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When Travel Goes Bad

9th September 2016

girls6 This is a very hard, ‘punch to the face’ post for me to write.  Today I have had to face up to the fact that the holiday I booked and paid for , that my friends are flying from the UK to Indonesia for, the holiday we’ve talked about since we were 14, is not going to happen.

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Us at 24

I was hoping to avoid this and I have even written bumbling posts to try and stay positive , but the visa hell that Lee and I have been living for the last few months has finally caused me to raise my arms in defeat. Our visa has not been processed for 7 months now (it is meant to take 40 days) and it means we can’t leave the country until it is finalised.

I realise that in the grand scheme of things not being able to go on a holiday is NOT a problem. Out of all the problems we could have in our lives I’m aware this is a very small one, but it still kind of stings like icy slap to the face. It also probably hurts more because it is the cherry on top of a lot of other issues.

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These two ‘sisters’ at 21

I’m not going to bore you with the mundane details but to summarise; Lee and I are on a working holiday visa , which is a year long visa. My company is trying to sponsor us (which is incredible!) and switch us to a 457 Visa so that we can stay in the country for 4 years.This seems to be due to a myriad of issues from a lot of places. We have had times when we thought we had a few days to get out of the country, we’ve had times when we weren’t allowed to work until it was sorted (this was a painful time that had no end date) , we’ve had lost passports, broken souls and a lot of paperwork. Luckily we are at a place now where we can work while we wait for a decision, which is an incredible luxury that we are hugely grateful for. Now we just have to wait for the final result…but we can’t leave the country, even for cocktail fuelled girls holidays. Does the Australian government not understand the importance of cocktails and dancing (!)

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My lady and me in the toilets because we are classy. (19 years old)

I am an optimistic person, and I’d love to tell you I booked my holiday and convinced my friends to travel the world hoping it would all be ok…but even I’m not that optimistic. We just so happened to book our holiday 24 hours before we were told there was issues with the visa and it wasn’t plain sailing. Grrrrr fate can be a beautiful yet horribly cruel mistress sometimes.

On the plus side, my two friends still get to have the most incredible time in Indonesia (you can read about the planned trip here) . I know they will see beautiful things, drink far too many cocktails and live on endless cheap massages in paradise. I , on the other hand, will be sat here buying far too much junk food to ruin the bikini body i’ve killed myself to try and get over the last few months…all in all I’m not sad that I have an excuse to eat chinese and be lazy , but the sentiments still there.

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Steph , our first Mrs and a lady worth travelling the world for.

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#TeamBridesmaid

Things could be so much worse. We could not have even had a chance at getting a visa and would have had to leave this beautiful country a long time ago. We’ve had a lot of troubles back home with family that we are trying our best to sort through and our flat has been fighting against us at every turn. On the bright side, there are a million ways this situation could be worse.

I suppose one of the worst parts of things like this is the uncertainty , we are still waiting every day to find out if this is our home now or if we need to start a new life in a different country. We have friends, jobs  and a home here that we don’t want to leave. I have moved 13 times in 13 years and I was hoping this might be my first two year stint in an apartment …alas it looks like I’m destined to be a wandering nomad. (This isn’t the worst thing , is it!?)

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21 year old pouty faces before pouty selfies were a thing.

For me the worst part has to be missing my friends. This post may sound like  I am sad I’m not going on a holiday, but what I’m sad about it not being in the airport when they fly in from the UK , not running at them and hugging them silly and not being able to laugh , drink and chat for 10 days…who knows when I’ll get a chance to see them now. Living abroad is an incredible adventure, but it has its heartache and for me that will always be missing people terribly.Luckily Skype is the greatest invention of all time.

girls3 girls1 If , by some MIRACLE our companies sponsorship, nomination,  and visa comes through in the next 10 working days then I will kiss the nearest person to me and dance in the streets. If it doesn’t I’ll take comfort in the fact that two of my favourite ladies are in one of my favourite places in the world and that they are almost close enough for me to dance with them….almost.

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Things to Know About Boracay

26th March 2015

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  • As far as beaches go – it’s a winner. The shades of turquoise blues than fade all the way into rich navies will blow you away. You will always be snap happy here. The beach is also pleasantly litter free and so soft and white it feels like water…. it also gets white hot after midday so pack those flip flops. 9
  • Filipino people, at least in Boracay, hate tourists. I really do understand this since we’ve barged into their beautiful home bringing Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, selfie sticks and all manner of pointless things with us. (Sorry Starbucks…you know I still love you). Everyone we’ve met has smiles that don’t quite reach their eyes and a look that says ‘buy my shit you filthy foreigner’. I realise this is such an un-fair statement since we were only on the island for a week and it was the end of a long busy season, in which we tourists probably earned everything we got. Also, that this may just be the case in Boracay . I especially know this to be true since I have met tons of Filipino people outside of the island in the UK, Saudi Arabia and in Korea who have been the loveliest, nicest, funniest people I’ve met. It was just a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived. It is good to know before docking on the island. Maybe tourist’s excessive demands for wifi, cheap cocktails, fresh towels, and burgers have something to do with their mood – Nah! *Since writing this we have visited both Bohol and El Nido in Palawan and the Filipino people have the loveliest, friendliest and happiest people around. This is definitely just a Boracay thing. 1
  • It’s HOT – ‘No , on a tropical island it’s hot?’ I hear you all sarcastically cry, first touche and secondly we are talking ‘sweating your ping pongs off’ hot, which incidentally is the official term used on the weather channel here – I imagine. 4
  • Red Horse is lethal – this is the local STRONG beer. It’s is cheap but not cheerful. For me it made evening’s disappear. A night of drinking these (and some sneaky day time cocktails) had my poor friend having to constantly remind me I’d told her the same store before, about 3 minutes ago…oh jeez. 10
  • Pick pockets rule the roost – watch your bags. This is the same in every country but we had some particularly sneaky thieves lighten our pockets in Boracay. They were helped by the restaurant staff who distracted us so they could get in our bags. They luckily only managed to steal a few dollars from us…..and our pride.
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    Fanta is called Royal in the Philippines

    D'Mall is the central shopping area in Boracay with lots of night life

    D’Mall is the central shopping area in Boracay with lots of night life

  • A fun drinking game is a shot for every seller trying to sell you something. Only kidding, please never play this game. You will die….I’m not being ironic. Don’t play this game…you will never wake up. 6
  • Filipino food is DELICIOUS – I hadn’t heard good things but we love it. Its lots of meaty dishes in thick stocks and gravy. The pork adobo is a particular favourite. Seriously it’s worth coming just for the food. Try everything. *Since writing this Lee unfortunately had a bad case of food poisoning from a restaurant that looked really nice. It was a beef dish which is weirdly one of the hardest meats to get here so I’d stick to the pork, chicken nor seafood.
  • So much delicious cheap fruit – In the same vein as the last point. Eat alllllll the mangoes. Fresh pineapple, mango and coconuts are abundant. Juice, breakfast, lunch and dinner should be as packed with these goodies as possible.
  • Even though it’s a hot place, they love dairy. There is so much cheese here. This excitement may just be from living a cheese free life in Korea where it was so expensive that only birthdays and Christmases warranted a purchase. I wanted to order cheese burgers and hold the meat. 7 8

These are obviously all just quick, silly observations after a week in Boracay . I can’t wait to see more of this country because I love it more and more each day. We are on our way to Bohol now for Tarsiers and Chocolate hills. After that we have what Huffington post named ‘last paradise on earth’, Palawan which we can’t wait for. Bring on those islands! signature

 

2014 Our Favourite Bits

27th December 2014

Some how when we weren’t looking, the year dissapeared. We have almost been in Korea for two years and sometimes if feels like meer hours. As 2014 gets ready to hang up it’s hat it’s the perfect time to reflect on what a fantastic year it’s been.

There have been many things that I’d love to include but we’ve narrowed it down to some of the top moments from the past year.

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  1. Dumplings in Shanghai

In August this year we went to China. Our first stop was Beijing where we ate our weight in duck and noodles. We thought it couldn’t get better than Beijing, but then we went to Shanghai. If Beijing is the traditional brother then Shanghai is the kooky nephew. In Shanghai the first things we noticed before we checked in was the fantastic smell coming from a small hut next to our hotel. This little booth contained a very hard working woman. She made dough in the morning and filling in the night. She was our dumpling supplier for the rest of the holiday and by jove were they delicious. At 30p a pop we easily lived on them for the entire holiday. You will notice a theme with this list…food will be featured heavily.

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  1. Being in North Korea

When we decided to move to Korea we knew that we wanted to visit this almost mythical mysterious place. The DMZ is the dividing line between North and South Korea and you can visit it on a tour, run by the American Army. I don’t know what I was expecting before I got there but this place utterly shocked me. It was a very jaring and humbling experience and I think there is definitley something to be said for understanding the country you are living in and the hardships it has and is facing. The day we went it was cold, grey and snowy which only added to the somber atmosphere. There isn’t anything I’ve experience as terrifying as coming face to face with a North Korean soilder. Stepping over that dividing line, even for 5 minutes isn’t something I ever thought I’d do but I’m very glad I did.

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  1. Visiting my brother in Scotland

I’ve only ever been to Scotland twice in my life and both have occurred over the last two years. This seems shocking to me now that I live in Asia and travel far and wide. Our home of Wales and Scotland are stupidly close. What’s even more shocking is that up until January this year Lee hadn’t been at all. Luckily My brother is living in Edinburgh so when we traveled home in January we decided to pop up there and celebrate his recent engagement to his beautiful fiance. Edinburgh is one of those cities that just blows me away. The history, architecture, people and food are the best around. Sitting in a resturant eating haggis, drinking hot toddys and laughing with my brother has been one of the best parts of this year.

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  1. The Nightmarkets of Taipei

Taiwan just blew us away. It you sit still for two seconds any where near me I will tell you how Taiwan is just the best place I’ve ever been. One of the lovely things about Taipei was the amazing night markets. The crazy amounts of delicious food, fresh fruit juices, fun games and lovely people are what makes Taipei feel like the perfect mix between traditional China and kooky Japan. I still dream about the cheese sticks and lime juice there. This overlooked city is waiting to be discovered by the masses so get there quick.

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  1. Taroko Gorge , Hualian Taiwan

There are some places you visit that even photos can do justice. This is one of those places. The towering pillars of marble, the clay filled rivers and the bluest seas I’ve ever seen. We were in awe the entire time. We even managed to see a wild monkey which is a first, although I hear when we visit Indonesia next year we will be sick of the little blighters. Everyone should go and you should go now.

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  1. Conquering the Great Wall of China

We did it! It was tough, it was the hottest day of the year and we went to the wrong part of the wall so had to do it twice. It was a big thing to cross off the bucket list and I was so happy to share this moment with Lee since we’ve talked about it for a long time. If you are going to visit, take about twenty bottles of water and a camera to take a million photos.

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  1. Holi Hai in Busan

Hoil Hai is the Indian festival of colour but it is also a big deal in Busan , Korea. When I first heard about it last year we had just missed it so I was stupidly excited to experience it this year. It also happened to fall on the same weekend as Saint Patrick’s day which meant it would have been rude to not celebrate with our Irish friends. We spent the weekend covered in green shamrocks and powder paint. It’s made us move a trip to India up the bucket list because if Busan was fantastic I can only imagine how great the real thing is.

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  1. My Best Friends Wedding

In April this year I had the privilage of being part of my best friends wedding. She has been my friend since I was fifteen and it was an honor to be her bridesmaid. It was the first international flight I’ve taken on my own and it was so bizzare to travel the world on my own. I was only in the UK for four days but it was completely worth it. It also helped that the wedding was on my mum’s birthday so she, my sister and my brother were all there. Traveling the world for a dance party like no other was very worth it. Plus Wales is just beautiful. Any excuse to see these sunsets is worth a twelve hour flight.

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  1. Dancing the night away in Shanghai

When we heard that there was an all you can drink nightclub in Shanghai, situated in a building that is a cross between a Victorian manor house and a eighties music video. To set the scene for you there was a see through grand piano in the bathroom and a stone statue of king Arthur wearing an afro. We danced and laughed all night, that combined with being chatted up by some very beautiful escorts made it a crazy night. Thank you China for the ego boost and good time. There isn’t many things in life I love as much as dancing but dancing with my Lee is one of them.

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  1. Lee’s family learn to Noreabang

I’ve known Lee’s family for as long as I can remember. When they decided to come and visit us in Korea we were over the moon. We took them for Korean bbq, we laughed over Makgolli and showed them the beautiful temples but the memory of us all ina norebang singing our hearts out at three a.m not because we were drunk but just because we were having so much fun we didn’t want to go home. They are my heros and there is nothing better than sharing Korea with people when they come to visit since it makes us fall in love with the place all over again.

 

Well that is just some of the great moments from our year. 2015 is shaping up to be a BIG year. My new diary is embarresingly already filled with flight details and hotel names as we get ready to leave Korea for good. We are reved up and ready to set off on our four month trip around Asia before finding a new home in Australia. There are terrifying yet exciting times ahead.

I hope you have all had a fantastic year and we thank you for also joining us on the new adventrue of starting this blog. It’s only been up and running for a few months but the response has been incredible. I hope we can get to know you all a bit better as well as share more of our adventures.

Happy New Year everybody.

 

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Five Tips – Things that you wouldn’t think of trying in Korea.

29th July 2014

suprisingthings The first thing we did when we were thinking of moving to the lovely Korean shores was investigate the food. As any researcher would we headed for the source of all knowledge, Google. We promptly typed in ‘what is Korean Cuisine?’. Our small town of Bridgend hadn’t quite reached the sophistication of a Korean restaurant. In fact we barely have a Thai restaurant.

We spent hours researching the unknown and fancy things we could consume. Unfortunately our research would produce the same results ever time. Every site told us to try the same things. We knew we were going to live on 비빔밥 – Bibimbap (vegetables and egg mixed into rice with a red pepper sauce) and we  knew we’d be trying 김치 찌개 – kimchi jjigae (a spicy red broth with tofu, kimchi and onions). We also knew to expect to snack on 김밥 – Kimbap (rice, veg and meat wrapped in seaweed, similar to a Californian roll). Be warned – never accidentally call kimbap ‘sushi’ or you will have some offended Koreans on your hands. Lastly we were quite confident that fish bones would make an appearance.

Please note that these are exactly the kinds of search results we should have found since they are exactly what we eat each day and I have a soft spot in my heart for them. What no one talks about is the random items that you can find here that are a) better than most other countries and b) completely random and very Korean.

melon 1. 수박 or Watermelon – Fruit and vegetables are extremely seasonal here. You can buy them out of season but they will cost you a pretty penny. When we arrived in Korea we were advised to bring fruit to work as a gift. In the UK if you took some bananas into the office instead of biscuits you’d be shunned by your fellow co-workers but here fruit is so expensive that it’s a delicacy. This doesn’t mean you can’t find it, it’s in most stores but it is expensive and you have to buy in extreme bulk in most cases. It may be the fact you can only get items at certain times, but the fruit just tastes better here. During the watermelon season in June and July I just can’t eat enough of the stuff. It may be in my mind (or my aging taste buds) but the Korean watermelon is the best thing I’ve ever tasted. I will miss it so much when I’m gone. A watermelon will set you back about $11 or 8 pounds but it will feed you for a week. It is also great for parties since you can stick a soju bottle in the top of one and let it absorb the alcohol throughout the night for a tasty alternative to a cocktail.

fish 2. 빙그레 or Binggrae Fish Ice Creams – These may look ominous with their less than appealing design but once you try these delicious treats you will be hooked. It is a simple item, wafer shaped like a fish on the outside with soft scoop ice cream and a layer of red bean on the inside. Red bean is something you either love or hate but when it’s made into a jam and put with ice cream its heaven. Many of these will be keeping us going during this hot Korean summer.

squid 3. 땅콩 버터 오징어 or Peanut butter dried Squid – Yes you read that right. I realise that your instinct is to think I’ve made a spelling mistake or that I’ve lost my mind but this is Lee’s favorite discovery in Korea and he has demanded it be listed. I quite like it but he lives on the stuff. This is something you can find in most convenience stores such as 7-11’s and Gs-25’s. It is strips of squid similar to jerky that’s has a distinct peanut buttery flavor. It has a strong smell but once you get over that it is fantastically chewy and delicious. It is the perfect bar snack. In fact some bars serve it in a red sticky sauce that will also tickle your taste buds. If you are in Korea its worth giving it a taste and if you don’t like it, it still makes a fantastically weird present to take home to the family.

mando2 mando1 4. 만두 or Mandu – This shouldn’t really be on the list since I’m sure most websites will tell you to try mandu at some point but mandu is so good it deserves to be reiterated here. TRY IT! Don’t’ just settle for trying one type, either, try them all. From the small fried pork mandu to the dessert red bean breaded mandu. It is all delicious and addictive. If you aren’t familiar with mandu it is a Korean dumpling. It comes in a few different varieties such as 왕만두 or wanmandu (translated as king dumpling) which is more of a steamed breaded bun with a chive and pork filling, 물만두 or mulmandu (translated as water dumping) which has a thin almost pasta like exterior that’s steamed or 군만두 or Junmandu which is a fried variety. If you are lucky enough to be in the city of Daegu I’d also recommend you try the cities specialty which is 납작만두 or Nabjang mandu. This is very different to normal mandu since it is a very thin sliver of batter fried with chives and dipped into soy sauce. It is perfect to wrap rice in and is a great fried treat. If you see a shop with steam billowing out of tall metal cans you have stumbled on a rare and beautiful mandu house. Try everything!

choc 5. 가나 초콜릿 or Ghana chocolate – Lotte is a huge company in Korea. It owns buildings, theme parks, toilets and chocolate companies. It would be impressive if you came to Korea and didn’t find their name somewhere. You’d expect that a company that has its finger in so many industrial pies would not be a good fit for a chocolate making company but you’d be surprised. For the first few months we lived in Korea Lee refused to eat any chocolate because he was in mourning for Cadburys. Eventually the cravings became too much to handle (he is a complete and utter chocoholic) He ventured into the American market and bought a Hersey’s bar. They sell them readily here in Korea. He was not a happy bunny. If you have grown up on very sweet chocolate Heresy’s can be a bit of a shock to the system. I am a fan, especially of their cookie and cream bars but even I didn’t think it was a good enough substitute so like any normal expats we begged our families to send supplies. This kept us going for a while but the crazy price tag did taint the flavor. Luckily for us a friend of ours came to the rescue. He offered us a Lotte Ghana bar. The bar was red in colour so our British chocolate brains had always just assumed it was dark chocolate but what it was in fact was delicious creamy chocolate. This once again may just be our mirage mechanisms cutting in after a Cadbury’s fast but it tastes really good and it is very satisfying. If you are in Korea and in need of a British chocolate boost this is the closest thing to home and definitely worth a try. It is also great when you melt it down and combine it with peanut butter. Once it sets you have your very own peanut butter chocolate.

So there you have it, five random Korean foods you have to try when you arrive. Obviously there are a stupid amount of things that will make your mouth happy in Korea but these are the surprising finds that make my days (and hung over mornings) happy ones.

What surprisingly good items have you found on your travels? Is there anything you are looking forward to trying in Korea that I haven’t listed or do you miss a particular things from your trips to this lovely country? Let us know your opinions and surprising finds from all around the world. signature