Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bike Ride from Yangpyong to Andong

Over the long weekend several weeks ago, a few friends and I attempted to ride from just outside of Seoul in Yangpyong to Busan.   We were the only two who didn't have to work, so we got an early start on the trip on Friday. Here we are at the start of the trip on Friday morning at 9:00am, ready to go!

About 1km into our journey we hit a bump and my friend got a pinched flat. Here he is, looking not so happy about it. 

Fortunately we were prepared and, and we were able to patch the tire in 30 minutes flat (haha, pun intended), And we thought we were ready to continue our ride. 

A minute later we realized that not only had he gotten a flat, but had also damaged his pedal crank. We did a quick Google search to find the nearest bike shop to fix it. Unfortunately he pedal crank had to be replaced, but the only option this bike shop had was a steel one. It was quite heavy, but it was cheap, so we had them put it on and continued along the journey. 

We made it to within sight of Ipobo before the new pedal crank was now wobling like the first one. Unfortunately, there were no bike shops out here as it was much more rural than Yangpyong. We had no idea how to fix it and we had ti figure out a way to get to Yeoju, then next city. We thought maybe we could somehow get the bikes into a taxi. Upon asking a local for the phone number for the local taxi company, he laughed at our notion of getting two bikes in a taxi and suggested that he could take us in his Bongo truck... for 50,000 won. While it was steep, we didn't know any other way, so we bargained our fare down to 40,000 won and he drove us the remaining 15-20km to Yeoju. In Yeoju we were able to get a better steel alloy pedal crank for his bike, but at this point we were quite frustrated and it was getting a bit late in the day to continue on to the next big city, Chungju. We settled down for the night an grabbed a motel and waited for two others to join us there in Yeoju.

In the morning two friends, my husband and I took off, our final destination being Suanbo Oncheon (because who wouldn't want to stay in a oncheon (hot spring) after a full day of riding the bike?).  The terrain was a little different than the trail to Yeoju (which I had done twice before this trip). Whereas the trails to Yeoju are well maintained and separated from road traffic, these trails were often riding on car roads with a side lane for bikes (see photo below). Some off road trails were a bit bumpy and rough, no problem for mountain bikes, but a little uncomfortable for the road bikes. However, this was also one of the most beautiful rides I've done in Korea.

When were were not far from Suanbo Oncheon, they boys decided to take a 30 minute break by a river. Somebody went for a swim... I just watched from the shore.

 Face mask protects from sun, bugs, and dirt, though probably not much from pollution.

Upon arriving in Suanbo, we got our passport stamps and we found a public hot spring for anyone to stick their feet in (perfect to put right by the bike trail).  Three of us found a hotel for the night with hot tubs with hot spring water in the basement, while one friend departed back for Seoul. The hot springs were slightly disappointing, only because the temperature is 53˚C, making it too hot to stay in for more than a minute or two.

In the morning, we continued our way along the infamous Saejae Bike Path. This path is infamous for it's difficulty. It has at least two big mountains which need to be traversed, and most of the path follows roads with nothing more than little white bikes painted on the roads warning cars to share the road. Fortunately the traffic here (or anywhere along any of the paths we did) was not too bad. The photo above is us at the top of the first hill. I don't think I walked at all going up this hill, it was very long and hard (about 3km uphill), but the grade was not too steep so it was possible to keep going without getting off the bike.

Going down from the top of a high mountain is fun... actually a little scary because you have to keep your hands on the breaks constantly for a long time. Some bikers fly down, but I prefer to keep my bike under controllable speeds, especially because my brakes are not exactly top of the line. As we were going down, we were lucky enough to stop to find this Buddhist carving on the side of a cliff. It is special because there are two Buddhas seated together.

Finally it was time to do the dredded big mountain. 5km continuously uphill. the bike lane looks like this. It's nice because there are many kilometer markers along the way so you know exactly how much further you have to go and how far you've come. It's also nice here because they seem to have little resting points every 500 m or so.  It wasn't hard but extremely long. We took several breaks going up, but again, we managed without walking once.

Here were are at the top after 5km uphill. There was a little shop/restaurant up here, and we really enjoyed a little ice cream after the ride. 

After tackling the big mountain it was all downhill from there. We couldn't help ourselves but to stop by this omija wine factory and get a glass of omija wine. 

We finally had to stop for the night and we stayed near Munkyung in the city of  Jeomchon (점촌). This happened to be the city where Halmoni lived and worked for many years after the Korean war. My husband was quite excited to finally see this city which was so important in his family history. We stayed the night here in a little love motel for 35,000/night.

The next day we decided that, since we had gotten too delayed on day one with all the bike problems that it would be impossible to get to Busan. So, instead we decided to follow our plan B, to head to Andong Dam. 

This is another bike path which follows the Nakdong river. It was also another fantastically beautiful path through the countryside. Though they call it a bike path, it's basically the little, rarely used country roads between the fields. 

Finally we arrived in Andong. We were pretty exhausted so we found a love motel to share for the night. Since Andong is a big city, it was a bit more expencive than the other places we had stayed, 50,000, so we all stayed in one room. Dinner was Andong Jjimdak, of course. Then we got ice cream and went back and watched movies and passed out.

In the morning we continued on to Andong Dam (so close from where we were! Probably less than 5km! We should have just finished it the night before) and got our stamp. We explored the area a little, they had a nice natural area, plus an area with traditional houses which were saved, moved and preserved before creating the dam in the 70's.

Since it was Buddha's Birthday, we made sure to find a temple and get some bibimbap. 

Our last stop before leaving Andong was visiting the Andong Soju museum. There we met a friendly man and my husband was able to ask all his soju brewing questions to (we have made soju at home several times now). 

Finally it was time to go home. Being the last day of a long weekend, we were lucky to have gotten standing room only seats on the train. So you know, trains have some bike racks in the cafe car. We tried to get it on the regular car and not only would it have been impossible but they weren't very happy about it either, and sent us to the cafe car. Here we were lucky to have gotten on at the first stop and we got a seat on the floor in the cafe. As you can see, people who got on later didn't have that luxury. Though they also didn't have as far to go either. From Andong to Cheongnyangni station was about 3.5 hours. Not too bad, and no risk of traffic either since it was a train. I wouldn't mind taking the train again (especially if I got seats ahead of time!).

Overall it was a really fantastic trip, I look forward to the next bike trip! I hope there will be many more!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Indian Food

I'm pretty sure that Indian food is the best food in the world. I can't think of any cuisine which has quite as many flavors or diversity as Indian food. While I was in India, I spent most of my time in the Tibetan community, which meant getting Indian food was a bit of a production, however, I tried my best to get Indian food at least once a week while working at the monastery. 


This was one of my first meals in India. This was a roadside Dhaba (small restaurant) on the way to Agra. We were tempted to get this 'veg curry' because of the dirt cheap price of 20 rupees or something, however the bread was filled with something delicious which made one piece of bread about 100 rupees. So, not a dirt cheap meal, but still delicious and amazing. And made me more conscious of bread prices in future meals.

One of the most ubiquitous street foods in India are samosas. Who can resist deep fried amazingness?

Hindi sweets are quite famous. After watching this guy making these deep fried snacks I couldn't help but buy one to try. Actually, the taste reminds me a lot of the Korean pastry 약과 (yakgwa), but these are a lot prettier in their swirly shapes.

This one was from another roadside dhaba on the way back from Agra. Amazingly simple palak paneer, yet so delicious. 

Another curry (can't remember which) from a small restaurant in Delhi. With a lassi on the side. mmmm... 

This was like Indian fast food/ take out. All the food was pre-prepared. Just order, and they'll serve it over to you. 

Here is a very typical Indian street food/ snack. This deep fried bread is called puri and is served up with some simple curry or yogurt sauce to dip in. 

When visiting Indian restaurants before going to India, I always avoided butter chicken. Not sure why, maybe I thought it would be too rich or too fatty. But, butter chicken was one of the first dishes my co-workers ordered for us on our first Indian food outing. And, well, I realized what I had been missing all those years. Butter chicken is absolutely mouth-watering. Just melts in your mouth as you eat it. Definitely need to get this again soon. 

Here is a man selling a variety of street food. The one in front is fried channa (chick peas), others are other random fried things. Well, there's a lot of deep fried and fried food in India... 

This is the kind of street food that tourists should definitely not eat if they don't want to get sick.  Basically fresh vegetables with chili sauce over some kind of crispy chip-like things. Tasty, but not recommended for tourists.

Here was our meal at the 'public dhaba' in Joginder Nagar. Channa masala, aloo palak, and mutton (goat) curry. Delicious and super cheap. 

Here's another puri with various dipping sauces, plus a samosa at a popular hole in the wall restaurant in Baijnath.

Lots of samosas, puri and maybe those are parathas in a stack in the back. I'm still a bit confused about the difference between paratha, chapati, and roti... they all look like flat and round bread to me..

Making samosas

Here's another absolute tourist no-no which I should never have eaten. No idea what it was made of, but there was definitely cilantro and green onions mixed with some kind of spicy snack. It was being sold by a man roving bus to bus and he carried this around in a bucket and distributed it on recycled paper as you can see.  I don't think this made me sick though

While in Palampur we decided to try out some more Hindi snacks. The yellow one was actually paneer (I think) in a cold creamy sauce. The orange one was actually made of carrots, but it was very tasty. After searching online, I found one dish called Gajar Halva.

This one is a pretty typical snack to eat while drinking in India. It's basically peanuts mixed with all sorts of fresh veggies. It's really nice, but again, I don't know the name of this dish.

Here's a pappadum with fresh vegetables on top. This is quite tasty. The pappadum is almost cracker-like in consistency so it's a little difficult to eat as it is very brittle, however with this veggie mix on top it's quite tasty.

I tried a few different biriyanis while in India. They were all really nice. Basically this is slightly creamy rice with many different spices.

Don't remember what this one was, something with paneer.

Here's an egg biriyani... really delicious...

Lots of amazing food...

Don't remember what this was... but I'm sure it tasted great...

Finally, my last breakfast in India. I was told I must try Paratha with curds as it is a very typical Himachal Pradesh breakfast food. Unfortunately, after several attempts (usually after breakfast time) I failed to find it in my town. So, on my last morning in Majnu ka Tilla in Delhi (the Tibetan colony in Delhi) I found paratha with curds on the menu at the Tibetan restaurant where we got breakfast and I figured it was my last chance to get it. Anyway, it was quite nice, the curds reminded me of my homemade yogurt actually and the bread was simple and nice to dip in the curds.

Before leaving India, I made sure to pick up a bunch of Indian spices. I hope I can use them soon to try making some Indian dishes!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Part Time Cooks: Hip-Hop Performance in Seoul 3/28/2014

I'd just like to put up a little add for a friend of mine here in Seoul. My friend Blessing, who goes by the name Black Moss has formed a new group called Part Time Cooks. Their style is somewhere between hip hop and jazz. I've heard a few of their songs and I think they should definitely be worth checking out.

Here's the info for their upcoming show:

Here are some samples of some of the group members' music. They've all got pretty nice sound to them.

If I've piqued your interest, see the map below for directions to the show: