I scream, you scream, Korea screams...

...for ice cream!

In the depths of winter, I have been casting my mind back to the hot, sticky days of summer. It was horrible - far too humid to be considered humane. The only thing that kept us going was ice cream.

Ice cream in Korea is brilliant. Most of the time. And cheap. Oh so cheap.
We wanted to photograph and write about every one we tried this summer but we reached an average consumption rate of approximately 2 ice creams a day...each, and it was simply not possible to keep up!

Here are a select few:

(Please note: ₩500 is approximately 30p)


Possibly one of the best ice creams -
a cookies & cream ice cream bar.
A steal at only 
500  !
It's always a risk going for something that looks
like chocolate because there's a chance it could
be red bean...but this wasn't. A simple wafer
outside and chocolate ice cream inside.
Nothing special, and a bit pricey at 
This one is brilliant. An ice cream sandwich with
cake, rather than biscuit, for the outside layer.
This one was vanilla but I have since discovered
the far superior cookies & cream one.
A bit of a treat though, because it's 
This one is, as my students would say, so-so.
Vanilla outside, layer of chocolate and then
vanilla again. Not amazing, but only 
and most importantly, cold!
In true Korean style, this one is meant for sharing.
It's a lovely rich chocolate fudge ice creamy thing
with two sticks. We had to wait a bit before it
was soft enough to split in half and then
neither of us got as much as we wanted -
500 but you can get more for 
your money buying 2 separate ice creams.


Cones are cones are cones.
You know what you're getting with a
cornetto style ice cream so I just have
one to tell you about.
This cone had a lovely treat in the middle
- a kit-kat finger! Brilliant.
Cones are more expensive though,
usually at least 
1000, maybe  2000.


We once saw a documentary while on a coach,
that was about Korean ice cream and apparently,
this one is actually harder than your teeth!
Watch out! I'm not a fan of melon flavoured things
but this was ok. And only 
₩500 - can't complain!
Genius. Watermelon ice lolly that looks like a slice
of watermelon! The "seeds" were actually bits of
nut and the flavour of the ice was spot on.
And the price? Yup, 
Jeju is famous here for it's delicious oranges and
I am a big fan so this ice lolly gets lots of points
from me. Cold, refreshing and a real orange 

flavour. Note the size difference between
wrapper and lolly though - typical Korea!

All for a mere  ₩500!

And Finally...

Dave loves ice cream.

Korean School Dinners

While everyone in the UK digs into some delicious turkey sandwiches, we have to work this week and here is a taste of what we get from our school cafeteria.

My school gives me a menu each day that states 4 nutritional values of each meal. The first two are calories and protein respectively – quite normal. The third is calcium content – quite strange. The forth is vitamin C value – even stranger. I guess Koreans don’t eat cheese or drink milk so they are more concerned about calcium content and I have noticed that they love vitamin drinks so that explains the vitamin c value.

Anyway, let's get stuck in. I decided to document and review my Korean school lunches for your amusement. (I used google to get most of the translations of the dishes, which is why you get some hilariously bad translations.)

Brown Rice, Kimchi, Pork Duruchigi, Steamed cabbage, seaweed and other greens, Seaweed Cabbage Soup (Danbaechudoenjangguk)
Calories: 758, Protein: 35, Calcium: 307, Vit C: 55
Mrs Noh's Portion
My Portion
The pork was very nice and it was one of my fave mains that we get. It has a fair amount of fat on it compared to western dishes but the sauce is very tasty and also very spicy. The spicy red sauce comes with carrots and onions. The steamed vegetables were a nice treat as well. The soup is one of my least liked soups but I love Korean soups so I still gobbled it all down.
Rating - 9.4/10 – Meat and rice will do me fine for lunch.

White Rice with adlay beans, Kimchi, Simmered sauce bubbles at low tide (??), US seasoned soy sauce, Beef and Vegetable Soup (Yukgaejang)
Calories: 790, Protein: 42, Calcium: 304, Vit C: 30
This is my co-teacher's portion. Mine was double sized!
The "simmered sauce bubbles at low tide" was actually spicy fish in a really great sauce. Normally we get fish with a tonne of bones in and it takes me all lunchtime to de-bone but they must’ve known I was reviewing their food this week as the fish only had tiny bones and you could just eat them. The US seasoned soy sauce was actually dried squid with soy sauce and was very chewy. However I love squid so this suited me fiiiine. Finally the soup was great, had mushrooms in and everything. Perfect for a freezing day!
Rating - 9.6

Al Corn White Rice, Kimchi, Joraengyitteokhambak / source, Golbaengyi seasoned fifty-two, and a soup with fish cake and other doughy fishy things (Eomuktang)
Calories: 779, Protein: 31, Calcium: 265, Vit C: 32
I always get excited for lunch on a Wednesday as I have slowly realised that it is often the best day – last week I had fried chicken! The Joraengyitteokhambak were pork burgers with small pieces of white stuff inside. At first I thought these pieces were large chunks of fat but they weren’t – they were tasteless bits of rice cake instead. The “source” / sauce was a sweet dressing with chunks of vegetables in – I loved it! I actually ate some kimchi as well, which was the fifty-two or, as we know it, cucumber. But I’ll eat cucumbers drenched in about anything, even Golbaengyi. You may be thinking that I haven’t used the word spicy yet but fear not because the soup was really spicy. I still finished it though hence I am hardcore!!
Rating - 9.7

White Rice, Kimchi, Kim faced the end of the / tteokbokeum, Bean sprouts, Crab Soup (Kkotgetang)
Calories: 821, Protein: 27, Calcium: 286, Vit C: 39
I always have a fear of Thursday lunchtimes. After the delights of Wednesday, I sometimes think that the chef has decided that she should have a rest and just cook something not particular great. The menu seems to agree with me: “Kim faced the end of…” - I think we can all agree that the chef Kim had had enough and faced the end of... something. Anyway it turns out that particular dish is called Gimmari and consists of deep fried noodles that have been wrapped in seaweed. They are okay but they’d be nicer with some meat! Next we have Tteokbokki (tteokbokeum), which is a spicy red sauce and fish cakes with some rice cakes. I find Tteokbokki a little boring but its one of Korea’s favourite snack foods. The crab soup was excellent and my favourite part of the meal. The crab had been boiled for a little too long but it was still good. Can you imagine getting crab for school dinners in the UK?? Impossible.
Rating – 8.5 – The lack of protein gets to me on a Thursday…

Tuna rice sprouts with Chogochujang (red sauce), Kimchi geotjeolyi, Cheonggukjang stew, Woorimil nuts hotteok
Calories: 821, Protein: 26, Calcium: 293, Vit C: 36

If I’m scared of Thursday lunchtimes then Friday lunchtimes are a damn nightmare. Sometimes we only get rice, vegetables and some other carbs and when I was hitting the weights the day before, I would get strange looks when I added a tin of tuna to every Friday meal. Anyway today was fine because we actually got given tuna with our bibimbap. Tuna bibimbap is rice-vegetables-tuna, red spicy sauce and sesame oil all mixed in a bowl to enjoy. And I love tuna bibimbap! The stew was amazing, best of the week. It had tofu, bits of beef, nuts and vegetables and I really loved it. The Worrimil nuts hotteok was the dessert treat that we get on a Friday. Very traditional in Korea and very tasty. It was like chewy rice cake but covered in sugar and dough and filled with nuts and syrup. Really unhealthy and very delicious.
Rating – 9.1 – Still a lack of protein but a lot better than a usual Friday.

How much are my meals? I pay 2500 Won a day. That is around £1.60. I think it’s really good value and I love my school food. The kids eat exactly the same food but they get smaller portions than I do (mainly because I self serve :D)

Koreans love to eat and share food so everyday there are various snacks and whatnot. On Friday, it was the school festival so there were even more snacks than usual.
We had burgers, strawberries, tangerines, pepsi, orange juice, deok (rice cake) and sweetcorn. Literally EVERYONE ate this about 10 minutes after lunch – I could barely stomach any more food… Of course I did though.

I hope you enjoyed this look into Korean school lunches. I happen to know that my school has lot nicer lunches than other schools so tell me what you eat at your school in the comments.

I'll tell you here Dave - my school lunches were rubbish more often than not. This is partly because I'm a pickier eater than you but mostly because my school is smaller and thus has a smaller budget for food. I am very proud to have lasted 1.5 semesters eating that naffness but now it's peanut butter sarnies every day for me and I love it!

Christmas - Korea stylee

Christmas in Busan. I think it started in mid November. I noticed some decorations in a bakery and gradually they spread to the coffee shops and then by the end of November, a lot of places were sporting tinsel and snow flakes in the windows. There was definitely a slight festive feeling in the city, but putting up Christmas lights in Busan is as pointless as airbrushing Cheryl Cole's face. She's already caked in make-up so what's the point? Basically what I mean is that although there were places with lots of Christmas lights up, the city is always so full of bright neon signs that it didn't really make much difference.

There was no nervous tension in the air at the shopping centres in the days leading up to this weekend. Even though there were lights, decorations and Christmas music, I got the feeling that nobody really cared. I suppose it's more of a trend than a tradition here and so gift giving is minimal and people don't really celebrate it much. It is a national holiday here but, annoyingly, if a national holiday falls on a weekend it doesn't get carried over to the Monday. So basically we had a normal weekend for Christmas. Today is Boxing Day and I am at school. We didn't have any assemblies or nativity plays or even decorations at school. Well, apart from in my classroom. 

I asked my students if there were any Korean Christmas traditions and after lots of umming and aahhing it seemed there was only really one - ice cream cake. This is apparently the special food that Korean families eat at Christmas. Or possibly a cheesecake if you want to be a bit different. Christmas dinner (if there is one) will probably be a family meal at a steak restaurant, or something similar. And yes Santa visits but only small children. 

So, in light of all of this I decided to take it upon myself to make Dave and I a Christmas this year. I had very limited resources but luckily I'd had the foresight to request some supplies from home in advance and so I formulated a plan and the festivities unfolded as follows:

Friday 23rd: We did the final food shopping and spent the night watching Christmas films in bed.

Saturday 24th: Christmas dinner with Dave and 2 friends - Gen and Pete. I borrowed an oven from school and Gen prepared the appetisers, while Dave and I worked on the main meal and dessert. The menu was as follows:

Cheesy dip and crudités
Cheese ball and crackers
Salsa and tortilla chips

Roast chickens with sage and onion stuffing
Pigs in blankets
Roast potatoes, carrots, peppers and onions
Garlic mash
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Orange and Cranberry stuffing
Christmassy cabbage

Chocolate bread and butter pudding
Rum sauce

The chicken - stuffed and buttered. Yes Mum,
not only did I 
touch it but I stuffed it too!
Note the neck...oh Korea!
Gen's amazing cheese ball...we ate 2!
I wish I could have kept the oven. 
It felt so good to do some real cooking for once!
The leftover chicken!
Our Christmas Dinner - 
please note the Tabasco wasn't mine! 
No chopsticks today!
Christmas table settings - 
we made place mats for each other!
My Christmas window display
All in all I think it was a big success and I would like to say a special thanks to Dave for peeling all of the veggies and to Pete for making the mash!

While the food was cooking we watched Groundhog Day and played a drinking game - you have to drink every time someone says "groundhog", every time you see the groundhog and every time a new day starts. We quickly ran out of beer!

After dinner Dave and I were far too stuffed to socialise so we stayed in and I opened one of my Christmas parcels from home. It was full of chocolate and tea and a lovely pair of earrings!

Christmas presents!!!!
Sunday 25th: We woke up and opened our presents from each other and my second parcel from home. SO MUCH CHOCOLATE! We then went to a friend's house for Christmas breakfast (egg, cheese and bacon bagels!) and drank eggnog and bucks fizz. Yum! After that we all headed to another friend's flat and ate more food and played games and then did a gift exchange. It was kind of like a secret Santa but you were allowed to steal gifts from other people. I walked away with a lovely "HD Porridge Flask" and Dave got a box of booze!

After far too much eating, drinking and general funtivities we headed to our respective homes and skyped our families. The highlight of my Christmas was watching my favourite 7 people opening the presents I sent home for them. Some had been bought way back in August and I had been looking forward this for months! 

Monday 26th: Unfortunately we have to work today but as soon as the bell rings at 4:30pm I am going to rush home to eat leftovers and watch Die Hard because it's Dave's favourite Christmas film and he can't believe I haven't seen it.

And so, to summarise, while I have had a lovely weekend with friends and food, I am counting the days until next Christmas, when I will be with family and will get to eat my favourite food of the year - PARMESAN PARSNIPS!

Jingle Blog, Jingle Blog...

It occurred to me the other day that we have never actually explained the name of our blog; The Blog of the Morning Calm. It's quite simple really. One of the Korean names for itself loosely translates as "Land of the Morning Calm", which I think is a lovely name for a country. For me it conjures up an image of the sun, rising over a beautiful, green park, with people doing their daily T'ai Chi routine and greeting the new day with a moment of peaceful contemplation.

Upon arriving in Korea, this image was quickly destroyed.

I think a more accurate name would be "Land of the Perpetual Jingle". Walking around the city, relaxing in the country side or simply sitting at my desk at school, I am constantly bombarded by jingles. Ditties. Tunes. Melodies. NOISE!

You probably think I'm just bitching for the sake of it now, but over the months I have collated a list of the various events that this weird and wonderful country feels need punctuating with music and I think as you read on, you will begin to understand how this might start to grate on a somewhat cynical, definitely tone deaf, sarcasm-loving British girl like myself.

Running through an average day in the life of me, I will highlight to you all of the times that I am likely to be aurally attacked.

  1. Getting the Subway to School. An innocent, understandable situation in which to replace a simple buzzer with a more intricate musical arrangement. When the carriage doors close, a cheerful chime is played. When the train is approaching a station at which one can change subway lines, we are reminded with the aid of a delightful ditty. Between two particularly distant stops, we are distracted from the extended trip by the lovely sound of traditional Korean music. How charming.
    Why, then, is the sound played on the platform to alert you of the approaching train a horrible ear violation?! It's like some kind of prison bell. Typical Korea...just when you think you have it figured out, it throws you off balance with a shocker.

  2. School Bells. This is a definite improvement on the traditional school bell I am used to. Ok so it can get a bit annoying but all in all, hearing a few seconds of music at the beginning/end of a lesson lifts my spirits more than a bell would. I think it creates a slightly more cheerful atmosphere in the classroom too. Having said that, I am not a fan of the K-POP that I can hear blaring out of the PA system every lunch time. 
    I find it terribly amusing when the teacher who controls the PA system forgets she is listening to some 80s dance hit on her computer and instead of the usual classical masterpiece, we are treated to this trashy number instead.

  3. Visiting Dave. By now you are probably wondering why I think any of this is worth writing about. Of course door bells are musical! But it's not just visitors who make a noise at the door. Dave's front door has a very cool electronic locking system and when you input the correct code it jingles. Then when you close the door, it jingles. And when you open the door from the inside...it jingles. It can get a bit annoying. Especially if he then turns his aircon on...

  4. Cooling down. This is where the really unnecessary noise starts. Turning on the machine - melody. Changing the temperature - melody. Turning off the machine - melody again! In the summer it got to the point where we would bit sitting in front of the machine, sweating away and singing along as we enjoyed the icy breeze. That might sound like a lovely afternoon to you but trust me, this way madness lies!

  5. Doing laundry. My washing machine is pretty old and so only beeps, but Dave's is new and boy, does it like to sing! Every button press creates a little ditty and when it's finished it plays us a lovely, 2 minute interlude. Such an attention seeking machine.

  6. Walking. Walking anywhere in Korea, you are bound to come across a van or two. While this might be the highlight of Dave's day, it has become another source of annoyance for me. When large vehicles reverse in the UK, pedestrians and other drivers are alerted by a simple beeping noise. Here in Korea, it is another chance to further your musical education. In my experience the reversing of a van is always accompanied by a few, repeated bars of the (previously) much loved ballad, Greensleeves.

  7. Going out for dinner. This is something we do often here because it is just so cheap and one of the great things about Korean restaurants is that it's really easy to get the waiter's attention. There is a button at each table that you press to notify the staff that you need something. Most of the time they just beep but occasionally, if you're lucky, you'll get one that plays a tune. God help you if it's busy because this can soon drive you round the bend! And the poor staff must all be insane.

  8. Walking up the stairs from the subway. Ok so I've been to school, seen Dave, done laundry, adjusted my core body temperature, had dinner and now I am heading home. Walking up the stairs from the subway to the street at night is lovely and quiet. Unless there is someone in a wheelchair around. If they decide to use the stair-lift to ascend then it's goodbye quiet time, hello Greensleeves! All of the way up the stairs which, depending on the station, can take several minutes. Does that tune even have words? If it didn't before, then it does now. I have found the only way to stay...well not sane, but less crazy, is to sing along.
And then it's home to bed. I don't own a television, or a radio. I don't often listen to music at home and my alarm clock is set as a simple bell. I relish my time at home, away from the noise. I gave Dave a key so he doesn't have to ring my doorbell and so I know that when I step foot in my flat, I am safe from all ditties, chimes, jingles, jangles, tunes and Greensleeves. In the Land of the Perpetual Jingle, it is important to have silence at times.

Oh crap, my phone is ringing!

Koreastmas Vans

The vans are back baby. It’s Koreastmas time so I decided to give out some Koreastmas cheer in the form of a van blog. I’ve been collecting photos in the build up to Koreastmas in an attempt to build a festive themed blog that explains how vans are essential to having a good Koreastmas.

The first stage of Koreastmas is selecting a good tree to sit in your living room and this van helps with that.
Delivery not included

This van doesn’t have a large / any selection but it does have a tree that your children will never forget. They’ll never forget it because you’ll have to knock down your living room wall ceiling to get this in your house. Also, it isn’t actually a Koreastmas tree.

If you’ve managed to forget to buy any presents, do not stress because the gift van is here just for you.
Buy a prepackaged gift to give to your love ones. Sorted.
Disclaimer: Prepackaged gift may contain raw fish.

Need an emergency gift for the forgotten child that your cousin has? Try this van out for size.

Get some sparkly dresses as well.

After stuffing ourselves with Koreastmas dinner, we all tell ourselves that in the new year we will shed the weight - well here is a van to help! Kick start your post-Koreastmas exercise regime today and help yourself to stop looking like chubby old Santa.
Running Van

I would love to try one of these while on a moving van. It’s the closest I would get to being Usain Bolt / T1000.

So we’ve got our gifts and tree, and we’re in shape so what else do we need?! The most important thing: food. Here are some handy Koreastmas ideas for you to try.

What about some shrimp? I hear seafood is getting more popular at Koreastmas.

How about mussels?
Who wouldn’t want a bag of stinky mussels dripped all over their carpet on Koreastmas day?

Forgotten your vegetables? Fear not! This vegetable van will help you out.
It wouldn’t be Koreastmas without a few roast potatoes – yum yum yum!
So we have food, gifts, a tree and we’re all in shape. Well Koreastmas time is the time for adventure so this is where the candyvan comes in.
Stand in front of this van and say “candyvan” three times and you will be greeted by the Candyman. A true Koreastmas adventure.
Not this Candyman but the owner of the van (pictured) who has a terrible temper on him and a strict no loitering policy.
John Candyman
And now we are all set for Koreastmas, so enjoy the festive season and don’t forget about the true meaning of Koreastmas: A young man called Jesus who dressed up as a fat man and gave out gifts to children...Or something like that.

On the Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to me...

...Two temple visits and a ropeway up a mountain.

Katie and I have visited a couple of temples to try and soak up some more Korean culture before we leave. Also we are trying to be cheap and save as much money as we can now, so we can blow it all on travelling in a few months, so free temple visits are a must.
Lets talk about Seokbulsa, which is an absolute beauty of a temple. It's also the most intriguing temple I've seen, mainly due to the fact there are so few visitors there, which was surprising since it's so impressive. It really stood out for me. The temple is located up a mountain and to get there, we took a cable car (or "ropeway" as it is strangely called in Konglish) and from the top of the "ropeway" it's about an hour's walk.
The ropeway provided us with some super views of the city and it was here that I had the realisation that I would be leaving soon, and that these sort of views would be reduced to a memory and some photos that don’t do it justice.
We followed some slightly dodgy directions but managed to find our way by asking the friendly locals.
We also came across some very interesting technology on the way up that I will be talking about in a future(istic) blog.
Can you guess what it is??
Tell us in the comments!
When we reached the temple, this is what we saw:
Temple Within a Mountain
The temple was carved into the mountain and there were some really stunning images carved into the stone.

The hat of this Buddha was made up of little Buddha heads – how cool!
Here's a very short video in which I look around the main area. Notice how quiet and peaceful it is (besides my narration).
There was a little gap that led to a Buddha statue where we all took photos like this:

Finally I noticed a room a full of Buddhas – it was a little intimidating!
When we walked down the mountain towards Mandeok, we could see the temple in the hills above us.
Seokbulsa was the best temple I have had the pleasure to visit and it really is a hidden gem in Busan. If you get the chance then go! Seriously, what are you waiting for!?
[Directions at the bottom of the page]

We also visited Beomeosa, which most websites seem to rate as Busan’s top tourist spot. I don't know why, and besides struggling with its spelling, it's obvious these reviewers have never spent a long time in Busan - I would rate it as the 4th best temple in Busan, and not even close to the top site. [List of our best sites is here] However it is a big(ish) temple and we went in autumn, which was a fantastic time to visit. With the rolling hills in the background, we were treated to some lovely colours because of the time of year.
One for sorrow, two for joy...what does 100 mean?!

I (Katie) loved the fish wind chimes that were
hanging from the corners or lots of roofs.

Nazi Tree
I managed to take a photo of this animal and after an extensive google search I have determined that it is a Siberian Weasel. I also saw a hummingbird hawk moth - definitely worth looking at on google images, trust me!

This one is for you Mum!
I am now going to inundate you with even more photos.
This tree looks like its blowing in the wind
but it just the way the branches have grown!

It was a romantic day out and the surroundings were beautiful. However for uniqueness, Seokbulsa wins hands down.

How to get to Seokbulsa: Get off at Oncheonjang station (Subway Line 1) and take a cab to Geumgang park. Once there, take the cable car / ropeway up (duh) the mountain. Follow signs to the south gate of Geumjeongsan Fortress. Keep asking locals for directions because it’s tricky to find but you will end up walking down some stairs. Eventually you’ll find a major road that you walk to the top of.

How to get to Beomeosa: Beomeosa Station (Subway Line 1) Exit No.5 or No.7, walk between the two exits along the road for about 5 minutes and you will reach the Samsin bus stop. Take Bus No.90 and you will arrive at Beomeosa Temple Ticket Office.