Bring your curiosity: Angela’s reawakening in Korea

1st August 2018

Angela works in hospitality and has forged her career in Australia’s culinary capital, Melbourne. However, her path to a familiar location has been slightly less regular. Angela grew up on a commune, with her single mum and siblings, and when she was old enough she moved to the city solo. “I moved to the city aged 18 and dabbled in lots of areas before getting locked and loaded in hospitality,” she says. “I’ve been a project manager, set up cafes, managed bars, administration... I’ve gotten quite a bit of travel out of it. Then I went back to study remedial massage last year. I’ve been doing that on the side and still working fulltime at the restaurant.”

Angela admits that living in Melbourne and putting her energy into her career has settled her down – made her comfortable even.

Angela eating food in a Korean restaurant

Whilst she hadn’t visited Korea before, Angela thought she had a fair idea of what to expect, especially in the food department. “I’m pretty spoilt in Melbourne, and there are a few Korean places I go to. Just for regular stuff like Korean barbeque and I love kimchi,” she laughs. “I’m obsessed with cooking and travel shows, but even so, Korea totally surpassed my expectations.” Despite being familiar with the food, she didn’t know much about the country and it wouldn’t have been on her bucket list – that’s why a trip to Korea was such an eye opener.

Ewha Womans University in Seoul

Angela started in Seoul, where a mixture of her own research with a little local guidance, had her exploring lesser known corners of the South Korean capital. “I looked up iconic food locations and weird stuff off the tourist track,” she says. “I went to a raccoon café—which was surreal—and just tried to cram as much as possible into each day. The Korean barbeque was the best I’ve had by far, and in a single day I visited the markets, the temple and then the nightlife. I wanted something more permanent to remind me of the experience so I ended up getting a tattoo.”

Tattoo artist giving a person a tattoo

Staircase to restaurant in Korea

Angela had a little photographic experience prior to the trip, having shot some video and played around with film cameras, but admits it’s been a while. Even at work, she’d see restaurant diners bring out their smartphones to take photo after photo of their dishes. “We’ve become so complacent with phones—‘why do you need to take a camera?’” she says. “I’ve never had access to a good camera, but I have a natural tech curiosity. Once I got comfortable with the M50, I started playing around with functions. I really enjoyed exploring and taking photos. It was natural and raw. I just walked around with the camera around my neck and it led the way. It was amazing.”

Angela taking a photo with her Canon M50

Architecture in Korea

From Seoul, Angela took a bullet train to Busan, where she found the perfect contrast to the bustling streets. “I was really excited to get out of the city,” she explains. “We went on the bullet train, and at normal speed it would’ve taken four hours, but it only took two. On the way, the landscape was so interesting with urban pockets dotted throughout the agricultural scenery.” The coastal element of the trip was not what she expected before heading to Korea. “When we hit the beach, it was really beautiful,” she explains. “We got up early and saw the morning rituals—the fisherman and the old women selling fresh fish. It felt real.”

Markets in Korea

Crab behind a fogged up window

It was on returning to the capital – in the famous Gangnam district to be exact – that Angela’s trip peaked on one evening in an abandoned theme park. It was also when Angela captured her most memorable photos of the trip. “It’s been out of action since the 80s, and all the rides were themed with pop culture references from the period,” she explains. “It got dark and started raining. The rain made it all feel so eerie, and I love that. There was lots of neon, so everything in the background was dark with the features lit up.”

Girl with umbrella in front of illuminated sign at night

Back in Melbourne, Angela says that the trip has definitely opened her eyes as to how she experiences her own city. The alleyways around home in the Victorian winter remind her of time spent exploring Seoul. “I explored as many alleyways as I could find over there, which is just like Melbourne. That experience is what I’m remembering walking home at night after work in Melbourne. It’s like a time-lapse, or Back to the Future.”

Car and man on street of Korea at night

Take this curiosity challenge:

Curiosity Tip: Follow your nose

Throw away the map and discover how the world smells.
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Landscape image of salt lake
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