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Seokbulsa temple in Busan

On the first Sunday of December Ash, Keir , Emily and I decided to visit Seokbulsa temple in Busan. It’s been on our to do lists since arriving in Korea and time is running out to do and see everything.

We met Keir and Emily at the bus station at about 6am, hopped on a bus and snoozed our way to Busan.  Seokbulsa temple is situated on Geumjeong mountain so we began by walking through the park at the foot of the mountain. Although it was December it seemed that winter still hadn’t quite reached Busan and the trees in the park were covered in bright red and yellow Autumn leaves. Because it was early the park was quiet so we could enjoy the scenery in relative peace which was lovely!

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It’s possible and faster to catch the cable car that up the side of the mountain but we decided to go on foot and reached the top after about 30 minutes.

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The next part of the walk involved passing through a rather strange place called Namman village which also sat up in the mountain.  It was only tiny and was pretty much deserted apart from a pair of ajummas sat outside their restaurant. After that we followed a path a little way down the mountain until we came to a steep road. We followed the road uphill until we reached the temple. All in all it was an easy walk.

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Seokbulsa differs from most other temples in Korea because the mountain itself has been turned in to a shrine and there are beautiful Buddhist carvings in the surrounding rock walls.  Pictures will do better at describing than I can:

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After taking lots of pictures we walked down the other side of the mountain a short way and stopped for some squid pajeon (Korean pancake) and macheolli rice wine at a roadside stall. As we left the stall we saw a couple of cute dogs on the road. One of them came over and kept following Keir, jumping up at him. We were all awwwing when he started pulling Keir’s glove off. He managed to pull it off his hand and then to our surprise legged it off down the road and up the mountain whilst Keir ran after him and we all stood bent over with laughter at his cheeky behaviour. I jokingly said I bet he does that to loads of passers by and has a collection of gloves in a little hide out! Keir chased him up the hill behind a house and then shouted down that there was indeed another glove up there! I suppose it was one of those situations where you had to be there to fully appreciate how funny it was. Anyway here are some of Emily’s pictures catching the moments scene by scene!

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awww hello cute dog do you like my glove?

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Oh you want to hold it in your mouth…

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Hey come back here with my glove!

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proof that the dog was a weird glove thief and hoarder

I’d highly recommend a visit to Seokbulsa especially because it’s only a short walk and can be done in a morning or afternoon.

Fear and Tribulation on the Yeungnam Alps

A little while back when it was still warm enough to do a weekend’s worth of outdoor activities Ash, Keir, Emily, Sam and I planned two days of hiking in the Yeungnam Alps near Ulsan. Keir and Emily had done one half of the walk before, enjoyed it and recommended it.

After an early train and two bus journeys we started the trail at 9:30am. This was planned to be a two day circular hike, with the first taking us over three peaks in approximately six hours.

After climbing steps for about twenty minutes (I hate steps) we were rewarded with our first view of the day and what a view! There were beautiful mist covered mountains as far as the eye could see.Image

The views were stunning as we made our way across the route and everything was going as planned. The scenery was very different to what we’d experience on Saryangdo a few weeks before but was still breath-taking and had a bleak beauty reminiscent of the Peak District or Yorkshire moors, but obviously somewhat different because this is Korea!ImageImage

We ate lunch at the second peak and continued to our final peak of the day. We would then be following a route down in to the valley to stay in a village called Jukjeon Mal and rest up to complete the second day of the circuit. We arrived at the third peak at 3pm feeling victorious, and took some obligatory victory pictures. Our next challenge was to get down in to the valley and then we could relax.

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This however is when things started to go wrong. Whilst atop the third peak we noticed dark clouds had started to form and it looked like it was going to rain.

We decided to get our skates on in order to get down off the mountain as the weather took a turn for the worse. We headed down and surprisingly Ash and I saw the owner of our local chicken restaurant which was bizarre! We showed him our map in order to check the route down and he gave us some directions and told us our map was wrong. Uh oh…

A little further along we came to a fork in the path and weren’t totally sure which way to go. By this time the sky was black and it was raining. There were two separate groups of Korean hikers discussing which way to go. When we asked them how to get to Jukjeon Mal they all seemed surprised we wanted to go there but proceeded to give us instructions which we thought we understood. They then walked off in the opposite direction. We continued, feeling progressively more and more worried as mist appeared and swallowed us up so we could no longer see down in to the valley below.

Here are a few pictures to show you exactly how wet and foggy it got but they don’t do it justice.

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Earlier in the day I had commented on how much I enjoyed this sloping undulating hike. There had been no real climbing and it had felt much more ambly. That was about to change. We had to climb over a small peak and lower ourselves down on a rope. Not usually a difficult task but it was slippy and the mist encircling us had put us a little on edge.

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We also wondered where everyone else had gone as we hadn’t seen another Korean hiker for a while (and anyone hiking on a well-known route in Korea will know the routes are usually packed with neon clad hikers).

We came to a standstill when we realised that we needed to choose between two routes. We could continue up over another peak, which felt very much NOT like going down in to the valley, or we could follow a route downwards. This route however was cordoned off with a big closed barrier and warning signs. Luckily at that moment two Korean men appeared out of nowhere and advised us that the former route would take us a long time and the latter route would be much faster but maybe a little dangerous. We had a quick team talk and agreed that both weather and time were against us, it was now 3:40 and in a couple of hours it would be pitch black. Therefore we decided to take the closed and ‘slightly dangerous’ route.

At this point I started to freak out internally. None of us had network on our phone and I really didn’t like the thought of taking a closed off hiking route in the late afternoon all on our own with no one else around, but we didn’t really have a choice.

The closed route was extremely closed. The bushes had grown over on to what there was of the path. By the way the ‘path’ felt a lot more like carefully locating and jumping over very big unstable stepping stones covered in leaves. Most of us lost our footing at some point (Sam had a nasty fall) and as the light dimmed my recently lasered eyes found it hard to see (an initial side effect of LASIK can be reduced vision at night) so I was being a right slow coach.

The route continued down in to the valley and was exceptionally beautiful. We walked through trees with vibrant red leaves, a small rock pool and a rocky stream. Unfortunately we couldn’t appreciate them because we were wet and becoming extremely concerned about getting down off the mountain before the light was completely gone. We all trudged, jumped and slipped along in relative silence focussing on one thing – getting out of there before nightfall.

We could tell we were working our way down but it was getting darker and darker and the freak out factor was increasing significantly! By now we’d been descended for almost two hours, it was pretty blooming dark and we were still walking. Would we have to spend a night huddled together for warmth on the mountain with no food or shelter? Suddenly when we saw some lights in the distance! They were coming from a hermitage; this meant we must at least be near a road if not a village! We all gave a cheer and then realised we had to cross a big section of stream. It was now dark and the rocks were really slippy so I had to hold Ash’s hands as I blindly felt my way across the stepping stones. Once on the other side we were safe and within two minutes we were on the road, relief flooded in to our adrenaline filled bodies and we began talking again!

We hadn’t come down in to Jukjeon Mal but we weren’t far and were able to walk there in about fifteen minutes. Keir had booked us in to a youth hostel shaped like a boat but we ended up in our own little chalet. We were all starving so dropped off our stuff and headed to a duck restaurant nearby to refuel and recover from our experience. We worked out that in fact the route down in to Jukjeon Mal is now closed so hikers don’t use it anymore. This explained why everyone disappeared!Image

That evening we decided that we probably weren’t going to do the second half of the walk the following day because of our ordeal, but we’d see how we felt after a good night’s sleep. We slept in too late to start the walk in the morning but had heard that there was a waterfall nearby so decided to visit that instead. We ate a breakfast of kimchi jjigae (stew) and rice and walked two kilometres to the waterfall. It was still autumn down in the valley so we marveled at all the beautiful colours (and took lots of pictures of course!).ImageImage

What a weekend eh!? We can look back on it now, laugh our heads off and congratulate ourselves but at the time I’m pretty sure we were all feeling scared! Still it’s a good story to tell eh?

Autumn Hiking Adventures in Korea – Part 1 – Saryangdo Island

Once the heat and humidity of summer had passed I was keen to start hiking again. However, we don’t have long before the siberian winter draws over South Korea so we have tried to fit in our final must-do Korean hikes before the weather gets too cold.

October – Hiking in paradise on Saryangdo Island

Recently Ash, Keir, Emily and I went on a stunning overnight trip to an island called Saryangdo just of the south coast of Korea. I’d read that there was a brilliant ridge hike that was well known amongst Koreans but not as much amongst us waygookin foreigners. The pictures looked beautiful and the idea of doing a mountain hike on an tiny island had me sold on the idea.

We planned to travel to and arrive on the island on the Saturday and find somewhere to stay in the village at the start of the trail. Then we’d get up early the next day and hike the 6km ridge trail before heading home.

We caught the 7:30am bus to Tongyeong from Daegu Seobu (west) bus station on the Saturday morning, then another bus from the bus terminal to a quiet ferry terminal on the other side of Tongyeong. The terminal was packed with lots of ajummas (middle aged married women) and ajussi’s (middle aged married men) decked out in neon hiking gear so we knew we were in the right place.

The ferry took about 45 minutes and the views along the way were beautiful.Image

Once there, we found a map and worked out that we needed to stay in the village on the opposite end of the island in order to hike back over the ridge trail to the harbour the next day. The sun was shining, we were all feeling pretty energised and the low key atmosphere of the island made us certain we wouldn’t be rushed off our feet with activities when we got to our destination, so we decided to walk the 6 or so kilometres around the island.

About 10 minutes in to the walk a big group of men and women started shouting us to join them. Because we had a fair way to walk we couldn’t stop but Ash went to investigate and came back with a bag of freshly cooked crabs. He was in heaven but the rest of us weren’t really up for walking and eating crab at the same time, especially after looking at the crab guts all over Ash’s hands as he ate the first one! Therefore Ash ate ALL of the crabs himself in quick succession.

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The island was beautiful and the scenery surrounding us was breathtaking. Dotted all over the ocean were tiny islands. It was exactly how I had imagined coastlines in east Asia before I moved here.

It took us about an hour and a half to walk around to the village. I say village, but it was more like a hamlet because it was so small. It was very picturesque and was nestled in a cove beneath the mighty ridged mountains we would be climbing the next day. There were only a handful of minbaks (guesthouses), one restaurant and a few convenience stores/people’s houses. and it took us about 10 minutes to walk around the whole place!IMG_5516

We went to the only restaurant to get lunch and thought it was closed. However a very old woman started shouting and calling to her friend who owned it! She came with a big basket of cabbage (she’d obviously been off doing other things because no one hardly goes there!) opened up, suggested we have some doenjang jjigae (fermented soybean stew) and began cooking for us in the tiny empty restaurant.

We spent the rest of the day playing cards in our shared room and took a quick early evening stroll. We didn’t really mind having a quiet day and an early night because we planned to get up early the following morning to begin our hike.IMG_5524

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Four of us shared this room sleeping on the floor Korean style.

We were up at the crack of dawn the next morning, quite literally, and were sat up on the side of the mountain by 7:30 eating breakfast and enjoying the tranquil quiet atmosphere and breathtaking scenery.

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We knew the crowds of hikers would turn up soon as we’d seen lots of people on the ferry the day before and sure enough as we headed up to the first peak we heard lots of jovial shouting and were soon surrounded by extremely agile ajummas and ajussi’s chattering away as they charged ahead! At one point it was ridiculous how busy the hike became! This picture just about does it justice.

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The walk took us 6 hours and there were some rather hairy sections for someone like myself with leg trembling vertigo issues, but it was really exciting! We had to pull our bodies up over rocks, flatten ourselves and slide along precarious looking edges and watch our feet. There were also some bridges connecting peaks and ropes to guide climbers down sheer rock faces. The sun was shining the whole time and the view just got more and more impressive.IMG_5558 IMG_5555 IMG_5564

When we finished we had to wait a little while for the ferry so went to a sea front restaurant for lunch. We were all totally shattered on the way back so lay down on the back of the ferry and snoozed in the shade.IMG_5566

I actually think this was the most breathtaking and challenging hike that I’ve done in Korea. I’m so glad that I got the chance to experience Saryangdo before leaving Korea as it is truly a hidden gem!

Haeinsa temple and Jinju lantern festival in one day!

I’ve been really busy at school and have been doing lots of volunteering so updating this blog has become less of a priority. However I’m determined to pull my socks up and document my last 4 and a bit months in Korea before our next adventure begins! I also plan to do lots of stuff in the next month or so now that the sweltering summer heat has gone and before the bitter winter arrives!

Ash’s parents came to visit a couple of weeks ago. The first weekend we met them in Gyeongju but I didn’t take many pictures then as we’ve been before. Their second weekend in Korea we all went to Haeinsa Temple and to the Jinju lantern festival, so it was a weekend of firsts for me (Ash had been to Haeinsa).

Haeinsa Temple

We caught an 8:30am bus to Haeinsa on the Saturday morning and it took approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there from Seobu Bus Station in West Daegu. The complex is really big and stretches across the hills for a few miles, but we had limited time there so just visited the main complex.

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Entrance to Haeinsa

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The monks were mean drummers!

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The red bags on the floor were part of an art installation. People were asked to fill the bags with rocks to symbolise how much pain was in their lives. Depressing but pretty

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This would have been nice if it wasnt for that horrible plastic sheeting in the background! Screw you temple maintenance!

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Prayer time

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Gorgeous view of the courtyard and the surrounding mountains

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Haeinsa is famous for housing the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of Buddhist scriptures carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century. It is the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact version of Buddhist scripture in Hanja (chinese) script. Unfortunately to protect it the blocks are kept stored in buildings at the back of the temple. It’s possible to view at the rooms they are in and get a glimpse of them from outside but you can’t reach out and touch them (obviously). Still, the sheer number of scriptures was pretty impressive!

On the way out of the temple we decided to share this stuffed squid between us. Ash’s parents and Ash loved it but I wasn’t so keen on the filling.

IMG_5382When planning the trip we had worried that we’d need to get the bus back to Daegu and out to Jinju again but as luck would have it we were able to get a bus to Jinju from right outside the temple! We thought this was quite weird as there were only two bus services available, one to Daegu and one to Jinju. We bought our ticket and then settled in for another 2 hour bus journey. The route from Haeinsa to Jinju is really beautiful so it was an enjoyable ride and the time passed quickly!

Jinju Lantern Festival

We arrived in to Jinju at about 3pm and Ash’s parents dropped their luggage at their hotel. We hadn’t booked anything ourselves and just planned to stay in a jimjilbang (public bath house with sleeping area) or a guesthouse.

It was still light when we arrived but we could see the river full of different styles of lanterns and were excited at how busy the festival promised to be. The river was also overlooked by the scenic Jinju fortress and a pretty park which had also been set up for the lantern festival.

We watched some traditional Korean music performances and then followed the steps down to the river where we paid 1000won to walk on a very strange bridge made out of bobbing plastic blocks across the river. As the sun went down the lanterns began glowing and looked beautiful. They were dotted all over the water and there were lots of different types!

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We ate an expensive but tasty pork BBQ next to the river, wandered around for a while longer and then walked Ash’s parents to their hotel. We managed to find a very reasonable guesthouse for 40,000 around the corner and was also showing British football which pleased Ash no end!

All in all it was a very pleasant weekend and I’m surprised how much we actually managed to fit in to one day!

Becky and Scott do Korea part 2 – Seoul

The following Friday was Buddha’s birthday weekend and a national holiday so we had a 3 day weekend. What better way to spend it than living it up in South Korea’s capital and my favourite place in the country, Seoul.

We caught the long train to Seoul on Thursday evening and waited around in the station for Ash who had to catch a later train because of dropping Betty at the pet sitter’s again! We met at about midnight. We were going to stay at Siloam jimjilbang again! I think Becky and Scott may have been a little anxious about getting sleep because we had lots planned for the next day and we hadn’t got much rest in a jimjilbang the week before! Luckily, Siloam is in a league of its own when it comes to sleeping areas. It’s definitely the best jimjilbang I’ve stayed in so far. There are separate quiet dark rooms with little individual bunks which allow for a perfect sleep! Well rested, we woke up the next morning to meet Claire who was staying in a hostel for the weekend.

Friday – Palaces, teahouses and Seoul cityscape views

Friday was a day jam-packed full of sights! First on the agenda was Gyeongbukgung palace, the most famous in Seoul. Because most people had the day off it was absolutely rammed and roasting hot (we are so English!), so it was pretty tiring walking around the grounds because it was huge. The really nice thing about the palace was the number of different sections to it. We would walk around a corner expecting a narrow passageway of traditional Korean architecture to find a lake and a gorgeous enormous building. I would say this is definitely a must-see sight in Seoul.

Gyeongbukgong palace entrance

Gyeongbukgong palace entrance

A very lovely and very very blue pool in the palace grounds

A very lovely and very very blue pool in the palace grounds

Brits abroad! Wandering through the palace grounds579347_10100507271566122_1415820917_n

The palace is very close to two other spots on the sightseeing map, Bukchon and Insadong so it made sense to take Botty (Claire’s nickname for Scott and Becky) there. Bukchon is a hanok (traditional Korean house) village with lots of pretty buildings and shops. It was quite impressive to stand at the top of one of the many sloping streets and watch old Korea meet new, with traditional houses nestled tightly together in front of giant modern sky scrapers.

Old Seoul meets new Seoul

Old Seoul meets new Seoul

It was mid-afternoon by now and we were all feeling weary, but Insadong was close by and is an area famous for old style teahouses and Korean arts and crafts so we didn’t want to miss it. We walked for a short time and then found, hidden away down a back street (obviously I asked tourist Information for a map!) a wonderfully cool and cosy teahouse, where we all ordered different types of fruit teas. Ash’s was by far the tastiest! Slightly rejuvenated, Claire was heading off to her hostel for a rest but we had other plans.

The lovely traditional teahouse in Insadong

The lovely traditional teahouse in Insadong

Becky njoying her persimmon and cinnamon tea

Becky enjoying her persimmon and cinnamon tea

Although we were really tired I felt that a trip to Seoul wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Namsan tower to watch the sun set over the city skyline. I obviously had some kind of romanticised image of what this would be like, because in reality it was CHAOS. We realised that we needed to hurry if we were going to make it before sunset, so we caught the subway and then walked at a fast pace to where we would catch the cable car and found the BIGGEST QUEUE EVER!!!!!! My heart sank. Ash and I had walked up the hill before (it’s quite an easy walk usually) and figured we could all make it if we hurried. Now I say that it’s an easy walk, but that is only if you go at a leisurely pace! It is still a blooming big hill! With time running out we had to run up the hill with no water. I’m sure Triathalon man Scott and naturally fit Ash were fine, but Becky and myself (Becky is much fitter than me!) were not happy! We got to the top and I was a sweaty, dehydrated, panting mess. To top it off at the top there were HUGE CROWDS EVERYWHERE! It was hardly the relaxing experience I’d had in mind, or experienced before! But nevertheless Becky, got some lovely photos of the skyline and we had a beer and some Oreos whilst watching a music and light show projected on to the tower.Seoul at sunset Seoul by night

Next we had to find a love motel to drop our luggage off. We went to Sincheon, which is close to Hongdae and has streets full of love motels. These motels are usually rented by the hour or the night for romantic liaisons, so it was difficult and expensive finding one that would put us up for two nights. Our rooms were lovely though! Ours had a bath in the corner and Scott and Becky’s had a tree in it! We were exhausted by the time our rooms were sorted, so quickly ate and then went to bed ready for an early start on Saturday.

The Demilitarised Zone

A few weeks previously we had booked places on a full DMZ tour and had to be at USO Camp Kim by 8am. We were feeling really excited and nervous about the tour because North Korea had been in the world media a lot and tensions between South and North had increased. The tour was split in to four sections:

The third tunnel – The 3rd tunnel is a tunnel 52km from Seoul that was built by North Korea and discovered on October 17, 1978. Other similar tunnels have been found along the border. Approximately 10,000 soldiers can move through this tunnel in 1 hour. When the tunnel was discovered, North Koreans insisted that it was made by South Koreans to invade North Korea! It was really cold and damp as we walked in to the tunnel. After maybe 100m it was sealed off, but we could feel how claustrophobic the space was. We had laughed about wearing construction helmets to go in but most of us banged our heads at least once!

We totally think we're in a band.

We totally think we’re in a band.

Mt. Dora Observation platform – This is close to the 3rd tunnel. Tour groups all hustled around telescopes to get a glimpse of the North Korean propaganda village and Gaesong business complex. It felt strange looking through the eye of the telescope and seeing this place that is so alien to South Korea yet so close.

Dorasan Station – Located 30 meters from the South Korean boundary fence, Dora Mountain Train Station is the northernmost train station in South Korea. Obviously, apart from coach tours the station doesn’t deal with too many arrivals. We bought a ticket to go on to the platform and had our photos taken underneath the sign and with the solitary South Korean soldier on guard there.photo(2) photo(1)

JSA (Joint Security Area) – This was the highlight of the tour and is the most famous part of the DMZ. The Joint Security Area is the only area where the North and South Korean military stand face to face and was the most nervewrecking part of the tour. Before entering the JSA we were given a presentation by the US army, there they warned us not to wave or point or use sudden movements when we got to the main area. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife as we walked out on to the steps in front of the borderline. Because tensions were high at that time we weren’t allowed to go in to the bunker which sat across the borderline, but were able to take pictures.

Tense times

Tense times

What you lookin at?

What you lookin at?

On the steps on the North Korean side of the border there was a soldier stood looking at us through binoculars which was really intimidating. At one point someone in our group made a sudden arm movement and some soldiers came over and warned them to stop! Finally something happened that helped to ease the tension. Bizarrely, a bright yellow steam roller began driving forwards and backwards across the top of the steps on the North Korean side, which was pretty funny!

A nice sunny yellow steam roller came along to lighten the mood.

A nice sunny yellow steam roller came along to lighten the mood.

After this we were taken on the coach to another viewing platform where we could see the North Korean propaganda village more clearly. Most of the tower blocks looked like shells and there are never lights at night, apparently not unusual in NK but our tour guide told us that they don’t think it’s properly inhabited. People do work on the farms there though, we could see people in the fields and even someone cycling along the road!

We got a glimpse of the peace/propaganda village in to North Korea.

We got a glimpse of the peace/propaganda village in to North Korea.

Once the DMZ tour was over the coach took us back to central Seoul and we went to the Bauhaus dog café in Hapjeong. Dog cafes are a very unique part of Korean culture. You arrive, buy a drink and some dog treats and then pet LOADS of dogs! We had a beer there and played with the dogs for a little while before going back to our motel to change and get ready for the evening’s festivities.

Mans best friend, as long as you're feeding them treats.

Man’s best friend, as long as you’re feeding them treats.

This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen! I think he looks like an old man!

This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! I think he looks like an old man!

Av’in it large in Hongdae

It decided to start torrential raining just as we left our motel to meet Claire and our other friends Keir and Emily (who were in Seoul for a gig) for dinner. We were also meeting Seulgi and Julia, Becky’s Korean friends who had homestayed with her parents. After dinner we went to a macheolli bar, drank lots of rice wine and then walked around for ages until we found another bar. After a while Keir, Emily and Claire went back to their hostels but the rest of us stayed out. The next stop was a luxury noraebang where we made boozy slushes with soju in them. After that we were pretty pissed and in the mood for silly dancing so went to a club called I love KPOP and got even more drunk, danced around like crazy and had a great time! Not sure I would ever be able to find it again thought which is a shame!

Started out fairly civilised

Started out fairly civilised

Then started getting a littttllleee biiittt drrrunnkk

Then started getting a littttllleee biiittt drrrunnkk

and ended up like this!

and ended up like this!

When we left the club it was daybreak and in true Korean style we went to a 24 hour Gamjatang restaurant and ate delicious pork spine soup before returning to our motel for about 4 hours sleep.

We had to check out of the motel at midday and although feeling pretty rough and tired we managed to get back to Hongdae to look around, get some funny photos taken and eat before saying our farewells to Becky and Scott. They still had four days of travelling around but we wouldn’t be seeing them again. I’d not thought about this fact until the last minute and as they sped away in their taxi I felt really sad. We had the BEST time with them visiting! I hope that when we’re teaching in South East Asia we can do it all over again!

Thanks again for some of the pics guys!

Becky and Scott do Korea – Part 1 Daegu and Busan

I’m really sorry for the super lateness of this post and my general lack of posting. I’ve been so busy with volunteering, extra-curricular opportunities and fostering ANOTHER beagle (but more about that later!), I’ve not had any time to write on here. At last the first semester is over and I have no classes to keep me occupied so here goes.

In May my friends Becky and Scott flew in to Korea for two weeks of sightseeing and yummy food shaped fun with us and our friends.

After a mammoth flight and a four hour train journey a very tired Scott and Becky arrived in Daegu. I met them at the train station and escorted them back to my flat which would be their base for a few days. That evening Scott, Becky, Ash and I met up for the first of what would be many Korean barbecues. It was, of course, a hit!

Friday night fun in Daegu

We were at school on Friday and Becky and Scott needed their rest so in the evening we went out with some friends for food. However, after facing an extremely busy restaurant we decided to wait for a while in a bar in the same block on the top floor and got stuck in the lift for 30 minutes! It was quite distressing towards the end, with friends passing a straw through for us to drink water, but we were finally freed and given a free drink each and some complimentary snacks by the bar! Fortunately we managed to get seats in our desired restaurant, then went to Gogo Bar to drink lots of lethal cocktails in a bag, sang our hearts out at Noraebang and went home about 2am after a kebab! These pictures speak for themselves (and our state).ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Hungover in Busan

We were supposed to get a 7:30am train to Busan on the Saturday morning, but were all feeling very delicate from the night before so rearranged our tickets for a more reasonable 10am.  We headed straight to Haeundae beach. It was roasting so we walked in the freezing surf before deciding that we needed hair of the dog and sat nursing a beer. We waited for our friend Claire who was coming to meet us, then went to a traditional restaurant in the market behind the beach for a huge and very tasty, huge and reasonably priced lunch.Haeundae beachHaeundae markettasty lunch in Haeundae market

We spent the afternoon taking a wander up Dalmaji Hill which sits above Haeundae beach and offers amazing views of the coast, with giant sky scrapers jutting out into the sea. It’s a nice easy stroll and the road actually leads around to another quieter beach which would be a nice hike.

aeundae from Dalmaji Hill. You can even see the awesome Gwangalli bridge in the distance

Haeundae beach from Dalmaji Hill. You can even see the awesome Gwangalli bridge in the distance

In the evening we caught the subway over to Gwangalli beach to see the famous Gwangalli bridge, eat and stay in a jimjilbang close by called Gwangan Haesu World so that Scott, Becky and Claire could have their first overnight Korean jimjilbang experience!

Everyone was totally exhausted by this point and ready for bed but first we had to use the gender separated public baths. It’s always a strange experience being naked in front of friends (and lots of Koreans) for the first time but Becky took it in her stride! Unfortunately the sleeping area was SOOOOOO HOT and stuffy we didn’t manage to get a great night’s sleep, although we did realise in the morning that it had a gorgeous view of the bridge.

A Sunday packed to the seams

We had lots planned on Sunday and our first stop was a small very retro fairground close by, where the rides overlooked the sea. It was very old-school but a nice experience.

Afterwards we caught a a taxi to Yongugsa temple, which is near to Songjeong beach about 30 minutes away. This temple is unique in Korea because  usually they are found in the mountains, but Yongungsa (the water temple) sits on the rocks next to the ocean. It was really busy but very scenic and pretty, even more so because there were hundreds (if not thousands) of brightly coloured lanterns hung around in preparation for Buddha’s birthday the following week. Yongugsa temple gorgeous lanterns ready for Buddha's birthday More lovely lanterns People praying at Yongugsa temple

Ash had to leave early to collect Betty from her pet sitter’s and Claire was going to join him, however the traffic coming back from the temple was total gridlock. They had to hop off our bus and race for the subway, but still missed their train!

Becky, Scott and I had decided to stay a little longer to visit Jagalchi fish market and Nampo Dong international market. We spent an extra couple of hours feeling sorry for the poor fish in the market but happy that a place like this was thriving, then wandering around the many tiny congested alleys of the market before catching a train back to Daegu. We were totally shattered but satisfied after an action-packed weekend.

The following week we went to Seoul! I’ll try to get a post about that up in the next couple of days. Thanks to Becky and Scott for letting me nab their pictures!

Jagalchi fish market, Busan Jagalchi fish market, Busan Street noodle stalls in Nampo Dong, Busan

Biseulsan azalea photos

Last Wednesday was labour day so we were off school. Some friends and I decided to hike up mt Biseulsan. It’s famous at this time of year for a plateau of Azaleas high up in the mountain.

The weather wasn’t the best and we were freezing by the time we got to the Azalea field. There was also a big ominous grey cloud in the sky so we decided to give the summit a miss, which means I’ll have to go back soon to complete the hike. Anyway here are some pictures:

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WORD A WEEK CHALLENGE – Orange

WORD A WEEK CHALLENGE - Orange

I tried to complete a photo a day challenge for every day in January but I’m nowhere near dedicated enough for that.

However I have a photo perfect for this week’s Word a Week Challenge – Orange.http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/a-word-a-week-challenge-orange-2/

The writer chooses a word from the dictionary each weeks and challenges readers to upload a photo so here is mine.

Orange shops are a regular site in Korea. They sell traditional Korean food such as gimbabs, bibimbab and jjigaes and are often open 24 hours to satisfy their hungry patrons. Not only is the food delicious, it’s also really cheap 🙂

Food of the gods – Korean cuisine

I’ve been in Korea for 14 months so I think I might now have enough knowledge to write a blog specifically about Korean food. That and the fact I want my friends Beccy and Scott who are coming to visit NEXT WEEK, to get excited and start dribbling in public.

I was a little concerned  when we first moved here that I’d have some food issues. But apart from a few hiccups where we’ve ordered raw beef with a raw egg on it,  the seafood that exploded in my mouth, cockworms (which I’ve never ever eaten), horrible smelling cooked grubs and the old mushroom stew debacle in March I think I’ve been fine, especially considering how fussy I used to be. That’s probably because most Korean food is DELICIOUS.

So here is a lowdown but no where near exhaustive list of some Korean food I like. By the way most of these pictures are mine but the kimchi and mandu are from the t’internet due to forgetting to take pictures in time!

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Kimchi

KimchiKimchi is the national food of Korea and is served up with pretty much every Korean meal as a side dish. It’s basically fermented cabbage or radish in a spicy red pepper sauce.  When I initially came here I liked it, then I went off it because I was getting it with most Korean meals  and felt like it was overkill. However I now find myself well and truly hooked again. I think it’s especially tasty when cooked on a Korean barbecure.  It’s really healthy, spicy, good for digestion and weight loss .

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Chamchi (tuna) gimbab

Gimbab Gimbab is a king amongst snacks as it’s filling, tasty and healthy. It looks like sushi rolls and consists of rice and various fillings wrapped up in seaweed (similar to sushi rolls but bigger). There are usually a few different varieties to choose from including plain, pork, cheese, wrapped in egg and my favourite, chamchi (tuna).

As a tip, the gimbab shops (which usually sell an array of other dishes such as noodles and dumplings) are often orange or red on the outside and have a similar appearance. Many are open 24 hours so you can get a cheap meal at any time of the day. Also, if you sit in to eat you usually get a couple of side dishes and a little bowl of soup. The average price in Daegu is 2000-2500won for gimbab which is up to about £1.50.Image

Mandu – Dimsum/Dumplings. Oh god I feel like I’m a bit obsessed with these at the minute.  These are easy to pick up in Korea and a nice filling lunch. As long as they are steamed they are healthy too! You can also get them fried. They are often filled with pork and I really like Kimchi mandu as they have an extra spicy kick. Orange shops sell these but you’ll also see special mandu shops with steaming pots outside.

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Kimchi Mandu (stuff with kimchi and pork)

Toppoki – I wasn’t initially a fan of this but it’s a grower. This is a favourite amongst Korean school kids and I’ll often see them on the way to their evening classes with pots of it. It’s basically really chewy rice cakes in a spicy tomato sauce. There just isn’t enough going on with this for me to eat this on its own though.

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A school child’s dream – Toppoki

Doenjang/sundubu jjigae – Jjigaes are stew like soups filled with vegetables and beans and served with rice. My favourite of these is Doenjang jjigae, made with a distinct tasting soya bean paste. If you buy these from orange shops often they will come packed with tofu, pumpkin, courgette and if you’re lucky a few shelled clams. I actually have a go at making this myself now because all you have to do is combine the soya paste with anchovy stock and all the fillings. It never tastes as nice at home though.

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Doenjang jjigae – super chuffed with this one because I got a fried egg!

 Bibimbab – Bibimbab is a simple, delicious dish and is one of the more internationally known Korean meals.  Bibimbab literally means ‘bibim –mixed bab – rice‘ and that’s exactly what it is! It comes in a big bowl with other vegetables (the types can really vary), red pepper paste and if you’re lucky an egg. You then mix it all together and eat it. Dolsot bibimbab is the same thing but in an earthern bowl. Whenever bibimbab is served for lunch in my school everyone, teachers and students alike, get really excited about it!

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This was a rather posh bibimbab you don’t usually get a flower on top!

 Galbi – Galbi is basically Korean barbecue. You go, choose what  type and style of meat you want and then cook it yourself on a grill in the centre of the table. There are lots of different styles of galbi restaurants dotted around the place.  Lettuce is almost always provided and you put the meat inside and wrap it up. There are usually a few different side dishes as well, including the mighty Samjang (soy bean paste). Going for a barbecue is one of my favourite ways of socialising with friends.

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Old barbecue pic from when my bestie Jules came to visit last year.

Samgyetang  – Small whole chickens stuffed with ginseng, chestnut and rice in a clear but tasty broth. I’ve had this a couple of times where it was a bit bland, but if done properly it’s amazing. Apparently there are three specific days a year during summer when Koreans eat this to help cool and cleanse them in the heat.

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Samgyetang

Gamjatang – This is pig spine and potato soup and is up there as one of my favourite Korean dishes. You’d never have thought that would be the case when I was presented with it when we first arrived to Korea and I almost refused to eat it. It’s really rich, tasty, spicy and the meat is so succulent and tender I feel like crying when I realise I can get nothing else off the bone. It’s good to get some rice with this and dip it in to the liquid and is often termed hangover stew amongst Koreans! Perfect for demolishing your hangover or cold.

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Gamjatang – Gamja actually means potatoes but there is usually more pork spine than potato in this soup (tang) so it’s a bit of a weird name really.

Jimddak – This is a spicy rich tasting chicken, vegetable, potato and noodle casserole. There’s usually a mixture of different types of chicken (leg, wing, breast) and again it’s nice to get rice to dip in the sauce. I crave this sooo much but usually it only comes in an enormous portion meant for four people. Ash and I have managed to demolish a whole one between us on a regular basis though whoops!

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Jimmdak – Spicy, rich and delicious.

Jeons (pajeon, gamjajeon, kimchijeon etc) – Koreans often call this Korean pizza, but its actually more like a cross between an omelette and a pancake. They are really tasty and come in a variety of styles with different fillings such as potatoes and seafood. A common version is pajeon. This comes with fresh spring onions and greens incorporated in to the mix. Those frequenting macheolli bars and late night drinking establishments may find that they have to purchase these to accompany their alcohol. Sorry for the extremely poor photo I took it in a bar at night!Image

Bing Su – A korean dessert comprising of various fillings and like jeons different types of bingsu’s have different names. Often they include milk, ice cream, crushed ice, red beans, fruit and possibly cornflakes (takes a bit of getting used to thinking about cornflakes as a dessert!). These are a great and tasty way to cool down in the heat of the Korean summer! Quite often two people will share one large bowl.

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Patbingsu – Had this after our hike in Daegu. This one included chunks of rice cake and strawberries but they vary place to place.

Side dishes – You might have noticed that a lot of the pictures above include a few side dishes, this is another great thing about Korean food, the freebies. If you go to a restaurant pretty much all meals will come with some accompanying side dishes. They will vary greatly and will depend on what your meal is.  In traditional Korean restaurants you can get as many as 15 little dishes of sides!

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Lots of side dishes and a big pajeon before our main meal had arrived!

Food and dining are an important part of Korean culture, by getting involved and eating as many different dishes as possible you can really immerse yourself in the traditions, customs in Korea.

Of course there is lots of western food available because it’s so westernised here, there are about three bakeries on every street! But they have been tailored to Korean tastes and in many cases don’t taste very western at all.  I have to say though, it often doesn’t satisfy me, I find that often the Korean versions of pizza, pasta, garlic bread etc are too sweet and not to my taste. I would much prefer a big tasty bowl of gamjatang to a sweet potato or bulgogi (marinated beef) pizza. That said, one thing I think Koreans are actually really good at (definitely better than England) is fried chicken. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I hadnt eaten fried chicken for maybe 8 years before coming here, now I often eat it because it’s so much nicer here.

Writing that has made me hungry, fingers crossed for a bibimbab lunch at  school today!

3 hikes, 3 days, 1 city

I managed to fit three separate hikes in to last weekend. So for anyone in Daegu, interested in hiking in Korea, or if you just want to read about/look at pictures from those hikes here you go!

Day 1 – Friday Apsan night time hike

I’ve hiked and written about Apsan a few times before but only in the day. However, I’d been told about other people climbing up at night so some friends and I decided to go on an evening hike there last Friday. We met in the car park at about 6pm and set off knowing we had to hurry as sunset was at 7:15. If you walk up to the cable car building and carry on behind it you can take a nice hike up to the top and walk along the ridge between two peaks. We got to the top just in time to watch dusk cover the city. The view was even more breathtaking than usual and it was unusually peaceful as it was just us, compared to weekend days when there would be lots of brightly attired hikers trudging around. As it wasn’t totally dark yet we could still make out the many hills and mountains that surround the city as well as the hundreds of tower blocks that make up Daegu.ImageImageImageImage   Aware that night was drawing in we started walking across the ridge to the other main peak. The plan had been to catch the cable car down but that stopped at 5:30 so we realised we’d have to hike down in the dark. We’d bought Ash’s head torch to help guide the way but being the silly people we are forgot to check the batteries beforehand. As you can guess the headlamp barely worked but luckily Emily had a torch app on her phone. At the other end of the ridge there is a large white platform that is illuminated at night. From there we could observe the pretty lights below and hear the drum of the traffic and city life beneath us.Image It took us another half an hour or so to find our way down the mountain, after which we caught a bus and went for some yummy gamjatang before heading our separate ways for some well deserved sleep!

Day 2 Daegok/Sangin Sam pil san

On Saturday we met our friend Sam in his neighbourhood in the afternoon as he’d mentioned some nice trails nearby. Once equipped with water, we started by walking up through a local park on to a trail that skirted around a  pretty reservoir. Image The main part of the walk wasn’t too difficult as this mountain was smaller than Apsan.The path wound through the now lush green foliage, slowly leading us up once again above the city. ImageAlong the way we also saw a traditional Korean burial site which included burial mounds, mini stone pagodas and buddhas, its weird but I am quite fascinated by graveyards so I loved finding this. We continued onwards and upwards. I had stupidly decided to wear plimsolls so felt like I was hiking bare foot and really didn’t very safe as we scrambled to the top which was really steep and windy. At the peak there was little wooden platform and only one other couple again so we could take in the surroundings in peace. A very nice little local walk.Image

Day 3 hike near Paldal bridge northwest Daegu

Ash and I were a bit hungover on Sunday after going out the previous night for dinner and some drinks. We’d made plans to go for another long walk with Emily and Keir so hopped in to a taxi and sped across the city to meet them near paldal bridge. Along the way we were in fits of laughter watching Betty with her head out of the car window ears flying wildly behind her, she was in her element! ImageWe started off the trail walking through back streets following Keir (an avid geocacher who had found this trail before) and were soon walking through trees up a hill and on to a ridge from where we could see a small part of the city and a river. The trees are really green now and the view was pretty amazing actually, I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of looking at mountains and beautiful scenery. ImageWe were tired from the previous night but despite a few hills the route we took was actually quite a nice gentle walk. Emily and Keir were literally our saviours, turning up with hot tea in a flask and snacks for us to nibble on along the way. The weather was glorious too and the sun was beating down all day. After a couple of hours we ended up on a helicopter pad and from there continued on down the hill to our final spot.Image We walked through vegetation to a small break out exercise area filled with old people lifting weights. After that Emily taught us about toad spawn (which incidentally is laid in a sack that looks like a worm) by picking it up with a stick! We ended up finally reaching a small water park. Once again Emily and Keir fed us yummy sausage and egg sandwiches (we are so unprepared but we will shout the food next time sorry!).  We also annoyingly got harassed by some really pushy and intrusive people from a local church who tried to tell us about Jesus and then started asking to taste my sandwich! I don’t think so!

Finally we sat and shared some Patpingsu, a Korean dessert consisting of milk, crushed ice, rice cake, red beans and various other ingredients dependent on where you buy it. Absolutely shattered we said our goodbyes for the weekend and headed home.

So yeah check me out with my three hikes in three days!