Sunday, March 29, 2009

Definition of a red traffic light

Red lights don't mean stop until the light turns green. They are there to remind drivers that it is highly recommended that they at least look both ways before entering the intersection.

Spring in Insadong

This morning I bundled up (yes, it is still cold) and headed out to get Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Ah, the pleasures of urban living -- A Starbucks, a Dunkin Donuts, and a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf all within feet of my apartment building. The choices we face every day!

This is the view up the street towards Insadong (the intersection shown) and the main drag near Jongno Tower. Depending on which bus I take home, sometimes I walk down this street in the evenings, when it's filled with people and buses dashing down the road. Those green buses fly down this street, honking their horns, causing people to scramble out of the way. But in the mornings, it's calm, quiet, and nearly empty.

In the last couple of weeks, planters have mysteriously sprouted pansies and violets all through town. Here in Insadong, the concrete planters have all been filled with flowers. Although with the cold snap (apparently winter is jealous of spring and is fighting back), and the recent rain and wind, the flowers look like they've been slightly beaten lately.

One of the many local Starbucks in the area. This one is in Insadong, and is one of the few that I've seen with the sign in Korean and not English, but notice that it is still in the Starbucks green color.

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Another evening on the town (3/28/09)

Someone had suggested that we try Thai Orchid in Itaewon for dinner. So we headed over there for dinner on Saturday night.

Drinks -- living large. I had a Coke, he had a Singha. They were out of Chang beer, which was listed on the menu.

These are the spring rolls. Note the garnish that came with these.

A close up of the garnish, which turns out to be zucchini and carrot. The carrot was apparently one single piece. It was pretty darn fancy.

Chicken penang curry. The chicken was really tender, and the curry sauce had a nice sweet taste to it, with just a touch of pepper.

Beef with broccoli and mushrooms in oyster sauce. The onions were nice and sweet. And the mushrooms were tasty. One thing I love about being here is the wide variety of mushrooms and produce, all of which is usually served at peak ripeness.

Thai Orchid was really good. We had to wait a little bit when we first arrived, but once they started seating people, it was pretty quick. The menu had lots of options, but with only two people, it's not really effective to order more than 2 main courses. They also had a promotion during the month of March with a 20% discount. They also had discounts on wines, but we didn't feel like a whole bottle of wine with dinner - he wanted a beer, and I didn't want that much wine. Besides, after dinner and our walk, we headed over to Kabinett for a couple of glasses of wine.

After dinner, we wandered around Itaewon for a bit. Ran into a co-worker. Here is the view of Gecko's and the Footloose Bar from the alley behind the Hamilton Hotel. Every time I see this sign for Footloose, I think of the movie.

At the end of Itaewon street, where it hits the base, there are these two trees lit up with red and white lights. I see these every single evening from the bus when I go home at the end of the day.

One reason it's hard to be homesick - Starbucks and the All American Diner. We haven't tried the diner yet, but we've heard they have a brunch on weekends.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Duck dinner

A co-worker has been mentioning this duck restaurant for a while, so we finally managed to get over there. It was an unbelievably warm evening, particularly compared to the weather the previous weekend. It's a bit of a shock to the system to go from freezing to 20 degrees (C) in a very short period of time. I hadn't realized how acclimated I'd become until I discovered that I thought 60 (F) was extremely hot and practically sun bathing weather. (Now I understand the scores of people from out of town that were sunbathing on the beach in Jacksonville last winter when I thought it was too cold to go outside without a jacket.)

Enough about the weather, back to the duck dinner. Below are the side dishes arrayed in front of me, clockwise from lower left: kimchi, pickled greens, onions in a soy sauce, pickled radish in a red sauce, more pickled greens.

Even more side dishes, clockwise from upper left: green salad, root vegetable in a sweet pepper sauce, pickle, and pickled radish. The pickled radish has a lovely flavor that reminded me of something else, but I have not yet been able to recall what it was. It has a nice, light, crisp flavor.

Our duck. Stuff with rice, beans, other grains, chestnuts.

Cup of Korean raspberry wine. A bit strong at first, but really has a nice raspberry flavor.

The bottle of raspberry wine. This really isn't that large of a bottle despite the angle of the photo; it's probably only about 6" tall.

The remains of our duck.

That was a lovely dinner.
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Monday, March 2, 2009

A grand evening out

We had a nice, quiet weekend. Ended up heading out to the Haebongchong area, and walking up the hill towards the Grand Hyatt. Saw some potential restaurants for future dining adventures. I also noticed that March 1st must be the magic date for spring wardrobes. I saw quite a few young ladies wandering around in mini-skirts. Without the tights. I would just like to mention that I still wear a minimum of 3 layers, a wool coat, a scarf, a hat, and gloves. And I'm still cold.

So, we headed up towards the Grand Hyatt, then caught a cab to go down to Itaewon. It isn't far to Itaewon, I just really didn't feel like wandering through the dark, narrow streets at night because there are lots of twists and turns and if we missed the correct turn, it could be a huge uphill climb to go back. So we hailed a cab and asked for the Hamilton Hotel. He went towards the Hilton Hotel. Hamilton. Hilton. Guess they both have that "ilton" sound in them. But we eventually got headed in the correct direction and landed in familiar territory in Itaewon.

And then we headed to Pancho's. I'd heard that the margaritas were decent, and after the random cab ride I'd just had, a margarita was just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, the only thing I enjoyed was the margarita. And the music. The food was really not up to par. So after that, we felt we'd earned dessert at Chef Meili's, where I indulged in the apple strudel and he indulged in the malakov torte (a chocolate mousse, almond, ladyfinger concoction).

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Independence Movement Anniversary

Sunday, March 1st, was a holiday. Unfortunately, because it falls on a weekend, we don't get a day off. So much for having more holidays. Anyway, March 1st is the anniversary of the Independence Movement according to my Outlook calendar. I don't have any details available, but I think that it has to do with something that happened in Tapgol Park (happens to be right next door). Since it was a holiday, there happened to be a parade, and lots and lots of flags flown. I noticed that even during the midst of the parade, including musicians marching, the road was never really closed.

This is what I could see from our apartment. The people in the parade gathered at the end of Insadong, then moved down towards Jongno, the main street. Earlier that day I had gone down to Dunkin Donuts, and watched some groups of kids rehearse on the stage that is hidden by the building in the front of the photo. The parents, or really the moms, were all in the green tent with tables set up with all sorts of makeup. Reminded me of being in Nutcracker as a kid.

This is a flag flying from the building next door.

These are all flying along Chyeonggyecheon.
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