It’s been 196 days since I’ve stood on the comforts of Canadian soil.
A lot has happened since I’ve left the land of Double Doubles and constant apologizing, and since my last update, which you can read about here.
In January, I had my winter vacation. Finally! A long overdue break from my overly-hyper, sometimes-annoying-but-mostly-cute, Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen-obsessed students. I was extremely fortunate to have three weeks off work, which I spent traveling through Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
This was the first set of Asian countries I have visited outside of Korea, and I’ll have to admit, it was super refreshing to experience other Asian cultures for a change. Sorry Korea, I like you a whole lot, but there’s better food out there than kimchi. Taiwanese pork dumplings, anyone?
That being said, traveling outside of Korea also gave me a new sense of appreciation for it. When I had finally arrived back in Seoul after an exhausting, overnight flight from Malaysia, I was suddenly overcome by an immense feeling of relief and comfort. It was in that very moment, for the first time in half a year, that I felt that Korea was home. Eh! I mean it’s not Canada. “Apologies,” Korea, no offence. But, for the next six months I am happy to call it my home.
Well, on that sappy note, here are the highlights of some neat things I’ve been up to and a few new developments since my last update.
I finally realized all of my childhood dreams and went to Hogwarts.
My bestie and I flew to Osaka for the sole purpose of visiting Universal Studios Japan’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We spent a magical day swigging back butterbeer, fighting over the collectible wizard cards that came with our chocolate frogs, and making small talk with talking portraits in Japanese. Most importantly, we finally got to prove to our family and friends back at home that we weren’t muggles after all!
I ate my very first Michelin-starred meal.
And, it will probably be the only Michelin-starred meal I ever have (sadly), because for $2 the price definitely agreed with my wallet! Chan Hon Meng, or better known as Hawker Chan, in Singapore, is a simple (but delicious) hawker stall that was deemed the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world! I forked over $10 and treated myself to the entire menu. I had to! When else would I have such an opportunity? Everything I ate was absolutely heavenly. Without question, this was the best $10 I have ever spent in my life.
I had my first Japanese karaoke experience while in Osaka.
My friend and I spent an evening painfully losing a singing battle to a group of middle-aged Japanese men in an authentic Japanese karaoke bar. Mistakenly trying pig intestine was also included in this very strange evening out. I don’t think I will be back to another Japanese karaoke bar anytime soon. I’m still recovering my vocal chords and my appetite.
I finally got to check off one of the top items on my bucket list, the Gardens by the Bay.
Wow! I was so blown away by Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. So much so, that I visited them twice. Once during the day and once at night. Both times, I was equally as amazed by the whimsical, otherworldly, colour-changing trees towering over me. I’m still not sure which one left me feeling more spellbound, the Gardens by the Bay or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
I hung out with a couple of hundred Bambis in Japan.
I made a day trip over to Nara, a small city near Osaka, which is home to 1200 free-roaming deer. Deer, which are seen as “natural treasures” by local residents, wander freely about Nara Park and its surrounding areas.
I survived my first semester of teaching.
I don’t know how I did it. I think the combination of a small miracle, a lot of luck, and a lot of wine helped me through it. However I managed it, I do feel a great sense of accomplishment when I hear my students using new vocabulary and expressions that I (yep, me!) taught them. I must’ve done something right! Bring on the second semester, I’m ready for you… wine in hand!
I ate my way through George Town, known as one of Asia’s best street food cities.
For a whopping 40 cents, served to me piping hot in a thin, plastic bag, I wolfed down the tastiest, Chinese noodles my mouth has ever tasted. I might’ve also consumed melted plastic. I’m not sure. Although, I don’t really care to be honest, because I still have vivid dreams about how tasty those noodles were every night. George Town in Penang, Malaysia, has been said to have the best food in all of Asia. I needed to test this for myself. I spent three days sampling dishes from Indian, Chinese, and Malay food stalls. And, eating the occasional Portuguese egg tart. I am very confident in my food sampling abilities and fully endorse that claim. Well, at least it was the best food that I’ve had in all of Asia.
My hair has finally started to fade back to its normal colour since that time I accidentally dyed it black.
I survived my first (mini) solo backpacking trip.
Two weeks of traveling with myself was mentally and emotionally exhausting. I mean, you would be drained too if you had to travel with me for two weeks! But, I realized that there are parts of traveling alone that I really did enjoy. I had complete control over my itinerary and could do, see, or eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. That being said, traveling solo can feel lonely at times. There were several moments where I wish I had a partner in crime to tackle activities and food markets with me. Luckily, one of my besties is flying all the way from Canada to come see me next week!
At the end of this week I’m starting part two of my winter break.
My vacation time was broken up into two parts. This time, my partner in crime and one of my favourite travel buddies from back home, will be exploring more of Asia with me. We’re off to Tokyo and Hong Kong for a two-week adventure. I’m super excited that I get to explore these two, new destinations and to tell you all about it when I’m back!
Thanks for catching up with me! Until next time.