June 28, 2012

The Fortress Around Suwon

My first trip to a city in Korea not named Seoul was to the neighboring industrial outpost of Suwon, the last remaining completely walled city in the country. After taking an intracity subway to Suwon, I meandered through the underground shopping mall connected to the train terminus before emerging on the other side of the road. There was a bus stop there but the plethora of routes and directions overwhelmed me.

My eagle eyes spotted a road sign pointing towards Hwaseong Fortress, the World Heritage site whose walls ring the original city limits. I walked a bit in that direction until finding another bus stop. I caught a bus here and hastily disembarked upon spotting the impressive fortifications a handful of stops later.

Suwon is also famous for its public toilets, and as a commode aficionado I  had no choice but to visit a facility right outside the fortress. Similar to Xian, it is possible to circumnavigate the six kilometers worth of fortress walls by foot. Hwaseong Fortress was constructed by paid laborers in the late 18th century, a first in the nation's history. Prior to that, aristocrats had usually forced people of low status to provide unpaid labour.

King Jeongjo had plans to move the nation's capital to Suwon. Jeongjo's grandfather had ordered his son Sado to commit suicide. When Jeongjo's father failed to follow instructions, he was locked alive in a chest until he was no longer. Sado's tomb is located in the "The City of Filial Piety", but Jeongjo's capital plans never came to fruition.


 "Rest not! Life is sweeping by; go and dare before you die. Something mighty and sublime, leave behind to conquer time." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

June 22, 2012

ARNABabe: Lost in Translation

Several Korean guys had spent a couple of hours coaching me how to say "What is your phone number?" in the local tongue. The phrase was many syllables long so I had a tough time memorizing it. Putting my new found knowledge into practice, I was able to successfully secure the digits of a stunning Seoul beauty despite committing some major blunders.

Me: Jonhabonhogamoeiyo?
Beauty: Do you even know my name?
Me: No. Do you know mine?
Beauty: Arnab.
Me: Oh...

Her voice was so melodious I had failed to capture the meaning behind the sounds she was making when she was first introducing herself. I gave her my phone and she dialed her number. For the follow up a few days later, I used a non verbal and harmless text message to query whether she was free for dinner.

She was grossly offended that I had offered her free dinner as "Korean girls are not so cheap". This time the miscommunication could be attributed to the language barrier. Tragically, the story came to a premature end before we could become Seoul-mates.


"To cement a new friendship, especially between foreigners or persons of a different social world, a spark with which both were secretly charged must fly from person to person, and cut across the accidents of place and time." - Cornelia Otis Skinner

June 21, 2012

Seoul Metro

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway is the world's fourth largest commuter network, carrying 4 million passengers per day. The stations are bustling hives of activity, with food, toilet, and shopping venues readily available. Excruciatingly long transfers between different lines at the same station are not as convenient, designed as a mechanism to keep the general populace in top top shape. Vibrant ads and thoughtful poetry adorn the platform, and television screens feature entertaining lessons on how to behave at the station and on the train. The metro functions as a petri dish to examine modern day Korean culture, from etiquette to fashion.

Once aboard, a first time rider will notice that there are reserved seats for old people and pregnant women which no able bodied person will sit in. These seats are even empty in a packed train during rush hour or late night when there are no oldsters or baby mamas in sight, as decorum must be maintained at all times in Korea. Looks of scorn are projected at those selfish enough to sit down on these without being infirm or impregnated. If the phone must be used to make a call, then the conversation is carried out in a hushed tone with one hand politely covering the mouth.

Riding the Bombay locals was an exhilarating experience, but the primary excitement was in getting on and off a moving train. The ride itself was not very fun. The Seoul Metro is breathtaking while on board, particularly as spring turns to summer. Beautiful short skirted passengers sitting on the train carefully avoid reenacting Sharon Stone's famous scene from Fatal Attraction. They are absorbed in their own worlds, applying makeup or playing on their smart phones. Only an occasional shy glance is given to the Indo-Canadian Temptation. The women are not the only fashionable commuters in transit. Their stylish male counterparts all dress alike, the combination of their skinny hairless bodies and tight shorts and shirts giving them the appearance of ball boys at a tennis match.

June 10, 2012


Many South Koreans are striving to improve their English skills, which are by and large nonexistent. Youth from wealthier families frequently go overseas to learn English and see a bit of the world at the same time. For those not blessed with the same opportunities, Korea is well stocked with white ESL teachers and bookstores providing learning materials.

Not only are Koreans eagerly learning the de facto official language of the planet, but also about the unspoken melodies of sound and smell that are enjoyed around the globe. As I flipped through the pages of an English language study guide, a certain section captured my undivided attention. Under a Korean headline, were the following scintillating subheadings:

1) Why People Fart
2) How Farts Are Made
3) Amazing Facts about Farting
4) Why Men Fart More than Women
5) Secrets about the Speed of Farts

June 04, 2012

Surgeon General's Warning

South Koreans annually top the international rankings of the most surgically enhanced people per capita, with approximately one in five ladies having gone under the knife to get some upgrades. This still leaves a lot of natural beauties around, as every other girl walking in high heels and short skirts down a street in Seoul on a Friday night looks like a contestant from the Korea's Next Top Model reality show.

Pretty much every Chinese person had an identical reaction when I told them I was moving to Korea. They told me to be careful about a nation of artificial beauties, although I usually cannot tell who has been modified. The message from one Chinese girl sufficiently summarizes their concerns for my well being:

Don’t get a korea girl~ they have fake face!!!!horrible!


Korean girl has fake nose,fake cheek,fake lip,and fake boob and ass~ don’t touch it!
They will treat you very nice with their fake body~
Enjoy it~~hahahahahha!!!!!!!!!!!
Maybe,when you kiss,her lip collapse~~~~~~~wow hu~ that will be very ugly~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Do not do the plastic surgery!!! It is popular in korea,but you just wanna Hold on!

The good thing you head off to that country is:you will be the NO.1 cute guy in the country,coz ,u know,they don’t have handsome guy ~~

Sadly, the Seoul sirens seem to have gotten a similar memo warning them to avoid me.