Thursday, January 26, 2006

Announcement: Me and my 2nd Korean New Year!

OK, unfortunately there will be no posts again for the next few days... Sorry readers! You do realize what time of the year it is? It's:

Korean Lunar New Year ~ Seollal (설날)

For the information of my foreign readers: We folks of Chinese descent celebrate it too. Last year was a disaster for me, as I was stuck in Incheon (Korea) on a project, and didn't have anywhere to go to for 3 woeful days.

This year, it's all looking up. Didn't have ANYTHING planned this morning, except I knew that I had to somehow make my way up to Seoul to meet Meliana. But I made a few phone calls by lunch time, and was all set! Be hitching a ride up to Seoul with a colleague tomorrow, and maybe another exhilarating train ride home again on Monday. Woo hoo!

Meliana and I go way back to when we were both studying in Melbourne. We met in church, and sometimes hung out together. Just so happens, she was dropping in for a tour of Seoul during the New Year holidays. So we will rendezvous on Friday night when she flies in.

Saturday will be reserved for an old buddy ~ Kevin Yee. He is now working on a project near Seoul, and was my housemate when we were in training with the company in the USA two years ago. Both of us are Malaysian Chinese. So I thought it'd be good have Reunion Dinner on Saturday night, which is the eve of the Lunar New Years.

Now here's the difference between the Chinese and Korean New Years... Chinese have the big ass Reunion Dinner with family on the New Year's Eve, whereas the Koreans have it on the New Year's Day. Typical to both cultures, married couples will give out money to the children.

What thrills me about Korea, is that it is customary to buy hampers for friends/family or when you visit. I kid you not... packaged fish is one of them, and they are NOT CHEAP!!
I will get a first hand account of what goes on in a Korean family, when I visit Mr. Lee on Sunday. Be staying over for a night too, so I should be back in Suncheon (oh joy...) by Monday.

We have been given Tuesday to recuperate from the New Year binge rest too, so might be able to squeeze a day of skiing into that. Not sure yet.

Don't miss me ~ Be updating on Wednesday at latest!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Stuff: Crazy about phones

Another thing that tells you about how important mobile/cell-phones are to Koreans... This booth was perched at the train station waiting room.

This is a charging bay for mobile phones. It has a bay for every Anycall (brand) model available. There were a total of 17 different bays.

I didn't know that they had THAT MANY different phone models with SO MANY different chargers.

I always believed that batteries, or at least the chargers were, and would be generic! Silly isn't it?

On a side note: Chargers don't only appear at train stations, but also at bars. If you knew the bar owners well enough, you'd be able to plug your phone in for a recharge.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Travel: Train ride in Korea

I was excited just buying the ticket to go to Seoul last weekend. You know why?

The reason definitely wasn't because of this...

But this... THIS was what it was ALL about!

This is the super-duper-bullet-speed-o'light-fast KTX train that I took on the second leg of the journey. I had to transfer trains at Iksan, on the way to/from Seoul, since the high speed KTXs only did a handful of direct routes. If you really want to know, just take it that I live in the back woods...

Being the country bumpkin that I am, I have never ever taken a bullet train before, and this puppy went extremely fast! Though the clocked time on the picture was 298.4km/h, I've spotted it doing 300.5km/h!

Wooooooooooooo hooooooooooo!

Everything on the KTX was screaming STYLE, from sleek automatic doors, down to the ultra-comfy seats. Even the suspension must have been some engineering work of art. The train simply did not feel like it was going THAT fast ~ It was so QUIET!

Not to mention, it was a real boost of the ol' ego riding in one...

If you think there mighta been problems transiting from one train to another in the frosty winter cold. Think again... Koreans have got it ALL figured out.

On the platforms, were these cool-ass waiting bays, with their thermostats set at a fuzzy 20 Celsius inside.


However, a hint for those who are reading this and MIGHT be considering traveling through Korea on your own...

(until you've picked up SOME Korean)

It's not impossible though, but for the life of me, timetables and staff that spoke English were few and far in between. Bummer ain't it?

Anyway, just to let you all know ~ I'm feeling like a little boy again since the choo choo train ride from the weekend. Yipeeeeee!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Travel: Cheonggyecheon (청계천) - Seoul, Korea

Remember the first thing I said I wanted to see, when I headed up to Seoul last month?

Cheonggyecheon (청계천) ~ 清溪川

Due to the extremely cold weather back then, we only managed to see 500 meters of it. Saw it again this trip up to Seoul for my English exam and medical checkup. With more time during the day on my hands, I did some recreational walking down its banks.

It is definitely a place to visit at night, as I experienced a slight disappointment visiting it only during the day this time. None of the fountains were functioning, and definitely none of the lights were on (Duh!). But still... it was a nice way to spend the day up in Seoul.

During the nights: It has some of the most awesome spectra of lighting illuminating the rapid stream.

Non-conforming blend of unorthodox forms, mixture of old and new elements, with a few splashes of color from the city's neon lights along both banks... Every detail melds into what I can only sum up as "art". Magnificent piece of work I must say.

Here is ALSO why Cheonggyecheon is so special:

  • Project is a stream (Cheonggye) restoration project commissioned in July 2003 and officially unveiled in its current form to the public in October 2005.
  • A highway was completely built over the river by 1978, BUT was torn down for the restoration project.
  • Restored stretch is 5.84km: a.k.a. THAT MUCH highway was torn down. This is what's left...

  • Total cost ~ whopping USD$ 1.5Billion from the start of the project up till September 2005.
    *Costs published on the official website is a bit (erm) funny... watch this blog!
For more pictures from the trip, and the day's walk down the stream.

Click 'HERE'.

Excuse the advertisement, but... Another reason to visit Cheonggyecheon NOW (see below).

It's falling apart!
(was only unveiled 3 months ago)

Catch it while it's still there! *wink wink

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Announcement: Off to Seoul tomorrow!

Booked my train ticket and getting ready to leave for Seoul tomorrow. Taking a train instead of a bus/driving, as traffic in Seoul is usually chaotic.

I will also have to do a medical checkup, apart from the IELTS exam for my migration papers. So wish me well, that the doctor doesn't come up with some weird ass diagnosis of Herpes or something...

p.s: Will be updating the blog on Monday. Don't miss me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

@ Work: Fendolite

Starting from yesterday, an external contractor was called in to site for a job. What were they here for?


... that must be the next biggest technical revelation that I've had all year on this Korean jobsite!

What I found out from THIS website (italics edited):
Fendolite MII is a mix of vermiculite and Portland cement. Spray-applied Fendolite MII produces a coating able to withstand high intensity hydrocarbon fire (gas or oil), whether by total engulfment or torching.

Cement-like Fendolite is sprayed onto important metal structures. This forms a protective barrier (insulation) on the metal surface to protect it at elevated temperatures, in case of an explosion and danger of meltdown.

One such area of concern on OUR plant would be near the natural gas equipment area. Important pipe supports need to be protected, since natural gas is potentially explosive even if leaked in the presense of the smallest spark.

As an engineer, this absolutely fascinates me, because I haven't been on a plant (yet) that does Fendolite coating on their structures!

A note for my non-engineer readers: I guess if you know anyone who might be venturing into hell, you really should either 1.preach them the gospel, or 2.ask them to consider spraying on a layer of this stuff. Sounds like Fendolite might be just the thing to make the devil cringe with jealousy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nature: That's why trees are GREEN in Korea!

Our project is close to finishing up in a few months. Some of the last things done at this stage on a construction site, are the tar roads, as well as 'beautification' works. So recently, they started sticking in scrawny looking tree seedlings and support braces onto bare soil ~ Not exactly seedlings per-say, but I don't know how else to call it!

So I walk by this 'beautified' area one day and WHOA ~ All GREEN!!

Then I spot this dude hosing GREEN stuff all over the place.

So that's how they mass-fertilize trees!

GREEN fertilizer!


No wonder this part of the country looks all nice and GREEN when you look down from a plane!


Monday, January 16, 2006

Food: Cliché ribs and everything else (yummy!)

Ol' Chinese engineer ShenLing is leaving for home. So he brought us out to dinner on Thursday night at this cool Korean barbeque place called Danjichon (단지촌) in Suncheon. We chowed down on barbequed pork ribs (Doaeji galbi, 돼지갈비).

(Read: F.R.E.E.M.E.A.L.)

OK ... barbeque is pretty standard foodstuff in Korea. Almost every one else in the world knows about Korean barbeque anyway. If you don't already know how people eat barbequed meat in these parts of the world, I figured that you'd know by now, if you've read my previous post on the barbequed duck...


That's the reason why I never blogged about barbequed beef or pork. SO, today's post is not about the barbeque we had.

The stars of this post (instead) are the side dishes at Danjichon ~ all spread out on your table whether you order it or not.

1.Sweet red bean goo, or "Pat-chuk" (팥죽) is served as starters. This can also be taken as a complete meal, but of course, in much larger quantities. Usually, in our beloved Jeonnam province, the beany sweet paste comes with flour noodles, and is taken with a dash of salt. Yes, you read right: SALT!

2.Carrot cake... or is it? Anyway, it's a bit of a sweet fill-in when you get tired of all the other salty stuff

3.Clam soup... We got plenty of clams down where we are. Good source of aphrodisiac ~ No wonder we've got so many love motels in the area!

4.Soft shell crab, which I (erm) believe are RAW! But anyway, it's under so much sweet chilli paste you can't tell anyway. I love it ~ shell and all!

God bless Danjichon!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Traffic: Ridding Korea of dumb-doers

If you agree that throughout this blog, I have been bitching too much about Korean traffic, and it's about darn time I started doing something about it, say:


Alright, one sunny afternoon last week, I spotted some idiot un-evangelized sinner parked in the driveway between the parking bays, and our office door. No cars could get in or out of the enclosed area from where the picture was taken.

(Like... what the XXXX rite?)

So I decided I must raise the person's awareness, and I pasted the following friendly reminder on the windshield.

I sincerely believe the person has been evangelized, because I have yet to spot a similar incident since that day. Same to be said of the OTHER car that double parked on another main driveway, whom may I highlight, caused all out-going and in-coming cars to go on a big detour.


I hope to get more heaven brownie points for my good deeds...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

News: The Chinese found America first??!!

Is this possible... the Chinese might have been the first to make a modern discovery of the American continent as we know it today??!!

Click on: 'BBC NEWS'.

Photo: The Economist/PA

Oh, on an irrelevant note... what are the chances that a person is a 1.Chinese admiral, 2.Muslim, 3.Eunuch, 4.Mariner AND 5.Explored all corners of the world with wind power in the 1400's?

Well, supposedly Zhang He was... Fuuuuuuyoh*!

I doubt that even if Viking Leif Eriksson REALLY were the one who discovered North America in year 1000, his credentials probably wouldn't come close.

*Malaysian expression of gawgasperation... amazement... like... "WOW" reigning on the pinnacle of gigantamatum!

Friday, January 13, 2006

About me: CK in a bottle

Got this little surprise yesterday, from the sweetest thing who's EVER walked the streets of Suncheon.

Apparently my skin has been drying up pretty bad from the harsh winter climate. So she dropped by the store for a bottle of moisturizer ~ by Calvin Klein.

Blushes *^^*

If you are reading this (you know who you are):


It's been awhile since someone's been so sweet to me...

Blushes (again) *^^*

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Business: Annoying crap

Now this is how they do business advertising in Korea...

Note that this is the entrance to my apartment, and everything from notification flyers to discount coupons are taped onto the door. Flyers amazingly 'regenerate', and my door pretty much looks the same EVERYDAY coming home from work even though I CLEAN IT! Apparently this is rampant throughout Korea.

See the crap I have to put up with in Korea?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stuff: That wraparound thing

No wonder I am never popular with the girls... torn up pants! I go through a pair every 6 months from working on the site. For this, and this reason ONLY, I knew I should have studied to become a doctor, lawyer, or even some fancy ass fashion designer. Bummer~

If there was ever one thing that was typical of a Korean job-site, apart from them silly vests, it would be that wraparound thing that keeps pants edges intact.

It's not exactly trend setting, but smart. Smart enough it warrants a post.

Disclaimer: You will NEVER catch me wearing one of those!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Language: 18... not so sweet after all

Alright, life supposedly starts at 18. So goes sayings like "Sweet 18"...

In Korea, I'd be careful saying the number 18 though. "18" is pronounced as Shib-pal (십팔). Guess what... the term "BITCH" (or to a certain extent "F**K"), is pronounced as Ssi-pal (씨팔).

"18" and "Bitch" sound identical!

Oh crap ~ How DO YOU tell someone it's 18th December...

Old ajumma: "What's the date today?"
Me: "Sib-pal (18)..."

Then ~ You need 18 apples at the fruit stall...

Cute chick: "How many apples you need?" *Wink
Me: "Sib-pal (18)..."

Just for laughs and giggles, check out this page on Korean slangs. Click 'HERE'.

Note though, that there are 2 numbering systems in the Korean language. Depending on the application, you would use pronounce "18" as Yeol-yeodeolb (열 여덟) instead of Sibpal (십팔). But that discussion will be for a later day/post.

18 isn't so sweet in Korea eh? *Evil grin

Saturday, January 07, 2006

People: Mr. Gang and his family

While on my travels, it's always nice to get to know the locals on a more personal level...

Two days back, Mr. S.G.Gang brought me out to dinner, when his family came down for a four-day visit. Mr. Gang and I work together on-site in Gwangyang, and his family lives five hours away in Seoul.

The family: Ms. Jang (장정화)* and daughters 보영 + 보경. We met up previously, when they visited in autumn.

Nice people. Just wished the kids wouldn't be so shy. I swear that they didn't dare look me in the eye throughout the meal.

ㅠ_ㅠ... Am I THAT ugly?!

*Cultural note ~ Apparently you do not call someone by their husband's last name in Korea. So addressing Mr Gang's wife as "Mrs. Gang" probably doesn't sound quite right, even though it is accepted/not offending. Using her maiden family name instead, would be more appropriate.

Haven't quite figured out how else to address the person yet, if you don't know her family name. I guess I can get away for being the foreigner. :P

Thanks for the awesome dinner Mr. Gang!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Business: FedEx (Korea)

FedEx is excellent in the whole wide wide world, as far as I am concerned. But somehow, for where I am... they suck ~ BIG TIME!

Well, the story is this: We had to send something the other day. I log on to their website, lodge a pickup request, and get a follow-up call the very next morning. BRILLIANT!

I wait... and I wait... for 2 weeks and NUMEROUS follow-up phone calls from me to them. I even had to get a Korean-speaking colleague to call them up again and again to explain where in the world we are located, even though they have been here numerous times before.

Maybe (we) being located next to the world's 5th largest steel manufacturer POSCO doesn't ring a bell??

Come pickup time, a smart-ass driver from a local delivery service rocks up on behalf of FedEx, discards all the import/export paperwork I prepared, and wanted to leave without it. After all the excuses, false promises of "todays" and assurances of "no problems"... What the...


It's not the first time I'm sending parts overseas mate, who do you think I am... some dumb freshie? I KNOW what paperwork and invoices are needed! He finally took it after I bugged the crap out of him...

This is not the first time they've done stuff like this to us. One time, a package reached Seoul from the USA, and even before being dispatched from Seoul to us, they routed it back to USA, because they figured that our address was undeliverable. No one even checked with us!

However, I must give FedEx credit for thinking up a brilliant business model tailored to Korea though. Here, FedEx relies on local delivery companies ~ taekbae (택배) to transport goods between localities and the sorting center in Seoul. FedEx does not deliver with their own transporters in all corners of the country. This is primarily because addresses are worthless in Korea and local knowledge of landmarks is quiet essential. It's a mess even in Seoul, believe you me.

BUT, my take on it is:

A business model is ONLY as good
as the means by which it is carried out

In my case, the local delivery company obviously screwed up. That's why we only use FedEx, when we have to.

That being said and done, I am glad the package finally went out last Friday. Not sure yet if it arrived yet though, hmmm~

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

@ Work: Turbine #4 runs!

Well, please excuse me if updates haven't been too timely. Lots have been happening at work.

For once, I can say: "Yipedee doodah yay ~ I have stuff to do, apart from blogging!"

So finally, the 4th and final unit of our turbines started up two days ago, no problems. We've come a long way from nothingness on barren land, to the turbines being installed, commissioned and actually started up. That should be keeping us busy for the next few weeks, doing more testing and commissioning.

Also, 2 other units that have been running are now shutdown for a short period of time. This is what the industry coins as an 'Outage'. This is the time where stuff is fixed, and things are done. Busy busy there too.

Life will be back to normal sometime next week.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Language: Koreans invented... Ghetto?!

OK, here's my hypothesis on what the REAL origins of Ghetto talk is from.


Having said that, here is my point: Korean language, Hangeul (한글) in its form today, was 'invented' and completed in 1444. The existence of the Korean language is therefore older, and definitely more developed that the Ghetto language we have today, topping at most a century in history. If there was ever a shadow of doubt about the chicken or the egg... Korean definitely came about first.

Some of the Korean sentence structure and sounds are unmistakenly similar to that of Ghetto. Or rather, Ghetto is undeniably similar to Korean. Two prominent examples of Ghetto talk being similar to Korean are:

  • "Word"
    Used either as a confirming question, OR used in statements of affirmation.
    Person A: "I don't dig that s*** no more man..."
    Person B: "Word?"
    Person A: "Word."

    Korean equivalent: 정말 (Jeong-mal)
    Literal meaning ~ Real word.
    Person A: "I make many many money last year"
    Person B: "정말 (Word)?"
    Person A: "정말 (Word)!"

  • Peace out yo
    A well-wishing statement.
    Person A: "Gotta cruise man..."
    Person B: "Alright, peace out yo"

    Korean equivalent: 안녕하세요 (Annyeong Hase YO)
    Literal meaning ~ You have peace.
    Person A: "Oh hello!"
    Person B: "안녕(Peace)하세요 (Yo)"

Just look at the similarities and sounds. Proves my point, no doubt.

Brilliant unraveling of Ghetto roots, if I do say so myself. I should be nominated for a prize in linguistics or anthropology for this finding!


Erm... Yeah right! If you've been reading this with a pinch of salt and taken in with good humor, I applaud you. For the rest of you... Please la. :P

Monday, January 02, 2006

Business: Brewed coffee to-go

Here's another reason why I think Koreans have got it all figured out. Here's what you can purchase at any convenience store of the likes of 7-11. Hot water is provided at the cashout.

Brewed coffee on the go: For people who detest instant granulated coffee.

It comes hermetically sealed, complete with strainer, filter, sugar, stirrer, and not to mention the grounded coffee powder. It's cool because the strainers act also as measuring cups. Pour in enough hot water to fill it up to the brim, and it should percolate into the cup to give you the right amount of water + coffee mix for a medium strength coffee.

The only thing that sucks is: Too little (amount) coffee. Pouring more water into the strainer really thins the coffee out too much.

Good enough for me. Anyone seen this anywhere else?