Well, I can't quite believe we are into May already - April has just gone by so quickly, and I guess as I get closer to leaving Korea time will start to go by even quicker!
This month has been a pretty quiet month - I have been to some new and interesting places on the weekends this month, but things at school have been pretty quiet and, well, normal - not a bad thing, but it doesn't give me as much to write about!!
The first proper weekend of the month (i.e. no speaking tests) I headed to 여의도 한강 공원 (Yeouido Hangang Park - thought it was about time I included some Korean in my blog!!). The reason for going that weekend was that I had read that this was the weekend to see the famous cherry blossoms, and that Yeouido was one of the best places in Seoul to go and see them! I was also interested to go back, because the last time I visited they were still building much of the park area and I wanted to see the finished product!
The whole area of the park was really nice, with lots of open greenery, a cycle path (which you had to cross to get anywhere in the park, which was quite a traumatic experience as I have never seen so many bikes in one place - you just had to spot a gap in the bike traffic and run!) and a really nice walkway along side the river. The only disappointing part about the park was - NO CHERRY BLOSSOMS (except for one tree), seems I was a week or so early!
Despite this, I had a nice few hours wandering along the river. The views looking across the river to central Seoul, with the mountains of Bukhansan National Park as a backdrop were really something to enjoy!
They had also added some interesting features to the park area, like a floating stage (a funny colored dome shaped buildings) and a water area that will be really nice in the stupid heat of summer!
The whole area was really busy with people walking, biking and in-line skating. It seems in-line skating here is a hobby for all ages and not just the young as I noticed one or two older men go flying past me on their skates - it was quite an amusing sight!
After my trip to Yeouido I decided to do some shopping in Insa-Dong. I finally got around to taking a few photos as I was wandering up and down the main street, but they don't really show why I like this area of Seoul so much, as it's the atmosphere of the place that is really great.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD!:
This month I have tried out some new and rather delicious Korean foods (yes, I actually found some Korean food I like!!). This mostly happened all in one week, which started with Olivia bringing in a bag full (yes, a bag full!) of bread to one of our classes for us to share. Some of the Korean bread is really interesting, and this was actually quite delicious, sort of a cross between a sandwich and garlic bread -ish!
Then later that same week Jong Sool brought in 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki) for the kids in school and I was invited to join in this feast. I was a little reluctant at first, but I had no choice but to try it, and it was really nice. Tteokbokki is rice cake stew, and it's basically sliced rice cakes in a spicy red pepper sauce - yummy!
On the Friday of the same week (I said this was foodie week), at the start of my Korean lesson with Jin Sun we had 비빔밥 (Bibimbap) which translates to 'mixed rice' and it consists of vegetables (flavoured with soy sauce and seasame), red pepper sauce, a fried egg and rice which you add to the vegetables etc and then mix really well and eat - it was really, really delicious! Definately something I will be trying out when I get back home!
The weekend after my trip to Yeouido I went to 창덕궁 (Changdeokgung palace). This was the one palace of all of those in Seoul that I really wanted to see because of the famous Secret Garden. I chose this weekend as I was hoping to see some cherry blossoms after the disappointment of the weekend before, and this time I wasn't disappointed!
You are only able to visit Changdeokgung palace as part of a guided tour, so I joined one of the 3 English tours that they run each day. It was actually good to go as part of a guided tour as you get to find out much more information about the palace as I would have done had I been able to go on my own. The tour lasted for about 90 minutes and we got to see a large part of the palace grounds.
Changdeokgung is really impressive, the buildings are beautifully decorated and the whole structure is so different to anything back in England its just fascinating to look at and look around. Some of the furniture from the last residents of the palace was still in some of the rooms including the throne room which was really grand and impressive.
The highlight of the tour though really was the Secret Garden, which according to our guide is one of the 3 famous gardens in Asia!
In the secret garden there is a square lotus pond with a small circular island in the middle full of plants and trees. The lotus pond is then surrounded in 3 sides with pagoda's which make it a really beautiful sight and made for some amazing photo's!
KOREAN TEST (I'M GENIUS!):
This month saw me taking my second Korean test with Jin Sun. As we have now moved on from the real basics (although we are still pretty basic!) things had been getting harder so I was worried about retaining my genius status. Thankfully (mostly because I studied really hard) I managed to retain my 100% record and therefore my genius status!! 멋있어요.
Last weekend Jill came to visit and we went to see Nanta. Nanta is a very famous show in Korea and this month they had a 40% discount (provided you brought something red to the show - I have no idea the reason for this!).
The basic outline of Nanta is that it is all set in a kitchen and the story focuses on the 3 main chefs, the manager and the managers nephew who joins the chefs in the kitchen to prepare a wedding buffet. The whole show is mostly non-verbal and consists of a lot of music (much of which is performed on kitchen appliances/utensils etc), dancing, physical comedy and even some magic at the end. The show only has 5 cast members and the theatre was really small which was great. There was also some audience participation which was a lot of fun!
The show was absolutely brilliant, it was so good and really funny in parts.
After the show we went out for dinner in Myeong-dong and I had Bibimbap - something that I knew I liked and would be safe to order anywhere. After dinner we wandered around Myeong-dong for a while which was really nice as it was the first time I really been out in Seoul after dark, so the neon was everywhere and it was so colorful! There were so many people about too and all the street stalls were still out and busy, it felt like the middle of the day!
So, thats it for April! The next 5 weeks here bring 3 short weeks of 4 days (yay!) so I should have a busy May and therefore more to say next month! I already have some exciting things planned, with the Lotus Lantern Festival and a trip to the DMZ, but thats for the next entry!!