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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Film, Travel

Cherry blossoms in South Korea!

Pretty pink petals, dark tree bark, a festival to celebrate their arrival… cherry blossoms are a big deal in Asia. Here in Korea, they symbolise purity and they are made all the more special due to their short time in full bloom, forcing humans to stop their busy lives and just appreciate nature at its finest. But they haven’t always been viewed so sweetly; they are also integral to a desperately sad part of Korean history, the Japanese occupation which spanned thirty or so years before the surrender of Japan at the end of WWII. Korea, Japan and more recently, China, all stake a claim to the origin of the cherry blossom tree however this post will not delve in to that debate. It will primarily focus on my experiences with the blossoms in Korea; something I thoroughly looked forward to and enjoyed.

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Blossoms at my girls school!

The Jinhae Gunghanje festival (진해궁한제) is an annual event held in the small district of Jinhae, located in Changwon city, at the beginning of April. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to this festival every year with the desire to view the abundant cherry blossoms, snap an Insta worthy photo and to revel in the official start of spring. This year, the festival was held from 1st April – 10th April so I headed to Jinhae to become a cherry blossom viewer on the first day of the festival. Living in Busan, Changwon lies just to the west and therefore getting to Jinhae was super easy; a 1 hour coach trip, costing only 5,100\ from Sasang station. I caught an early coach with friends on the 1st April with my camera at the ready… Our first Jinhae stop: Yeojwacheon Romance Bridge (여좌천 로망스 다리).
I’m not 100% sure which bridge is the actual Yeojwacheon Romance Bridge as there are numerous bridges in a row that cross over the Yeojwacheon stream however I am certain this place is absolutely stunning! The cherry blossom trees line either side of the stream, their branches hanging low and swaying in a gentle breeze over a shallow body of water. I walked the length of the stream before venturing down to stroll along the cobbled bank. Despite the mass of people surrounding me, I felt at peace amongst the blossoms and the water; I could have stayed there for hours just appreciating the scenery around me.

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Loveleh Yeojwacheon!

Our next stop in Jinhae was Gyeonghwa (경화역 봊쏯길); a now closed railway station labelled Cherry Blossom Road due to the abundance of trees planted there. The Korean government have left an old Korail train in situ on the tracks to make photos appear more authentic as back when the station was still in operation, carriages used to whoosh past the trees, enabling petals to fall elegantly and allowing visitors to snap beautiful photographs. The old train itself reminded me of the one used by Seok-woo, his daughter and Seong-Kyeong at the end of Train to Busan when they make one last, desperate attempt to flee an onslaught of zombies and I was tempted to pose just like our hero against the rails before he transforms in to the undead however I ditched the idea due to the crowds of people at Gyeonghwa. The queue to take a photo by the train consisted of roughly 50 people alone! People were milling here, there and everywhere over the tracks and around the food stalls that had been erected especially for the festival! Gyeonghwa was pretty but too busy for me.

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Just a handful of the people queuing to take a picture in front of the Korail carriage!

The following week at work, I showed my co-workers some of the snaps I had taken in Jinhae and the first question the majority of them asked me was: “was it very busy?”, to which I answered: “yes!” to a chorus of: “ahhh!”. One co-worker was then kind enough to suggest a more unique, less touristy cherry blossom viewing experience; a hike up Hwanglyeongsan (황령사) to witness awesome views before a descent down Busan’s very own Cherry Blossom Walkway. Ever since being in Korea, I had been keen to start exploring the numerous mountains dotted around the city so I jumped at the chance to get my first hike under my belt and made arrangements with a friend to accomplish Hwanglyeongsan the following Saturday.
The climb itself is pretty easy; the toughest part is the steep stretch on the residential streets before reaching the actual trails. All in all it took roughly two hours to reach the summit and that is including one brief toilet break and numerous extended photo op stops. The view at the top is quite simply exquisite; an expansive sight stretching from east to west, covering numerous Busan neighbourhoods, the sea in the distance, whilst also including various sky scrapers and bridges such as the Diamond Bridge/Gwangandaegyo (관간대교). My friend and I spent some time trying to decipher the different areas to no avail before just sitting and appreciating what lay before our eyes.

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The epic view from the top of Hwanglyeongsan!

To reach the Cherry Blossom Walkway, we had to descend Hwanglyeongsan in the opposite direction of our ascent; it was a 15 minute amble through some shrubbery and across some boulders with another spectacular view. The walkway itself is just an ordinary road that serves as a path for people and vehicles alike however during the first two weeks of April, much like Yeojwacheon stream, the road plays host to a bounty of cherry blossom trees lined up on either side, pink petals and almost black branches framing the concrete beautifully. Yet what made this unique compared to Yeojwacheon was the absence of other people. Sure, a few cars passed by, stopping now and then to snap a photo or two but there were no crowds, no buzz, no craziness; it was just me, my friend and Mother Nature doing her thing. We stayed on the walkway for well over an hour, venturing back and forth before finally watching the sun set through the branches whilst we made our way down the winding path.

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Sunset n blossoms!

Have you had the opportunity to view cherry blossoms in Asia? Share your experience down below in the comments! 🙂

 

 

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Film, Travel

Emma Jones’s Diary

I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to the capital city of my country, London! 36 hours of film location exploring, phenomenal food and a whole load of fun. I have been to London numerous times and always forget just how much I bloody love Britain’s capital city! Such a vibrant, unique, colourful city! I set off from Manchester Piccadilly with my mum on the 4th of Feb at 3:30pm; just over two hours later, we arrived at Euston train station, updated our Oyster cards and jumped on the tube to check in to the Hub by Premier Inn based near St. James Park in Westminster. Two nights at this budget hotel cost us £143 altogether; such a steal for such a central location in London town considering my previous trips have had me fork out over £150 for two nights in pub hotels in both Greenwich and Acton. The room was extremely comfortable; it had a bed, a tv, one chair and a good-sized wet room… what more do you need?! We dumped our bags and headed out for some scran. I had heard about a burger joint called Honest Burgers in Soho so we took a stroll down Horses Guard Road, crossed the Mall and headed for an epic burger dinner. While walking we passed Piccadilly Circus; an iconic location home to the big advertisement screens seen in numerous films, Bend it like Beckham and Bridget Jones’s Diary, to name a couple! The restaurant itself is pretty small, probably seats about 20-30 people at one time but if it is busy, they take your number and call you when your table is ready, instead of having you queue. Luckily for us it wasn’t all full up so we were seated immediately. My mum ordered the chicken burger, a nice healthy option in comparison to the other sandwiches on the menu. I went for the special; a beast of a burger called the Disco Bistro! A massive beef patty garnished with pink onions and a pineapple, bacon jam; the perfect tangy, sweet companion!

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The exterior of Honest Burgers – Soho!

We planned to visit the South Korean embassy (the main reason for our trip to London) to sort out my visa for my impending year-long trip to Busan so we knew we would have an early start the next morning, so after being fed and watered, we headed back to our hotel for a good nights kip. After doing what needed to be done visa-wise the next day, it was time to explore! We had a fulfilling brekkie at a lovely, little place called the English Rose cafe & tea shop located in Westminster, a short walk away from Victoria Station. The cafe had a wonderful atmosphere, quaint decor, including an artificially lit fireplace, hanging teapots on display and a cute, little dresser with the blue and white China plates I’m sure most people have encountered in either their own kitchen or the home of a friend, and the food was delicious and reasonably priced!

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The interior of the English Rose cafe & tea room!

We spent the early afternoon in Camden, first wandering through the clothes market on the high street, before heading over to Camden Lock. Now if you have ever visited Afflecks Palace in Manchester and appreciated its unique character then you will LOVE Camden Lock! This place is full of little stalls, independent traders selling one-of-a-kind pieces. I spent a long time marvelling over artwork by a guy called Jeff Michalik (www.killerbunny.co.uk); he does prints of iconic characters from various films. I ended up purchasing nine different prints for £20; I got six Disney princesses (#disneyobsessed), one of Jason Voorhees, one of the sorting hat from Harry Potter and last but not least, one of the insanely cute droid, BB8! I cannot wait to frame them all and have them on display in my Busan accommodation; they will provide awesome splashes of colour on what I imagine will be bare, white walls! We strolled through the market stalls, admiring the products on offer; jewellery, cushions, bags, scarfs and other pieces of artwork before stopping at the Camden Market Photo Booth and failing at getting some pictures. We finished off our time at Camden Lock with some dutch pancakes smothered in melted nutella and chopped strawberries with hot drinks, a chai latte for me and a hot choccy for mum – all of which came to a tenner!

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The very open minded entrance to Camden Lock!

We hopped back on the tube and headed over to the Embankment stop; it was time to walk along the River Thames and spot the locations used in Love Actually and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The first location we tracked down was the benches at Gabriel’s Wharf. This location was used in Love Actually; it played host to the scene where Daniel (Liam Neeson) sits with his stepson, Sam (Thomas Sangster) to give him some love advice in regards to his seemingly unrequited crush on Joanna. These two characters and the storyline they share have always been my favourite part of Love Actually; I love the innocence of Sam and his feelings for his classmate and Daniel comes across as the sweetest father figure! I actually sat on the exact same bench patiently awaiting the arrival of Liam in the hopes he would give me some good life advice! Needless to say, he never arrived but a girl can still dream! We walked along the south bank a little further and stumbled across the scene where Mark (Andrew Lincoln), embarrassed by the fact his love for his best mate’s wife has just been revealed in the most awkward way possible, walks whilst gliding his hand across the stone wall between walkway and water. Naturally I reenacted his exact movements to the bemusement of my mum.

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Where are you, Liam Neeson?!

Even further along the south bank is Millennium Bridge, which any half decent Potter nerd will know is the bridge the villainous, evil Death Eaters destroy whilst covered with unknowing Muggles making their way to work at the beginning of the sixth Harry Potter film! It’s unique metal and persplex design isn’t exactly hard to recognise. I took it as the perfect opportunity to whip out the sorting hat print by Jeff Michalik I had bought earlier and take a snap! The best thing about strolling around London in search of filming locations is that you can just happen across them; you do not need to part with money in order to appreciate the structures, sites and scenes you see emblazoned on the big screen. There are sooooo many other locations I would love to visit, free of charge, in London that have been used in various films. St. Lukes Mews in Notting Hill is also featured in Love Actually, Borough Market which is used in Bridget Jones’s Diary and loads others but sadly I just did not have enough time on this particular trip but I’m sure I’ll be able to tick them off next time I visit London!

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Millennium Bridge featuring Jeff Michalik’s sorting hat print!

After our filming location expedition, we headed over to Mod in Leicester Square for a bite to eat. Mod is an awesome pizza place! They have various pizzas on the menu to choose from which you can personalise or you can choose to make one from scratch. All pizzas, regardless of add-ons or how many toppings you decide to make your own, cost only £7.87! The bases are thin and crispy, proper Italian style and there are endless sauce and topping options to choose from. I went for a garlic rub base, mozzarella and asiago cheese, pepperoni and spicy sausage, black olives with both a balsamic fig glaze and a pesto drizzle! So damn tasty!! For dessert we went to Bubblewrap Waffle in China town and shared a light and soft waffle cone, drizzled with white chocolate sauce and chopped strawberries.

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My personalised pizza at Mod!

With full bellies, it was time for our evening activity, the Jack the Ripper walking tour provided by Discovery Tours & Events. We had booked our tickets for a tenner each in advance online and we had to meet our tour guide at exit 4 of Aldgate East tube station, an easy ten minute journey on the District Line from Embankment. We checked in with our tour guide, Angie, and headed out with a sizeable group of about 25 people, for our two hour long walk around Whitechapel and Spitalfields, learning about the grizzly, gruesome murders committed by the famous, unknown assailant, Jack the Ripper. I can’t speak for my mum but I found this tour immensely interesting and unforgivably creepy with Angie only adding to the eeriness by handing out various photographs of the Ripper’s victims whilst describing their grotesque murders by deepening her voice and hitting the wooden doors of buildings dotted around the neighbourhoods we were roaming. Furthermore the tour has made me want to watch the first series of Whitechapel for the millionth time; a three part series which unravels the mystery of Jack the Ripper with a copycat killer committing similar crimes in the same locations. For anyone who hasn’t seen this show, watch it! It is available on Netflix and spawned three additional series, the second of which focuses on the Kray twins.

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The location in Mitre Square where the body of the fourth Ripper victim, Catherine Eddowes, was found…

London is an epic city, it has something for everyone and I am sure as hell going to be visiting it more often when I return home after my time abroad! Is there any other filming locations you know of, that are free of charge, in the city of London? Are there any other walking tours you can recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

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Film, Travel

Emma Gaudí Barcelona

So I turned 26 at the beginning of the year, and instead of ringing in my birthday with my close friends by partying in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, I decided to book myself a mini trip to Europe. Barcelona was numero uno on my destination list; I had never been to Spain before whilst scores of people I know have told me how fantastic Barcelona is, with tonnes of beautiful landmarks to explore and various different eateries to try. In addition I was fully aware that the city and its sites had been used as locations for a couple of films on my to-watch list; Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the film adaptation of Bernd Eichinger’s novel about a young man obsessed with bottling the natural scent of a woman, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. So I booked a cheap flight with RyanAir, found some lodgings in the Mediterranean Youth Hostel for 20 euro a night and set out on my adventure at 4am on the 3rd of January!

DAY ONE

My first stop was the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau; a hospital designed by the Catalan modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner with the poor in mind. The front facing façade of the administration building, the part you see when walking up Avenue de Gaudí, has two outstretched wings, symbolic of an embrace, welcoming the sick and needy to a place of care and compassion. I purchased a ticket (under 10 euro), sorted an audio guide and took a stroll through the complex, in awe of the incredibly thoughtful architecture. The pavilions behind the administration building are so cleverly designed to look like a house from the front but stretch back further than you realise to accommodate more patients. Additionally each pavilion is a modernist creation, both internally and externally splashed with colour and interesting shapes; green window frames, yellow roof tiles following the curve of a dome, with mosaic art lining the walls and ceilings.

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One of the many wards of the hospital!

That evening I decided to go to an extremely popular seafood chain of restaurants, La Paradeta. The closest one to me was about a 20 minute walk away, and owing to its internet popularity, I thought I was being clever by setting off 40 minutes before it was due to open at 8pm. I arrived and there was already a queue of about 20-30 people waiting… so much for my plan! Nonetheless this restaurant is awesome! You walk in the doors and are greeted by a variety of seafood on display, freshly caught and cleaned, for you to choose from. I chose fried calamari and grilled cuttlefish, with a massive salad on the side, small bread rolls and mayonnaise. I also ordered a big pint of beer and a bottle of water just to wash it all down. The whole meal came to under 28 euro; a steal in my opinion considering the quality and freshness of the food!

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The seafood display that greets you at La Paradeta!

After gorging on seafood, I headed over to the Gothic Quarter to a little gin haven called Rubí that I had read about online. This bar has SO many unique flavoured gins; strawberry mint, liquorice, balsamic, chocolate. I settled on the lemongrass and Jamaican pepper gin and the bartender made me a G&T and a coconut mojito which only cost me 12 euro! Ridiculously cheap price for two double strength cocktails! Both were divine; the pepper in the G&T almost overpowered the dryness of the drink and gave it a nice kick while the mojito had just the perfect amount of coconutty flavour. I loved this bar! It was in a kind of off the grid location and with only myself, the bartender and a small group on the opposite side of the room, it wasn’t too busy and had a nice, chilled vibe.

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The artisan gins at Rubí!

DAY TWO

I decided to dedicate the second day of my trip to exploring the locations used in the two films I mentioned earlier. A very helpful guy on reception at the hostel told me about Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, a small town square used in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. This location is the place where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille commits his first murder. It comes across as creepy in the film; the scene portrays a young woman, pitting yellow plums whilst Grenouille and his sensational smelling power lurks behind her, sniffing her scent. He ends up killing her accidentally by covering her mouth to stifle her screams once she discovers him behind her. Certainly not very romantic but the square itself couldn’t be more opposite! I ventured to this quaint little site three times over the span of the day; in the afternoon it was host to the hustle and bustle of the city, various tourists and families milling about however in the evening, it was much more serene. A guy sat by the fountain strumming his guitar, singing a soft melody and couples wandered about hand in hand.

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Plaça de Sant Felip Neri

I spent the rest of the day marvelling at Antoni Gaudí’s famous works, two locations featured briefly in Vicky Cristina Barcelona; La Sagrada Família and Park Güell. Honestly the scenes where these landmarks appeared were the best moments in the film! The rest of it was rather dull and the characters were far too irritating. First I went to La Sagrada Família; a church so magnificent you have to see it to believe it. The external façades tell different stories; one shows the nativity, whilst the opposite side depicts the twelve stages of the cross, statues so intricately carved and detailed. My favourite has to be the statue of Jesus, shrouded in a cloak, with a complete look of despair and agony etched across his stone face. The interior is even more phenomenal; columns built up like trees in order to connect heaven and earth, beautiful stained glass windows, cooler tones on the east where the sun rises and warmer tones on the west where it sets and icon crests adorning four columns to represent the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you ever visit La Sagrada Família, I recommend purchasing the 25 euro audio tour ticket; it is interesting to walk around the basilica and learn about why Gaudí designed it the way he did. I cannot wait to return there upon its estimated completion in 2026!

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The tree-like columns inLa Sagrada Família!

After a quick, delicious bite of hummus with fried lamb, fetteh al-makdous and pitta bread in Reem Al Bawadi, an Arabic restaurant, I hopped on the bus to Park Güell. This park is lovely if you want to escape the business of the city to just enjoy a cool, quiet stroll but the main attraction is undoubtedly the monumental zone; Gaudí’s colourful mosaic balcony that provides you with a fantastic view of the two pavilions at the park’s entrance, the city of Barcelona itself and the Mediterranean sea in the distance. Such an epic experience just to sit on the smooth, tiled terrace and enjoy the scenery! Park Güell and Gaudí’s modernist architecture are a must-see if you ever go to Barcelona! I must say though that it would definitely be worth booking in advance for both La Sagrada Família and Park Güell as they both host an extraordinary number of visitors daily and you wouldn’t want to be disappointed if you don’t get the chance to see either!

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The monumental view at Park Güell!

In the evening, I wandered back over to the Gothic Quarter and visited a little tapas bar called La Alcoba Azul recommended by my cousin. This restaurant is quite small and gets extremely busy! However the staff were lovely; they gave me a complimentary tomato tuna dish served on toasted bread as an appetiser for the potato tapas and the melted cheese served with lashings of blueberry jam and bread that I ordered. I cannot say I am an expert on tapas but I will admit this restaurant’s food was to die for; the portion sizes were good, the flavours were uniquely delicious and the price of the food (about 15 euro) was extremely decent!

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Tapas at La Alcoba Azul!

DAY THREE

I spent my third full day of my trip away from the city, taking a train to Montserrat; a lovely little village with a monastery based on the side of a mountain. Sounds daunting having to travel away from the city alone but it could not be easier to get to Montserrat! I made my way from the hostel towards Plaça Espanya to catch the R5 train heading to Manresa. Make sure you look for the orange R5 sign in the square for the right entrance underground to the trains; don’t be fooled in to thinking you can take any of the stairways marked with a red M down! The return train ticket cost me roughly 20 euro and it included a return cable car trip up the mountain to the village. I jumped on the 10:36am train and about an hour later, I was in a cable car, gliding my way up to heaven on earth. Nothing compares to the experience of walking out of that little yellow cab and seeing the landscape that surrounds Montserrat in all its glory! That view cannot be beaten and the tranquillity of Montserrat as a whole only improves its quality!

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Mother Earth

I wandered around Montserrat for about four or five hours in total before heading back to the R5 train bound for Barcelona to pack and prepare myself for the journey home. That evening I decided to stay local to the hostel, walking the short distance to the Arc de Triomf, snapping a few photos and FaceTiming my mum there. I’d say the arch is a definite tourist hotspot! Crowds of people surround it so I would take extra caution when there; guard your possessions and do not let anything out of your sight at any point. I was told numerous times, by various different people, to take extra care of my bag out and about in Barcelona but I did feel particularly vulnerable at the arch. Luckily for me there was a burger joint called La Foga nearby so after admiring the arch for about half an hour or so, I went for a massive delicious burger, held together by a breadstick with loaded nachos on the side! The perfect meal to wrap up such an epic adventure!

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Burger porn at La Foga!

Have you ever been to Barcelona? Is there somewhere I didn’t visit that I should have done? Let me know in the comments!

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Travel

IndiEmma Jones and her Jordanian adventure!

In October 2017, I visited my family in Amman, Jordan and while there, we planned a road trip together. We decided to leave the capital late in the evening on a Thursday, drive down to the Dead Sea and camp for the night with an assortment of food including hotdogs and s’mores. We arrived at our destination at about 10pm; we set up our tent, lay down blankets, got a roaring fire going and spent the next few hours in perpetual awe. For anyone who isn’t aware, the Dead Sea is situated at the lowest point on planet earth, and where we camped was a ridge stretching out from the main road, which overlooked the salty sea in all its glory. Although we didn’t have a view of the sea at that current moment, we could hear the serene waves rippling beneath us. It was the perfect background music to the view we did have: a smooth, velvety, deep blue night sky laced with silver, sequin-like stars. It was the perfect picture: and just to lie there, underneath such a bed of stars was an experience in itself. Unfortunately neither my phone nor my DSLR could capture such simplistic beauty so I have no photographs to share however I cannot recommend doing this or something similar more. You will not be disappointed and the reminder of just how stunning our world is will stay with you forever.

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Our view of the Dead Sea in the morning

The next morning, we woke at about 5am; we had a long journey ahead of us, an almost four hour car journey to Petra, the Rose City. I couldn’t wait to see the famous red-stone city with my own eyes, walk the paths of historic bedouins and see the filming locations for numerous movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We parked up and started our Petra journey at the ticket booth. A one-day ticket will cost you 50 Jordanian Dinars which is the equivalent to about 50 Great British Pounds; sounds steep but is well worth it! Once our tickets were checked, we were on our way, on a great stretch of sandy path where we first stumbled across the carved architecture of an ancient civilisation. We were enamoured by the detailed building face in front of us; little did we realise that the best was yet to come. We continued on the path, weaving our way through multi-coloured walls, lined with man-made water pipes and dams.

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Colours of the sandstone

Now, have you ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you have, then you will remember the part filmed in Petra perfectly; the stand-out being when Indy is riding horseback with his companions through a sandy landscape when they come across the secret temple. Furthermore have you ever watched a film, pictured visiting one of the locations used and hoping your experience will be as dramatic as it is depicted? I have and my experience of Indy’s secret temple, the heart of Petra was everything I dreamed and more. After leaving the ticket checkpoint and walking the windy path for what seemed like forever but could not have been more than twenty minutes, we finally came to the end of our walk and there it was. The intricacy, the artistry, the monumental sight of one of the seven wonders of the world; the Treasury of Petra.

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The Treasury at Petra

I cannot put in to words nor emphasise the astounding beauty of this detailed piece of architecture; again, in the same way as the Dead Sea sky, it is something you have to experience first hand to believe. Throngs of people flock to Petra each and every year and I just know the vast majority will have been as taken aback as I was once they first laid eyes upon such craftsmanship. I just stood and stared; at every pillar, at every tiny pattern, at every piece of the sand stone structure in front of me. I didn’t think I’d seen anything so mesmerising but then I hadn’t seen the rest of the city. After a short camel ride in front of the Treasury, we set off once more, following the path to the right-hand side. We came across masses of carved-out caves, which if you have seen An Idiot Abroad, you will know serve as the homes of those who still live in Petra. We ventured in to one, and the colours emblazoned across the walls are like a watercolour painting. Their smoothness, their vividness, like a stroke of a paintbrush across a sandy canvas. After exploring the caves, we decided to go to the Monastery which is up high, a trek of 900+ steps. Donkeys are not in short supply in Petra, so we hired four for 20 Jordanian Dinars and climbed up to see the structure which Bumblebee knocked through in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. My ride was a great companion, aptly named Jackass which, to those who know me well, made us quite the duo.

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One of the many donkeys of Petra

The Monastery is just as beautiful as the Treasury, delicately carved out of a stone wall and I had my own Karl Pilkington moment, sat in a cave directly opposite it, revelling in its splendour. Karl’s show may have been named An Idiot Abroad but he could not have been more correct in stating it is better to sit in the cave and look out on something so spectacular than it is to live in the luxury looking out on how the other half live. I could have stayed there forever but by this point, the time was nearly 4:30pm and we had a five hour drive back to Amman to conquer, so we headed off back in the direction we came. I napped most of the journey home, intermittently waking up to browse through the many photos I took during our adventure. I’ll leave you with this one of me with my cousins, taken on a polaroid camera in front of the Treasury of Petra.

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The four of us!

Interestingly enough, upon my return home to the UK, my friend tagged me in a Facebook post by Will Smith. A similar picture to the one of me and my cousins but it was him with his cast-mates: the live-action Aladdin due to be released some time in 2019 was being filmed near Petra so Will planned a trip there for the cast and crew!

*If you have any questions regarding Petra, how tos, etc. then please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you!

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