Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Consequences of Dating a Korean Guy 2,900 miles Away

A long distance relationship is not for everyone. We all know the heartaches that the distance can bring. There are certain traits that you can observe from a person who is in one - constantly doing things alone, 24/7 texting/calling, obsessed with making travel plans for the next trip etc. 


I am hooked on technology. I am not addicted to it, I just treasure every moment of talking or texting him. Many of my friends are amazed at how my phone NEVER leaves my hands. Because of this, my 3 year old fully-charged iPhone 4S can only last 3 hours. It gets crazy sometimes, especially when I am signed in on Skype on my iPhone, iPad and Macbook and.. he calls.

Korean guys are known to be really "Aegyo" (Korean: 애교) towards their girlfriends, regardless of their age. It refers to talking in a cute and affectionate way, often in a baby's voice. This totally explains the constant song and dance shows that he puts up for me over Skype. As a 28 year old grown man, I would say he has shown alot of talent in dancing and singing to Korean baby songs. The passion and energy of his dancing increases with the distance.

"Oh baby, this strawberry reminds me of you"
When you are 2,900 miles away, everything and anything reminds you of him/her & there is an urge to take a picture and send it to him/her. (He actually planted a strawberry plant in his backyard for me.) When I look into my phone's photo album, I see lots of pictures of trees, flowers, skies... never knew I was that into nature

As each meeting date gets closer, my obsession for checking air ticket prices gets stronger. It becomes a daily (sometimes hourly) habit, just to make sure I don't miss out on any flash sales. I know by heart the airlines that fly direct from Singapore to Incheon, I know the airlines that do stopovers and which cities they stop in. Do you know that Vietnam Airlines & Thai Airways are just some of the airlines that have transit flights to South Korea too? 

To say that I am excited to see him is an understatement. I feel as if I've been waiting an entire life for this! The best moment is when I look at him and see all the little details that I've missed out on eg. the extra layer of fat under his chin, the new hair cut etc. Seeing it in real life is different from seeing it over Skype. Look at how much he's changed in just 4 months! I feel like a mum missing out on my baby's first steps.

Jan 2014

May 2014
I didn't know people can age that quickly. Hahaha!

P/s Will be arriving in Seoul next Friday!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Korean Food: Samgyetang (삼계탕)

It is really difficult to find authentic Samgyetang (삼계탕) in Singapore. Samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup, is literally translated from Korean to English - Sam (Ginseng), Gye (Chicken), Tang (Soup). In Kimchi boy's three months in Singapore, we have never successfully found any Korean restaurant that serve an authentic samgyetang. We've had reasonably good ones like Hansang Korean Family Restaurant in Novena, or cheaper versions like Hwang's at NUS Utown, but never like the ones you will get in Korea.

This my most favourite Korean food of all. It is a really "friendly" food for foreigners who are trying Korean food for the first time because it is not red, not spicy and looks like Chinese chicken soup. Somehow the restaurants do it best, but it is also simple to prepare it yourself at home. Here's what you need.

Samgyetang Pack
Can be bought in any Korean supermarkets like Lotte Mart, SolMart, Shine Supermarket in Singapore. It would probably cost about sgd 6 but if you're in Korea, you can get it for much cheaper. I got mine at Home Plus for ₩2. It does not look appetizing because they do resemble tree branches, tree bark and roots (they probably are - the edible kinds). But trust me, after you start falling in love with samgyetang you will start buying the ones with MORE tree branches & bark.

Real Ginseng
The older the better. Because the ones in the samgyetang packs are lousy quality ginseng of low or almost no grade, you will need high-grade ginseng to bring out the taste in the soup. 

Salt
Korean salt to be exact. I don't know why and how but it just tastes better with Korean salt. (not because it is flavored). Whenever I try to cook Korean food in Singapore, Kimchi boy would always ask "do you have Korean soy sauce or Korean xxx". He insists that the taste would not be the same without 'Korean' ingredients and sauces. Now I think it's true. HAHA.

Instructions:
1. Boil the samgyetang pack, together with ginseng, for an hour at least. (Make sure there is enough water to cover the chicken completely later on). 

2. After an hour, put in one whole chicken and boil for another hour or longer. If you're cooking for four, you will need a large chicken (i.e get the jumbo chicken from NTUC). As simple as that! 

3. Usually I am really lazy, but it would be the perfect but still non-authentic samgyetang if you can just stuff glutinous rice or *Japanese/Korean rice into the insides of the chicken, from the butt. Use toothpicks to make sure the butt it tightly sealed. Yes, it does not sound good at this point but you cannot imagine how amazing the rice will taste at the end. 

*Kimchi boy will not be pleased. You should use Korean rice HAHA.

4. Remember to add some salt before serving. 

TIP: The longer you boil the soup, the better it will taste. But I do not recommend you to exceed 4 hours because gas is really expensive in Singapore. LOL.



There are many variations of this, like the black samgyetang that we had in Jeju Island. I've also had one at Tanjong Pagar before that used black/purple glutinous rice instead of the normal kind.

I was like "please don't talk to me while I enjoy this".

I think the best (I've ever had) and the most famous one that most tourists will definitely visit is the one near GyeongBok Palace in Seoul. The place is called 토속촌삼계탕. (I don't know if there is an English name.) Just google "gyeongbokgung palace samgyetang" and you will probably find the shop. Most, if not all of their waiters/waitresses can speak chinese. They do serve alot of tourists from China and Taiwan. I would go there whenever I arrive and depart from Seoul.

Gyeongbok Palace

Rare sight of the 'queue-less' samgyetang restaurant. It was about 3pm at that time.

Dining with Kimchi boy (right) & his cousin in the restaurant.

If I remember correctly, the price of a normal samgyetang is ₩15,000 (less than sgd20). It does not include rice but it is really not necessary to order rice because there is glutinous rice inside remember? They also do take-aways - great for me because if I were to get pregnant one day, I can order kimchi boy to go get take away for me. The queue is SO long during meal hours (min. waiting time ~30mins) so the best time to visit them is between 2-5 pm. The roast chicken is a must-try (if you love ginseng)! Most people don't order it because they think it is just ordinary roasted chicken but the taste is so extraordinary it will blow your mind. You will never look at roasted chicken the same way again. HAHA. The roasted chicken is marinated with ginseng and it has so much flavor in it, yet not too oily at the same time.

Writing about this is makes me hungry. 





Saturday, April 26, 2014

Personal thoughts

I started out this blog last month to document everything that is happening in this long distance relationship with my Korean boyfriend, and hopefully be able to connect with other Singaporeans in the same kind of relationship as me. I know this relationship is a special one & I hope one day my status will be elevated from "Singaporean Girlfriend" to "Singapore Wife", where I can continue writing about my life with a Korean husband; living in Korea or where ever it may be. Yes, we began this relationship with the intentions of getting married (because why shouldn't every relationship be that way?), even though I am, by Singapore or Asian standards, too young to get married. If I were American, I may have already gotten married with my first kid by now. Haha! At 28, Kimchi boy is at the marrying age & according to our plans, he will be 30 or 31 when we get married. Seriously, I do not think there is a 'right age' to get married. Age is just a number, it is the maturity & trust between the couple that determines the right time to be committed for life. And of course a whole lot of other considerations like financial stability etc. With the high standards of living, (unreasonable) high cost for housing & cars in Singapore, of course it would seem reasonable to only get married at 28, 29 - after you've worked for a few years, saved up enough to build your family and return back to square one after you've bought your house, car & wedding. If I had not met this boyfriend, I would still be running the Singapore Rat Race and be full of regrets on my deathbed.

This blog is actually a secret and kimchi boy does not know of it's existence, though he might have already found out because he is really good at 'stalking' me on the internet. He did it once, found my old blog (an old blog under my name) with traces of my past with my ex boyfriend and got really upset about it. Apparently in Korean culture, when a couple breaks up they are as good as dead to each other. So if I strictly adhere to his Korean standard's, I should have deleted my ex boyfriend on facebook, handphone, my old blog etc. So I wonder how long this can be kept from him. Imagine the amount of blog posts (2 years worth!) he has to read if I only reveal this blog on our wedding day.

Anyway, to any readers: Hello! and feel free to comment/ask questions/email me :)

My heart is in Korea



I can't wait to see Kimchi boy in two weeks time. As usual, I will be flying on the night of my last paper! Currently trying very hard to study for my finals. It's my second last semester in NUS. Next semester will be my last & I really can't wait for this to be over and start work. Not because I hate school and can't wait to earn money, but because this means it will be a new milestone in my life & most important, one step closer to marriage and living in Korea (though I'm not ready to think about the separation with my friends and family at this point).

There might be a lack of updates but please bear with me. There will be more fun & interesting posts when I arrive in Korea on May 9th. There are so many exciting things that might/will be happening: we are getting a puppy!!! (ok, its his parents but I get to go see puppies with them), he has planted a strawberry plant & strawberries are starting to appear, might be meeting other NUS students currently on exchange in Korea, I am going to Osaka for a visa-run! Will be visiting him for three whole months - I have a research internship in the last two months but still, I will get to see him a lot more. I've seen Korea only in winter and this is my first time seeing Spring/Summer in kimchi land. I hope it's not gonna be as hot as Singapore.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Being in a long distance relationship (with a Korean)

It is tough to be in a long distance relationship. I see friends who complain about being in a "long distance relationship" when their boyfriend/girlfriend goes on a school exchange. But being in a long distance relationship with someone from a different country or culture brings it to a whole new level.

I never thought I'd be in one someday. I don't think anyone ever dreams or hopes to be in a long distance relationship. After all, I am at the age where I want to go for fun dates, movies, dinners, shopping - just having a boyfriend who can be there for me. At 23, my relationship is filled with extreme emotions. The joy of each meeting and the tears of each separation.

Here is how we make our long distance relationship (LDR) work:

#1 - Never stop communicating
No matter how tired we get at the end of the day, we always make it a point to talk before we go to bed. Many couples don't realise how lucky they are to be able to simply make a phone call to their partners while LDR couples have to endure the (sometimes) horrible Skype connections or bad wifi connections. But when the connection is good, we get to see each other and just talk about what we have been doing in the day. We have one rule that we've both been keeping faithfully - never ever go to bed angry. We adopted this from Ephesians 4:26 "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry". It forces us to talk about our conflicts and be open and honest to each other. It's been one and a half years now and I'm glad we've kept this promise till today.

#2 - Dare to show your emotions
This was a real problem for us in the beginning. He hid a lot of emotions - especially sadness, & anger - from me when we started dating. He said it was a Korean thing where guys should not cry or show that they are sad in front of their wives/girlfriends. Generally, I think all (Asian) guys think the same. It took awhile for me to convince him that he had to tell me how he was feeling because if he hid all his emotions, I would not be dating with his 'true self'. When couples dare to express themselves, your partner gets to learn more about you: what angers you, what upsets you & what makes you happy. This is especially important for LDR couples because we simply have no time for hiding emotions when all our communications are on screen.

(Kimchi boy crying secretly while I was packing my luggage the night before my flight back to Singapore)

#3 - Don't hide your relationship
This is going to be a tough one. Because many people are still skeptical about online dating, it will probably be difficult to convince your friends & family. Even so if you're at a younger age. I've mentioned before, when I initially wanted to go meet Kimchi boy, EVERYONE was against it. My mum even refused to talk to me for almost 2 months because of this. But I (foolishly?) insisted that I know he wasn't a bad person. Thank God I met a really nice guy who was nice, gentle and honest. I trusted him because we had been skyping for some time and I've seen him, seen his parents over skype, seen pictures of him & his friends, know where he studies (all thanks to Facebook!) It was just a gut feeling that this guy was an honest & sincere man. I do not encourage people to just go ahead and meet your potential online boyfriend/girlfriend but I'm just saying - it takes some judgement, trust and common sense. 

The main reason why you shouldn't hide your relationship (whether it is a long distance one or not) is because.. Why should you? You're not doing anything wrong, it's not something that has to be kept a secret unless you're a third party or something. I'm glad I'd involved my family from the start because it also helps them to know him so much better. Being in a long distance relationship is tough, don't make it tougher by keeping it a secret. 

(Kimchi boy with my mother at Singapore's Changi Airport. He was returning to South Korea.)

#4 - Don't become lazy!
This is what kimchi boy said, "Don't ever be lazy for our love". He refers to all aspects of the relationship. He has regularly sent EMS (air packages) from South Korea to Singapore for my family. Despite the expensive charges and the fact that he had to bring the heavy box from his home all the way to the nearest post office (30-45mins away), he never once complaint. There was once I lost a handphone cover that was only available in Korea and it was out of stock everywhere, even in their Korean site. He actually travelled to all their factories and warehouses just to find the only last piece that was available. 

Ok - it might be a Korean thing again because we all know (from Korean drama) how much Korean boyfriends sacrifice and do all sorts of things just to make his girlfriend happy. But seriously, couples should never be lazy to do things for each other. No matter how long they have been together. The moment you start getting lazy, that's the point your relationship starts going downhill because the love and commitment level goes down too. This is probably easy for LDR couples because your relationship now becomes so precious that you are willing to go to the depths of the sea for him/her.

(Recent EMS with home-grilled seaweed, korean beans, korean snacks...)

#5 - Trust is the luxury of letting go.
I've always had problems with trusting any ex-boyfriends, until I met kimchi boy. Sometimes, I think it requires you to give up some things to help the other party trust you. We don't drink, club & have very few friends of the opposite sex. Not because we have to, but because we know these are things that could potential spoil the trust in our relationship. I know people debate on whether it is right to read your partner's text messages and the issue of personal privacy but really, what is there to hide when you have not done anything wrong? I think that there is no right or wrong, it really depends on what each couple wants to agree on. 

I know my long distance relationship is an easy one because of him. He is much older/mature and had  passed "the playful stage". He is different from most Koreans - sometimes my Dad says he is almost not Korean - he doesn't drink or smoke AT ALL. He has no interests in clubbing, talking to girls or playing online games like most of his friends. His parents are traditional but not conservative - meaning they are not bothered that their son might one day marry a non-Korean. They actually love me like their own daughter. We do have communication problems sometimes but he can speak English well enough, compared to most Koreans.

I think the most important thing is to have a mindset that this relationship will work if you put your heart and soul into it. It will be a tough relationship, but the most rewarding one you will ever have.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Date Someone Who Walks You Home


Date someone who walks you home. Someone who doesn’t mind taking the long route, the detour, the extra hour from the comfort of home. Someone who feels better if he knows that you’re safe and sound, before he kisses you goodnight and starts his other journey alone.

Date someone who walks you home. Who doesn’t do it when it’s convenient for him to do so, but who does it even though he needs to travel one hour and fifteen minutes back to his own place without the comfort of a car. Someone who does it, because he cares.

Date someone who walks you home. Someone who knows you are old enough to take care of yourself and to go back by your own, only to say no everytime you suggest he doesn’t need to send you home tonight. Date someone who sends you home not because he tries to be a gentleman, or has to become one, but because he wants to.

Source: http://marcellapurnama.com/date-someone-who-walks-you-home/

I remember him insisting on walking me home when we were in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It was the very first time we decided to meet in real life after talking online for some time. In December 2012, he flew over to Kaohsiung and met me for the first time, just for a week. When we ended our dates at night, he would insist on sending me right to my door, even though he was in a foreign land, had no idea how to get back to his hotel & could not speak a word of mandarin. I remember the first night when he sent me home, I wanted to explain to him how to walk to the nearest subway station but he wouldn't let me walk him there. It took him almost 3 hours to get back to the hotel (Kaohsiung is a really small city, it would have taken about 30-45mins) and I was so worried I made an overseas call to him. I was so worried yet angry at him. He is a really smart guy. Without knowing how to speak mandarin, he found his way (by looking at street maps, yes physical signboard street maps - he did not have 3G service in Taiwan) and walked ALL the way from my house to his hotel!! It must have been about 5 or 6 subway stops away. Now I know.. Korean guys will do anything to keep their girlfriends safe. (Picture taken on a Kaohsiung Subway train).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Korean Food: Mad For Garlic (Suntec City Branch)

Mad For Garlic is a Korean-Italian restaurant with a garlic theme. I have always wanted to try this restaurant ever since I saw it's promotion on Facebook! They were offering a free pizza & its membership card (with any spending equivalent to their pizza) but we could not use it on weekends/eve of public holidays.. and we happen to visit their Suntec City branch on the eve of Good Friday -.- (Went with my bestfriend)

We wanted to try it so badly so we went in anyway. FOOD WAS SO GOOD I AM DEF' GOING TO TRY IT IN KOREA WITH KIMCHI BOY!

We ordered the two main dishes that everyone online recommended: Garlic Snowing Pizza & Grilled Chicken and Mushroom Risotto. Did not regret it one bit because it was really really delicious. The pizza was thin-crust with chunks of pineapples (wished there were more though) and a combi of sweet & salty. I LOVE hawaiian pizza so I love any kind of pizza with pineapples in them. Though the risotto was not authentic italian, the grilled chicken was juicy, full of flavour and the rice was spicy enough. Every kind of taste that I love. The food was within typical restaurant prices, each dish around $20+ before gst. The prices are similar in Singapore and in korea, pizza was sgd22.50 before taxes while in Korea it would cost 21,800 (don't have to pay taxes) - Korean won is stronger now I think?. Really glad that they did not try to 'inflate' the prices just because it is outside of Korea (unlike other Korean shops like Etude House, Laneige or any other Korean restaurants for that matter etc)

Alot of thought put into its interior, pretty classy with a relaxing ambience.
Picture from www.madforgarlic.com.sg


Risotto.

Pieces of roasted garlic, pineapples, shrimps... I did not stop at one. HAHA

Garlic Snowing Pizza.






Sunday, April 20, 2014

Korean Side Dishes (반찬)

Kimchi boy & I have discussed many times. We will live in Korea after we get married in future. I really love Korean food but I cannot imagine eating it for the rest of my life. 

By my first month in Korea (last winter), I was desperately looking for western food, chinese food... just anything but Korean. haha. Personally, I feel that Korean food all taste the same.. maybe just a different cooking style - stew, soup, BBQ, stir fry - but it is almost always red and spicy. The only thing that I look forward to in a Korean meal is the side dishes, also known as banchan (반찬).

The last time Kimchi boy's mum sent me a package from Korea, she sent some black beans so .. I made some today! So proud of myself. Got him to show his mum this photo and she said I did well ^.^

Black Beans (콩자반)

I love the variety of banchans offered alongside Korean meals!


Spot the black beans!!

Side dishes that were served with our abalone porridge in Jeju Island.


'Exquisite' side dishes when we went to a really good traditional Korean restaurant.

Side dishes on his dining table at home. There are just boxes and boxes of tupperware stacked neatly on his dining room table. (They don't fridge it as it was winter)


Asiana Airlines Business Class Review

The last time I flew back to Singapore, I'd managed to get an upgrade to Business Class! Although the in-fight experience was a really pleasant one (for one, the air stewardesses treat you so much better in Biz class. When I flew to Incheon, one air stewardess literally just stared at me while I struggle to put my overweight carry-on baggage in the overhead compartments. I am just 155cm by the way, but .. Partially my fault for bringing an overweight hand carry luggage), the whole process of getting the upgrade was really frustrating. 

I really needed the upgrade because my baggages were over 30kg. I'm so glad for diligently collecting mileages points whenever I travelled on any Star Alliance airlines because the hard work paid off! BUT... Asiana made it so difficult for me. It was even more frustrating because we had to wait over 10 minutes each time just to finally get to talk to someone at Asiana's Korean office. Actually kimchi boy says it is normal for Korean standard. (But it is much better because most of the time, Singapore's Asiana office just hangs up after you have patiently waited. I usually have to call more than thrice just to talk to someone). In economy class, you can see a clear difference from the way they serve Koreans and non-Koreans. There are so many people complaining about their service on their facebook page! I really hope they improve.

The first issue was that they had claimed that the business class was "full" so I was put on the waiting list for almost I think 7 or 8 different dates. And I was told should there be an available seat, they would automatically cancel my economy class seat and inform me the day before. So... I had to live my last few days in Korea not knowing when I was going to part with my boyfriend, not knowing if it was going to be my last night with him & his family etc...

Secondly, I needed to know if I was packing my luggage for the pathetic 20kg allowance (now most airlines offer 23kg at least!) or the generous 30kg allowance given to Business Class passengers! I don't want to sound whiny, but I had just spent almost two months in Korea and .. maybe shopped too much so this 10kg extra allowance meant a whole lot to me..

So the call from Asiana never came, I went to Incheon Airport on my scheduled date, decided to check in early.. and guess what. Got my upgrade on the spot at the check-in counter. I did not know if I should be thankful or upset. When I got on board, there were at least 2 or 3 other vacant seats on Business Class!!! Being a typical Singaporean, the first thing I did when I got back to Singapore was to ask for an explanation as to why I was deprived of a seat yet given an upgrade so easily at the airport. So they explained that it was because there are limited amount of seats for a certain ticket class bla bla. I was really upset because I clearly remembered paying the FULL amount for my air ticket, it was not a cheap discounted ticket!!!

After this "horrible ordeal", I do not think Asiana deserves to be a Star Alliance member. I have decided to try Korean Air this May - 23kg baggage allowance, answered calls promptly when I contacted their office etc. Will be flying in 3 weeks time, can't wait!

Enough of complaining. 

Things are really different in Business Class:

Just look at the amount of leg space you get...

There is even a small corner for you to charge your iPhone.


Things are much more classier in there.

Starters.

I chose the Korean set - Ssambap (쌈밥). It is lettuce wrap with rice and meat.

You could get a mini cheese platter if you choose the western set.

Desserts!

Finally got to lie down for a 6 hour flight back home. (The chair could go down some more.)

You even get supper! Either korean ramen or a burger. Even a bowl of ramen looks so exquisite with mushrooms and green onions HAHA


You get priority tags on your baggages.

I have to admit, it was a really good experience on Asiana's Business Class. Air stewardesses were really friendly and helpful. Food was good, toiletries were from L'occitane (my fav), you get to actually lie down on a midnight flight ... I am a really realistic person HAHA. I will still fly with whoever is the cheapest. So I might be going back to Asiana in the near future :(

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jeju Island, Korea's Favorite Honeymoon Destination

Last winter we had a chance to go to Jeju Island in January. It was a last minute decision - the initial plan was that kimchi boy would return to Singapore with me but he could not leave Korea because he is too old and hasn't served military yet (long story). So after getting the refund for his air ticket to Singapore, we had this sum of money and he decided we could go to Jeju for a short new year trip!! ^^

So we booked a really good deal online and flew Asiana to Jeju. Surprisingly, the service provided onboard the Incheon - Jeju flight was so much better than the one I had experienced from Singapore to Incheon. (Will share about my Asiana experience another time!)


We went to a famous Tea Museum and had matcha ice cream. I LOVE anything with matcha.

It was such a pretty sight to drive along the roads.


This is a really famous cafe/house that became famous after it was shown in a Korean movie, "The Architect". We had not planned to visit this place but he took the wrong turn somewhere. I am glad we ended up here because the view is just too beautiful.



This is our rented car! HAHA. I made him stop a couple of times along the road so that I could take random pics of wild plants along the road.

Last place we went before returning the rented car and catching our flight back to Incheon.

One of my fav Korean food - samgyetang (삼계탕)! But I did not like this black glutinous rice version :(

So he told me many Koreans go to Jeju for short honeymoon trips. His elder brother also went there for his honeymoon. Hmmm, I personally would not want my honeymoon to be in Jeju - not because I've been there already but because I really don't feel that the island is romantic enough for newly weds.

And! I am so amazed when people tell me they are planning to travel in Jeju alone or without a car!! How do you actually do that? From what kimchi boy says, public transport is terrible within the island and even if you do rent a car, the GPS system is only in Korean.