The Big Mac(Donald’s) Update

Since I last did a McDonald’s update, I’ve gained a lot of readers. For those who are new, I try to eat at a McDonald’s restaurant in every country I visit. McDonald’s in every country are just a little bit different as they adjust the menu to fit local tastes. Eating at McDonald’s is an attempt to try and see how each country is different through the lens of something which is very familiar. I do not usually go out of my way to eat fast food, but I do eat at least this one meal at each place.

My last update was in Taiwan, so I have Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong/Macau to fill everyone in on . Brunei didn’t have a McDonald’s that I could see (but they did have Pizza Hut and Jollibee’s) and I’ll wait till I pass through KL to talk about Malaysia.

Japan

You think Japan you think seafood. It should come as no surprise that Japan’s contribution to the global McDonald’s menu should come from the sea. They have given us the Fliet-o-Ebi, or the shrimp sandwich. What was interesting was that the Japanese McDonald’s all had cheaper seafood sandwiches than beef sandwiches. This is opposite (outside of Lent) as it is almost anywhere else. The filet-o-fish was the cheapest thing on the menu and the Quarter Pounder was the most expensive.

I had a helluva time finding Diet Coke in Japan and South Korea. I guess they aren’t that fat so don’t feel the need to drink diet coke that often. I’d usually get a Grape Fanta when I ate in Japan.

In the Asian McDonald’s I’ve visited (except for Hong Kong) they had a very clever system for getting rid of your garbage. Each garbage bin had a drain attached for dumping your ice and extra beverages. You were then expected to stack your cups. Also, hard plastic like forks, drink tops and straws were usually put in a separate bin. It was very efficient. Very Japanese. The drain on the garbage is one of those simple ideas that really should be adapted everywhere. It reduces the weight and potential mess of the garbage by removing the liquids from the bag. It also reduces the volume by stacking the cups. It would be very simple to implement and I think everyone would use it immediately.

South Korea

South Korea has one of the more boring menus I’ve seen so far. The only really unique thing I saw was the pumpkin pie, which sounds like something that is probably on the menu in North America in the fall, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing it.

The one thing which sets South Korean McDonald’s apart from Japan was something you could see all over the country: space. Most of the Japanese McDonald’s I saw were very crowded. Many had spaces for eating while standing up against the wall. There were very few booths or large tables. This is sort of a reflection of everything in Japan. Everything is tiny and crowded.

In South Korea, even though the country has a higher population density than Japan, you don’t see the same amount of crowding. I noticed this the moment I arrived in Busan. The apartments were bigger, almost American sized. Likewise, the McDonald’s were more roomy and less seafood oriented. Even though South Korea is heavily into pork, I didn’t see a lot of pork on the menu.

They also had corn soup on the menu, which is something I also saw in other Asian countries. I don’t get why corn is so popular. It certainly isn’t a traditional Asian food.

Hong Kong/Macau

I noticed that Hong Kong and Taipei had way more fast food restaurants than I saw anywhere in Japan and South Korea. You’d see them around in Seoul and Tokyo, but not in the same degree as in Taipei or Hong Kong. I have no clue if it is a Chinese thing.

That being said, the two places I’ve eaten the most fast food were in Taipei and Hong Kong. I think that is more a function of me staying there far longer than I had originally planned, having a screwed up sleep schedule, and McDonald’s being open 24/7. If you recall from my report on Taipei, they had great fried chicken. The Hong Kong chicken wings were also really good. Probably not very good for me, but they taste good. The only unique thing I saw was the Prosperity burger, which was available in beef and pork. I think it might have been a seasonal thing like the Shamrock Shake, but for Chinese New Year. I also saw the Prosperity Burger in Malaysian Borneo, which has a sizable Chinese population.

I plan on doing a special McDonald’s update from Bali. From what I’ve heard, the menu is very different there.

Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

Tomorrow I’m off to Hong Kong in the morning. My stay in South Korea wasn’t all I had hoped due to the weather. I still have a lot of things I’d like to come back and see some day.

Today I was supposed to go to the DMZ. The tour group I was with drove us to the park near the DMZ where were supposed transfer to buses. When we got there, we were told that the DMZ tours were closed because of ice. It had rained the night before and the cold weather caused it to freeze on the ground. A truck also overturned near the DMZ which made it impossible for the trucks to get through.

I did get to see the Freedom Bridge and I did technically get to see the DMZ, but it was pretty far away. I couldn’t see any solders on the other side, even with my zoom lens.

I am very much looking forward to Hong Kong and finally putting winter behind me.

C-C-Cold Man

I’m freezing my ass off here in Korea. It got down into the lower twenties today (about -4 to -5 C). Thankfully, the place I’m staying is literally a block away from two of the places in Seoul I wanted to visit.

My “cold weather clothes” consists of a t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a button up long-sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, and my rain jacket (no insulation). I have a hat, so my head and my body core are fine, but my hands and arms are numb if I spend much time outside. I honestly wasn’t planning on ever spending time in this sort of weather.

Today for lunch I walked past a restaurant that sold friend chicken. They had the Monday Night Football game on live with the Pats vs Ravens, so I figured I’d go and be an American for an hour, have some wings and watch the end of the game.

The problem I have going into many restaurants is communication. Most places do not have menus in English or photo menus. All I wanted was a few pieces of chicken and some fries. That’s it. Pretty simple I thought. There was a photo on the wall of exactly what I wanted, so I pointed to it. They guy said “potatos ?” and I said “yes” to confirm that I also wanted potatos.

What I was given was a huge plate of fries and tater tots with no chicken. There must have been some sort of mix up in expressing what I wanted. Oh well. That happens and I wasn’t going to get upset. I guess I’m going to have fries and tots for lunch.

I ate most of my potatos and was pretty full.

…then came the big plate of chicken. So after eating a ton of fried starch, I had a big plate of fried chicken.

So, now I’m really full….and cold. Tomorrow I’m going to visit two sites, the next day I’m going to visit the DMZ, and then I think I’m heading out to HK. Current temperature according to the internet is 70F (21C).

I really wish I had come here when it was warmer. I was planning to stay overnight at the Haeinsa Temple and get to spend a day with the Buddhist monks, and I would like to have visited Cheju Island. That will have to wait for another time.

Off to Gyeongju

After resting in Busan for two days, I’m off to Gyeongju. Gyeongju is a historic down in Korea and has two World Heritage Sites. I’ve been staying at Zen Backpackers in Busan, which is different than most places I’ve stayed in that it is an apartment on the 29th floor of a high rise building. Everyone I’ve met here is either coming from Fukuoka or going to Fukuoka. It is definitely the place to stay if you are traveling through Busan.

I’m hoping I can work my way to Seoul in just a few days. There are only a few stops I want to make between here and there and it is starting to get cold. It was 0 this morning (I’ve fully converted my brain to metric now, by the way. That would be 32F to the folks back home). My stay in Korea will probably be relatively shorter than my stay in Japan just because I desperately want to start heading south.

The food here is very good. In addition to the meal you see in the photo, I’ve had shabu-shabu and samgyeopsal. Samgyeopsal was really fun. You could it right on your table. I ate both shabu-shabu and samgyeopsal with Hye-Jin, a girl I met on the boat ride over from Fukuoka. I a good time was had by all.

I am going to have to make a serious effort to go out of my way to visit a McDonald’s in Korea to do my update…

Sweet, Sweet Continental Crust

For the first time since I left Los Angeles, I am not on an island!

The boat ride was great and I met a very nice Korean girl on the boat over. Within the hour of arriving in Busan, I’ve had several people come up to me to say hello. Koreans are much more friendly than Japanese.

Lots of street food and much more spicy than in Japan.

Lots more to come. My internet connection here is great.