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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Eating Auntie Anne's Pretzels in South Korea

There are lots of places to buy snacks in Seoul. One thing that hit me by surprise was the large concentration of Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Starbucks, and Coffee Bean locations on every street corner. This is to go along with the plethora of convenience stores and Krispy Kreme locations. One of the largest American pretzel chains, Auntie Anne's is highly popular in Korea and can be found within the food court of many Hyundai Department Stores.

Since I love eating food (you probably do too I assume) here are some pictures of my first Auntie Anne's pretzel. Although there are locations in Canada, there were no locations near my home in BC. Regardless, South Koreans are crazy about Auntie Anne's pretzels just like they are crazy about Krispy Kreme. There are always huge line ups for fresh pretzels! EDIT: Here's a fresh picture of their line ups taken today!

For 2000w ($2USD) you can wrap your hands around fresh baked pretzel. I didn't take a picture of the line up because I was too busy holding my place in the free-for-all line up. If you leave too much room in front of you, it's very easy to lose your place in line (beware of ajumas!). So don't be shy, rest your body on the person's back in front of you! Here's some pretzel love coming your way:

They can cut your pretzel into bite size pieces for you (most people opted for this, including us). Do they do this back home too?

Here's the bag...

...and here's the inside: my sour cream 'n onion flavored pretzel (I have also tried almond and cinnamon sugar too):

Auntie Anne's guarantees that your pretzel will be perfect--so far, no complaints from me. But if I ever run into a problem, it would be one heck of a charades game to explain the guarantee. Maybe I'll bring along the print out with me at all times (in Korean of course) just for safety's sake (or NOT!):

Sooo...any Auntie Anne's pretzel lovers out there? Are they the best pretzels ever, or what?

Friday, 29 June 2007

My First PC Bang Experience in South Korea!

If you're not already aware, South Korea is one of the world's hot spots when it comes to playing video games online. You might remember from my earlier post about Starcraft in South Korea. Kids and adults play games such as Sudden Attack (very similar to CounterStrike), MapleStory, and the most popular game of all--Starcraft (or "Star" in Konglish)!

Anyways, I had my first PC Bang/Starcraft experience recently. I have always heard that these PC Bangs were notorious for being smoky--those stories are true indeed. After finishing our time in the PC Bang, my clothes smelled like I had just come out of a pub. I went to this PC Bang the same day that I visited the 2007 Seoul Wine Market with Tae, Jay-hook, and Sam-jahng (did I get your guys' names right? I need a keyboard with Hangul, hehe). All three of them are Starcraft veterans and when I mentioned about wanting to experience a PC Bang in Korea, finding one was not difficult at all! They are literally on every street corner in the city.

We went to two PC Bangs initially and ended up staying at the second one. I was told this one was a bit older and more expensive compared to newer PC Bangs elsewhere. Here are a couple pictures from the first PC Bang we checked out:

Playing video games and Starcraft builds your appetite (or not) so there are always snacks on hand: chips, candy, ramen, and pop:

After crossing the street we found another PC Bang and just decided to give this one a try. Here is the outside window plastered in video game posters:

Here's my video tour of the room...it was smoky and it felt like a trip back in time. Listen for my cheeky comment towards the end:

We each received one of the following ID cards. All I had to do was punch "27" into the terminal and it would start keeping track of my time. The cost was 2000w/hour ($2USD) which is considered expensive! Typical PC Bangs only 1000w/hour and this was not even that nice I was told:

Alright...so I punched in "27" and what was I greeted with? Ahh, a sight that most people are familiar with (or hate to see), our best friend, Windows XP (I was lucky this time--no BSODs for me--Google BSOD if you don't know what it stands for; be warned though as the results might drive you up the wall):

So the four of us are seated next to each other in this PC Bang, and finally we get our networked game up and running. I only played Starcraft literally once or twice when it came out (I was more into Command and Conquer: Red Alert) so trying to figure out the best way to build up my base took some time (Note to self: talking to a South Korean while he/she is playing Starcraft and asking silly questions, such as "what are the buttons again?" will not result in any answers--you will get shunned, haha!) Here is my pathetic start to my base..."oohhh...so these things collect and mine the ore/gold!":

Here's a video of Tae playing. Unfortunately there is no play by play commentary, but the setup was Tae and I versus Jay-hook and Sam-jahng--the losers would have to foot the PC Bang bill. Too bad for Tae, because my mediocre base was mercilessly annihilated by Sam-jahng (she is female; Starcraft is not just for the guys in South Korea; everyone plays the game!) within five minutes! I was like "WTF...dude, I just learned the controls!" and by the end of that sentence I was out of the game. It wasn't long after until Tae was defeated as well (he can beat the computer in a one on four match up):

So there you have it, my first PC Bang/Starcraft experience in South Korea. It was probably one of the most unique "cultural" experiences I've had here in Seoul. After footing the bill (a meager 8000w) it was off for samgyeopsal to eat away my sorrows! Any Starcraft veterans/pioneers out there? Do you still play?

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

One Year Blog Anniversary: 378 days later!

When I first started the idea of blogging about our experiences teaching English in Korea, I had no idea that I would have come this far. The first post on The Daily Kimchi was a minor introduction. In the past year, I have posted 483 posts in 378 days (I started this blog on June 15th, 2006), which works out to roughly 1.28 posts/day, fulfilling my goal of keeping this kimchi coming to you daily. I completely forgot about my one year blog anniversary until I read about Jon Allen's post about Korean blogs that have lasted a year.

This blog now averages over 500 unique visitors and just under 1000 page views per day. Currently this blog has surpassed 90,000 visits! Thanks to ZenKimchi and My Korean Kitchen for the influx of visitors. I've had fun interacting with YOU, my loyal readers (some of you are: Sandra, hirocakep, john from daejeon, daeguowl, imoet, estlxlan, g^2, Natasha, Sue, Lily, Catherine June, annamatic, eliza bennet, yen nie, Leo, Ed, Michael, Carl, Mary, ROK Drop, Stephen, Katie, Susan, Jennifer, Bryan, Eva, and Cat--I apologize if I've missed anyone!) in the comments about the interesting things I've encountered in South Korea (and all my binge eating, hehe).

Also, the kind emails I keep on receiving have also given me incentive to keep posting daily. At the same time, I've also managed to monetize my blog thanks to John Chow and other tips from ProBlogger (special thanks to my sponsors Flying Cows Consulting and Education Connection).

Want to do some reading? If I could choose ten posts for you to read all over again, I would suggest:

My trip to the Demilitarized Zone
Christmas in the UAE
Serenaded by a taxi driver
Where my readers are from (the number of comments amazed me!)
Campus Couple Saturdays
Fashion in Korea
All my food posts
Top 3 Essentials for teaching English in Korea
Our journey to Jeju
My visit to Jogyesa temple

There are many more interesting posts but I can't list them all. I would highly suggest that you do some exploring through my archives. I'll make a post that has all my favorite experiences laid out month by month later on. Anyways, once again thanks for reading my blog. I will keep this blog continuing even after my time ends in South Korea.

Would you still be interested in following the antics of Gdog & Co.? I would be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments or by email.

Let's celebrate by having a piece of Philadelphia cheesecake (it's from Costco; topped with homemade blueberry compote--inspired by Michael Weaver of course)!

Go Green: Shrek 3 The Movie at McDonald's

Remember about a month ago, back in June when it was Memorial Day in Korea? That day we went and enjoyed Shrek 3. I thought it was the best movie out of the Shrek series. The addition of Justin "I'm Bringing Sexy Back" Timberlake to the cast as the voice of Artie was awesome. The whine and high pitched squeal of JT's voice was perfect for the role.

Anyways, everybody and their grandma (or ajuma) loves Shrek here in South Korea. McDonald's recently had a Shrek 3 campaign (and also introduced BREAKFAST) and the last time I checked, it's still going on. They have some Shrek-themed flurries, sundaes, and milkshakes. What's the secret ingredient for the color green? You guessed it--kiwi!

Here's a Shrek combo for ya...notice for 1500w ($1.50US) you can buy a Pork Cutlet burger (does this taste like donkahss?):

Kiwi flavored flurry, kiwi-inspired sundae, and a green milkshake. If you eat all three of these at one time your face will turn green:

Looky, looky, it's Fiona working at McDonald's, except she's not an overweight ogre but a slender Korean! Look at those ears...smokin!

What did you think of Shrek 3? I liked the Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio--they were hilarious!

Monday, 25 June 2007

Maximizing Maxim Mocha Gold Coffee

Coming over to teach English in Korea anytime soon? Around this time of the year, many private hagwons are hiring teachers to replace the ones that will be leaving soon. It's hard to believe that yours truly has been teaching in Seoul for almost a year now. Our contracts are up at the end of next month and we will be heading home. Where will we go next? That is a good question. Right now, we have many options, with Dubai being one of them. I will fill you in the near future.

Anyways, one of my first "South Korea" moments that I experienced after arriving was having my first cup of Maxim Mocha Gold coffee, in a tiny paper cup. It's a quick coffee that packs a punch, however some might find there is too much sugar and artificial creamer in the packet. I'm going to show you how to reduce this into the perfect cup of coffee that can be balanced to your liking.

First, pinch 1 inch down on the right of the packet so your fingers cover the coffee cup image. Then, cut open the package and pour the mix into your cup. By squeezing tight you are holding the coffee mix in your fingers, so you can pour out some of the sugar and creamer. Mix with water, and voila, you now know how to adjust the sugar/creamer content easily!

You'll get used to seeing this coffee in every store in South Korea:

Squeeze here and hold on tight:

Here's my test packet to show how it looks; the majority of the coffee is in the end, but it can get a little mixed in:

I hope this little tip is helpful--results may vary, so don't hold me accountable if this doesn't work for you. Why spend $5 at Starbucks on a latte when you can drink ten of these for free (if your work supplies them)? Actually, I think I would rather stick to a $5 Starbucks at the end of the day. What's your favorite coffee beverage? Orange mocha frappuccino?

Christina Aguilera: Live in Seoul and Speaking Korean!

Remember a while back when I first posted about Christina Aguilera coming to Seoul? Well, her concert took place this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. We decided to head down to Olympic Park to check out the concert last night! We did not have tickets booked in advanced and were hoping to buy tickets either at the door or from scalpers.

Upon arriving to Olympic Park (we got mixed up and first go off Line 2 at the Sports Complex Station) which is located in Jamsil (remember Lotteworld?) we started our walk into the park. However, there was problem--we didn't see a stadium! So we asked a fellow nearby on a scooter if he knew where the stadium was. He told us to wait a moment in Korean (cham-see-mahn-yo) and got his English speaking friend (there was a group of them on scooters) to help us. She told us they were heading to the concert too and that it was just on the other side of the park. We thanked them for their help but 30 seconds later...

...we hear them pull up beside us, and ask if we wanted a ride to the stadium! Devante and I looked at each other, nodded and hopped onto the back of their scooters for a free ride (through the park I might add)! Check it out:

Too bad our ride through the park was cut short due to this guy--the ajashi security guard (on a bicycle I might add)! He stopped us from cutting through the park and made us ride on a secondary route inside--the sidewalk!

We thought the concert was sold out, but since it was the second night of the concert which was on a Sunday, there were surprisingly still many seats available. We got to Olympic Park at 8pm and didn't enter the stadium until 8:05pm...the concert still had not started! Here's a picture of the stage before the concert started:

Around 8:15pm, Christina made her debut on stage and every went nuts. Check it out for yourself:

Here's my best video of the night, Christina's single from Back to Basics, "Ain't No Other Man" (yes, I know...no cameras allowed. There was a anti-camera dude actually doing his job during this concert, walking up and down the aisles):

For all you Christina lovers out there, he's a cropped shot of her...she is reportedly pregnant and during the videos I posted, you can spot a little baby bump on her:

Another costume change...

At least Christina is somewhat sane and hasn't pulled a "Britney" yet:

More video love..."What a Girl Wants"...

Here she is getting dirrrrrrttyyyyyy:

The concert ended just before 10pm. Afterwards, we noticed one of the dancers had made his way onto the floor. Immediately, he got mobbed and people started whipping out cameras from left, right, and center:

Here's a small clip of his new entourage following him:

The concert was actually really good--Christina Aguilera can definitely sing live. She sounded just like the songs on her CDs. The setup for the concert was extremely elaborate and well orchestrated. The best part of the night is when she tried to SPEAK KOREAN! She said "kam-sum-needa Seoul!" twice--the first time she belted that out everybody in the stadium went absolutely insane. It was a funny attempt to connect with her audience!

Have you seen Christina Aguilera live before (Michael from Beyond the Rhetoric has a review of her Vancouver concert from March)? What's your take on her?

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Random Pictures of the Day

I have a folder on my laptop that I fill up with pictures that are blogworthy. Sometimes I get a back log since there are just too many things to write about. When it comes to blogging, you should set goals and such for blah blah blah...in a nutshell, I just blog about what I feel like writing about that day. It keeps things light, easy and fun.

Soooo, with that being said...here are a few random pictures that I've accumulated with my weekly trips to bbq dinners or lunches. This photo is taken from the 24 hour bbq place near Omokgyo Station. At one point I was eating there quite frequently so I had a chance to interact with the staff the odd time. It was particularly smoky on this day, so when we placed our jackets down beside us, one of the workers proceeds to stuff them all into a plastic bag! That was a first for us (hey, at least our jackets would be smoke free; I told you these pictures are old!):

Family members always bug me about "where are all your recent food pictures?"...so in response to their requests, here you go:

Back to what I mentioned before, it pays to be a regular. You get things for free (or in Konglish, "Service"), like this kimchi jiggae (soup). We also had free cola and 7-Up to boot!

What we always found weird was the fact that children and adults were always walking around eating ice cream cones. We wanted some too, but never really figured out where it was hiding--until this special day. Turns out the self serve vanilla ice cream station was outside around the corner, under a tent:

The cleanliness of this little station was definitely suspect--but when you want free ice cream, one will do anything. So we proceed to scoop ourselves some cones. What do you do when you're not satisfied with your scoop of ice cream? Heck, just launch them into the bottom of the freezer! Check out these lonely, freezer burned, scoops of vanilla ice cream chilling out (pun intended):

On a totally random note, I am going to enter another blogging contest because I think I can win an iPod Shuffle (my 512mb USB flash drive win is making me feel good about winning again). This is probably the easiest contest I've entered. All I have to do is mention that Live Learn Invest is giving away a brand new ipod Shuffle of your color choice by simply mentioning Printed Circuit Board Quotes. If you want to find out more about other blogging contests, you can head over to Contest Blogger.

Let's get back on topic...do you have any random restaurant experiences to share? Come on, don't be shy...

Presenting: Seoul Best Toilet, December 18, 2003

After an interesting Saturday, we ended up at Sizzler in Hyehwa for dinner. You might remember how I conquered Sizzler the last time here. Well, today I was going to post pictures of my food for you to enjoy, but this time I opted to keep the camera at bay while I stuffed myself silly.

What I will present today is the "Seoul Best Toilet, 2003.12.18" for your viewing pleasure. You can find theses special little gems littered throughout the city--washrooms that have won the prestigious "Seoul Best Toilet" award. This has been the second award-winning restroom I have seen in Seoul, the other being at a park in Mokdong (its standards had dropped after winning the award I must say). How can you tell a "Seoul Best Toilet" winner versus a regular toilet? Well, for starters there is a monstrous plaque plastered to the wall near the restroom doors.

After taking that first step into a "Seoul Best Toilet", you tend to reminisce about all the other horrible washrooms you've encountered and embrace everything this restroom has to offer: the smells, the cleanliness, the paper towel dispenser, and the shock and awe of the thought that you are taking a step back in time, imagining yourself as the person who nominated this washroom as a "Seoul Best Toilet" candidate.

This washroom had a nice modern look, and included mouthwash (most fine establishments include mouthwash and hand lotion). Check out the cool sink (what have I come to? I'm not blogging about washrooms!!) I've experience lots of "unique" washrooms with my travels abroad. Some restrooms in China can be holes in the ground. I experienced my first squat toilet in downtown Macau (note to self: bring tissue):

As for our meal at Sizzler, the salad bar costs roughly 20,000w, but for 3000w more, you can order a full chicken dinner which includes the salad bar. So for 3000w more, we now have lunch for tomorrow. :)

By the way, if you did not know already, Sizzler is a "Restaurant within a Restaurant"...what does that mean exactly?

Do you have any interesting or memorable washroom experiences you'd like to share? Now this is what you call a conversation topic over dinner or coffee, LOL!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The World's Smallest Karaoke Room

We have another installment of my ongoing "The World's _______" list of things that I've spotted while teaching English in South Korea. This time around this exclusive post comes from an old school arcade that was located in Insadong. Not familiar with my special list of posts? Take a trip down memory lane if you haven't already:

The World's Most Expensive Maple Syrup
The World's Worst Goldfish Bowl
The World's Most Heavily Defended Border
The World's Most Expensive Mango

Remember the days when hanging out at arcades was the thing to do? Think back to the days of Streetfighter, Mortal Kombat, and miscellaneous shooting games. This place had machines that had old classics such as Bubble Bobble. However, the one thing that caught my eye was a long row of stalls along one wall. Turns out these little stalls are individual "norebangs" for 1 or 2 people. Now this is what you call the World's Smallest Karaoke Room:

Check this out...inside, we have a small monitor, a portable fan to keep you cool, bright fluorescent lights, and two stools (one for yourself, and the other to rest your stuff--this was the case as there were a few stalls where people were having a great time by themselves). Not sure what to do on a Saturday afternoon? Heck, forget going outside, make your way to one of these mini "norebangs". You can sing your heart out for a fraction of the price of a regular norebang room. This room is so small I couldn't even stand up straight inside!

Are you a big fan of Campus Couple Saturdays? Anyways, here's a video of a couple playing Dance Dance Revolution (also known as "DDR" to all you hardcore enthusiasts) in unison (or trying to at least):

Do you like singing karaoke style? What's your favorite song to belt out in front of your friends, family, coworkers, and random strangers?

How to Get Free Things in South Korea

When you're out wandering the streets of Seoul, there is always something to see, especially if you hit up the main attractions that have lots of people. During a recent visit to Insadong (when I took pictures of Lotus Lanterns) I found myself getting lured to every crowded stall or miscellaneous line up. What's one of the best way to get free things in South Korea?

The "monkey see, monkey do" phenomenon sure is fun, don't you agree? Just because there are a lot of people densely crowded around a stall, does that mean you should show up to investigate what's going on? OF COURSE YOU SHOULD! Anyways, our curiosity paid off as Tae and myself were able to score some free frozen yogurt and popcorn (we passed on the helium balloons)!

The streets of Insadong are always crowded on the weekends:

Waiting in line for "ice cream free" is quite the way to spend your Saturday afternoon:

Here's a video of me receiving my ice cream (it tasted like frozen yogurt):

What's the best way to cleanse your palate after downing a cup of ice cream? Free popcorn, of course (just slap up a poster of a scantily clad female and it will attract plenty of people):

Just for the heck of it, here's my popcorn video...the popcorn was salty and buttery--deeeelicious:

Finally, we have our special "ah-jahshi" (it means senior) trying to compact the garbage can at the coffee and tea station with his metal tongs (it wasn't quite effective, I just think he was bored):

Maybe my concept of "free" is not the same as yours, but I love food so getting free samples is something that I enjoy doing. We did manage to go to the top of the 63 Building for free if that counts (that was by asking nicely, hehe). What was the last "free" thing you've received lately?

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Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Maybe I'll Get Lucky Again!

The last time I entered a contest online--I won! That was Stephen Fung's USB drive giveaway which arrived late last week. Thanks again, Stephen!

This time around, I am going to try my luck again with another contest. John Chow dot Com, a blog that helps you make money is giving away a brand new 24″ wide screen LCD monitor (it's an LG, I might add--SOUTH KOREA)! To enter, you just have to write about it. He says the contest is open worldwide and he will ship abroad as well. The contest is sponsored by BlueFur, who wants to let you know that they’re hosting Canada and the rest of the world.

Here's a picture of my 512mb USB drive courtesy of Stephen Fung. He was nice enough to blast it off my before his worldwide tour of Asia (thanks again)! To answer your burning question, yes, I did pop the bubble wrap. Next up, bring on my 24" LCD! :)

Frozen Yogurt: Pinkberry in LA, Red Mango in South Korea

If you are not aware, there currently is red hot frozen yogurt war going on in Los Angeles. There's a frozen yogurt chain called Pinkberry (also known as "Crackberry" to many celebrities, such as the locked up Paris Hilton; the original "Crackberry" is Research in Motion's wireless handheld device, the Blackberry). One blogger suggests it could become the next Starbucks. Some say it's a knock off of the Red Mango frozen yogurt chain in South Korea. I've never tried Pinkberry, but I'd like to compare the taste with Red Mango.

There is a Red Mango location about 5 minutes away from us in Mokdong. With the weather heating up, I expect us to be making a few more visits in the near future. Here are a few recent pictures from our trips to Red Mango. I must admit, this frozen yogurt tastes awesome--some of the best I've ever had. It definitely helps cool you down on a humid and hot summer's day.

This was from the Mokdong location. We ordered a regular sized frozen yogurt with five toppings. As you can see they loaded us up with toppings:

Now compare the above with this order from another Red Mango location near Bucheon. The toppings were not as plentiful, and the way they let frozen yogurt into the bowl resulted in it being hollow inside. Plus, they did not weigh the amount of frozen yogurt on the scale (they do this to ensure consistency; just like how Starbucks weighs your tall latte):

Check this out...it's a frozen yogurt cave:

Alrighty, maybe I have some high standards when it comes to food. Nevertheless, we still finished every last bite:

Just when I thought my frozen yogurt problems would end there, I was wrong. At Caffe Themselves, our frozen yogurt was hollow in the center again! Am I being too picky? I just want to get my fair share of frozen yogurt!! ;)

Compare my Red Mango pictures above to this picture of Pinkberry (courtesy of somah). The fresh berries do look pretty darn good I must say:

You wouldn't believe the outrageous amount of cafes and coffee shops in South Korea. Koreans love their caffeine just like the rest of them. What do people do when they have some spare time? They none other than cafe themselves at Caffe Themselves:

Readers from LA...are you addicted to Pinkberry?? Any other Red Mango fans out there?

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