busan, hiking, places, Travel

Igidae Coastal Walk! 🍁

The Igidae Coastal Walks snakes alongside Igidae park, overlooking the turquoise shimmer of sea that flanks the path to the right. It is a 4.1-kilometre-long stretch of trail, sometimes muddy, other times rocky, an abundance of stairs both up and down as well as a few bridges that jump and bounce as you make your way across them.

Ultimately it is, in a word, wonderful.

I have completed it three times so far and I have already chalked it up as my most regular walking spot in my mind. The walk itself is fairly easy to conquer; yes, I have said there are an abundance of stairs, and while that is very much the case, I find the task of climbing them exceedingly easy given the gorgeous view that stays by my side almost the entire time I walk the path.

The three times I have been and done the trail, I have started by the Oryukdo rocks. Pretty easy place to get to; a lot of buses make their way directly down the road, reaching the skywalk by a short walk. I always hop on the 24 bus, which is about a 20-minute journey without much traffic. The rocks themselves are pretty cool; greyish-black, they stand in the midst of the water, silhouetted against the sky forming a remarkable juxtaposed image of rock and sea.

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Sorry – I’m taking up a lot of this photo but it seems to be the only one I have of Oryukdo!

Between the Oryukdo viewpoint and the beginning of the coastal walk is an information centre, a restroom and a map which highlights the places of interest along the route. I must admit, I cannot exactly pinpoint each location stated on the map and confidently exclaim ‘I’ve been there!’ but given I have at least another year here and the already stated opinion (or fact) that Igidae will be my regular walking haunt, I already know I will visit everything the map has to offer.

Anyway, back to the trail… imagine you are stood in front of the information centre; the Oryukdo rocks are to your left, straight in front is the road, with a small car park coming off it and therefore to the right is the beginning of your walk. There are two options for you; one is a smooth pathway and the other are steps, about twenty or so. Both options lead to the same place; a flattish stretch of land with greenery, water and in the not-so-far distance, stairs leading upwards.

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This body of water is at the top of the first set of stairs – leading up from the road, Oryukdo and Igidae’s information centre

Climb these stairs all the way to the top; to the right is a seated viewpoint and to the left is the continuation of your route. Follow the wind round to the right, up a few more steps and you’ll find yourself at a fork. Take the right side, up along a path lined by trees to either side where you will then reach a clearing with two benches facing the ocean. Everything is pretty straight forward from here on out, stretching from Oryukdo until close to Gwangandaegyo, a sight that remains in your view along the trail.

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Gwangandaegyo! The diamond bridge of Gwangan! A view of your endpoint that is almost always constant along your route

What I love most about Igidae is the scenery. You are literally walking on the edge; stepping along a cusp of woodwork, strategically placed to separate land and sea. Despite being in the middle of winter, plush, green leaves and the first of the buds envelope you; to your left, right and above you, they frame the path ahead of you. Even the branches that stand leafless are pretty; I love the way they look, their gnarly, barren arms reach out over the edge adding more beauty to the path you are upon. Rocky, craggy surfaces stretch out beneath you; reminiscent of Oryukdo, they perfectly clash with the calmness of the sea that their pointy edges cut in to.

Honestly, it is a beautiful view.

The first half of your walk is spent on the wooden structures, stairs and all whilst the second half levels out on to nature’s own surface, more inland but still close enough to the shore to see the ever-nearing Gwangalli beach. Your final stretch sees you cross four short bridges and from there you reach a final stretch of narrow land which takes you to the end of the Igidae Coastal Walk.

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One of the four bridges you encounter towards the end of your route – and also me, jumping for joy!

A road curves off to the left of the trail’s end, going slightly downhill before weaving right. You can follow this road (with the aid of Naver or Kakao maps – although it is pretty damn simple) directly to Gwangalli beach, taking in the expanse of water still on your right hand side, the iconic bridge that stretches across it and also the plethora of street art on offer, highlighting some of Busan’s best and more well known attractions such as the Firework festival that happens annually during autumn.

If you ever find yourself in Busan, make walking along the coast at Igidae a must-do! No matter the season, you can always enjoy the view whilst getting a good amount of exercise in as well.

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Travel

Golden Korea!

We are well and truly in to the latter half of December; the first frost has been experienced, the wind is bitingly cold and I find myself swaddled in more and more layers each and every day and night. No complaints here though – winter has always been and will always be my favourite season. There is just something so special about this season; maybe it’s the Christmas spirit or the desire to do and see more for the upcoming new year. Or perhaps it is the fact that, given the cold temperature, I can wrap myself up in to a burrito with a blanket and snacks, Netflix blaring on a screen in front of me. No matter the reason, I always feel a sense of overwhelming joy in winter, an admission that would no doubt shake most other people to the core.

Despite my love for winter, however, I find myself daydreaming about golden hour or should I say golden season. Autumn always comes in at an extremely close second place in my eyes; it is the time I start to feel that little chill in the air whilst all around me the leaves start to change. One thing I love to do is strap on my Doc Martens and go for a walk amongst autumn’s prettiest feature. Leaves upon leaves upon leaves; piles and piles lashed with copper, auburn and golden tones. The crunching sound they make when my rubber sole flattens them to the ground; it is music to my ears, a noise so organic, so unique that takes me on a journey of appreciation for the wonderous world I live in.

The autumn season in Korea fulfils my desire to crunch and crisp more so than any other place before. Leaves are in abundance, fallen softly from the copious number of trees (after all 70% of the country is made up of mountains and most of their surfaces are covered in trees with leaf-filled branches). On a trip to Seoul in November, I visited 창경궁 (Changgyeonggung), the second largest palace in the capital and indeed the home to the king’s wife. The palace itself lies within a complex, similar to the one that houses 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung) but off to one side is a large garden, consumed by walking paths, ponds, and obviously, trees. I was in heaven; all the leaves hadn’t yet fallen and their colours shone brightly with pride, dangling from the gnarly and smooth branches of various types of trees. The rest of them lay on the floor, forming mounds of crunchable fun. I sat within a copse, rolling around, looking like the leaf-obsessed lady I am, pausing only to grab a handful and chuck them up in to the air with a massive smile plastered across my face. It really is the little things that make life enjoyable! You need only look at the picture below to believe my joy at being amongst one of nature’s most simple yet most beautiful characteristics!

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To all my fellow expats, leaf lovers, autumn dreamers, I highly recommend a visit to 창경궁 when the season hits again in 2019. You will not regret seeing such a stunning sight! Furthermore, given the palace’s historical purpose, you will enjoy the trip even more if you are an East Asian history buff, or indeed go if you are interested in traditional Korean architecture, of which the structures within the complex fit the bill completely! Just do not forget to check out the adjoining garden – will only set you back 1,000 KRW and I’m certain it is just as wonderful during the other three seasons. For now, I will leave you with a few snaps I took during my visit… Enjoy!!

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Film

Perspective (2018) #TeamAndromeda

I know it has been a helluva long time since I posted on here… no special excuse for this, I have been slacking purely based on the recent hectic schedule I have had but I am currently working to correct my laziness so stay tuned for many posts about my recent goings on!

First off… I MADE A FILM! You can watch it below 😊, and if interested, you can read all about my experience making it underneath!

Let me rewind back to September… my friend stumbled across a Facebook post advertising a 72 hour film festival here in Busan. Participants needed to pay only 10,000 won and follow a certain set of guidelines; films had to be 10 minutes or less, had to include a character called either Edward or Edna Appleby, had to include a wine bottle in some way or another and lastly had to use the dialogue “I’ll make him/her an offer that he/she cannot refuse”. Simple enough guidelines to follow and luckily my friend already had a self-love/self-appreciation concept in mind.

Our team initially met on a Thursday evening, at HQ Gwangan, the bar in Gwangalli geared towards the many expats out here, who is also the host of the 72 hour film festival. We discussed and planned, finalising the concept we had and shaping it in to a short film that would follow all of the guidelines we had whilst still maintaining the core message we wanted to portray. Our story would focus on Edna, a young woman consumed by a toxic relationship. We are first introduced to her, downing a bottle of wine in her apartment, frustrated by the lack of communication from her other half. Then she receives a text message, just one short moment of clarity that sends her on a journey of self-discovery.

The next day, Friday, filming began; we used my apartment and the roof of my building initially. As if there were not already enough time constraints (given the allotted time of 72 hours to shoot and edit a short film), we only had 30 minutes or so to film what we needed to film up on the roof. The dark nights start to appear earlier in September and the sun begins to set rapidly so you can only imagine our haste in getting the shots we needed multiple times to ensure smooth cuts in the editing stage. Once night had well and truly set in, we headed to Output in Seomyeon to film a scene involving our lead actress and a male leech. We did have a problem here; not one of us had a male friend available to strap on their acting shoes at such short notice. Nonetheless we managed to secure a reveler in the club with the offer of a few drinks. We briefed our guy, told him his line of dialogue (“I’ll make you an offer that you can’t refuse”) and got to shooting. Sorted. The scenes we needed to bring together the first half of our film were all done, shot numerous times and ready to be uploaded.

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Team Andromeda outside Output! #BTS

We got started with the editing process on the Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a mass of supplies to keep our energy up. It is unbelievable to see the amount of software readily available to amateur filmmakers on the internet these days. My team managed to secure Wondershare Filmora; a seemingly basic editing application which turned out to be fantastic and exactly what we needed. In between editing (and eating), we had to shoot a few daytime scenes; a couple of cuts that would show our main character going about her daily life, eating with friends, browsing shops as well as general shots of the city. In addition, we also needed some shower scenes; a literal presentation of our girl washing away all the toxic that was in her life and embrace her new self-appreciation. All in all, Saturday was a busy day!

We woke up at 4am on the Sunday having made a plan to meet on Gwangalli beach at 4:30am to be able to film our main character doing yoga whilst the sun rises in front of her; the grand finale where she is finally at peace with herself and content with her life. Again, time was not on our side; the sun rises fairly quickly, and we had a variety of angles we wanted to employ to really capture the beauty of the beach and the peace of mind it gives to people. Nevertheless, we were successful, and I must admit, I was (and still am!) super proud of the shots we managed to get! I feel the Zen element we wanted to illustrate was captured, whether that be due to the location or the yoga, either way I love the beach scenes we used in the final cut. We finished our task at the beach, headed home for a couple more hours kip and then got back to editing. Watching and re-watching our completed 7-minute film over and over before heading back to HQ Gwangan to submit it for the showing later that evening.

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Shooting at Gwangalli beach! #BTS

After the screening, we were awarded a bottle of gin as a prize for using the required line of dialogue in the most creative way. Super thrilling! However, I was, and still am, over the moon to finally have my name listed in the credits of a film, no matter how short it is! That reward, in my eyes, is better than any other prize we could have won because I gotta say, my first experience working on a film was incredibly exciting and fulfilling. My team and I are already planning our second film with an aim to continue making short films together as we are a damn good team! 😊

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food, Travel

Vibin’ at the Han River! #litlyfinSeoul2

Every single time I have visited Seoul, I have made it a priority to visit the Han River; there is nothing better to me than being close to water, whether that’s the ever-expansive sea or just a small stream I stumble across on a hike. Therefore, without a shadow of a doubt, the Han River is my favourite site in Korea’s capital city. It stretches for miles and miles, is easily accessible and its banks are decked out with convenience stores, bike rental shops, street art and cozy little areas for you to just kick back and relax. During my last visit to Seoul, I wandered over to the Han twice. The first time was a ‘lazy’ Sunday affair; I wanted to walk and walk and walk and the banks of the Han River seemed like the best place for me to do that. I managed to hit well over 20,000 steps that day and found myself in a tunnel absolutely covered in dope street art so I rewarded myself with a Shake Shack burger (#wheninSeoul).

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Street art for daysssss!

The second time I ventured to the Han River, I was with my cousin, Sophie. Now as stated previously, the Han River stretches on for a loooooong time and is normally easy to get to HOWEVER I write that with my tongue in my cheek. For sure, it is accessible to those who know Seoul like the back of their hand but for me, given it was only my second time there, it can be a struggle. It just so happened that the apartment my cousin and I were staying in was super close to the Han River, yet it was on the northern side whereas I am accustomed to making my way to the water from the Express Bus Terminal which is on the southern side. Therefore, we spent a good hour and thirty minutes walking along the northern stretch of the river in scorching heat praying for the appearance of a Ministop to quench our thirst with water. No such relief came to us and we decided to catch a bus to the Express Bus Terminal to make our lives a little easier considering I was familiar with that route. I would highly recommend doing that to those who venture over to the Han for the first time; it is so easy to get to from that location, pretty much just a straight shot up one road.

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Fish for those compliments!

We arrived at the bus terminal and walked the twenty minutes to the banks of the Han, stopping every now and again to take pictures of the pretty scenery. Now, for the third time this post I am going to state just how long Seoul’s body of water stretches on for; I honestly cannot stress it enough, it is one hell of a long river! A good way to see a fair amount of it and a personal recommendation from me is to rent a bike from one of the many bike stalls you come across. It only costs 3000 won for one hour and 5000 for two! All you need is some form of identification for the person on the till and you’re off! We headed west spending our two hours snapping yet more pictures of the priceless scenery, a contrast of the high-rise skyscrapers on the northern side juxtaposed against the greenery and reflective water, having uncoordinated races between the two of us and fist pumping to EXO’s ‘Power’ (our song of the summer).

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Urban jungle

Our cycling escapade came to an end at Banpo Hangang Park; an area with free admission for people to just chill, eat, drink and watch the sunset or the 200+ lights that create a rainbow fountain spouting from Banpo bridge. This is such a lovely sight; a mesmerising blend of bright colours, splashed through streams of water, lighting up the night sky in a uniquely beautiful way. My cousin and I decided to order some food to the park as an accompaniment to watching the insanely red sun set. Despite both of us currently learning Korean, our proficiency in the language isn’t so great as to be able to order food to an unknown (by us) area hence we asked two lovely Korean girls for help with our mission. They ordered half crispy, half yangnyeom fried chicken for me and a big, steaming bowl of 떡볶이 for my cousin. Both arrived within fifteen minutes of being ordered and cost us under 29,000 won altogether. Perfect! Food and a view! An ultimate Korean experience in my opinion. Made even better by the availability of any beer of your choice at the Ministop just a stones throw away from where we laid our mat and our heads for the evening.

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BHC’s finest!

Have you ever visited the Han River? What are your thoughts on both it and the magnificent rainbow fountain? Let me know your stories in the comment section below!

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food, Travel

Gwangjang market! #litlyfinSeoul

I am currently sat on a KTX back to Busan after embarking on a week long trip to Seoul. It was my second time visiting Korea’s capital city; a metropolis so alive and vibrant, full of exciting escapades, magnificent landscapes and opportunities to make friends. My week has been crammed with touristy site seeing, authentic Korean experiences as well as my first ever language exchange meet-up! I am in a little bubble of happiness right now, all a buzz with Hongdae’s imprint… of course Busan will always have my heart but I HIGH KEY love me some Seoul right now!

A personal favourite anecdote of my trip: the street food I devoured at Gwangjang market. Interestingly one of the first questions the natives ask all foreigners is “Do you like Korean food?”. Food is such an important element of the Korean culture, so many people I have met here are so proud of their nations best dishes and furthermore eating together is a social necessity. I always answer the question with a solidly enthusiastic “Hell yeahhhh!” to much surprise and glee. At the language exchange meet-up in Seoul, I was asked that very question and after giving my response, I was then asked if I had visited Gwangjang market yet to try the selection of food on offer there. I was thrilled to exclaim I had actually been there just the day before for a full on, three course culinary extravaganza!

An ahjumma prepping food at her stall!

First on the menu was 파전; 전 (jeon) in Korean means savoury pancake and 파 (pa) stands for spring onions (scallions to Americans). There are so many various different 전 however 파전 is the Korean go to on rainy days, always to be eaten whilst drinking 막갈리 (makgeolli). The day we visited Gwangjang market happened to be the rainiest day during our trip to Seoul so naturally 파전 was the way to go. The ahjumma we bought from was adorable; she flipped our 파전 in the pan and made it nice and crispy with a side dish of sliced green chillis swimming in soy sauce. It was a nice thick pancake, stuffed with not only spring onions but what I also believe to be Asian chives as well as potato. All that for 3,000 won (roughly £2.10)… such a steal!

I had a major hankering for 비빔밥 (bibimbap) that day, and after fulfilling the rainy tradition for 파전, I was a woman on a mission to find Korea’s staple rice dish. The food zone of Gwangjang stretches on and on, numerous stalls offering various versions of 떡볶이 (rice cakes in a spicy sauce), 순대 (blood sausage that is normally fried) and 만두 (dumplings). We were drawn to one lady’s stall in particular; I cannot tell you the reason why but I’m guessing it has something to do with the multitude of veggies she had lined up on display ready to pile on top of a bowl full of rice. We took a seat, ordered our 비빔밥 with a side order of 김치만두 (kimchi dumplings) and tucked in. The ahjumma again was adorable, refilling our bowl with different veggies once she saw us running low whilst also gasping in faux, jokey horror when she saw the amount of 고추장 (gochujang – red pepper paste) I squeezed out over my rice.

Loaded veggie 비빔밥!

We wanted to finish off our meal with 붕어빵 (bungeoppang); a fish shaped pancake stuffed with sweet red beans however we could not find any at Gwangjang and have since been told that they are normally more readily available during the winter months as a warming snack. We settled on 꽈배기 (kkwabaegi), twisted doughnuts, instead. The texture of the 꽈배기 is unlike the standard doughnut; it is more bready yet it is still light. I love buying these when they are straight out of the fryer, warm and super soft, coated in a thin layer of sugar for added sweetness. They are ridiculously cheap too; 1,000 won is all it costs to take you to Korean doughnut heaven!

Our bellies were fit to bust after all of the food we ate but every last morsel was super delicious! All in all everything cost us 15,000 won… 7,500 won each! £5.20 to all the Brits reading this!! 😱 If you’re ever in Seoul and fancy some street food then Gwangjang market is the place for you!

Have you ever been to Seoul? Did you go to Gwangjang for street food? Or is there somewhere else in Seoul that serves food just as good for a similar price? Let me know in the comments! 😄

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Film, Travel

Seoul Searching!

Last month I was lucky enough to have an extended weekend, thanks in part to BusanJin for celebrating their anniversary on the 21st of May, the day before the nationwide holiday for Buddha’s birthday on the 22nd. Having been in Busan for three months already, I wanted to venture out further and explore a different city and what better place to choose than Seoul! The city that I have adored on screens for numerous years whilst watching copious K dramas based in the capital. I booked a train, reserved a bunk in a hostel and acquired a vast amount of recommendations from co-workers and students alike. My extended weekend in Seoul was going to be epic. Four days spent doing what I love most; visiting filming locations and devouring delicious food, whilst also Gangnam styling outside Coex Mall and partying the night away in Itaewon! Let’s break down the list of cinematic, culinary adventures I pursued last month on my first ever trip to Seoul!

1) GANGNAM STYLE
Absolutely nothing better to start with then the pop culture phenomenon that burst on to the world’s stage six years ago, catapulting Gangnam as a desirable place for me to visit… of course I’m talking about the masterpiece that is Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’! Located at the East Gate of Coex is a monumental bronze-coloured statue dedicated to that song and it’s accompanying dance. Two fists in a crossed position ready and waiting to do the iconic ‘horse riding’ dance move. Naturally I threw some shapes underneath the sculpture and got some snaps to immortalise the moment; to do the Gangnam Style dance in Gangnam has been a nagging desire in the back of my mind for over half a decade. I spent most of my second year at university sneakily adding the song to pre-lash playlists and then requesting it later on the same night in whichever club I ended up at.

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Gangnam Styleeeeee!

2) BUTTERFINGER PANCAKES
A cheeky visit to Gangnam is also not complete without a hefty meal at Butterfinger Pancakes! It has an American diner feel to it and serves classic Western breakfast dishes. Bacon, eggs, sausages, French toast, waffles, iced coffee and milkshakes to boot, this place is irresistible! I ordered the split plate for myself, a gigantic platter comprising every single breakfast item on the menu with a refillable Americano on the side. The price tag is rather steep at 24,000 won, but considering it was a weekend dedicated to treating myself, I didn’t let that bother me much and looking at the picture below of such delicious food, can you say you wouldn’t do the same?!

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Heart attack on a plate… #yolo

3) SHAKE SHACK
Up next… a recommendation from two of my lovely students: Shake Shack! I have made no secret out of my love for burgers in South Korea; everyone from the teens I teach, to the people I work with on a daily basis, to the security guard at my building knows just how much Emma loves a good burg! Before starting a lesson one day, I mentioned my desire to find the best burger joint in my new home away from home when my students piped up and mentioned Shake Shack. Eager to devour a burger, I added Shake Shack to my to-do list for Seoul and I ventured there one afternoon over the course of my trip. I ordered the double (hell yeahhhh!) ShackBurger with a side of cheese fries and it went down FAR. TOO. WELL! It might even be better than Five Guys… and I cannot believe I just wrote that but it is true! Nice, juicy patties, a good slice of American (plastic) cheese, a few veggies to make it healthy (lol) all stacked in a sweet, soft bun with crinkle chips and a melted, gooey pot of cheese on the side for dipping! What more could the world’s premiere burger queen ask for?!

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A thing of beauty!

4) GYEONGBOKGUNG
Gyeongbok is just one of the five grand palaces built during the Joseon dynasty; it acted as home to the King, the King’s household as well as the government of Joseon. The palace itself is made up of numerous buildings, the biggest being the throne room; a squared structure centred in a walled complex. The level of detail in the design of Gyeongbok is undeniably impressive! Unfortunately the palace suffered during the 20th century and was a target for bombs during the various wars South Korea endured however reconstruction came underway and continues to this day to keep the palace looking as beautifully breath-taking as it did way back when it was a home for the countries ruler.

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The beautiful throne room of Gyeongbok!

I visited the palace wearing Hanbok; traditional Korean clothing made up of two items, a jeogori which covers the shoulders and the arms and a chima, which literally translates to skirt. My Hanbok was white in colour, sometimes looking pink, other times looking lilac, adorned with embellishments of sequins and beads. I felt like a princess and it was the best way to live out my Korean fantasy; strolling an ancient palace’s ground wearing such beautiful clothing. I rented it from Oneday Hanbok, a store located relatively close to the palace for just under 20,000 won; a steal considering I wore the clothing for four hours and was granted free entry in to the palace on the basis that I arrived in traditional Korean clothing!

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Living my Korean fantasy in Hanbok!

5) HONGDAE
Another recommendation from my students was Hongdae, the neighbourhood surrounding Hongik University. I was told the area was extremely popular with the young people of Korea, a suburb filled to the brim with shops, restaurants and bars, ultimately similar to Seomyeon in Busan. I visited the neighbourhood one afternoon and just simply strolled around, marvelling at the busy streets, filled with performers dancing and singing whilst a #MeToo protest took place as well. I would love to go back to Hongdae the next time I visit Seoul to experience the night life there! I’m sure it is fantastic!

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Street art I saw on my Hongdae stroll!

6) ITAEWON
The night life I did experience did not fail me! Itaewon is another neighbourhood in Seoul that is filled to the brim with foreigners and it just so happened to be the place where I rested my head (considering I am indeed a foreigner) every night during my trip. I met up with one of my sister’s friends who has lived and worked in Seoul for the past five years for a wild night out on the Saturday. There is a SICK club in Itaewon called B-One; an eclectic place housing two rooms, one that plays hip hop and R’n’B and another dedicated to EDM! I have never seen myself as a crazy fan of EDM before but after letting my hair down and throwing my dignity out of the imaginary window (imaginary as as the name B-One would suggest, the club is in the basement of a building), I had the BEST night out I have had so far in Korea! Tequila shots were aplenty, dance moves were deliriously created to a raging rhythm and the night ended with me doing a duet of Aladdin’s ‘A Whole New World’ at a nearby Norae Bang! Y’all already know I’m hitting that place the next time I’m in the capital!

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Grateful for no pictures of me on the old sauce but here is Jordan Falafel, a shop sign I loved in Itaewon considering I’m half Arab!

7) HAN RIVER
I’m about to get all film nerd on you right now but with good reason! The Han River splits the city of Seoul in two; I first ventured over it on the bus from Gangnam to Itaewon (funny story that consists of me getting super lost with a Korean bus driver who could not speak a word of English) but I decided to head there one day to walk along its green banks. The river itself stretches for miles and there is no way I could have walked the distance without it eating up an entire day but nonetheless it was imperative for me to spend at least a few hours there. Why? Because of the cinematic mastery of Bong Joon Ho’s The Host; a monster flick that came out of the Korean industry in 2006. The story starts in a laboratory, a young apprentice, at the behest of his American colleague, pours copious bottles of formaldehyde down a sink, ultimately creating a beast that dwells in the water, occasionally leaving its home to wreak havoc amongst unsuspecting humans who simply want to enjoy a picnic on a sunny day next to the river.

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The monster of the Han looking majestic AF!

I definitely consider The Host to be one of my favourite ever movies; it plays host (cheeky pun) to a few suggestive, political messages which viewers can choose to either accept or ignore, something I have previously written about and will repost as a follow-up to this blog. Therefore, I HAD to visit the Han River, I HAD to walk along its banks in search of a familiar location from the film however after walking for an hour, I decided to rent a bicycle (super cheap at 3,000 won for an hour) and ride myself along underneath various bridges and other structures. Sadly, despite spanning a large amount of the river, I did not come across the exact location where our beloved hero, Park Gang Du, played by Song Kang Ho, works in his caravan selling dried squid and drinks and where ultimately the monster first decides to crash the party, killing numerous people in its wake. However, I did thoroughly enjoy my time at the river, revelling in my imagination, picturing the slimy beast running amok behind me as I cycled.

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Han River viewz

8) NAMSAN TOWER
The K drama obsessive in me comes through with this next one… Namsan Tower or N Seoul Tower has featured in SO many K dramas throughout the years. The first time I learnt of its existence was at university, sat in my room, watching an episode of Boys over Flowers. #bae Gu Jun Pyo arranges a date with Geum Jan Di at that very location; “Saturday, 6pm, Namsan Tower”. Since then it has been a dream of mine to visit the tower and see Lee Min Ho at the top and guess what? I did! Albeit it was a large poster of him but it still counts, okay!

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Hiiiiiii Lee Min Ho!

Regardless the tower is located on top of Namsan, a mountain with extensive views of the city below and rails chock-a-block full of handwritten padlocks. I bought a lock and marker of my very own in the coffee shop halfway up the mountain before jumping in to the cable car for the rest of the ascent. In spite of my love for K dramas, since being in Korea, I have developed a new obsession for hiking and appreciating the views I gain once I reach the top. Although I didn’t technically hike Namsan, I could still very much appreciate the view I had of lit up buildings and streets, vehicles looking like tiny toys, an awesome sky giving the world around me a golden glow and I planned it so that I could watch the sun set over the capital on my last night there.

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Hell yeeeeeah she does!

The next day came and it was time for me to go back to Busan… honourable mention here: I had booked a ticket on the KTX, the bullet train that takes you from Seoul to the south-east of the country in two and a half hours and also technically a filming location for Train to Busan! If you haven’t yet watched this film then I implore you to do so (it’s readily available on Netflix after all…) as it is undoubtedly the best zombie thriller I have watched thus far! What better way to reinvent an overdone and tired genre than to set it on a moving train. After getting on the train and seating myself in my carriage, I marvelled at the fact that the train looked exactly the same as the one I saw Seok Woo, Sang Hwa and Yong Guk fight their way through, bashing in the skulls of zombies as they did. Of course I snapped a pictures and cut and pasted a zombified train worker on the floor before the carriage filled up…

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I find myself too funny…

So there it is… my trip to Seoul was most satisfying and certainly pleased my soul and love for all things food and film! I cannot wait to go back in a couple of months’ time and enjoy more of the city’s delights! Have you ever been to Seoul? Is there anything different you can recommend to me? Let me know in the comments! 😊

 

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Film, korea

Busan International Short Film Festival!

The Busan Cinema Center located in Centum City, Busan opened its door on 29th September 2011; since then it has hosted both the Busan International Film Festival and the Busan International Short Film Festival. The building itself is a unique, eclectic, architectural marvel, housing a myriad of escalators that take you to the numerous indoor screening rooms, as well as a covered outdoor theatre, where you can not only sit and enjoy whatever is currently being shown on the screen but also appreciate the impressive LED light display clad in to the cantilever roof (approved as the largest by the Guinness Book of Records in 2013).

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Busan Cinema Center!

I ventured over to the Cinema Center for the first time to experience the BISFF (Busan International Short Film Festival) at the end of last month; a friend and I purchased tickets to catch three short Korean films (Korean Competition 6 – with English subtitles) for only 6,000 won (roughly 4 quid) each, which in comparison to the tenner you’re charged back home just for one feature length film is quite the steal! Before the shorts kicked off, we sniffed around the various food vans (burgers, shrimp, noodles, there was everything!) before settling on some Belgian fries (Belgian Frittes) smothered in a garlicky mayo with mango yoghurt smoothies to wash those carbs down!

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#yum

Now anyone who knows me may not fully understand my obsession with the Korean film industry but they damn well know that obsession started back in 2012 and has been unwavering ever since! Oldboy, Memories of Murder, I saw the Devil, The Chaser… I have seen all of the weirdest, goriest Korean thrillers and loved each and every one of them. My viewership expands furthermore in to the rom-com realm where Jeon Ji-Hyun is undoubtedly Queen of Comedy in my eyes after her performances in both My Sassy Girl and Windstruck… But enough about the feature lengths, lets delve in to the shorts…

A Border Line4a73feffe64183c8604d5fcc34b7e23e
This short focused on Namhee, a young, struggling actress who moves to Cheorwon, in Gangwon-do to teach an art class; we first see her dragging a suitcase along a residential street before entering a building to request a room for the night. She stays alone and practices building the mirrored toy she will be teaching to the young children. The next couple of days aren’t so great for Namhee; neither finding permanent accommodation nor working with the children goes well and she seems to be at a loss until she receives a call from an acquaintance in Busan informing her of an acting class she can enroll on. Namhee is excited and commits to the acting class verbally on the phone, making plans to leave on the next bus to Busan. Unfortunately her intentions are thwarted by a dodgy bus schedule whereby buses do not hang around until their departure time but instead ‘leave either five minutes before or five minutes after’ meaning Namhee has missed the bus to Busan. She was so close to, some may say on the border line of getting to Busan however her plans came tumbling down around her. Understandably distraught and frustrated, Namhee sits at the bus station for some time before once again dragging her suitcase around Cheorwon looking for a place to stay. The next day comes and so does a fresh start for Namhee… she explores the local area, embarking on a boat ride that had been previously recommended by a work colleague, seemingly accepting and coming to terms with where she is and what she is doing.

Pros: beautifully shot, great acting

Cons: whilst I appreciated the simplicity of the storyline, it seemed a little bland in comparison to the eccentricities I am now so accustomed to seeing in Korean cinema

Overall rating: 4/5

The First Day80164aecab47d14a0b13eb190df14237
My favourite out of the three shorts, this film deals with an issue I believe to be far too prevalent amongst the 20-30 year olds of the world today. The idea that you could always make your life better, always achieve more, leading you to compare your situation to those around you only to admire the supposed greatness of your peers compared to the evident flaws present in every aspect of your life. I blame the vast part of this issue on social media; the filtered lives people are exposed to each and every day, the perfect holiday snaps that took roughly 50 photographs to achieve, the delicious looking meal you fawn over but at the same time leave to get cold just to capture it and let some randomers on the internet know what you ate for brunch. Ironically, no matter how much I criticize these practices, it does not change the fact that I too have wasted a fair amount of my time trying to flaunt a heavily edited picture on Instagram just for the likes.

But anyway… back to the film! The First Day starts as it ends; a shot of a young woman staring out of a window. Her name is Jooyeon and on that first day she wakes up with stomach pain whilst her landlady pounds on her apartment door, demanding the late payment of rent. We follow Jooyeon as she goes about her day, we see her on a bicycle, at work, delivering drinks around a neighbourhood. Her last stop is the important one: she parks up her bike, she steps off with a drink in hand ready to deliver when she becomes distracted by footsteps. Jooyeon peeks around the corner and sees a young woman, her very own doppelganger with a twist. Her doppelganger is dressed beautifully, her hair is perfectly styled; she is speaking to her boyfriend on the phone, flirting away, twirling a strand of hair before entering a nearby gate. Despite their appearances, she is everything Jooyeon is not and everything Jooyeon aspires to be. Over the course of the next few days, Jooyeon does the same routine; wakes up, goes to work and admires her glamorous doppelganger from afar before trying to emulate her later at home either by fishing out similar yet shabby clothes or by dabbling with new make-up techniques. One day, in a state of desperation, Jooyeon even steals clothing from a local store, running full pelt whilst a sales assistant chases her down the road. She does all of this because she admires her doppelganger so much, she wants to be her, feel how she supposedly feels, live her life. Sadly for Jooyeon, all is not as it seems; she finally plucks up the courage to face her doppelganger only to realise the same woman she so greatly admires is the same woman who bangs on her door demanding payment. They engage in a brief stand off before the landlady freaks and runs away from Jooyeon, who closely follows, chasing her doppelganger to the end of the street. The landlady turns and confronts Jooyeon, asking her what she wants, and we are left with Jooyeon simply staring at her doppelganger, knowing full well what it is she desires. The next morning Jooyeon awakens, her stomach pain seemingly gone, her room looking tidier, she stands and walks over to the open window and at that moment the truth behind her stomach ache is revealed by the patch of red left on her mattress.

Pros: Fantastic acting: Ki Do-young superbly flaunted her ability to portray two completely different characters in one short. Also I liked the parallel drawn between the emotional suffering of our protagonist and the physical discomfort caused by the menstruation cycle. It was an interesting connection; the emotional instability of females in the days leading up to their ‘time of the month’ and how they become a lot more emotional and hyper aware of everything that is wrong with their lives.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Tender & Witch33443be54313e948488cf070567e6df2
This short involves the lives of many people who all work within the same company however it specifically focuses on Haehwa, and her relationship with her colleague, Sungjoon. The pair frequently engage in some seriously rough sexual encounters, meetings that occur after work hours and are maintained a secret until it is revealed Sungjoon is engaged to be married to a different work colleague. Haehwa is understandably distraught; she cannot fathom why Sungjoon has not chosen her to be his bride and to make matters worse, she now regularly sees Sungjoon and his fiancée together around the office. The upset Haehwa feels leads her down an unstable path where she starts to self-destruct; her emotions running so high that she ends up stealing a pregnant colleague’s ultrasound photograph, before faking it as her own in a confrontation with Sungjoon, only to be labelled a liar and a thief. Initially, as a viewer, you cannot help but sympathise with Haehwa; she has been used and abused by Sungjoon however the latter half of the film unravels spectacularly to reveal Haehwa’s obsessive secret. Indeed, she is a thief, regularly stealing prized possessions, normally a piece of jewelry, from her colleagues at work. There is a nail-biting scene depicting Haehwa almost caught in the act of stealing a unique, Italian bracelet out of her co-workers drawer whilst they are all out at lunch. Your heart pumps along with Haehwa’s during the initial confrontation and the events that unravel afterwards only to share her sense of relief when she manages to slip away from the situation remarkably unscathed aside from the patch of red left on her trousers. Haehwa later visits Sungjoon’s office; she rifles through his desk drawers, happening across a picture of him cozying up to a different girl, picturing herself in the same love-fueled circumstance. Ultimately however, despite her imagination running away from her, Haehwa has come to Sungjoon’s office for one reason and one reason only: good, old-fashioned revenge. She violently vomits in to his desk drawer, but what we see coming from her lips is not what you would expect, instead it is copious amount of jewelry, the very items Haehwa has been coveting from her colleagues for quite some time. On and on, she vomits, disposing of her secretive habit of taking that which is not hers and her love for Sungjoon all in one go.

Pros: loved, loved, loved the revenge element! Revenge is a topic Korean cinema handles and portrays so well and Tender & Witch did not disappoint in that aspect. Furthermore, in the same way as The First Day, Tender & Witch draws a comparison between feminine suffering and the menstrual cycle; an interesting theme for a male director such as Jeon Dook-wan to focus on and made even more fascinating given his later statement to delve in to such emotions in his future work.

Cons: some scenes were a little confusing… at one point we saw Haehwa strangling Sungjoon in his car, eventually killing him, but then a few minutes later we saw Sungjoon alive and well walking around their shared workplace whilst Haehwa looks on from a distance. It turns out she dreamt their interaction where she murdered him; I cannot help but feel the difference between dream and reality could have been handled a little better, just to make it a little more obvious that Sungjoon has not been strangled and left for dead in a parking lot.

Overall rating: 4/5

So there goes my not so very brief synopses of the three shorts I saw at the BISFF! I went in to the festival with expectations and they were certainly met. My time spent there has only made me even more excited to attend the Busan International Film Festival later this year!

Have you ever been to the BISFF? Or the Busan International Film Festival? Do you enjoy Korean cinema too? What is your favourite Korean film?

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