feel shitty and be like, “UM – I’M GOING…TO THE OTHER CORNER OF THIS SAME TINY ROOM BECAUSE I’M MAD. DON’T LOOK AT ME.”

Cabin fever did become an issue!

BUT…The Little Mister has come home and is his good little self (as good as a 2 and 3/4 year old can be haha). He hasn’t suddenly become some kind of monster who will never be reformed.

GUYS, WE DIDN’T BREAK HIM!!!

Also, I learnt a lot too. I learnt to just go with it. Remind myself it’s not forever. Have faith in him. Have faith in us as parents. Not feel guilty for not being able to provide him with the creature comforts of home. Remember that this was a once in a lifetime journey and sometimes you have to compromise more. The Little Mister was SO GOOD for a two and a half year old. He adapted as well as he could, with a couple of compromises (i.e. constant bribery and sometimes fast food was the only option) and a couple of tools (dummy and Giraffey). He was happy. He loved seeing so many new things on our daily adventures. He went with the flow as best he could. He didn’t go to bed at the right times and he didn’t always have a day time nap, but he was loved and he was protected and we had a lot of help which we were grateful for. We did our best to keep him happy and catered to (which wasn’t always easy). He bonded with my parents and my brother so well and that was really special. He got to be so much more of a ‘big boy’ and do so many more things than he’d experienced at home. He loved it.

EVERYTHING IS FINE!

While it was stressful bringing a 2 year old on this kind of journey, we learnt so much. If we hadn’t taken the opportunity, citing having a toddler as an excuse (and a valid one at that), then we would never have done something so meaningful with my family and we would have never learnt so much about ourselves and about the amazing places we visited. I feel so happy that we went. I don’t regret it one bit and we feel proud. We could conquer anything now! Although, we’ll wait a few years before doing something like that again!

I will never take the fact that I live in a house (with different rooms in it) for granted again!!

I always say that you make the rules (and routines) so you can break them. This holiday was a perfect example.

Have you ever travelled with a toddler? What weird things did you worry about? Was it all smooth sailing? x

 

Oh, deer.

One of my favourite spots to visit in Japan was Miyajima. We took a train from Hiroshima, then a ferry. I knew about the beautiful Torii gate that you see in all the iconic photos of Japan, but not much more than that. It turned out to be the most beautiful little place – somewhere I would definitely like to visit again one day.

We would have loved to see the gate at high tide (a time of day when it looks like it is floating in the ocean), but that was at like really early in the morning and we were all tired so…um…not gonna happen. I know. Where’s the dedication, you ask? Um…never mind. We got there just before the tide became low, so it wasn’t too bad. It was great to get some photos. It is honestly just spectacular. It just felt magical.

10374032_10152277448443218_253477374155385931_n_Fotor_Collage

If we hadn’t been so pushed for time (i.e. had a toddler), I think we would have all stayed a lot longer. There were little cafés, restaurants, shops full of souvenir trinkets. It was really cool. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it was a peaceful place (at least it was when we visited in June). It just felt…nice. The energy about it was so inviting.

Oh, and there were deer.

Just roaming around the place. Some of them were really cheeky and wanted to see if we had treats in our bags. They were SO CUTE. Or should I saw, kawaii (Japanese word for ‘cute’)? At one point, a deer tried to eat my shorts. Just came up for a friendly nibble of my shorts pocket. I was looking at it, laughing and thinking, “Oh that’s adorable.”

Until the deer started taking the whole leg with it. Just a mouthful of denim mum shorts. Like disappearing before my eyes into its gullet. It wasn’t so cute imagining myself walking around in no shorts, so I had to put a stop to it. BUT MAN, IT WAS SO CUTE THAT I WAS THINKING ABOUT LETTING IT JUST TAKE EVERYTHING. A deer tried to eat my shorts, guys.

10352336_10152277448283218_2056858924211116719_n_Fotor_Collage

When we first came across the deer (plural), I had flashbacks to some kind of deer park I’d visited as a kid. The poo everywhere and all of that kind of thing, but Miyajima was so clean! I saw deer poo maybe only once. Gotta hand it to the Japanese peeps for keeping the place so lovely!

Anyone want to pack me in their case and smuggle me back there? Anyone?

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

One place that we all wanted to see while we were in Japan was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It’s one of those places you put on bucket lists (if that’s your kind of thing). It’s quite the experience and while it is confronting, you walk away feeling like you opened your eyes to something that needs to change in this world.

When we got to Hiroshima, we were a bit early to check into our hotel, so we dumped our stuff and headed straight to the park. As soon as you see the old Atomic Bomb Dome (the only building left standing), you start to feel the feelings! It’s like this quiet just falls over you and it’s a combination of awe and sadness. It is said that they will leave that building standing until all the nuclear weapons of the world are gone. Sadly, I fear it will remain standing for far too long, for generations to come.

10289788_10152273241378218_3596103028192162470_n

We also visited the museum. In the entrance there is a clock. Underneath this clock, you can see the number of days it has been since the bombing of Hiroshima (in 1945). Underneath that is like a kick in the guts. It is the number of days since the last nuclear testing occurred around the world. At the time we visited that figure was a pathetic 282 days. Really makes you think.

10406474_10152273241368218_682047186613713364_n

A few things really stand out in that museum. There is a watch, with the hands stopped at the exact moment the bomb hit. There are walls filled with copies of protest letters (written by the mayor of Hiroshima) sent to different world leaders every time they perform a nuclear test. These letters plead with them to remember the horror of the 6th of August, 1945 and to rid themselves of such dangerous weapons. It’s quite sad to see just how many letters there are (with room left for the inevitable future letters that will need to be written).

Another really profound and confronting experience is the section of the museum where there are artefacts from the bombing. Personal possessions of the victims, paired with stories. Really human, real stories. Stories of the many school aged children who were working at the bomb site when it hit. Stories of how their parents searched for them, found their possessions later and kept them. How children stumbled home and passed away from the horrific burns only days later. There are photos of the victims’ burns. If Hiroshima wanted to make the consequences of an atomic bomb seem really real (and not just some dry information in a history text book) then they really succeeded. These were real people, innocent people, who suffered such cruelty. It reminds you that every news story about those foreign people far far away who are killed or harmed is real.

We had to zoom the Little Mister past some of the exhibits and either Mr Unprepared or I would go ahead and make sure it was safe for toddler eyes before we moved through. We avoided the burns photos and the mannequins that simulated what the victims would have looked like, walking injured and shocked afterwards. The Little Mister was non the wiser and I felt relieved about that. It was a little dilemma being there with a toddler, because we wanted to have that experience but obviously not at the expense of our son’s ability to sleep at night and stay innocent for a little bit longer to the horrors of war in this world (obviously that is a privilege I do not take for granted). It is possible – just have a strategy.

It was very moving to see Hiroshima’s pleas for peace. As much as their efforts seem futile, I really admire the fact that they have taken this tragedy and resolved to do better in the world. Their passion for achieving peace and the eradication of nuclear weapons is impressive.

I definitely recommend that you see this place at least once in your lifetime.

Have you been? How was your experience? Do you hope to go one day? 

Trees are green.

I have a problem. I really like trees. I don’t know how this happened. I mean, I care about the environment but I’m not exactly into botany. I don’t know the names of trees. I can’t even keep them alive if I’m really honest with myself. I don’t even spend all of my spare time looking at them. It is a little bit of an obsession that has crept up on me. I think I just really like the colour green. Which helps.

So you can imagine my joy when we were in South Korea and Japan (and even Singapore). Trees. Everywhere. Beautiful trees. If you were to ask me to sum up the scenery in one word, I’d say trees. I love the trees. The greenery. OK, so that’s more than one word. Whatever. Which surprised me because if you had asked me what I thought the scenery would be like before the trip, I would have probably thought of cityscapes. Skyscrapers, apartment living, the occasional cherry blossom (at the right time of year). Maybe a river or two.

When we got there I could not stop myself from taking photos. It’s an addiction and you (and Facebook) are lucky that I did not post every single one. OMG everything was so beautiful and green, you guys.
1521619_10152241217178218_1745278645941774431_n_Fotor_Collage

 

10353120_10152247257073218_5784590671452571811_n_Fotor_Collage

 

Really really really old trees. Trees on cliffs. Trees in the middle of RESTAURANTS. Trees at temple sites. Trees near the beaches. Trees in the middle of bustling cities. Trees on mountain tops. Trees in parks. Trees trees trees. That’s a lot of beautiful foliage everywhere, y’all.

10436202_10152266832933218_2644975861876156098_n_Fotor_Collage

Does anyone else love trees as much as I do? Are you another unlikely tree fan?

Busan: The city I was born in.

So I have already blogged about all of my mixed up feelings about visiting the place I was born (before being adopted and becoming the superstar that I am today 😛 ), but now I will show you what it is like from more of a tourism point of view.

Honestly, I loved where we were staying – right on the beach. It’s a really popular destination within Korea (and even for people from the US and other parts of the world). We were there right before the peak summer season and it seemed like the perfect time. When I’d heard that Busan was known for its beach, seafood and shopping, I was stoked. I felt really excited because I got a kick out of the fact that I was born in a place that has all the stuff I love. I really wanted to enjoy the place I was born. I may have had a whole lot of crazy emotions kicking about inside my head, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying so much about it.

10306760_10152252428098218_7825463935775593890_n_Fotor_Collage

On the top right is the Sea Cloud Hotel where we stayed. We were somehow upgraded to a suite and it was reeeeeally nice! It looked out onto the beach and had big windows that made us feel so alive after staying in a few little shoeboxes! One highlight was visiting the Busan Aquarium (the Little Mister LOVED IT). It wasn’t much different from all the aquariums at home, but it was a great experience and to see the Little Mister running from display to display with such joy was worth it. On the bottom right is the Little Mister doing his favourite activity – smashing Mr Unprepared’s sandcastles. It was great. You could buy a little beach bucket and spades etc really cheap at a convenience store under the hotel and we had a beautiful, relaxed day playing on the beach (that was the day I was a leeeetle hungover so it worked out well).

Why was I hungover? Um…so one night, my parents generously offered to look after the Little Mister so that we could head out and see what the night life of Busan had to offer. My brother, Mr Unprepared and I were so ready to let off a little steam.

1623645_10152264908528218_2486604406600958058_n_Fotor_Collage

In my defence, I did not plan on getting so tipsy that night. But a few factors didn’t help.

1. Street drinking is legal. Like, you can walk down the street sipping a beer and no-one will arrest you or make you pour it out. Yet, we only ever saw one person on the streets who was really drunk in a sad way. We knew street drinking was legal because we totes did our research. Aren’t we good? If we hadn’t known this, we might not have enjoyed cocktails that were made at a street stall and poured into convenient plastic bags with straws in them (bottom right).

2. Alcohol was CHEAP AS. On the bottom right you can see my Busan BFF making those cocktails in plastic bags. He’d shake up a good quality cocktail and it only cost about $3.50 Australian!!! Of course, this made it easier to indulge in cocktails throughout the night. I may have overindulged as a result. I do not generally condone binge drinking and it’s certainly not something to brag about, but as a lover of cocktails it really was so easy to *ahem* sample all that was on offer. Although I do regret trying this thing called ‘Hooch’ (bottom left). It was made somewhere in the Netherlands and tasted like weird orange lolly water and I had no idea what liquor was even in it, but it was gross and it was cheap and it was something we found in the convenience store and bought for the name alone.

We stopped off at the Fuzzy Navel, a small bar where the cocktails were great and there was a DJ upstairs who played awesome remixes of American R&B songs. I think we were having the most fun of anyone there, because we were a bit early (us parents had to make sure we started early in order to finish early – glam life). We then headed to Thursday Party (it was a Friday night but that wasn’t stopping us) – a chain bar that had an American influence. It was playing all our favourite songs from around the time I was 18 and partying (so please don’t do the maths) and it had a fun atmosphere. That’s probably where the most damage was done, as my brother and *darling* husband decided it would be fun to keep buying me random things off the cocktail menu every time I looked away. Then I decided I’d like to drink them. I couldn’t resist being a bit greedy because at home I’d buy two good cocktails and be broke for the rest of the evening. In Busan, I felt like I was living the high life.

We watched some girls play a beer pong game and tried miserably to be my brother’s wingpeople, but they liked us better than him at first because he was a stickler for the rules. Great fun. Sadly, our carriage was going to turn into a pumpkin soon (and we didn’t want to get too nuts on account of the whole ‘being parents’ thing) and we reluctantly left my brother to head off to a nearby university precinct for more shenanigans with our new friends.

The next day I felt a feeling I hadn’t felt since BC (Before Child). That really really seedy feeling. Not sick, just bleeeergh. Thankfully we had planned ahead on having a quiet and relaxed day. I had a great pedicure by a slightly adorably awkward guy from the hotel across the road and we sat on the beach, even enjoying fish and chips (not something you find easily there) for lunch. It felt like we were at home, which is not the point of travelling, I know, but it was nice when we didn’t have the energy to expend on anything crazy and new. It was comforting! I also remembered why I hardly ever drink more than a couple of cocktails at a time…

It was a fantastic way to end our experience in Korea (apart from an overnight hotel stay near the airport) and we were growing more and more excited to see Japan. I was so glad that by the time we left, I had made peace with the place that I had been born.

Gyeongpo: a nice surprise.

For many years, when I thought of South Korea, I didn’t think of beautiful beaches. I thought of cold winters with snow and an ‘inland’ kind of feel. I wasn’t very educated on my birth country, mostly by stubborn choice (such a rebel), because I wanted to just get on with being an Aussie and no-one was gonna stop me! How wrong I was (well there is snow and every country has an ‘inland’ bit but I had no idea how much more the place has to offer).

While we were away, we visited Gyeongpo. It is a place known for its beach and a beautiful lake (the water looks like glass). It looked like it was undergoing a lot of changes to make it look really fresh and modern, as it is not far from where the Winter Olympics will be held in 2018. We visited in June (the very beginning of summer – felt like an Aussie spring day when we were there), so people were sitting on the beach (some even braving the cold water in floating tubes) and spending a day in the sunshine. 

It was lunch time when we got there and the Little Mister was getting over tired and frustrated. He had also been refusing a lot of Korean food and not drinking enough, so wasn’t feeling 100%, we suspected. We were feeling a little worried about this as we tried to find somewhere to eat lunch. There were mostly seafood places and to be honest, they were a little out of our comfort zones as we couldn’t tell which places might be safer than others to eat. Eventually, with no choices left, we went to a place that looked popular and just took the chance. We were seated in a little room, with a low table and cushions to sit on – very traditional. We had to all take our shoes off and as we sat down we wondered if there was any chance in hell that the Little Mister would sit still and not get onto the table or start grabbing things that he shouldn’t grab!! We weren’t even sure what he would eat!

We ordered some sashimi, some sushi and who knows what else, thinking that we weren’t too hungry or sure of the food. Considering Mr Unprepared is not a huge seafood fan (outside of the usual fish and chips), this was a big deal haha. Of course we were fed several side dishes that were very new to us. Omelettes, tempura octopus, pickled onions, and a massive feast of other things I can’t remember right now! It was surprisingly enjoyable, although the raw fish was quite the adventure! Watching my brother and Mr Unprepared chewing (and chewing and chewing) on some of it was quite amusing. There was SO MUCH of it that our minds boggled because at home, it would cost a FORTUNE to eat that much food, especially seafood. I think we felt a little bad when we couldn’t finish it on account of all the side dishes filling us up!

The beach scenery:

10414413_10152241217028218_4884225173934249958_n_Fotor_Collage

 

We walked a fair distance around one side of the Gyeongpo Lake. It was beautiful and people were riding bikes – tandem bikes, pedal powered wagons and all sorts of other creative bicycle typed vehicles. We did witness a little crash that left a couple of young girls in tears, but all in all it looked like great fun. It would be a great place to exercise every day. The pathways even had a harder surface on one side for bikes etc and a spongier, more forgiving side for runners and walkers. So clever. 

Check out the scenery (and my brother doing his photography thing while I just stalked him and took a photo of him taking photos because that’s not weird or anything). There are some Olympic rings taking pride of place on a round-a-bout by the lake. It will be so fun watching the Winter Olympics in a few years time, knowing that I have visited some of the places that are sure to be showcased. I’ll probably just ignore that pesky sports stuff, though. Haha.

1521619_10152241217178218_1745278645941774431_n_Fotor_Collage

 

Have you ever been (pleasantly or unpleasantly) surprised by a place?

South Korea: Unification Park, Gangneung.

While we were in South Korea, one of the places that the guys really wanted to visit was the Unification Park in Gangneung. You can read about it below. Basically, it was a centre created so that people could be educated about an attempted infiltration by the North Koreans in 1996 and how the South Koreans had managed to thwart the attempt.

10433794_10152241216393218_1620101861166565425_n

 

The park was set in a beautiful place. The water sparkled the most amazing blue-green and as the sun was shining the day we visited, it was just stunning…even with all of the concrete and barbed wire designed to stop any more North Korean invasions.

10431481_10152241216648218_3976690069914895750_n

I imagine that prior to the infiltration by North Korea, this would have been the most beautiful beach. As well as all the barbed wire and concrete, there was a guard tower that looked over the Unification Park. At one point we got a bit too close, trying to find a way up onto the road and the guys with machine guns were all yelling at us to get back. Oops! I mean, not scary at all. Not one bit. Well, a little bit.

Also on display was the North Korean submarine that had attempted to land there. It had run aground and then the South Koreans tried to burn it.

10441100_10152241216513218_461159482189924250_n

 

Tourists were able to climb inside and walk through it. It was all dark and very cramped inside. The area you walked through was very low and it still had the burnt, melted computers and radio systems inside. It was actually quite a creepy little place to be and I was happy to climb out and see the sunshine again! I would not recommend this for claustrophobic people (or probably people who see ghosts or something haha). Still, it was very interesting and kind of surreal to experience. Oh, and after we climbed out we realised they had hard hats hanging on a rack that you were supposed to wear in there. Oops.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom or military pride there, though. There at the bow of a 1944 US built military ship (used by the South Koreans), was this…

10363997_10152241216523218_1477765119031630399_n

 

Yep. Doesn’t get more random or out of place than that! I mean, you’re winding your way through the ship, seeing various artefacts and reading about war stories and seeing how the soldiers would have lived on the ship, and then BAM. There’s Jack and Rose. Without faces. Willing you to live out your Titanic fantasy. Not weird at all.

We also had a little laugh at the Korean to English translations. Watch out for that snppery floor, everybody! That’s OK. We’re crap at your language too, Korean people. All in good fun haha.

10386759_10152241216403218_4266252705255415168_n

 

This was about as close as I was willing to get to any North Korean stuff. Before the trip, we had thought about a visit to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), but I watched some YouTube videos and did some reading, deciding that I definitely did not have the courage. I know that thousands of tourists visit every year and it’s all fine, but I just felt like the atmosphere would creep me out more than anything. While I do find that stuff fascinating, I also find it disturbing. I knew that I would definitely not take the Little Mister with us. One wrong move and things can take a troublesome turn. I wasn’t willing to risk it and I didn’t think it was right for him to be there. I know other people have taken their small children before and had been just fine, but each to their own!

On another note, I feel that the most people know about Korea itself is the antics of the North Korean cult like leadership and the poverty and despair of its people. While that stuff interests (and horrifies) us outsiders, I hope that my blogging of Korea has helped to debunk any uneducated myths about what South Korea is like. I think that perhaps people do not picture beautiful beaches or vibrant cities rich with culture when they think of the place and just like I learnt a lot while researching and experiencing the trip there, I hope to pass on some of that knowledge…if only so people won’t keep saying, “Are you from North Korea?” when they find out I was adopted!

Korean snacks are weird and wonderful.

10409488_10152557535663474_1600728398217378122_n_Fotor

 My happy tourist face in Insadong, Seoul. 

One thing that gave us a laugh in Korea was the great variety of creative street stall snacks. One favourite over there is a tube like ice-cream. It’s some kind of waffle-y cone with soft serve inserted at both ends and besides the fact that it looks ridiculous, it is frickin’ practical! Doesn’t drip. Ever. Which makes me suspicious about the ingredients that go into the ‘cone’, but then you are overcome with the joy of having a funny shaped ice-cream that doesn’t drip and you forget all of your worries. DOESN’T DRIP. LOOKS FUNNY. Who cares if it might sit in my stomach for five years? Mr Unprepared was over the moon with this culinary invention.

We had a ball when we got to Gangneung (where my brother was born). There was a massive festival on, along the river. It was a mass of noise and activity, with people everywhere! Market stalls went on forever on both sides of the river, filled with goodies. It was an intense experience, with cultural stuff to see – dancing and drumming, carnival style rides, souvenirs and just about anything else you can think of. Imagine the best ever weekend markets you’ve ever been to, then multiply all that by a million. OK, maybe not a million but maybe 999,999.

Luckily, the Little Mister slept through half of the experience, which is probably a good thing, because I don’t think he would have survived so much activity and excitement without a sleep!!

10295696_10152239197643218_4045202928969353418_n

It was a huge privilege to experience this festival, as I do not believe many people outside of Korea would have even heard of it or would turn up just for it. We had heard that even some Koreans had not heard of the small city of Gangneung! It was definitely well worth it and probably a rather underrated tourism experience.

It had been a long day, with that first 6 hour train ride with a restless Little Mister and we’d almost literally put our bags down and headed straight out. I was a bit tired (as we all were) and the excitement even got a bit much for me, because I burst into tears when we watched some traditional drummers! They were whizzing around like crazy, the beat of the drums was really loud and you felt it in your body. They were grabbing people out of the crowd to join in and suddenly, I was holding back sobs! I quietly told my mum I was overwhelmed and moved away. I suppose it was a bit to do with my adoption and the fact that I’d grown up with a couple of little Korean drums and masks in my home. To see it all right there for real – IN KOREA – must have stirred something up in me. I felt a bit silly because this was the place my brother was born – he was supposed to cry, not me! Perhaps I had been holding my breath for him a little too. He was fine of course – the bugger. I got my act together pretty quickly (my mum hugging me lovingly might have set me back a bit “DON’T BE NICE TO ME – YOU’RE MAKING IT WORSE!” haha) and we went on to enjoy the rest of the craziness.

Mr Unprepared enjoyed a long-ffle. Now what’s that, you ask? It’s a long waffle. Duh. On a stick. Because everything tastes better on a stick. Name a food that comes on a stick that isn’t amaze balls. Yeah, didn’t think you could.

10349004_10152239197158218_4648460895589893560_n

These long-ffles (such a creative name *giggles*) were covered in donut frosting and had sprinkles and sh*t. Best. Ever. And while I don’t have a photo that my dad would probably want me to put on the blog, he did enjoy a curly potato thingy (on a stick – of course). You can see it in the top left corner in the photo above. Basically, they shove a whole potato into this cutting device (looks like something you’d buy from a home shopping commercial), which turns it into one long spiral. Then they deep fry it. Then they dip it into a seasoning, which is weirdly kind of sweet and not salty like you’d expect. Hey, I’m not arguing with any potato related magical voodoo. It’s potato. It’s fried. It’s on a stick.

That evening we had BBQ pork at a market restaurant (which we ordered purely through miming and guessing and a sense of adventure), with beautiful views of the river…and the old men peeing off the riverbank. Such atmosphere.

Oh and a couple of cities later (in a back alley of my birth city Busan), I had an ice-cream that came in a waffle cone shaped like a fish. Awesome.

10472094_10152252437368218_5721952488536961072_n