Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We're Off To India!

Don't ask how (please) but we managed to get Al an entire week off work, the same as my week off in July. We knew his vacation would probably possibly be a Tuesday-Sunday deal like last year, or more than likely, Wednesday-Sunday (last year I had to beg for him that Tuesday off). I always get a week's vacation and last year, if you recall, we headed down to Malaysia for what few days Al had because Malaysia, apart from being pretty cool, is only a 7 hour jaunt south of here. Nice and close.

This year, however, we have nine glorious days to travel. With a travel bug such as mine, nine days doesn't seem like nearly enough time to go everywhere and see everything I want, though it is enough time to do something pretty significant. I told Al we had succeeded in getting those days and as he proclaimed "the sky's the limit!" my mind was already reeling with ideas. These past few weeks I've been going back and forth with hypothetical flight and hotel searches to many different countries for many different possible dates of travel. Once I get on a travel search, there is nothing to stop me. I turn into some kind of maniac searching every corner of the internet for the best deals and devouring Wikitravel like it's my job. The problem with travelling around Southeast Asia in the summer is that there are few places that aren't being affected by the Monsoon this time of year. East coast Malaysia (check), possibly some parts of Thailand (check), Bali and southern Vietnam are some of the few that have little to only moderate rainfall.

First world problems: Waaaaaaahhhhh!!! I don't know where to go on vacation!! Bali, Vietnam, India, China!??! Whereeeee!?! 

After much research, I narrowed it down to the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam (a little south of Ho Chi Minh City) and Kerala, India (on the southern tip along the west coast). The flights to Bali are just ridiculously expensive right now so I ruled that out almost immediately after I saw $1,600 for flights. Um, no.

Both Vietnam and India are both going to be seeing a little rainfall, but that's alright. If I wanted to go to a pristine, clear turquoise water, white sand beach then I'd want major sunshine, but because we've kinda been-there-done-that more than a few times, we opted to do something different. Maybe hang out in the jungles, bicycle around rice paddies with the buffalos...something that doesn't get ruined by cloudy weather.

Let me just say that AirAsia is my best travel friend over here. The deals can be out of this world. The planes are extraordinarily uncomfortable, but I'd rather pay for a dirt cheap flight than comfort. They just started flying out of Busan a few months ago (ahhhhhhh!!!! That saves us $200 so we don't have to go to Seoul and back!) and are constantly running promos on flights from Busan to Kuala Lumpur, their hub. If you catch it at the right time, you can get to KL super cheap and then flights out of KL to basically anywhere you want to go can run as low as just a few dollars. When I was looking for flights from KL to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, they were only $30 something. (The tickets themselves were only $9 without the taxes!) The only problem is, the flights are a bit limiting. There aren't that many and they only sometimes fly on certain days, and usually only one flight to choose from at that, so you can't be picky.

Al and I sat here until midnight weighing the pros and cons of each country.

Vietnam Pros: Flights are cheaper, visas are more easily attainable, it's closer
Vietnam Cons: We've already seen a lot of SE Asia, we would have to spend two nights in Kuala Lumpur because of the way the flights worked out, therefore being more rushed around and not relaxing.

India Pros: A bit more exotic, the scenery seems much more beautiful in the area we would be visiting, opportunities to visit tiger reserves and ride elephants, beaches, the flights are straight forward
India Cons: No time to see the Taj Mahal this trip (Al calls it "India with an asterisk" because it's like "Oh, you've been to India? How was the Taj Mahal?" "Well, we didn't go see it".), only slightly more expensive, I'm not as familiar with the area because I've not done as much research about it, a friend only told me about it last weekend.

In the end, as you could see by my post title, we chose India. We're off July 29th! I happened to check AirAsia at the perfect time to catch one of the promos. We arrive Monday night and fly back Saturday night. I'm very, very excited, but there's so much stuff we need to do first that I'm having a hard time getting as excited as I should be. I have to send my stupid passport away to Seoul twice because 1. it's too full and I have no blank pages left so I have to pay like $85 to get new pages put in and 2. to get our Indian visas put in. The process to get an Indian visa seems pretty straightforward, just a lot of paperwork and the hassle of mailing it because we don't live in Seoul to just drop by the embassy. Such a pain. So because there's still a lot of stressful things to worry about (I hate mailing my passport anywhere) I'm more focused on that rather than the excitement of going to freaking India.

India is one of the places I've always, always wanted to visit. It is a bit disappointing to be going all the way there and not see the Taj Mahal, which, let's face it, IS India, but I'll take what I can get for now and hopefully we'll be going back in the future.

Let the countdown begin! And let my annoying, jealousy inducing facebook posts litter your newsfeed for the months to come!

Monday, May 27, 2013


Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've reached and now have well surpassed 6,000 views on this blog! It seems like just a few months ago I was thanking all you readers for the 5,000 mark so I believe I've reached another 1,000 pretty quickly. I've had this blog for around three years, so roughly 2,000 views a year ain't too shabby for someone who posts just a few times a month.  I'm feeling pretty successful and yet also "I need more, I need more!" so I'm shamelessly promoting my Instagram as well. Follow me!

I also updated some of the right hand side. Now you can see my most popular posts, pageviews (!) and I added some of my other fellow expats' travel blog links. Paden is a guy I went to high school with who has recently moved to China to teach, Jill is a girl who lived in Korea for quite a few years and has a lot of great travel posts and Vivian is a friend we met in Japan who lives in Tokyo and has some amazing stories to tell. Check them out! I've also added some tabs above. Right now I have one..."About Me"...but hopefully I'll be adding some more soon.

Thank you so much again for coming and reading this blog. Summer vacation is in a few months so hopefully I'll be hopping on a plane and writing about another adventure soon!

Love, love, love

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Buddha!

Vacation days are few and far between in Korea, so when a long weekend comes round we take full advantage of it, however that may be. This past weekend was Buddha's birthday and we had Friday off work so a group of us decided to head up to Seoul. All the expats in Seoul probably look down on us Busanites and think they are much better than we because they live in big old Seoul. That's fine with me, I would never, ever, ever want to live in Seoul. It's colder in the winter, hotter in the summer, I would spend way too much money because there is too much shopping and thousands more more Koreans all crammed together means that the litter problem is 1000x worse than here in Busan (and it's pretty bad here). Plus, they have no beach. Having access to the ocean anytime I want seals the deal on living here instead of hot, dirty Seoul.

...but a weekend there is needed once in a while. As I've mentioned before, when Al and I head up there we do so to escape "Korea". I go to Forever 21 and we eat eat eat all the western food we can get our hands on. No temples, no sightseeing. Once you've seen one temple, you've seen them all and being in my third year of being over here, the novelty has definitely worn off. If I happen to run across temples or traditional buildings of course I marvel in their beauty and really just let it sink in how old all these places are, but I'm really not going to go out of my way to find them anymore. We are both getting pretty jaded about Asia and are very much ready for next April to get here and get here fast so we can park our butts in Europe for a month and then settle into our long awaited, mundane American lives. 

Our being blasé about being here doesn't mean that I don't have fun or that I don't appreciate what a simple and carefree life I lead. On the contrary, I have a blast every weekend and I'm very aware that I'm extraordinarily lucky in how I live right now. I don't wish we would've moved home after finishing this last contract, either. There's still a bit more travelling I want to get in before moving home and so we will do that over the next year. We have summer vacation that we will get somewhere or other and then after we're finished we're going to head back to America via Europe as I mentioned above. I believe as long as I get one more Asian country in this summer (China, Vietnam...something) and then hit up a few European countries before moving on to Nashville, I won't be regretting moving home. Right now, I don't have enough travel under my belt to justify settling down permanently, so I'll just have to get through the next ten months with a smile on my face. 

That smile starts with long weekends. Happy Birthday, Buddha! You got me Friday off! Thanks dude! Al and I and a few friends plus some new people I hadn't met before wanted a weekend away and that's what we did. The original plan was to head to Tokyo for a few days but it fell through so the next best thing is Seoul. Al, myself and seven other people took the 1:00 bullet train north on Friday to start the weekend off. They all stayed in a hostel in Hongdae but Al and I wanted to stay somewhere on our own so we went to our trusted Vestin Inn in Myeongdong, where we always stay. Myeongdong is central to everything and never seems too many stops or transfers from anything on the subway. First things first, H&M. We have two H&Ms here in Busan but they pale in comparison. (everything we have here is 10x better there) The biggest Forever 21 I've ever stepped into is in Myeongdong but unfortunately it's closed for reno until June so we had to hunt down the other one near Gangnam (heh.). It's much smaller than the other but it served its purpose. 

We went with another couple to have some legit Mexican at On The Border for dinner and then headed out to a district called Hongdae, a place that apparently is unbelievably awesome in which to go out. That's where our other friends were staying so we met them there and once we arrived, my immediate thought was, "This looks like every other street in Korea". After further investigation and walking around I did realize that there were many more bars and clubs and people, but all in all it's just a big KSU (where we usually go out here in Busan). Noooooot really impressed. Al put it in the best way: "There's just more of a variety of the same old thing". 

We found our friends and started bar hopping and I was done about 4:30. Don't get me wrong, it was sooooo much fun, but no different or anything more spectacular than here. Day 1, done. 

Saturday, our full day there, was spent eating broccoli soup and salad for lunch (gasp!) at our favorite terrace restaurant and shopping. Itaewon, the foreigner district, is full of import stores, Taco Bell and Subway it all their glory. I got some super cute earrings from a street vendor (haggled like a boss) and then beelined for the import stores where I stocked up on ranch, mac n cheese, root beer, blueberry muffin mix and even some milk tea imported from Japan (if you've read this blog from the beginning you'll know that's one of my favorite things on earth). It's the little things.

That night we met up with our friends again (our really close friends came up this night instead of with us on Friday) and did it all over again in Hongdae. This time we ended up at the noraebang (karaoke) which is 100% guaranteed to keep us all out until well past sunrise...and no surprise here, we walk outside in the bright daylight and head for Taco Bell. 

After getting back to our miniscule room, we slept for three hours or so and then checked out. We headed back to Itaewon for Subway for lunch (tuuuurrkkkeeeeyyyy sandwich), grabbed four tacos at TB for the train ride home and back to the KTX station we go. We slept most of the 2 1/2 hours home so it was a short ride, then groggily made our way through the 30 minutes of subway stops to ours. We wanted to get back sooner rather than later so we arrived about 5:00, plopped into bed and watched four episodes of Game of Thrones. Now that's a nice evening. 

Was the weekend fun? Amazingly so. Was it worth the near $1,000 we spent? Proooobably not, but that hint of America I get when I'm up there is definitely needed occasionally. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Sunburn

Much to my great elation, the weather is finally starting to heat up a bit. The winters are long and cold here and it seems to take forever to get warm. Once the hot weather does come, it comes on with a vengeance, so I'm sure I'll be complaining about that in the near future. But as for now, it's 65-70 every day and my school is neither too hot nor too cold, making it a nice teaching environment for now. This past weekend was the nicest we've had since probably October, bringing everyone outside in droves to enjoy the warmth. (By everyone I mean the foreigners, the Koreans are still wearing ski jackets and sweaters. No surprise there.)

Saturday, we went to the Lotte Giants baseball game, the professional team of Busan. We can see the stadium from our house, so it's nice to just walk down there when there's a game. Baseball itself as a sport is super boring, but the social aspect of the games keeps me going back when people plan it. I guess they are doing poorly this year, so they lost this one.

Sunday was CINCO DE MAYOOOOOO!!!!! Last year we were equipped with sombreros for the occasion but since no one got them this year, it was more of just an official beach season kick off day, complete with tacos for dinner that evening. It was all of our first day at the beach this year and it was a beautiful 75 degrees. Personally, I like it about 85 but that's just me. 

This above picture was taken to show you my thermos. I brought tea to the beach, Si style.

Because it wasn't super hot and the sun didn't seem that strong on top of me being on a mission to get tan, I didn't bother with the sunscreen when I got to the beach. Oops. I am now writing this with a wicked sunburn. I really and truly didn't think I was going to get as red as I am. At the beginning of the summer I always get a few sunburns, sunscreen or not, and then it turns brown and then I'm good. I knew I was going to get a little red, I just didn't anticipate how red. I've had worse sunburns, honestly, but the first of the year is always a bit uncomfortable. I've slathered myself in aloe and will continue doing so until it's gone so I don't peel.

I posted a picture on facebook of my sunburn last night before I went to sleep and woke up this morning with multiple comments on it, not about my sunburn, but my being too skinny! I reeeeally need to address this. I am by far not too skinny, I promise you. I simply know how to work angles of the camera and use it to my advantage when posting pictures. Yes, I have lost weight recently, but it was weight I definitely needed to lose and I'm now what I feel is a pretty healthy 137 pounds. I'm still very jiggly and according to the trainer at the gym I still need to lose about 5 more and I will still remain perfectly healthy. I assure you I eat whatever I want generally, it's just much easier to eat more healthy here as the access to junk food isn't as readily available. I still have a slight gut and definitely some cellulitey legs, I just don't post pictures like that on facebook. Sure, it might be deceiving, but I'd rather play up my better features for all the world to see and I think that's alright. To prove that I'm not underweight and certainly not "tiny", here are some pictures of my perfectly normal body for your viewing pleasure. 

See. Normal. Nothing to worry about. I loved all the comments on me being too skinny, trust me, I've not heard that in many many years, but because it's simply not the case in any capacity, I thought I needed to say something about it.