Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Cake 2019 ... and stuff

Ah, Korea's Christmas cakes! Gotta love 'em, and so I do. This year's iteration harkens back to my first Christmas cake, back in 2008.

Today at school, we had an elaborate afternoon snack, which I at first assumed had something to do with Christmas. But it was actually a "workshop" for the school's "educational program". I suppose this is the elementary school version of the semi-to-quite drunken committee meetings we had in the high school.

Saturday evening, I went to dinner and drinks with some pals in Hongdae. But before any of them showed up, I made a new friend, a blood donation mascot who gave me a cookie:

After dinner, we went to a bar called Gopchang Jeongol, which means Offal Chowder.

But it is a bar, a really cool bar, a really packed, really cool bar. It focuses on a retro atmosphere and retro music. Many guests sang (and danced) along, and a good time was had by all.

Tonight is Christmas Eve eve, and in case I don't post anything else in the next two days, Merry Christmas, Everybody!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

새로미 who?

Regular visitors to my patch of Seoul know I am a sucker for a photo op with a mascot. I have shots with dozens of characters, from sports mascots 턱돌이 (Mr. Stone Jaw) to the Doosan Bear to the FC Seoul 도깨비 (goblin), from a perfume atomizer bottle to a loaf of bread to a frosty mug of Kloud beer, from Pororo to Crong, from … well, you get the idea. So, yesterday, I snagged this beauty:

(S)he is wearing a chest badge of the official Gangseo-gu (my district of the city) logo, and is therefore, I assumed, the gu mascot. A trip to the website ( informed me that the character's name is 새로미, Saeromi, "representing a friendly and warm-hearted image, is a forever friend of the people of Gangseo, and represents perennial glad tidings."

But not quite. As you can see from the image there, Saeromi is a male bird (?) of some description.

And, wearing a skirt and a hair bow, my new friend is clearly a chick. I don't know if they are siblings, a married couple, or just friends.

Furthermore, I wondered, exactly what kind of bird is Saeromi? Not enough bill to be a duck, which was my first thought. Her plumage is mostly black, suggesting a crow, but one with a white face. Looking further down the webpage, I saw that the official bird of Gangseo is the magpie. I would say mystery solved, but magpies don't have white faces either … On the other hand, while magpies symbolize trickery, meaningless chatter and bad luck in the West, Asians see them as bringers of good fortune.

Indeed, ggachi figures prominently in Korean minhwa folk art and folktales with the tiger, horangi (together ggachi and horangi, 까치와호랑이):

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

2019 Seoul Lantern Festival

I made my fourth visit to the Seoul Lantern Festival, after a few attempts were delayed by the weather; however, the weather last night was brisk but clear, and I made it up there around six PM while the crowds were quite manageable. The lanterns are in the Cheongyyecheon stream in downtown Seoul. The closest subway stop is Euljiro-3-ga on line 2.

This year's theme was folk tales, including Western ones like Cinderella, and the Woodcutter. Not sure what the second one below is:

This one is the Korean tale of Sister Sun and Brother Moon. The tiger (frequent participant in Korean fables) gobbles up the children's mother and puts on her clothes. When the tiger appears at the house, the children recognize him and run away. They climb a rope into a tree, and pray to Heaven for help. The tiger, who followed them, fell to his death, but the children keep going higher and become the sun and moon. At first, the boy is the sun and the girl is the moon, but the girl is afraid of the dark, so they switch roles.

Tayo is a Korean cartoon character, a playful and mischievous Seoul city bus, who teaches lessons about confidence, friendship and responsibility.

As you go further downstream, there is a section devoted to Korean history, such as a royal procession, and workmen building a palace:

Here is the military genius Yi Sunsin, with the "Turtle Ship" he devised:

A 승무 seungmu dancer. This is a traditional folk dance originally performed by Buddhist monks.

The large detailed face makes me wonder if this is a caricature, but I don't know enough to say.

And finally, when you leave the stream and come back to street level, there will be plenty of pocha to appease your hunger pangs.

I mentioned above that this was my fourth lantern festival, and you can see posts about the others (each one has a different theme) by clicking on the label cloud.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

2019 Sinchon Beer Festival

There isn't really a lot to blog about here, except for readers who might want to keep an eye open for next year's event.

Breweries (lots) and restaurants (a few) set up tents in the street over a couple of blocks near Yonsei University at Sinchon station on line 2. A typical 330 mL beer runs 5-6,000 W and there are some other activities, including music, boutique merchants and games of chance:

It looked a little sparse during the daylight hours, but the crowds really grew after dark as the beer started to flow like … um, winebeer.

Sinchon is a pretty trendy area with neat-o dining spots and just about the only tagging I've seen in Korea outside Itaewon:

Some beer:

The most outrageous food I saw was (drumroll, please) deep fried chicken skins!

Not technically a beer, but I topped off the night with a glass of mead:

Finally, the best photo op of the day:

Monday, September 16, 2019

What Did You Do During Chuseok?

… is the question I will ask every class this week as we return to school from the "Korean Thanksgiving" holiday.

What's that you say, Dear Reader? What did I do during Chuseok? Well, I'll tell you:

On Thursday I went to Gocheok Stadium with pal Adam to watch the Heroes Vs LG Twins.

It was a relatively even game, and the Heroes won 3 - 2 when the Twins pitcher walked the bases loaded, then walked in the winning run on the last pitch, described by Adam as (if you listen carefully to the video)"... in the dirt!"

Below the team is lining up to bow to the fans; afterwards, we sat outside a convenience store in the shadow of the skeleton baseball and shot the bull for a while.

Next, I met up with The Stumbler for some sidewalk beers before having lamb skewers (galbi this time, a new addition to the menu) at Sinjeongnaegeori. Bottle U, our occasional sam-cha, has been renamed "Oh-la-la".

On Sunday, I met up with the usual suspects for an FC Seoul game at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Sangam-dong.

The opponents were Incheon United, and though FCS outplayed them, they managed little penetration until the second half. Here's the PK to give our side the win at 2 - 1, though the team scored a third goal about two minutes into added time.

Finally, the scene while exiting the stadium is quite dramatic, even more so with flashing colors:

So, what did you do during Chuseok?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Some Airport Pics

Visitors to this blog might know that I do love a nice vacation, and I (as mentioned earlier) had a nice one in Cambodia recently. Typically, I share lots of tales, impressions and photos from my time in my chosen spot(s). Having done this for a decade or so (and not having taken along my Nikon and therefore relying on my iPhone camera), I have decided to share pics from the journey rather than the destination.

The photo above was taken at a recently-opened children's play area at Incheon with a Pororo theme. Before boarding a flight, I prefer to get liquored up to calm my nerves as an unenthusiastic flyer, and so I spend some time in the bars and smoking lounges to take the edge off. The first shot is a new instruction at Incheon, and the second is what you have to use to light up in Guangzhou (or any Chinese airport) as they take away your lighters in security. The third is the smoker's lounge at Phnom Penh:

On this trip, I had two long layovers in Guangzhou, which I put up with as it slashed my ticket price to $375 or so. One gets peckish with four hours of waiting time. Curiously, the only meat available seemed to be chicken. Even McDonald's only had chicken. I was a bit taken aback by the menu shots there--um, am I the only one that finds those chicken nuggets suggestively placed next to the tall drink glasses with helmet-shaped lids?

The other restaurant was something like "Dicos" which has a leg quarter that's more or less white meat:

Guangzhou's terminal 2, seemingly devoted to China Southern flights, is quite impressive, while Phnom Penh brags on an awesome public toilet:

Back in the day, your luggage would have a sticker like "MAD" for Madrid, "ATL" for Atlanta-Hartsfield, or "ORD" for O'Hare. Now it's a barcode. But just lately, I've been getting stickers on my bag saying "RFID" no matter what airport it is, and obviously those are for "radio frequency identification":

Mystery … well, not exactly solved, but close enough. Anyway, I'll be staying around Seoul for Chuseok. Happy travels!