Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Our friend's standard sized Korean Wedding

Back in the chilly depths of mid February, Rowan and I attended our first Korean style wedding. The wedding was for our old university mate Dean who was marrying his long term Korean girlfriend, the lovely Choon Wha. The wedding took place on a cold Saturday afternoon in a rather grand wedding hall in Suwon, the provincial capital of Gyeonggi province (the province where we live). 

We were a little bit nervous ourselves as Rowan and I had both been given special roles. Rowan was the best man and I was the MC. Being the best man didn't seem to involve much really although Rowan did have to make a last minute dash back to Choon Wha's apartment to get the all important wedding DVD showing pictures of  the young Dean and Choon Wha and telling the story of how they got together. He managed to make it back just in time and saved the day - good job! Dean didn't want a stag do so Rowan didn't have to sort any of that out. 

My role was a bit more unusual. I was the English speaking MC and had a Korean counterpart who was unbelievably nervous at the responsibility that had been given to him. Our job was to stand at the side of the hall at the front and read out the directions and announcements for the order of service, me in English and my Korean counterpart in Korean of course. We had to use microphones so everyone could hear but that didn't worry me as I have to make an audio broadcast to the whole school every Thursday and Friday morning so I'm used to it. Weirdly, we were also made to wear these little white gloves which looked pretty funny. Dean and Choon Wha's parents had to wear them too. 

My Korean counterpart and I stand at the edge of the room with our microphones and little white gloves.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Dragon Hill Spa - Our first jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) experience

We were given a few days of vacation during the first week of February for the Korean New Year (based on the lunar calendar, like China) and found ourselves at a bit of a loose end. We actually got Wednesday to Friday off plus the weekend as usual so we had quite a bit of time on our hands. Most Koreans used the time to visit their families (despite the Government asking people not to travel domestically due to the foot and mouth outbreak here) or, like the resident foreigners, to go travelling abroad for a few days. Unfortunately, we didn't realise we had the time off so hadn't made any plans. It was still icy cold in Korea then and we'd just got back from sunny Thailand so we did debate making a last minute attempt to get somewhere warm like Taiwan or even Okinawa. 

However, we eventually came to our senses (and checked our bank balances!) and decided to stay put, relax at home on the main day of celebrations (the Thursday) when everything was closed and explore Seoul on the Friday while it was a bit quieter. On that Friday, we met our friend Dean in Seoul and went to the Dragon Hill Spa for our first jjimjilbang (Korean sauna) experience. The jjimjilbang is a unique (and very Korean) experience and can't really be compared to anything I've ever experienced back home. Jjimjilbangs are basically public bathhouses that are segregated by sex with a floor for mean and one for women and contain a variety of hot and cold pools, showers, dry saunas and massage tables. Most of them also have a unisex area on a different floor where you can buy snacks and drinks and watch TV. You can even stay for the night which is cheap but apparently a bit uncomfortable as you're given a sleeping mat to lay on  the ondol-heated floor with and a block of wood  for a pillow and you're in a room with lots of other people, most of whom don't bother switching their phones off all night. We've not tried this form of accommodation yet as it sounds a bit too basic and a good double bedroom in a love motel is so cheap here but if I was strapped for cash I would certainly consider it. 

The entrance to the Dragon Hill Spa. (Care of the Dragon Hill Spa website - unfortunately I didn't get any of my own photos of the spa as I didn't have the guts to bring a camera in there! All photos are from other websites.)