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Annyeonghi Gyeseyo, Busan!

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Another 91 days has reached its conclusion and, as always, we’re shocked by how fast the time has flown by. Busan was an exciting, fascinating, foreign home to us, and though we’re excited to get back to the states and visit family before starting on our next adventure, we find ourselves sad to say goodbye.

Good-Bye-Busan

Usually, by the end of three months in a new city, we feel as though we truly understand what makes it tick. Maybe we’re not experts, but just by spending so much time around the people, their food, history, music and nightlife, we have a good idea of what it’s about. That sense of familiarity, though, is not so strong after three months in Busan. I have a feeling we could spend three years here, and still not fully “get” the culture.

And that’s despite the fact that there are a lot of things about life in Korea that we’re instantly comfortable with. Baseball. Gadgets. Fast food. Pop music. Hiking and beaches (the things for which Busan is particularly well-known) require no special introduction. But as familiar as some things are, we’re never able to ignore how different the culture truly is. Like: we’d be at a baseball game but, instead of hot dogs, the family in front of us is munching silk worm larvae.

And strangely, Busan will endure in our memories as the place where we were treated the least like tourists. I don’t mean that we blend in at all — certainly not. But there’s a prominent population of foreigners who live here: English teachers, who number in the hundreds. And there’s no tourism to speak of. So when you see a white guy walking down the street, you can be 98% certain that he’s a local. Almost daily, someone would ask me which school I taught in. As soon as we arrived, we belonged to this “community”, even though we had absolutely nothing to do with it.

So, there’s a weird dynamic here. We’re visitors, but treated as locals. We’re familiar with some aspects of the culture, but mystified by others. We’re welcomed as guests by the community at large, but could we ever really be fully accepted into Korean society? Doubtful.

On the whole, we’re ready to get moving. We’ve had some unforgettable experiences in Busan, and made some wonderful friends. And we’ve fallen in love with the food! Bibimbap, kimchi, galbi, patbingsu, 물밀면. Yum. Oh, and that last food-item? We’re not just showing off there. It’s pronounced “Mulmilmyeon”, which is so ridiculous that it’s easier for us to recognize its characters and point, than dare pronounce it. Turns out that written Hangul isn’t all that hard to master, and we’ve had a lot of fun familiarizing ourselves with the language.

Somehow, I doubt my skills in Hangul are going to help much in our new temporary home: Idaho, in the great American West. It’s a state twice the size of South Korea, with 30 times fewer people. Nature, parks, rivers, cowboys, Indians and wide open spaces await us… it’s going to be a radically different experience to living in an Asian metropolis like Busan. If you’d like to follow us on this new adventure, make sure to keep your eye on our Twitter and Facebook accounts, or subscribe to our RSS Feed.

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July 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm Comments (13)

Final Set of Random Busan Pictures

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Order Kimchi Online

Candy Land Busan

We published over 2000 photos during our three months in Busan. That’s a record for our site, and a testament to what an amazing city this is. As you’ll see in our final batch of photos, Busan is strangely compelling and offers a little bit of everything, from the beautiful to the amusing, to the downright bizarre. Taking pictures here was always a blast… we’re going to miss it.

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Random Couple in Love
Sneaky Sude
Busan-Gwangan-Bridge
Centum City
Lotte Busan
Moving TO Korea
Samick-Beach
Sneaky Camp
Spin Disk Korea
S-Oil
Win Ice Cream
Tourists Getting Lost
Soju Fest
OMG-Foreigners
Going Home
Green Moped
Graffiti Pose
Street Art Busan
Spray Can Graffiti
Summer Day Busan
Street-Photography-Busan
Taxi Art
Busan Episodes
Busan Ferry
Big Ship Busan
Busan Jeep Tour
Busan Seats
Korean Sneakers
makgeolli-Can
Cleaning in Busan
Korean Beauty
Drawing Anime Busan
Korean Love
Korean Barbor Shop
Lamp Shop Korea
Soju Hof Korea
Rio in Korea
Steel Mushrooms
Water Park Busan
Weird Housing in Busan
Bexco Busan
Traffic in Busan
Famous-Hair-STylist-in-Korea
Busan
Korean Ice Cream
BlackOut Korea
Busan Grill
Cutting Pork Busan
Street-Grill
Busan Restaurants
FAke Food
Korea Ho Bar
Tips For Tits
7-Eleven-in-Korea
Rent-Apartment-in-Busan
Busan At Night
Almost Free Candy

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July 30, 2012 at 5:03 am Comments (2)

The Cascading Fountain of Nampo’s Lotte

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An Other Great Fountain We Visited While In Busan

Perhaps the fact that that some Busan’s best sightseeing can be done inside of shopping centers says something profound about Korean culture. Nampo’s giant seaside Lotte Department Store offers enough to entertain a tourist for hours, including a wonderful rooftop garden with views over the neighborhood, and the world’s largest indoor cascading fountain.

Lotte-Fountain-Busan

The show kicks off every hour and is quite impressive. Unlike most fountains, this one showers down from nozzles in the ceiling five stories above. The precision is amazing, with the layers of water sprayed in time with the music and, at the show’s end, even spelling out “Busan” and “Lotte”.

Should you get restless during the ten-minute show, you can always amuse yourself with shopping. I picked up a shirt on the sale rack set up near the fountain, completing the transaction and returning to Jürgen’s side while the show was still going on. Juergen was so absorbed in videotaping that he didn’t even notice I had sneaked off.

Location of Lotte Gwangbok on our Map
-Hotels in Busan

Lotte-Nompo-Dong-Busan

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July 30, 2012 at 2:31 am Comments (5)

Munhyeon-Dong Inner Town

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Learn Korean

Every once in awhile, we’ll choose a city excursion that’s a little off-the-wall, like an unknown neighborhood that doesn’t ever see tourists, picked almost at random. Often, these end up being among our favorite spots: Barracas in Buenos Aires comes to mind, as does Pampahasi in Bolivia. Other times… well other times, we end up in a place like Munhyeon-dong.

Munjeon-Dong-Busan

We had read about a project in Munhyeon-dong Inner Town which sought to redefine one of Busan’s most economically depressed areas using the transformative power of art. 47 murals were painted on the neighborhood’s houses, supposedly rejuvenating the area. The project won the Korean Public Design Grand Prize in 2008 and sounded similar to the open air art project in Gamcheon, which we really liked. Plus, it was in an area of the city which we hadn’t yet seen. Gotta be a winner!

Getting off the bus in Munhyeon, we started asking around how to get to the Inner Town project, receiving nothing but bewildered glares in response. We showed some pictures of the art we’d pulled off the internet, but nobody could help us. A feeling of defeat started to sink in; when residents don’t even recognize the art their neighborhood is supposedly famed for, it can’t be good.

We persevered and eventually found a woman who recognized one of the murals, and pointed up an insanely steep hill. This was during the midst of the summer monsoon season and though the rain had paused, the sun was strong and humidity nearly unbearable. By the time we reached the Inner Town, we were soaked in sweat. We realized almost immediately that this had been a wasted of effort. Munhyeon-dong is little more than a ghetto of cheap housing and their “art project” looked as though a group of moderately talented twelve-year-old kids had finally gotten their parents’ permission to draw on the sides of buildings.

Still, it wasn’t entirely a wash. The art wasn’t any good, but from up high there was a great view over the city. We could see Busan Port, the tower in Democracy Park and the Diamond Bridge. Even so, Munhyeon-dong Inner Town isn’t one of the essential experiences in Busan.

Location on our Busan Map
-Great Hotels in Busan

Low Class Korea
Munjeon-Dong-Art-Village
Inner Village
Busan-Cityscape
Metropolis-Korea
Busan Ghetto
Cat Painting
Graffiti-Korea
Korean Bubble Gum
Korean Street Art
Silent Art
Rain Drop Art
Soju Fest
Bird-House-Korea
Buddhas-Face

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July 25, 2012 at 5:15 am Comments (3)

The Grand Children’s Park

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Toys For 1 Dollar

It was about ten minutes after our entrance into Busan’s Grand Children’s Park before we realized something was amiss. The park was crowded with senior citizens playing go-stop and full-grown adults hiking or playing badminton. But one thing was conspicuously missing from the Children’s Park: children.

Busan Art

Found near the Samgwangsa Temple, the park surrounds a beautiful reservoir which is fed by a cascading stream and ringed by heavy woods. It’s yet another spot in central Busan where it’s impossible to believe you’re in the middle of a metropolis; so serene and quiet. And the tranquility is definitely enhanced by the utter lack of squealing brats.

And this would be a great place for kids and families to spend some time! There’s a zoo, an amusement park, a practice driving course and an entire three-floor science museum. Of these, we visited only the Science hall. And we had the run of the place. I had long suspected how much better the world would be without children, but never truly understood. While the museum’s staff watched us with either contempt or boredom (surprisingly difficult to tell between the two), we played with all the awesome toys that stupid children normally hog.

This is Korea, so the games and exhibitions were guaranteed to be more modern and ten times better than in science museums back home. We spent a long time battling each other in Robot Soccer, then moved over to the simulation bike ride through Korea. We walked through a space tunnel and played with awesome mechanical contraptions designed to show off concepts like electromagnetism.

Having had our fill of fun, we left the museum and took a nature hike around the reservoir. Gorgeous; this was perhaps the most scenic park we’ve yet visited in Busan. The woods, the stream, the wooden path built high up off the ground, the peace and quiet. If you need a break from city life or just want to escape the presence of children, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place than the Children’s Park.

Location on our Busan Map
-Hiking Gear

Green Smurf
Optical Illusion Busan
Meme-Bunny-Rainbow
Tower Children Park Busan
Hello Busan
Transformers Busan
UFO Busan
City Of Busan
Busan Spa
Space-Simulation-Busan
Korean-Astronaut
Korean Space Shuttle
Robot Soccer
Biking in Korea
Korean DNA
Magnet-Games-For-Kids
Water Park Busan
Butterfly Land Busan
CocoMon
Hiking Busan
Hike Fest Korea
Fish Watching
Popular Sport Busan
Protect The Children
Red Mushroom Korea
Badminton-Busan
Playing-Stop-Go-Busan
Nap Time in Busan
Fary Tales Busan
Ewoks Busan
Korea Waterfalls
Water Run Busan
Busan Waterfall
Off-The-Beaten-Path
Weird-Pick-Nick
Where Are The Children

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July 24, 2012 at 5:59 am Comments (3)

The Brilliance of the Yogi-Yo Button

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Call Korea For Free / Cheap!

Of all the technological marvels we’ve seen in ultra-modern South Korea, only one has completely wedged its way into our hearts: the Yogi-Yo button. Found on tables in many of Busan’s restaurants, it is utter, blissful genius. Press it, and your waiter appears like magic. Leave it unpressed, and you’re left alone.

Yogi-Yo-Button

There are plenty of advancements in Korea which the USA could sorely use. Bullet trains. Affordable, first-class health care. Efficient public transportation. A low crime rate. These are all important, to be sure, but if I could bring just one thing with me back home, it would be the Yogi-Yo button. My lord, do we need this.

“Yogi-Yo” approximately means “Hey, over here”! It’s what you would shout in a Korean restaurant to get your waiter’s attention. But with the Yogi-Yo button, you don’t even have to shout. If you want another bottle of soju, you don’t wait patiently for your server to come by. You just press this magical button and she’ll come running.

Our first few times eating out, we were too shy to actually use the Yogi-Yo button. It felt too pushy, and I’ve been conditioned by my American upbringing to treat waiters with meek politeness, rather than as the servants they are (heh, that little quip ought to win me some spite!) But now, in our third month in Korea, we press the Yogi-Yo button without hesitation. Sometimes, I’ll gobble up all the kimchi, not because I’m extra-hungry, but because I want to hit the button again and watch the waitress come scurrying.

Yes, the Yogi-Yo button must enter the American dining scene as soon as possible. And while we’re at it, we should also import Korea’s tipping policy. That is: no tips ever, not even pocket change. America’s waiters have gotten a little too entitled in the past decade. 20% now standard?! Yeah, I don’t think so. “Yogi-Yo, buddy. Get me another beer and, no, I’m not going to pay you extra for doing it”. That’s the way it should be.


All joking aside… after over ten years living outside the US, I find our tipping culture to be horrifying. Twenty percent is absolutely ridiculous, and found nowhere else in the world. It’s out of all proportion — the staff is simply performing the service they’re being paid to perform. Customers should expect to receive good service regardless of the “tip”. Am I right? And sure, waiters earn a pittance, depending on tips for their real wage — but how is that my fault? Restaurants ought to pay their employees correctly. After so much time living in other countries, the idea of paying somebody extra just because they carried food to my table seems completely insane.

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July 22, 2012 at 5:51 am Comments (9)

What Defines the City?

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Dreaming Boy

It’s impossible to define Busan by just one trait. Is it the soaring architecture, the public artworks, the relaxed way of life, the beaches and relation to the water, or is the odd moments of eccentricity? All of these things and more are captured in this batch of photos. Each one might have been taken anywhere, but together? That’s Busan.

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Bunny Fun Time
Colors of Busan
Electricity-Busan
Spa Busan
Faces of Korea
Fast Growing Korea
Korean Reflection
Korea-Transportation
Letter Building
New And Old Korea
Tiny House Busan
Spin City Korea
Fog Busan
Korea
Kids Ocean
Korean In The Rain
Korean Video Gamer
Korean Perm
Black Bean Paste Noodles
Korean Chop Sticks
Risking Your Life In Korea
Palm Tree Korea
Soju-Mascot
Shop Watch Busan
Seoulkitchen
Crazy Korean Drinks
Street Games Korea
Olympic-Fire-Korea
Hershey-Sculpture
Sexy Time Korea
Meat Eating Plant
Korean Wallpaper
Automated Toilet Seats
Boom Boom Korea
Beautiful-Busan
Yacht Busan
Bloody Religion
Gwangari-Beach
Korea iPad

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July 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm Comments (4)

Busan Food Journal – Part Six

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Korean Cookbooks

Every region in Korea has different dishes, and we didn’t realize how much we were missing out on until visiting Gyeongju, which was our first time outside of Busan. There, we tried out two famous specialties and loved them both. Taking a culinary tour of South Korea would be a blast.

Food Journal: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Gyeongju Ssambap
Gyeongju-Ssambap

We had spent the evening at Anapji Pond, and it was past nine by the time we sat down at Gyodong (a recommendation from our barista earlier in the day – location). The restaurant was closing at 9:30, which gave us about twenty minutes to plow through the 28-dish feast known as Ssambap. This is the main specialty of Gyeongju; you take a cabbage or lettuce leaf, pad it with rice, add pork and whatever other condiments you choose, wrap it up in a little ball, and throw it into your mouth. And, yes, we finished everything. [More Pics]

Hwangnam-ppang
Hwangnam-ppang

These little round pastries, filled with sweet red-bean paste, are found everywhere in Gyeongju. I have no idea how many the average person must eat to justify the sheer number of bakeries entirely dedicated to hwangnam-ppangs, but it must be an unhealthy number. They’re alright, but way too sweet for my palate — I couldn’t eat more than one at a time.

Shaved Ice
Shaved-Ice-Cream-Korea

One of the most popular treats in Busan seems to be flavored, shaved ice. I know: weird. But people here love it, so we decided to try a bowl at A Twosome Place (a coffee chain which we mistakenly refer to as “An Awesome Place”, every time). I had been expecting something like the colorful snow-cones of my youth, where you get through the syrup in ten seconds, and are left with a bunch of flavorless ice. But here, the shavings themselves are flavored (we chose “tea”), and topped with any number of extras, from whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate and fruits to waffles and cookies. Delicious, and our bowl was more than enough for two.

Todai – Sushi Buffet
All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet-Busan

Located on the fifth floor of the Emperor Building (location), the same place I had my eyes LASIK-ed, is Todai which serves up an amazing lunchtime sushi buffet. The price of ₩20,000 ($18) per head is expensive at first blush, but considering the spread and everything that’s included, well worth it. Freshly-prepared sushi, grilled steaks, noodles, salads, desserts… the choice was never-ending. Soft drinks and coffee were included in the bill. [More Pics]

Cave Restaurant Yong Ggum
Busan-Korea-Cave

This recommendation after we had asked for something different in Busan. Yong Ggum (용꿈) translates as “Dragon Dream”, and is housed in a musty old WWII bunker (location). It’s probably better to visit when it hasn’t been raining. This is strictly a seafood restaurant and, when we went, water was dripping from the ceiling and the damp smell of fish was nauseating. The food was good, but we were happy to get back outside into the fresh air. [More Pics]

Shabu Shabu
Shabu-Shabu

We make at least one waeguk faux pas per meal, but were hitting well above average while eating Shabu Shabu at Chaeseondang (채선당 – location). This is Japanese Hot Pot, and looked easy enough; just swish the meat around the hot broth (the word “shabu” means “swish” in Japanese) and pop it in your mouth. But the waitress ran over to our table at least three times to scold us. Turns out that the raw egg is supposed to go into the pot at the end of the meal, and we weren’t supposed to be eating the rice out of its bowl. We forgot to cut the mushrooms, and generally made a mess of the whole meal. I had even slobbered all over myself.

While she was shaking her head and tut-tutting, I wanted to defend myself. “We don’t exactly take shabu-shabu courses in Ohio, lady!” But I don’t know how to say that in Korean, so I just sat there dolefully and took my admonishment. It was still a fun meal, and one we’ve vowed to try again. [More Pics]

Makgeolli Place in KSU
Makgeolli-House-Busan

We first walked through the Culture Alley of the KSU neighborhood during the day, when it was completely quiet. At night, though, the alley comes alive with people and a surprising number of bars and restaurants. We sat down in a makgeolli bar (location) with a couple friends and enjoyed a meal of paejeon (pancake-like dishes of veggies, egg and seafood) and a bucket of the sweet-tasting drink. The rice and wheat based makgeolli looks milky, and is served by the ladle. [More Pics]

-Our Travel Books

More Pics from the Gyeongju Ssambap
Munch Fest
We’ll never eat it all!
Belly Stuffer
Or… yes we will.
More Pics from the Todai Sushi Buffet
Restaurant-Guide-Busan
Buffet-Busan
All-You-Can-Eat-Sushi
Friss
Gaining-Weight-in-Korea
All-you-can-Eat-Busan
Korean Treats
More Pics from the Cave Restaurant
Soju Cave
Drip Cave
Cave Bar Busan
Dragon Dream
More Pics of Shabu Shabu
Shabu-Shabu-Restaurant-Busan
Fried-Sweet-Potato
Shabu Meat
Shabu Mushrooms
Shabu Rice
Another Picture from the Makgeolli House
Paejeon

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July 15, 2012 at 9:33 am Comment (1)

Travel at the Speed of Light!

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Buy Soju Online

Okay, Busan’s Light Rail Transit (also known as The Purple Line) isn’t exactly as fast as light — and I suppose that in this instance, “light” is used in the “not heavy” sense rather than “beams from the sun”. Whatever, it’s still a cool name for a cool ride.

Busan Metro Purple Line

The Light Rail connects Busan and nearby Gimhae, itself a sizable city of 500,000 people. It’s most useful as a direct connection to the airport, and actually the only time we’ve ever used it is when we were completely lost, after hopping on the wrong bus and ending up in a city that definitely wasn’t Busan.

This small above-ground train is conducted automatically and only opened in September, 2011. We sat in the very front, and had a great view of the scenery south of Busan.

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July 8, 2012 at 8:23 am Comment (1)

A Day at the Racetrack in Busan

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Bet On Horse Online

One of South Korea’s three horse-racing tracks is found just outside Busan, and we decided to check it out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We knew that we’d have fun, since we have fun anywhere that gambling is involved, but the Busan Gyeongnam Racecourse Park exceeded our expectations.

Horse Race Track in Busan

To reach the racetrack, we took a free shuttle bus from the Jurye Metro Station (Green Line) and, upon arriving, were surprised by how large and how full the parking lot was. This is apparently a popular weekend activity among Busanites. The park is new, clean and well thought-out; it’s been designed as a entertainment zone for the whole family, and not just hard-core gamblers.

Koreans bet differently than Americans. In the main building, which felt more like an airport terminal than a betting hall, we waded through hundreds of people crouched down over racing papers and notebooks. The mood was quite serious — each bettor seemed to have their own formula for predicting winners, requiring advanced calculations and intense concentration. Whereas in the States you’d have people drinking, laughing and sharing tips, here it was like being in an office full of nervous physicists puzzling out some quantum mechanics problem.

Jürgen and I eschewed such careful logic, and went with the trusty old “look at the horse” method of betting… and ended 0-4 for the day. But our bets were just ₩1000 ($0.90) apiece, so no biggie. It’s safe to assume that most of the sweating Horse Physicists at the track, emboldened by foolproof calculations, make somewhat larger bets. The stairwell, we noticed, is protected by a net, to prevent any big loser from ending it all.

The racing and gambling was fun, but what really sets Busan’s racetrack apart was the family fun park called “Horstory Land”. (Obviously named by someone without a full grasp on English. I know what they were going for… “HORSE-stery”, but I couldn’t divorce my mind from the idea of children running around Whore Story Land. And why would I want to?)

There were rides and horse-themed activities, such as a Wild West theater where each kid sat in a saddle and was equipped with a gun to shoot at the screen. A giant slide with eight separate lanes so that kids could race each other down. International sections dedicated to the history of Italian, American and Mongolian whores horses. And the genius bit: betting stations conveniently spaced all about the park, so that Mom and Dad could continue betting while the brats amuse themselves.

The center of the racing track was also a part of the park, accessed via tunnel. Here, you can bike or rollerblade around a lovely pond while the horses gallop around you. After we were done betting, we sat down in a gazebo in this section of the park and watched the races from the inside out.

For particulars such as transportation and a full list of facilities at the park, check out the comprehensive article at Horse Racing in Korea. Even if you’re not a gambler, you can still have a great day at the races in Busan.

Location on our Busan Map
-Our Visit To The Buenos Aires Race Track

Busan Shuttle Bus
Luck Gate
Things To do IN Busan
Human and Building
Horse Racing Statue
Race Track Busan
Betting Hall in Korea
Family Betting
Betting-Strategy
Showing Off Horses
Horse Hotel
Korean Betting Slip
Foreigners-Exclusive
Korean Horse Jockey
Real Korean Cowboy
Sit and Watch
Super Exciting Horse Race
Horse Race Busan
Racing Horses
Suicide-Prevention
Best Food For Children
Horse-Race-Fountain
Busan-Fountain
Do-Not-Ask-Do-Not-Tell
Sledding-in-Busan
Waiting For Santa
HorstoryLand
Horse Gate
Horse-Fountain
Seabiscuit-Saloon
Horse Balls
Horse-Princess
Korean-Horse-Posing
Peace Horse
UK in Korea
Italian Horse House
Mangolian-Whores
Korean Betting Office
So Much Fun
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July 8, 2012 at 2:50 am Comments (2)

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