Saturday, May 30, 2015

A peek into a Jeju Island fish market

Oh me, oh my. I absolutely adore going to fish markets when I'm in Korea. How could I not? Everything from the colors, to the smells, and the throngs of people rushing in and out. Oh – and one must not forget the bargaining! I was digging through my external hard drive, and found these photos from my most recent trip there in winter 2014. It's bittersweet thinking about South Korea, now that my parents have moved back to the U.S. It was a good four-year run, in which many summers and Christmases were spent eating my favorite food in the world.

These photos are from a fish market in Jeju Island, where my family rang in the new year during a week long stay. Squid and eel were a common sight. Squid I'm good with, but I still feel a bit queasy seeing eel, they're just so slippery and snake-ish! Of course, it tastes good, so I shouldn't really be so discriminating. ;)

Before seaweed and algae products became mainstream and touted as "superfood," Koreans had been eating this stuff for thousands of years. I guess it's hard not to as the country is a peninsula and seafood is inherently part of the core diet of many locals. Since I'm more used to eating the roasted (and salted) type, I couldn't get over these glistening beauties. It's clearly been harvested quite recently. Wondering how it will be prepared, mm mm mm. So good and healthy for you, too!

If you look to the upper far-right corner, you'll notice some orange porcupine looking critters. Those are sea pineapples (or meonnge in Korean). My mom is in love with these things. She always scans for them when we eat sushi, but they're not as common as other sashimi options. I've always respected people who have a deep appreciation for seafood, but that respect heightens when they eat more adventurous things. Salmon? Tuna? Child's play. I remember my mom eating sea cucumbers, which are also really odd looking, and her in absolute bliss over the crunchy texture. "It tastes like the ocean," she said. That always stuck with me. If you're Korean, you'll probably know how we describe foods with certain adjectives connoting the particular experience when you chew them. My mom loves food with texture, but she also loves its connection to the sea.   

Roasted in advance. Dried fish, of many sorts, are quite popular to eat as a standalone snack. Yum!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Romania roadtrip: Turda Gorge

We stretched our legs and hiked the Turda Gorge, which had some amazing views.  

After an hour or so, we arrived at a cave, where we made a picnic out of some Cliff bars, beer, and random assortment of crackers and cheese. 

An impromptu photo session took place on our hike back to the car.

Rock climbers spotted in the distance!

Also spotted: Herding dogs.

And the sheep that followed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Romania roadtrip: "North is behind us"

There is something to be said about Romania's natural beauty. I fell in love with this country when I trekked the Fagaras Range with my younger sister nearly two summers ago. This time around, we decided to embark on a roadtrip because we wanted to access some towns and villages that were hard to get to by public transportation. 

We quickly realized that the GPS in our car was utterly worthless, as it never managed to navigate properly. A lot of Romanian roads in the mountainside are somewhat unpredictable. Perhaps traveling via horse carriage would have been more fitting. We soon learned to rely primarily on our map and the built in compass of the GPS. Fed up with the constant redirecting, I once and for all declared that, "north is behind us!" Joyce and Ishita found the moment rather humorous.

Romanian bales of hay are rather unique. It resembles the roof of their churches. Celestial hay?

Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Once we bid adieu to Krka National Park, we hit the road again to venture forth to Paklenica National Park. The drive over was quite scenic with mountain ranges in the distance, capped off with wispy clouds. We pulled over a couple times to take in the views.

How beautiful is this sunset? We had to stop roadside, to take a few snaps.

Funny story: Since we arrived at dusk, we hoped to find a small bar or greasy spoon to get some local rakija, the national liquor of Croatia. It's always nice to have a thimble of alcohol as a night cap when you're camping. Keeps you nice and toasty. So, we park and enter the deserted, tiny bar with clearly the only three locals in town. We ordered wine and hot chocolate, and when we were paying our bill we asked if they could fill one of our empty plastic water bottles with a sample of the stuff. They proceeded to give us an entire liter of neon-green rakija, which I'm sure was homemade. I've never had moonshine, but if the smell of alcohol is any indication, this stuff reeked of it. We had straight up Croatian moonshine that glowed inside our car, like kryptonite. I lugged it back home with me, and never drank any of it. It was only a month ago that I finally discarded the stuff. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Krka National Park, Croatia

Following our first stop at Dubrovnik, we drove on up to Krka National Park. It was ethereal, what with the sunbeams shining through foliage and nothing – nothing but the sound of water flowing throughout the forest. At times, deafening, at others, gurgling, but always the onward rush. 

Unlike Dubrovnik, we really were the only ones present in this park for the better part of the day. There was absolutely no one present, and it was pleasantly eery. Imagine having all of Olympic National Park to yourself with no other souls present. It's nice to go during the off-season.

The waterfalls reminded me of Plitvice Jezera, which is probably the more popular destination for natural wonders in Croatia. Krka is the equally resplendent yet overlooked cousin.  

Behold! Swollen waters coming through.

Dubrovnik in the Dead of Winter

My roadtrip to Croatia with my best friend in the dead of winter was probably one of the highlights of 2014. After an initial mishap with reading the train ticket incorrectly – and thereby missing our departure from Budapest – we managed to finally get ourselves into Zagreb. From there, we hoofed it to the airport and rented ourselves a car. 

A very schwanky car, might I add. ;-)

We laughed in glee (cackled is a bit more like it), when we realized that our requested Opel-pumpkin-of-a-station-wagon had decided to transform itself into a pearly-white-ever-so-opulescent-Audi-hatchback. Say what? Whoever was in charge of commissioning rental cars at the Croatian International Airport that day made two girls very happy campers.  

We totally took it in stride and (tried) to play it cool. Now, I'm not one to wax on about cars. But. This Audi was a sweet ride. It had nice black leather interior trimmings and riding in it was pure joy. PURE JOY, I tell you. Gliding along the mostly empty Croatian highways, zipping past mandarin orange fields whilst dozing off in the sublime heating system – need I say any more? I was probably not the best co-pilot, as I kept falling asleep throughout the trip. The car was just too damn comfy! One minute, I'd have my nose smushed up against the windows, looking out like a happy dog, and the next moment – ppfff, I've become the narcoleptic dachsund. My apologies, Ishita. 

Another reason, we were excited about the prospect of having roughly five days with the Audi was because we basically slept in it all week. Yep, that's right. This was: "Croatia Roadtrip on a Budget." Emphasis on budget. After our long weekend trips to Belgium, Romania, and my flight over to Baltimore for a friend's wedding – all in the span of a couple months – I was cautious to not put too much of a dent on the wallet with this trip. The focus was more on appreciating Croatia's natural beauty. 

On car camping: We managed to fold all the seats down and unrolled our sleeping bags just far enough for us to lie out comfortably. Thank goodness we are both rather petite! It's moments like these that you revel in being small. Other ways we saved on costs: We grocery shopped in Zagreb and stocked up for breakfast and dinner. Simple meals like good ole' PB&J or fresh veggies with ajvar (a sort of hummus/veggie dip). During the daytime, when we were exploring the town, we'd eat out. It was a good system, but I don't think I've ever had so much raw cauliflower and olives (of all things). 

Driving south from Zagreb to Dubrovnik proved to be somewhat interesting. In order to get into Dubrovnik, you have to pass border control with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It's on account of the pass being rather narrow. As you might've figured, Dubrovnik lies on the coast, and Bosnia dips down southeast of the Croatian border as well. So, we'd pull out our passports and our car rental papers and wait patiently while two countries' border patrol agents went through our documents. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! 2015 is the year of the sheep.

As we were in an isolated vacation rental in Jeju Island, my family ushered in 2015 virtually, thanks to Joyce's trusty iPad. Complete with countdown and digital confetti, yay!

I even cracked open my journal to write a few solemn words about 2014 and how thankful I was for all the opportunities that came my way, particularly when it came to travel. 

We woke up the next morning to light snow, which quickly melted, but was welcomed, nonetheless.

Excited at where 2015 will take me!