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Easy Rider – 600km in Vietnam’s highlands

Scenery around Dalat

Epic, epic and epic. That’s the three words to describe the motorcycle trip from which me and Tommi just arrived from a few hours ago. Maybe a few more epics and you might get the picture, but I don’t want to over-use it so three will do this time. We booked the trip on the day we arrived here in Dalat, and spent the remaining day going around the city with our rental automatic bikes. The following morning we met with our soon-to-be tour guide, Mr. Chung, a Vietnam war veteran among other things (quite a character), and strapped our bags on the bikes, ready to start towards our first destination, Lak Lake, some 160km ride from Dalat.

My ride 🙂

The last time I drove a manual bike (with a clutch, that is) was maybe 11 years ago when I had my 50cc moped, so the first kilometers in the busy Dalat morning traffic were a little bit exciting, but I was surprised to realize how easy it all came back to me, and after the first hour or so I already felt like I was controlling the bike, and not the other way around 🙂 Also, the difference to the small automatic bikes I’ve driven so many times during this trip was striking. The ride is so much smoother, it’s like this kind of bike was made for the bumpy roads of Vietnam 🙂

Mr. Chung patching Tommi's flat tire

After a few hours of driving Tommi managed to drive into a nail (how could he not see that? :P), which eventually punctured his rear tire from two(!) places, so we had to take a quick break to change the inner tube. And when I say we, I mean Mr. Chung changed it, and me and Tommi drank some Coke and gazed into the beautiful mountains 🙂

Safety is a priority

During the first day we covered some 160km, out of which maybe 50 km were something between a road and a roller coaster. I mean, how can you have a road that’s so bumpy you have to zig-zag avoiding the one-foot deep holes in it. Ever heard of asphalt? 😛 Well, in the end it wasn’t so bad, but after a while it became a little bit annoying to drive tens of kilometers on the second gear.. 🙂 But I guess that’s the price to pay for such an awesome scenery and for the possibility to visit the local minority villages (which was nice).

Boiling the cocoons at the silk factory

During the trip we got the chance to see how everything is made! Literally, everything, since Vietnam actually produces it, everything, cotton, silk, coffee, peppers (we were where pepper grows, haha). rice (duh), honey, avocados, passion fruit, you name it, they make it. I bet you didn’t know Vietnam is the second biggest coffee producer after Brazil, at least I didn’t, and they produce Arabica, Robusta, Mocca, everything. How cool is that? Really cool, I can tell you.

And the road becomes my bride

After riding those bumpy roads on the first day we were rewarded with the most awesome serpentine road going up and down the mountain range. Too bad I don’t have the words to describe the feeling you have when you accelerate on the smooth asphalt and lean the bike to tackle a corner after corner while a truly breathtaking mountain landscape opens all around you. Man, I could have driven there forever!

The landscapes were amazing

So, we stopped at Lak Lake around nightfall, and spent the night at what was some kind of Easy Rider hotel & restaurant. We had an amazing dinner with barbecued boar and fish, topped with some Hanoi vodka of course. After the dinner we had absolutely no problems getting sleep, and in the morning we were more than eager to hop on the bikes and rev up 🙂

The "Chicago" hats 🙂

On the second day we drove around 200km from Lak Lake to Gia Nghia, the capital city of the newly established province. On the way we got used to the Vietnamese style of driving, which is a little bit different from how we tend to drive in Europe 🙂 On the bigger roads you need to stay alert and be ready to use the full width of the road if necessary, for example when there’s three cars coming the opposite direction (who said you couldn’t overtake a car which is overtaking another car?) At least you don’t fall asleep on the bike when you get the sudden adrenaline rushes 😛 Another funny thing was in Gia Nghia, where they have built a nice road through the city which has two lanes to both direction separated by a concrete wall. Well, I’m sure it was intended that the other side is for vehicles going the other way, and the other side is for the vehicles going the opposite way. But hey, the local people decided it’s much better that you drive both ways on either side of the concrete wall 😀 I have to say I was a little bit confused in the beginning.. 😀

Low tide fishing 🙂

At first I was a little bit disappointed to notice that the bikes were only 125cc, but I soon realized that’s all you need for the roads in Vietnam, because there’s hardly any road where you could drive faster than 60-70km/h, and in many places the bumpy roads forced us to do no more than 30km/h on average, but actually the thing is, you get to enjoy the landscape much more with those speeds and also, you can grip it light, driving all relaxed 🙂

What to say? Simply amazing..

Our tour guide, Mr. Chung was absolutely fantastic. He had been an Easy Rider guide for more than 10 years and probably knows all of the roads by heart. He explained enthusiastically about the agricultural production and about the customs and habits of all the minorities we stumbled upon (apparently there’s 53 different minorities in Vietnam). We got the chance to visit their villages, taste their food, peek in their houses and and one point Mr. Chung was already negotiating about a marriage from a family whose mother was eager to send her daughter all the way to cold Finland 😀

Tommi enjoying the _simply amazing_. I mean, look at his face 🙂

Mr. Chung also knew all the best restaurants and because of that, the trip became a culinary journey to Vietnam. But who would like to drive with an empty stomach anyway? 🙂 We also visited many animal farms and saw countless number of different animals, like elephants, sheep, water buffalo, snakes and scorpions (and chicken and dogs of course who populate the roads and try to get themselves killed). Mr. Chung, who by now is my personal idol, had always many stories to tell about his colorful life. Maybe the most striking stories after the ones about the Vietnam War was the one when he had to kill a black bear with a spear. In any case, there was no boring moment with him, what an awesome tour guide. I’m happy to send you his phone number if you ever want to make a motorbike trip in Vietnam 🙂

Oh Mr. Python, please don't tickle me so much

Epic.

A very lively looking necklace 🙂

Simply amazing.

Thumbs up! The Vietnamese road side cafe beats the ABC-chain 6-0.. Unfortunately for us in Finland.

Totally awesome.

Fresh honey, bees and all included

Sweeet!

Tomb of Jesus Chirst II. Who would have guessed the second coming would be a female 🙂

Beautiful!

Last but not the least, my favorite pic 😉

As you can see, I run out of things to say, but I guess you get the picture by now already. This trip was AWESOME and I’m already dreaming about taking a 15-20 day trip with Mr. Chung all the way from Hanoi to Saigon. Mmm, perhaps next year, if there’s any chance for a holiday in SE Asia 🙂

Now we are leaving the dusts of Dalat behind us with a night bus to Saigon. From there Tommi will head back to Finland, and I’ll be on my way to the island of Phu Quoc, where I’ll spend the last 10 days before coming back home 🙂 Already miss Finland 🙂

-a

Cambodia and Vietnam (again)

So, my adventures took me from Vietnam to Cambodia, and then back to Vietnam again! I met Tommi in Saigon and we started immediately towards Seam Reap with a 18-hour bus trip.. nice 🙂 There we met Marcelu again, who had to leave back home after a few nights, and after that we took a truly epic river boat journey to Battambang, where we spent a day driving around the country side with motorcycles. After that we took a another bus trip from hell, this time from Battambang through Phnom Penh and Saigon to the mountain town of Dalat, Vietnam. And here I am now, in Dalat, waiting for the 3-day Easy Rider motorcycle adventure we booked this morning! 🙂 That’s all with the text, the rest of the post will be some of the pics I’ve taken =)

Marcelu and Tommi in a tuk-tuk

The old bridge of Angkor Wat

The Angkor Pos(s)e

Churn that Sea of Milk, boys!

A.. thing?

Our sturdy steed

On the boat to Battambang

Floating town and locals going to the store?

Our bikes on a train. Yes, a train!

Exactly this kind of train! 🙂 It had to be disassembled on spot if there was another one coming on the tracks 🙂

Vietnamese hunting, part 1. Start by crippling the target with a well-aimed arrow

Part 2. Follow up with a deadly bolt from a crossbow

Part 3. Finish it off with a rifle if necessary 🙂

Lost? 🙂

That’s all folks!

-a

Vietnam – motobike and friends!

Happy New Year 2011 everybody!

The year has started well and I haven’t broken any of my new year’s resolutions, mainly because I didn’t make any. Last year I did, and most of the goals I set were left unfinished during 2010, like happens to most people, I guess. I wonder where the habit of making the resolutions has started in the first place, and why would an individual have the moment of clarity to realize what he wants to achieve in his life time precisely on Dec 31st? I guess if you want to achieve something, better get working on it right away and not to craft a resolution about it 🙂

Nha Trang beach

Anyway, I’m sitting in a cafe in Pham Ngu Lao -district in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it’s officially called, and I wanted to use this “free time” to catch up with the blog a little bit and to make coverage about Vietnam so far. You see, our travel group has been in a constant process of transformation, as some people have joined it from time to time, and some have left, only to join again later or to go back home for all eternity. But now, for the first time, I’m alone. And to be honest, it feels pretty nice to have some personal space and time for a chance. And now I have the time to plan my courses for the spring semester and to send a few job applications as well. This phase doesn’t last for very long though, as Tommi is flying here tomorrow afternoon, and then we’ll head out to Seam Reap in Cambodia, where we will (hopefully) meet Marcelu, who just left Saigon a few hours ago.

The morning delicacy, Vietnamese Coffee

So, about Vietnam.. Before coming here, I had what could be called as high expectations without any concrete basis, since I didn’t really know a whole lot about Vietnam, and the few things I “knew” were mostly based on Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, I guess. But my expectations were high because almost all the people who I had met and traveled to Vietnam spoke so highly of the country. So I didn’t know what it was, but I had the feeling there was something good about Vietnam! 🙂

Perhaps I could start with a subject very dear to all of us from Finland, the coffee. It’s also a natural starting point because it’s usually the first thing on my mind when I wake up here, after those few seconds of half-asleep drowsiness. When I first heard from my friends that the Vietnamese coffee is extremely tasty, I sort of shrugged to the whole idea, since I honestly didn’t think it could have been so different from what I usually drink. Now I stand corrected, and I can say that the coffee, especially enjoyed with the condensed milk, which I as a person who drinks his coffee with milk in the first place usually take, is R-E-A-L-L-Y super duper delicious. And the funny thing is, I have no idea how the coffee is different from all the others. I was told that the coffee beans are roasted in butter, but after a quick googling, I don’t find any evidence from this. Well, in the end I don’t need to know why it’s so good, maybe the secrecy evens enhances the taste 🙂

Victory!!

So we flew from Bangkok to Saigon on Dec 29th, after saying goodbye to the other half of our group who decided to go to Cambodia. We had a very interesting overnight train from Saigon to the beach town of Nha Trang, as the sleeper cars where all booked when we came to the station, which meant we had seats in the very charismatic regular compartment. I couldn’t say it was comfortable by any measure, but the train certainly had this rough character to it, and in the end it was actually a very interesting journey, but I couldn’t have traveled for another night like that.

Yep, it's a boat

We spent a few nights in Nha Trang, including the new year’s, during which a beach resort/restaurant was turned into a open-air night club for both tourists’ and locals’ enjoyment. The party itself didn’t strike me as anything breathtaking after the ones we had on Ko Phi Phi, but we still had a ton of fun at the beach, celebrating the new year with some new Australian friends we had met earlier. We also visited a local hot spring during our stay in Nha Trang. The hot waterfall and a private mud-bath were very enjoyable experiences 🙂

Vietnamese BBQ, yummy! 🙂

After Nha Trang, we took a bus to Mui Ne with Sammi, and Marcelu went his own ways with the Australians, choosing the route with more cultural sightseeing, like temples and such, whereas we went for the sand dunes with Sammi. In addition to the amazing sand dunes, of which there are both white and red, we had perhaps one of the best meals of my life time. A local restaurant far away from Mui Ne’s russian-occupied beach resorts served us with Vietnamese BBQ, which came with an amazing fish-based sauce, and a beef hot pot, the only things on “the menu”, which was unwritten of course 🙂 We ate for a loong while, and couldn’t even finish the hot pot, and the whole thing, topped with a few beers ,cost us a very symbolic sum of money 🙂

The Ferry Spring in Mui Ne

On the sand dunes, where we went with our hired Jeep and driver, you could do sledging on the sand or drive around with a quad-bike, but the best part of the dunes were not the activities, but the place itself. It felt very strange to find these vast sand covered lands in the middle of a country which seems to be full of all kinds of vegetation and watery rice fields.

Fishing Town near Mui Ne

After a few chilled-out days in Mui Ne we took another bus to Saigon, where we would meet Marcelu again, and the rest of our group as well, if only for one night. Actually, the bus system in Vietnam is very convenient. The country, which is quite narrow but very long, has one main road running through it near the coast, and thus passes through almost all of the major cities which lie near the coast. So, you can buy these open bus tickets, from Saigon to Hanoi, for example, but you can stop wherever you want and continue the trip the following day with the same ticket, if you wish to. Also, all the bigger towns in Vietnam are literally full of small travel agencies that help you with any kind of ticket, accommodation, rental, tour or other needs. Sometimes a little bit fuzzy, but works like a charm in the end 🙂

Who said you need snow for sledging? I wish I had a Stiga 🙂

I find Saigon a really interesting and cool city. We have mostly stayed at the Pham Ngu Lao back-bagger area, which is dotted with restaurants, cheap hotels, bars, travel agencies and massage places. Even though the area is really touristic, the atmosphere is really nice in the evenings, and we’ve had many fun nights here with interesting encounters 😛

We also did a one-day boat trip to Mekong Delta, where we saw some of the islands and got to see the locals in their remote villages, working on handicrafts, bee farms and coconut candy factories. The trip was totally worth the time and money, and I even considered continuing for another day after the others left, but didn’t have the time for it in the end. There’s some interesting places to visit in Saigon, like the reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum, which was quite horrible experience in fact, and I couldn’t even go to all of the exhibitions after seeing the one about the use of Agent Orange by the US forces. But I guess it’s important that there exists something to remind the new generations of the horrors of war, and perhaps it contributes that way to a more civilized and humane 21st century. At least I certainly hope so..

What's this nice scarf made of?

After Sammi ended his vacation and started towards Sweden, we decided to have a chilled-out day with Marcelu and walked downtown to check out the pool areas in the high-end hotels. After visiting almost all of the USD 200 price range places, we choose a pool at the Grand Hotel and relaxed in the burning sun, dipping into the pool once in a while to cool off. Now that was life at its best 🙂 I found it amusing that the access to the pool cost us as much as we pay for our hotel room at Pham Ngu Lao 😛

This nicely composed picture just says it all!

I’ve really enjoyed Vietnam so far, and something tells me it’s not going to be my last trip here. Even though I absolutely loved the beaches in Thailand, something in Vietnam weighs more in the cup. It’s hard to say what it is, perhaps just the atmosphere and character that was missing in Thailand (or missing in the tourist places where we mostly spent our time). Well, it’s always hard to choose from two good options, but luckily, I don’t have to =)

That’s all folks!

-a

PS. The post title refers to the two phrases you hear around 1000 times each during the day here: “Hello my friend, need motobike?”, or just “motobike?” I was thinking of buying a t-shirts that says in Vietnamese that I don’t currently need a motorbike, but I couldn’t find one so far 🙂

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 32 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 127 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 190mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 8th with 45 views. The most popular post that day was Farmer liquor and some other beverages.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, irinainasia.wordpress.com, WordPress Dashboard, muukalainensoulissa.wordpress.com, and xweing.blogspot.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jeju, jeju island, dōtonbori district, jeju-do island, and the island of jeju.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Farmer liquor and some other beverages August 2010
3 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Courses selected, tomorrow to Jeju-do! September 2010
2 comments

3

Jimjilbang and DMZ trip November 2010
2 comments

4

An awesome weekend in Jeju-do September 2010
1 comment

5

Japan adventure wrap-up October 2010
1 comment

Thai-Para-land-dise!

Blogging from paradise. It’s 9 a.m. and I’m sipping coffee at the hotel terrace, looking at the gorgeous view downhill where the mountains, palms trees, sandy beaches and bright blue sea make a picturesque view which I could stare for hours (and soon have). Unfortunately I’ve had some problems with my stomach recently, so I had to call it a night early yesterday, and while I probably missed the party of my lifetime, at least I can enjoy the morning, feeling fresh and perhaps dipping into the pool at some point. My travel buddies came home early in the morning, and will probably sleep for a good 5 hours more or so, so perhaps I’ll just take my motorcycle for a spin around the island and enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful scenery.

Hotel view

When we started our trip from Seoul, the idea was to take a train from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand, then go to Ko Tao for 4 days and from there to Ko Samui, where I’m currently at, but because all the trains were booked, and the bus connection seemed a little unreliable, we decided to spend one night in KL and just fly straight to Krabi in Southwest Thailand. We spent one night in Krabi, which is more of a jump-off point for the more touristic places surrounding it, as the town itself doesn’t have anything special to offer to travelers. But still, it was a nice place to stay for a while, we rented scooters, drove around the surrounding areas and watched a very entertaining Christmas “talent show” at the night market.

Local kids made an amazing fire show in Krabi

From Krabi, we took a 90-minute boat ride to Ko Phi Phi, a party island of a sort. Everything on the island was more or less destroyed in the Tsunami, but right now you wouldn’t notice it, save for the tsunami memorials erected on the island. I found Phi Phi to be a very interesting place, maybe something I always pictured the Thai holiday resorts to be like, a crammed little tourist town, where the all the locals work for the hostels, restaurants and bars, and with the clientelé consisting of mainly Scandinavian tourists. Except that in Phi Phi, there were less families and older single men, and more young people in their twenties looking to go crazy at the beach parties that occur every night on the northern beach of the island.

Maya beach, one of our stops during our snorkeling tour

After partying at Phi Phi, we decided to chill out for a while and headed to a place called Tonsai Beach, which could be described as the completely opposite of Ko Phi Phi. Tonsai is a really laid-back place, favored by two kinds of people, rock climbers who want to challenge themselves and test their skills in climbing the 70-meter rocks there, and the more hippie kind of, who book a month in one of the many bungalows around the beach and just relaaaaax. For that, the place is perfect for, because there is not really anything special to do, except for hanging out in one of the cozy local bars, playing ping pong, or that kind of stuff. In Tonsai, there was no cell-phone reception, the accommodation is very modest at best, and at least in our bungalow, the electricity generator only runs from 6 p.m to 2 a.m. Oh yeah, and you needed a lot of mosquito repellent 🙂

A simple bungalow in Tonsai

But now, it’s time for me to close the laptop and dip into the pool. The sun is already warm and I can’t hold myself in this chair any longer – paradise is calling! 🙂

Hope to blog again soon!

-a

EDIT: I uploaded some pics earlier. Link.

Leaving Korea

So, here we are, the last day of the exchange. It has been snowing last night, and while I was walking down the mountain for the last time, I couldn’t help to think how different the whole place seemed back in late August, when I went there for the first time. And it wasn’t just because now there wasn’t any leaves and the ground was covered in snow, but also because the place now felt more like a home, a place where you feel comfortable at.

Today is the day when my student exchange ends, but also the day when my vacation in South East Asia begins, and because I’m travelling for quite some time, I decided to ship all my winter clothes and souvenirs to Finland by post. I had already been to the campus post office, where they said it was ok to send my big luggage as it is, but when I went there today, they told me it was too big to fit any of their boxes. I was somewhat frustrated, because I had left this to the last day, believing their first word that there wouldn’t be any problems. So, after I presented my situation to them, they sent me to another post office, where it would be possible to send the bags, I was told. Well, after all, I managed to sent both of the bags, but it wasn’t an easy task, to tell the truth, as also in the other post office, the staff first strictly told me that the bags were too big to send.. All is good now, and we are heading for our final dinner in Seoul. And of course, it’s going to be Korean barbecue!

It’s a little bit sad to leave, especially because I didn’t get to say goodbye to all of my friends, but I’m also looking forward to travelling in South East Asia, so it’s not all bad. I guess it’s just the feeling that something has come to an end, something you won’t do ever again, and it makes me a little bit sentimental.

So, goodbye Korea! It was an awesome 4 months! Hope to see you again!!

-a

PS. I hope to keep updating the blog from Thailand, whenever I can get online.

Exams are done, papers are written

Yesterday was the last day of school for me during this semester, I had two exams, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then I scribbled my part of the last group work for our finance course. And that was it! The overall course work load here has been somewhat lighter, when compared to (mostly economics) courses back home, but at least for me, much of the workload came during the last weeks of the semester, and it really kept me busy.

Heavy snowfall in early December

In general, I’m content with the level of education here, and I think I had a pretty good set of courses, even though with hindsight, it’s always easy to spot things you could have done better with the course selection. Unfortunately one of my professors had some health issues in the latter part of the semester, so we missed a lot of lectures, and in the end, had to end the classes prematurely, which meant a lot of us didn’t have chance to present our research papers.

Alko-Salmari, Soju-Salmari and self-made Salmarikossu

Anyway, to celebrate the end of the semester (at least for my part), we had a final go with the screen golf, had a little Salmari tasting, enjoyed Korean barbeque perhaps for the last time, and played a few matches of Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer) in the local PS3 bang (a place where you can play Playstation or Nintendo Wii for a few thousand Wons per hour). Definitely a fun night, even though I took a beating in most games 😀

I will miss the virtual golf courses of Seoul 🙂

A still have a few more days left in Seoul, and then it’ll be a nice vacation in South East Asia. Could it be any better? 🙂

-a

Final Push!

It’s been some time since my last post from Shanghai, and it’s not just pure laziness, even though mostly, it is. After the 6-day vacation in the wonderland of China, my mom and her good friend, Sonja, came from Finland to visit Seoul and to check up on me. I had secretly been afraid that they would find this city too crowded, chaotic and, to be frank, ugly. But to my surprise they seemed to like it here very much and it was a pleasure to be their tour guide for the week they spent here.

One of the absolute highlights of the week was the traditional music and dance performance accompanied by a royal dinner of probably thousand million different dishes. In addition to the endless rounds of tasty Korean dishes, I was stunned by the super-energetic and cool Sangmo dance and drum show, which was part of the performance at the Korean House. This dance with an absurdly funny hat and rhythmic drum sounds has to be the coolest folk dance ever! I wish I had one of them Sangmo hats!!

Anyway, now reality is catching me again, and this week will be about studying, from morning to evening, but it’s ok knowing that after next week’s Tuesday I’ll have no school related stuff for a goooood while 🙂

It feels so weird to start the preparations for leaving from Korea, because it feels I’ve just gotten used to living here. Actually, I had this strong feeling of “coming back home” when I came back from Shanghai, and at that time Seoul just felt like a heaven on earth. One of the drawbacks of spending a single semester abroad is that even though 3 and a half months seems like a fairly long period of time, it isn’t. What I mean is, when you think about your last one-week city holiday and all the sights you saw and all the things you experienced, you sort of have that mindset and then establish that in 3 and a half months you could basically see everything a country has to offer. Now, after experiencing two exchange semesters abroad, I know that it’s not really like that. Maybe it’s the fact that one semester feels long in the beginning, but as time passes you start to realize how sort it is. And of course, even though the workload might not be as demanding here as it is back home, it’s not like I could go sightseeing every day, or would even like to do that, for that matter. But still, as the end of the semester draws near, you just realize all the things you planned to do, but then didn’t for some reason. And now, as there’s less than two weeks left, whenever I do something I like, I’m thinking if it’s the last time I’m doing it here in Korea 🙂

All good things come to an end, but fortunately there’s still some time left, just gotta make the best out of it! (So, back to finalizing a corporate finance presentation :D)

-a

Shanghai, first impressions

Here I am, in Shanghai, enjoying the modest hostel breakfast and using all my computer hacker skills to bypass the facebook and wordpress blockades put up by the government. It seems I finally got through with this and I can actually post something 🙂

We flew here yesterday with the somewhat run-down 757 of Shanghai Airlines, and after a prolonged taxi journey to the hostel (either the driver didn’t know the place or then he was a skilled scammer) we went for a quick look around the neighborhood. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, so no pics are available. First impression was that the city feels so much bigger than Seoul, even though by population measures it really shouldn’t. On average, the buildings rise quite high to the skies, and most of them are lit, some very nicely, and some not that nicely. I also noticed the lack of scooters buzzing around the driveways and sidewalks, and instead bicycle seems to be the preferred choice of transport for many.

I had heard that the price level here would be somewhat lower than that of Seoul’s, but I didn’t realize how big the difference was. Even though food is generally very cheap in Seoul, here it feels almost free. Yesterday night my dinner, a plate of sliced chicken and peanuts in a spicy sauce, plus a big bottle of Tsingtao beer cost just under 3€. And the food was not only cheap, it also tasted yummy! Something tells me I’m gonna eat a lot during this trip 🙂

-a

Tiger Woods moments (the golf related ones)

 

Today I had the chance to test one of Korea’s 5000 screen golf cafes, where you can play a round of virtual golf with your friends, using real clubs and balls. Because of Korea’s insanely high golf memberships and green fees (around 250 USD for 18 holes), these virtual golfing venues have become increasingly popular in the last years.

Fore!

I have been golfing for a few years now and I was really excited to see how the virtual experience would be compared to the real thing. Because me friends were new to golf, the guys at the golf cafe put our game to the “Beginner”-mode, so I couldn’t really tell how the simulator works with the more realistic settings. With the settings we were using, it was quite easy for a first-time golfer to cut the fairway in half with an arrow straight 160-170 meter drive, which might tell something about the difficulty level. Of course, this is not a bad thing, but rather a very good option to have in the game. Because starting golf can be devilishly hard and at time incredibly frustrating, it’s only appropriate that you manually alter the difficulty level.

If the long game was ridiculously easy compare to the real golf, then in the short game the effect might have been a little bit reversed, or at least not so strong. Putting and pitching proved to be a little tricky at times due to the lack of “feeling” and because reading the terrain and estimating distances is a little bit different from a screen than on an actual course.

But all in all, a really great experience, and I’m a little bit sorry I “found out” about this so late to the exchange. But anyway, I will squeeze another 9 holes to my calendar during the next few weeks! What better way to relax than hit some golf balls and perhaps sip a cold beer on the sofa while the others are teeing up! 🙂 🙂

-a