Many,many steps leading to Suwon FortressOne of the many buildings making up Suwon FortressSuwon

{Three more pictures under the cut}

I had made very careful plans for each of my days in Korea, but with the expectation that they most likely would fall through,  as I only had so much time, and I had not accounted for travel times in my plan. Indeed, I ended up spending an unfortunate amount of time just on the train!

The first day in Seoul I kind of ended up doing what I felt like, and for my second day it ended up that I simply did not have enough time to do what I wanted to do! It did not help that I felt so comfortable in my hotel room that I ended up oversleeping, of course. I had planned an early start to give myself time to get to Suwon and even though I knew it would most likely mess up the rest of my time, I decided to head off to Suwon anyway. How far could it really be? Turns out, very. The train journey had a number of confusing changes and when I was finally on the right train it was a long, uncomfortable and cramped journey. There seems to be a certain code for how to stand on busy trains in Seoul and I am not sure I was following the unspoken rules which made me feel a little awkward, along with all the other things starting with the fact that I was an obvious tourist and ending with how self conscious dressed as randomly and inappropriate for winter as I was. Despite my new hoodie, it was still too cold. As I headed out of the center of Seoul I felt it getting even colder, if that were possible. Outside, the scenery changed too, losing some of the glamour of central Seoul. From what I have seen of Asia that has been a trait- the glossy malls and such of the central city, so different from the outskirts and the towns that lie outside…It’s very different from the UK.

I am not sure what I expected Suwon to be like but nothing could have prepared me for how different it was to Seoul. It was…hectic. I think that is the most appropriate word. I stepped out of the station and there were people everywhere. I had no clue where I was going or what to do and so was very thankful to see a tourist center close by. I asked one of the ladies there where to find the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and she handed me a slip of paper with the list of bus numbers I could take and the name of my stop in hangul and roman alphabet. Well, feeling a bit more confident I walked down to the bus stop and meandered my way up and down, trying to figure out from the mess of people and buses what on earth I was supposed to do. I eventually got myself on a bus and sat down, playing with my little slip of paper anxiously.

{Lengthy post under the cut}

“He stood up straighter. Something heavy and invisible had relaxed its taloned grip, left its familiar perch on his shoulders and winged away”

seoul day one- incheonseoul day one- hotel roomseoul day one- the palace

Three more pictures under the cut

Getting to Korea was a strange combination of stress and utter boredom. Although I’ve flown before there was only once that I was alone and there were many moments where I wondered what I was supposed to do, and I pretty much used up all the credit on my phone texting my dad for instructions. Of course there was a lot of waiting around and queuing and more waiting around which led to the boredom. My flight was at 11.35pm, and I had made myself nicely sleep deprived so I could sleep on the plane, but this meant by the time I was sitting at the gate I was ready to pass out. Eventually I boarded and to my surprise, and luck, the three seats next to me were empty. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first but eventually I sprawled out greedily across the row and attempted to sleep. Sadly, despite my luck I could not sleep through the whole journey- sleep came in fits and starts. I kept waking up, falling asleep, waking up.

And just like that the plane journey crept slowly to its end and I was in Korea. Being tired and feeling slightly sick from disturbed sleep and the plane journey was not a good mood to go about my first day in Korea, but I was determined not  to spend the first of only three days in the hotel. I got my limousine bus ticket and got my first taste of winter when I stepped outside to the bus ranks. I had naively being expecting Korea to have clung onto autumn just for me but nope, it was bitterly cold as I sat there waiting for the bus and I was more than relieved when the bus came. I really have forgotten what cold feels like, even after barely two months in Malaysia I have become accustomed to being warm all the time.

(Lengthy blog post under here)

“I believe that she smiled in self-defense, using the open vulnerability of her smile as a shield, the way a puppy bares its neck to a stronger dog.”

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur

two more pictures under the cut

On Saturday I went into Kuala Lumpur for the first time. The university had organised a tour for the new international students, and it was cheap and I sort of have to socialise, even though it makes me feel tired, so I dragged myself out of bed and I went. Besides, i had been wanting to go into the city, and I am at a loss as how the trains work here to try and get there myself!

The bus journey was quite long,spent chatting amongst the acquaintances i have made here. We stopped in Putrajaya first. The sun was intense, almost blinding, and it was hot as I explored, taking many photos of everything because it was all so pretty. I had also never seen a Mosque before this and it was magnificent. i did not go in though, for i did not feel like taking of my shoes or donning a pale pink robe so i slipped away when no one was looking and walked until  i bumped into the person i had been sitting next to on the bus. we spent some time just chatting before we all of us piled back on the bus and headed into kl. KL has certain things that reminded me of Singapore, but they are not alike. I’m not sure if I was expecting them to be more or less similiar?

Anyway, we first stopped at the KL tower for lunch at the revolving restaurant. I definitely ate too much, piling my plate high with delicious food, and even higher with delicate, attractive looking cakes. I ate, ate some more, wondered around the place taking pictures, ate some more, stole some food from someone else to eat even more and in the end felt quite sick. Serves me right, really. It was just all so nice. :/ We unfortunately did’t have time to explore more of the tower, for we had to be back on the bus and to our next destination- the cocoa boutique. This was a random stop, and slightly unwelcome when we were all full to the brim. If they had brought us there when were hungry we may have been enthusiastic but as it was i took all the chocolate samples and bought nothing, and left early with a couple if friends to walk around the rest of the Malaysia tourist center. I did see a giant chocolate dragon there though, so. Not a complete waste of time? Then we were dragged to a photo spot to take picture in front of the twin towers. then, finally, finally, it was to the mid valley mall and shopping time! Except I had to hunt through supermarkets trying to find washing powder I was not allergic to (I’m allergic to biological…) which took much longer than I thought, because even KL doesn’t have it! A panicked text conversation with my father I managed to settle on some plant based stuff. though its worrying and unexpected that they don’t seem to have non bio here. hoping the plant stuff works :/

in the end I only had time to nip into watsons and allow myself to be coaxed into buying a foundation by an overly friendly sales girl. The girls in watsons/gaurdian/makeup stores are so clingy. But I found that in a lot of shops in Singapore as well as here. The girls will hang by as you browse and even when you tell them when you are browsing they will still stand by your shoulder, watching, trying to give you sales talk. Its like, back off, I am just browsing! I was in the mood to be coaxed into purchasing though, and happily accepted this girls guidance. I have a feeling I will spending a lot of time in watsons, and a lot of money, in the future. :|

I ended up rushing back to the bus but I thankfully made it on time. Tired out fro the long day, the long week, i quietly listened to music and stared out the window, ignoring everyone and thing. The next day, I took a long, much needed lie in and then spent the day lazily, working through my chores slowly, leisurely walking into campus to get food, just taking it all slow, talking to no one, keeping to myself, trying to prepare myself for Monday.

Because today, all too soon, was my first day of second year. I woke up feeling reasonably relaxed, but at around 8.40am realized I had a 9am lecture and things started to go wrong from there. I left my room at 9am and raced to the classroom, only to find myself lost, only to race to another classroom, only to realize it was the wrong one, to race to another classroom and finally, I was nearly 30 minutes late. Thankfully it was not an important lecture, just admin type stuff, and I now know my way around campus reasonably well after running around it like a mad thing. The first lecture was dull and it was hard to concentrate after a long, lazy summer and I was glad when it ended an hour early. I went back to my room to freshen up and finish getting ready for the day before my next lecture. I sat down at the back of the lecture hall as I did. One of the boys came up and said hello and I turned, startled, expecting to see someone behind me, but there was no one there, and he started to talk to me, and then he asked me to go sit down next to him and his friends.

It was unexpected, to say the least, but I grabbed the opportunity and then stumbled through conversations with him, feeling awkward, not really sure what to say. After the long lecture, an actual lecture this time which was quite overwhelming second thing on a Monday morning just back after summer break, he asked me to join him for lunch and even though I badly wanted to say no and run in the other direction, I nodded. Then, he bought me lunch. That was just strange. I felt like a fool holding out the money to the guy at the stall only to be told it had been paid for, and slightly flustered. I am not used to such random kindness, and I couldn’t help become even more nervous, almost panicked. “What does he want from me?” I couldn’t help but think. I don’t trust in people being kind just for the sake of being kind. We ate and then parted, I bumped into my other friend and hung with her until my other tutorial, which contained nothing important and was very dull, and then finally it was my last lecture of the day where I again bumped into the guy before and we chatted some more and i honestly have no idea what I said and this bugs me. When the lecturer failed to turn up we left the room and he took me to the library and helped me print my notes- and it continued to be very strange how nice he was- and then we got drinks and he invited me to play pool with him and his friends and I…said no.

I know. I should have been desperate and clingy and shameless and said yes, but I had been nervous and on edge all day for various reasons and I gave into my desire to turn tail and run. Besides, the little voice reminded me, he was only being polite, he didn’t really want me there. I was filled with doubt, and I was scared, so I ran. I am hoping he doesn’t feel annoyed, and that he will still be friendly, because he was the only one to approach me. I thought that everyone would be very cliquey and keep to themselves, so I was grateful that someone reached out, as I was at a loss as to where to begin to integrate myself into this group. its second year after all, everyone has already had a year to make friends. Also- not only am I one of less than 10 girls this year, but also the only Caucasian. To say i stand out is an understatement.

I am slightly terrified of what will happen tomorrow.


Cable Cars
caves under UV
Prospect Tower

{Three More Pictures under the cut}

My sister took me to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire on Thursday. It was something we’d been wanting to do for a while but there never seemed to be the right time. Currently we are both going mad with boredom being stuck at home all day, with all the things we need to do being the kind of dull things we don’t want to do, so a day out seemed a welcome respite. The drive to Matlock was long, we headed into the peak district, going along narrow, meandering, and steep country roads. When we got there it was around 11 and the day had become pleasantly warm. We were both keen to get going, albeit hungry. We followed everyone else to the cable car station and took the cable car up to Abraham Heights. We were in the cable car with a couple and their son and naturally their son was happily wondering out loud what would happen if we were to say, crash, or stall. I wasn’t scared though, just slightly queasy from the rocking movement. My sister was scared, which was slightly hilarious. Once we got to the top we jumped out the cable car (with more grace than we got in on my part- I walked into the door for going up, this time I managed to just stumble slightly) and allowed ourselves to be driven by hunger and immediately headed to the gift shop and cafe. We ate some surprisingly cheap and tasty fast food on the balcony overlooking the village of Matlock Bath. Then we headed to the playground where we decided we would totally go down the giant slides they had, our ages of 20 and 23 be damned. A little girl gave us a weird look and asked us if we were queuing and why yes, yes we were. I went first. I was nervous, a little scared, no longer having the bravery and fearlessness of a six year old. It turned out to be wicked fun. I laughed as I leapt off the end and laughed even harder when my sister came down, arms in the air and cheering. I laughed until I felt breathless, totally forgetting that I had gone down first for the purpose of filming my sisters go. It was exhilarating. Sadly, the second time down was anti climatic and boring. Turns out going down a giant slide when you are 20 is only thrilling the first time around.(Later we saw a middle aged man going down the slide and felt slightly reassured not to be the only adults indulging in reliving our youth, although this guy could likely have been forced by his children…)

After that we made our way through exhibitions before finally we joined the queue for the tour of the old mines there. The caves were cold and damp and the passages were narrow and low, so we had to bend over almost double as we inched our way along. The tour was filled with restless kids and the tour guide was aiming his tour at them, but the caves themselves were interesting. A little gloomy and claustrophobic though and I was not impressed when they turned out the lights (I clung to my sister and prayed for it to be over, whilst staring hard at the flickering candle light that seemed to float in the darkness in a way that was just as unsettling as the darkness itself) When they turned the uv lights on it was impressive though, as the walls around us shifted from pink, to red,to green, blue. Very eerie but cool. I was pretty glad to get out of there though. We went to the prospect tower next, and I took one look at the steps that were no more than a few inches thick, tall too, and said no. So instead I found myself sitting at the bottom, waiting for my sister to appear. She appeared as a waving hand over the wall and through pointing and shouted instructions and a lot of confused looks from passer bys who likely didn’t realise I was talking to my sister at the top of the tower, I managed to get in a position to see her and get a picture. After more shouted, confused attempts at conversation I waited for my sister to come down.

We bought slushies next, because it seems that we had decided the day would be dedicated to being 6 years old again. Our tongues turned purple and our hands froze as we walked through the woodland down to the next set of caves. We ended up sat on a bench finishing our slushies, talking about nothing until the next cave tour. The next tour was much as the first, but the caves were more spacious and less like the walls were pressing down around us. The guide was older and thankfully made none of the lame jokes as the previous. They unfortunately did the whole turn the lights off again and this time was even worse- they decided to stick up a figure of a miner and have him narrate a typical day work for a miner, with added sound and even theatrical smoke at the end. Interesting, but I was too busy staring at the hovering light of the candles again to really care. It dragged on and i was spooked enough to forget to duck in a narrow passageway, ending up hitting my head on the low ceiling. I can imagine people working down there, because they had to, but I find it slightly crazy that these caves became a tourist attraction when they were no longer useful as mines, with rich people paying to be hoisted down there in the dark, with only the light of a candle (so not really any light at all) and no guide. Dressed in their fine clothes, of course, just to complete the strangeness of it all.

We decided to avoid the cable car coming down, I was nauseous at the thought of it and my sister was still scared so instead we climbed down, ending up taking a little walk through Matlock bath village, admiring the beautiful, unique cottages there. We walked along the main street which reminded us both of somewhere like Blackpool, a typical quaint English tourist trap but this one without the seaside. There was mainly cafe after fast food place after eatery. We did make a stop in an amazing chocolate store, where we bought  marshmallows dipped in Belgian chocolate, which we devoured at once. They tasted like sweetie pies, which are  a south african chocolate which is not sold here. :(  With nothing much else to do and feeling pretty tired we went back to the car and started the journey back. We nearly stopped at  Matlock, but there didn’t seem much to do there, and then we nearly stopped at Bakewell, but again, nothing caught our interest and somehow we instead ended up at the tiny village of Over Haddon. Guided by some signs and my sisters shaky memory of going there years ago we walked along  deserted country roads and found ourselves at a river where my sister had the grand idea of us taking our shoes off and taking a walk into the river. It was painfully cold, and the smooth looking river bed was actually pretty sharp and uneven once stood in it. We cursed whilst laughing at our own stupidity. Of course we endured enough to take a picture, with forced, pained smiles. We got our shoes back on and went for a little walk, following a path alongside a river of clear, pure blue water with several waterfalls. It was very quiet, with no one about, and it was growing cooler, but thankfully still warm and no rain. We stopped and took stupid selca, my sister smiling and me pulling weird faces to annoy her. of course time was getting on and we headed back the way we came, slowly, as the way down was fine, but going up hill was another.

We continued on home but ended up stopping again in Buxton to eat, where we found a lovely Italian place with an even lovelier happy hour deal on which meant delicious food for cheap prices- and a free garlic bread! We were hopelessly under dressed in our slacks and loose t-shirts, complete with walking boots and me, my backpack. But hey, whatever. The garlic bread was slightly too garlicy, and the carbonara wasn’t the best I’ve had, and unfortunatly very messy. But I broke my diet of reduced diary to eat it, so it was heavenly. We got back on the road, were my sister enjoyed driving along the twisty, hilly roads (now downhill, so not as laborious as going uphill to get there) after months of motorway driving every day, whilst I stared out the window and tried to take pictures of the passing scenery (and failed, mostly).

it was a ridiculously fun day of laughter and being slightly crazy and immature because why not.I realized that I am really going to miss my sister when I am away in Malaysia. I can say and do things around/to my sister that I could not anyone else. We play fight and insult each other and laugh over lame jokes together. I can call my sister “bitch” as an affectionate pet name, tell her to fuck off and mean something more like I love you, but god you exasperate me, ramble on about tmi things, be totally unfeminine around her with the things we do and say and just, be myself completely because in the end we’ve spent our whole lives together. We’ve seen each other at our best and at our worst and at our most annoying and horrible and we’ve stuck together through it all. I know my sister as I know the back of my own hand.  Being around her is as natural as breathing. I hope my sister will be able to visit me in Malaysia, or we can meet up in another part of Asia. :/ Of course I’ll miss my parents too. My mother is currently driving me crazy,and ruined my lovely day with my sister by fighting with me when I got back, but I know that once she’s not around I’ll want more than anything to see her. I guess that’s family though. When they’re around you can’t wait to get rid of them but when they’re not there you miss them. :/

view from plane

I met up with my friends today, just for drinks at a local cafe, which was fairly chill and nice. One thing that did come up was my one friend has never been abroad, doesn’t even a passport. I always find that amazing. That people have never travelled, have never explored other parts of the world even if it is sitting on a beach for a week. I hate flying with a passion (try 12 hours on a plane with plane sickness aka severe nausea, dizziness and very little sleep so utter exhaustion), but I’m fairly used to it. Put it this way: I like going to new places, I just don’t like the process of getting there. Either way, I cannot imagine not having experienced being stuck on a dry aired, too cold/too hot, cramped plane for 12 hours wishing desperately for fresh air and land. I cannot imagine not having experienced travelling half way across the world in 16-24 hours, seeing the world in miniature from above and the shadows of the clouds on the earth, the rush of customs, the sinking feeling in the gut from a cancelled plane, the exhaustion and relief as you step through arrivals, the joy of experiencing a new place, the confusion of working with new currency, the intrigue of other cultures, different places. It’s not like I’m widely travelled either; I’ve actually been to more airports than actual places. But still. Travelling is good. I have spent the last month and one day abroad. And now, I have been back in the UK for a week. In some ways I’m struggling to get back into things. I feel tired and lazy. It’s somewhat odd being away for a month, doing all new and exciting and wonderful things, then coming back to the same old routine. Not bad, but strange. Probably quite good in many ways. For a holiday it wasn’t always relaxing. Not in a bad way, but it was busy and sometimes awkward and sometimes I just wanted to shut myself in my bedroom and chill by myself but I couldn’t cos I was always sharing space with somebody. But more on that some other time. I will write about the big holiday some other time, if I write about it at all. There are some memories, some thoughts, some experiences I like to keep close to my heart and not talk about here.

For now, I am back in the UK. I am 19 years old, my last year of being a teenager (as people love to say, as if I’ll magically turn into an adult when I’m 20). I am moving out of the house to go to university in September. My sister has graduated from university and is now looking for work, and I have no idea what kind of graduation present to get her. I am a little sad, a little angry, a little scared but mainly happy. The holiday was good for me. I had a mostly wonderful time being abroad, and now I am gradually slipping back into the old routine. I do in a way miss the family, and miss Cape Town, but not too badly homesick. Things are good right now. I’ve been catching up on the RSS feeds I follow, enjoying Internet shopping once more (Ebay <3), and watching the variety shows and dramas I wanted to (like material queen. omg SO GOOD. SO PRETTY. SO DIFFERENT.) I love having my cat around me again. I’m enjoying waking up late, goingg to bed late, and eating whatever I want without that horrible feeling of being judged by the relatives for my relatively poor diet. And I can eat chocolate again! And I don’t have to have 3 meals a day. Seriously, I eat like a bird. On holiday all I did was eat- from 4 course meals to tea times. Being on holiday is great but after a while it gets too much. By the last day in Harare I was desperate to get back- to my house, my cat, to the food I want when I want etc etc.

In many ways it’s good to be back. Very good to be back.