Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Communist Propaganda Art

In Hanoi, giant communist propanda posters can be seen on nearly every corner.  I took the time to photograph many of the posters around Hoan Kiem.  After I thought I had them all digitally collected, they rotated them all for new posters!  Here's the pics from the first crop.  There are all in Vietnamese, but the artwork gives the general idea behind the posters.   

Poster stand north of the Hoan Kiem Lake 

The man in the top corner is Ho Chi Minh--a common feature to many posters.

The hammer and sickle are the ultimate symbols of communism.

Traditional dancing is featured at many public events.

A very Asian-style dragon

Business and industry are forefront in the Vietnamese consciousness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dolphin Safe?

Do you think this toilet paper is dolphin safe?  Made by Emo's (haha) brand TP, this dolphin print just seems so wrong.  I feel guilty! 

Equally unexplainable and hilarious, Moomarelli was seen walking around with toilet paper stuck to his ass.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ABBA Nation

I'm pretty sure that ABBA is the unofficial national band of Vietnam.  Every where I go, like magic, I hear ABBA all around.  It never fails that the grocery store, clothing store, quick stop, coffee shop, national museum...will be playing ABBA.  I hear more ABBA in Vietnam than I hear Vietnamese music.  No complains here; I love ABBA! 

Random electronics store playing ABBA videos

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fireworks Festival

Each autumn, Seoul hosts its Fireworks Festival.  Three fireworks artists are invited to design a fireworks display for the event.  The fireworks explode over the city, with the different displays going on simultaneously.  With a little bit of soju and good spot along the Han River, spectators can enjoy a view of the entire show. 
The view of Han River as we scout out our spot

Waiting for darkness...

...still waitig

A little bit of the show

Money to Burn

One of the hottest Tet traditions is the burning shrines.  Each family puts together a small shrine in honor of their dead ancestors.  Each shrine is outfitted with gifts for these ancestors.  Popular gifts include money, whole cooked chickens, flowers, candy, fruit, paper warrior's armor and paper horses (to represent the real things)...basically any and everything.  The shrines are set up outside of the family home or family business (often the same place).  At midnight, little Vietnamese children scatter rice in front of their entryways.  Then, the gifts are burned.  Traveling on the smoke of the fire, the gifts reach the ancestors up in the heavens.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

So Cute!

Vietnamese girls in traditional clothes in the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Transportation Nation

One thing I love about South Korea is the public transportation.  It is so easy and affordable to get around the country by bus, train, taxi, and even plane and ferry.  I did use the bus quite frequently to get to Seoul.  It's an easy two-hour ride for around $7 USD.  It's so relaxing, or maybe just dull, that the bus is the best place in South Korea for taking a nap.  Ask anyone, and they'll tell you the same thing.  It takes less than ten minutes for a bus full of passengers to be out cold.  Most of the ticket salespeople speak enough English to make it easy for foreigners to communicate.  Many of the stations double as huge shopping malls. 

On the bus
Ticket line at Central City Bus Station in Seoul.
Once in Seoul, the Metro is one of the easiest subway systems to use.  The stops are announced in Korean, English, and Chinese.  Maps are easy to follow, and metro stops are easy to find.  For just a couple of dollars, anywhere in the city can be accessed via the Metro.  The only thing that I don't like about the Metro (and this is a purely cultural dislike) is that hardly anyone talks above a faint whisper on the Metro.  So, it is eerily silent, and I always feel like I'm in some Asian horror film and that a Korean vampire is going to swoop in and devour us all.  It can also be horribly, even dangerously, crowded.  So, it's best to know the busiest stops and avoid them entirely during rush hour. 

On the Metro--Koreans everywhere!
Sardines anyone?
Metro entrance packed with people.
Metro sign
Metro station sign for the World Cup Stadium
In case of terrorist attack, these gas masks are available.  Unfortunately, there are behind lock and key, and there are only enough to save about 50 out of 5 million or more people.
 I also got to take a train ride through Korea.  It, too, cost about $7 and took me through a very green, lovely, and clean countryside.  I highly recommend the train travel in South Korea!  Taxis are another matter altogether.  If lucky, you will get a good driver who takes you where you need to go for just a couple of dollars, but more than likely, your white ass will guarantee you an out-of-the-way-oops-I-don't-speak-English-this'll-cost-ya ride from hell.  I haven't been lucky enough to travel by plane or ferry, but have heard these are both excellent ways to travel to Jeju Island, nearby China, and Japan.

Tet Decorations & Gifts

Here is a bounty of pictures featuring more Tet decorations and gifts.

Orchids grow bountifully and beautifully in the Vietnamese climate.  Many stands sprang up around Hanoi selling this common Tet gift.

An Orchid Lot set up especially for Tet.

An orchid arrangement with Tet decorations

Another important Tet decoration is blossoming peach and cherry branches (or sometimes whole trees).  These are also sold in lots all over the city. 
Motorbikers shopping for blossoming branchess
In fact, any blossoming or green branch seems suitable for ringing in a lucky New Year.  I saw a variety of different plant life being sold off on the streets the night of Tet's official kickoff. 

Some sort of palm branch sold by a motorbiker.

Fresh sugar canes, too.
Special gifts are given for Tet.  Many people spend a year's worth of savings on gifts for their extended families located in villages outside of the city.  Some of the common gifts, aside from plant life, include cartons of cigarettes (smoking is very popular here) and food items.  A very common and traditional food gift is dried fruit.  It is meant to bring good luck.

Stand selling dried fruit in Tet gift wrapping.

  For the kids, fancy balloons are popular and available on every corner during Tet.

Finally, I caught this cool picture of a bicyclist selling Tet tree ornaments.