May 302015

2015-05-16 Banner Lantern Parade 042A couple of weeks ago, we went to Yeon Deung Hoe (연등회), the Lotus Lantern Festival for Buddha’s Birthday.  It moves around a bit, partly because so does Buddha’s Birthday and partly due to when it’s getting dark.  It was quite a bit before Buddha’s Birthday this year, probably because it would get dark too late if they’d waited.

2015-05-16 Lantern Parade Give Video Time To LoadBefore we get to the pictures, note that I’ve embedded a number of videos here — this is my most video-laden post yet — as  I thought it would really give a better sense of the event.  But the videos (though short) are fairly large… I found that clicking on on the video image (to start it) and then immediately clicking on pause to let the video load gave better results.  I’ll play around with reducing their size and replace them (and this paragraph!), and I hope my next ‘video blog posting’ will be better.

We walked down through Jogyesa Temple (조계사), down through Insadong to where the Lantern Parade was going to be.  We had seats in a little viewing stand, full of ambassadors & Buddhist monks, although looking across the street I do think most people had a very good view.  We were sitting next to our friend H.E. Kiat Yip, the Ambassador from Singapore, which was nice as well, and just down the row from H.E. Mark Lippert, the US Ambassador, & his wife, of which more later.

The start of the parade was mostly people, as the illuminated lanterns look much better as it gets darker, some groups in costume & some not, but pretty much all carrying lanterns, unless they were dancing musicians (see video below).  Sometimes, the parade marchers would spot Mark Lippert, and then there’d be a flurry of people waving, shaking his hand and (only once, surprisingly) taking a selfie with him.

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Here are some pictures after it got darker…

… and a few more videos

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Finally we went back up through Insadong and through Jogyesa, which was quite a bit brighter & livelier than before!

The End

 Posted by on 30 May 2015
May 122015

2015-05-09 HanGwa varieties

2015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 0072015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 001On Saturday, I joined CICI for a day-trip to the Hangwa Cultural Museum (Hangaone) (한과문화박물관 한가원) [Gmap link] and the Pyunggang Botanical Garden (병강식물원) [Gmap link].  They’re quite close together, around 55 km north-east of Seoul.  It seemed a fairly rural part of the country, and again I’m struck by how densely forested Korea is now.


Display of 5 main types of HanGwa

Display of 5 main types of HanGwa

2015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 018The Museum is dedicated to “HanGwa”, a traditional Korean sweet.  First, we watched a couple of short videos about HanGwa, and a short talk by Kim Gyuheum, the Master of HanGwa.  We were offered a bit of tea and some HanGwa to sustain us during the videos; well begun is half done.  There are two basic kinds of HanGwa, and, of the type he makes, over 250 variations, of which Mr. Kim has mastered 170.  Next, we had a tour of the museum, which was very interesting, followed by the main event: making HanGwa.

The sweet is made from rice flour, which comes in hard, pressed little sticks, about the size of a piece of Trident gum (I think my audience will understand that ;-)  First, the stick is dropped into oil at 100C and then is transferred directly to a vat of oil at 150C.  The first bath softens up the HanGwa, and if puffs up a bit, but then in the second bath it blows up like a balloon.  In turn, we were taken to look at a demonstration of cooking HanGwa.  Indeed, the process must be correct:  just 100C isn’t enough; just 150C even worse (like the lonely HanGwa stick in the middle photo below – it never had a chance).  Letting the HanGwa cool is a bit better; but, as predicted, only a quick transfer from 100C to 150C will give the desired result (as in the 3rd picture).  How, traditionally, did they know it was 100C & 150C?

After it’s cooled, the HanGwa is dipped in a sweet rice syrup, and then rolled grains of various kinds, for the outside coating.  After the HanGwa is coated, you roll it gently between your fingers, to press the coating into the surface.  That coating gives the HanGwa it’s texture, color and a bit of a different flavor.  If you want, you can then add a dab of syrup to stick on some decoration.

Up in the workshop, we were divided into three tables, where we did the last step, dipping & rolling the HanGwa.  We had white, green, yellow and pink coatings to work with.  We all tried one- and two-coloured hangwa, but I also went for a three-color “Irish Flag” HanGwa (it came out, so I stopped while I was ahead).  It was a lot of fun, and not too much fresh-made HanGwa was eaten in the process ;-).

A few awards were given out, and then we headed off to lunch.  Lunch was very good — it was my favorite: a good selection of side dishes, with whatever the main course happens to be (a spicy fish stew, in this case).

After lunch, we went to the nearby Pyunggang Botanical Garden.  It’s divided into a 12 pistes; we did a short circuit of just 3 or 4 of them:  the Alpine garden, the


 Posted by on 12 May 2015
Apr 192015

2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 063 banner

2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 0852015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 013It’s amazing that we’ve taken 18 months to get to the Noryangjin Fish Market.  I mean, some people go there on their first day in Seoul.  Maybe that’s one of the nice things about living somewhere – no rush! (Of course, “no rush” can turn into “never got around to it” if you’re not careful).  But, as part of my continuing plan to Do Something Every Weekend, we finally went yesterday (& at A’s suggestion, too!).

It’s easy to get to – either take the metro (Line 1 to Noryangjin station) or driving over the Hangang Bridge (Hangang-daegyo 한강 대규), right onto Noryangjin-ro and then look for the signs “Fish Market”.

It’s a huge place, a cavernous concrete warehouse with a 2nd story along one side, which is where most of the restaurants are.  It was surprisingly clean and lacking in fish-smell.  When you enter, you’re on the aisle along one side of the place, with the restaurants on the balcony above you.  The first couple of aisles are mostly shellfish, crustaceans, sea urchins, eels, squid & octopus, etc.


2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 0642015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 035There’s no refrigeration — everything is kept on ice.  While most of the fish is obviously very fresh, some of it is still alive, in big tanks, as are the crabs & lobsters.  Pick your fish, and they spike it & scoop it out of the tank.  The shellfish, and sometimes the crabs too, are generally in large plastic tubs with aquarium pumps keeping the water full of oxygen.


2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 0512015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 047The way the restaurants work is that you buy the seafood for your lunch, and the restaurant cooks it for you.  We bought a red fish that looked kind of like dorade and a couple of  flat white fish that looked a bit like sole.  The lady there scaled & cleaned the fish for us, and led us towards the restaurants.  But we were quickly intercepted by a tout, who passed us to a guide, who took us to the restaurant.

2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 071

2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 068We really lucked out:  Unlike most of the restaurants, which are in the fishmarket and are really interior spaces, this was in a building behind the market, up on the 2nd floor with large windows – a very airy & pleasant place.  (If you’re looking for it, the entrance is roughly in the middle of  that side of the market; look for the sign with 812-6200.)

The white fish was steamed & served with a spicy chili & onion sauce on top (A. scraped of most of hers, which meant more sauce for me!), while the red fish was grilled.  We didn’t have much by way of side dishes or rice — I guess you have to order them, and we didn’t.  Just as well, as we’d only intended to cook one of the white fish, but forgot & so there was a bit more fish than we’d planned on.

2015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 0092015-04-18 Noryangjin Fish Mkt 098After lunch, we bought our giant prawns & large clams.  “Giant prawns” is a difficult term… in Spain, there was a term for each, from the smallest shrimp to the largest prawn.  But in English, I guess giant prawn will have to do.

Anyway, here are all the pics from above + a few more….






 Posted by on 19 Apr 2015
Apr 132015

Went to the office today, and had lunch with my friend KS & his team.  We ate in the 26th floor cafeteria at one of the nearby towers – the 235 Cafeteria, (if memory serves), named after the old building number.  The team were very nice, and the food was fine.  But… what a place!  No “C-Suite” here – top floor turned into the employee cafeteria — huge windows all the way around — pick your food & pick the view you want.  Very nice!

2015-04-13 lunch at 265

A diner, with the Parliament building in the background.


 Posted by on 13 Apr 2015
Dec 282014

We’re enjoying ourselves in Thailand, where we’re travelling with our friends Andreas & Cristina and their daughter Josie (who is a very good friend of Fionnuala’s).  We arrived on the 23rd, late, and drove up to a national park on Christmas day, so only 1 day in Bangkok, but we’ll be back there at the end of the trip as well.

Here are a few pics from our first day, in Bangkok.


 Posted by on 28 Dec 2014