Siloam Sauna ~ A Day at a Korean Jjimjilbang

Sometimes, you need a hot bath. Since there are few bathtubs in Korean apartments, we are given the public sauna–that mutually nude tradition from Roman antiquity. Continue reading “Siloam Sauna ~ A Day at a Korean Jjimjilbang”

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Petite France ~ A Place for Selfies and Romance (if you can ignore the ridiculousness)

“Little France” outside of Seoul, in Gapyeong, could also be called “Gauche France” or “Faux France.” It’s a ridiculous caricature of the world’s most visited country. We saw tiny alleyways made of hollow plaster, fake wooden framed cottages, cute cafes that sell ddeokboki for 7$, lame replicas of Parisian iconography, broken fountains in manicured cobblestoned plazas and generic ideas of France as imagined by someone who believes French culture to be epitomized by puppets, mimes and berets. Continue reading “Petite France ~ A Place for Selfies and Romance (if you can ignore the ridiculousness)”

Thanksgiving in America ~ 2014

It was my first time to celebrate the holiday on the actual day, with my family, in the house I grew up in, since 2007. Also, the first one to celebrate with my beautiful lady from Korea, Jordyn. She had never eaten American food, so why not learn with the biggest food celebration of the year. Continue reading “Thanksgiving in America ~ 2014”

Cats! of Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi is a spectacular island in the Andaman Sea. It was completely wiped out in the Asian Tsunami of 2004, and quickly rebuilt. It is a small island without cars. It’s got lots of chill beach areas, lounge bars, party bars, international food, quality local flavors, plenty of island characters and abundant cat life. These cats are perfectly calm and easy to approach due to lack of predators, lack of cars and human trash acting as daily snacks. It was a relief to have cool cats to hang with instead of the blank eyes of city cats. City cats don’t even recognize you as a possible chance for petting, they stare with fear and dart away. Phi Phi cats look at you and yawn or roll over. The cats represented here are just from a short walk from hotel to bar. Some were quite portly and pleased with themselves, kittens crawled in the plant pots pretending to be jaguars, and others laid on the floor of 7-11’s air-conditioned marble entrance.

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Dine in the Dark

I had heard about a place like this once. Blacked out, curtained, dark dining. Simple enough idea, let blind people serve sighted people dinner. Two girls and I left our hostel with anticipation running high for this surprise tasting menu to be consumed in pitch black settings. The interior has mild purple lighting with trendy white leather seats. We all ordered the “international” four course meal. Our waiter, a blind man of slight build affectionately and inexplicably called, “Manbaby,” led us up stairs, through doors and curtains to our table where he helped us acclimatize to the darkness. There was no change when you blinked, so I just let my eyes rest. We were giggly and giddy. The wine poured, we gingerly toasted our goblets of red. The first course came and food is blindly shoveled onto a fork, perhaps avocado and shrimp? Second course, a lamb in light sauce with broccoli? Third course was three shot glasses of soups, we guessed cucumber, pumpkin and mystery. Dessert was unmistakably pineapple and some chocolate. Dinner was delicious, our waiter was extremely helpful in our sightless situation, and the taste was heightened by lack of visuals. We made jokes about “putting it in our mouth, can’t find it because it was too little, hold it harder, who touched my leg” and other “that’s what she said,” comments. Afterwards,each plate was explained in pictures via Ipad. It was a great experience, and this “dark dining” idea is found in many cities over the world. Check to see if you can support one in your area.

Da Lat ~ “Crazy House” and Datanla Waterfalls

A few minutes ride from the main area of Da Lat resides an avant garde hotel/tourist trap called Hang Nga Guesthouse, or The Crazy House (03 Hunyh Thuc Kang). It was designed by a woman holding a PhD in architecture, a love of Gaudi and a wild imagination. It’s fun to walk around inside the house, and feel the lack of right angles smoothing out a cluttered mind. There are plenty of photo ops and really narrow staircases.

Nearby you can find Datanla Waterfalls. They weren’t as crowded with tourists. For 50,000 dong (3$), you can ride a self-controlled bobsled down the mountain to the base. As long as you don’t get a slow-poke in front of you, you can go as fast or slow as you want because you control the brakes! It was a sustained smile the whole way down. Afterwards, explore the fragrant pine tree walkways and then pop back in your bobsled which gets tow-roped back to the top of the hill.

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Massage in Asia

No, I don’t mean that all too frequent use of the word, as in “happy time massage.” I mean a true, therapeutic relaxation for the achy muscles of the body. Asia is a mecca of cheap, excellent massages. I’m a big believer in massage to relieve tension and toxins, especially after long transit, carrying heavy backpacks or party nights. I tried a few places around the world, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Don’t let a pretty girl standing outside her shop be your masseuse.

They can be distracting (to men) and usually have no idea what they are doing. It will end up being an hour of gentle rub-down leaving you feeling tingly like gerbils just ran around on your skin, but not deep muscle relaxation. You can let her coerce you inside, but make sure the girl trained or knowledgeable about the body does the massaging.

2) Don’t go to a shop where you can’t see inside.

If there are blinds or curtains or no chairs visible, it’s not a good sign. They are probably hiding something.

3) Don’t go if it’s dirty.

The shop should be immaculate. Everything should smell new and fresh and pleasing to the senses. Dirty could mean dirty towels, tables, water, oil, hands etc.

4) Don’t get pressured into more than what you want.

This is hard, because they make it sound amazing. Think what you want before (30, 60, 90 min) (face, feet, back) and make a good deal with them. But sometimes you should listen if they say they are experts in a certain style.

5) Don’t be afraid to show them your problem areas / communicate.

If they speak English, great, if not, use body language. Make sure you get the correct muscles taken care of during your time. They will usually ask a few minutes in, “Okay?” That’s your chance to say, “Stronger, softer, faster, slower etc.”

6) Make sure they are wearing a uniform.

If they are in their casual attire, they’re not taking their job seriously. This rule isn’t necessary if you are just doing a foot massage. Anytime anyone touches your feet it’s a good thing.

**Bonus Tip: Don’t even bother going if you’re sunburned. Just get the baby oil, aloe; put on some soft cotton clothes and pump the A/C.

So essentially, common sense, yet I have made all these mistakes. Find a professional, clean looking place; a happy, helpful staff; tell them exactly what you need and relax. Different countries specialize in different styles. Taiwan and China are great with foot acupressure. Korea does extremely strong sports massages. SE Asia usually does a version of Thai/Swedish.

I’ve found in SE Asia, you can pay between 7-15$ for an hour massage at small shops, and 30-70$ at higher quality resorts. Quality always ranges, so start with a 30 minute test run, then you will know if you want more. They are always happy to oblige. Some places use oil and may require you to be naked or in underwear. Others will use a towel over your shirt. Also remember to rehydrate immediately after to flush all the toxins that have been released through the muscles into the bloodstream. Coconut water, with the added potassium, is great if available. And don’t drink alcohol for a few hours as your kidney is overworked with the released waste.