Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ocean World

On Thursday, we decided to go to Ocean World! Ocean World is a water park located about 2 hours outside of Seoul. Ironically, there no ocean is near by; but it's still cool nonetheless. The whole theme is egyptian, and all the architecture around mimics that style. The architecture does an amazing job, and if we were there just to see that, I'd still be amazed. If you look closely at this picture you can see all the hieroglyphics. There were a lot of people here. It was crazy madness... but I think the more people made it more fun. More on that later. The park is so amazing in so many ways. First of all, the park is wicked huge. Here's Sohee in front of the map:Even if you're a kid and can't handle the madness, there's two kids parks here. One indoors and one outdoors. The kids outdoor one was pretty tame with just these spray things everywhere. The indoor one was pretty neat. It's basically a kids playground with all these things that spray everywhere... but the best part is this huge bucket at the top that being poured with water. When it is full, it dump water all over the kids making a huge "WOOOSHH" sound. I watched that for a while because it was funny to see the kids frightened (yet excited) by this. The kids park also had a wave pool, but it was pretty tame and the waves were super tiny.

There was also a few waterslides, but they were not all that great. I went on one tube ride and it was fun, fast, and very short. The line ups were too big to warrant going again. I only went once.

Another thing that was fun was this toboggan race. It's basically tobogganing on wet artificial turf. If you fall off, it actually doesn't burn your skin... well, too bad. You can't really tell from this picture, but the hill is actually a pretty decent size.

Next up, is Sohee's favourite thing at the park. Thank God for waterproof digital cameras... I love these shots:

Basically it's a river that goes around and you just chill in the tube. Halfway, there is a lovely waterfall, and you go into a tunnel:

The waterfall actually kinda hurts... The droplets are huge.

Oh, did I forget to mention that a huge wave comes every 20 seconds and tosses you around like a rag doll?

The huge wave will send you flying into other people and such. Here's one of Sohee getting tossed around:

So, the main feature of this park is the wave pool.

At first, "I was all, psshhh! Why is everyone wearing lifejackets? Can't they swim?" I soon found out why. This is the most amazing wave pool I have ever been to. Sohee said that this waterpark produces the highest man-made waves in the world (citation needed). For now, I will believe that. According to the website, they can get to 2.4 metres. It's actually kind of scary at first.

Now, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video has to be worth a million:

Yes, it's crazy. 2.4 metres. Everyone gets tossed around like a rag doll. I must say, that all the people make it more fun. Sure, sometimes you get an elbow in the face and get tossed onto an old woman... but the waves are kind of frightening, and when the big sound comes, everyone screams in anticipation. It's kind of like that movie theatre experience when you see a comedy or something. It just makes it more fun knowing you're not alone here. Apparently, I'm somewhere in that video, but with all the people, it's impossible to find me. So, here's a close up... I'm the dude swimming with the wave:

After a while, I figured out that you can almost "surf" the wave if you swim really fast with it. The result is that it feels like you are swimming insanely fast... until the wave topples over and crushes you into the people below. So much fun.

So, I gotta say that this has been one of the coolest things I've done so far... and if any of you every come here, make sure that this place is your list of things to do.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Busan and Japan

Hey all, so for our little honeymoon, we planned a trip to Busan and Japan. By the way, if you want to see pics of our wedding. Click the flickr link on the Right hand side.

From Seoul, we took a train to Busan (pronounced more like Poo-san... 부산). We could have taken one of those super high speed trains that go 300km/hr... but it was a little bit too pricey. We just went on the slower one... but it was still pretty fast (150km).

But before going on, we decided to get some eats at Lotteria. It's a fast food joint here (and also in Japan, as I found out later), but it's a little bit healthier. It also has some Korean influence with bulgogi (korean spicy beef), and kimchi burgers.
I got the rice Kimchi burger. Instead of a bun, it's sticky rice. Also, instead of fries, you get corn. I thought it would be bland and untastey... but it's actually really good. After a while, you forget that you don't have a bun.
When we arrived in Busan, we walked for a long time before finding a hotel. We wanted a place near Haeundae Beach. Well, it then started to rain, so we just grabbed a cheap "love" motel about 2 blocks away from the beach. These motels are actually really nice (marble floors, jet bathtub, big bed, dvd players, etc...) and only cost 50 bucks a night. The only problem is that these motels are setup for young couples (It's common to live at home till your mid 20's), and well... for cheaters. Because of that, I sometimes question the cleanliness of the place. Anyways. Busan in right at the tip of the peninsula of Korea, and has many many Harbors, and a few beaches. The only problem is that it didn't stop raining, so we never got a beach day in our time here. Maybe for the best. Here's a beach day in August:

At night, we tried to find a place to eat. Along the beach, the seafood restaurants were insanely expensive... sometimes more than 150 dollars! Not even close to the Seoul prices. We then stopped a lady walking and she personally showed us an area with cheaper food (and still delicious). It was very gracious of her because the walk was about 30 minutes from where we were.

We went into one place that we thought was a restaurant, but it was a karaoke/restaurant. You are given your own private room with an HD tv and a karaoke remote control. You then can eat and sing, something Koreans love to do here. Here is Sohee singing (She's gonna kill me for posting this!):

The food was really decent too. You get a ton of side dishes. Notice the tambourines in the picture below. I started using those after the first bottle of soju. The big remote at the top is what you point at the screen to choose your song. It's super awesome.
The fish market is also pretty crazy in Busan. There are so many different kinds of seafood. Some just looked liked odd creatures to the Saskatchewan eye.

Also near the fish market is some of the harbor. It's really crappy out in this pic. Not too cold, but rainy and depressing weather. Below, you can see the one of the many bridges in the background. It's hard to tell in this pic, but it's actually really cool and it lights up in many different colours.

Anyways, we couldn't stay out too late cause we had to catch a plane the next day for Osaka. Had to wake up at 5am. That really super fun.


You might be asking why we decided to go to Osaka and not Tokyo. Well if you go to Tokyo, there's not much else except Tokyo. Plus it's crazy expensive there. In Osaka, you are a short train ride to: Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, etc...

So, we hit up our hotel, which is only 5000 yen a night ($50 dollars a night)... not bad for Japan. Even though it was clean, nice, had internet, TV, AC, etc... it was tiny. At first we were a little bit scared, cause well... I'll let the video explain..

So it was a little small. But it was comfy. The first place we hit up was DotonBori. It's in the Namba district of Osaka and is probably considered the Heart of the city. I have to use a night photo first, cause it's the only one I have of the sign. Try not to get confused chronologically.

Some food unique to Japan is Takoyaki. It's fried Octopus balls, and it's amazingly delicious. It was also crazy how they made it. It's just a pan and they keep rotating it into a ball with a large toothpick. This dude was seriously doing 50 at a time and was likely a ninja in his off hours.

We all know that Korea's vice is drinking alcohol. In Japan, not as many people are drinking, but everyone is gambling. It's difficult to explain the below picture, but try and think of it as pinball/anime/plinko (from the price is right) slot machines. You put in some money and you get these metal marble things. You then shoot the marbles (manually or automatically) using the dial on the right. If you win, you get more marbles (AKA: Money). These things are literally everywhere. They even put them in kids arcades, but I didn't see any kids playing them. The honour system actually works here I guess.

At night time is when Osaka really shines. Pun intended. There are even more lights here than in Seoul. The most famous image in all of Osaka... the Glico running man:

This is probably the biggest Indiana Jones poster I have ever seen:

Asashi sign. Asashi is Japanese beer. It's good. You should try it.

Sohee looks so calm in front of the madness of lights and people.

Ok. Next up we went to Kobe. Kobe has a harbor and some pretty cool views. We took a train there (again, just an avg speed train). It all seems like one city, because the trains look exactly like the subway, and there was no way to indicate that we were out of the city (Wheat fields were not present). There was still tall buildings the entire route there. Kinda odd compared to Saskatchewan. lol.

Anyways... To the harbor. There were some amazing views here.

The hotel in the background here is called "Oriental Hotel". Cool architecture, but not a very original name.

But again... the awesome views were at night. Something about the lights reflecting off the water. I don't think I have to explain to much. It was breathtaking...

The next day, we were supposed to go to Kyoto to see some temples n' stuff. That didn't happen though. We heard from a fellow Regina dude that they were closed for construction or something. He suggested that we go to Deer Park in Nara. This is a lot different from the Deer Park golf course in Yorkton. This is a park in the middle of the city and there are a ton of Deer around just chilling and mingling with the people. They are super nice and totally tame.

They sometimes just leave the park and go to the sidewalks and streets. There's a dude selling "deer food" and you can feed them. It's crazy. I was kinda scared of them at first, because I have heard that they have stomped people to death. Plus those antlers don't look so cuddly. But I soon get brave enough to pet one:

Also in this deer park was this crazy high temple. It's probably why the deers are so tame and nice. They are Buddhist monks.

All in all, Japan is an awesome country. The people are friendly, the streets and air are clean, the food is great and there's plenty to see and do. I do have one issue. Transportation is crazy expensive. Even what you think would be cheap (subway), isn't.Maybe I'm just spoiled by the prices in Korea, but I think I spent over half my money on transportation. The Subway in the GOA (Greater Osaka Area) is like 5 bucks for a one way trip... and if you have to transfer lines... guess what, you have to pay again. Not cool. In Seoul, the subway costs a dollar, and you can transfer for free to other subways and buses. So that means that you can ride the subway and bus all day long if you transfer quick enough.

Well that's Japan everyone. I'll end with something funny... and Seoul has this too, but I have a Japanese pic ready. What you see below is the line for women-only subway cars. Only women can board these cars. This is to prevent that old Japanese guy who has had too much sake try the intentional boob graze on a crowded subway. Respect women y'all.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Ok, so it's been a while. I apologize. I've had a rough week though. For those who don't know, my Grandfather past away last weekend. After advice from the family I decided to stay in Asia and continue with the Wedding that is on the 15th. All the Grandkids were doing the Eulogy, so I have been spending lots of time writing mine, which at this time has probably already has been read by my sister's. It's tough being away from family when all this is going on, but I have had a lot support from my Korean family here. :)

Excuses aside. Here is the blog on Thailand. It's long. So grab a couple of Singha's right now. I'll wait.

Ok. So anyways, our first stop was Bangkok. One of the first things I noticed was that Thailand is hot. Insanely hot. It's always +30 with lots of humidity. As a white dude from Canada, it was a lot to handle... but was something I'd learn to get used to for the next 10 days. Also, nearly every place had Air Conditioning, so it's cool (pun intended). Bangkok is a mixture between tradition and modern. On one hand, you have an insane amount of temples and Buddha's... on the other hand, you have huge skyscrapers, night clubs, gogo clubs, and markets. Our hotel (which was only 20 bucks a night) was near the market, so we went there first.
There are a ton of deals here. You have to wheel and deal a little, but you can get t-shirts for like 6 dollars, sometimes cheaper. Jeans and stuff are kinda pricier around 15 dollars. It was fun to barter, but it really got annoying after a while. I rant about this later... you'll see.

Korea has this too, but there are also a ton of food stands. They sell everything from western friendly stuff, to weird Thai seafood... like whole fishes, octopus, etc.

You'll never walk more than a block without some Thai guy saying: "Hello Tuk tuk" (pronounced toque tuque, like the warm canadian hat.). These are 3 wheeled taxi's that scoot you around town. They are cheaper than regular taxi's (again, only if you barter), but they are loud as hell, and kinda dangerous. I thought Seoul was bad for traffic and craziness, Bangkok is 10x worse. They also drive on the left side, which is something different you have to adjust to (especially crossing the street. Look RIGHT first.) Everyone drives like it's a nascar event, and I'm sure people are killed hourly. The taxi drivers are the worse offenders, as they drive as fast as they can so they can pick up as many customers as possible. They will try and rip you off, but if you stay firm and ask around, usually one will take you for the price you are asking. We rented this guy for 50 baht for 45 min. That's like less than $1.50!!

We then went to a few clubs. The night life in Bangkok is amazing. There are lot of places to drink, and this is a backpackers hub, so there people from all over the world here. We met people from the UK, all over Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, .. it's pretty crazy. I'd say that most of the people that come here are from the UK or Australia... I say or because I can't tell the difference in their accent. You have to be careful when going into a bar because it might not be what you think it is. It could be a Gogo club, which is basically women dancing, and the female pimps ask you which one you want. YIKES!. Also, when a guy stops you on the street advertising to see a ping pong show, it's not two athletic guys playing a game of ping pong. Yeah, so anyways, we found this awesome club where this dude was spinning insanely rad tunes. It was huge and it also had couches where you could chill out and relax.

After this insanity we decided to check out some of the Temple's and Buddha's n' such... These people really love their religion here. Over 90% of the people here follow the Buddhist religion, and it definitely shows. Here are some of the temples. The temples have a lot of intricate designs on them, and of course have gold plated tips as well. More impressive than the yellow paint I saw in Korea.

There were a million of these various designs outside the temples in the courtyard. I'm not sure what they are called but they were pretty cool.
There are also Buddha's the size of skyscrapers. At first you are led to believe that all these are solid gold, but it's just gold plated, and they keep it maintained. Still impressive though, and it's still a lot of gold.
This is the lying down Buddha. It is insanely large. I can't believe that this thing is inside the temple. I guess it was probably built after the statue was constructed. I need to show you this angle, because I think it's like a city block long. lol!
After seeing so many of these, it's insane how much gold Thailand really has. Even if it's just plated, I can't help to wonder that if they melted this gold, sold it, Thailand would be an insanely rich country.

Next up, we went to Koh Phi Phi. These are islands are located south of Bangkok, and just 45 km east of Phuket. It's even warmer here, but it's worth it. We have blue oceans, white sand, and rocky cliffs. You need to see photo's to appreciate what's going on.

First of all... our hotel (although way more than 20 dollars a night), was off the hook. It was right along the beach and had a sick pool with a fountain:
I took this photo when it was raining, and it still looks beautiful.

Just outside our hotel is this... The beach at Loh Dalam Bay. It's an amazing lagoon with blue water and white sand. The cliffs in the background make a rad photo.

The beach is really long, and there's a lot going on there. You can't really tell from this photo, but it's a lot busier than this. There is usually a couple of boats in the water and many tanned ladies in bikini's (for better and for worse... but mostly for better :D )

We then took a tour to Maya Beach which is on a different island called Koh Phi Phi Leh. It's a short boat ride from Koh Phi Phi Don. This is the first part of the island you see:
Around the corner is Maya Beach. Maya beach is where the movie, "The Beach." was filmed. It's crazy cool, but we were there when the tide was low... I don't know why, but, I still kinda liked Loh Dalam Bay better, just cause there's a lot more going on there.
Before we left, we wrote our name's in the sand. I risked my life getting this photo. I had to climb this big rock to get this photo. As I was climbing this jagged rock in flip flops (which was sketchy by itself), halfway up, I had to deal with this tropical snake that was hissing at me. I kinda freaked and it thankfully never attacked me. Lord knows what kind of venom it had in its arsenal. I had to jump down and climb a different side.
Our boat guy took us to a place with some awesome snorkeling. This is where Koh Phi Phi leh is better. The water is crystal clear blue, there are a ton of reefs and the fishy's are really pretty too.
I took this photo underwater with our camera.

Leaving, there was a rad sunset, so I had to nab a memory of it.

The night life at Koh Phi Phi isn't as great as Bangkok, but it has beach bars... which are super dope. There's always one of the local dudes juggling fire, making everyone not drunk quite nervous... but he didn't screw up, so it's cool.We like this place so much, we decided to stay another night and change our flight plan. Our hotel even gave us the last night for free.

Anyways, our next stop is Phuket. For all of those people laughing at the name before, it's pronounced "poo ket", not that it helps much. lol. Anyways... Phuket is a mixture between Bangkok and Koh Phi Phi... It has the night life, the shopping, and the white sand and beaches.

Unfortunately, by this time, I had enough sun. I was burnt even using SPF 60 sunblock. My whitey skin wasn't made for it.

So our beach time was limited. Here is some of it anyways on a cloudy day:

As you can see, it's not quite as nice as Koh Phi Phi. But they have more water sports and risking your life stuff going on. Like pulling a parachute dude behind a boat!

The bars are awesome. They are out in the open and they always have games to play. The cute waitresses play with you. We played connect 4 and Jenga. Yay!

Jenga was more fun, and got intensely high. I look drunk here, but it was a mid blink... I swear.

They also have Thai Lady boys. Yikes! Look at all of them lined up in the background!
Rant on Shopping:
Shopping really bugged me cause I had high expectations for getting good deals and cool stuff... but the people and items themselves ruin the experience... For one thing, it's the land of smiles. The people are very friendly, but after a while, you see that the smiles are fake. Basically, they just want you to buy a suit, thai massage, ride in a tuk tuk, etc... They just don't shut up. They just keep talking to you, sometimes following you 1/2 a block. You can't walk 5 steps without this happening. They'll tap your shoulder and touch you to get your attention. They'll also talk in your native tongue to get your attention... They try and guess where you are from, but usually fail. eg: so many times I got "Oi! You from Australia, mate?", or "you from England, mate?"... Sohee either got, "Inichewa!" (hi in japanese), or "neehow!" (chinese). They rarely get it right. It was humorous at first, but it quickly got annoying. When you actually do want to shop, they act like your best friend and try think like they are giving you a big deal. It isn't until we went to a real shopping mall in Bangkok that we realized that the real deals are the ones you don't have to barter. The t-shirts in the mall are about 100-150 baht (3-5 bucks)... and on the streets, about 300-500. They jack the price and capitalize on tourist areas. My advice is to only shop in the malls. Unless you want that fake Louis Vuitton handbag, or Versace t-shirt... you'll have to go to the streets... I didn't see any of those in the malls for legality reasons. Also keep in mind that pretty much everything you are buying is crap. Just because it says chanel, on it, it's actually worse quality than if you made it yourself. One laundry machine ride will destroy the clothes and the clothes around it. Ink runs and they shrink. Happened to all the shirts I bought there. SUCKS!!! End of rant.

So what's my overall view of Thailand? It's gorgeous, but the tourist trap is in full effect. You have to be careful and do your research. Hotels are cheap, clothes are cheap, taxi's are fairly cheap, and the food is cheap (and super delicious). My problem is that I hated arguing to get it cheap. lol. Anyways... If you were wondering, the best place was Koh Phi Phi. Everyone should go there at least once in their lives.