Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where do the ducks go?

Sangju is getting cold, really cold!

I experience this most acutely on my early morning and late afternoon bike rides to and from school.

As you know, most of my ride is along the river, which I have found out is the Nakdong river and is quite an important river in South Korea. I have been enjoying this as there are quite a number of birds and always something interesting to see along the river. There have been a lot of mallard ducks on the river and also some wagtails: they look a bit like our pied wagtails in South Africa but the black and white pattern is slightly different, I think they are Black-backed Wagtails (photos courtesy of 'the Internet'). And of course the ubiquitous and vocal magpies!

So this morning for the first time the river has started freezing over: it is not entirely frozen but most of the surface has a thin layer of ice over it, so I was asking myself: Where do the ducks go? I can dress up in my thermal underwear, beanie, scarf, windproof-gloves, layers of jerseys, coat and face mask (Now I know why the Koreans wear them - it's for the cold!) but the ducks can't, where do they go? And where do they sleep? The nights are even colder!

Out of interest, there is a bit of information on Sangju on Wikipedia, take a look:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dr Fish

This is one of the stories I've been meaning to share with you for a while. It is not a uniquely Korean experience, from what I have read, but a memorable one nonetheless!

A few weeks ago we went to Gumi - a slightly larger town nearby - to watch a movie. After the movie (Body of Lies: very gory and not the most imagniative story line) we went for a walk down the main shopping street. Gumi's centre has a lovely stylish almost Europen sort of atmosphere: lots of intersting shops, boutiques, restaurants and pubs. I even found the Body Shop, although it is unfortunately horendously expensive :( BUT here;s what this post is all about: Dr Fish. What a find!
Dr Fish is an experience to rememeber! There is a lovely coffee shop which serves all varieties of teas, coffess, ice creams and breads, delicious, and they offer the 'Dr Fish' experience!

They have tanks/baths sunk into the floor where you can sit and dangle your feet in: and surprise surprise a whole shoal of obliging little fishies come running, errr swimming, to eat all the dead skin cells off your legs!! What an incredible experience. Initially it is actually terribly ticklish and tingly but I loved the attention of course and quickly got used to it! The fish are soo cute and just so eager! They can't seem to get ebnough of nibbling at your skin. Jules unfortunately did not get used to it: he held out for a minute or two but it wasn't his cup of tea! (Photo evidence!)

Well, as you can imagine I had lots of questions about the fish, and there ws an info brochure but alas, except for the latin names of the fish, the rest was in Korean. The names mentioned were Garra rufa and Oreochromis niloticus (Nile Tilapia). For those ichthyologically inclined, you will of course wonder about the Tilapia...I've looked it up and there doesn't seem to be any reference to it feeding on human skin so that must be a mistake. But Garra rufa is a species of fish which was first found to feed on human skin cells in natural hot springs in Turkey. Very interesting!
Anyway, so that was Dr Fish, a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience which I really enjoyed, thanks fishies for the scrub! And thanks James and Barbara for the introduction!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bar Snacks

The Korean Food advnture continues: in the bars.

Last Friday we went out for dinner and a couple of beers with some of the other English speakers in town - it was quite fun to sample some Korean night life. We ordered beers in large 3L pitchers to share - the beer here is not as good as in SA but it isn't too bad and is WAY better than Soju: that's just poison! It's purely chemical and tastes vile. Really, it should only be recommended for medicinal purposes.

Anyway, so with the beer always comes a bowl of sweet puffed treats - I mentioned these in the Noraebang episode: they are a bit along the lines of cheee puffs but are rings and are sweeeet - probably best used as pacakging??!

Anyway, the funny thing about these fruit-loops-cousins (hey, that's quite a good description actually...) is that most of them (in one bowl) are a pale brown colour. But there is are always one or two pink ones and one or two green ones. Always in that ratio - very odd (you can see thsi in the pic above). I'll let you know when I figure this mystery out!

Onwards... the other snacks one encounters are peanuts, sometimes cooked in sesame oil - quite tasty, small dried fish and a pack of seaweed sheets. The seaweed apparently goes really well with beer (I am told, but am not sure I agree...yet!) and the little dried fish, well, I think they're quite cute, shame! They're very salty and quite edible too.
We also discovered an 'alcohol analyser' in one of the pubs, great fun. Jules went way into the 'maximum' category with this blow!

This is a sample (below) of the sort of funny English one comes across: someome must've strung these banners up without really understanding them (or after a few 'Hites" to open up their minds! -- "Hite up open mind your open"??