Boeun Jujube Festival

So, this past weekend saw me, Marta and my amazing friend Jess hit up Boeun Jujube Festival for Jess’ birthday celebrations. For those who don’t know, this festival is famous all over Korea. It is advertised in Seoul and widely across the country. Tour buses amble in and out all day, bringing hoards of excited and eager visitors with them.

Marta and I arrived in Boeun on the Friday night, unsure of what to expect from this festival. Our friend Jess had always described Boeun as a small town, with not much going on. A town of nearly-deads, mostly. But our worries were soon laid to rest. As soon as we departed the bus (and made a beeline to get some water/warmth from a local store), we heard the faint sounds of music in the background. Soon after, Jess came flying down the street on her bike and we were away to see the festival.

My first impression was one of complete awe. There were amazing lanterns on the river, in various shapes and designs, and a sea of tents as far as the eye could see. An amazing medley of smells, sights and sounds met us as we crossed a small bridge to enter the festival proper. Quite naturally, our first stop was for food. The excitement that I experienced when I found a legitimate Turkish kebab can not even be described here. Each bite was ecstasy. The meat was succulent and delicious. The whole thing just worked on all levels.

Our stomachs filled with enough food (for now), we decided to venture onward to see what the festival had to offer. On each side, there were stalls selling everything from ajjuma pants (think 1980s ski pants and you are pretty close) to selfie sticks (something I would buy for myself the next day) and from phone cases to games. The games were what caught my attention but I resigned myself to only playing two games that evening (having wasted much of my money playing push machines over the previous week). I first played a game where you have to throw darts to pop balloons. And I popped every balloon I aimed for, winning a small angry bird toy and some kind of rabbit-bear-pig. I had finally found a use for my gibbon-like arms and would return to this game the following day. The other game I played was a shooting game, where you had to knock over small toys with rubber bullets. I could have done much better if the old man running the stool didn’t keep standing the toys back up as I was reloading. Here, I managed to win a small toy and was given a wooden hammer by a disgruntled ajjossi next to me. My haul was pretty impressive for spending around $10.

Once again, we found ourselves wandering the festival and we took some stairs to what initially looked like a small playground. This was a great decision as we ended up finding the “ethnic” section of the festival. The first thing we saw was an assault on our senses. We stumbled across an Ecuadorian pan-flute band. And we were in awe. I am not sure any words I type can truly do this amazing experience justice, so I will simply post a video below for you all to enjoy (Edit – The video is coming in the next few days).

Finally, we decided to go and have some of the city’s famous rice wine (makkoli) and some amazing Korean seafood pancake. We spent the rest of our evening merrily drinking the delicious makkoli (so good, Marta and I made sure to pick some up to bring back to Cheongju) and eating the mouth-watering pancake before we decided to turn in for the night at Jess’ place.

The next day, I’d like to say we arose bright and early. But that is not true. Instead, we dragged ourselves out of bed sometime between 10 and 11am. After the normal morning routines everyone has (shower, put on clothes to avoid public nudity and that sort of thing) we once more headed for the festival. The first thing we wanted to do was grab some more food, so we did. Kebab, sausage and Korean pancake were all on the menu (and all amazing). Our stomachs full, we moved onto the festival proper. Aside from many stalls selling fresh produce, there was not much that was different to the night before. So I made the wise choice to return to the darts game. $15 and around 24 darts (and popped balloons) later, I had won a large pig-in-a-blanket (pun prizes are the best). I gave him to Marta and we immediately named him Sir Francis Bacon (pun names are even better). Rather tired from the night before, we simply strolled the festival, taking in the sights and sounds we had missed the night before. Finally, it was time for us to leave. After a short wait, Marta and I boarded our (packed) bus for Cheongju and tried to settle in the for the ride. We managed to get seats eventually, and slept most of the journey away.

Going to this festival was something I am so glad I did. It was an amazing experience and I suggest that anyone reading this and living in Korea check it out next year.

That is all for now.

Ricky

Ulleungdo, Dokdo and Typhoons

Fellow travellers. Family. Weirdos of the internet. I invite you to pull up a pew as I merrily take up your time with my tales of Ulleungdo and Dokdo, a business trip I was lucky enough to go on back in September.

The trip itself started off reasonably well. Apart from Claire. Claire was super late for the bus. Unfortunately, she had been ill the day before and had not slept well. Apart from this minor bump in the road, the journey itself was pretty boring. We sat on a bus, and most of us slept as we had been dragged out of bed at the awful and early hour of 4am.

The first day was spent attending lectures, and things like that, so I shan’t bore you with the details here. If you find yourself gripped with madness, and the desire to learn more about sitting in a room and doing uncomfortable self-introductions then send me a message or comment and I will respond. We departed for Ullengdo the following day.

For those that don’t know, Ulleungdo is a small island in the East Sea, about an hour and a half from the Korean mainland. The sister island, Dokdo, is a very small piece of rock about an hour and half from Ulleungdo.

This trip was an amazing Dokdo, historically, has belonged to Korea (Japan even acknowledged this in the 17th Century). Whilst there, I got to learn the history of the island and the dispute. It is interesting and I suggest to anyone on EPIK that, if you get the chance to go, go on the business trip there. It is worth it.

I also made new, awesomely nerdy friends there. We drank. We did not sing. We bonded over mutual love of Harry Potter. Actually, we plan to start having game nights (including D&D and Cards Against Humanity) and hang out on a regular basis. I think this will be good for me, as I haven’t really had the chance to nerd out properly since I left my best friend John back in the UK. I miss hanging out with him and this is as close as I can get whilst being here.

We also got stuck on the island for two extra days because of a typhoon, meaning I had no school. It was pretty awesome and I got to know the other people on the trip better as a result though. Best of all, I got to go and see some amazing sights on the island, such as a waterfall and a mountain view. Although most people thought our trip was going to be uneventful, it ended with amazing joy at finding pizza. Actual pizza. Not the sweet Korean crap that you get most places.

This is a new post about an old trip, so it might be vague on details.

Stay positive.

Ricky

GGK

This past weekend, I spent my time in rooms pulsating with lights, music and people. I saw groups I didn’t know, groups I did and things I wish I hadn’t seen. I laughed, I moaned, I ate, drank and did my best impression of someone having a great time dancing. It was fantastic

For those whose curiosity I have sparked, I attended Global Gathering Korea this past weekend, which is a large-scale electronic music festival. And it was a fantastic attack on my senses and several things that I thought about myself.

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At Global Gathering Korea.

 So, I was lucky enough to see several amazing acts. The first of these was Scarnite. Although the festival was fairly empty at this point, many people choosing not to arrive until later, Scarnite still played an absolutely amazing set. If you are in Korea and get the chance to go and see him play, I would recommend that you do. Next up was Peach Ade (one of only a few female acts for the whole festival) at the Bunker Stage. Located under the stands, in what felt like a rather dank parking garage, the Bunker Stage was probably my favourite place to spend time at the festival. It was cool, being underground, never too busy and for most of the night, played some brilliant music. Peach Ade played an amazing set, and again I would suggest going to see her if you get the chance.

Peace Ade playing in the Bunker Stage.

Next up, I saw Idiotape. These are an amazing Korean group, with two DJs and a drummer. They played what I would describe as the closest thing I heard to electronica all night. This is the right time to offer a fair warning – much of the music played at GGK was EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and not electronica. I was expecting a little more variety but was not disappointed. However, if you like electronica much more, it might be a less satisfactory experience. After this, I had to remove myself from the crowd for a while. Mental illness can really spoil even the best of times. I spent the next 4 or so hours drifting between the Main stage and the Bunker. The best thing to come of this was this photograph of people having an amazing time underground.

People enjoying the Bunker.

The final act that I saw was Axwell ^ Ingrosso. They were absolutely amazing, and even though I only saw a part of their set, I can confirm they were the best act of the night. They had the crowd pumped (myself included) and just had one great track after another. For those who do not know, Axwell ^ Ingrosso are two-thirds of Swedish House Mafia. Again, I would say that if you have a chance you should go and see them play.

After this, Marta and I called it a night. The festival was over, so we jumped on a train to Hongdae in Seoul and made headway for Taco Bell. After about 30 minutes of walking (my sense of direction got us there in the end), we arrived and it was great. We then realised our error in not booking anywhere to stay and ended up sleeping at the bus terminal until 5am, when we were rudely awoken by the security guards. Grabbing the first bus back to Cheongju, we ended what was an amazing weekend.

Survivors!

I will write again soon.

Ricky!