For anyone wondering if I am still alive: yes, I am. I have been doing pretty well, actually. It has been quite some time since I have updated my blog, and the fact that my last post is my goodbye video (that summarises my last few days in the Netherlands, and the goodbye at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) almost painfully shows my lack of time management and priority setting. Or maybe writing for and updating my blog was not that much of a priority after all… Anyway, it’s time for you to read what has happened so far in the meantime.
Yes, the main reason why I did not really pay attention to my blog is that I got paid by a Korean employer. I wrote in my blog post on February 26 that I had found a job in a Spanish restaurant as a kitchen assistant.
When I started working there, I had to get used to the restaurant kitchen environment. One moment you can easily roll your pizza dough, the next few seconds you have five incoming orders. Shifting gears all the time. It’s basically just like retail, but in a more tense way.
I didn’t stand it for very long. Not the work itself, and also the pressure was ok. That was doable, as I am used to working in a vibrant and busy environment. But the fact that I had to spend most of my working hours with a guy that treated me like a dog and got me on my nerves all the time, made me look out for other job opportunities.
Luckily, I found a new job quite soon: at Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon (the international neighbourhood of Seoul). Although I applied as a kitchen assistant, I got hired as a server. And it’s the best decision I could make.
The atmosphere was chill, but as it is a very popular restaurant, it can be really hectic and busy. So the first few weeks were really though – also given the fact that I got sick. Normally, in the Netherlands, I only caught light colds and never felt like I wanted to stay in bed. But this time, it took me about two weeks to fully recover. As said: it was tough, but I finally found my place in the team. And I have worked there until September 10, with a lot of pleasure. If you decide to move to Korea on a working holiday visa or for your study, I recommend applying there for a job (if you like working with people, of course).
Currently, I am unemployed. I decided to leave Vatos to get most out of my time here in Korea. As I possess a working holiday visa, it’s not certain at this point if I can stay for longer or not. So I better make sure I do not only work, but also have a little rest and fun during my time here.
Luckily for me, it’s not all working that I have done so far. In the past year, I had plenty of trips: Copenhagen (and a quick visit to say hi to family and a few friends in the Netherlands), Gangwon-do, Busan, Jeju Island, and a few weeks ago: Italy.
Since I have visited Denmark a lot of times, but never had the chance to go to Copenhagen, it was finally time to get it off my wish list. And I really like it there. The city looks clean, people are friendly and able of speaking English very well.
The domestic trips to Gangwon-do, Busan, and Jeju Island were memorable as well. For instance, in Busan I got a sunburn in my neck. Normally I am very careful when it comes to exposing my skin to the sun. As there was a lot of clouds and rain forecasted, I didn’t even think of taking sunscreen with me. While walking around there, the sun appeared and yes, eventually caused the skin in my neck to burn. At least you can say that I brought a nice souvenir home.
Jeju Island was also nice. Since I visited Korea in 2016 I wanted to go there. Finally, I went there. Staying in hotel Shalom (nice coincidence, considering my love for Israel* and the Hebrew language), and exploring the island by car, the long weekend I’ve spent there was excellent. Hiking about 190 meters high at Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산일출봉; sunrise peak), watching water falling down at 정방폭포 and 천지연폭포, Hallim gardens and a lot more. For people who think I go on trips to sit down and relax: forget it. I can do that when I’m old and threadbare.
Funny thing is that a lot of Korean people I spoke to about Jeju, were giving up high on Jeju. They said it’s really amazing. In fact, it is really nice there. But some people seem to lose reality out of sight. Talking about Jeju like it’s the best place on earth. Honestly, it’s good, but I’ve seen better places in my 28 years old existence.
And recently, I’ve visited Italy. Going there was not on top of my wish list, but sometimes you need to give in and make decisions that are not likely. So I did that, too. And as for the country (architecture and sightseeing): I was not disappointed. Every city has it’s unique, classical style, and many buildings seem to be important.
Rome feels like you go back in time. Colosseo, Trevi fountain, Vatican City: it’s all worth a visit. Note: spending only one day there is too short.
Florence is cuter, and in my experience the best place I’ve visited in Italy, not in the last place because they serve Fiorentina steaks there.
Bologna is ‘the capital of pasta’
San Marino has an awesome view, but after just a few hours, you get bored because there wasn’t much to do.
Venice is adorable, with excellent tiramisu. We discovered a place that has 24 different recipes, but serves only 2 or 3 at a time. Talking about keeping things exclusive…
Oh, and don’t forget to bring a visit to Murano and Burano – two separate island close to Venice. Especially Burano is very cute, with a lot of coloured houses. Legend says that every house has a different colour so that men that came home from sailing, could find their own house back.
Milan is perfect if you like walking and shopping. The cathedral is the most famous and best eye catcher in the city.
Torino is cuter, calmer than Milan, and they have one place where they serve awesome coffee: Orso – Laboratorio Caffe. Though it was very busy, the staff took the time for every customer. Buying coffee as a souvenir there is absolutely a good idea.
Special shoutout to cafe Aroma in Bologna. They serve Fiordilatte: espresso with panna cotta. And it’s the best non-black coffee I have ever had (every Fiordilatte or non-black coffee I will drink from now one will not even come close). On normal days, I prefer strong black coffee, with nothing in it. I thought to go wild for once after reading a recommendation in Beanhunter, and I do not regret that. It was like heaven on my tongue. If you visit Bologna, go there!
I think I can get along with a lot of people, and I also easily get in touch with new people. Apart from two guys that I bumped into on the subway, trying to convert me to Christian, I have encountered a lot of friendly, genuinely interested people. Especially while working at Vatos, I had the opportunity to meeting a lot of kind people.
Sometimes, there’s also people on the subway, starting to talk to me out of the blue. Once, when I was on my way to work, there was an older couple. Their English was really impressive. The man fled from North Korea back in the days. And now, he had been living in the south part of the peninsula with his wife. Such interactions with people are gold. Not just because he fled from “our” evil neighbouring country, but because he was interested in where I am from as well.
In terms of spending my spare time, I’ve also been to Ultra Music Festival at the Olympic Sports Complex in Seoul, and Unite for Tomorrowland in Incheon. I’m not really a type for festivals, but a friend was unable to join Ultra, so she gave me her ticket. And for Tomorrowland I just decided to go. Because, why not?
I didn’t expect it to be this fun! Ironically I have never seen or visited gigs of Dutch DJ’s in my own country. And now, I’ve seen two Dutch DJ’s in South Korea over the past 6 months: Tiësto at UMF, and Armin van Buuren at Tomorrowland.
Though the festivals were really fun, the very best event I have attended in Seoul is most definitely Coldplay. It was an early birthday gift, and it was AY-MAY-ZING! They know how to perform, they know how to make a good and attractive show. Coldplay has never performed in Seoul before, so tickets were sold out in the blink of an eye. Luckily, I was able to go. And it still gives me goosebumps when I hear ‘Paradise’ and ‘Something just like this’. Just wow!
And last but definitely not the least: in September my best friend came over from the Netherlands. Within 9 months I have promoted from tourist to tour guide. He only stayed a week, but we had a splendid time. Of course I took him to the mandatory typical Korean places, such as 경복궁 (Gyeongbokgung), the National Museum of Korea in Ichon, 동대문 디자인 플라자 (Dongdaemun Design Plaza) and Gangnam, he chose the top floor of Lotte Tower over Namsan Tower, a woman fell asleep on his shoulder in the subway, we ate 비빔밥 (bibimbab), we watched a movie in a DVD방, we did VR Gaming (something we both HIGHLY recommend to everyone!), visited a Banksy exhibition, and a lot more.
The best part was that his hotel was literally 1,5 minute away from my room. It was so awesome to have my best buddy in Seoul, and obviously I was sad when he had to leave. But we can surely look back on an amazing time. Can’t wait to have you back here, Bas!
Anyone who had been interested in my well-being, and waited for an update for so long: please forgive me. I will really try to update more frequently, especially now that I have quit my job here.
It’s all going well, I feel amazing and I definitely don’t want to leave yet. Let’s hope that I will be able to change my visa!
* My love for Israel means the diversity of the country itself and my wonderful friends that live in the country, and it’s not related to political statements, nor to religion.