Friday, February 29, 2008

Are Chinese men whipped?

"It's so heavy.. and you don't mind, do you?"

Oh yes, they so are!!

Spotted, on a windy day in Shanghai city: A trendy looking woman in high heals strutting about.
Behind her: her boyfriend/husband carrying three shopping bags, one large, pink, fake Gucci purse and pushing on a large armchair. At one point the woman turned around and yelled something quite nasty to him. His face barely moved.

Another time, in Century Park in Shanghai, I took this picture.. sort of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?!

"And while you're at it Honey.. can u also remove the dog poo that I accidently stepped on?"

But really, what is the handbag fuss all about? Everywhere you go in China or Korea you see men carrying their girlfriend's/wive's handbags. Not only does it looks funny, but also quite inconvenient seeing that the men are normally carrying their own man bag on one shoulder, and then their girlfriends' bag on the other.

Asian men –speak now, or we will forever think that you’re whipped!

Mandarin Level 3 -here we go!

Oh the memories.. back at level 1 my class looked like this...

Yey yey yey!

I’m glad to tell you that A. I’ve found a great tutor, and B. I made it into Mandarin Level 3 at my new university! Fair enough, I mean, I have already done level 2 at old uni, however, u never know if the universities have the same level. And you do need to take a placement test (consisting of one reading&writing part and one speaking part) if you're a new student.

Even though I was a complete mess at the written test, I managed to convince the two Chinese women who interviewed me as part of the speaking test that I can manage the level 3 standard. (I’m the same in every language I suppose: bad at spelling but good at speaking).

The first thing I did when I got my new level 3 books was to see how hard the texts were, meaning: how many characters I didn’t know. And it wasn’t too bad. Sure, about 50% are new ones but it feels soooooooooo nice that I at least now read a little bit better. When I started doing level 2 (I had then had an 11 months break since I did level 1) I was a complete mess.

I suppose one reason why my Chinese has improved is because I (during level 2) was in a class that consisted of only Korean and Japanese students. Seeing that most of them already know a lot of characters, they were almost fluent in reading and writing and that triggered me to study like a mad woman in order to keep up. A good tip for anyone who wants to learn Chinese is to study together with other Asians. It'll definitely speed up your learning!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Karaoke -Chinese stress release?

During my first visit to China I couldn’t help expressing my curiosity towards karaoke.
-Why do you guys love it so much? I asked my Chinese translator/guide/life saviour (at that point I spoke 0.0 Chinese)
-It releases stress, she said with a straight face.

Releases stress?

I thought about what I do when I want to release stress. I go for a run. I sweat. I suffer. I think to myself that “damn it, I HATE running” but then afterwards, when I’m back home again, exhausted and worn out, I feel kind of good. Or actually, very good.

I tried to imagine myself singing karaoke and feeling the same way afterwards.

-I see, I said.
-It’s not that strange you know, she said, as if she could read my mind.
-You know, in Japan, people go to special clubs where they get a private room, a pen, and a handful of porcelain plates. They go into their private room, write their bosses name on the plate, and throw the plate against the wall so that it shatters!! That’s their way of releasing stress!
-Oh, I see,
I said again.
-So do you think Swedish people would prefer the Chinese or the Japanese method?
-I'm not sure...

Do I look de-stressed?

(Side note: “surprisingly” none of my Japanese friends have been able to confirm the ‘write-your-boss-name-on-a-plate-and-throw-it-on-the-wall-stress-release-method).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Am I a cheap bastard?

Last night a young, sweet, Chinese girl came over to our place to give me a trial private Mandarin lesson. Yeah, for those of you who do not know; I am (desperately) trying to speed up my process of learning Chinese. After 7 months of university language studies, I feel I sill make too many primal mistakes (like saying “I am a size 25” instead of “I am 25 years old” and telling the taxi driver “it doesn’t matter!!” when he asks me “should I take left or right at the crossing?” Yup. Quite inconvenient, I know!) and now I want to get better, fast!

With HSC level 6 as my current, far-fetched dream (yeah right) I was deeply motivated for yesterday’s lesson, which unfortunately didn’t work out quite the way I thought it would.

I had already specified how much I was willing to pay (50 kuai/hour), so imagine my surprise when the tutor (who had no previous teaching experience. I suppose I shouldn’t even call her a tutor) suddenly expressed her wish for me to pay her 150 kuai/hour.

“Ehum, but… well… I sort of already said I would pay 50!” I tried.


I had to quickly shove her to my door so that her time wouldn’t add up to an outrageous quota.
But in the end I still paid her 50 kuai. Don’t call me ruthless! Even my ‘Chinese-tutor-wanted’-add said that price! I have no idea where she got 150 from?

Anyways. So now I’m at the lookout again. I know that 50 kuai/hour isn’t considered to be a too low rate. I’ve already asked around and all my Chinese friends believe it is a decent time pay, especially for someone who doesn’t have any previous teaching experience. A friend of mine is paying her tutor 30 kuai/hour, and that’s also considered to be a totally okay price.

But then again. Why do I get this feeling that when the tutor sees my blonde hair, 50 kuai suddenly becomes ‘waaaaaaaaay toooooo loooooooooow’ and I turn into this stingy bastard in front of her yes? Should Westeners have to pay more because they are Westeners? Like, really?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fat bums and big noses

In China, the term ’honesty’ has a whole different meaning than back home.

In China, you don’t sugar coat your comments. You don’t try and hide the truth. In China, you say as you think and if you happen to hurt the other person, well, then that’s just the truth that hurts, rather than your words.

Therefore, I cannot utter any personal defend to the following thing that happened to a friend of mine.

She was in a small, Chinese clothing shop when she decided to try on a dress. The mirror was outside the fitting room, so when she went out to have a look, she overheard the Chinese shop assistants offering their point of view:

-Look at that girl. Incredible how big asses those westerners have!
-I know! Big asses, and big hips. Looks stupid.
-Yeah, hehe

Now all this was said in Chinese so what can you do? Well, if it would have been me I probably would have yelled something nasty back (in Chinese) but my friend was quite shell-shocked and simply left the shop without saying a word (and no, she didn’t buy the dress).

Some weeks later, I was in another clothing shop and just about to pay for a dress when the two smiling shop assistants behind the counter started talking to each other in Chinese:

Girl 1: -Do you think she’s beautiful?
Girl 2: -Beautiful?
Girl 1: -Yeah, the Western girl.
Girl 2: -I don’t know, her nose is quite big…

Instantly, the memory of my humiliated friend’s sob story sprung to my mind. No way I was going to have this happen to me too?!

Me (in Chinese): -Why are you asking her if she thinks I am beautiful, how would you feel if I talked about you like that?!

Ahhhhh… I wish you would have seen the faces of Girl 1 & Girl 2. Priceless!!!

Well, they didn’t say anything else while I was standing there, but when I walked away I heard them burst into a hysterical laughter. Well, I suppose we all need our dose of daily fun?

And well, I guess compared to their tiny-non-existent-hips-and-bums and their pert little noses, us Westerners do look rather big. But that’s not something we need to be told, is it??

Yup, I guess my nose is the bigger kind.

There won't be any "language exchange" lunch today

Turns out I was right about Mr Chinese guy. Around 9pm last night, I received the following text message (all in Chinese characters, so it took me quite a while to read it…)

“Dear Jonna, I was very happy to meet you today at Starbucks. You are beautiful and lovely. Are you living here alone? I am here alone. I work at a golf club. I can’t wait to meet you tomorrow.”

Okeeeeeeeeey, and that was the end of that ‘language exchange’. I replied everything I could think of to make it obvious that this was not going to happen (in Chi characters, quite proud of myself!) and that was it. Over and out!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why does this always happen to me?!

There I was, innocently studying characters at a Starbucks café when a mid-aged Chinese man approached me and asked if I was an English teacher.
‘No!’ I said and pointed on my endless notes of characters.
‘Oh, because I want to learn English!’
And then, with both of us not being very good at communicating at the other ones language (his English was as poor as my Chinese… actually, I should give myself some credit, maybe it was even poorer than mine) we ended up in some sort of linguistic haze where he expressed his wish to become my 朋友‘peng you’= friend.

Yes, my friend.

But friends don’t call you 15 min after you’ve said goodbye and ask if they can take you out for dinner.

Yes, I am very naïve and stupid who gave him my number but my phone was sort of at the table and he wanted me to put his number in, and call him, so that he could get mine. And yes, of course I could have said no, or even better, I could have refused, but once again… It’s not that nice to make a Chinese man ‘lose face’ at a public place, so I thought I’d let him down gently. When he suggested dinner (during our phone call) I replied ‘how about lunch at Starbucks’. I’m thinking that if Starbucks could get me into this sticky situation, then Starbucks better take me out of it too!!

Now, if he really, truly wants us to be ‘friends’ and friends only, I will have to take all this back. But if he thinks ‘friends’ or ‘study buddies’ means wining and dining, and not focussing on language exchange, I guess I’ll have to do some painful explaining to him. Oh lord. Why does this always happens to me?

But anyways, I am meeting him tomo already... To be continued!!

Where to party in Shanghai: (bomb) Shelter nightclub

PIcture from

I thought I seen it all when it comes to nightclubs in Shanghai. But that was before I went to the Shelter, Shanghais new, unpretentious, highly popular nightclub.

The Shelter is what it is. A bomb shelter that has been transformed into a nightclub. The drinks are a bit cheaper than at other places. The bar staff are friendly. The music is unpredictable (last Sat they had reggae, which isn’t the most usual choice of tunes amongst the highly commercial and techno-loving Shanghai clubs). And the crowd is… mixed! Imagine everything from young students to Shanghai seniors. Not that many locals though, bit I think that will change.

After my first visit to this Shelter I must say I’m quite satisfied with the experience. Sure, the club got a bit smoky towards the end of the evening, and I wouldn’t recommend the place for someone who is claustrophobic. But it’s definitely a nice, fresh change in Shanghai’s club scene, and definitely a place that feels far away from glitz and glamour at the Bund. (Leave your heels at home!)

Just don’t ask me where the fire escape is.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Chinese and their English names

Britney has obviously made an impression on young, Chinese girls.

The other day I went to the hairdresser, and while I was getting my hair washed I overheard one of the hairdressers calling someone else:

-Jonna, Jonna, can you come over here??

I felt kind of strange, seeing that my head was literally in a sink. But she definitely said my name, meaning… I should go??

The girl who washed my hair, Tina, had to gently push me back down when I tried to emerge the sink. Seeing that I am one of the few “Jonnas” that I know in China (and, in the rest of the world too?!) Tina knew my name, and told me that they weren’t actually calling for me, but for a Chinese hairdresser who’s English name just also happens to be… JONNA.

I couldn’t help feeling a tab bit flattered when I asked how she got the name and Tina replied that she didn’t know, however, that I am their only Jonna-customer, so maybe she was inspired…

When the Chinese are starting to take MY name you know things are going well for China!!

But speaking of name. There are a few odd ones. During my time in China I have met:

1 Cotton
1 Panda
40 Britneys
2 Chocolate
1 Rainbow
1 Spring
1 Rama

I’ve also given out an English name to a horseback riding instructor. We were chatting, and when he told me he didn’t have any English name, I felt obliged to call him Luke. He seemed happy about it, until I told him ‘Luke’ is the name of a famous Western cartoon. I am not sure if he kept the name.

But worse of the worse, is one Chinese girl we came across at a cafeteria. She was serving us tea and muffins when I looked at her name badge only to find her name was… Swallow.

Yes, Swallow. SWALLOW?! My God! How about consulting with a native speaker before you get yourself an English name?

However, Swallow is also a kind of bird. Let’s hope that’s the one she was opting for!

Dirty thoughts, go away...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The AYI business

One of the first thing people told us when we came to China was that we should get ourselves an AYI. An AYI is a cleaning lady/nanny/care taker/house keeper/chef/grocery shopper that most expats get, and then become totally dependant on.

She will clean, cook, shop, babysit and wash (both laundry and dishes), depending on how much you pay her. But quite frankly, you don’t have to pay her that much.

At first, I was completely reluctant to the thought of having someone else touching my dirty underwear and washing my coffee cups. But when we rented our first flat in Shanghai, and our landlord pointed out that the wooden floor needed to be cleaned in a very special way, using floor wax and some other things, and then went on by SUGGESTING us to hire an AYI that previous tenants had been using and who knew the procedure, the thought of getting some cleaning help became quite appealing. Especially when he told us that she charged 10 kuai (less than 1 euro!) per hour, and that she would come to our place once a week to clean for 2 hours. For only 8 euros/month I could escape the floor waxing. It was a deal.

However, I’ve never had any cleaning help before, and it felt quite strange to be 24 and have an older woman doing your dishes. I was a student, for Christ’s sake?! And since when can students afford a house keeper?

(Since they came to study in China, apparently).

The modest salary, however, soon became an issue for me. There she was, all sweet, smiley and helpful, folding my jumpers and scrubbing our toilet, every Sunday for 2 hours, only to go home with 20 kuai in her pocket. It simply didn’t feel right. Tortured by a bad conscious, we felt obliged to compensate her in another way.

We started collecting freebees, buying chocolate, even cooking meals and pass it over to her. One sports bag here, a snickers bar there, some tofu and veggies to go… Our AYI soon had to arrive with a spare bag so that she could bring all of our bad- conscious gifts with her home. During the special Chinese holidays we gave her a juicy bonus, and at least twice a month she’d walk home with double salary. Some weeks we even did the dishes and laundry because she came because we felt so sorry for her.

When we six months later moved out, I felt both sadness and relief when saying goodbye to her. She also seemed quite emotionally moved, but when we gave her an extra 100 kuais for all her good work, she walked off with a content smile on her face.

The first thing we did when moving into our new flat was to buy a vacuum cleaner, a mop, and some other cleaning devices. We sad no to all recommendations of AYIs, and spent the following year living in dust and arguing about who should do the dishes. Just like a normal couple in their early twenties.

Now we’ve moved again, and the new flat came with an AYI. Even though this AYI is way better paid than our previous one (this one gets 400 kuais/ month), we still cannot help sometimes leaving her a box of chocolate or some extra money on the dinner table.

And you know what, it feels quite good.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Games or no games

Believe it or not –but Shanghai Daily today reported on some negative news related to the upcoming Olympic Games.

On Wed night this week it became known that director Steven Spielberg pulled out of his role as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Games because he felt China wasn't doing enough to pressure Sudan to end the conflict in Darfur. While the international press published libraries of information on the issue, the Chinese press (as usual), said nothing.

Until this morning, when Shanghai Daily, Xinhua, and all the other government run newspapers published an urge to the public ‘not to link the Olympic Games with the conflict in Darfur.’

The article went on by listing all aid and support that China has provided Sudan with during the last year. However, there was no mention of the amounts of weapons that they have also sold to the same country.

The article finished off with an angry quote from The Global Times, a current affairs newspaper run by the People's Daily:

"Western exploitation of the Olympics to pressure China immediately provoked much disgust among ordinary Chinese people," said the newspaper. "The vast majority of Chinese people have expressed bafflement and outrage at the Western pressure."

For the full article, go to It’s a first pager of today’s issue.

I personally find it a bit late for the world to start complaining about the Games now, when we are only 6 months away from the opening ceremony date. However, China’s trade with Sudan is unacceptable. I don’t know, it’s a fine line. What do you guys think?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Time to run again

Fancy taking a race in China?

Just get into the crowd!

I’ve been a bit of a slack blogger lately, much due to the CNY holiday. The Chinese holidays always make me extremely lazy, much because of the fact that the cities get so overcrowded that I just want to hide inside with a DVD and take-away. Huh, aren’t I a super fun girl?!

But now the holidays are over (finally!), the crowds have gone back home (thank lord) and I have turned off my DVD player.

My university course doesn’t start until March so I’ve got plenty of time to kill, meaning: articles to write, Chinese characters to study and miles to run. Yup, you heard me. Miles to run.

Seeing that January was a very slow month for me (call me slow started) I decided to embrace the CNY as MY new beginning, so my Chinese New Year resolution is…. To get into the running again!

Once upon a time (hihi) I was actually a quite devoted runner who would feel terrible unless I did a 10 km run every morning. Then something happened, namely I broke my foot and couldn’t run for 6 months, and when I started running again, the nice feeling just wasn’t there. I still tried though, and in 2006 I ran the Shanghai half marathon.

...and I wasn't the only one who ran...

About the race? Well, what can I say. It was crowded. Big time! Like, big big big time! At the starting point (Nanjing Lu, close to the Bund) I thought I was going to get run over, however, in an attempt to keep up and not be stepped on, I started up with speed and ended up with a stitch, making the first 8km more painful than enjoyable.

...and I wasn't the only one who was suffering.

During the first 10-12km or so, the crowd support was quite good. There were taiji performances, dancers, orchestras, and you name it. Girlfriends, boyfriends, envious non-runner and a lot of annoyed Chinese people (that were stuck in traffic because the roads had been closed for the race) were also lining the roads shouting out everything from cheerful support to angry curses. It was perfect!

Here we go!

At 15km I hit a low. My legs were getting stiff (stupid me ended up running in mini shorts and a singlet… and it was the end of November. Doooh!) and my head was feeling heavy. The support had also disappeared as we had left the more commercial areas of the city.

Then, magically, my saviour appeared. A Chinese guy that suddenly ran up next to me and asked:
“Sprechen zi deutch?!”

I was a bit surprised and said no, although I am not sure if he heard me because he kept firing me some more phrases, and I kept nodding, smiling and looking confused back. As he eventually understood I wasn’t German, he gave up and asked me if I’d like to run faster. My legs were already killing me so I said that I’d love to but that it wasn’t possible.
“OK, so we keep your speed then!” he said, and settled into my jog.
“Uhu…” I panted, not really understanding what he meant. Was he going to run next to me for the last 7km?

Oh yes he was.

I struggled, slowed down, tried to speed up, wanted to eventually give up, but my new Chinese friend wouldn’t let me. He got water for me at the water stations. He literally ran behind me and shouted to me to go faster. He put a hand on my back and pushed me when I tried to slow down (does that count as cheating?!) and he kept urging me to go faster.

Here we are. Like peas and carrots after sharing those 7km together.

At the finish line we got separated as girls and guys had to do their finish spurt at two different spots. A bit silly, yeah, and even more silly is the fact that I never managed to find my running buddy again.

He is, honestly, totally responsible for me managing to finish at the time of 2 hours and 5 minutes (Which I think is decent due to my stitch and the fact that neither my body nor my foot were in their best shapes). My personal best (1 hour and 50 min) wasn’t even up for grabs so I’m quite happy with how I did.

Now, if anyone seen this lad, get in touch. I owe him a thank you. Or maybe a “Danke schoen”.

Wanted. Anyone seen him?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What happens when 1,3 billion people travel at once?

I’m trying to get my head around those Chinese holidays, but no matter how my mind twists and twirls with the idea of a whole country taking one week off at the same time, I still cannot understand it. Sure, if you’re a small little place like Sweden, but when we are talking about 1.3 billion people, who all wants to travel at the same time, it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve heard so many horror stories from over crammed holiday trains and the fact that the sales of adult diapers reach its peak during this time of the year speaks for itself.

Fortunately, the Chinese Government has realised this too, and decided to remove one of those week-long national holidays (the one in May). In reality this means that 1.3 billion people will now ‘only’ have a week of holiday together (?!) during the CNY (which is taking place now) and during the National Day in October. Thank god!

Now, for those of you who doesn’t realise just how many people there can be during these kinds of holidays in China, let me give you a hint.

Hello, Nanjing Lu.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy New (Chinese) Year!

And so finally, it’s a new year in China too! We spent Wednesday night eating, drinking and doing the compulsory ‘gan bei’ (meaning ‘clean cup’, which obviously means: ‘bottom up!’) together with a lovely Chinese family.

Chinese astrologist have predicted that the year of the Mouse (that we have now stepped into) is not going to be as good for the economy as the previous year of the Pig. However, I have nothing bad to say about the Chinese New Year celebration: A table full of delicious food, a happy and friendly family, beer, white wine, and Chinese bai jiu (Chinese white wine) –it barely gets any better than that! We ate and drank ourselves under the table, just like you are supposed to do.

Some minor, unavoidable mistakes, of course:

* I gave our gift to the host mom’s sister instead of the host mom.
* When asked about my favourite Chinese food, I mentioned a food that wasn’t served that very night. Big mistake. In order to please me at least five people kept asking the waiters to tell the chef to make this special dish only for me (The waiters refused. Thanks lord!)
* When asked how old I was I first replied 'I am a size 25’. Then I realised my mistake and said ‘I am a year 25’, before I finally I managed to say ‘I am 25 years old’. Yikes, I really need to work on my Chinese!
* Someone said I looked Russian.

OK, so the latter wasn’t really a mistake of mine, but still a bit of a downer. However, people also commented on the looks of my boyfriend, saying that he looked 18, rather than his actual age: 28. There we go. CNY in a nutshell!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Under the skin of Seoul

Before I travelled to Seoul I knew very little about Korea, however, I did know some Koreans, and since I thought they seemed like a lovely, happy bunch of people I decided to go and visit their capital city. This is my Seoul review.

Seoul city –a sophisticated and beautiful city.

I had expected Seoul to be cold and polluted at the end of January, so imagine my happiness when I was greeted by a clear blue sky, sunshine, fresh air and a temperature around 1 degree during day time. I couldn’t have asked for more: the weather was perfect!

Me and my travel partner Anna!

Another great thing about visiting Seoul at the end of January/beginning of February, is the fact that me and my friend Anna seemed to be the only tourists in the whole city. No, but seriously! There were no other tourists!?! Awesome my may think, and yeah, it was! Out hotel (Best Vision in Wagasimmi, conveniently located 5 minutes from the metro) was cheap, the staff was friendly, we didn’t have to cue for anything and neither the metro nor the streets were crammed. Sure, it was a bit chilly (especially during night time) but I strongly recommend anyone to visit Seoul during winter time. It’s beautiful and tourist free, just the way you want it when you are there to travel and explore.

Korean Bibimbap

Seoul turned out to be much larger and diverse than I had expected it to be. The city is decided into different districts/areas and none of those areas are alike. There’s an art gallery/old city area (beautiful little lanes, shops and gorgeous restaurants), a more Western area (Itaewon –or sleazeawon as the Seoul inhabitants also call it, due to its extensive selection of western bars and apparently also some western guys), which is a great place for wining and dining, and then there is Apkujong: Seoul’s own Beverly Hills, with prices so high that they make you turn around at the entrance of night clubs.

Dongdaemun Market, every shoe lovers paradise.

There is also a beautiful and buzzling university area called Hongdae, full of cheap and expensive shops, good restaurants, DVD bangs and young, trendy, window shopping Koreans. Speaking of shopping, anyone up for cheap bargains should head to the extensive market areas such as Dongdaemun, where you can buy shoes for 10 euros and bags and clothes for even less. Seoul is not a cheap city but the market areas still make it possible to fill up your suitcase with stuff. Finally, there is the downtown of Seoul –City Hall, which is like any other downtown; busy and happening. And of course I shouldn’t forget the fact that Seoul is surrounded by magnificent hills, which draws a beautiful contrast between big city and country side.

Korean boys making and selling street food

Of course there are several other areas in Seoul too, however, seeing that we only had five days in Seoul we didn’t have time to go everywhere.

The metro

Don't have any photos of the metro but well.. here's a nice typical city sight!

Seoul has a well developed metro system with more than nine lines running from 5am-11pm. The metro is easy to use and you can buy a transport card, fill it up with 10 euros and travel for around 0,9 euros/fare. There are plenty of maps in the metro, as well as plenty of metro workers and commuters that are happy to help confused westerners to figure out their journey/ how to buy tickets/ how to fill up your metro card. During the week days and the day time the metro isn’t too busy, however, during peak hours and weekends it can get crammed. Since taxis are not cheap in Seoul I recommend the metro. After only one day we had worked out how most things worked and it is definitely the fastest way to get from one point to another. Seoul is not a walk-friendly place due to heavy trafficked roads and it can also be hard to cross big streets, so most people rely on metro and buses.

The Koreans

Stylish, polite, helpful and friendly –I only have positive things to say about the Korean population! The only thing that can be annoying is the fact that their English is quite bad, and especially amongst the younger generation. But normally restaurants or cafes have at least one person that can understand you, otherwise you’ll just have to do what I did: improvise!

Both the Korean men and women are very stylish and fashion conscious. If you’re coming to Seoul then don’t dress down. Even Koreans from the country side makes and effort with dressing up when they visit the city, as they might otherwise be looked down on by the trendy and well groomed city population.

Who said looking good comes for free?

We were amazed of how many women that walked around bare legged (brrrrr!!!) in mini skirts and shorts (!) in minus degrees. What can I say? Superwoman doesn’t let the cold stop her from looking good?

The food

Korean food is delicious. I could have eaten myself through the whole week. Bibimbap (rice and veggies with an egg that are mixed together and then you add a medium spicy red sauce on top, yum!) is my favourite but the kimchi isn’t bad either. The food was not as spicy as we had expected it to be, but if you want a burning hot experience then head to the uni area, order some spicy chicken and… well, let your mouth burn!

Mmmmm... bugs!

There are plenty of street food stands selling everything from Korean red bean baozi to Korean sushi rolls and steamed/boiled bugs. Yes my friends, steamed bugs. It smells as disgusting as it looks, and no, I didn’t try it. But I did try some of the other street food and that was yummy.

What to do?

Korean sauna is a must! Appear naked in a huge bath house (no, okay, don’t turn up naked but go to the bath house, pay the 7 euro fee, enter the male/female section, strip down and get into the cleaning buzz) and enjoy saunas, scrubbing, bubble baths, steam baths, ice cold baths and cool down rooms. These places are amazing; you can spend hours in there, and you will feel so clean and fresh once you are done.

Me and Anna at Casa del Vino in Apkujong.

Wining and dining in Seoul’s Beverly Hills: Apkujong. Yes, it’s disturbingly expensive. But you can do like we did: order the cheapest bottle of wine (42 euros, aoooch!) and the cheapest snack on the menu (a cheese platter for 25 euros) and just sit back, relax, and get a feel of the life of the rich and the beautiful. We went to some different wine bars and had a blast, however, when we tried a ‘Beverly Hill’s like’ nightclub and were asked to pay 30 euros just to get in (!) we decided it was time to return to our normal, not so lavish lives and left the building.

Shopping –like I said, the Dongdaemun market is quite good, however, if you are looking for more upscale stuff than head to Apkujong which is the address to all the big, international, luxury brands. I personally also like the university area, Hongdae.

DVD bang

DVD Bang –DVD bangs are scattered around the city. They are private room where you can watch a DVD (that you select –if you select a Korean movie you can get good English subtitles, so in that way it’s an excellent opportunity to explore the Korean movie world). This is especially popular amongst young Korean couples, and most DVD bangs are on the verge of tacky with their pink walls and satin cushions, but well, we thought it was a fun thing to try out. Like a private cinema. And you can bring your own snacks! :) It costs around 15 euros to watch one movie.

The DMZ tour. Seoul city offers you plenty of sightseeing possibilities. Since I am personally not a huge fan of sightseeing, I simply settled for the DMZ tour, a trip to the North Korean border. At this half day tour you get to do/visit the following places:

Board bus at hotel → Head towards the DMZ → The Third Tunnel → The Dora Observatory→ The Unification bridge → The Dora Mountain Train Station → Return to Itaewon.

Me at the Unification bridge.

All in all, the DMZ tour was one of the most interesting tourist tours I have ever been on. According to our guide, the tour is the most popular in Korea, and during summer time more than 3000 tourist travel to the boarder on a daily basis. (We were so happy it was winter time and didn’t have to share the tunnel that amount of people). I would like to tell you in detail about this tour, however, I fear that this blog entry then will become one of those never ending ones that no one gets through? If you’d like to know more about the DMZ tour, than please say so in the comments field and I will give you a more detailed report.

However, at this point I think I have said enough about my trip to Seoul. I hope I have inspired someone to visit this fantastic city. I know for sure that I will be coming back!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Last day in Seoul

Today's my last day in Seoul... which is a sad thing. I love this place. Seriously! Before I went here, people told me that 'sure, it's a cool place but then again it's just another big city'. I strongly disagree with that statement... I think Seoul is amazing, and that Koreans are very interesting and kind people. I don't know how many people that have offered to help us when we have been standing (with puzzled expressions) and studied the metro maps. The Korean food is fantastic (bibimbap is my new favorite dish!) and there is so much fun stuff to do in Seoul! I have taken some photos so I'll upload those once I am back in China.

But really, if you are planning an Asia trip, and don't necessarily want to go to the turist destinations or need the beaches (read: Thailand) then I recommend u to visit Seoul. Just make sure u to arrive here with a bit of cash because the city ain't cheap! Just the other day we had to turn around at a nightclub, as the cover charge turned out to be 30 euros.. 30 euos?! Just to get in. Nah. But don't worry, there are cheaper options.

I'll tell u more when I get home. Stay tuned!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Korean Sauna and DMZ tour

My gosh, I have so much to tell u guys... I've really taken a liking to Seoul, despite it being an expensive place. Last night me and Anna decided to try the Korean Sauna experience. Quite, ehum, different. We had to walk around butt naked in a huge room that was full of showers, 2 saunas (one regular and one steam), 6 different pools and benches where u could get a real 'scrub', and at 10 pm on a Thu night the place was packed! Women of all ages and shapes sat on small stools and scrubbed themselves with special gloves. We have already decided to go back on Sunday, armed with gloves so that we fit in better.

This morning we did the DMZ tour to the North Korean boarder. It was an extremely interesting and at the same emotional experience. Our guide's family was originally from North Korea so the guide had so many interesting things to tell us. I will share some more info and put up some pictures once I am back in Shanghai. One of the highlights was the visit to one of the tunnels that the North Koreans had secretly dugged to South Korea, in order to eventually do a secret invasion.

Being at the boarder and watching the 'dividing fences' felt both strange, scary and a bit unreal, especially when we watched a whole city that the North koreans have built (only for viewing) in order to pretend that their country is wealthy and that the population is doing well.. I recommend the DMZ tour to anyone who is planning a visit to Seoul.

Tonight we r going out in an area which is supposed to be 'Seoul's Beverly Hills' so we are quite excited! :) I'll get back to you with a hangover report tomorrow! :)