Sep 252013

2013-09-25 01 Plastic Food

I was at HomePlus shopping for a dinner party tomorrow, and was just about to have lunch in their food hall when Grace, my favorite (and only) sister, phoned from the States.  A pleasant surprise, and we had a nice chat, but I finally begged off as I was really getting hungry (and it was fairly late for her).  But before saying goodbye, I promised a few pictures of my lunch.

2013-09-25 04 seating and pickupThe HomePlus food court has a number of main cooking stands, across the back: Chinese, Japanese, Western, “Snacks”, Korean – I probably missed one! – where you pickup up the food.  (As always, click on a picture for a larger version).


You order in the front, where the center-piece is the large display case with the Plastic Food (see large photo above).  Just pick what looks good, literally, and pay the cashier at the end of the case.  And of course…  ¡Pidelo por su numero!

On either side of that are various small stalls imitating the street-food vendors you would see, um, on the street, one with street-food, another with tempura (have to try that next) as well as a dumpling stand. I have had to swear off dumplings for a while… just love ’em too much, and there is a bit more to Korean food than just dumplings.
2013-09-25 02 stalls 2013-09-25 03 stalls 2013-09-25 03a stalls


I ordered Number Four, which was an octopus bibimbap.  Here it is in the Plastic Food menu…
2013-09-25 05 number four

And here it is after I’d started mixing it up (sorry, forgot to shoot a pic first!). It had been recognizably the same dish as the Plastic Food version! And it was pretty good, but in fairness I am no judge.

2013-09-25 06 after mixing


 Posted by on 25 Sep 2013
Sep 242013

I went to a fascinating performance & lunch at Samcheonggak (삼청각) yesterday, quite by accident (called a friend to see if she wanted to come with my to try to find where to buylamb… she had a ticket to the lunch which she couldn’t use as her effects were being delivered).  Apparently, Samcheonggak was where lobbyists would entertain their “lobby-ees” (if that’s a word) in the ’70s and ’80s, but now is a cultural center.  The lobbying background is evident, though, in the small buildings around the main hall, which would allow for more discrete entertaining.

The performance was great — there were 4 or 5 pieces, all traditional.  Drums featured heavily (which I liked), especially the last piece which was very long: started with two guys carrying drum sets made from 4 pots & pans, then the stage lights came up to show 11 large drums of various types on stage.  The duo joined the other drummers for a long piece, then the guy on the really large drum did a solo.  That seqüed into a performance (by the same two) of plate spinning, then back to the drums. It all got pretty frenzied, really good, vuvuzela-like horns were pulled out at one point, but eventually ended.

My favorite piece, though, was the Chunseol (“Spring Snow” according to the program), which featured a woman dancing to music bya gayageum & drum duo.  Very serene.

Another interesting piece was “Marionnette”, a Chilgomu or 7-Drum Dance.  The drummer pirouetted around like, well, a marionnette, surrounded by 7 drums.  There was a soundtrack, but it was really incidental to the drumming itself, I thought.  It was very well done, but a bit odd — seemed more like something out of The Nutcracker, in which it would have fitted very well with just a slight change of background music.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a 7 course meal (each course was quite small, except the main) of traditional Korean food.  Unusually, chili seemed to feature almost not at all, which was a bit of a surprise.

Anyway, if you’re in Seoul, I’d strongly recommend a visit to Samcheonggak.

 Posted by on 24 Sep 2013
Sep 242013

2013-09-16 02 Tumuli ParkOver the weekend before Chuseok, we went down to Gyeongju, in the southern part of the country.  Chuseok is a huge family weekend — it seems always to be described as “like Korea’s Thanksgiving”, but the reality is that (like the T-day) people go home, see their family, etc etc.  One side effect is that travelling is really difficult.  We bought our tickets at the station on the day that tickets for travel around Chuseok went on sale; Seoul Station was mobbed! 2013-09-14 1 Bomun lake on arrival Anyway, the Friday before Chuseok we caught the KTX express train down to Gyeongju (actually, the station is around 10 km outside of town).  Between one thing and another we were tired by the time we were settled into the hotel, and it was still a bit cold and wet, so we didn’t do much that day.  That Girl was on crutches, unfortunately, so she didn’t do much the entire weekend, but A. and I did. (I think that F. had a good time anyway, but what teenager dislikes being able to loll around for a few days with room service from time to time?).  There were some ultra-lights flying around over the lake, which looked  like a lot of fun.

2013-09-16 04 Tumuli ParkThe next day, Sunday, we did do quite a bit more, starting with the Royal Tombs (왕릉) in Tumuli Park.  We parked at the south end, between Tumuli Park and Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대) (by luck… that’s where the parking lot is!).  There’s a lovely path through pine trees before you get to the tombs proper.  2013-09-16 01 Tumuli ParkThe tombs are all large-to-enormous grass covered mounds, sometimes individually and sometimes linked.  The interior of one has been turned into an interpretive center, half the mound cut away into a large chamber.  2013-09-16 03 Tumuli ParkAgainst the back wall (the center of the mound) is a reproduction of the burial chamber and the other walls have display cases of with objects from the mounds — jewelry, saddle flaps, bowls, etc. 2013-09-16 05 Lunch

After that, we headed to lunch.  First we wandered around the neighborhood just next to Tumuli Park a bit, but then settled on a restaurant in a large traditional house, a short way down the road towards the center of town.  We ordered a meal for two, with beef in a chili sauce, and  23 side dishes, if I count the soup and the leaves for wrapping the meat in. 2013-09-16 06 Observatory

Then it was time for Cheomseongdae Observatory (첨성대) across the road to the south of Tumuli Park.  The observatory is very old, from 634 AD they said but didn’t do much for me.  I guess I as hoping too much for something like the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India.  2013-09-16 06a observatory copyCuriously, I yesterday ran across a full-size reproduction in Da-dong, not far from the Embassy, in Seoul.

2013-09-16 08 MonestaryFrom there we wandered past the Gyerim woods (here’s a picture of the Gyerim monument) and around to an old monestary.  There was a wedding going on… it looked as if there was a wedding going on every day at 3pm, but we were accosted by two nice young women (who turned out to be Jehovah’s Witnesses), who told us that to their surprise as well it was a real wedding.  As we walked on, we ran across the band working its way up to join the wedding party, accompanied by a feisty old lady.

2013-09-16 08b wedding2013-09-16 09c musicians 2013-09-16 09b musicians

2013-09-16 11 Choi houseNext door was the ancestral home of an old wealthy family from the area, the Choe (or Choi) clan.  The house & grounds are now owned by Yeungnam University.  “The Choe Family refers to twelve generations from the family of founder Cheo Chi-won (1569-1636), to the twelfth generation of Choe Joon (1884-1970) who donated his whole wealth to Yeungnam University based in Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do.” (copied from, who said it better than I could remember).  2013-09-16 10 peterA gentleman there gave us a fascinating history of the family and of its precepts.  I don’t recall all the precepts, but they basically involved dealing fairly with people (e.g., don’t buy land in years of bad harvests), living frugally (e.g., new brides must wear only inexpensive cotton for 3 years), being hospitable to guests and generous to others in famine years.  Beautiful house and interior garden.

Beyond that was a small new-looking craft village, each household specializing in a particular thing — ceramics, glass-blowing, textiles, etc.  We had a nice stroll there after which we headed back to the hotel.



 Posted by on 24 Sep 2013
Sep 092013

Well, Korea is a mountainous country and Seoul has got to be the most mountainous capital ever (ever?  Caracas and Wellington seemed pretty hilly to me…).  One side effect is that houses built on hills have funny floorplans and the sturdy Korean construction is quite good at blocking ye olde wyfy signalle.  WiFi Extender to the rescue!

I bought our second one today, and installed it — finally have a decent signal everywhere.  Two main routers, upstairs and down, each with its own extender.  I haven’t tried a daisy-chain of wifi extenders, but would be interested to know how that works.

Here’s what I did to get it to work.  I hope this helps — the included instructions were in Korean, with a few fuzzy pictures.   My laptop has Windows Vista, so some steps might be a little different for your computer.

You can click on any image for a larger version.

Where to get it

Well, “any better computer supply store” didn’t seem to work for me, so here are two more options:

  • Take the Seoul metro line 1 to the Yongsan station.  From the station, you can enter directly into IPark, which is around 8 floors of electronics, cameras, computer & related, white goods, etc.  If I remember correctly, I bought mine on floor 7, which was mostly computers but had a few stalls specializing in accessories including routers/wifi/etc.
  • More interesting, but less convenient, go to the old Electronics Market.   It’s a fascinating warren of little shops, and you can probably find anything there (I just wandered around but speaking Korean would help).  That’s where I bought my first Extender2.  To get there, you can either walk from the Yongsan station or you can take line 4 to the Sinyongsan station (exit 5) and then it’s a 5 minute walk through the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks.  Beyond it are similar markets, e.g., for cameras, for P.A. systems, etc etc.

ipTIME Extender2

IPTime_1_box IPTime_2_box_back


ipTIME Extender2; ethernet cable; instruction pamphlet; plug attachment (Korean round 2-prong plug).

IPTime_3_contents IPTime_3b_contents



First, attach the plug to the ipTIME Extender2, just follow the instructions in the manual.

Next, plug in the Extender2 and attach it to your computer with the ethernet cable provided

Your computer will try to identify the Extender2.  Go to Network and Sharing Center (or the equivalent on your computer).

Click on View Status for the Extender2’s connection.  If your computer asks for your approval, click on OK.


The Network Connection Status window opens.  Click on Properties.

The Network Connection Properties window opens.  Select Internet Protocol v4 and then click on Properties.

The Internet Protocol V4 window opens.  Select “Use the following IP address” and enter IP Address, and enter Subnet Mask (the computer may enter the Subnet mask for you).  Then click on OK for each of the windows (closing the Internet Protocol window, the Network Connection Properties window, and the Network Connection Status window.

You can close the Network and Sharing Center window if you want.

Open your browser, and in the box for the URL (the web address), enter and then press enter.

The ipTIME Extender2 entry page will open.  Click on the yellow “gear” button.

In the next screen, click on the second drop down menu item.  (If there are only two options, click on the first to get its sub-menu items and then pick the second one from that list).
– in the first row, click on the 1st radio button (the one that does NOT say “AP”)
– in the third row, click on the button to the right of the box that probably says “IPTIME” (in the screenshot, it says “Irish Radio Seoul”), and a

A list of all the wireless routers that the Extender2 can find will pop up.  Select the item that you want and then click on the button in the bottom right.

You might be asked a question.  No choice but “OK” so click on that.

You are returned to the previous screen, which now has your router named in the box on the 3rd line.
– On the fifth row, I clicked on the 1st radio button, which selects no security, i.e., anyone can use my wifi.  (If you select one of the other options, it probably will just ask you for the wifi code to access your router.)
– Click on the little button to the bottom-right, to enter your data.


You might be asked to confirm something.  I just said OK.

To be sure, I also clicked on the green button in the top-right, that looks like a diskette (remember those?  ah, you just gave away your age!).  Might be asked a question again (just say OK).


Unplug the Extender2, unplug the ethernet cable.  Plug the Extender2 back in.  The instructions seems to suggest that you might need to push the button on the side (to turn it on/off) and/or to push the button on the front (apparently to change its mode).  I tried that, not sure if it made any difference, but definitely unplugging it / turning it off/back on seemed to be needed.



 Posted by on 09 Sep 2013
Sep 092013

I spent a busy morning today at F’s school, the Seoul Foreign School.  It was “High School Field Day”, and the PTA was cooking up hamburgers & hotdogs, with potato chips/crisps (as you prefer) for the 501 hungry SFS high school students.  We had some friends over for dinner on Friday, and I was enlisted to join the PTA team this morning (and, as Natalie predicted, the sole dad).

F. herself made an appearance before we started grilling, running past with a quick “hi Dad” and never to be seen again, although I suppose she must have had a burger at some point.

It was a lot of fun chatting with the other PTA members and I met a few more people / followed up with a few I’d already met.  The cooking itself was as expected… once you get into the rhythm, the whole burger thing was quite relaxing mentally.  Afterwards, we all knoshed on the remaining burgers and dogs — not sure how I was able to do that after cooking untold numbers of them, but there ya go, hunger is the best sauce.

After that, I was off to get a Korean book for F., do some food shopping and buy a wifi repeater… which is the next post.

 Posted by on 09 Sep 2013  Tagged with: