Happy Halloween, Japanese style!
Allow me to skip backwards (since we are no longer in Japan) and forwards (since I still have another post planned for South Korea) in time to wish you Happy Halloween. Someone in Japan told us that Halloween is mostly a Western holiday not celebrated by the Japanese, but judging by the Halloween sights on the streets, I don’t think that’s true. Plus it makes sense that the Japanese would love Halloween; they certainly have a sweet tooth, and the day we spotted the costumes below was in the same neighborhood as where the Japanese teenagers dress up in cos-play all year long.
Hope you have a great Halloween; eat extra candy for me!
Spotted on someone's doorstep in Kyoto's Arashiyama neighborhood
Spotted in a Toyko Krispy Kreme
Spotted in Ueno Park
Spotted at a Tokyo flower shop
Spotted on Takeshita Dori in Tokyo's Harajuku neighborhood
Takeshita Dori in Harajuku again
Where's Waldo? On Takeshita Dori.
Where else? Takeshita Dori. (There was a Halloween parade going on).
Also spotted on Takeshita Dori! (Along with his friend, above).
Merry Christmas! Oh wait, wrong holiday. Spotted in Tokyo's wholesale district, in October. Unfortunately jumping the gun on Christmas must be an international problem.
We didn’t originally plan to travel to South Korea. But then our friend Kevin ended up in Changwon, a city in southwest South Korea, for four months for work. The timing worked out that we could make a quick trip to South Korea to visit Kevin before we travelled to Japan. We always jump at the chance to visit friends and more important, mooch off them as much as possible (Kevin is actually the brother of our friend Matt, who we visited in Paris when he was sent there for work early in our trip).
Changwon isn’t necessarily a place you would visit as a tourist. Next to the American navy base, Changwon was planned to take over as the capital if something happened to Seoul. There are a fair amount of expats and visiting Americans living in Changwon, due to the high concentration of industry present. If you are American and you are in Changwon, you are either in the military, an English-as-a-second-language teacher or an engineer sent over by an American company for work.
Kevin fell into the latter category. Staying with friends who are travelling on the man’s dime isn’t half bad; Kevin’s employer was putting him up in an enormous three bedroom, two bath apartment, so we not only got our own room (complete with pink fluffiness and stuffed animals) but also our own bathroom.
Kevin and Sean in the pimp digs
You know you are jealous of our sweet pink room.
The apartment was rather pimped out, with laundry (yay!), a huge television, crystal chandelier, massage chair, and a bedazzled refrigerator. Yes, you read that correctly. The refrigerator was bedazzled.
We spent Chuseok, the Korean thanksgiving holiday, in Changwon. Kevin had off from work all week, so we spent lots of time lazing around Kevin’s apartment, watching NCIS (apparently Koreans love this show, because it was on in an endless loop), eating Mr. Pizza (a Korean pizza company located nearby who has love for women), and periodically venturing outside to go to Lotte Mart (a Korean grocery/department store).
Lest you think we didn’t learn about South Korean culture during our lazy week in Changwon, I present to you the following fun facts about South Korea:
- South Korean couples are so matchy-matchy and lovey-dovey, they even coordinate their underwear.
- Flavored soju, a South Korean rice wine, tastes much, much better when it is Kool-Aid flavored.
- There are call buttons at tables in Korean restaurants. When you press the button, if you call out “so-ju” in a sing-songy voice, soju will arrive on demand.
- At Korean barbeque restaurants, it is possible to receive and give a massage from your waitress, as long as you share your soju with her.
- Koreans love gadgets. Every taxi driver has a GPS that is probably bigger than your television set.
- Changwon might be the brightest place on earth.
- When receiving a drink or filling the glass of your elders, you must use two hands. You cannot fill up your drink glass, but don’t worry, as soon as it is empty someone will fill it back up. If you don’t want to get drunk, you better nurse your drink.
Such good form
- If you can’t find a bar, look up. Bars are located in second or third floors in dingy office buildings, complete with squat toilets in the bathroom.
- If you request American rock’n’roll at a bar playing music videos, they will play Thunderstruck by AC/DC, complete with clips of war footage and fighter jets that would make Maverick proud.
- No matter where you order pizza from in South Korea, it comes wrapped in a bow.
- It is perfectly acceptable to blow through a red light, but don’t you dare turn left unless you have a green arrow.
- The workers at the Changwon Cold Stone like it, love it, and gotta have it more than their American counterparts.
- If you shop at Lotte Mart around closing on Choesok, they will blare classical music at top volume to get you out of the store.
- It may not be possible to find turkey for your Choesok feast, but Lotte Mart does carry chicken (although, as it turns out, ones with orifices too small to insert a can of Hite for beer-can-chicken).
Sean and Kevin's co-worker Ryan look on as Kevin carves the Chuseok bird
- The peace sign is alive and well in Changwon, and being taught to the South Koreans at a young age.
Sean, Kevin, Kevin's co-workers Ryan and Luke, and some drunk Koreans on the streets of Changwon
This is third or fourth picture in a row this girl was subjected to appear in thanks to the insistence of her father.
Posted by Amy
on Oct 27th, 2010 in Middle East
, On the Road
| 1 comment
We ended up with layovers in the United Arab Emirates on our way to and from Jordan. Considering we only spent about 24 hours total in the country, and the first visit was pretty much spent sleeping, the UAE would hardly warrant its own post. Except our second visit – the one we spent awake during a long 12 hour layover – gave us a brief introduction to the over-the-top excess that the UAE is famous for.
We inquired at the tourist office to see what they suggested we see during our 12 hour layover. The woman behind the desk said, why, go to the Dubai Mall, of course. It is what everyone does!
She was right. The mall was packed. And quite a sight. Picture every upscale and luxury brand in the United States and Europe, and put them in the same mall with air conditioning blasting to make you forget you are in the steaming desert. Add a bunch of men and women in traditional Muslim garb shopping for said luxury brands. Throw in all of the restaurant chains you can think of. Don’t forget a giant aquarium, the grandest music-and-light show possible, and an ice rink in the center of it all. And, naturally, the world’s current tallest building built specifically with extra tallness thrown on top just because they could.
Fun, no doubt, but the most conspicuous display of spending money just to spend money I’ve ever seen.
Sean in front of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world
There were even more women wearing the full hijab in the UAE than in Jordan. Sometimes the men they were with were in Muslim garb, but very frequently, their companions were in casual clothes - jeans, t-shirts, even a sleeveless shirt and shorts.
Scenes from the mall
The courtyard at the Dubai Mall in the setting sun
View of Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa
Why do I despise chains at home but are drawn to them like a magnet on the road? Just like the Chili's at home, but add a giant aquarium and subtract alcohol.
Arabic sports center
Hard to get a good picture of the ice rink with the glare, but you get the gist. Note the pools of melting ice, which made sense considering it was at least 100 degrees outside.
Just your ordinary mall rules.
Posted by Amy
on Oct 26th, 2010 in Jordan
, Middle East
, On the Road
| Comments Off
To wrap-up Jordan, here are some pictures of places that didn’t really make it into other posts.
Jerash, an ancient Roman city
Mt. Nebo, from where, according to the Bible, Moses saw the Holy Land
Picture of King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman
Crumbling walls in Madaba
Arabic salad from the best restaurant at which we ate in Jordan: Haret Jdoudna in Madaba
Tile floor map of the Holy Land from 6 AD in St. George Church in Madaba
Amman during the Golden Hour