Dispatches From Korea: October

Here I am again, forcing myself to sit down and write a blog post about stuff that’s already been done; that I’ve pretty much forgotten about, all in the name of journalistic integrity.

I desperately want to catch this blog up to the current time. Not because my life is super exciting at the moment, but because it’s going to be soon and I want to be able to report all of it in real time. So, here we go, a quick wrap of up October 2016.

Food

I think I calmed down a little bit on my culinary adventures (I stopped taking pictures of my school lunches every day, for example), but I still managed to eat quite well.

Krispy Kreme Pokémon donuts

Before we discovered that it was disgusting.

I never really got into the Pokémon craze in elementary school, so Pokémon Go! being released was a  non-event for me. However, when a certain someone who loved/loves/will love Pokémon found out that Krispy Kreme had released a line of Pokémon-inspired donuts in Korea, she insisted we go.

They should come with a warning: “adorable but disgusting.” I’m glad we only opted to buy one because it was perhaps the most disgusting pastry I’ve ever tasted. Obviously we got the Pikachu one (there was also a Pokéball and Squirtle). Unfortunately his yellow color meant a disgusting chemical banana flavor. The inside was filled with banana cream. Just no.

San-nakji (live octopus)

If you know anything about Korea, you’ve probably stumbled upon videos of people eating live octopus in one of Seoul’s food markets. When the opportunity presented itself I knew I had to try it.

The restaurant owner let us hold a live one while she cut up the one we would eat. San-nakji is served in sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is accompanied by a spicy red pepper sauce and kim (dried seaweed). Even though it had been cut into bite size pieces, it was still moving around as we devoured the plate. When I was eating it felt a bit like the pieces were suctioning my throat, but I quickly dismissed that idea so I could continue eating in peace. Overall, surprisingly delicious and definitely a must-try.

Outings

Lotte World Aquarium

Conveniently located inside the Lotte World Mall in Seoul, this aquarium is one of the largest in Korea. There is an incredible variety of aquatic life with everything from local fish to Antarctic penguins represented. Read my article about it here.

Mount Seorak

This is one of Korea’s tallest peaks and hosts some of the country’s most beautiful foliage in the fall. We rode the cable car to the top and attempted to hike a bit (easier said than done). We visited on perhaps the busiest weekend of the year so we were constantly trying to get around people. Also, we had planned to hike down from the top but the trail we had found online didn’t exist…

Haesindang Penis Park

It looks a bit lonely, no?

Yes, you read that correctly. A country notably quiet about sex and sexuality hosts a park about penises. Located in Samcheok, a small coastal town in the Gangwon region of Korea, lies a massive park dedicated to massive penis statues carved out of stone and wood. Some are funny, some scary, some just downright bizarre (or all of them maybe…).

The park’s origins are rather sad. The story goes that a young man saw his beloved swept into the sea. The next day, fishermen caught hardly any fish. The following day, there were none. Understandably the townspeople were worried about their main food source disappearing and tried to devise ways to reclaim their luck. What happens after isn’t really explained, but apparently a fisherman ahem, relieved himself in the ocean. Suddenly the fish returned.

BUT there’s more. Apparently the townspeople were afraid that the dead girl would be upset at not being able to bear offspring, so they decided to construct massive phallic statues on the shoreline to please her. I’m not sure if that did the trick, but there are a heck of a lot of fish in Samcheok so who am I to judge?

Personally I found the park just inexplicably bizarre. It felt like I was simultaneously walking through an outdoor museum and a sullied high school bathroom. I enjoyed being near the ocean, I’ll leave it at that.

Halloween Party in Inje

Inje is one of the smallest and most remote towns in the Gangwondo region. It’s known for outdoor activities like hiking and rafting, as well as a place called Min’s Cabin. It seems that pretty much every English teacher in this region of Korea has heard of the place and/or has been there. Maybe I shouldn’t find that super surprising, but given its remote location I find that insane.

It’s a simple wood cabin with a few dorm rooms, a cozy wood stove and a huge bar. We arrived in the afternoon, transformed ourselves for Halloween, had a pasta dinner then danced the night away.

Highlights

-The talent show at school. Imagine 200 adorable Korean kids until the age of 12 dancing and singing. It was precious.

-Homemade Korean food. Bravo to Julie on her delicious take on Korean BBQ!

Have you been to South Korea? Do you want to go? Post a comment or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

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