Tag Archives: travel

Gwangju for Chuseok

This post has taken a long time to be written, but I finally found the time!

For Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, my friend and I decided to take a day trip to the fourth largest metropolitan city in Korea, with Daejeon being the fifth largest. If you didn’t know, it’s Gwangju. The city’s to the southwest of the country and when my Co’s first heard of it, they told me it was a horrible idea. Why? Traffic sucks during Chuseok, when families tend to get out of the cities to visit their families and have huge get-togethers, especially if you’re traveling south. In fact, this was what my head Co told me:

Last year, my brother came down from Seoul to visit and he fell asleep on the bus. When he woke up, he was still in Gyeonggi-do*! It took him almost six hours to get to Daejeon**.
* Gyeonggi-do is the province surrounding Seoul
** It normally takes around 2 hours by train to get from Daejeon to Seoul

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Gyeongju, Ulsan, & the 6th Graders

About a month ago, I was invited to go on a school trip with the sixth graders. I was merely told that it would be sometime in September over a couple of days. Well, the time came near and I found out the exact time and date five days before it came, which is fairly normal. However, this was when I also found out that the person who asked me never asked my coteachers. I had assumed they had spoken as the Korean teachers converse like buzzing bees and I got used to being left in the dark. Apparently, this is the one time someone decided to go straight to me, which is a nice feeling, but also means I have to deal with the fact that these three days of school trip means I don’t teach for three days and my coteachers that I teach with those days are left to teach alone. I felt bad… but not too bad. After all, it’s not like we’re all really close and I’ve pretty much given up trying to gain a relationship with them that’s more than coworker.

The first few impressions I got from the trip were interesting, but there was a definite theme. From a student and throughout a majority of the trip that dealt with Korean history and culture, there was an anti-Japanese vibe that was present. This was obvious when one of my better students, who’s a little quirky and slightly more mature for her age, came up to me and asked me if I heard of some Korean place of some historical significance. I replied in the negative and she said that it was once very beautiful – but then the Japanese came and burned it down. She then concluded that that was why all Koreans (yes, she said all) hate the Japanese. When the head homeroom teacher told me some background stories of sites, it was always because they were preventing invasion from invaders – “especially the Japanese”. (I’m sure “the Chinese” would have been included as well if I weren’t ethnically Chinese, haha.) Then you have my 5th grade co-teacher who loves Japan, the Japanese, and their language, but that’s another thing entirely.

Anyway – to the location. We took a roughly 3-hour long bus ride down to Gyeongju (경주), a city near the southeast coast of South Korea. It’s a smaller city and isn’t listed as one of the metropolitan cities, like my home city of Daejeon is (though, granted, Daejeon is the smallest Korean metropolitan city), but it’s a cute little place. It’s predominately known for the wealth of Korean culture and historical artifacts and sites that are present as well as the fact that it served as the capital of the Shilla (신라) Kingdom. This makes the city a very appropriate setting for a school field trip. In fact, throughout my three days away from teaching, I learned a bit about Korean history as well as the many other students who came with their schools to the same sites my school visited.

I got to school at 7:40 am and we left the school with a line of five charter buses; one for each class and as we have five 6th grade classes, there were five buses. I stayed with the head 6th grade homeroom teacher and so I sat in the first bus. Once we arrived, our first stop was up a mountain with our ultimate destination being a temple – Pulguksa, to be exact, but let’s not get too far ahead. When we got to Gyeongju, we went straight towards Mount Toham (토함산) and went to Seokguram (석굴암), which is host to a famous, historical grotto in which a stone sculpture of Buddha lies. It’s rather beautiful, but no pictures were allowed in the grotto. However, I did get some shots of the surrounding area.

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Land of the Rising Sun

The heat is brutal - especially when lugging along a ton of extra weight.

It all makes sense. 日本 literally translates to ‘origin of the sun’ and when I visited for the first time about two weeks ago, it made a lot of sense. At this time of the year, Japan is hot. It’s so hot and humid that I felt like a water fountain and probably looked it too. In fact, this was exacerbated when my sister and I had our luggage (and my sister had the grand idea of over-packing that she needed to borrow my huge duffel bag that I had the privilege of carrying) to transport as well. I hoped that it would get better once we only had ourselves to deal with, but that was not the case – even with shorts and airy t-shirts. I suppose it was a nice change of scenery from the relentless rain in Daejeon, and in Korea as a whole, was under due to monsoon weather… If you asked me, though, I got used to all that water and the sun in good ole Japan definitely gave me a toasting that I neither wanted nor needed.

The interesting thing is that the Japanese have a method of battling against this – or at least a way to make them look like they aren’t melting from the outside: handkerchiefs. Yes – that’s why the Japanese have the cutest handkerchiefs; it’s because they actually use them. Of course, you have those who utilise the small-towels-turned-handkerchiefs, but those were predominately used by the older generation that had no need for handkerchiefs in hip designs and colors.

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China: The Second Impression

China.

I have a history with this place – you know, other than being ethnically Chinese.
At one point, I considered it home whilst studying abroad and when it was time to go back to the States, I did it reluctantly. No. It was more than reluctance and if I had more money and didn’t have a round trip ticket back to the States with my name on it, I probably wouldn’t have come back. I had the time of my life there during those four short months and to have it taken away without my say-so tore at me. Needless to say, I was in a state of depression for the following months. Yes, I pluralised ‘month’. I suppose I’ve still been under this withdrawal but the thing was I got used to it so the aching wasn’t at for the forefront of my mind… following the first five months of my return.

Therefore, it makes sense that on my first return back to Asia since then, I decided that China would definitely be one of my stops during my vacation. And so, here I am, posting about the China Part of my 2011 Vacation Tour through East Asia. 🙂

On the way!

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Spontaneity in the Form of Water

I just got back home and I have hat hair. Yes, I know. I usually don’t wear hats. In fact, I think this is the first time I wore one for most of the day. It’s your normal baseball cap, brown in color and with the letters “AFNY” in a bold yellow across the front. It’s supposed to stand for “Air Force New York.” That makes it obviously Korean, and it is. My taekwondo instructor lent it to me for today.

See, it all started last night while he was driving to drop me off. I needed a conversation starter and what better than to ask him his plans for the weekend. I knew that taekwondo was having an outing to a waterpark today – 테딘워터파크, or Tedin Water Park, to be exact – and so I ended up asking more about it and the curious part of me asked him where it was and other random questions. He then asked me if I was going to go and I said, “maybe.” Then he spoke more about it and I said that I wanted to (I wanted to try out a Korean water park) but it might be awkward. Well, next thing I know, he told me to give him a straight up answer then and there and next thing I know, we’re bidding farewell and he reminds me to meet at the taekwondo place at 8am the next morning. And so, I woke up early this morning to walk to taekwondo and meet up with them. It occurred to me halfway there that this would include the 6 other taekwondo sessions my taekwondo place holds before mine. I wasn’t wrong. 🙂

The Map to the Park

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[05.07-05.10.2011] SEOUL

Seoul.

What exactly did I do there? Well, I don’t know. Why don’t we take a look, shall we?

Green marks the places I've been to. Purple marks my next trip's destinations.

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[110409] Strawberries!!!!

Amongst friends and family, they know that I don’t quite like fruits. To be exact, I don’t quite like fresh fruits. For some fruits, I may dislike the taste (apples were too powdery). For others, it may be because they make my mouth and lips itch (kiwis and pineapples fit this description). Then there are those I like but even so, I prefer fruit juices better. Pears are nice though a little at a time, bananas are delicious with a slice or cheese or dipped in chocolate, and strawberries are good dipped in granulated sugar or melted chocolate. If we really come down to it, vegetables aren’t at the top of my list either, but this post is about fruits and how I absolutely love Korean strawberries.

Yes. I like the strawberries here and I don’t eat them dipped or covered in anything. I also went to a festival dedicated to the small, little fruit and I ate all that I could fit in my stomach.
Amazing, isn’t it?

It's allll natural. 🙂

Now, do you know why?

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Celebrity Overdose – sort of

I’ve been saying that I was more in-tune with Korean entertainment news in the States – and it was true. I came here to Korea and things soon settled into a routine: I woke up, got ready, went to work, came back, cooked/found sustenance, and otherwise preoccupied myself until Korean class and/or taekwondo. Then I get home, procrastinate, take a shower, perhaps finished up some things for the next day’s class, and the entire cycle repeats. I don’t keep up with my friends’ list on livejournal as much and twitter is more of an afterthought. That’s not to say that I’ve fallen out of it, it’s just that there are other things that get in the way of my fangirl spazzing and take up my thought space.

That is, until this weekend, when I had several celebrity encounters in a period of just two days… and it was surreal.

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BUSAN

Busan.

I honestly didn’t know what to think about the city. I knew they spoke with an accent. I knew it was at the southern-most tip of South Korea. I knew it was really humid in the summer and that it was close to Japan. Perhaps even a small part of me knew it was a tourist destination and was famed for its seafood. Well, when I got there, I found all that up close and personal.

Green marks where we went. Purple marks future visit destinations.

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Conquering a Mountain but Yielding to Time

Meeting Place: Caf(f)e Bene

Today, I woke up early, Skyped with a good buddy momentarily, and got ready to tackle the great Gubongsan (구봉산), a nine-peaked mountain range that’s just south of my neighborhood. I walked the three minutes to Caf(f)e Bene to meet up with a couple other native teachers and forty minutes later, we were ready to go. Meanwhile, I ordered myself a hot cup of mint tea in an attempt to soothe my stubborn throat; alas, I still kept on coughing. I was eyeing the yoghurt smoothies. :/ It was a cute place good for meet-ups and they also sold waffles in addition to caffeinated drinks of the coffee and tea variety as well as other baked goods. The glass teacups they used were also most adorable, but they didn’t sell them though they did sell other items. Once everyone arrived, we walked our way down the main street and through a construction site and down what we thought was a path that led directly to the main hiking trail for the mountain. Well, that didn’t quite go to plan. We certainly went up on an incline but we were led to a dead end with a fence and these vines with wickedly sharp, needle-like thorns and I got a few souvenirs from them. We went back down, took a detour, and found the main road that a bunch of Koreans were trodding on.

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