Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crowded in Seoul

The Megacity of Seoul alone houses over 10 million people along with 600,000 foreigners. With Seoul also being the third most visited city in the world after Paris and London, it plays hosts to a 10 million visitors every year. Almost 2/3rd of the country's population lives in Seoul. With all these statistics, it will not be hard to visualize the crowds in Seoul.

The escalators are crowed, the malls are full and apartments overflowing; There is almost always a queue for shopping, wait at the restaurants, lines to get into the subway. People everywhere, at any time. But, even with so many soju (alcohol comparable to vodka)-loving people around, Seoul is a very safe city. Women walk safe wearing whatever they want to even at late nights. Now, thats really Cool!

These are the pictures of the crowded skating rink in City Hall, Seoul.

ice skating in city hall, seoul

city hall ice skating rink

crowded ice skating rink

ice skating in seoul city hall

grey day with the sun peeping out in seoul
Why is the sky always grey in Seoul?

LED screens close to the ice skating rink in city hall seoul
The hi-tech gadgets advertising their stuff is found on tall buildings.

ABC Wednesday- C for Crowds in Seoul
Skywatch Friday

Friday, January 25, 2013

Shiny Antiques

Shiny scooters at Itaewon
Shiny Scooters found at Itaewon

Thursday Challenge- Shiny antiques spotted at Itaewon Festival.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Trees during Winter

It was a freezing cold evening in Seoul that i dare not step out of the door, but the magpies were up and about doing their thing. I just couldnt let that magical moment pass me by without capturing it!

Bare trees in Seoul
Beautiful sunset setting

Bare trees during sunset
Bare trees

Just a tinge of red
Trees with a tinge of red

snow in winter on trees
Bare trees during the snowfall

just snowfall on bare trees

ABC Wednesday- B for Bare trees
Skywatch Friday

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Questioning the Life of Pi

To say that i did not understand the Life of Pi is not exactly true. The book was gripping, the story was exciting, the movie was spectacular but the climax was shocking. Whoever heard of having a choice of picking your own version for the story?

I remember reading a particular kind of book when i was a kid, the kind of one which had a choice to make at each step of the way: if you think he opened the door to the right, go to page 32, if you think he opened the door on the left, go to page 45. I was never satisfied with those kinds of books... Made me feel that i was not getting the full picture. Made me feel i had missed out on something exciting. And also, there was the question of what if i felt that he did not open either of the door, what if he left through the window? Anyway, i was never impressed with those kinds of books.

It was not the ending that has to be decided in life of Pi. Pi is alive. He is saved. I just had to come to peace with whether Pi really spent 227 days with the tiger, Richard Parker, or did he survive the 227 days alone and covered up his sad story of murdering his mother's murderer by becoming the tiger Richard Parker himself?

Wont not believing that Pi spent 227 days with the tiger become an insult to the bestseller writer? He did most convincingly and painstakingly explain over the 100 pages how that ready did happen? I did read the whole book, believing that anything is possible in life, if we only put our heart and soul into it? And Richard Parker is a zoo-trained animal. But hold on, didnt his father also say and create a scene that tigers can never actually be tamed or trained? Is that a clue to the second version being the true one?

Should i believe the distraught face Irrfan Khan had when he told the human-version of his story? Is this the true one then? Men like the cook are very much alive and around us just like the devils in the Delhi case. They sadly show us that people are capable of doing anything and everything including that which would be considered inhuman or downright macabre. I can believe that Pi tranforms into Richard Parker too, much like Smeagol becomes Gollum or like Gange becoming Nagavalli under these extreme circumstances.

The book tossed me a real googly when it went for the other blind shipwrecked person with the French accent who admitted killing a man and a woman. I was as blind as Pi was in fixing this piece into the two possible jigsaw puzzles. If Pi is with the tiger, then, is this person the cook who killed Pi's mom and the Buddhist sailor? How does this guy fit in the human version, where the only French guy to whom we are introduced to is already dead?

And what is it about the carnivorous island in the Pacific? Why was this island so important? To show that God is still watching over you, even when it doesnt feel like it? Remember in the movie Signs, Mel Gibson says that there are two kinds of people- People who believe that the occurrences are pure luck, nothing more. And another group of people who believe that these occurrences are more than just luck, they are signs from an Almighty, watching over them. Why give Pi a choice again- to either enjoy the plenty of the island and die slowly at the hands of a faceless enemy or face the mighty Pacific and have a chance at life?

Where in the story does Pi make a person believe in God? The mere fact that he survived 227 days in the Pacific with the tiger within or without? The boundless expanse of the ocean and sky or the tremendous power of the lightning, the spurts of flying fish just falling into the mouth of Richard Parker at the moment of need or just the fact that he is on a lifeboat when countless perished?

And why do i have so many questions regarding the book even after finishing reading it and watching the movie in spectacular 3D? And do these questions arise only because there is a book has an open ending? Will i be thinking so hard, if it had a definitive end?

Korean Veggie Buffet - Garobee

Garobee- veggie restaurant in Gangnam

Garobee is a vegetarian and vegan-friendly buffet restaurant in Gangnam, Seoul. While Sanchon in Insadong is classy, unique, spacious and special occasion-worthy (with its 40,000won per person rates), Garobee is cozy, sweet and affordable. Though a decent meal can be got for under 8,000won in Seoul, an all-you-can-eat-vegetarian buffet for those ravenous days can be quite satisfying at Garobee at 15,000won.

Garobee is located behind CGV in Gangnam
Pretty glasses all in a row!
Garobee is quite easy enough to find. Take Gangnam station exit 11. Find CGV movies. Garobee is located behind the CGV in a small alley.

Veggie Buffet in Gangnam
 There is decent salad bar with fresh veggies, fruits and kimchi of course,  and a special salad dressing each day. It was an interesting and quite tasty peppery pineapple dressing on the day we visited. The soup made with kelp was a bit hit with my younger one. As for me, i am stuck at "there is a smell associated with seaweed."

Not beef, only tofu!
Though this item looks like a beef dish, it is made totally out of tofu seitan (Thanks VeganBeats! )with the bean paste, cabbage, onions, capsicums and sesame seeds. This is used as a gravy to top the rice. But it was good enough to eat it alone too.

Tofu shells stuffed with rice
Fried Tofu shells with rice filling.
This is one of my favorite food at Korea. So easy to make too.  Tofu (soya paneer) is widely used in cooking in Korean food. Tofu is quite versatile and marinates well and can be grilled, sauteed, fried and boiled. Thick triangle chunks of tofu is fried and cut half way on the inside of the base to make a shell. Then, flavored rice is then stuffed into the shell. The shell is quite soft and not so brittle as we would imagine it to be.

Potato fritters and sweet and sour sauce
Deep fried golden veggies in tempura batter with sweet and sour sauce for the topping
The veggies- potatoes, sweet potatoes, pine mushrooms- were light and crisp while the tangy sauce was a nice accompaniment to it.

Thick noodles in soy sauce
Noodles in Soy sauce
 Pardon the shake, i guess i was getting pretty hungry by this time!

Soy Ham and cheese sandwich
Fake ham and cheese sandwiches
 The good thing about this place is that it does not only serve Korean food. There were these fake ham (tofu, again) and cheese sandwiches and potato fries with ketchup that my kids happily gobbled up! There were also some bread and a variety of spread for those picky eaters.

Tofu soup
Silken tofu soup
 There was also this whole section dedicated to bibimbap. With a lot of sauteed veggies, pickled veggies, dried and cut seaweed and the red sauce with the option of white Korean rice or the more healthy brown rice.
Plum tea
Plum tea was yummy
 And I really enjoyed the refreshing  plum tea. Must find out if the store-bought ones are as good as this one...
my cup of plum tea

the dessert
Korean Dessert
The dessert was not fulfilling though, with just one Korean sweet. (Which has to be eaten with sugar on the side for us sweet-toothed Indians!)

Garobee is a good veggie place but i am told there is a better veggie buffet elsewhere with even more options... Will unearth it soon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Simple acts of Korean Kindness

Coming back from India, missing friends and family, the food and noise and the lovely, warm sun, it isn't easy to get back to the normal routine in Korea. Just can't get rid of this homesickness :( Not that i was trying. Fighting the cold, remembering to wear heavy layers before i step out of the door, I decided to venture into the city which would be my home for sometime now, after too many days of self-imposed solitary confinement.

The Very Sweet Iron Man

 I decided to do a good deed and get back the clothes that my husband had dropped off for ironing. The iron shop is about a kilometer away from home. I walked cheerfully but the wind was too piercing, too cold. Braving through it, i told the Korean the few words that i hoped he would know in English. "Pickup". "Senthil". The baffled man recovered, quite fast and replied: "Saint hill, 15?" Yeah. Mission accomplished. He picked out all of the right clothes, packed it all for me, got the payment from me, and asked me: "Teksi?". "Anneyo", i replied confidently, "walking". He kept on showing me how heavy the load was. "I can carry 15 pants and shirts", remembering how i had to carry my son on my left hand for 2-3 hours at a time, when he was a baby as he would never be happy except with me and my left hand. Still, he kept on mumbling. He graciously helped me with my back pack, waited until i wore my gloves and cap and handed me the clothes in the compactly packed coat-bag. He even demonstrated the best way to carry it and how my way was wrong. Convinced that i understood, he opened the door, let me out and again made sure i didnt need a teksi. All smiles at the attention and help i got from this man, i walked happily towards home. By the time i reached home, the 15 items seemed very heavy and i was determined that Sainthill should be paying better attention to me or he is not getting any good deeds from me. 

The  Wonderful Waxer

It is so easy to get the eyebrows tweezed in India. Every corner has a beauty parlor  where you could get it done for 20 bucks. 
Here, i have to get my eyebrows waxed.  It is every bit scary and painful as it sounds. I guess this is a necessary pain. I had made an appointment for this torture and showed up 15 mins early to the place. The moment i start taking off my jacket i find a fellow standing next to me with his arms wide open, perplexed, i look at him and he takes my jacket off my shoulders in one swift movement. I was taken to the small, comfortable room where some one helped me off with my snow boots. My snow boots. She jippered it off for me! I lied down in the bed, visualizing my pain, the lady sweet-talked with me to help ease the tension while ripping off the extra hairs on my eyebrows. The process was excruciating, though she was mumbling "its ok", "its ok" like a mom comforting a baby after the injections. She applied the orange flavored liquid which smelt good more than anything and declared that my eyebrows looked perfect. Again, she jippered on my snow boots, jippered my jacket which the guy was holding with open arms, held the backpack for me to slip my hands in and opened the door for me. Wow! I thanked them profusely while they Annyeonghaseo-ed me. By the time i walked home, Sainthill was in big trouble. He has Never Ever helped me with my jacket- on or off. Never even opened a door for me.

The Pretty Lady in Blue

Seoul's climate is wild. It just takes minutes to see a sunny day turn cloudy and rainy and back to being sunny again. And Koreans are magicians. They whip out an umbrella out of nowhere and slip it into oblivion equally fast. This happened before i had discovered their secret weapon. (The weather app which gives the weather details for each hour of the day.)

We came out of the subway station and had to walk a few hundred metres to reach the mall. It started pouring. Everybody around us popped out an umbrella and kept on walking just as before. I was shivering and trying to push through the crowd to the safety of the mall, without seeming rude. Suddenly, this lady closest to me, pulled me under her umbrella. She held me close, made sure i was dry until we reached the mall entrance. She disappeared just as she appeared close to me, before i could voice my gratitude. "How wonderfully kind people these Koreans are", I think. I turned back to see Sainthill thanking another younger lady fashionably dressed in blue for taking him under her umbrella... I wasn't impressed with this particular lady. "It was not raining too hard, was it?" I started to Sainthill.

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