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0 In Beer/ Food/ Travel

Saigon, Vietnam During the Tet Holiday

Saigon, Vietnam provided us with some of the best food memories that we’ve yet to encounter in Asia.  We visited in February and were greeted with beautiful 80 degree weather in spite of the frigid temperatures we were so familiar to in Daegu, so not only were were we walking into the homestead of my favorite food, but were freed from our winter wear.  We had arrived to the city at around 4pm, and after freshening up in the wake of a 6 hour plane ride we naively set out on foot.  Our first night’s food outing was relatively underwhelming being that we were visiting during the famous Tet holiday (Lunar New Year), so nearly all of the go-to food stops were closed.

We ended up getting our first bowl of pho in the Bui Vien Market area.  It didn’t matter if we were unable to access the pinnacle of beef-noodle-soup-goodness available to us in this city, I was excited to get a bowl of pho inside of me along with some super cheap local beer ($0.80/500mL).

 

If you ever visit Saigon, a fun drinking game that we concocted was to take a drink whenever a single-patterned old lady is spotted and take two drinks whenever you see a family with children on a single motorbike (we spotted a family of 5 but weren’t fast enough on the camera); below is an example of who to look for.  While walking the streets, you’ll surely see plenty of suited up ladies, as well as full families on one motorbike.

The next day, we went on a tour with David and Amy from OneTrip where they showed us around “non-tourist” and tourist areas alike and exposed us to some amazing food!  We HIGHLY recommend going on one of these tours, as you’re only required to give them around $1, but we bought them lunch and gave them $25, which apparently goes a long way in Saigon.

We ate some amazing food, and went to the famous Saigon Central Post Office, Saigon City Hall, the Reunification Palace, the Saigon Opera House, and Saigon Notre-Dame.  You’ll notice the French architecture, which is a relic from the French occupation of Vietnam that ended in 1954.

Cơm tấm (pronounced Come Tom) is a local Saigon dish which is composed of chopped up (broken) rice with vegetables, egg and meat (usually a pork chop).  Cơm tấm is a local favorite, and from what David told us, it’s not only due to the delicious flavor.  The origin of this broken rice dish lies in Saigon’s war-torn history, when people were unable to obtain high quality ingredients, they often had to settle for discarded rice which eventually ended up becoming a staple for the local people.  Broken rice to someone in Saigon is kind of like the stews and comfort foods that were handed down to Americans from the depression era grandparents.  I have to say that I enjoyed absolutely everything that I ate in Saigon, but Cơm tấm holds up to everything in terms of taste and complexity, so I understand why this dish is still popular today.  From what I understand, Cơm tấm isn’t widely consumed outside of Vietnam, so I’m happy that we got to enjoy this little piece of the culture.

Hidden under this pile of veggies (and tomato) is a succulent pork chop and deliciously seasoned rice.

Central Post Office exterior

Central Post Office Interior

Ho Chi Minh Statue in in front of Ho Chi Minh City Hall.

At the gates of the Reunification Palace.

Saigon Opera House

Saigon Notre-Dame – The statue is of the biblical Mary, and apparently it “cried” in 2005.

We were told that these apartments are some of the oldest in the city.

 

*Potentially graphic video*

Jeff ate a balut.  It wasn’t bad at all, and tasted like a normal egg with some funk on it.

 

The following day, after gaining some confidence with the surrounding area zipping around Saigon our motorbikes, we set out on our own.

As you can see the streets are packed with motorbikes, and there aren’t many rules besides “don’t crash” which makes crossing the street rather exhilarating!  If you ever visit Saigon, and you find yourself across the street from your destination, just cross the street with one hand out and don’t be afraid to stop in the middle of the road to let more eager motorists pass and think “they don’t want to hit me, so just try not to get hit.”  In the picture above there is a wave of motorbikes heading straight towards those pedestrians, but that didn’t stop them from crossing the street!

The two photos above are examples of Buddhist areas of worship that are scattered throughout the city.  As you’ll see below, there are more extravagant areas of worship called Pagodas which are incredibly intricate and colorful.

One of the recurring views on our trip was the Saigon River, which we crossed on a daily basis to visit the heart of the city.

While wandering through the local markets we spotted some dragon fruit, which we purchased for about $0.10.  The vendor was kind enough to remove the leaves and cut it in half for us.

If you’ve never had fresh dragon fruit before, it’s a little bit tart and very mild – it was definitely a good refreshment when we got back to the apartment.

We encountered a vendor pulling a cooler full of Red Goats (made with Thailand Technology), so of course we needed to buy one. To be honest, it tasted exactly like Red Bull but without carbonation, but I’m not sure it had the same effect as Red Bull though.

Before I get to the last part of my post (beer and food) I’ve gotta share this encounter with you all.  *VOLUME WARNING*

This dragon was dancing on the stilts for some time, until it disappeared into the Skechers store.

 

We ate amazing pho every day of our trip, and I am very happy to report that Pho888 holds up to the authentic Saigon pho that I was able to find.  Not only has this trip cemented my love for Vietnamese food, but I feel completely validated in praising Pho888 for their exceptional pho.

On our last day in Saigon we found the best pho of our trip. This was at Pho Hoa Pasteur, and was only slightly better than Pho888.

Herbs for the pho

Gotta get that pho nice and red.

The above dish is bánh tráng nướng or otherwise called “vietnamese pizza.”  I can assure you that this is dish is merely similar in shape to a pizza, as I consider bánh tráng nướng as Saigon in a wrap, because it contains all of the flavors and textures that Vietnam introduced me to in a nice little quesadilla-esque presentation.  This dish consists of rice paper heated over a grill, topped with quail egg, corn, green onion, peanuts, fried onion, rice, and a variation of other toppings depending on where you are.  Every bite of this dish reminded me of every other food I ate in Vietnam until that moment.  If I hadn’t spotted a giant line of people at a food stand in a shady park, we may not have even have found this dish at all, so never be afraid to investigate popular food stands while in a foreign country!

Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa is THE place to get a bánh mì in Saigon. They sold each bánh mì for around $1.40 and they did not disappoint. I’m on record as saying that pho is my favorite food, but Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa’s sandwiches were one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

Beer

East West Brewing is a taproom and brewery in Saigon that produces some fairly average beer but has a really open and Western-style space.  The beer wasn’t anything special, but it was tastier than the 80 cent lager from the streets.

The next brewery that we visited was Pasteur Street Brewing.  This place was an amazing brewery by any standard, and was of astronomical quality when compared to everything else we’ve had in Asia.

Left: Dragon Fruit Gose | Right: Jasmine IPA
Solid beer; the IPA was refreshing and hoppy while the Dragon Fruit Goze was unique and delicious.

The Cyclo Imperial Chocolate Stout was 100% as advertised, and was the most delicious chocolate stout that either of us have ever had.

Cat Tax

Happy Year of the Dog!

Next up is Tokyo!

0 In Beer/ Food/ Travel

Our Weekend in Shanghai

After deciding to move to South Korea, Jeff and I have thought about the possibilities of visiting the surrounding countries, including China. One day, while I was perusing skyscanner.com (my favorite site to find cheap flights) I found a direct flight from Daegu to Shanghai for the perfect price. On a whim, I booked it! We were going to spend a weekend in Shanghai in less than 3 weeks!

A week later, after talking to my sister-in-law, EJ, she casually asks if we have a visa to go to China…. silence…I ask her what do you mean? After a quick a google search, I find out that no matter how long the trip, you need a visa to get into China. A week later we go to Busan to get our visa, everything goes smoothly, and we’re on our way to China! ✈

Before Jeff and I go to a new city, we do a little research, pin some locations on Google Maps and create a general outline for our travels. We pinned a bunch of breweries, restaurants, tourist-spots and our Airbnb before we left.

We take a taxi from the Airport and we are trying to use google maps to find our Airbnb. It’s not showing my Google Maps, not even the map of the area is loaded. Hm.

About 30 minutes later [and after stepping in some (possibly human) poop in an alleyway, awesome] we find our Airbnb! We get on the internet and we’re trying to load google and send out a couple snapchats to friends. Nothing is working. I’m trying to get onto my Gmail and it doesn’t work. Then, I open up BING on INTERNET EXPLORER for the first time on my laptop and Bing works.

As many people might already know, China has banned everything Google. Jeff and I didn’t know this before we went and subsequently, it threw a big kink in our plans. We had not fully remembered the censorship state that China was in and forgot that Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram were all not available, unless you download a VPN,which we had not downloaded before we left.

Our Shanghai vacation turned into an unplugged vacation! We still ended up having a great time, going to some breweries, eating delicious food and seeing the famous skyline of Shanghai.

We have to give a shout out to this app called SmartShanghai, it saved our vacation after losing all of our pins on Google Maps. The app is really well designed for finding food, beer, and shopping. We highly recommend downloading it if you are going to travel to Shanghai!

Food

The first thing we had to do in Shanghai was eat and I had two things in mind: Xiao Long Bao and a Chinese noodle dish.

The first day we went to Din Tai Fung for some xiao long bao, and it was delicious. Din Tai Fung is a chain so it was a bit overpriced and it was located inside of a mall selling Gucci, and other dumb brands.

However, on our last night we were wandering the streets and came across a hole in the wall place that served xiao long bao and it was by and far better than the other place. We don’t know the name of the place but this is the general location: China, Shanghai Shi, Xuhui Qu, Yongkang Rd, 72号-74 (Across from Beer Factory)

It had the cutest decor and the only thing on the menu were different kinds of xiao long bao. It was cheaper than Din Tai Fung and a lot more flavorful! We’d recommend skipping any place that’s a brand and try to find some xiao long bao on the streets.

 

I’ve been dreaming of the above dish for years upon years which is the famous Xiao Long Bao, and as you can see, I was very excited to slurp down these little soup sacks.  These silky scalding hot pillows of delicious Chinese accuracy were one of tastiest things I’ve gotten my chopsticks on in Asia.  

Xiao long bao is usually served with a vinegary dipping sauce with some sliced ginger which is integral to the flavor profile of this bomb of deliciousness.  The way you eat xiao long bao is to dip your soup sack in the sauce, then plop it onto a  spoon and pop a hole in it with your chopstick, then eat the dumpling and chase it down with the soup that has dripped from it’s carcass.  Eat these things quickly, because you only have a few minutes of “golden temperature” which is between molten lava and not-hot-enough coffee, but overall I’ll second Mr. Bourdain’s endorsement of this delicious bit of China.  A big thumb up from me.

After we took a walk through the park, where we encountered some pretty bizarre behavior from some elderly locals (ask me to tell you “lady kicking her own ass while an old man plays aggressive air guitar next to some hedges” story sometime – it is ridiculous), we got our mouths on some delicious noodles in a back alley.  We found this place by chance, and took a gamble after spying through the window to see very cheap prices and an empty table for us to eat at.  The only way I can describe these dishes is “very Chinese” in the sense that they were rough around the edges and packed with MSG (people who think MSG is bad for you and people who think the Earth is flat are one in the same… they’re stupid) but were still pretty damn good, oh and we didn’t get sick or anything. ($6 for these 2 dishes plus a soda)

American Food

Shanghai has a lot more American food options than Korea so we were craving some good ol’ greasy goodness. We ate at Al’s Diner in the french quarter and it was quite tasty. They have burgers, poutine, pancakes, waffles, pizza and amazing icecream! Highly recommend if you are looking for some american comfort food.

Vietnamese Food

We also wanted to find some Vietnamese in the city, because Jeff’s favorite food is pho. We ventured to this “hole in the ground” that has a lot of restaurants, bars, lounges, and live music venues called Found 158. Everything at Found 158 is overpriced, but it’s an interesting place to check out.  To clarify, when I say overpriced, I mean overpriced for Shanghai. Our dinner was about $30 altogether (with wine), so that’s like a nice night out at TGI Fridays but less shitty (please choose a better place to eat than TGI Fridays, and save it for lunch with your coworkers).

We ate at the Vietnamese restaurant Cyclo. I had the pho and Caitlin had the banh mi. Caitlin was really excited to eat here because we can’t find bahn mi anywhere in Korea. It was just OK, we probably should’ve ventured out further and found a better place for Vietnamese food.  I would give you a review of their pho but it’s not worth talking about, and was a big bowl of disappointment.  Honestly, if you’re in Shanghai, try to eat local “mom n’ pop” food as much as possible because the “established” restaurants are not very good.

 

Beer

Shanghai Brewery – Donghu Location

📍Shanghai Brewery (Donghu Location)

The first place we stopped for beer was “Shanghai Brewery” which ended up being our favorite place to drink at in Shanghai.  We arrived during happy hour for half off drinks, which ended up costing us about $2.50 per beer and we got nice and sauced.  Beer in Shanghai is much like Korea’s in that it’s a little underwhelming in the flavor department unless you’re willing to spend more than 10 dollars on a glass.  Regardless, Shanghai Brewery gave us a good time and started our night well.

Beer Factory

📍Beer Factory

This place had a bunch of imports from big name breweries in the US, but none of their beer was worth the price tag. OK place, but at  65Y ~ $10 a beer, it’s not great.  If you show up before 8pm, you can get half off drinks, but I’d recommend just going to Shanghai Brewery.

Dean’s Bottle Shop

📍Dean’s Bottle Shop

We were pretty excited to go to this place because all of the reviews said Dean’s bottle shop was the place to go for beer.  November must be a bad time to visit Dean’s, because this place SUCKED.  The room was small, and when we walked in we felt unwelcome, so after perusing their dogshit beer selection we dipped out before drinking anything.  Highly recommend NOT going to this place.

Liquid Laundry

📍Liquid Laundry

The design and decor of this place is beautiful. The beers however, not so much. It was about $10 per beer and we both felt our beers tasted watered down.  I’d say if you want to get some nice Instagram pics go here, but if you want to drink beer, skip it.

World of Beer

📍World of Beer

This place was great! It’s a few blocks down from Shanghai brewery and along the way we stopped at a wine bar. We don’t know the name, and can’t find it online, but it was buy 1 glass get 1 free. We were feeling good by the time we got to World of Beer. We ordered some french fries and enjoyed some delicious beers from Kansas City! We would highly recommend going to this place.

 

Sightseeing

We stayed in the French quarter of the city where we saw a lot of European architecture. We walked all the way from the french quarter to The Bund and on our walk we noticed how many styles of architecture are used in the city. Shanghai has the most diverse architecture I’ve ever seen in one city, and a lot of buildings could be prime submissions to r/evilbuildings.

The contrast in architecture you get at The Bund is an interesting experience to say the least. To the West is an older, more European part of the city, then as you scan East, the horizon transforms into a skyline of 21st century geometry, LEDs and advertising.   At night the buildings bloom with pinks and blues, so I’d recommend visiting The Bund after dark.

We went in November and the weather was perfect.

The Bund

The Bund (which means the “Embankment”) refers to Shanghai’s famous waterfront running along the west shore of the Huangpu River, forming the eastern boundary of old downtown Shanghai. It’s an iconic cityscape and we viewed it during the sunset as well at night.

It’s better in person.

 

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

📍Science and Technology Museum

We decided to check out the Shanghai Science museum for a day as it’s one of the largest and most visited museums in China.  We got to see some pretty badly taxidermied animals, along with some pretty interesting exhibits about robots, so the museum was definitely worth our money.  We went to an IMAX movie about Shanghai’s architecture, and were so American and stupid that we forgot that the film would be in Chinese – Needless to say we didn’t learn shit.  The movie was originally made in the USA, so it was dubbed over, but for some reason even the laughter of children was dubbed over.  I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I’m still not certain as to why the Chinese decided that American children needed to be dubbed over and replaced with Chinese children laughing.

Shopping

AP Plaza: Fake Market near the Science Museum

📍AP Plaza

After we visited the museum, we went underground for some cheap shopping at the “fake market” which is full of knock-off brands.  Of course, this is a tourist trap, but if you are comfortable negotiating you can get a good deal.  We picked up a couple of “Samsonite” carry-ons for about $40 total.  It was pretty funny because we picked out the two colors we wanted and then she literally hammered on the Samsonite logo, then looked up at us as if to ask “do you want a different brand or is this good?”  Ahhhh china.

Caitlin bought some knock-off Bose headphones for $90. We got ripped off on those for sure, as we should’ve kept bargaining with the lady. The headphones sounded great and worked well, however after 3 months of use, the headband snapped 🙁

Our shopping tip: don’t buy electronics, stick with suitcases and clothes.

Yuyuan Old Street Shopping Center

📍Yuyuan Old Street Shopping

This was our favorite place to shop. Even though it was touristy, we really enjoyed the aesthetic of this place as it shows you what the old Shanghai used to look like.  At this place you’ll find plenty of knickknacks to take back home. We ventured to this place during the night and the lights were beautiful!

There are stalls upon stalls of almost anything you’d want to take home from China. There were artisans scattered throughout the complex creating works of art for the public to see and purchase.

If you walk around this area you’ll find a lot of clothing shops as well. I picked up a nice jacket for around $30. Caitlin got a knock-off backpack for around $20.

Overall, we had a great time Shanghai!

Hopefully we’ll add another post sooner rather than later!

Vietnam is up next.

0 In Beer/ Travel

Craft Beer Guide: Seoul

I know what you’ve been thinking. This blog is called UntappedTravels…. Beer+Travel.. soooo where are the beer posts?! I know, I know- We’ve been having too much fun drinking the beer, now it’s time to write down our beersperiences. Finally. 😄 🍻 건배 – Cheers!

We spent 5 days in Seoul during Korea’s ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday which is called Chuseok.  We stayed in an Airbnb in the most-hip part of Seoul: Hongdae.  Hongdae is the University area and has a younger crowd, hip shops, interesting fashion and SO MUCH CRAFT BEER!

I’ll be honest, I chose our Airbnb before doing much research about the area.  A day before we took the KTX to Seoul, I did some pinning on google maps, and to my surprise, the Hongdae is home to some really good craft breweries.  We got lucky!

Breweries in the Hongdae Area ⤵

 We went the bolded breweries:

  1. Craft Hans
  2. Craft One
  3. Platinum Beer Pub (We tried going here but it looked like it was under construction so we went to July 16 next door.)
  4. July 16
  5. Cocky Pub Hongdae
  6. Magpie Hongdae
  7. CRAFTBROS
  8. Queen’s Head
  9. Whale Brewing Company

Beer to Go

Right along the Gyeongui Line Forest Park in Hongdae, there are a few bottle shops. We found out we could buy a bottle and drink it on the street! We also stumbled upon this $4 Double IPA that turned out to be our favorite beer throughout our entire beer tour of Seoul.

Craft Hans

Craft Hans was the first brewery we visited the day we arrived. It was right down the road from our Airbnb! Craft Hans not only features some tasty taps, but a wonderful view of the Gyeongui Line Forest Park pictured below.

Craft Hans is a 4 story building with open balconies. We sat on the third floor and enjoyed an afternoon flight, and its safe to say that satisfaction was obtained.

The average price for a beer was ₩6,000, so around $5.50; Jeff had the IPA which was on the lighter side, but it’s hard to find a strong IPA in Korea anyways.  We loved this place and came back another time since we were staying so close to it.

Magpie Hongdae

It was about a 10 minute walk to get to Magpie from Craft Hans. I enjoyed the American IPA while Jeff sipped on the Gose.

 

Retro Game Bar (Not a brewery but a good pit stop)

When you’re on your way to the next brewery (Queen’s Head) you can stop at this fun bar where they have a bunch of old school games and decent drink prices!  They have retro Nintendo machines, PS4, Xbox One, Wii and a ton of other games to choose from, including board games and they’re all available for FREE! Address here.

Queen’s Head

We stopped at a couple other bars on our way to Queen’s head so we were super hungry by the time we got there. They served the MOST delicious mozz sticks we’ve had in Korea. The cheese was actually melted and stringy, which is a huge accomplishment for cheese sticks here! If you’re looking for some good beer (served in a rad growler) and pub style food, this is the place to go.

 

Breweries in the Gangnam Area ⤵

On day 2, we went across the river into the Gangnam area to go to a few breweries.

  1. Devil’s Door
  2. Pong Dang Craft Brew Co.
  3. Garuso Brewing
  4. Mikeller Seoul

Devil’s Door

Devil’s Door was by far one of our favorite venues, and is definitely the largest brewery we’ve been to in Korea.

This place was impressive, but a little pricey, as the smallest glass of beer was $7.50.  I enjoyed a sampler because I love variety while Jeff had the stout.

If you’re looking for a place to drink tasty beers and eat delicious chef-made food, Devil’s Door is the place to go. Although it’s quite pricey, every review we’ve read of the place says the food is phenomenal. We had just eaten breakfast (SUNDAY-FUNDAY WOO) so we weren’t too hungry, but I had to try the garlic parmesan fries. YUM.

Pong Dang Craft Beer Co.

Our second brewery of the day – A little place on the second floor called Pong Dang Craft Beer Co. They had a simple selection of beers and we had the place all to our selves on a Sunday afternoon!

They had some retro games available too!

Cute, affordable, and on the way to the next two breweries: Garuso + Mikkller.

Garuso Brewing Co.

Just up the street from Pong Dang, this little brewery is in an alley with a cute outside seating area. They had a simple beer menu with some food options, and I remember really enjoying the hoppy weizen!

 

Mikkeller Seoul

Jeff was especially excited for this brewery since he has been a fan of Mikkeller beers for a long time. We were surprised to find out that they had a taproom in Seoul, since they are known to be a gypsy brewery.

As you can see in the photo above, they had 30 taps of delicious beer! I love Mikkeller’s unique design, which made the place strangely cozy. We really enjoyed our time at this brewery, and the IPA I had was delicious!

Breweries in the Itaewon Area ⤵

  1. Pyrus Taproom & Bistro
  2. Craftworks
  3. The Booth
  4. Magpie Itaewon
  5. The Bottle Shop

Pyrus Taproom & Bistro

After going to breweries near the Gangnam area, we trekked back across the river to Itaewon.  Itaewon is the expat hangout area of Seoul. It’s adjacent to the Air Force base in Seoul, so naturally it attracts many foreigners.

We started our Itaewon beer tour at Pyrus Taproom and Bistro because the pictures we saw of the mac and cheese had won us over.

 

 Craftworks Taphouse & Bistro

After stuffing ourselves with lots of cheese it was time to hit up another brewery in the area.  Craftworks had 6 of their own beers on the menu along with others to choose from.  I wanted to try all of their beers so I got the flight. I really enjoyed the Big Bear IPA.

 The Booth Itaewon

The Booth was our last brewery of the night, located next to the Magpie Itaewon location (we had already gone to the one in Hongdae). The street that The Booth is on has some neat bars and taprooms along it, making for a good place to start drinking if you’re in the area.

The Bottle Shop

After going to 7 breweries in one day we ended the night at the famous Bottle Shop in Seoul. We had read that this was the best place to buy bottles for a great selection and great prices.  The best part of this place is that you can buy a bottle of beer and they have a little patio where you can drink. This joint fills up pretty fast though, so you need to lurk around for awhile to get a table.

Address Here

This place was amazing, and had the cheapest beer prices we’ve found in Korea. And we found some toppling goliath!

0 In Travel

PODCAST: Our Experiences in Korea so far!

Welcome to the first edition of the Untapped Travelcast! In this inaugural podcast, we talk about a variety of things we’ve experienced for the past three months living in Korea. We’ll compare our 3 months of Korean culture to my brother’s 12 years. My brother, Luke, first came to Korea in 2005 and things have changed immensely since he’s arrived.

Feel free to skip around the podcast since we talk about a wide array of experiences. Check out the time stamps below to see what interests you or cozy up to a nice hour and a half long cast. Be sure to scroll down to see some pics + videos of different things we talk about. Enjoy!

 

5:10 – Small Businesses

12:35 – Drinking: Soju + Cass

14:00 – Craft Beer in Korea 

20:00 – (Sidenote) Gordon Ramsay is a sellout

23:50 – Prices of Korean beer/Soju vs. the price of craft beer

32:45 – Craft Beer in Seoul

44:40 – The Drinking Culture (Hiking + Drinking)

50:30 – Jeff’s Walking Home Story

55:00 – Our Diets

1:13:24 – PC Rooms – Gaming in Korea

Our neighborhood

The staples of Korean drinking: Soju + Cass Beer

Craft Beer – The bottle on the right was amazingly only $3.50 for double IPA.

Gordon Ramsay is a sellout video:

Gimbap

 

BiBimBap

 

PC Bang (room) that Jeff goes to play video games.

2 In Travel

Our first week in South Korea!

Through misty hillsides, and jet lagged eyes, we finally saw the gorgeous Korean Peninsula for the first time.  After nearly a full day of travel, including an 8 hour layover in San Francisco, we arrived in Incheon, from which we took a bus to Daegu.  Beyond the Hangul script covering the walls, our new environment was viscerally different from where we came, but we were both prepared to take it all in.

We arrived at our new apartment at around 10PM KST (8AM CST on the same calendar day), where we live above a traditional Korean pub.  Below is an image from our front gate facing West, with the pub in the foreground, and a public park on the left.

Within a five minute walk, we have multiple grocery stores, the subway system, a handful of public parks, a police station and pretty much anything else you’d require for every day life.  As you’ll notice, everything is unique in it’s own special way; interestingly, nearly every car is black, white or gray, and is either Hyundai, KIA, SsangYong or Samsung (that’s right, Samsung makes cars too).

This is the park across the street from the apartment we’re moving into on July 24th.  There is a basketball court in the background, and the court on the right with the pole is for a Korean game that mixes Volleyball/Tennis and Soccer called “Jokgu”.  The sign on the below photo says something like “please remove your shoes.”

Near our apartment is the local Police Station, and they often leave their cruisers out in the open…. almost as if they want people to take pictures of them.

Just up the road from the Police Station is the Subway.  As you’ll see, the subway is very clean compared to cities of similar size in the USA.

Just two stops away, we can find ourselves at the Samsung Daegu Lions Baseball Stadium, where we spent around ₩8,000 per ticket, which is around $7.15.  The Lions won!

Just a couple stops down on the subway line, we end up downtown, which is only about a 25 minutes from our apartment.  Before we reach the surface, there is giant underground mall to explore that lies beneath the downtown area.

We could spend all day perusing the shops as there is no shortage of cheap (straight from China) merchandise.

“THE LEGEND” is a shirt that you’ll see on a daily basis.  Also, I’m going to have to go back and get this “Lacostco” shirt in the near future.

Just above the mall is an even more extensive network of shops and businesses stacked on top of each other, making it very easy to fill up a day downtown.

There is much more to uncover in the downtown area, but we can save that for another post.  Last week, Luke (Caitlin’s brother) took us to the Cheongdu Wine Tunnel to escape the heat, since the tunnel is naturally temperature controlled, and it was about 95 degrees with 80% humidity.

After driving around 30 minutes through the brilliant countryside, we ended up at the wine tunnel.

Persimmons are a Cheongdo staple; you can see them advertised on the vertical banner.

There are a lot of wine bottles in here.  Side note: They only disallow dogs, so bring all the cats you want.

Here’s an image of me marveling at this artist’s usage of negative space to give the illusion of a half-full glass…. or half empty…  regardless of how you define it, this is a cool sculpture.

At the end of our cool walk, we discovered that tunnel-goers are encouraged to write a wish; there are thousands of them.

I’m not 100% certain if the wish “Be Happy” is positive, or a not-so-subtle cry for help… Either way, this person beat the heat.

Sneak Peak of next week’s post:

 We accidentally stumbled into something I’ve only seen on the television – Conveyor belt sushi.  Kappa Sushi… not this Kappa.  This is hands down the best nigiri sushi I’ve ever had; their salmon nigiri is quite literally amazing, and it’s only about $1 per plate with free soda, making for a cheap meal!  Stand by for a food post next week, as I’ll give you a more in-depth view of our eating experience so far in Korea.

Kimbap!

Bibimbap!

Hopefully you come back for more!

0 In Travel

A year in North… I mean South Korea.

For a few months we’ve known that we’re going to move to South Korea, and for those who don’t know, Caitlin’s brother and wife own an English school there.  Luke and Eun Jung have invited us to live in SK and hired Caitlin as an English teacher.  July 2017 through July 2018, we’ll be exploring as much of Asia as we possibly can, and we’ve created this website so our friends and family can follow along on our journey.  We hope you come along and enjoy the ride!

We will be living in Daegu which is located on the southern tip of the peninsula. Daegu is the fourth largest city with 2.5 million people, so it will definitely be quite the difference moving from Des Moines!

Here are some photos of Eun Jung’s school (named EJ English), where Caitlin will be teaching.

Caitlin and I are incredibly excited for this opportunity. We’re sending out an open invite to any friends or family who would like to come visit us as well!

1 In Travel

A Week Exploring Prague

In September 2016 I had the opportunity to visit one of my best friends who was living in Prague teaching English. Before my friend moved to Prague the only piece of information I knew about the city was that it has a shit ton of spires; thanks to my Architecture class in college (shout out to Mr.Bork!). After visiting for a week, my knowledge of the beautiful city expanded immensely. I encourage everyone to visit Prague if they have the opportunity. Cheap beer, castles, hearty food, and clubs that play 90s music until 5am… it’s a great city. Altogether, I ended up spending around $800 on this week long trip, and yes, that included the plane ticket!

The amazing ladies I spent the week with.

The Architecture

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Europe twice now, and each time it always walks my perspective of America’s history back a few steps. By that I mean, America is so young! Prague has one of the oldest and largest castles in Europe. It started construction in 870 and finished in the 1920s. The facade was the last part built and in my opinion, the most beautiful. The architects of the facade even knew how dope their design was because they put themselves in it! See pic below.

The other grand piece of architecture lies within the center of the city, in Old Town. Pictured below is the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. I took this photo from the Astronomical Clock Tower, also pictured below.

Prague features some really unique and weird architecture. As you can see in the skyline photo below, it’s very beautiful, but the skyline is abruptly broken by this big TV tower hovering over everything.

I believe it was one of the first questions we all asked when we got there – wth is that thing? It’s called the Žižkov Television Tower and it was built in 1985 when Prague was still under control of the Soviet Union. The second question we all asked: Wtf are those black things on it? They are baby sculptures. The Czech artist David Černý was commissioned to make an art installation on the tower and he created these huge baby sculptures that have bar codes as faces and attached them crawling up the tower. I guess it was only supposed to stay up for a certain amount of time, but the Czech people thought it was funny so they wanted it to stay up indefinitely. See pic below for how big those things actually are. 😳

Some more pics

Overlooking Prauge in the Petřín Lookout Tower

 

The Vltava River runs through the middle of Prague – You can rent paddle boats and BYOB

 

A pretty street with that Tv Tower peeking above the houses…

 

Another view of Old Town Square looking out of the Astronomical Clock Tower

 

Food

The food in the Czech Republic is hearty AF. We went to a traditional bar in Prague for lunch and ordered their special which consisted of a cream of spinach soup to start with, and for the main course, it was pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings. You’ll find dumplings as the side for many dishes.

A couple of other traditional dishes include Wiener schnitzel pictured on the left and goulash pictured on the right. Both very rich and hearty in flavor. Although it was delicious, I would definitely not want to eat it everyday!

We visited this bar called the Prague Beer Museum and it featured many beers on tap – a lot of different pilsners, and wheats, however, I don’t remember seeing many, or if any, IPAs on the beer list. Of course, we had to order a ton of fried cheese. FRIED CHEESE ALL DAY PLZ.  I’m not 100% sure what the cheeses pictured below are, but they were amazing. The most traditional kind is a slice of fried, breaded Eidam cheese. It’s a gooey, rich, comforting and utterly delicious piece of food.

Overall, throughout the week I had a wide variety of foods. I had some amazing gnocchi at this restaurant on the Vltava River. I also enjoyed a delightful Bahn-mi sammich. We all devoured some gyros on a late night snack run and on our most hungover day we needed some good old American fried food and the place we went to satisfied that need perfectly.

The burrito gyro on the right is hands down the best gyro I’ve ever had.

 

 

Kentucky-Fried Chicken is very popular over there. Actually, I think it’s popular everywhere in the world. 😜

 

Lastly, the dessert you’ll find on many streets is called a Trdelník. It’s a grilled cinnamon pastry filled with vanilla ice cream or nutella. YUM.

 

BEER!

Prague is home to the very first pilsner type blonde lager ever created: Pilsner Urquell.  I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of this beer but that’s just because I don’t like pilsner’s in general, but it was still great to taste some of the oldest brewed beer in the world. A weird thing I noticed right away when I ordered a beer was the amount of foam and at first, I just thought they poured it shitty, but it turns out in Prague, a good pour will always have a least three fingers of foam.

The picture on the right is showing the different ways you could order a beer. I really don’t understand the infatuation with the foam! The best part of drinking beer in Prague was that it was cheaper than water. Most bottles of beer averaged around $1.50-$2.  I loved being able to walk into a store, buy a bottle of beer, crack it open and walk out.

Some of my favorite memories throughout the entire week was hanging out in this park named Havlíčkovy sady. The park has this amazing hilltop view of the castle and we watched the sunset while sipping on some beer and cheese. 😍

We all had such an amazing time and it helped that we had our friends living there to show us around the city! Visit Prague if you ever get the chance.