Friday, 22 July 2016

Haeinsa Temple, Daegu

If you have plans to visit Korea I'd definitely recommend a short stay in Daegu. It's the perfect place to break up your journey between Seoul and Busan splitting the 5 1/2 hour ITX journey into two more manageable chunks. The main reason to visit Daegu is to check out Haeinsa Temple and, if you have time, Donghwasa is also worth a visit. As you can imagine at the tail end of nine solid months in Asia Nick I had visited more than a handful of stunning temples ranging from small local temples in Taipei where we were privy to Chinese New Year celebrations to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We were pretty temple fatigued and, if I'm totally honest, not 100% up for making the bus journey out to Haeinsa but, as soon as we arrived, we were so glad we'd made the effort to keep pushing on through our burn out.


Haeinsa temple is a ridiculously beautiful complex located in the Gaya mountains. On the day we visited the sky was blue and the clouds were fluffy - it made us forget all about our less than lovely hostel in the city centre! Haeinsa is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, or buddhist scriptures, which are made up of 81,350 hand carved wooden blocks. My knowledge of Buddhism is pretty lacklustre so I can't tell you much more about it without quoting from Wikipedia but as you'll see from the pictures below this is a gorgeous place to visit and whether you're into Buddhism, Korean history, or just up for finding peaceful places to explore on your travels I'm confident that you'll enjoy it. 




As well as wandering, taking pictures, and finding shady spots to sit and take in the atmosphere I met and took photos with some lovely people from the Japanese and Korean friendship society. It was super adorable and I really enjoyed chatting to them about my love for both countries. If you'd like to spend more than a few hours exploring this amazing temple and the surrounding grounds then Haeinsa offers a temple stay programme where you can immerse yourself in Buddhist culture and (probably) eat some delicious vegan temple food.

As I mentioned in my last blog post I'm currently in Scotland so expect some posts on Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Scottish highlands soon. I'm going to be housesitting for a friend in Edinburgh as of Monday and I'm excited to be reunited with decent wifi (campsite wifi is always a disaster) so that I can upload some new photos to the blog. I'm also thrilled about having a cat to love on because I've been experiencing some serious cat withdrawal symptoms (including frantic scrolling through the Cats Of Instagram account and attempting to lure every street cat I spot towards me for strokes) since leaving Japan Cat Network. I'll be exploring Edinburgh tomorrow, say hi if you see me, and I hope y'all have a great weekend, catch ya on the flip side!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Purezza Brighton

If you follow me on social media you'll have seen that my travels have taken me to Scotland. Unfortunately I seem to have left summer behind in the south, it's kinda gloomy (but completely gorgeous) up here but road tripping past lochs and mountains all day has been dreamy. The food has also been uh-mazing so far. I've been taking plenty of photos so expect a blog post soon - right now I'm sitting on a camping chair looking out at Loch Leven. It's lovely.

Before heading north I popped to Brighton to grab some camping stuff from my storage unit and managed to fit in some eating whilst I was down there. I only had 36 hours so I had to prioritise and getting my paws on some pizza from Purezza, the UK's first 100% vegan pizzeria, was a top priority.


I visited early on a quiet Thursday lunchtime but from chatting to owner Tim I gathered that this wasn't usual. As the afternoon progressed the place filled up with people searching for delicious Italian food and I was excited to hear that they're in the process of adding a downstairs dining room so that everyone can get their pizza fix even at peak times.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Vegan in Korea: Convenience Stores

Coming from Japan where convenience stores hold all manner of vegan eats Korea was a little bit of a shock to the system. None of the samgak gimbap (Korean onigiri) on offer were vegetarian let alone vegan and a lot of the soy milks there contain either dairy products, vitamin D3, or both. As someone who is a huge fan of the bed picnic after a long day of exploring this was a little disappointing! I was up for the challenge though, nothing gets in-between me and a bed picnic, and I soon worked out what vegan eats could be found at the 7/Eleven and CVS stores that were dotted around the cities we visited.


It's not a long list but in a pinch you can make a filling, if not entirely satisfying, meal from the following items.

Microwave rice, tetra packs of Almond Breeze almond milk, apples, snack packs of grapes and tomatoes, and bananas - although they are shrink wrapped and on a polystyrene tray. The earth weeps. I also found Pringles (no longer owned by Unilever), the sweet potato snacks pictured above, and the seaweed snacks pictured below. As you can see I had to supplement my bed picnics, and make hotel breakfasts, with food from elsewhere most of the time.


I also found Almond breeze on sale at larger Olive Young stores as well as individually wrapped Misura chocolate and apricot jam filled croissants.


Major department stores like Lotte in Seoul or Hyundai by Beomil station in Busan have food courts with things like Almond Breeze and fresh soy milk as well as imported treats and snacks. I found vegan cocoa pop style cereals and choco granola bars from Nature's Path, Bio Zentrale granola from Germany, Ten Acre crisps, German pretzels, and Goody Good Stuff sweets whilst I was scouring shelves in department store food courts.


You can also find branches of Loving Hut in every major city and they often have stores attached. The best ones are at Gangnam in Seoul and near the National University of Education in Daegu. You'll find VioLife cheese slices on sale there as well as Lenny & Larry's cookies, Misura soy crackers and croissants, ramen noodles, and mock meats which are perfect if you're Air B&Bing it.



VioLife is also sold at DalYang Sweet Kitten and The Bread Blue in Seoul and combined with a baguette or some rolls (I only found vegan bread at The Bread Blue in Seoul) my favourite cheese slices often perked up an otherwise boring breakfast. In Busan Yammy Green has a great small store with Lenny & Larry cookies and other vegan snacks which should help fuel your beach days.

As you can see Korea is no vegan paradise but you won't starve and as well as convenience store foods there's a chain restaurant called Robot Gimbap that serve kimbap with tofu or soy meat which are vegan if you ask to remove the egg. I first read about it on the Alien's Day Out blog and I was pretty excited to find some bed picnic suitable food.




You'll need to ask to have the egg removed in Korean at most of the Robot locations. I found it super challenging to pronounce it correctly so I just took a screen shot of it on my phone which worked every time. You can also eat in at Robot but be warned that they will give you a bowl of mystery soup. I couldn't find out if the broth was meat based so I played it safe and gave it a miss. If you can't read the Korean alphabet deciphering the locations on the Robot Gimbap website will be impossible but the locations I found and ate at (with the help of Mipa from Alien's Day Out / Plant and the reception staff at the hostel in Daegu) are located at the Hyundai department store in Dongdaemun in Seoul, the Hyundai department store in Daegu, and at both the Hyundai department store, and outside the Jangsan metro station at the end of the green line, in Busan.

As you can see Korea isn't a vegan paradise yet but it's getting there and each major city has some great vegan options. You can read about my favourite eats in Seoul here and here. Where's the toughest place you've ever travelled as a vegan? For me Korea probably tops the list but I mainly self catered in Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania which I think may have given them an unfair advantage.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

London Calling

I've definitely missed London whilst I've been away travelling the world. Despite never having lived in the capital I've probably visited at least once a month for the last ten or so years for gigs, meet up's, friend hangs, and eating adventures so I've been pumped about this weekend for a while. On Friday night Nick and I met Randi and her husband Zach to catch American Idiot at the Art's Theatre in the west end. It was a cool way to start the weekend although all of us had seen the Broadway version and we didn't think that this version was as good. They changed the story a little taking it further away from Billie Joe's imagining and some of the scenes and dialogue just didn't work for me. That said our seats were killer, second row from the front, right in the centre, and some of the new choreography was cool. I also thought that it was super impressive that they made it work on such a small stage. 

The next day, in lieu of a pricy trip to Cereal Killer, Nick and I sampled Randi and Zach's cereal and non-dairy milk selection before heading into Soho to meet Sal for lunch at Mildred's. I last saw Randi and Zach in Phuket at the vegetarian festival but I hadn't seen Sal since last September which was definitely too long. Because she's an absolute winner of a human she brought me the gift of Alpo GoOn yoghurts which, if you read my last post, you'll know I've been struggling to find in my neck of the woods. Mildred's is a long-time favourite of ours so it was the perfect place to catch up. They make enough menu changes to keep things interesting but always have an amazing burger available and I always end up eating something delicious. This time it was their Polish burger that floated my boat.


Consisting of a beetroot and white bean patty topped with pickled cabbage, gherkin, and lettuce all squashed into a delicious focaccia bun this burger really hit the spot. I went with the optional slice of vegan cheese which was nicely melted and also ordered a side of their epic chunky chips. Partly because chips are great, and partly because they come with one of my favourite Mildred's menu items, the basil mayo. It's seriously so good. Nick went for the Sri Lankan sweet potato curry which I couldn't taste but dang, it sure looked delicious.

Friday, 8 July 2016

It's Strange to Be "Home"

I touched down at Heathrow on Tuesday evening after a flight which involved some of the worst food ever - on an 8 hour flight they served us salad, followed by salad with roasted veggies, followed by fruit. Sad times. I wrote a guest post about the best airline meal I've ever been served for Vegansaurus last week and I think that one amazing flight warped my expectations.

One question people keep asking me is "Is it nice to be home?" and I don't really know how to answer. I don't really feel like I am home. Nick and I are staying with Nick's sister and her family in Thames Ditton which is where Nick grew up. She has four rambunctious kids so it's a very different kind of chaos than we're used to. It's only day three and I'm pretty excited that I'm heading into London for a weekend of adult company (see you soon Randi and Sal!) and vegan eats in about an hour.

Aside from being reunited with family and the joys of long British summer evenings I've also been reunited with some of my stuff. Most excitingly my clothes, I have literally been wearing the same three or four outfits every day for 9 months which is a little ridiculous even for me. I also grabbed some fun coloured nail polishes from storage as well as my leave in conditioner - my hair is pleased! Most excitingly I'm getting reacquainted with some of my favourite foods. After spending a month travelling around Korea it seems even easier to be vegan in the UK that it did before I left. Aside from the fact that I can read every ingredient label, because I'm in my home country I kinda don't have to. I know which breads are vegan, where to find vegan crumpets, which brand of pesto to look for on the supermarket shelves, which types of granola to avoid and where to find the best vegan chocolate. I dived straight for these Booja Booja truffles at the local health food store. Love!


Loads of new products have come out since I left last October.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Cruelty Free in Korea

The beauty industry is alive and well in Korea. In the country that invented BB cream products range from the usual moisturisers, cleansers, and toners, all the way across the spectrum to skin whitening treatments, and fat reduction "hippo patches" for your thighs, stomach, and knees. You'll find it all on sale in stores across the country. The beauty industry sure knows how to prey on people's insecurities. Korea has had a surge in the rates of plastic surgery in recent years (check out this short doc featuring Gracie Neutral to learn more) as K-pop stars have more and more influence on beauty ideals. Beauty, make up, and skincare stores line the streets here and it seems that each brand has there own store; so, rather than finding Barry M products at Superdrug like we do in the UK, Barry M would have their own store selling a mix of beauty and skincare products. 


Whilst the beauty industry as a whole makes me sad I couldn't help but want to get involved with this huge Korean trend on some level. Also, sometimes you just need toiletries y'know? One notable cruelty free brand that has made it across here from Europe is LUSH. They're huge here with almost as many stores in Seoul as there are in London. But what if you're looking for non imported cruelty free and vegan beauty products, can't afford LUSH's import prices, or just want to try some fun Korean products like sheet masks?