Tag Archives: Shopping

Days 5-9 of a Hastily-Planned Trip to Seoul!

7 Mar

Day 5 – Olympic Day

The Olympics were held in Pyeongchang (and yes, I think everyone did a bit of a double-take at the name) about 1.5 hours from Seoul by high speed train.

We had originally wanted to watch the snowboard halfpipe but it wrapped up before we arrived in Korea so we watched the ski halfpipe women’s finals and men’s qualifiers instead, which was still really fun.
IMG_20180220_095725The morning started with a hiccup because we missed our booked train and pretty much every other train was sold out (seat reservations and standing room) . Luckily the guy working there managed to find us a train leaving an hour later from a different station, and I’d built so many contingencies into our itinerary that we still managed to get to Pyeongchang, take the shuttle, buy souvenirs, and get seated 30 minutes before the event.

Our view of the halfpipe:
IMG_20180220_110858The view in the standing area was slightly better because you got a better perspective of how high the competitors were jumping, but it was maybe a 10% increase in view with a 150% decrease in comfort. And honestly, the best vantage point is always going to be from your couch – the main reason to go to the Olympics is the atmosphere.

We really enjoyed seeing people dressed up supporting their countries. Everyone was so friendly and we were all having a great time.

Aussie Aussie Aussie!
IMG_20180220_112534(Disclaimer: no Aussies were in this event – possibly something we should have researched in advance).

There was one Korean competing, which was really fun because there would be this huge roar from the crowd every time he came up. James and I agreed that having experienced that, we would have liked to see an event with more Koreans in it – perhaps an indoor one! It was a sunny day but incredibly cold when the wind picked up. We were both wearing thermals, gloves, hat, scarves, multiple coats/jackets and it was still chilly at times.IMG_20180220_152538To the right you can see the slopestyle course – in between events we saw groups of people practising on it.

The most heavily-represented fans were South Korea, the US and Canada, but there were a lot of European and Scandinavian countries there too. And an adorable tour group that wore a bunch of random flags as tiny shawls (why didn’t they just wear their own flags??). Here James is with some of them at the pedestrian crossing:
IMG_20180220_173827His Boxing Kangaroo flag was very much admired – I saw some people from the tour group eyeing it enviously and some of the Olympic volunteers asked him about it as well.

So majestic.
IMG_20180220_173506It took a long time to get into the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium so we didn’t have a ton of time to look around – and we definitely didn’t want to miss our train again! There was a massive souvenir store and a center that had a bunch of cool stuff, like VR snowboard and bobsled and this robot fish.Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20180220171004They also had a cool sculpture outside – I like how the Olympic rings at the bottom blend into it.
IMG_20180220_172819Also notice how cold that poor guy behind us is. He did not have the warming properties of Flag.

It took awhile to find the shuttle stop to get to the Jinbu KTX station but, having learned from our previous experience, we’d left plenty of time. Which meant we could take more photos at the station! A Jehovah’s Witness gave us some pamphlets then took this photo for us:
IMG_20180220_182327The Olympic mascots are Soohorang (white tiger) and Bandabi (black bear). James really liked the tiger and wanted to buy one for the cats as a souvenir. But the tiger was insanely popular – I think because they gave him to the winners, so he was more prominent – and the little version of him was basically sold out. They had a ton of little black bears but none of the white tiger. James eventually found the tiger at the airport – but you had to buy him bundled with the bear haha.

James has re-named them Pyeongchang and Shitbear. Now that we’re home he keeps taking photos of the cats with Pyeongchang and staging photos of them ignoring Shitbear.

Anyway, when we got back to Seoul we had some toppoki and ramen at a Marvel-themed bar.
IMG_20180220_210621 The toppoki in its uncooked state: IMG_20180220_210735Also cheese fried rice! It tasted a bit like a parma.
IMG_20180220_211120We were both surprised at how many cheese dishes there were in Korea. When we’re in Asian countries James is used to not having to worry about his lactose intolerance.

Day 6 – DMZ Day

The only “must-do” on my list was visiting the Dermilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
IMG_20180221_135548The most interesting part is the JSA (Joint Security Area), and only a few companies do that, including the one we went with, Koridoor Tours. We were quite lucky to get in since we were doing everything on quite short notice.

Looking into North Korea:IMG_20180221_094234 (1)Do you see the concrete dividers between the blue houses? Everything beyond that is North Korea.

Our military guide said that there used to be North Korean guards visible but not anymore – he thought maybe because they realised they were being used in the tour. But back then both Koreas would post their tallest, buffest guards to intimidate the other side. You had to be at least 6′ in South Korea, but he said the tallest North Korean guards were 5’7″ or 5’8″.

Here is James half in North Korea and half in South Korea. The microphone line on the conference table is the dividing line between the two countries. IMG_20180221_095315Our military guide said he wasn’t allowed to cross, so he stayed on the South Korea side.

One of the South Korean guards – they were all completely still and expressionless the whole time (apparently if you got too close they would elbow you away – we did not test that out):
IMG_20180221_095343It was a surprisingly tense experience. Going from the Olympics, which is a symbol of peace and friendship between countries and had the United Korea team, to the DMZ/JSA, where you can tell that relations are not friendly, was definitely an eye-opener.

When I checked the Koridoor tour page today, it said “Access to the ‘Bridge of no return and Point of Ax Murder’ has been restricted due to the current development between South and North Korea.” Yikes.

Afterwards we went to see a train station that was originally supposed to link the two Koreas. IMG_20180221_111415If the JSA was tense then this was pretty surreal. Here is James in the sitting area, waiting for a train that will never arrive.IMG_20180221_105446For $1 we bought a ticket to go see the train platform area. One ticket to Pyeongyang please! IMG_20180221_105920After seeing how busy most stations were, it was kind of eerie seeing a completely empty, unused one. IMG_20180221_110452Apparently they keep closing and re-opening the station and the last time it was open was 2013. I guess the hope is that one day relations between South and North Korea will improve and it will be fully operational.IMG_20180221_110407A hard choice – Pyeongyang or Seoul? IMG_20180221_110331In that direction is North Korea. IMG_20180221_110541When Dorasan station first opened, the German government gave them a piece of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of reunification. IMG_20180221_110651The station also had a cool little souvenir shop where James got a t-shirt and a bottle of North Korean wine.

We had lunch and took a picture at what I think is a checkpoint for road travel to North Korea? I think our guide said this was how the North Korean Olympians travelled in. IMG_20180221_120929Afterwards we went to an observatory where we could actually see into North Korea proper. It was a reasonably clear day (our guide said we were quite lucky and it’s only like that 20% of the time).

In this picture on the left is a North Korean village and on the right is a South Korean one. The South Korean government put up their country’s flag on a giant flagpole and in response the North Korean government made an even taller flagpole to hoist their flag. IMG_20180221_123018The North Korean village is called the Propoganda village because it’s completely fake. The buildings are empty facades, don’t have glass in the windows, and some of them don’t even have interior rooms.

They also play propoganda and music at each other. I read that there was a period of about 10 years where they mutually agreed to stop, but resumed because of recent escalating tensions. The South Korean speaker is bottom right (it was playing k-pop and western music) and you can see the forest separating the two Koreas.IMG_20180221_122658Here is James struggling to use the binoculars. He is too tall for South Korea. IMG_20180221_122827Then we headed to the 3rd infiltration tunnel. It was one of at least four that North Korea made to infiltrate South Korea under the pretense of mining for coal. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was pretty much just a damp, crude tunnel with very low ceilings.

So yeah, that was our tour of the DMZ and JSA. Pretty interesting! We took the subway back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We went to Jinmi Sikdang, which is famous for its ganjang gejang – raw crab marinated in soy sauce.

When the taxi driver took us there he couldn’t find any signage so he asked for directions from some construction workers. While we were paying we saw a well-dressed Korean woman go inside and James said that after we went in the driver also came in to look around – I guess he was curious what sort of restaurant would appeal to construction workers, tourists and fancy Korean ladies.

There isn’t even a menu – crab is the only thing they sell. You just tell them how many are in your party and they prepare the appropriate number of crabs.

It was so good. IMG_20180221_171804The crab was incredibly creamy and the salty soy sauce brine and roe made it perfect with a spoonful of rice or egg.IMG_20180221_175858Everything tasted like a richer, creamier version of normal crab. So the innards were super rich – you could really only eat a little bit at a time, as James found out when he ate a giant gob of it.

This was my favourite part of the crab – I don’t know what it was because I don’t think I’ve ever had it before. But it was a perfect little mouthful of crab with a ton of flavour and juices captured in what I thought of as the artichoke leaf-like part.

IMG_20180221_180615James isn’t a massive fan of crab in general but I loved it. He had some but mainly kept himself occupied with the side dishes while I demolished 1.5 portions of crab.

Day 7 – Shopping Day

This was the day of James’ meeting so I took the opportunity to explore some of Seoul’s famous shopping districts.

I started in Myeongdong where our hotel was, but was pretty put off by the pushy cosmetics salespeople. I did like A-land, which was a cool department store where I bought a ton of CosRX skincare:
IMG_20180307_114715I  also liked this men’s jumper that I ended up getting in grey. Though now I’m like … was that a mistake? I have a lot of grey hoodies and no black ones!
IMG_20180222_105952Afterwards I went to the Ewha shopping district and also the Dongdaemun shopping malls. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed since a lot of the stores have the same stock. There was one really good sock store on the fashion street in Ewha – it had the largest selection of socks out of any store that I saw in the markets, so if you want to stock up on souvenirs that was a pretty good place for it. (Later when we were walking all around Myeongdong looking for the perfect combination of socks, I thought longingly of that place)

For dinner I met up with James and his coworker for Korean BBQ. It was pretty cool – the extractor vents were so powerful and quiet – even though everyone was having BBQ you couldn’t see or smell any smoke and you couldn’t hear the vents working.

Look how hot and glowy it was!
IMG_20180222_200434 They cooked the meat for us to a perfect medium rare. The meat was seasoned really well and so tender, smoky and delicious. IMG_20180222_200544I remember being reasonably full after the meal (I wanted to leave some room for street food) but now remembering how good it was I’m like “why didn’t I gorge myself??”

Afterwards James and I did some shopping in Myeongdong.
IMG_20180222_191348We bought some socks. I’d packed a selection of thin and thick socks but my feet had swollen so much from all the walking that I couldn’t wear the thick socks and needed to buy more thin ones. I dragged James around to a bunch of different shops because I wanted only the kitchiest, more hilarious socks.
IMG_20180223_084632(I got the one on the right because the little egg guy looks like he needs to pee)

When I looked up souvenirs from Korea, socks would always show up on the lists and I was like “huh?” But now I get it. They’re super cheap and fun – under $1 each. James enjoyed using the sock conversion rate for other stuff we bought in Seoul – so a $5 meal = 5 socks.

I also bought a twister potato (I can’t remember how much it was – I think around 3 socks). It had a kind of cheese powder on it and was way tastier than I was expecting. Photo evidence indicates that I found it delightful:
IMG_20180222_215708 And here I am, wielding it like a sword with a hat stall in the background: IMG_20180222_215731Also you can kind of see how I had to lace my boots to avoid hot spots and the painful/swollen parts of my feet. By that time I was basically using 4 eyelets to hold the whole thing together.

Day 8 – Oppan Gangnam Style!

On this day we explored the fancy part of Gangnam. We started at K-Star road which was a road decorated with a ton of K-pop band bears. The biggest, most prominent one was Psy:
IMG_20180223_104243As you can probably tell by now, Korea had a lot of these cute photo opportunities everywhere. I made James do this at the train station (but I think he kind of got into it):
IMG_20180223_103906We stopped at a place in Gangnam for lunch where I had oxtail soup:
IMG_20180223_123426 And James had something called “bomb ribs”: IMG_20180223_125618They were really good and not too expensive even though it was clearly a really nice restaurant in a really nice part of Seoul.

We walked to Garosugil, which is a really picturesque part of Gangnam with cool stores and trendy Koreans. James liked this bear and wished to emulate its fashion style:
IMG_20180223_135323My favourite store was a Karl Lagerfeld pop up that we randomly wandered into:
IMG_20180223_150401I tried on some t-shirts and in the changing room they had these gauze sheets to put over your face to stop makeup from getting on the clothes – pretty nifty! PANO_20180223_143640I ended up getting this one:
IMG_20180307_115308(It’s a bit wrinkly because, quite frankly, I wore it a couple of times when we got back and had to fish it out of the laundry for this photo).

We decided it would be better to kill time in Gangnam rather than heading back to the hotel only to stay 30 minutes before leaving for dinner, so James plotted a route to our dinner destination. On the way we passed a ton of plastic surgery places which we thought was pretty interesting.

And to my delight we also passed the Sulwhasoo flagship store! IMG_20180223_181226I had gone to Lotte to buy a couple of Sulwhasoo products because apparently the discounts there are quite good, but was really put off by the crowds of pushy, rude Chinese tourists. As you can see, the Sulwhasoo store was amazing in comparison and we were the only ones there.

We explored the ground floor, which had displays of ingredients and pretty containers:
IMG_20180223_173406 The store assistant brewed us some ginger (or maybe it was ginseng?) tea, and let us just explore around on our own.

I bought some Balancing Water and a large size of the First Care Activating Serum, which came with a 30ml sample. The lady who helped us was so sweet – she gave me a ton of samples – a toiletry bag, miniature candle, moisturising mist (which she said was for the plane ride home), and a balancing kit because I mentioned that I liked it. =) She also added some men’s samples for James!

The packaging was beautiful.
IMG_20180307_132350 The one on the bottom is their regular fabric wrapping and the one on top is a special Lunar New Year one for the year of the dog.

They also engraved it for me. =) (On the lid of the one in front and under the characters of the one behind) IMG_20180307_132550The more I think about it the more I marvel at the brand’s cleverness – because every time I use their skincare I’m going to be reminded of how lovely and luxurious that experience was.

Then it was time for our dinner at two Michelin starred Jungsik. We went with the tasting menu with a wine pairing split between us, and they made James dairy-free versions of the dishes he couldn’t have.

I wish I’d taken notes because I’m already forgetting the specifics of some of these dishes. =( I remember the ice cream one was a salmon pate in a cheese cone and the one to the right of it was a croquette-like dish with an incredible aioli sauce. They were all delicious.
IMG_20180223_191537I think these might have been battered fish?IMG_20180223_192004The next course was nori crackers and assorted toppings. From the top it was wasabi, kimchi, tomato, seaweed jelly, cream cheese, seaweed, roe, and yam, with tuna in the middle.
IMG_20180223_193536The tuna and roe were the best but I was super enamoured with the concept of the seaweed jelly.

Next I had a scallop in brown butter with peppercorns.
IMG_20180223_200031_1And James had mushrooms with sesame oil in a tiny little jar. IMG_20180223_200021Octopus with gochu sauce
IMG_20180223_201717 Royal bibimbap. I was a bit worried when I saw this on the list because we didn’t really want to eat more vegetarian bibimbap, but it was basically a truffle risotto (mine had cheese) and was fabulous. Here are our bowls before we mixed the rice and truffles: IMG_20180223_203615This was some sort of fish with spinach. I can’t remember what the fish was but it was very tender and very good.
IMG_20180223_205211 Galbi – it was great but I was starting to get really full at this point! IMG_20180223_211111A palate cleanser before dessert. James was given raspberry sorbet and I can’t remember what mine was, although I think the sauce was honey-based.
IMG_20180223_212441My dessert – chestnut ice cream, shaved chocolate, and I can’t remember what the honeycomb things were but I really liked them. IMG_20180223_213133James’ dessert of granola, soy milk and sorbet.
IMG_20180223_213155Which was followed by creme brulee for me and a little sorbet for James. Then some fancy tea: IMG_20180223_214853And even fancier cookies:
IMG_20180223_215241It was a lovely meal, quite well-priced, and I was so impressed that the waiter and sommelier was able to explain everything in english.

After dinner we capped off the night at a speakeasy called Alice. It was so much fun – combined with the gorgeous dinner, definitely the best night of our trip! The speakeasy was not signed but we knew we were in the right place when we saw this:
IMG_20180223_222025The vibe was good, the music was great, and they played the Alice in Wonderland cartoon on the wall. And OMG, the cocktails were so fun. Behold!

00002XTR_00002_BURST20180223223650-ANIMATION(And yes, there are tiny Pringles in the back. Because there was a cover charge – which is a thing in some Korean bars apparently – they gave us a small basket of snacks).

Look how happy James is with his Pringles and his glowing drink!
IMG_20180223_225159 My drink, which came with some birds and chocolate covered nut “eggs”. IMG_20180223_223739The menu was really cool too – graphic novel style and, leafing through it later in the night, we realised that it actually had illustrations of the drinks!
IMG_20180223_233150James’ next drink had a cheshire cat cocktail with fairy floss stuck to the outside as a snack. IMG_20180223_230920And mine came in a bunny mug!
IMG_20180223_230737Which, along with my previous drink, was also illustrated in the menu:
IMG_20180223_233133This was the bar area behind me. IMG_20180223_230718 Hmm, looks kind of familiar …IMG_20180223_233159One of the waiters really liked James. The bathroom was occupied when James went to use it and “his” waiter said to sit down and he’d let him know when it was free. He waited at the door until the guy left, then grabbed another waiter to hold his spot while he came and got James. They weren’t doing that for anyone else (not even me!!)

Later in the evening James asked him if there were any more drinks with unique presentation and he recommended:

The Stone Pot Ginseng (which James was happy about because it was what he wanted anyway):
IMG_20180223_235340And I don’t remember what this one was, but it was a little bit rose-y, a little bit citrusy and it came with an aromatherapy diffuser thingy that sprayed a rose scent while I drank. IMG_20180223_235544OMG!

We left it at three drinks because we were pretty tired and tipsy (though again, looking back I’m like “why didn’t we order more?? I want to know what the other drinks looked like!”

We asked about buying the bunny mug and our waiter (whom I think of as “James’ guy”) checked for him because they were custom made, then came back and apologetically said “I think the cost is not reasonable” – it was $170 (170 socks!!!)

So we nixed that idea – though maybe we should have bought it! It’s only money – and it would have made us happy every time we looked at it. Ah damnit. Anyway, James’ guy called a cab for us and while we were waiting he brought out some shots for the three of us to drink together. What a fun way to end our last night in Seoul!

Day 9 – Travel Day

Our final day! =(

After buying my socks I had massive sock regret at not getting more for our friends as souvenirs. So in the morning we went to Namdaemun market and Myeongdong and bought a shit ton of socks. We got pokemon socks, cat socks, Australian flag socks, Star Wars socks, chicken socks (for Cat), and more Psy socks (for souvenirs).
IMG_20180307_143650_1At the market we had some king dumpling buns (3 with pork, 2 with pork and kimchi, and the lady threw in an extra, unsellable – but still tasty – deformed pork and kimchi bun. They really hit the spot for a morning snack – 5 for $3.50:
IMG_20180224_091500I also became obsessed with these furry keychain. I got this gorilla for $5 (and later found out they were selling them for $3.80 at Myeongdong *sigh*. But look how cute he is! I keep patting his soft leathery face: IMG_20180307_144525
James chose this colour because he thought it made him look like a yeti.

And this keychain is my favourite. It was really expensive ($15) but I figure the price was ballpark enough not to keep haggling because the seller let me walk away at $10 and had started at $30. I had to go back in defeat 15 minutes later and buy him because I couldn’t find him anywhere else.

I think of him as a boy but in my head I have named him “Lady Gaga”:
Oh, and as a last picture, this fucking strawberry. I kept seeing this franchise around Myeongdong and every time I would get freaked out because that little prancing strawberry is so disturbing.IMG_20180224_123755_1
Ugh, look at it frolic. So gross.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel and pack. It was a bit of a tight squeeze getting everything in because we bought more souvenirs than expected (socks!)

So yeah, that was our hastily-planned trip to Seoul. It came together pretty well I think, and we had a great time. =) I think if James had to go back I would want to tag along again – we could go back to Alice! Eat more KBBQ and go to some of the restaurants we missed!

(Buy more socks!)


I Still Call Australia Home

10 Oct

We just got back from three weeks in Australia! We were efficiently visiting for two weddings – Julian’s and my cousin Jon’s. Like last time, we used pretty much all our free time to catch up with friends and family (and also gorge ourselves).

Plane Anthropology

On our flight to Melbourne, our section of the plane (the blue Economy Plus area) had hardly anyone in it – behold!

Screenshot_20170904-223549I had optimistically put myself in 21L and James in 22L but had been obsessively monitoring the situation in case of a flood of newcomers to our section – I figured rows 16 (the one we vacated), 17, 18 and 20 would be my canaries in the coal mine, and if I saw those starting to fill up I’d change our seats so James and I were in the same row.

It was pretty interesting to watch people figure out that there were empty rows for the taking, and start to spread out and stake their claim. The first people to catch on were a group of guys in rows 22 and 23 – they separated and took the DEFs in row 20 and 21. The other empty rows were taken maybe 10-20 minutes after we’d sat down, and well before the boarding doors closed. 24DEF was the last to go, and after that it was people just circling around looking for empty rows. I counted eight of us who had the very best situation – an ABC or JKL row to themselves (DEF was less optimal because you didn’t have a wall to lean your back against to stretch your legs out on the seats).

I also thought it was interesting how reluctant people were to move to a row where someone was already sitting. As far as I could tell, almost everyone who started with their own row stayed that way. Everyone technically only had the right to their own seat, but clearly the seat poachers realised how desirable it was to have a row to yourself and didn’t want to be the one to take that away from someone (also a lot of people had defensively moved to the middle seat of their row).

Which brings me to the 17JKL bloc. I was particularly fascinated with it because it was one of the few filled rows. 16JKL was also full but the guy there moved to 16ABC pretty quickly, and the 16s weren’t really that desirable because the seat arms don’t lift up (which was partially why we had moved our seat allocation). But anyway, early on in the boarding process (after the 22/23 guys had spread out but before other rows had been taken) I saw a lady from 17JKL look around and realise that the blue section was likely to have empty seats. She asked a flight attendant if she could move, and I guess the flight attendant told her that after boarding she could take any empty seat, because she stayed put but kept looking around.

Which was a huge mistake, because by the time she started walking around, all the rows had been claimed, and even people who had moved (and had just as little “right” to the row as her – except for the apparently crucial part of being there first) had started to feel territorial about their space. I heard her ask to sit with a single in 17 or 18 ABC, who straight up lied to her face and told her that someone else was sitting there! She got rejected from another row and was roaming around looking for someone who was too nice to say no (from my live email updates to Cat and Ivo: “the unwanted lady just moved seats again to someone else’s row. She was like “can I join you here?” NO! Nobody wants you!!”).

Obviously she had to do it because moving would be a significant upgrade for her, but just as obviously people didn’t want her in their row because it would be a significant downgrade for them. I think she ended up in 18DEF on her third attempt.

The flight took off 30+ minutes late, but watching people tetris around was the most engrossing 30+ minutes I’ve ever spent on a plane. Also I slept nearly the whole way, sat with my legs stretched for the rest, had nobody reclined in front of me, nobody pulling my seat to get up, no lines for the toilet, and had three tray tables/seat backs to organise my stuff – highly recommended!

(I had high hopes for our return flight which was looking similarly empty, but it filled up a couple of days beforehand. So we did the only reasonable thing and upgraded to business. =P)

Catching Up

The whole point of visiting Melbourne is to catch up with family and friends, and we always make the most of it! I love our friends in Seattle and SF, but there’s nothing quite like being around the people we grew up with. We met up with my school friends, James’ school friends, James’ computer science friends, and my cousins.

Being with my cousins reminded me of when we were kids and hung out every weekend (except half of them have kids of their own now!)
IMG_20170928_163922I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but Cat said that she also got teary-eyed looking at that picture. We were so close growing up, and it’s so much fun hanging out with them – we’re only fully assembled every couple of years or so, because of Klene living in Sydney and me in San Francisco.

Last time we visited Melbourne we didn’t see as much of my parents as I would have liked, so this time we had a weekly dinner with them and Cat/Mitch.

It’s funny, because I feel like at times, Cat and mum didn’t always get along that well – Cat used to get exasperated with her easily, and mum would come to me and be like “you tell Cat to do X, because Cat won’t listen to me”. But now Cat writes all these funny, sweet anecdotes about mum on facebook, where apparently “Mama Chen” has quite the following among Cat’s friends – even some of my friends have told me they love the Mama Chen facebook updates!
21768353_10156217380865656_6916487172671501806_n (1)All of James’ high school friends have kids now, and about half of my school friends have kids. Everyone is getting so old! Here we are with James’ uni friends after a brunch catch-up:

Stuff I Had Totally Forgotten About:

Chicken Salt

The first time we went to get fish and chips (with flake! Not that cod bullshit they have here) and they asked if we wanted regular or chicken salt, James and I were like “OMG how could we have forgotten about chicken salt???”

How is it not a thing here? Possibly for the same reason the US doesn’t have Burger Rings, chicken Twisties and chicken flavoured chips (that aren’t a novelty flavour like chicken and waffles) – Nancy said “people in the US don’t like meat-flavoured chips” (!!!)

But anyway, we brought back three different kinds of chicken salt.


I never saw them in Seattle or SF but they’re everywhere in Melbourne. I was walking down the street and heard a magpie sing and was hit with this intense wave of nostalgia. I used to hear that sound all the time, and hearing it again after all those years felt simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Melbourne Food

It is so good, especially the Asian food. James and I reckon the best Asian restaurants we’ve been to in the US would be middle of the pack in Melbourne.

James had his first proper Melbourne coffee and said he’d forgotten how good it is – and also how strong it is! We went out to brunch with Joel, Nancy, Damo, Joan and their kids, and afterwards James said he was really jittery from the coffee – whereas Joel and Nancy made themselves another cup when they got home.

Anyway, here is a random selection of food we ate and took photos of:

My pavlova freakshake at Naughty Boy cafe:
IMG_20170917_095758Sushi platter from Shyun:
IMG_20170923_181953The “Money to Burn” cocktail at Eau de Vie:

20170925_085924-ANIMATIONEau de Vie was really fun – the cocktails were delicious and beautifully presented. We love speakeasies and didn’t realise that they were now a thing in Melbourne. Mitch had a cocktail with some fairy floss and a paper plane:
IMG_20170913_204716 I think this one involved a drink being poured into a glass full of hickory smoke. 00004IMG_00004_BURST20170913212612_COVER
Next time we go back to Melbourne James wants to do Eau de Vie’s food/cocktail tasting menu because he was absolutely in love with the place.

(Also, James fell asleep on the train ride home. It turned out he had actually started to get tired after dinner and before we went on a 20 minute hunt for a speakeasy, and certainly well before we had 3-4 drinks each at said speakeasy – but he said he was having such a good time with Cat and Mitch that he “wanted to keep the party going”).

The “Meat Fruit” at Dinner by Heston:
IMG_20170926_181002 (1)

Vegemite gyoza at Shizuku Ramen & Craft Beer. You can take the girl out of Australia …
Zombie VR

Ivo said she wanted to do this, and to be honest at the start I was dubious. I mainly went along with it because I thought it would be fun to hang out with everyone – I could take or leave the VR experience, really. It was at Zero Latency in Melbourne and it ended up being amazing.

They were running a bit late so we could see the people before us. They were wearing their gear – VR set, headphones, motion capture stuff, guns, some sort of computer backpack – yelling at each other, and sort of shuffling around tentatively in this massive warehouse space. I imagine we looked just as goofy when we were doing it.IMG_20170917_205923_1It was really immersive – not just 3D but completely responsive to our actions because of those little motion capture bobble things. I can’t believe there isn’t something like this in SF!

We did the zombie and the space one, of which I think the space one was better. There was some really cool stuff, like where you walked up this torus, and when you looked down you could see your friends still down below you and it felt completely real. And walking across high platforms, hiding behind boxes, dodging baddies … it was really, really cool.

The zombie one was just a straight up shooter experience, which is why it felt a little less interesting. It was still really immersive though, and thus pretty freaky having a zombie running right at you.

Mitch did really well and ended up coming with the third highest score ever. The guy working there was really impressed! They sent us all these cool stats afterwards, like how accurate our shots were, how many points we’d scored, how far we’d moved etc. I thought the funniest stat was that during the space boss battle, all of us moved a pretty consistent distance – from 8-17 meters … except James, who apparently just spent the whole time walking around and had travelled 112 meters! WTF James!


Generally stuff is way cheaper in the US so we tend not to buy too much stuff when we visit Australia. James usually replenishes his supply of Bonds undies, and I pick up some clothes, but this time we decided to go all-in on Aussie snacks:
IMG_20171001_174837Things James missed the most: banana lollies, wizz fizz and musk sticks

Things I missed the most: chicken Twisties, Burger Rings, honeycomb chocolate, noodles

You can’t really tell in the photo but there’s a couple of boxes of Wei Lih noodles that the Pringles and chicken salt are sitting on. They’re sooo much better than any other instant noodle I’ve had and I can’t find them in the US. They were $23 for a pack of five on eBay – outrageous!

James and I taped two boxes together and checked them as luggage, and they survived the trip really well. And it was only a little bit embarrassing collecting them from the carousel and carrying them through the airport. Cat reckons I’d be able to tape four boxes next time – I think definitely three, but I’m not sure if four would exceed the allowed luggage dimensions.

I also bought some sneakers from Country Road (I’m having mild regrets on that one – they look cool but they’re made of fucking neoprene and make my feet sweaty) and this awesome croissant rain coat from Gorman that I will never, ever regret:


image from Gorman

Every time we visit, we’re surprised at how much cooler Melbourne is than we remember, and how our friends are just as wonderful as we remember. And we sort of get stars in our eyes and think about moving back even though it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we just miss being around people who sound like us, you know?

But anyway, we’ll be back next year for Cat’s wedding!


4 Jun

Ugh, jetlag has really hit me hard this time round. I’ve spent all week getting up at totally random times and feeling totally useless. I haven’t sorted through my photos and videos yet (but I will!)

So in the meantime here is some stuff I bought recently that I love.

Lululemon All Tied Up Tank
c1b6db0eaea3f708c9bab4a0690d6c7dIt sold out on the same day so I’m really glad I impulse bought this while I was in Australia, even though I had to wait almost a month to get back and pick it up! I kind of regret not getting it in the grey as well.

I also bought that sports bra because it looks so cute with the top. =D

Gorman Basic Leather Tote

James hardly ever has opinions on things but he hates this bag – “it’s gaudy”. Unfortunately for him that’s the reason I love it.
Gap Panama Hat
cn11024080I wore this hat almost every day Indonesia and it was perfect – kept the sun off my neck/face/shoulders and went with pretty much everything. Plus I crushed it in my bag a couple of times and it sprung back into shape.

Manolo Blahnik Peach Heels
s-l1600I’m slowly easing myself into them in anticipation of the next time I need to wear heels (probably the next Christmas party!) Even my guy friends admit these are super cute and they never notice shoes.

Dell Chromebook
Chromebook 13 NotebookThis was a birthday present to replace my old laptop. The keyboard is a dream, it has an incredibly long battery life, and I’m surprised at how much I can do just using web apps (though I would really like something that could properly edit GoPro videos).

I have also gotten mildly obsessed with frangipani since the hotel we stayed at in Bali on our last day had them all over the place and they smelled heavenly. The best candidate seems to be Ormonde Jayne’s Frangipani but I hesitate to buy a full bottle based solely on reviews.

I’m now sleeping 2-11am so I reckon by Monday I’ll be functional again. I’ll aim to get my blog post up by next week because next Saturday Nixi is coming to visit! Yaaay! =)

Feathering the Nest

12 Jul

I’ve wanted to get a big reading chair for awhile and have my eye on this one from Restoration Hardware:


image from Restoration Hardware

I ordered some fabric samples online and put them on Kyoto’s current favourite sitting spot to test their fur resistance:
IMG_20150706_161146But I think he caught on.IMG_20150706_161333Luckily Mouse hasn’t figured it out yet.

A Rick Owens Splurge …

10 Feb

I’ve wanted this jacket for aaaages (proof – and check out that foreshadowing: “I thought maybe I could save it up for an important birthday. Or maybe if we ever move to a cold climate“).

I’d describe Seattle as a cooler climate, not cold. Though we had snow a couple of days ago! This was outside my building at 6:30am (I don’t normally wake up that early – Mike was picking me up to go snowboarding)

But anyway I was prepared buy the jacket when we went to NY – it would have been an awesome souvenir – but I didn’t like the blistered lamb, which felt like very flimsy suede. On the bright side, at least I figured out my jacket size. The majority online opinion is that it runs small but it ran true to size for me.

About a week ago I found exactly what I’d been looking for on eBay. It was still expensive, but significantly cheaper than retail and, more importantly, silky lamb instead of blistered lamb and in my size. Jackpot!

Me: Would you mind if I bought this jacket that I’ve wanted for a really long time?
James: *frowns* Why do you have to phrase it like that?

Sorry James – that was accidentally manipulative of me! But he said he remembered me dragging him to the Rick Owens and Bergdorf Goodman flagship stores in NY and grudgingly agreed that my story checked out.

It arrived today and is soooo buttery soft and wonderful. It’s the perfect compromise between the drapey-ness of the blistered lamb and the leathery-ness of the calfskin. It’s pretty satisfying to finally own something I’ve been wanting for years. Now I can retire the search for my perfect leather jacket. =)

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

28 Dec

Merry Christmas everyone!

We had a bunch of Christmas orphans over to our place for a pot-luck meal (hot-pot, roast, ham, mashed potatoes, stollen, Tim Tams, cookies, stuffing and other stuff that I’m probably forgetting). No snowboarding, unfortunately – no fresh snow for a few days so we didn’t think it was worth going up.

Present-wise I got a dress from James’ grandma, a silk scarf from James’ parents and a snowboard binding multitool from Cat (with the other half of her Christmas present to arrive in the new year). James got a wallet from his grandmother and some scotch glasses from his parents.

We also did some self-gifting (which, according to several articles I’ve read, is a Christmas trend). I bought a trench so I have a non-bummy coat option:

image from Banana Republic

Also a belt, merino wool scarf and noise-cancelling earbuds (that James steals whenever I run the Roomba or Vitamix).

James decided to go back to skiing because even though he prefers snowboarding it was hurting his knee too much. He got Atomic Savage TIs packaged with some bindings on sale and Lange ski boots:

image from Evo

Man, ski gear costs sooooo much more! But we figured it was worth it so he could still come out with the group and not completely wreck his knee. We got his snowboard stuff pretty cheap last year, so only paid a little bit more than a season’s rental, and it was worth it for the convenience and money saved. Now we have a spare in case a friend needs it and he still has the option to take his snowboard out for powder days.

Hmm what else has been happening? We’ve been going out a lot since everyone seems to be in a social mood. James is enjoying his week off – lots of Playstation, computer games, TV and bumming around. We’ve been eating a lot (mmm Christmas pudding with brandy butter …) and skipping gym so will have to tighten up on that next week. Though it doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world to have a lazy end to the year. =)

How To Fool People Into Thinking You’re Neat

25 Oct

Step 1: Don’t own a lot of stuff
Step 2: DO own a Roomba

It’s hard to keep a lid on “stuff creep”, especially in the US, where everything is so cheap. My weaknesses are board games (stored invisibly in the couch) and clothes – not so much about having lots of clothes as it is trying to find the perfect shirt, the perfect jeans, etc. so I can look put-together without expending any effort.

Which brings me back to the Roomba; pretty much the embodiment of no-effort big-reward. It vacuums your house! It freaking vacuums your house!

image from iRobot

Sometimes the Roomba doesn’t get everything on the first pass so when it’s charged up I just send it out again. I run it even when I think the floors look clean but when I empty the canister it’s full of dust and cat fur. Where did that all come from? It also forces me to keep stuff off the ground – I feel super guilty if I come home and find that the Roomba has choked on a sock.

Almost all our friends here own one. It’s not as popular back in Australia but we’ve gotten James’ parents, my parents, Cat and Ivo to buy one, and they all love it (and have been getting their friends on board too). They all live in 3-4 bedroom houses so I think they just run it more often than we do. Apparently it works fine on carpet and can detect stairs so you don’t need to worry about it plummeting to its death.

James has a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Roomba. Sometimes when it’s fruitlessly trying to find its way back to the docking station he’ll give it a look of contempt, pick it up and put it back in its charger. The Roomba does his victory chirp and James is all “don’t you sing at me like you found your own way home.”

Also the cats don’t ride around on the Roomba like I had hoped. =(

My mum said that my dad runs theirs twice a day and keeps going “it’s so clean! So clean!” Ha! Apparently they’ve had various friends and family over to marvel over it.

So yeah, if you don’t have a Roomba you need to buy one. Dooo eeet. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought and it just saves so much time (and it’s so satisfying to empty it – kind of like “this is all the crap I didn’t have to vacuum.”

And like I said earlier, the combination of clean floors and not owning much stuff tricks people into thinking I’m neat. I think it’s all the uncluttered surfaces – or maybe they just think we’ve put all our stuff away? Chuck says he’s intimidated by how clean our place is and calls it the “hermetically-sealed apartment.” But I’m secretly like “little do you know – I’m filthy. I didn’t even shower today.”