seriously. . . what are they feeding the maple trees here?
last year i heard about this lantern festival along the river just after it happened. . . so i was psyched to see it this year. this was it's opening weekend. . . and it was incredibly packed. we met up with other friends walked around for a bit, had dinner, and walked around some more. it was tough to get a good view.
dan’s flight came in the evening. my bus ride was a bit later than i hoped, but he didn’t wait too long for me. again, i’m amazed that i was ever able to meet up with friends and family before the cell phone. which is why i promptly took him to the airport cellphone rental desk. i figured he wouldn’t get much use from it. . . but it was there for those probable problematic moments.
we bussed back to ansan, dropped off his luggage and i took him out for a quick walk around handaeup and some dolsot bibimbap for dinner. we ran into one of my korean co-teachers as we stopped to pick up some water and other nibbles for the morning.
dan and i met up with hazel to visit namsangol traditional village. a lot of the normal festivities weren’t taking place due to some rain. they did have some traditional songpyeong out for chuseok that we sampled. we thought about hanging around till later, or coming back for a drumming concert, but we ended up filling our time elsewhere.
namsangol hanok village
we took a stroll over to the time capsule. i had no idea it even existed. the park around it was interesting, and there were computer kiosks that told stories about the things that were left inside the capsule.
onto lunch in myoungdong. the noodle place where you can get super spicy kimchi. (it actually wasn’t as spicy as the first time hazel brought me.) they only serve four dishes and it’s super popular with tourists.
a trip through myoungdong wouldn’t be complete without stopped at my favorite cutesy shop- kosney. we were somewhat lucky. the rain kept the throngs of people away from the streets, so walking around was easy, but it was still rainy. . . just less crowded. my new favorite person in myoungdong is an elderly, white haired gentleman (who i’ve recently seen again). he was dressed in white, with a number of metal skull pendants hanging from his neck. on top of his head was a pair of white kitty ear hair clips. he stopped in front of us to say, ‘hello. nice to meet you. meow.’ perhaps someday i will get up the moxie to take a picture with him. perhaps i should wear my kitty ear hair clips for the occasion.
kosney's korean site
onto a rainy walk through insadong. dan got to see the honey string candy makers, the shops, and my two favorite tea shops. a small one where you can taste test and buy snow dew tea. (i wish i could explain how this tastes. . . it’s so unusual and refreshing) and a stop at o’sulloc for tea and cake. their shop and cafe is so relaxing and well lit. i recommend happy green tea and earl grey cake. about o'sulloc
then off to yongsan. hazel came along for a while. we walked through the open air electronics mart and stopped at my favorite dvd shop, right across from a bike shop selling hummer bikes that held dan’s attention. hazel split off and dan and i headed into the ipark mall to catch a 4D movie- resident evil, part 4. we didn’t get to see as much ‘cultural’ stuff as i had hoped due to rain at the hanok village. but we managed to pack in a lot by the end of the day.
dan joined me at school. our kindy students were all dressed traditionally for chuseok day- so they were looking pretty cute. last year each of the foreign teachers hosted traditional games in separate rooms that the different classes moved between. this year we stayed pretty much to our own classrooms. we put our two five year old classes together and played games most of the day. we also spent part of the morning making and eating songpyeon.
tasty treats, sungpyeon
i decided to mix some traditional korean games, with some traditional american things. . . so my kindy kids were introduced to limbo, the chicken dance, and duck, duck, goose. somehow we managed to fill the whole day that way.
in the afternoon, dan split off and went for a walk along with camille’s dad who was also up visiting for the break. meanwhile, i got to finish elementary classes. . . .
the evening was filled with food. first a stop to a dog restaurant. (camille’s dad was really wanting to try the dog stew) everyone else was interested in watching him eat it. dan and i tried a bite- kinda tasted like meat. but then we moved to a meal i was excited to introduce to dan- pumpkin porridge. there were several other porridges on the table, but i was excited to introduce dan to all the wonderful uses of pumpkin here.
(apparently this place has also opened in a few places around the US, bonjuk )
then it was onto the north korean restaurant that has really good pancake - the mung bean one is my favorite- not the seafood one, and tasty makgeolli
mung bean pancake makgeolli
not bad for a monday night. . . but we’re not done. it was raining just a bit, and there were so many things to see and do throughout the week that i pressed for dan and i to swing toward jungung dong.
we walked around for a bit, but settled on some cake and tea/ coffee at cafe bella.
the dark chocolate mousse cake arrived and i recounted something to dan. as i picked up my fork to take a bite i realized there was very little cake left. . . as dan put it. . . ‘in my defense, it was delicious.’
the plan was to go to Changdoekgung Palace then maybe go to hyehwa and see a museum and take in a show. well, mother nature had other plans. we got to the palace and it was sprinkling. . . then it was raining. . . then there was flooding. at first we tried to take it in stride. laughing and kicking off our shoes to walk through the puddles, since our shoes were soaked anyway. but it just kept raining.
there’s a beautiful garden and ‘getaway’ palace, behind the main palace that i really wanted dan and everyone else to see. . . but the trip ended up being more about the frustration and hilarity of being soaked and caught in the storm. there was a japanese couple that was hopping from small roofed area to small roofed area at nearly the same speed as our group. we had a couple of interactions with them, sometimes giggling at the ridiculous situation. . . and sometimes huffing in frustration. we also bonded briefly with a tour group who also rested under a roofed entrance for a while.
dan and i broke from the group with a flip of a coin. heads, we saw the hidden garden, tales, we headed back to the palace gift shop and cafe. we headed to the garden, where we ran into the japanese couple again. we each offered to take pictures of each other with the muddied pond and drenched scenery in the background.
we walked along for a bit more, till we saw whirlpools of rain and entrances blocked with sandbags. palace caretakers were moving around in go carts and started to shoo away patrons. with that, we headed back to meet up with out friends at the cafe. i made a pit stop at the bathroom and stripped down to ring my clothes out. we finally called the day a bust and headed back to the subway.
we met up with another group of tourists at the train station just heading out. they looked at us and asked if the rain was really that bad. i was sincerely soaked from head to toe and told them blankly. . . yes, the rain is really that bad.
we got lucky and got out of town before some of the subways were closed down due to flooding. -turned out it was the largest rainfall in seoul in about a hundred years. i ended up having a nice talk with the japanese exchange student sitting next to me. though it started out with, ‘excuse me, your legs are cold.’ to which i replied, ‘yes, but mostly, they are wet.’
it was such a relief to get home and change into dry clothes.
ansan was completely dry. so hard to believe that just twenty miles away we couldn’t escape the rain. so, after warming up, we decided to head for indian food. the group of us arrived in separate taxis. just as we got out to walk to the restaurant the rain started. i had only been dry for about an hour. . . and in the five minute walk, i was about 30% soaked again. incredibly frustrating. . . but the food and company made up for it.
the actual chuseok day. we expected a lot of sites and interesting places to be closed. . . but Suwon Fortress wasn’t one of them. in fact, it was free to tour around, though none of the novelty things to do were up and running, since everyone took the day off, but walking around was free and open.
we woke up to do some preparation cooking for a group dinner later, then it was off to suwon.
after a bus ride we waited in line for a cab. i noticed another foreigner and someone that looked like his mother. they were also waiting for a cab. something that i’ve noticed in being a foreigner is, if you are on your way to a site, or a gathering of some sort; lecture, concert etc. . . . when you see other foreigners, it is incredibly likely that you will see them throughout the day.
we got to the fortress and started walking around the wall. the cute train wasn’t running. . . and we couldn’t ring the familial bell (that requires a guide and a payment). . . but there were plenty of people out and a few snack stands open. we ran into more japanese tourists. they hadn’t found a map and we gave them one of ours. and further down the wall we ran into the foreigners i had seen waiting for a taxi. we stopped to have a short chat, but then continued on.
i think we walked nearly the full wall, more than i had done before. we stopped into the tourist shop and while eating some ice cream we watched an archery performance. usually there is an archery guide of sorts who allows you to shoot off some arrows and then also shows his abilities. well, that part was closed for the holiday. except for this guy.
he was either the owner or one of the workers who ran the archery area. he had keys to the office and all. immediately after he set up people were trying to get involved but he kept explaining that they were closed. he was making some really amazing shots and dan and i sat around for a while watching. they way we saw it, it seemed a lot like the scene from a bar on thanksgiving. after spending several hours at home with the family, this guy needed to take a break. . . only instead of a bar, he came to his place of work where he could relieve some stress.
after getting back to ansan, we brought our food over for a potluck/ birthday dinner for camille.
we started our day with camille and her father at the War Memorial. We toured around the outside for a while, bought snacks and such then went inside to check out a special exhibit they had on the past 60 years of the DMZ. it was pretty incredible. there have been far more incidents between north and south korea than i knew of.
it’s really rare to see graffiti. . . i’ve spotted some in the occasional bathroom here and there, but in the photography section of the DMZ exhibit was a picture of some north korean soldiers. their eyes had been punched out of the picture.
we moved on to grab some food and do some window shopping in itaewon. after eating we separated to try and find out way to namsan tower. i had read that there is a trail from somewhere in itaewon to the tower. . . but i didn’t bring my book with me. i only remembered that it was somewhere close to a museum.
dan and i found the museum- closed, so there was no one to ask for directions. then i spotted someone in hiking clothes on a road. i had a hunch that if we followed any people who were dressed appropriately. . . or if we saw a group of people all traveling in the same direction, we’d end up in the right spot. (that hunch seems to work well when looking for nearly anything i’ve had to look for). well. . . it wasn’t a straight line. but we were assured by someone working at a nearby hotel that following the people we were following was the right way to go. eventually we ended up in the park surrounding namsan tower.
the park is gorgeous and worth another look some other time. the sun set while we made our way, checking park maps sporadically.
it was almost completely dark when we finally got up to the tower. . . and the last bit was a steep climb.
who knew there was a light/ projection show each hour on the hour?! well, it was a pleasant surprise. we hung around for the show. the plan was for swon to meet us there. but it was getting later and later. swon and i called back and forth adjusting meeting times, and around 9pm we gave up on meeting that evening and decided to make a better plan for the next day.
dan and i sat in several lines waiting to get a ticket to go to the observatory. . . then waited in line to get an elevator up to the observatory. . . then waiting for an elevator down from the observatory. it was all pretty great. i was amazed at how crowded it all was. even late into the night. the more i see of seoul, the more i realize, there’s always a crowd. . . anywhere worth going. there will be a crowd.
well, there was a few cute shops to fill the time. . . so we walked away with a couple of souvenirs as well.
we didn’t really have a plan of action or know how to get from the park to a train home. . . but, we followed a crowd. i checked a couple of bus schedules and we made a train back with only a little chance of taking the wrong bus.
dan and i set off in the morning for the kimchi museum in coex. the first place we had been that had nearly no one else in it. . . which is surprising since it’s in one of seoul’s largest shopping center. perhaps we just caught them on an off morning.
we saw, read, learned about, and tasted some kimchi. they looked like they were really set for school groups, but we had a decent time showing ourselves around. and we both walked away with a pretty great book on the history and recipes of some kimchi dishes.
then we were off to meet with a group in insadong again.
there were street performances, so dan got a chance to see some of the farmer’s dance that i’ve seen at some folk villages.
after some tea, we separated. we had to video a group of the honey candy merchants going through their entertaining chant before we met with swon for dinner.
she brought us to a really classy place, min’s club, near insadong. it was an amazing dinner. there was such an array of flavors. . . i really only have one stand out and that was the makgeolli ice cream that finished it off. . . yum!
after dinner we puttered about and finally i had swon park near gwanghwamun plaza where we got out and i even got to show swon a bit of the city that she hadn’t seen yet. beneath the statues of admiral yi and king sejong the great is a pretty impressive museum about both of the men and some basic korean history. i had been there perhaps nine months earlier, and they hadn’t finished the admiral yi section, so i was also impressed at the scale of the museum.
of course, there were cute shops as well, so all three of us walked out with some souvenirs. . .
dan’s last full day started with a morning bike through ansan lake park. i was sort of proud to show the area that i liked to bike around. it was too bad he couldn’t see it at night. . . but still nice.
afterward we planned to meet with swon again after she finished some work.
i wanted dan to get a decent look at another outdoor market, so we headed to namdaemun market while we waited for swon.
i know dan was on overload at just how much space was used commercially. . . . all the shops and markets, but namdaemun is more traditional in appearance. not quite like the look of the electronics market in yongsan.
we also walked by the famous gate that had been burned down a few years back. we could peak in and see some of the construction.
swon picked us up and helped use check off something else on our list before we headed to another park. i really wanted dan to try some spicy toppoki. he had a small taste before we left suwon and the fortress, but there’s a chain place in hongdae that has some of the spiciest i’ve had. it’s called jaws, and there’s even on near me in jungang now. . . we picked up some take out and plenty of drinks before heading to seonyudo park.
we waited in line for a while before getting a parking spot. i think i relayed to dan my first trip to the park with swon. her mom sent me home with some kimchi. it was an unbelievably hot day. by the time we were back to the car, the kimchi had exploded inside several bags we wrapped it in. definitely made the car smell for a while.
once we were inside the park there were people everywhere; flying kites near the water, pick up games of soccer, some semi traditional drumming and dancing, families picnicking, biking and hiking enthusiasts . we sat on some stairs leading to the river to eat our food.
after eating we walked around the island. the majority of the people there were on dates. dan remarked on the same things i did.. . . so many couples out, and so many people with enormous cameras. you’d think it was a nation of professional photographers.
the park was beautiful as always. dan also got an eyeful of bike riders. and he even caught a video of some poor guy bailing on his bike.
we said goodbye to swon and headed back to ansan.
back in ansan we met up with friends for dinner. we went to one of our favorite galbi restaurants and added soju to the mix. i had planned to have this kind of dinner earlier in the week. . . but, well, we had a full week.
it ended in a noraebang. . . as those kinds of nights usually do. luckily, dan’s flight wasn’t early in the morning.
i had so many things on my list for him to see and taste . . .that even on sunday, while we waited for a bus to the airport i was pushing the last bits in. he had a small pumpkin salad before the bus arrived. :)
(i think i could’ve fit maybe 2 or 3 more things that i really wanted to do if we hadn’t gotten rained out on tuesday . . but we did a lot. and (now that’s it’s actually the end of february) it only took me 5 months to write about it. - sorry, i think even my writing style changed while i was writing it. . . but i just don’t have the patience to go over an check it all. . . so hope the links work well.)
daejeon, daejeon, daejeon. . .
kelly, camille, and i decided to go away for a weekend. daejeon was boasting to host an international deli food and beer festival.
we should've known. . . that the word 'deli' doesn't hold the same meaning in korean. we were all hoping for delicious sandwiches, cheeses, mustards, pickles. . . . we were met with mostly korean food. there was a tent with chinese. . . a tent with indian. . . and a tent with schwarma. all things we already have easy access to.
we were bummed.
in then end. . . disappointed with our trip we stopped in a shopping plaza on sunday afternoon. . . where in the basement we found a massive grocery store. . . that had many of the foods we had been craving. guess we didn't need a festival.
here's my subway token from daejeon. a reuseable coin.
the 'international food festival' was pretty much a bust. it was gorgeous weather though. so we walked around. . . had some food. . . had some drinks. . . watched some okay performances. . .
we saw this dog. . .which is either endorsing pepsi. . . or the korean flag.
there was a balloon festival, glow-deo, and some kite flying going on. we only saw a couple of balloons being laid out. not sure where all the action was taking place.
there was the pretty great kite bit happening though. can you kind of see a darkish line moving diagonally in the sky. here. . . i'll help out a bit.
a- i wish i could've gotten closer so you could see the creepy child faces all over her sweater a little better.
b- i wish she hadn't move in the last second that i was sneaking up behind her to take the picture. made it a bit blurring, but i think you get the idea.
a nice japanese couple on holiday took our picture. they had been jumping from shelter to shelter like us, and decided to brave the rain to see the hidden garden since i had said it was so beautiful. and yes, i am completely soaked through. the umbrella was simply to keep rain off my eyes so i could see.
ok, it was time to get on the train and get out of seoul. turns out, it was the largest rainfall in about 100 years. . . and shortly after we were back in ansan the trains shut down for a while. this here is a set of normal stairs we passed on the way to the train.