Saturday, August 28, 2010
Finally went to norebong last night. Norebong is karaoke, but it's nothing like karaoke in the US. I started at a bar called Dangerous which is known to be frequented by foreigners because I have definately been wanting to meet more English-speakers. I was not disappointed. I was only at Dangerous for 15 minutes before I met about a dozen new people from the US, UK and Canada. All of them are in Korea to teach English. (Another great thing about Dangerous is that they have Guiness on tap.)
We all went to a norebong club after a couple of drinks. Unlike karaoke in the US, at norebong you are not singing in front of a whole bar of complete strangers. For norebong, a group of people get a private room furnished with a big screen TV/song system, a couple of microphones and a bunk bed. Luckily, plenty of the song choices are English. Each song plays along with Korean music-video film that has absolutely nothing to do with the song being sung. Beers are ordered and brought in via plastic milk crates along with popcorn and other snacks while people sing songs for each other. The whole idea of private rooms is really cool (even if the room does stink after a while).
It's funny how well everyone sang. One guy, Jay (a Korean with excellent English skills) sang a LOT of Stevie Wonder. This guy didn't even need to look at the words on the screen. He sang most of his songs with his eyes closed. The norebong system tracks how well you sing (kind of like a video game) and assigns points at the end of the song. I got the second highest score of the evening (97/100) thanks to my much-loved and much-practiced ABBA albums.
The best part of norebong was hanging out with a group of total strangers brought randomly together in a foreign country, with little else in common besides location, enjoying an activity that most people I know won't do with a group of their most intimate friends!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
On a long Sunday bike ride southwest of Chungju, in search of a nearby art village, I happened upon a Buddist temple with many beautiful statues of the Awakened One. Some were only an inch tall, but this golden statue stood about 30 feet tall.
This colorful building is the Buddhist temple on site. Although you can't see it in this pic, the entire ceiling was also richly painted in bright hues.
Main gate leading up to the shrine.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Not knowing how to eat my food has been a common theme. Another drawback to graceful dining is not knowing what I'm ordering. I been using the point-and-hope method. This usually works well. However, later the same evening (after already having BBQ for lunch), a misguided point had me eating BBQ again for dinner. The evening's BBQ was a bit more elegant with all the Korean side dishes included.
Here's how to eat Korean BBQ: Spread raw meat, garlic and onion slices on the grill above hot coals. Use tongs to flip the meat. Use scissors to cut the meat into bit-sized pieces. Using chipsticks, place a piece of lettuce in one hand and hold it like a tortilla. Dip pieces of meat into spicy red paste, then place on the lettuce. Top this with roasted garlic and onions. Eat like a Korean burrito. Snack occasionally on side dishes. Side dishes include: kim chi, pickled radishes, lettuce with salad dressing, green onions in hot sauce, green beans in hot sauce, spinach-like greens in hot sauce, pickled ginger in hot sauce and a extra side of hot sauce. Everyone eats directly out of the side-dish plates. They don't portion out bits onto individual plates. Sharing soup is the same way.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Saturday, with achy knees and blistered feet, I bought a sweet mint green bike.
Sunday, I rode 10 km south of Chungju-si to Jungangtap and the gardens at the Chungju Museum. The road featured a wide, slow river on the right and rice paddies on the left.
Just before the museum was a botanical garden where I got my first glimpse of a lotus garden. Lotus leaves are about 1.5 feet wide and stand about 6 feet tall. From the garden, I saw an old Korean man bent over the river's edge gathering some local delicacy from ankle deep mud. The garden path led me along the river to Jungangtap. Jungangtap is an ancient pagoda atop a mound. It was originally built to mark the center of the kingdom. Now, it's the center of a sculpture garden and several roofed platforms where families picnic. The museum itself had some cool pottery and a couple of old hanbok (traditional dress) but was otherwise lost on me as it was entirely in Korean.
Hungry and thirsty (it's very muggy here), I went to grab some grub. I entered a small cafe where my best attempt at placing an order was to shrug my shoulders at the waitress. She brought a fried corn pancake with veggies, kim chi, and rice wine. In the cafe, I was approached by several Koreans who wanted to take pictures with me and offer me maps of Chungju. Appartently, I was one of the exhibits because, like everywhere else I've been so far, I have been a muched-stared-at cultural oddity. Still hungry, I went to an outdoor vender that was selling skewered meat and toasted grubs. The grubs tasted like nuts. (-: