Sunday, February 25, 2007


The weather is getting nice enough to start biking again. After a few days of getting warmed up in town, I decided to make an out of town trip this weekend. My destination was Ansan, which is home to a large Asian immigrant population. I've heard about the wide selection of foreign restaurants there, but the realities exceeded all of my desires. In a short stretch, there is almost every type of Asian food one could hope for. Thai, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Uzbek, Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and more, are all represented. To someone from outside of Korea, this may seem like faint praise, but for anyone living in Korea, you will understand the importance of this find. Incheon, with its 3 million people, doesn't have a single Mexican restaurant (there is a little food stand in one of the department stores that sells "empanadas," but they look more like steamed rice buns than empanadas). As far as I know, there aren't any Thai or Indian restaurants in Incheon either. Outside of Korean food, the only mainstays are Chinese-Korean food, Japanese-Korean food, pizza places, and fast food restaurants.

I ended up selecting the Thai restaurant this time, as I haven't had Thai food in over a year. I'm not exactly sure what I had was called, pad something or another (reading English words in hangeul (Korean writing) is bad enough, there's no way I'm making out Thai in hangeul), but it was excellent. No Koreanization (like adding octopus to every pasta dish, or putting sweet pickles in everything) of the food here. Just pure, unadultured, Thai food. And reasonably priced, at W8,000 (around 8 US$).

The bike ride itself was pretty good. It's only about 23km (14 miles) each way. There are a lot of little towns along the way, so I had to contend with plenty of stop lights. But most of the roads either had good sidewalks or ample shoulder room. There were only a couple of small hills to conquer as well. It's definitely on the top of my return list.

Some of the restaurants in Ansan. In order, you have Uzbek, Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Indian, Thai, and Mongolian restaurants.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy New Year

The Year of the Pig is upon us. Not just any Year of the Pig, but the Year of the Red Pig. And not just any Year of the Red Pig, but the Year of the Golden Pig. Possibly. It seems the Year of the Golden Pig rolls around every 600 years. It's an especially auspicious year to be born in. Trouble is, people can't quite remember when the last Year of the Golden Pig was. So some people have decided that this is the Year of the Golden Pig. Which basically means golden piggy banks are the in thing. Here's the one I got with my last box of cereal.

The New Year's festivities in Korea are rather dull. Everyone goes off to visit their families. There are no big parades or fireworks displays. The only good thing about it is that it's three days long. But this year, two of those days are on the weekend.

One Korean tradition is to eat Teok-guk, which is rice stick soup. The rice sticks are just concentrated rice, formed into little sticks. Once you eat the rice stick soup, you get a year older.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Day in Seoul

The weather has been almost spring-like, and it's been a couple of months since I ventured to Seoul. So I went off for a day of adventure - culinary and otherwise. First stop was lunch at Everest, a Nepalese restaurant. There, I had some tasty nan and chicken masala.

Next stop was the Seoul Museum of Art for the Magritte exhibit. While they had a good selection of his work, the crowds made strolling and lingering an impossibility. The museum also does a substandard job of presenting his work. Information is printed in white text on a beige background, which is hard to see. Many of the quotes were presented only in French and Korean. I can usually get a general understanding from the French, but it would be nice if they included an English translations as well. There is also very little information on the individual works. Although, given their poor job of graphic design, and the already plodding crowd, this is probably a good thing.

Next on my list of things to do was visit Inwangsan, or Mt. Inwang, where the shamanists worship. The climb up was a little confusing, as the side of the mountain has been carved away and replaced by a large apartment construction site. But the cement truck drivers where helpful in pointing the way through the site. Once you get past the construction, you find yourself in a little "village" with traditional Korean houses. Climbing past the village, you begin to escape the sounds of Seoul, although sirens will occasionally shatter the silence. For all of the crowds that were at the Museum, there was an equal dirth of people on the mountain. I would occasionally pass by some people worshipping, but there were only a hand full of people hiking in the area. It was quite serene, and a welcome escape from the city below.

After hiking, I head to Gangnam, which is a very ritzy neighborhood of Seoul. The destination was Dos Tacos, a Mexican restaurant. The burrito was good, albeit a bit pricey compared to the US, and the horchata was excellent.

Finally, the day and night ended with a short walk over to Big Rock Brewery, which is a Canada based microbrewery. Beers are a bit expensive, at around $7 a piece (but hey, there's no tipping), but they were a tasty respite from the normal Korean swill.

A few more pictures from my hike.

Trees silhouetted by the setting sun

The city below

A really narrow house