Saturday, August 2, 2014

Soul to Seoul - Korea Last Day in Asia. FIN!

Saturday morning we get up and go sight seeing.
I love a man in uniform
 First stop --the palace complete with the Royal Guards.  It’s fun, especially since people (mostly Chinese tourist) keep asking us, the 3 Americans, to take pictures with them.  They think we are famous, so we let them. These tourist are so lucky to have their picture taken with Brad Pitt, Michelle Obama and George Clooney! Smile. Click!
The bootleg:
Michelle Obama, Brad Pitt and George Clooney

They won't believe this in China
Their homework was to speak English
We are the proof they did it.

Cassius Clay?
I thought you were Brad Pitt.

There is something here known as ‘medical tourism’ where people come her for plastic surgery and sightseeing. Notice these two women in front of the palace posing for glamour shots in their bandages. So if you need a little work done and want to throw in some cultural attractions, then medical tourism is for you.
Medical Tourism

Namdaemun area
Next we go to the Namdaemun area, a cute touristy area. I have fun dancing with a street dancer. We shop, check out protesters and have a wonderful lunch.

We stop at another street market and it feels like being a kid on Saturday morning, when you’re shopping with your mother. The wonder of it all, as the adults maneuver their way around and you just follow—looking and smelling and touching. It’s so amazing to you that there is an order to it that everyone, but you, understands. It’s a magnificent puzzle.

Getting my dance on!
She's a dancing machine.
We wear the mask.
Greg ( I mean George Clooney)
finally gets his Geisha girls.

         Korean BBQ

We rush home to change for a night out. One of Yung Mi’s classmates and her 17 year old son are meeting us for a big Korean BBQ dinner. What a meal! We cook our own meat, which smells so good, I almost gave up ‘not eating meat.’ Lucky for me, two giant delicious mackerels came out just in time to save me. We made a dent in the huge meal, but alas we also left quite a mess.
We left a mess

           Playing Sly and the Family Stone on vinyl
Off we go for drinks at “Back to Vinyl” a very cool hipster record bar. Yes, records as in vinyl as in LP’s. This place has thousands of records and all you have to do is make a request. Spencer had us rocking to Sly and the Family Stone! They also had Watermelon Mint Martinis. Yummy. Even more yummy was the pristine projection of the 1943 B&W classic French film, ‘Le Corbeau.’ This place is EPIC.

We hit a few more bars on the strip and then decided to call it a night since we have an early flight back to the states.

Seoul is a great city. The perfect last stop before coming back to the US.  It was fast “balee balee,” and bustling but also  safe, friendly and dignified.

Going to the airport was no problem as we could check our luggage and go thru immigrations at the train station and have three hours to get to the airport. Enough time to do more shopping.

Southeast Asia was great.
Our bags went straight thru to Chicago with no problem. It felt strange being back around all the Americans. Everyone seemed so unhappy and generally pissed off. 

See ya!
Oh well, vacation is over and it’s “BACK TO LIFE, BACK TO REALITY…”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Seoul Brother --- Korea Day-12.7

OMG, on another Malaysia Airline flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh to Korea. Four countries in a couple of days. This time we make good on our stopover in Kuala Lumpur and take the train into the city.

train into Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Too Rich for my blood
Petronas Twin Towers
Oh wow, this is HIGH end. We go to the Petronas Towers and it makes ‘The Magnificent Mile,’ Park Ave and Rodeo Drive look like strip malls. Every high end store I have ever seen and others that I am, evidently too poor to have even heard of. Everything is so new and modern. We have a spicy and delicious lunch and head back to the airport.

Can A Holy Man Get An Upgrade? 
This is our last Malaysian Airline flight. (Please God, get me through this. Send me a sign.)  In mid prayer three monks board the plane and sit near us—I’m not sure what this ‘sign’ means but…

Orange is the New Black

Skipping Immigration

We land safely in Phnom Penh and we get off right behind the monks. Suddenly there are people getting on their knees and bowing. No, not to us, but to one of the monks. The paparazzi are there taking his photo as he disembarks. He is swept through a special door and on to his own bus as the rest of us are funneled thru immigration, where a Khmer Rouge type immigration officer proceeds to rip us off. He asks to see the money we have from Malaysia, then he takes it all (over $20) for a $1 picture. He tells us to use the ATM behind us to pay $20 for another visa…

Traffic in Phnom Penh
This is our last night in Cambodia and we go to dinner with Kidist and her roommate. Later that night I start to feel sick, real sick. We figure it’s dehydration and Kidist has me chug lots of water and a little Gatorade. Unfortunately I have a 5 hour flight to Seoul, Korea in a few hours. I am so sick I’m turning green. 

BA & Spencer
Luckily Greg handles all the bags and ticketing, but when entering Korea you have to fill out a health/quarantine form. Every illness they mentioned I had—Headache? Yes.  Nausea? Yes. Sore Throat? Yes… but if I check yes they won’t let me in, so I fake it. Greg goes first and gives all the information. I am on the brink of heaving but I smile and say, “I’m with him, whatever he said.” I get thru it all and we head to the Seoul Train Station to meet my friend Spencer. I thought the train station would look like Penn Station or Union Station—wrong.  It was bright and clean, a huge new structure.

Yung Mi, Adda, Spencer & Ceilo
Spencer moved to Seoul three years ago with his lovely wife Yung Mi and their two young daughters, ages 8 and 4. We use to work production together, now he has his own record label (with some slamming talent) he has photo and art exhibits around town, he programs music venues and is producing major tv shows for Korea and China. He lives in a fabulous high rise high-tech apartment, (where we are staying.) and is really enjoying life. He is doing it bigtime!
Spencer's music at Burger B- Chicago Speakeasy

Yes BA, you are eating this
Food Market
After we drop our things off we go to a food market to pick up a few things and we walk to a restaurant where he has a photo exhibit. It’s interesting to go from the old (market) to the new (restaurant) in a few minutes and it all works well together.
Fish on a stick
City Hall

There are all kind of cool things happening in Seoul, like the Silent Discos.  At a Silent Disco you wear a headset and listen/dance to one of 3 colors—each color a different DJ. If you are listening to blue and find yourself dancing with a green, you can change colors to green with them, or maybe the red DJ works better.
"Ho Bar"--No Comment

We go back to Spencer house around 8:30p to prepare for dinner. His younger daughter wants ice cream and they don’t have the type she likes. So Spencer gives his 8 year old some money and tells her to take her little sister to get ice cream. He reminds her that she’s in charge and to hold her sisters hand crossing the street.  I think this must be a game he plays with the girls; but his daughter takes the money and they leave.  Wait, wait, wait! It’s dark outside, and you just sent 2 babies out by themselves.  Neither Yung Mi nor Spencer seem concerned and continue to prepare dinner. I can’t believe my mature responsible friends are letting this happen, but they did and 30 minutes later the girls come back happily full of ice cream and ready for dinner.  I was stunned but they told me that there was nothing to worry about. There is no 
    With a kick like this, I guess she
          can cross the street alone.
crime, kids are safe going out alone, learning to cross the street and to be independent. (We’re not in Kansas anymore.)  I’m still freaked out and call my big sister back in the US and tell her the story. At first she was shocked and then she said, “we use to be able to do that too.” Yeah, there was a time when we didn’t have to live in constant fear and were allowed to go out and explore on our own.
We all had a lovely evening and no one was stressed. This feels good.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bali Poo, Bikes and Art Day 8-9.9

The island's cultural center is Ubud. So that’s where we’re headed next, but not before the hotel called in a doctor for Greg’s burn. They bandaged him up and we were on our way.

Transporting kite by bike
Kites for sale
It’s kite season and kites are everywhere. There’s even a Bali Kite Festival with competing teams of ten or more.

So I can poop on you!
We stop at a house of coffee and experience ‘Luwak’ coffee, called the most expensive coffee in the world. The coffee is made by having a little cat/weasel like animal, the palm civet eat the coffee berry and (seriously) defecate it. Then it’s collected, cleaned, roasted and brewed. By sending the bean thru the animals digestive track it adds enzymes and amino acids and has medicinal properties. They call it ‘the good shit.’
Greg's not buying this 'shit.'
There are also other amazing coffees and teas they make. Coconut coffee, Bali coffee, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, mangosteen tea, tumeric tea, saffron tea… We get to taste test them all. Yes, I loved the coconut coffee, the ginger coffee was delicious but the ginger tea was better.  The expensive ‘Luwak” coffee?
Honestly, to me it taste like shit.

Art is everywhere in Ubud. Galleries, Batik factories, wood carvers. It’s a visual feast! (If this was video, a musical montage of art would happen now.)

Wood carvers

making batik

The next morning I go on a bike tour. Greg is now shedding/peeling and doesn’t want to risk it so he takes a different tour. The tour guide, Wayon, picks me up at the hotel in a van with my other bikers. Most are from Australia or New Zealand. One woman and her family are living in Timor, another from Uruguay. All are very nice and friendly. Our first stop is breakfast in the mountains near Mount Batur Volcano. Wonderful breakfast, including coconut black rice pudding. Taste like heaven.

No this wasnt the bike I used.
This is the bike I get 
Wayon our bike guide
After breakfast we drive to pick up our bikes. These bikes are not the newest but at least I have 3 (questionable) speeds.  Wayon takes us on a tour of Bali culture. We visit traditional Bali homes. In Bali babies can’t touch the ground for their first 3 months and the mother can’t do any work for those 3 months. I like this. Teens’ canine teeth are filed down. Oh, now I understand why everyone has perfectly straight & even front teeth.
Kids driving scooters
As we ride, motor bikes driven by little kids, pass us by. Wayon tells us you only have to be 10 to drive on in the smaller areas but 16 in the city.  I swear I saw six year old kids zooming past us.
We did 25km in 36c heat (15mi & 98F) mostly down hill. There was an optional 9km (5.5mi) uphill and I tried, but started getting terribly dehydrated. Coconut water please.

After the bike tour we head back to Seminyak and meet up with Ema for a last drink at Coup D’Etat another fabulous club on the ocean. Then we end with a meal at the Carribean restaurant ‘The Island.”

Good bye Bali, you were everything and more…
with Gooday