Thursday, March 9, 2017

Heading Home

Today (Thursday) is my last day in Korea. It's been great spending time with Anjali and Domingos. We have gotten out a lot, eaten at many different restaurants, and walked quite a few miles. It has been cold, but not bitter; it actually feels good to me after the heat of Thailand. The forecast is for very cold in Indiana!

Tuesday evening we went back to Petra, a middle-Eastern restaurant we greatly enjoyed when we were here over a year ago. It was closed last March for remodeling and is very nice inside now.

Hummus, pita, and falafel to start

Chicken kebabs

Chicken tikka curry
Wednesday Anjali and I went to Hongdae for lunch. This area is near a university and is known for its cafes and trendy scene. We went to a very small ramen restaurant. At 12:15 or so there was a line of about six people waiting to get in; it seats about 20, I would guess. The ramen was delicious.

Anjali had told me about a cafe that specializes in everything chocolate mint flavored. It was a must-try for me. The wall is painted with lots of different leaves.

We had chocolate-mint flavored hot drinks (hers with coffee, mine just with milk) and shared this cake. It was good that we had to walk afterward!

Almost every park I've seen in Seoul has fitness machines available. This particular one was in the center plaza of the street we were on.

And so I"m ready to head home. Dan will be in Thailand for another seven weeks plus one here in Korea. Thanks for following along on our travels.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Monday Trip

On Monday we took a tour bus to Nami Island and Petite France. Nami Island is a beautiful small island in the Han River about an hour and half northeast of Seoul. It is a popular spot to visit, especially in the spring and fall when foliage is at its best. We had a very cold day (high of about 40F), but with lots of sunshine, and it was not crowded at all. We walked all around the island; there were sculptures, shops and cafes. There are even cottages that can be rented for a vacation stay. Nami Island was the location for a popular Korean TV show "Winter Sonata" in 2002. We took a ferry from the mainland to the island, a short 5-minute hop. A zip line was another choice and we wanted to do it, but decided it was just too cold!

Here I am on the walkway near the water.

...and the two of us together.

Our first stop was for some tea/coffee and a special syrup-stuffed snowman pancake.

For some reason there is a large fenced area with six ostriches. While we were there, they were pacing back and forth right along the fence. 

There was a lot of ice, including some fountains near the ferry landing. The first one below was near the landing, the second near the center of the island.

We also saw a peacock strutting around a rest area.

Near the end of the morning, we had lunch at a pan-Asian restaurant, nasi goreng and spring rolls. Very nice, but unremarkable.

After we were all on the bus, we headed to Petite France, billed as an amusement park. This is the sign at the entry.

When we got inside, we saw this nice tableau. It turned out that whoever built this place was a big fan of St.-Exupery's The Little Prince. It was very hilly with lots of steps.

We saw a hall that had reproductions of most of the illustrations from the book, which are quite wonderful. There was also a display of music boxes of various types. This woman was demonstrating them, but as it was all in Korean, we didn't learn much.

As is especially true in many Asian destinations, photo-op locations are numerous. These three young women were posing with the little prince and the birds.

Once we had seen most of it, we decided to have some tea/coffee. Unfortunately, there wasn't a French-style bakery as we had hoped, but we had some cookies that were very good.

It was a long day and I was quite tired by the time we got home around 5:30. I would love to visit Nami Island in the spring once the leaves are out on the trees. Petite France could be missed, but we enjoyed ourselves.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sunday Outing

On Sunday the three of us went to another area of the city for lunch at a well-known noodle place. There was quite a line, as it is very popular. However, we appeared to be the only non-Korean people. There were three lines, one for each floor of the restaurant. We didn't have to wait too long. As soon as we sat down, they took our order and brought it almost immediately. We all had the same kind of soup with noodles, meat and dumplings. It was delicious. I'm not a huge kimchee fan, but there was some on the side and I did eat a piece.

A big thing here is cat cafes; there are several in different areas around the city. We stopped at one to have some tea/coffee after lunch. Everything is very clean and orderly. You have to take off your shoes and put on slippers; they wash your hands when you come in; lint rollers are provided, but there really wasn't much cat hair that we could see or feel. The cats were mostly rescues, we were told. There were several Persians and other breeds, and one very pregnant female. I chose these two for their coloring; the second one is reminiscent of Smokey, a longhair/Persian blend cat we had in Charlottesville for 17-18 years. 

I have never been anywhere that I've seen so many skin-care shops; there seem to be several in every block in the shopping areas. This one is the first building in Itaewon as we head off base.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Seoul and More Food

My trip from Chiang Mai to Seoul went smoothly. The flight was only 4 1/2 hours, so I had a very short sleeping time. Once in Seoul, the directions to the express train were well marked. I bought my ticket and only had to wait about 15 minutes for the next one. 45 minutes later at the Seoul Central Station, I remembered how to get to the exit where the taxi stand is just outside. The cold air (upper 40s F) actually felt quite good to me! I did get out my winter jacket, which had been in the outside pocket of my suitcase. I had to wait a bit for a taxi; there is always a line of people there. Once I was in, I showed the driver the map to where I needed to go. I also had some directions in Korean on my phone and showed him that, too. He seemed to have no idea of what I wanted and I did feel some uneasiness as he drove off. At a red light he pulled out his reading glasses and looked at the map again. I read some of the things on it to him, and when I said "War Memorial," he seemed to understand. We continued on and soon I was extremely happy to see the base gate right in front of us. I got out and Anjali was there waiting for me. We were able to get my pass processed very quickly and drove back to her home.

For most of the day I felt quite out of it (I don't do well with less than three hours of sleep!). We went out for lunch at a salad restaurant. They chop the ingredients quite small and give a spoon to eat it. The Red Oats salad was a delicious blend of greens, grains, and even some apple chunks. After a good night's sleep, I felt much more human! On Friday we had lunch at home and then her friend Nopa came and we went out for her to have lunch. It was a walk of about a mile and it was good to get out into the air and move.

We are spending the days mostly around home, doing some computer work and loafing. Friday evening when Domingos came home from work, we went to their favorite fried chicken place, Kyo Chon. They had been raving about it and I was eager to try it.

The first one is pieces of boneless chicken in a very crispy coating. Delicious!

The second bowl is chicken wings with a very garlicky sauce, also delicious!

Saturday afternoon we walked into Itaewon to try some soft-serve ice cream. No picture, but again very good. We stopped an an international food store and at an optician. I will be getting new lenses for my glasses here; it's a good deal less expensive than in the US. In the evening we had reservations at Ciuri Ciuri, a Sicilian restaurant in another part of the city. Traveling on the subway here is so easy -- everything is clean, well-marked, and not overcrowded. Cold water was put on the table in this beautiful hand-painted bottle. 

We had arancine for an appetizer, one shared by all three of us. It is a deep-fried rice ball stuffed with cheese and spinach. They reminded us of the supplee we enjoyed in Rome.

My main course was circular pasta in a meat and tomato sauce wrapped in thin slices of eggplant. Nothing like Spaghetti-Os, which I presume might be based on this!

Anjali and Domingos both had the truffle ravioli.

It was overdoing it by a bit, but we even had dessert. This is Domingos's tiramisu.

Anjali and I shared the cannoli, which fortunately came with two pieces. The cream stuffing was wonderful and the candied orange peel on the ends added a nice touch. 

I stopped saying how delicious everything was, but believe me, it all was!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Last Day in Chiang Mai

Yesterday I completed my Tai Chi round form. Yay! I wasn't sure if I'd make it all the way through, but since it is based on the square form I finished last year, it was easier to learn the moves. I'll be happy to show you the next time I see you (just ask!). I plan to work on it daily throughout the year so I don't forget before returning here next January.

Today is my last day in Chiang Mai. I had a wonderful massage focusing on my back this morning. I'm glad Dang returned from wherever she went in January. Toy was good, too, but I feel like Dang knows my body better. I am mostly packed, with a few things left to do. We will sort out the household items we've collected -- some for storage until next year, a few going with Dan to his new place (smaller and less expensive). 

I have a few photos I've collected that didn't particularly fit with any previous posts, so here they are:

Last Sunday we returned to the River Market, where we've been before. This time we had curry chicken roti rolls for an appetizer. They were absolutely delicious, I think even better than the Son-in-Law Eggs.

I decided to try the pineapple fried rice, which I've had before and often is too bland. But this rice was curry-flavored and there were cashew, raisins, pineapple bits, and lots of chicken mixed in. Wonderful!

Dan couldn't resist repeating the fantastic Burmese curry he had the last time. The meat was so tender it just fell off the bone. Both of our main dishes were large and we were able to bring leftovers home for lunch another day.

Here are a couple of random photos from the Saturday Walking Market. I love a lot of the clothes they offer, often hand-woven fabrics. These dresses are an interesting wrap style. Unfortunately, most of the clothing is only for small-sized people.

Love these eye masks! I wonder how the flight attendants would like seeing them on me when I'm sleeping on the plane? I already have a good one, so passed on these.

This stall had a lot of ingredients ready to make some food to order, but I didn't recognize most of them.

One evening I decided to try a dish that I didn't know anything about. It turned out to be a lot like pad se ew, but with a soupy broth. It was good.

This place is just down the road! Most of the massage shops are legitimate and don't offer the services that seem to be available here.

I swim nearly every afternoon and am always intrigued by these two potted trees. When we arrived this one had almost no leaves, but they have been sprouting. I don't know of other plants that the leaves grow out of thick stems in quite this way (but, to be fair, I am not very knowledgable about botany in general). A flower is just beginning. I think the twigs you can see are left from former blooms and are not twigs as we generally think of them.

The second tree doesn't have as many leaves, but it has two large blooms. What appears at a distance to be one flower definitely has multiple blossoms at various stages.