Three Days in Jeju

This summer we went to Jeju. Jeju is kind of like the Risa of Korea.

We started in Jeju city where the airport is. With a rental car, we drove to Manjanggul caves.  These are a volcanically formed network of tubes that you can walk through, it takes about 20-30 minutes to walk the whole route there and back. It was pretty cool, and only 2000 W entry, although it was quite chilly down there.

Next, we drove towards our hotel (Co-op city hotel) which was close to the foot of Seongsan Ilchulbong., the bowl-shaped mountain formed by a volcanic eruption. The roof of the hotel has a rooftop bar and some jacuzzis which you can rent for 30 mins, but most impressively it has a beautiful view of the mountain.

In the morning we walked up Seongsang ilchulbong. It is quite an easy walk but takes about two hours especially if you stop for photo ops. The summit has an impressive view of the interior of the bowl, and on your way back down you get some lovely views of Jeju.

For the rest of the day, we drove around the coast of Jeju and made stops at a couple of waterfalls. The first was Jeonbang falls, its claim to fame is that it is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. It is really impressive, you walk around the bottom of it and paddle in the water where the waterfall mixes with the ocean water.  The second was cheonjiyeon falls, which has a very nice walk leading up to it. The waterfall itself is quite impressive and scenic, but not as dramatic as the Jeonbang falls. After that, we went to our hotel near sanbangsan mountain.

On the last morning, we went to a neat little spa, Sanbangsan hot springs. It is quite similar to most Koren spas but it also has some baths which are heated by a volcanic hot spring and is filled with carbonated water. They also have outdoor swimming pools and baths with the carbonated water. On our way back to Jeju city we stopped by a beach for lunch and a walk; the beach was beautiful with white sands and black volcanic rock.

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We didn’t have time to go to see the lava columns. We also didn’t hike up  Mt. Hallasan mainly because that will probably take up most of a day and it was the height of summer too.

Jeju is definitely worth a visit at least once if you are staying in Korea for a reasonable amount of time. Although it has a lot of tourist attractions/museums (such as a teddy bear museum, a sex museum, and mysterious road), it is the areas of outstanding natural beauty that make it special. Three days is probably enough to see everything if you plan your time well; if you want to see Mt Hallasan, then add an extra day. Renting a car is also a good idea, so you don’t have to rely on the buses.

 

 

 

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Review 2016

2016 was a year where everything changed, mostly for the better, for me both personally and professionally. I rolled the dice by moving 5000 miles to start a job as a postdoc in Korea to be with someone I’d only known from the internet, and a short vacation together in South Korea last summer. Looking back, it seems a little foolhardy, but a year later I’m engaged to that person and my career has developed here much faster than it was doing in the UK 2015. There’s probably a decent Toastmasters speech to be made from this year somewhere down the line. Here’s a short reviewer of other things that have happened this year.

January started at Chris’ new year’s murder mystery party and recovery steak the next day. On January 2, Meg arrived for her vacation in the UK. It had been 5 months since we had last seen each other in Korea. Together, we visited London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, and Carlisle. On January 20 we left for Korea.

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Meg at Kings Cross; Leaving party in Leeds (photo credit: Chris); and my last supper in the UK.

In February, I started my new job as a postdoc at the Institute for Basic Science (the unintentionally chuckle-worthy, IBS). Meg and I took a trip to Busan.

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Gwangali Beach, Busan

In March, we took a trip to Seoul. We went up Namsan Tower and ate Alabama BBQ in Itaewon.

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Alabama BBQ in Seoul, Namsan Tower view.

In April, is the cherry blossom season in Korea, My lab went on a picnic at to a local park.

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POSTECH campus in the Cherry Blossom Season; The center for Self-assembly and Complexity group picnic.

Nothing interesting happened in May or June!

In July, I returned to Seoul for the Supramolecular and Materials Chemistry Conference, which included a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The weekend before we tried out an escape room in Seoul.

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Part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

In August, I visited the United States. After a layover in San Francisco, I moved on to Tennessee to visit Meg’s family.  In Tennessee, we visited the Jack Daniels distillery. We also had a 3 day trip to Washington DC, via Knoxville. During my time in the US, I got a few things off my bucket list: I went skydiving and got to experience the US constitution’s 2nd amendment.

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Me with an AK-47; the view from the Lincoln Memorial; Meg and I at the Whitehouse

In September, we went to Eonyang for the Eonyang Bulgogi festival. Korea experienced its 1st and 4th strongest recorded earthquakes within an hour of each other.

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Raw beef (left) and Eonyang bulgogi (right)

In October, southern South Korea was hit by a typhoon.  We visited a beach near Ulsan. I went to Busan for the Korean Chemical Society Fall Meeting.

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In November, we visited the Eonyang amethyst caves. I went to my first Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

In December, we had we visited Ganjelgot cape, famous for being the place where the sun rises the earliest on the Korean Peninsula and the home of Korea’s largest postbox. On Christmas day we went to Busan for the Christmas tree festival. Meg and I got engaged.

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The largest postbox in Korea; Meg and I (back in April, but it’s the best picture of us)

Korean Food Part 1

 

One of the best things about living in Korea is the food. Like many Asian cultures, food is traditionally shared in Korea. Often the main will be cooked in the center of the table  There are many side dishes (Banchan, 반찬) with most Korean meals. Kimchi 김치 is ubiquitous, often with many other types of fermented vegetable too.

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sidedishes from a Korean restaurant.

Here are a few of the foods that I like:

Korean BBQ

One of the distinctive thinks about Korean food compared to western is that in some restaurants your meat is brought to your table raw and you barbecue it yourself. You can get many different cuts of meat, from belly pork at the cheaper end to Wagyu steaks at the more expensive.  The cooked meat is normally eaten by wrapping in a salad leaf with some other vegetables and sauce .

three different cuts of bbq meat (left), and Wagyu steaks (right).

Gamjatang  감자탕

Literally means potato soup, although there is often potato in it, is not the main component.  Gamjatang is pork backbone stew. It is very similar to rib meat, but it’s from the spine. Like many Korean dishes its supposed to be shared so there’s often served as a stew in the center of the table.

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Gamjatang

Dakgalbi 닭갈비

Literally means ‘chicken rib’ it’s actually chicken breast meat cooked in a spicy sauce, which often has noodles, rice cakes (ddeok, 떡), mushrooms and vegetables added. It is from a place a called Chooncheon the northern part of south Korea.  After you finish, normally the remaining sauce is cleared up with a portion of rice which is stir-fried into the remaining sauce. It’s delicious and filling. If there is one meal I think would do very well in the west, it would be dakgalbi. I doubt, though, you would be allowed to serve uncooked chicken in the UK. In Korea, it’s a popular meal and there some western fusion varieties where there it served with cheese fondue or cheese-filled rice cakes.

Traditional dakgalbi (left) and cheese ring version (right).

The Joe Rogan Podcast

Joe Rogan is a commentator on MMA, a comedian, and a former martial arts practitioner . He is also the host of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. The JRE is approaching 800 episodes, I’ve only listened to a fraction of them. His guests include his fellow comedians, MMA fighters and people who Rogan thinks are interesting.

Generally, his podcasts are around 3 hours each where he has a long conversation with a guest in the studio. What I like about them is that 3 hours is plenty of time to really talk to a person find out what it is that makes them tick, what they believe and why they believe it. In the podcast format is much easier to digest than reading a book, which means you can listen to people you wouldn’t normally invest time and money in by buying their books and read them.

He’s had some very rational guests: Michael Schermer and Sam Harris are recurring guests; Brian Cox and Neil Degrasse Tyson have also been on the show. The podcasts I’ve found most interesting, though, are the fringe characters such as Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a proponent of morphic fields, which is the idea that knowledge can be passed telepathically through nature and social groups. I’ve heard and read about him and I thought he must be delusional. After listing to him on the podcast – I still think he’s wrong- but he’s very eloquent and can explain lucidly and convincingly his experiment and strange phenomena that he has observed, but then jumps to the ‘magic’ explanation. He is a true believer, he’s done experiments with Steven Rose and Richard Wiseman, Sheldrake interprets the results one way, Rose and Wiseman the opposite. It’s fascinating that intelligent people can look at the same data and reach a different conclusion. In fairness to Sheldrake, he posts both papers by him and his critics on his website.

An interesting guest he had on recently was Scott Adams, best known for creating the Dilbert comic strip, he also predicted over a year ago that Donald Trump would win the US election in a landslide. Adams is also a hypnotist, and he believes that Trump is one of the most persuasive politicians there has ever been because he uses some of the tricks that hypnotists use. Also, Trump’s hyperbole and rhetoric give him a lot of  latitude for comprising somewhere in the middle in a way that a moderate candidate couldn’t.

A criticism of the JRE it’s maybe a little too open minded, some people can just say things that are obviously ridiculous, but he doesn’t challenge them that often. But  it is nice that you can list to different points of view (with very little effort) from people you would not normally hear from, especially in these days of social media echo chambers. The podcasts with comedians are often very funny too.

Some interesting people I’ve found through listening to the JRE:

Scott Adams (see above)

Dr. Rhonda Patrick: biochemist and health and nutrition expert (recurring guest).

Prof. Gad Saad: An Evolutionary biologist who studies the evolutionary basis of consumerism (recurring guest).