Monday, August 25, 2014

Snapshots: Jagalchi Market - Busan, Korea

My mother's mother is a green-eyed, copper-haired firecracker.

She graduated university aged 20, and at 21 she boarded a cargo ship with her new husband and travelled across the Pacific to South Korea, a fledgling democracy just beginning to recover from years of foreign occupation and war.

Fast forward 55 years to present-day and the now flourishing country has become her home, the language her language, the people her friends and family.

She's my role model and her adventurous spirit and knack for adaptation serve as a guideline for me when I travel.

This summer in Los Angeles, in anticipation of my three-week long sojourn to Korea, Grandma gave me some advice. Her face smiling under a smattering of freckles, she urged me to go to Jagalchi Market (자갈치시장)- perhaps wanting me to experience a fraction of the culture-shock she encountered when her ship first docked in Busan 50+ years before.


See, Korea is a thoroughly modern country now - all smartphones and skyscrapers and talking escalators - but the fish markets remain roughly unchanged.


Three companions and I left early one drizzly morning (fishermen bring their catches in at crack of dawn, so to see the most action you have to rise and shine).

Getting to Jagalchi Market requires a 30-some minute drive out of the main city of Busan, crossing many a bridge along the curvy southern coast.

You'll find the fish market tucked among ramshackle industrial buildings on the edge of Nampo Port, where, as they have done year after year, fishermen unload their catch-of-the-day onto colourful stands and call out to potential customers to come buy their seafood.



Although perhaps they've grown accustomed to the influx of tourists from around the world - many of the fishermen can shrewdly haggle in English and Japanese as well as in Korean - the routine of the market recalls simpler times.


I don't know what your ideas or pre-conceptions about Korea are. But I can tell you that in my 15+ visits to Korea over my lifetime, this was a side of Korea I'd never experienced.


Despite surprisingly not smelling too fishy, it was a sensory overload. Old, pushy women with wrinkled brown skin sized me up as a customer and yelled sharply to me, trying to grab my business in all the languages they knew, not sure which one, if any, I understood.


At one point we turned around to take a photo and felt a cold splash on the back of our legs. Upon turning around to see what it was, we shrieked - an octopus had escaped a bucket of his writhing comrades and was quickly making his way towards us.


Unamused, the woman overseeing the octopi grabbed the runaway with a rubber-gloved hand and plopped him back in with his friends.


We strolled through the narrow street of the market, ducking sideways to avoid darting motorbikes and pointing at strange sea creatures, watching with interest as some fought with each other and some squirted water in protest of being contained.


It was strangely fun peering into tanks and wondering how is that prepared? Is that edible?











If you're ever in Busan, take a break from the shopping, fine hotels, and holiday beaches of the central city and get better look at Korea's culture and wildlife that Jagalchi Market has on offer. Information here.

Friday, August 22, 2014


It's those lazy last days of summer where it's too hot to do much outside, too late to squeeze in one last holiday, but still too early to start seriously stressing about uni.

I've been running around from errand to errand but haven't done much of anything major. Nonetheless, here's a few bits and bobs of what I've been up to lately.

I made a cheeky trip to Brentwood on an (unusually) rainy Sunday. The main draw of Brentwood, of course, is Brentwood Country Mart.


The Country Mart is a rather posh-in-an-understated-quirky-kind-of-way open air shopping centre (with curated shops in that vein - e.g. Space NK, James Perse, and Intermix), all disguised in a quaint lick of barn red paint.

But we all know it's really all about the food for me, and the Country Mart is host to several establishments that make my belly go a-flutter, including Farm Shop, which is becoming a fast favourite among my friends and family.


I'll let you go read the description on their website if you're really interested, but the basic gist of Farm Shop is gourmet, healthy-ish Californian cuisine. Most everything is locally sourced from farms in the area and dishes focus on the flavours of quality ingredients, making even the most simple of items (like the omelet I had this time) spot on delicious.

In my opinion it doesn't matter how fancy or complex a dish is if the ingredients aren't up to snuff - I'd much rather take a simple, tasty omelette over a $200 dish drowning in a swath of overdone, competing flavours and sub-par ingredients.


Speaking of my omelette… it was the perfect texture, not overcooked (a frequent complaint of mine), and tasted as an omelette should - light and airy. Paired with some beautiful cherry tomatoes and a buttery, flakey croissant, I was a happy happy girl.


The weekend brunches are worth a try, but the place tends to be swarming with beautiful Italian-speaking people on weekends. If you're thinking about giving it a visit but are partial to a more serene atmosphere, try a weekday evening. My mother and I have enjoyed a lovely dinner here on a calm Monday night.

Or you could make some new friends at the community table (which is first come, first serve). No matter the time or day, the service is stellar.

Aaaand Farm Shop also functions as a small gourmet wine and food shop (think crackers, oils, cheese, and cured meats).


After brunch we popped in and out of shops, ducking under awnings to avoid the odd rain drop (lol Californian "rain"). Thumbed through books in Diesel Bookstore for a while. A perfect rainy day activity, if you ask me.


After we had sufficiently worked off our full bellies less than an hour later, it was time for ice cream.

Sweet Rose Creamery has captured my heart. The "artisan" ice cream tastes homemade and the flavour choices are brilliant (think sweet corn and earl grey).

I plumped for mint chip this time 'round, after having stolen a taste from Mum's last time. It's no ordinary mint chip though - no toothpaste taste - instead it tastes of fresh mint leaves.


Fast forward a few days. I put these Valentino babies on and headed out the door to The OC Mix in Costa Mesa.


Grabbed a cup of tea, settled into a comfy armchair in a sunny corner, and got stuck into my work.


Alas not without some wifi struggles. Grr.





Tired of battling with less than ideal wifi speed, S and I packed up and strolled around.


The OC Mix is a new-fangled amalgam of shops, restaurants, and businesses… it feels like more of a place to hang out than a destination for serious eating or shopping.

There's a collection of cool home ware stores. This shop was proudly showcasing the most cheerfully refurbished old piano in the front.


I just want a loft with big ol' windows where I can have things like cool painted pianos.



A nice slow August to look back on as the thought of my third year of uni looms in the near distance!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Getty Villa

I know these great girls from high school. They are never ones to shy away from spontaneous adventures - we once piled in a car after deciding on the spot that we wanted to go to Venice Beach (we always kept a spare bikini and towel in our cars in case of such occasions). I have the fondest after-school memories of consuming copious amounts of tacos and açaí bowls and "doing homework" at the beach with them.

Throwback photo.


We spread out to different universities, but all being home for the summer, it was high time for another adventure - erm, misadventure. The original plan (decided the morning of) was to go to the Getty Center. Upon arrival, however, we discovered the Center is closed on Mondays. Of course.

With spontaneity comes these kind of issues, so without much pause we turned the car around and sat through PCH traffic to get to the other Getty, the Getty Villa. We'd been planning to hit it up sometime anyway.


The Getty Villa was built in the '70s by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty as a museum dedicated to housing Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Nothing stuffy or musty about it though, it is Southern California after all - you can browse mummies and icons set atop a hill overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades.

Let's get a close up of that view.


Reopened from renovation in 2006, the Villa is a replica of an ancient Roman country home. Which you can tell from its stately columns and sweeping courtyards.


But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We ate first.


Cheeky mid-talking photo.


The money shot:


It was a portobello mushroom caprese sandwich on foccacia bread, by the way.



Then we set out to explore the grounds.




Look at that detail!


We popped in and out of exhibits, unfortunately, photos weren't allowed. There was plenty of beauty to snap away at outside, though.


My serious photographer face not included.



















Fell in love with this beautiful, slightly strange fountain.


He looks friendly.


We made a wish. I don't know if mine counted though, because I missed the fountain. Yeah…






Soon enough, it was time to head home.



We had one last look at the view...



Found the car (with some difficulty), and set off again to battle LA traffic into the evening, with Ed Sheeran's newest album playing in the background.



** I'm in the process of working out some changes to the blog… stay tuned!