Post-India

We’re back home in North America now, after a wild, successful, unforgettable six weeks in India. We watched fiery sunsets, ate every curry imaginable, met incredible locals and explored ancient ruins and hidden temples. Sometimes we got tired, sick, or both, but India always reminded us that the adventure was worth it all.

We kept detailed journals, and ended up with about 3000 photos – not a trip to forget a thing. Now that we’re home and adjusted, it’s time to share our incredible stories. I mapped our actual path here.

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Food in Korea

While traveling, you don’t really know a country or people until you try their food. Ingredients, flavor combinations, cooking styles, presentation, etiquette- it all varies so much from place to place. It really reflects the culture and what people value. Our relationship with food reflects us, as a people.

I’ve lived in Korea for the past year and could talk endlessly about the food. First off, it’s highly underrated. I don’t know why it hasn’t taken over my home country of America yet. I live in Seoul, so Western-style cuisine has slowly crept into people’s daily meals, but the communal-style Korean restaurants are still ubiquitous.

My Korean Top-10:

1. Dalkgalbi- communal-style medley of chicken, cabbage, sweet potato, rice cake, some other vegetables, and chili pepper paste (gochujang) cooked in front of you on a hot plate- you get several servings, cook it all together in the middle, and share

2. Mandu- Korean-style dumplings, usually filled with meat, though my favorite is with kimchi

3. Kimchi- though becoming more popular, it’s still not as easily found as it should be (looking at you, hometown in PA)- it’s fermented cabbage (or Korean radish, or other vegetable) in a spicy chili mix

4. Pajeon- Korean-style pancake, made of egg, wheat and rice flour, filled with vegetables and seafood- squid is best

5. Korean BBQ (samgyeopsal)- generally the only Korean cuisine that’s made it abroad, as far as I’ve seen

6. Kimbap- kind of like sushi minus the actual fish- various ingredients rolled in rice and seaweed, then sliced like sushi

7. Bibimbap- mix of rice, a fried egg, seaweed, lots of vegetables, sometimes meat

8. Naengmyeon- buckwheat noodle dish served cold, perfect for the very hot summers here

9. Maekgolli- rice wine, looks a lot like milk- not ever to be confused with soju, the quite intense equivalent here of vodka- both can be found at convenience stores for A DOLLAR per bottle

10. Tteokbokki- incredibly delicious and popular street food consisting of rice cakes and a few vegetables in sort of a spicy red soy sauce

Koreans are extremely proud of their cuisine, and rightfully so. I find it very unique, and it really reflects the value of family, with communal-style restaurants, and Korean history, with old rituals and customs still very much alive at the dinner table.

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New Zealand Future

I’ve just gotten approved for a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand! I finish my contract in Korea in two weeks, so the plan is to immediately trek to India for six weeks, go home to America for another six, and head to New Zealand in search of adventure for an indefinite amount of time.

New Zealand is home to beautiful mountains, incredible coastlines, and a near perfect climate, in my opinion. Korea has been brutal in that regard- winters are terribly cold, and summers are unbearably hot and humid, with at least a month of torrential monsoon downpours thrown in. Spring and fall are beautiful, but short. New Zealand is going to be a much welcomed change, as we plan to settle in Auckland, more northern NZ, which is warm and temperate year-round.

Other reasons we chose NZ:

1. Outdoor activities (skiing, surfing, sailing, trekking, camping, biking, kayaking, skydiving, etc) are endless

2. Cost of living– considerably cheaper than neighboring Australia, but similar appeal in other regards

3. Friendliness– foreigners are warmly welcomed, as I already have experienced via NZ Immigration

4. Way of life– Kiwis greatly value leisure; people are less stressed, have more time off, and are generally a lot happier because of this

Any suggestions on must-sees in NZ, or any information on work? We arrive early December, but leads are always welcome! Stay posted for more!

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Thoughts on Korea, Part I

  1. Korea the Smartphone Nation is nearly unparalleled in the world (Samsung!)
  2. Korean work ethic, which has its pros and cons, requires copious amounts of caffeine, and as such, I’ve never seen so many coffee shops in my life, and I’m no stranger to espresso-loving cities
  3. Hiking is the national pastime and is popular among a more mature generation- while impressive, the unofficial brightly colored (mismatched!) uniforms are hilarious
  4. Most meals are meant to be communally shared, and always involve at least 20 side dishes
  5. It’s the land of extremes here – Siberian winters, Saharan summers – but at least they have heated floors in the winter
  6. Koreans are notably stylish, but they take it to new levels with matching couples outfits
  7. Add a few English words and it’s instantly “cool”, which makes for some ridiculous jumbling together of ambiguous words and meanings solely for aesthetics
  8. Korea has many “bangs”, or rooms, such as “jimjilbangs” (Korean bathhouses), “DVDbangs” (private movie-viewing rooms), “PCbangs” (internet cafes), etc
  9. Most Koreans are deeply proud of their nation, many love Americans and the protection it offers, some still resent the Japanese for historical reasons, and a few believe Korea will someday rule the world
  10. Korea is about 50% Buddhist and 50% Christian, so you’ll see lots of neon crosses and giant golden Budda statues

 

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India Planning

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As soon as our contracts are finished the end of August, we’re heading to India for six weeks. It’s been quite an ordeal to plan- the subcontinent is home to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cultural gems. As of now, I have a map of our route.

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Quick Guide to Bali

Bali is paradise. Not in the way that most beautiful places can be, but there’s something that makes it paradise from within, as well. The aromas of tropical flowers and incense from the temples, the divine cuisine from satay to fruit to fresh seafood, the charm of Balinese people, the spiritual, almost magical feeling of wandering the island- for me, it was the perfect destination.

1. Learn to surf on Echo beach

2. Eat seafood in Jimbaran at sunset

3. Visit Tanah Lot and Ulu Watu temples

4. Get a massage EVERY DAY- most are between $5-10

5. Watch Kecak and Legong traditional dances in Ubud

6. Go to Monkey Forest in Ubud

7. Go snorkeling in Blue Lagoon, near Padangbai

8. Rent a scooter and head to Pura Goa Lawah, the bat temple

9. Ask a local about Balinese Hindu ceremonies, such as daily offerings of flowers and palm leaves

10. Explore the chic shopping of Seminyak

11. Buy all of the sarongs/incense/fisherman pants/roadside fruit stall produce

12. Relax, and if you’re like me, avoid too much time in Kuta, land of the tourist traps and overcrowded bars

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Quick Guide to Taiwan

Taiwan is a beautiful and highly underrated place in Asia. I’ll admit that before my adventure to this continent, I knew very little of Taiwanese culture, history, or geography. When I had a week vacation within my first few months in Korea, a flight to Taiwan was sort of an impulse buy via my coworker’s suggestion. I was pleasantly surprised by all it had to offer.

1. Taroko Gorge

2. Shilin Night Market

3. Penghu Island

4. Taipei 101

5. Boba, or bubble tea

6. Beitou Hot Springs

7. Sun Moon Lake (long story, didn’t make it- but GO!)

8. Din Tai Fung, best dumplings in the world

9. Rent a motorbike

10. Taiwan National Palace Museum

11. And fun fact, as this post reminded me- the garbage trucks sing to you

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