Catchup #blogjune 10, 11, 12

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Insadong hanok house

We’re home from Korea, back at work and back behind the Firewall.

Seoul is very cool. Could live there. Incheon airport could be better. No ATMs airside, and only 3 in the arrivals area. 1 would not accept Aussie visa, or China unionpay, and a big queue for the other. (On that point – a Citipoint ATM in the Seoul subway gave me a receipt for withdrawing 100000krw, but didn’t actually give me the cash. Am still negotiating on this with my bank)

Hanok guesthouse: ok – something to do once in a lifetime. Having to move between bedroom, wardrobe & bathroom via an external verandah got to me a bit. So did having the hosts around all the time. Every time I fumbled the front entry and couldn’t get in, one of them was there to make me go through it again, with them watching and instructing, (and of course it worked first time). Argh.

Great coffee in Korea. The trap of traveling to all these cool places in Asia while we live in China is that every time we get out we are so desperate for western food and comforts we sometimes miss out on local cuisine because we are so excited about bread, or pies, or crepes.

We stayed between Insadong and Bukchon, so had art, culture and tourist delights all at our doorstep. And giant ice cream. Matilda found no less than 3 different types.

Last stop was Kyobo Books, which meant we had to check in our carry-on bags as they had doubled in weight.

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Zen and the art of travel #blogjune 8

People often remark how brave I am for travelling to far-flung lands, and taking my daughter to live on distant shores. I never understand it. I don’t feel brave. I mostly feel tired and irritated. The reality of travelling tends to equal days spent neglecting housework and Ms10 while I agonise over prices, times and locations, only to arrive and find the place down the road is nicer and cheaper.

I need to focus on being in the moment more when travelling. This would be easier with Tardis translation and unlimited funds. And a full time nanny. 

I prefer travel when it’s spontaneous, but once I had a kid that became a luxury. I still struggle to book anything more than a week in advance. Who wants to spend ages pre-planning only to have it all fall apart? But it’s how you roll from the stuff ups that is character building.

I’d hoped I’d be more zen towards travel dilemmas by now, but I still struggle to remember that if nobody died, or got arrested it’s all good. Like today. We should be in Korea right now, but instead we are still in Qingdao because our driver was half an hour late to collect us, so we missed our flight. It’s Duan Wu festival and super busy, which means we can’t get another flight until Friday. 

The China Eastern helpdesk did not live up to its name, and I felt myself teetering into the abyss, but I started talking myself through the worst that could happen, and in the calm was able to think of a friend I could lhone to translate, so we got new flights, the accommodation were very forgiving AND our errant driver came back to take us to a hotel for the night for free. 

I should chill more often lol

Travel booking #blogjune 7

hanok house
Traditional Korean ‘hanok’ house

Can’t talk, booking. Or trying to. Couldn’t book last week as waiting on some paperwork to be finalised before we could decide where to go, so now (of course) the flights are all $500 more expensive *cry cry cry*

 

I’ve not only got multiple tabs open, but multiple browsers. There must be a magical combination of flights out there somewhere. I rely heavily on  expedia, skyscanner & local Chinese travel booking site/app Ctrip. Expedia are very good for multi-city flights. They give nicer combinations (and often cheaper prices) than booking directly with airlines (which is my preferred option). I only started using skyscanner and Ctrip when I got to China. Ctrip is frequently cheaper for booking things in China – sometimes the difference in price is substantial.

Colleagues use the hopper app, which is really cool and will send you notification when the price drops, but I can’t get it to work in China.

Anyway, enough. None of them are working for me right now anyway! And now we must pack. Mr Chen is picking us up directly from school to take us to the airport tomorrow. It is the Duan Wu (Dragon Boat) and we have a long weekend. We are going to South Korea for the first time – only 4 days, so we’ll stay in Seoul. We’ll be staying in a traditional hanok house, visiting paper and art shops, eating awesome food and going to a baseball match.

tteokbokki

 

Slow boat in China

So we have given up on our Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian railway dream…for now. Back to the drawing board for travel plans.

Options:

  1. Visit Mongolia
    1. At first, this was our plan. Ditch annoying Russia and their annoying visa process. Then I discovered obtaining a Mongolian visa is just as difficult as a Russian one. Don’t know where I got the idea a Mongolian visa was easier, but it’s not. So scratch that.
  2. Fly to Europe and start travelling there
    1. Schengen visa complicates this, as the 3 months start ticking as soon as I land in any Schengen country. Also expensive
  3. Japan
    1. Meh. It was okay but for some reason I just can’t get excited. Probably because it was so expensive.
  4. Korea
    1. Going there for 4 days over Duan Wu festival in early June.
  5. South-east Asia
    1. Hot, mosquitoes, hot.
  6. Australia
    1. Expensive. Extra flights. The whole “but I’ve spent over $10000 visiting my family 4 times over the past 2 years and they’ve not visited us once”. This whole thing is really starting to get to me. Also we – well, I at least. Not sure about the kid – have reached a point where I’m comfortable living away from home. The apron strings have snapped. I’m keen to keep moving in a northerly direction, for now.
  7. China
    1. Well, this is something I have thought about and discarded and thought about and discarded…
    2. We haven’t seen enough of China. We don’t want to come back anytime soon.
    3. The parts I want to see are in the south, which is hot, with mosquitoes, and heat and humidity…

Hmm.

Paper in the Monkey year

We’ve had a hectic month. Given the crazy flight costs and that I am potentially unemployed come July, I decided to stay closer to home for out Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holiday, and had thought we might do a short trip to Seoul to explore their hanji paper in the middle. Fortunately I didn’t book any flights, as we both came down with a shocking flu. One of the worst I can remember. We were bedridden for 4 days straight, which the locals celebrated by releasing tones of fireworks, from around 6am until 10 at night. When we finally recovered we were able to stagger into the city for a couple nights in fancy hotels, but our plans of heading to Korea faded.

Around the same time I’ve received disheartening responses from every university in Australia where I’d hoped to enrol in a research degree. Tasmania never replied, despite multiple attempts. CDU sent me a copy/paste of their website, telling me to identify a supervisor, which would be fine if they put any identifying information about staff online! Not even an email address…

University of Newcastle were the most promising, and I received a lot of advice and direction, AND they have an onsite paper mill.  However the artistic lecturer I found was not qualified to be sole supervisor, and although half a dozen others expressed interest in the project, none of them felt qualified to take me on as a candidate. The art lecturer also indicated that I should gain more practical experience, and I feel this may have influenced the rejections. He is right, so I have decided I should focus on this for now, and come back to the research at a later date.

The problem is, I live in a backwater in China. I can’t find supplies here to create a home studio. I have the blender and frames, felt and etceteras, but cannot find the mesh. Intensely frustrating. So far the onlmy practical experience I’ve had were two goes at elephant poo paper parks in Thalamd. It was fantastic, and I’m so desperate to get started on making all my mistakes so I can be closer to being an expert craftsman, it kills me! I’m hoping the upcoming Easter break will provide an opportunity. I’m looking at washi paper in Japan, hanji in Korea, Thailamd again, or visiting the Miao or Dai ethnic groups in south China.