This will be my last Flashback Friday for the Philippines adventure. I’m back in Seoul now and want to keep you all updated on my adventures here. But I had one last area to talk about and that is Laguna.
No, not that clown show Laguna Beach on MTV. It has nothing to do with that.
Laguna hugs the southern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country.
Laguna is notable as the birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero.
Two big reasons to go to the Laguna province is 1.) the hot springs of Los Banos and the surrounding area and 2.) Pagsanjan Falls.
Los Banos has many hot spring resorts to choose from. I recommend getting a private one for small or large groups. We went as two couples and the four of us had a blast in the hot water. All the pools are filled with water from local hot springs. Some say the hot springs have healing powers and I believe it! My boyfriend was really sick on the first half of our trip in Batangas but as soon as he went swimming in the hot springs he was back to normal the next day!
Los Banos is also famous for it’s Buko Pies. Buko means young coconut in Tagalog. The pie is not like coconut cream pie, because it doesn’t have cream or custard filling. Instead it’s made with slices of buko meat and condensed milk. We went to Orient- The Original Buko Pie. It’s the best buko pie in Los Banos.
I met the owner of the shop, a sweet lady named Tita Helen (I think that’s what she told me, it’s been so long I forgot) who’s sister created the recipe for Buko Pies! She immigrated to the US and Tita Helen continued her sisters recipe and shop!
We also went on a river rapid adventure to Pagsanjan Falls. It was the location of the final scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
There are many places in Pagsanjan to rent a boat and boatmen to take you to the falls. Be sure to bring extra cash, it’s customary to tip each boatman at least 50 pesos if not more.
So I have a couple of friends that are coming to Korea this year and I realized I never made my list of “What to Bring to Korea.” Truthfully Chad and I packed pretty simple and light because in reality we have bought a lot of stuff here, from a Samsung HDTV to Pokémon figurines.
So here is my list of things to bring for those worried about space, weight and necessity.
This is the primary thing to pack because nudity is only acceptable in the Jjimjilbang. Working for a school they have dress requirements and you should check your school’s to see what the dress code is. At our schools men need: ties, dress shirts, slacks, dress shoes and polos.
Ladies need: dress shoes, skirts, dresses, sweaters, hose/leggings, slacks, and blouses.
And it all depends on your style and comfort.
Also bring at least one formal/semi-formal outfit (like a suit for men and nice business dress or outfit for women) Most schools have important events that are big photo-ops for the school, as a foreigner your job is to look great in those pictures.
Good shoes to walk in: my first day here I got lost and walked for about two hours in a new pair of dress flats. My first meeting with my new boss I asked her for some band-aids. I felt like a horse’s ass. So good walking shoe, very important you will do some major walking and standing.
If you are a larger bra-size or shoe size bring enough bras and shoes for the season you arrive in Korea. You can always have stuff shipped to you or you can go shopping once the seasons start to change.
laptop: it will be your best friend at times and for awhile the only way to connect with other people.
iPod/MP3 player: If you have one bring it, but if not you can buy one here.
camera: You’ll want to take pictures of your students, of your place and that random drunk Korean changing pants on the sideway. If you have one bring it, if not you can buy one here.
video games/DVD/Blu-Ray: Bring your handhelds (Nintendo DS, PSP, whatever you have bring it) We also brought our PS3 and Wii. But for those Wii and XBOX360 owners you’ll have to get a power converter because of voltage differences in Korea can fry your console. But limit your game selection because if you’re in Seoul, you can find most new games you want in Yongsan Electronics District. Same goes for your DVDs/BlueRays bring the ones you can’t live without but for the most part you can download or rent movies. But watch out for region locks.
**Leave your hairdryers, curling irons, straighteners, teapots, coffee makers and other electronics and appliances at home because you’ll run into voltage and adapter plug problems. You can get all of these things in Korea and cuter ones, I’m in the market for a Hello Kitty hairdryer myself.
For your apartment:
Fitted sheets- at least one fitted sheet set for your place. Most beds provided are twin or double/full size. Ask your school what size of bed they provide. It was a pain in the ass running around looking for an affordable fitted sheet. I spend over 10 bucks on a fitted sheet/pillow set that would have cost 4 bucks back home. They double the price here when it comes to bedding.
Towel- one of the first things you want to do once you get here is take a shower after traveling all day. Some places your school may house you temporarily (like a love motel) don’t have body size towels provided. The last thing you wanna do is run around looking for a proper size towel or dry off with a hand towel.
Blanket- most schools provide you with a blanket but if you have a favorite one to snuggle in or even better a SNUGGIE then bring it.
Deodorant- the hardest and most over priced thing that Westerners use that Koreans do not is deodorant. It’s used here as more of a perfume so it’s priced like perfume. Bring a years supply, don’t negotiate this and think ‘oh I’ll just have mom send me some’ because as soon as you run out you’re gonna be like “OH SHIT I’m all out and it’s 98 degrees Fahrenheit outside!!”
Toiletries- to last till pay day, so bring your favorite soap/body-wash, shampoo, conditioner, perfume/cologne, facial cleansers, and make-up. But if you shop around you will develop your own favorite brands for these things that you can find at places like Olive Young, Etude House, It’s Skin, Tony Moly and there’s about 5 more bath and body product stores in Korea.
Toothpaste- They have lots of brands of toothpaste here and most likely you’ll get some in a giant package for the holidays but I really don’t care for Korean toothpaste. It’s just not minty enough… So bring some tubes of your favorite and mine too while you’re at it. 😉
Chapstick– I’m a huge Chapstick user and my favorite kind is Chapstick Moisturizer and that’s the ONE kind I can’t find in Korea. They have cherry, original, spearmint, and for men but no Moisturizer. Also Chapstick here is around 3 bucks a tube vs the 99 cents you pay back home. So stock up on your favorite kind. But they do have Burt’s Bees, Nivea and several other brands of lip balms.
Vick’s Vapor Rub- I found Vick’s in Itaewon for 5,000 won for a little tub. So if you like using Vick’s when you get sick (and Chad really does) be sure to pack at least one.
Midol-for the ladies, if you use Midol back home for any regular basic it’s good to bring at least a few bottles. I haven’t been able to find a Korean equivalent but then again I haven’t tried that hard to search for some.
Food and Food Related Items:
You’re coming to South Korea not North Korea so there is plenty of food. But somethings that are over-priced or not easy to find you might want to bring some
Season Salt, Garlic Salt (not powder they have that here), gravy mix, mac and cheese, and a couple of your other favorite spices. But don’t bring too much because it start to weigh you down. We brought a cansiter or Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.
Money– it makes the world go around. Be sure to bring enough to last you before your first paycheck which may not be for 6 weeks! Also budget in spending mistakes, going out with new found friends and co-workers and things you might need for your apartment. I’d say around 600-1000 buck will be pretty good.
Bank account info of course you need your passport and visa and other documents but don’t forget your bank account info for international money transfers. That may seem like a given but I thought it was important enough to put on the list.
Okie that’s all. For the most part you’ll find what you need in Korea. South Korea isn’t a 3rd world country. In fact it’s one of the world’s fastest grown and most competitive countries in the world so finding the comforts of home all over. It might be harder if you are outside of the Seoul area. So in that case if you are teaching in a smaller city or town you might bring what you can now and have things shipped to you. Korea has amazing postal service, it’s fast, reliable and cheap! For those who want more ideas check out these blogs:
I don’t know a lot about street food. Frankly I’ve been scared to try much because my Korean skills suck pretty bad. And I don’t know what is fish and what isn’t. When I actually do some street eating I’ll let ya know.
This is with the pop art Art Filter in my camera. Right outside Yongsan Station and the iPark Mall.
“On Sunday, despite near- zero-degree weather, over 56,000 fans turned up at the Seoul World Cup stadium, setting a record for FC Seoul’s home attendance of more than 546,000 people in the 2010 season.” – Korea Herald
It’s cool to think we were one of those 56,000 fans! Chad, some co-teacher friends, and myself went to the K-League Championship on Sunday. We cheered for FC Seoul cause they’re the home team here and they were the underdog (I think). Chad and I have a soft spot for the underdogs. The game wasn’t as thrilling as most soccer matches, pretty sloppy at times but the spectacle of the event was cool. There was plenty of fireworks when a goal was scored and at the ending trophy ceremony. And it was at the World Cup Stadium which was pretty cool. Surprising to think that this stadium only seats 8,000 more than Boone Pickens Stadium. “The Boone” seats 60,218 while Seoul’s World Cup Stadium seats 68,476.
The events outside the stadium were cool, outdoor concert, tons of food and souvenir vendors and moon jumps and rock walls for kids.
The biggest let down was the food. This was the first sporting event I’d ever been to where you buy your food outside and bring it into the stadium. All they had to buy in the stadium was hot chocolate, hotdog things on a stick, dried squid and beer. So if you don’t like dried squid or beer you could stand in a line about a kilometer long and get a hotdog thing. Yeah no thanks. Next time I’m packing a lunch!
Chad and I ate gogi gui all weekend long! It was so good and so fun!! Sunny, my Korean friend, took Chad, Jamie and me to a Korean barbecue place too. It was a fancy had tons of different lettuce to wrap the meat. They also had capsule toys machines there and I got some! I love Korea there are toys everywhere!! This is my kind of place 🙂 Chad and I went to a place called “Cow Luck” 3 times! Cow Luck, cows have awful luck! How morbid…. Sunny also took us to a coffee shop and I had what I assume is patbingsu. It was very refreshing and so tasty!!