All posts by jqharris13

Black Life Beijing – Game Night (Group)

**This post is updated regularly with upcoming events**

Two years ago when I accepted my job offer in China, I remember Googling “black people in China”, “chinese black people”, “african americans china”, “africans in china”, and the search results were sadly sparse.

Since then, Tony Reyes, an American Fullbright scholar created the “Black Life China” wechat group as part of his study, which later birthed the “black life beijing” group, “black life shanghai”, “black life guangzhou”, and so forth. Since then, Black Life Beijing remains the most active group, and we’ve got an related “game night” group. Here’s a recap of some of our latest events! The last photo contains the QR code to scan in order to join the group Black Life Beijing.

Disclaimer: Real person identity is personally verified for membership, and then we’ll invite you into the game night group. No trolls/bots allowed. Non-blacks friends are welcome to join our events. 😛

 

Check the wechat group for updates! Add me, @shandianxia28, to be added into the group!

Update: Another bowling night at East Gate Plaza (北京市 东城区 东环广场 A座 (东直门)) – March 11th 2017

IMG_5471

Paintball #KillThenChill Sunday, April 10th, 2016. 3-6pm. BBQ dinner 6-7pm.

  1. Cost: 128 RMB + (700 RMB transportation cost to be split between attendees)
  2. Location: Contact us personally. My WeChat: Shandianxia2

 

 

Bowling Night 宝林秋- East Gate Plaza, Tower A (Dongzhimen) 北京市 东城区 东环广场 A座 (东直门)- Saturday, March 5th 周六 5号3月

Tacos, drinks & funnel cakes to end the night!

Find me on wechat微信: shandianxia28

Advertisements

South of Siberia: Harbin’s International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival 哈尔滨国际冰雪节

It was so cold… I couldn’t be bothered to sing my personal rendition of Vanilla Ice’s hit, “Ice Ice Baby”. It’d have been so appropriate.

2000px-China_Heilongjiang_Harbin

Harbin in one night & one day.

 

Beginning of the night… Central Street中央大街

[Russian shops, glazed fruit sticks & harbin sausage 红肠 are good things to find here]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Middle of the night… Ice & Snow World国际冰雪节

 

 

[290 RMB entry]

The low temperatures will kill your phone battery after about 2 minutes, so either bring a real camera or take advantage of the photographers that will hassle you for a  30 minute photo shoot. [We bargained our photos down to 50rmb for 10 — they’re print copies, btw]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are actually 3 parks for the festival:

  1. Ice & Snow World – see at night
  2. Ice Lantern Park – see at night
  3. Sun Island – see in day

 

Late night… Russian disco club俄罗斯酒吧

Dance-off against the students I met at HeiLong University 黑龙大学. Pretty much the spot for foreigners to dance at — good variety of music — hiphop starts around 1am

 

Early morning… Saint Sophia Cathedral 生索菲亞教堂

[20 RMB entry]

All of the writings inside the cathedral are written in Chinese, so unless you can read Chinese, you’re better off taking photos in the main area & admiring beneath the “Last Supper” painting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Afternoon… Siberian Tiger Park 东北虎林园🐯

The African lions were in snow. And yes, I know it snows in North Africa, but I feel like these particular lions weren’t from that part. They looked kinda cold. Maybe it was just me. 😦

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And then… Bye bye Harbin! Off to Guilin in Yunan Province, China — mountain climbing — beautiful scenery!

 

 

 

Visa Runs to Hong Kong are… no more!

Hey! Just a quick update: For those of us with ever-changing visa service needs (i.e., regularly applying for new Tourist visas… while living in China for years), we could simply take a train down South & hop on a ferry to Hong Kong (or simply fly), have an agent process a new visa for us, and within days, we’re back to whatever we’re doing in mainland China.

As of recent months, you can no longer legally get a new visa in Hong Kong. In most cases, you need to go home, and then come back. 🙂

I’ve just gotten back from -18 degrees-Celsius-below-death weather in Harbin for the Harbin International Snow & Ice World Festival — photos & info soon!

Travel, flourish & finesse.

Black (or super curly) Hair care in mainland China

Last updated 2/19/2019

Since I’ve left China, I’ve done my (kinda) best to keep abreast of personal care brands for the African diaspora in the area.

**March 2016 update: Sonaki water filters have been recommended by an African American expat for washing hair & bathing in China. She says it helped with her hair shedding & dandruff caused by the water here. 🙂

Original Post:

What’s wrong with China? Nothing at all, but if you have fine or dry hair (like mine, esp being of African-American descent), it can be quite a challenge to maintain even in tier-1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.  These cities have dramatically transformed over the last few years in terms of their international offerings. Still, curly hair care needs haven’t yet quite received all their solutions, so I’d like to share what’s available, what you need to bring, and the hair changes to expect. Just want to know where to get your hair done/cut? Looking for hair & beauty supply retailers? [See: Salons/Barbershops portion at the end of post]

I’m moving to China… should I be relaxed or natural?

image.png

As with everything, it’s totally up to you. Here’s the rundown:

Relaxed: There are a few salons here that offer relaxing services for about 200 – 1200 rmb ($35 – 200 USD), and of course you can find black girls around town willing to do an at-home relaxer for a lower price (and possibly a better range of product options bc they brought the products from home themselves). Have I seen any girls around here with healthy-looking relaxed hair? At least not in Beijing (the climate is EXTREMELY dry and there’s a lesser amount of hair care options), but if you’re living in Southern China, it may be more feasible to maintain.

Natural: Over 90% of the women I meet in Beijing and around China are natural, or wear extensions as a means of style in China. Quality and range of hair products varies in salons in China since its a little expensive to import items from USA & Africa for such a small population. All of the salons offer services for natural hair, as aforementioned, black expats are also willing to do each others hair. Depending on your city, you might not be able to find a stylist that you like and is located in or nearby your city, so for feasibility it may be easier to go natural in China, as many do.

What hair products & tools do I need to bring from my home country?

Everything you can. As much as will last you until your next flight home.

My personal list: 1. Organix Coconut Milk Anti-breakage serum, 2. Suave Professionals Sleek Conditioner (for dry / frizzy hair), 3. Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Shampoo ( frizzy / unmanageable hair),  4. Eco Styler Gel, 5. Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, 5. Almond Oil, 6. Tea Tree Essential Oil.

But… if you’re limited on weight (or are having a friend bring some on their next flight here), here are the absolutes:

Conditioners (especially deep conditioners). Heat protectant. Higher temp, ionic flat irons. Speciality hair care brands such as Shea Moisture, Mizani, Giovanni (it’s available here but much more expensive), Dark & Lovely natural hair products, Cantu, etc. Coconut & Argan oil.

Other basic oils can be found on Chinese websites such as Amazon.cn, Tmall, and grocery stores. As your social network expands, you’ll find WeChat groups where some individuals sell these items themselves. MadameShea (on WeChat) makes & sells her own shea butter products, including an anti-breakage & edge repair product.

[MadameShea Edge Repair: Natural, feels good in hair, but the scent is a little old-fashioned lavender so that may be a turnoff. Only 48 RMB ( 8 USD), including shipping, for a 30 ML canister]

My bathroom hair cabinet (I have two other boxes of products in another):

20151217_171449.jpg

Are hair products for ethnic hair textures available in China?

Yes, in limited supply.

Online:

WeChat ID: MadameShea; this company, based out of Nanjing, has recently extended their line and now offer a variety of hair care & styling products for a reasonable price.

WeChat ID: Sistasista; Sells hair, beauty & jewelry supplies for men and women. Also hosts beauty events.

Beijing (Tianjin) & Shanghai (Jiangsu Province):

Paulma Salon has (limited) items available for sale. Mostly Dark & Lovely and Pink Hair products.

Fidele’s Salon: Although in limited quantity, she has a variety of different hair products for sale in her salon. Call: 137-1877-4103. Located in Dongzhimen area.

Guangzhou: The little Africa area of the city has small shops run by Africans that have some imported products. I’ll update this post if I can ascertain exact addresses. [Mostly word of mouth]

Individuals that bring extra and small businesses that have them available for sale. Contact me at WeChat ID: shandianxia28, and I can share the name cards of people with products.

Shenzhen/HongKong: Allie has products available & hosts hair events. Contact via WeChat: soulangelbeauty

What alternative items can I use for my ethnic hair that are already available in China?

My personal list: Syoss deep conditioners & masks. Grapeseed & Olive Oil. Madame Shea edge repair.

Asian hair tends to be more oily, so their standard moisturizing conditioners aren’t enough for African, African-American, mixed hair types.The deep conditioners are okay, and of course, natural oils can be found in stores & online shops.

20151217_193633.jpg

Are there salons/barbershops where I can get my hair texture taken care of?

Disclosure: This is informational, not promotional. Do your research. Make sure you ask plenty of questions, re-confirm the procedure, and make sure they handle your hair gently. Most of the salons cater to men for haircuts & styling.

Beijing & Tianjin:

Paulma Salon: Sanlitun Soho Building No. 5, 5th floor 532 北京市朝阳区三里屯SOHO 5号楼532, Contact: DJClaude via WeChat:  OJEY11. Speaks English, Chinese & French.

Beauty Blendz: Taiyue Suites, 16 Sanlitun Nan Lu (by Chaoyang Hospital East Gate), Chaoyang District, Beijing 北京市朝阳区泰悦豪庭酒店 南三里屯路16号楼3层307

**The address is a little difficult to find. Better to search “TaiYue Suites (泰悦豪庭酒店)”

Fidele: Dongzhimen DRC, building 10. Call Fidele at 137-1877-4103 for better instructions. Speaks English & French.

Natho Beauty Salon: Contact WeChat ID: Nathobeautysalon

Catherine de France 法式美容美发沙龙: (Not a black salon, but some of her stylists can do certain curly textures — be sure to have a consultation first)

East Avenue Building Ground Floor
10 Xin Dong Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
北京市朝阳区新东路10号逸盛阁首层

Leader’s Salon: Ask for Ahmed, the barber. He also does eyebrow threading for women.  Sanlitun SOHO Building No. 3, 1st Floor, 138 北京市朝阳区三里屯SOHO 3号楼138

Mama Money Beauty Shop: Tianjin. Contact: 138.2090.1970 or 151.2210.8387

Shanghai:

Paulma Salon: Hectometer Champs Elysee 2nd floor 228, 上海市广西北路228弄

[SN: Beware of a group that offers a tea ceremony in this mall. it’s a scam]

Studio Ebony: Bldg 14, 133 Maoming Lu,
near Changle Lu 茂名路133号14号楼, 近长乐路 [Closest to metro stop Shanxi Rd S]

PavoPelo by India: Contact India Mejia at WeChat ID: ShearxxxGenius

Guangzhou:

(word-of-mouth) If you call the Mali or Senegal consul offices in Guangzhou they’ll happily direct you to a stylist in the African section of the Guangzhou International Beauty Market.

Shenzhen:

Feb 2019: tchungsmith7 (does locs)

David (barber): WeChat ID: kingblu55

 

Other places: You can: (a) travel to a tier-1 city, (b) look for a local black person who can style you in their home, (c) try your luck at a Chinese salon and teach them how to care for your hair type.

 

I heard the air pollution & water quality is terrible for hair – what can I do?

Do not wash with the water, if you can help it. Personally, I’m lazy, so I do wash with the tap, but my final hair rinse is with a gallon of bottled water from a pure source. The air pollution may not directly affect your hair, but internally it lowers the quality of your overall health, thereby indirectly lowering the quality of the new hair that’s growing.

Most expats complain of extremely dry & hardened hair, primarily due to the water, which is why I recommend bringing deep conditioners from back home.

If you have highlighted hair, it’s even worse. I spent my first year in China sans highlights, my second year, with highlights. When I was au naturale, I noticed my hair texture was not as smooth, had more tangles and was a disaster upon rising from bed (I never picked up the scarf wearing habit). After highlights, my curl pattern loosened so that helped with the bed head, but when I wash & comb, I have huge clumps of hair that come out. Only after switching to bottled water washing, daily spritzing of an oil-moisturizing cream-water mixture, deep conditioning each week, and stretching (vs blow drying) my hair has begun to thrive. Luckily, it’s still at bra strap length, so not too much damage. Hope this helps!

mmexport1450356534833.jpg

Social networking groups for hair care in China?

Yes, add my WeChat ID: shandianxia28, and I can send the name cards. 

Travel, flourish & finesse.

6 Days Down Under – [Sydney & Melbourne, Australia]

Budget
Flight: $1000 USD [Beijing, CN → Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia(15 hr daytime layover = mini-vaca) → Sydney, AUS; Melbourne, AUS → Beijing, CN]
*Our flights cost a little more since we flew during China’s National Holiday week
Hotels: $300 USD
Hotels shared with friends, but for solo travel, backpacker hostels will be the best option.
Daily Activities & Food: $600 [100/day]
Most meals will run about $10 – 40 per at average restaurants.

Sydney, Days 1-3

Aborigines Making Music from Jall on Vimeo.

Must-see: Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, The Rocks District and
Hotel recommendations (low – high): Central Station YHA Hostel, Central Station Hotel & Sir Stamford at Circular Quay.

Capital of New South Wales.

Sydney Siders, as they’re called, will exalt the stunning beauty of this city, but simultaneously lament about the early evening closings of many city businesses outside of the tourist areas such as The Rocks District.Not exactly a city for the elderly, but certainly not exactly Australia’s “Big Apple”. As relaxing as the atmosphere is, 3 days in Sydney was a little stressful because there are a lot more landmarks to try to visit in such limited time. Of these, the Sydney Opera House, is the number-one attraction to see. Unfortunately, October is the end of winter in Australia, so it wasn’t yet opera season. Fortunately, the House offers a smorgasbord of events, tours and shows year round, as well as a discount for being under 30, so we opted for a romantic comedy, George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and The Man.

Reminiscent of Beijing’s own markets, Paddy’s Mart (open Wednesday – Saturday), provides a shopping opportunity for low-priced souvenirs and quirky personal effects probably brought directly from China. I was able to purchase very nice key chains, magnets, boomerangs, etc for about $1-2 AUD each. Mainstream shopping at the malls was comparably more expensive. In a shoe store of extremely low quality, think “Traffic” in America, most shoes were about 30 – 80 AUD. Shoes that you’d buy at Traffic for 10 – 40 USD. Aside from Uggs, Australia isn’t known for clothing or shoe brands, so the prices of these items were much higher than you’d find in America, but comparable to foreign brands in China.

5 free things to do in Sydney:
1. Have a picnic in Royal Botanical Gardens, where you can also get picturesque view of the Sydney Opera House at “Mrs. Macquarie’s chair”.
2. Make music with the Aborigines [between Quay Station & Cahill Walk]
3. Visit the Customs House & its library on the 2nd floor \
4. Take photos in Hyde park
5. Museum of Contemporary Art (featuring mostly Australian artists)

Need-to-know Logistics

Public transport:
Train: Can buy a ticket for each individual ride at kiosks, no card needed. Train to airpot is 17 AUD.
Free CBD shuttle: Route 555, every 10 minutes
Ferry: Hop-on-hop-off passes are available for purchase, but in my experience seemed to be a waste unless you plan to spend a whole week in Sydney and dedicate a full day to stopping at each wharf’s attractions. We only needed the ferry two times: (a) see the Sydney Opera House & Darling Harbor Bridge from the waterside (b) go to the Taronga Zoo

Melbourne, Days 4-6

Must-see: Immigration Museum, Eureka Tower, Flinders Street Station, National Gallery of Victoria in South Bank, Chinatown, 1000 steps & Federation Square. [If you have an extra full day, book a tour to see the Great Ocean Road, located about 2 hours out of Melbourne]
Hotel recommendations (low – high): Melbourne Central YHA & Melbourne Parkview Hotel.

Capital of Victoria.

Melbournites, however, are definitely more lively in the day & night. On my way to take a photo at the Eureka 88 skydeck, I accidentally knocked over a local businessman outside of the Southbank Exit stairs. Conversation ensued, and I was invited to crash a local social group’s gathering honoring Oktoberfest 2015. Following the event, some of us segued to an underground lounge/art gallery. The artists featured aren’t featured in mainstream galleries, so part of the establishment’s proceeds are donated to the artists whose art is posted on the lounge’s walls. Kabobs are the equivalent to pizza as a subsidence for late-night munchies, and post-lounge, I had to participate in tradition at a Pakistani Kabob joint near Flinders Street train station. Nightlife in downtown Melbourne is whimsical, and certainly caters to anyone from their teens to the more seasoned. Wine is affordable, and water costs about a third, so a balancing act for the night is wallet-friendly.

Referred to as the “international city” of Australia, Melbourne is certainly a capital you cannot afford to skip. The comparison between Sydney and Melbourne is akin to Beijing versus Shanghai, with the latter being more hip and culturally diverse. Australia reminded me of America in terms of immigration patterns, but on the surface, Australia’s general population is more mixed whereas America has different pockets in which each ethnic group prefers to exist. As an “African American” I was viewed as a more positive presence than “Africans”, as graciously hinted by security guards at the National Gallery of Victoria. Despite this, the Africans I spoke to, mostly South Sudanese, said it’s a great place to live and raise families. Out of curiosity, I decided to travel to Footscray, aka Footscrazy, which is a heavily Arab-African-Asian, working-class neighborhood known for a slightly elevated crime rate. During my time there, I found a litany of delicious Ethiopian restaurants, intriguing graffiti, and a few brushes with light violence. Unlike America, guns aren’t so much an issue outside of mobs, so I felt quite safe traveling alone.

Free things to do: Continue reading 6 Days Down Under – [Sydney & Melbourne, Australia]

She’s got so much Seoul…! South Korea during Chinese National Day

Since this was a first trip since moving to China, I’ve reposted this entry from my former blog site, chopsticksandcurls.

Korean-flagScreen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.54.53 AM

Rather than stay in Beijing for China National Day (more on this holiday later), I decided to book an impromptu vacation with my coworker to Seoul, South Korea. Of course, this decision was made without any knowledge of South Korea aside from textbook history, yet it was an amazing experience!

During my undergraduate years, many people asked, “Why is your major Chinese?”. It actually wasn’t… my real major was “East Asian Languages & Cultures”, with a focus on Chinese language study (this is what my degree says)#GoGators. Within the Western world, when someone says “Asian”, the term is automatically associated with being related to the Chinese or the Japanese. I think many people forget there are other countries in Asia, and furthermore couldn’t even begin to distinguish between any of them besides their geographical locations. Moving to China to refine my oral Mandarin skills was important, but even more so, traveling around East Asia and familiarizing myself with the differences between countries, and the nuances within each of their social infrastructures.

While traveling, I think it is  important to delay making comparisons between the social constructs of different countries, but immediately upon arrival it was difficult not to. China versus South Korea, which country is better? I don’t intend to answer that question, but South Korea is definitely more foreigner-friendly which made my experience much less ardurous than when I first moved to Beijing.

20140930_144930

Let’s begin. Since I had less than one week, I only traveled within Seoul, and to a small city directly outside of Seoul called Yongin. Seoul being the capital city of South Korea, and the headquarter location for Samsung (yes, the massive smartphone company) seemed to be a whole new world… yet vaguely familiar. While China is still battling the influence of Western influence, South Korea made me feel as if I was back in America except without the larger-sized shoes & dark-colored makeup, of course.

The only word I know in Korean is 감사합니다 [“gamsahabnida”(romanticized as “kamsahamnida”], which means “thank you”, and to my surprise, I didn’t even need to know that. Granted I came during “Welcome to South Korea week” (geared towards tourists, mostly Chinese ones), but it seems that a higher percentage of South Koreans speak a fair amount of English than in China (even in a global city such as Beijing, I struggle to find English-speakers). Most signs, product labels, menus, speaker announcements and maps were in either Korean, Chinese & English, or just Korean & English.

The prevalence of English made navigation super easy, so I spent a lot of time perusing in the underground tunnel markets, and riding the subway all around the city. One thing I noticed was the numbers of women who have undergone plastic surgery in South Korea… and have no intention of hiding it. Every trip I made around the city I could be expected to see at least two or three bandaged, puffy faces from a recent surgery. South Koreans place a lot more emphasis on personal hygiene, appearance & aesthetics than I’ve ever seen in China (although some Chinese women do travel to S. Korea for plastic surgery,  the numbers aren’t as high). Rather than making me feel ugly & awkward, the obsession with beauty in S. Korea was really comforting. Coming from South-Central Florida, seeing exquisitely-dressed people smelling of arousing aromas was familiar. Familiar is nice. Very nice. I almost forgot I was halfway around the world.

[Link: Article about plastic surgery in S. Korea http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2610231/Plastic-surgery-South-Korea-good-people-travelling-home-surgery-need-CERTIFICATES-prove-are.html]

I want a Gangnam style face:

Know what I missed most about America? Google. In the wake of China’s crackdown on internet freedom, many websites that I used to use daily are blocked by the Great Firewall of China (including my blog website). Even though VPNs are a way around the firewall, they’re not always reliable, and can be disconnected at anytime (imagine a smartphone that keeps freezing while you’re texting, and you have to constantly restart it just to finish a conversation). I’d almost forgotten that “Google it” is now a colloquial verb-phrase, but South Korea soon brought me back to remembrance. I was only a 1.5 hour flight away from my apartment, but I finally felt like I was once again part of the free world. Being able to freely read the NYTimes, post on Instagram & Twitter was sweeter than a glazed Krispy Kreme donut (Seoul has Krispy Kreme!!).

Note: VPNs cause your internet to run very slowly, hence the significance of this experience. Fast internet… I have missed you so much.

This was one of the most hassle-free vacations I’ve had since moving. Thank you, South Korea.

Photos:

1. View from our hotel (Acacia Hotel–located between Myeong-dong & Dongdaeum cultural park):

IMG_3410

I’ve missed hygiene standards–this sign on our hotel toilet nearly made me weep tears of joy:

IMG_3412

2. Visit to Deoksugung Palace (one of the smaller palaces):

IMG_3492 IMG_3493

Pond outside palace:

IMG_3511 IMG_3539

IMG_3506

Musical procession when changing guards at 3pm

IMG_3487 IMG_3482

Gwangmyeongmun Gate (once the south gate of Deoksugung Palace) [Buddhist Bell & Borugak Jagyeongnu Water Clock]:

GyeonmwanmungIMG_3500

Seokjojeon Area (same site as the palace):

1. Map 2. National Museum of Art (couldn’t take photos inside) 3. Seokjojeon (closed for renovations)

IMG_3498 IMG_3502 IMG_3501

3. Visit to Insadong area:

IMG_3532

Found this dessert-making stand. They sing, dance, and wrap your sesame seed, peanut or almond dessert in hair-like sugary strands.

IMG_3526IMG_3525IMG_3530IMG_3529

More dessert… you can buy ice cream stuffed into double-sided phallic tubes:

IMG_3533

Lot’s of market stands! I definitely bought lots socks because I couldn’t resist the price. Stopping at a street vendor’s table to shop is like going into a Wal Mart or a Dollar Tree. You go in to buy ONE specific thing… walk out with a bag/cart full of odds-and-ends (in my case, a flat screen, once).

IMG_3522

Also bought some gifts for my parents from the markets:

IMG_3688

4. Seoul/Namsan Tower

Photo Sep 30-2 20140930_220227_LLS

Before going to the top of the tower, there is a level of the mountain that has a gate where people buy locks, write messages on them & attach them to the fence:

Photo Sep 30-5 Photo Sep 30-6

“I wish you were here”. I didn’t write this one (didn’t have cash for a lock), but the message is still the same.

View of the city at this level of the mountain:

Photo Sep 30-4

5. Shopping/Eating in the Myeong-dong, area:

IMG_3419 IMG_3417 IMG_3444

This photo chair was located right in front of the Lotte department store:

IMG_3634

Street food. Tentacles, anyone?

IMG_3440

Bulgogi:

Bulgogi collagae

One of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life. I would move to S. Korea for this. My friend has been living in S.Korea for a year & never tried it. If you’re in the area, and haven’t tried it… you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Here’s the map to the place we found–it’s a speciality bulgogi restaurant:

Not sure of the English translation, but the Korean name is written on the yellow post-it. The restaurant is located behind about 2 streets behind the “Hello APM” mall. When coming down the road between Goodmorning City center & Hello APM, the restaurant will be on the absolute last street you reach right before the National Medical Center Euljiro-6ga. Street looked a tiny bit sketchy at night (there was a random fence at the end of the road). Once you’ve reached the end of the road, turn right and you’ll find the restaurant a few doors down.

**The star on the map was where we departed from, not the destination.

IMG_3645

Crazy icecream shop:

I’ve inherited my father & grandfather’s sweet tooth, so of course  I had to try (despite my lactose intolerance). Cup is full of vanilla ice cream, layered with honeycomb chips (not visible), and topped with “storm” cotton candy. Yumm.

ice creamIMG_3426

6. Itaewon (foreigner’s district):

IMG_3612

We didn’t go to HO bar, but the place we did go kept serving us these complimentary fried (and lightly salted) spaghetti sticks. Soooo good!IMG_3627

Korean BBQ:

IMG_3607

7. Miscellaneous

Shopping in the underground Dongdaeum tunnel markets:

IMG_3453 IMG_3452 IMG_3455

Rain water drainage system/artwork (there’s a frog statue at the end):

IMG_3521

If you’re brave enough to slink down an alley with an opening so tight you have to walk sideways through, you may luck up and find a few coffee/juice shops, as well as some odd and wildly inappropriate statues (not posted):IMG_3514

I mentioned that I traveled to Yongin… that was to go to the theme park, Everland! I’d definitely recommend hopping on a city bus early in the morning (think 7:30am), and riding about an hour and a half to this place. Certainly not as fancy as Disney World or Universal Studios, but there was a great selection of rides and STRONG, FREE WiFi everywhere in the park. The only downside is that the food options were very basic, and the day I went had lots of children since it was “tourist week” in Seoul, as well as the fact that many Chinese citizens were vacationing there during the government holiday.

My mantra for theme parks no matter where I go: ride my top 3 rides immediately, no matter how long the lines are. Even if it rains the rest of the day, I still got my top 3 thrills.

IMG_3640

IMG_3638

Clash of Clans!! (subway tunnel advertisement)

IMG_3593

Random pieces of artwork everywhere… this one is in front of an office building (I think a bank):

IMG_3594

Hot, black buns. 😉

IMG_3595

Riding past the water on the airport shuttle bus:

IMG_3665

Reflections:

After returning to China and checking my bank account, I realized just how easy it is to spend $1000 in one week — luckily that included airfare. The South Korea won had about a 1000:1 ratio to USD so pricing purchases in my head was relatively easily, but before I knew it, I’d spent hundreds of dollars. Do I regret it? Not necessarily. I wish I’d planned a little bit more, but the experience I had & the financial lessons learned are both valued.