Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fukuoka, Japan - Part 1

Time to visit another country.  Japan.  We decide to go to Fukuoka because it's cool harbor city, it's close, we have friends there, and flights are cheap. We take a subway to the airport in Incheon (satellite city of Seoul).  I must say, that Incheon has the most beautiful airport in the world.  It is state-of-the-art, efficient, and it looks like I'm in some sort of futuristic city.

Clearly better than the Regina airport.
There is also a skating rink in the airport.  As a Canadian, I definitely approve:

Probably cost them millions of dollars to put this in, and I have one two blocks away from me in Regina.
This was all in the Subway terminal at the airport.  They even had a simulation where you could drive the actual subway routes in Seoul.  It is unsurprisingly very easy to drive a subway, but it would get boring very fast.

How do you shoot?
All right, I'm getting off track here (pun intended).  So we hop on a plane to Fukuoka.  The airport code is hilarious, and all our baggage had the label on it.  I'm trying to keep this blog family friendly so I won't post the word.  Google it.  Anyways... 1 hour flight and we made another successful trip with our little monster. 

Our little world traveller.
Just a quick side note.  I'm very impressed with my wife's Japanese.  She spoke to an older Japanese women who took a liking to Hannah, and the woman actually thought she was Japanese, not Korean.  Thank you honey for studying so hard... this mini trip was much more enjoyable because you spoke the local language!

We check into our Hotel and we are quite surprised, in a good way.  Firstly, it is in a prime location.  A block away from a small subway station, and just a short 15 minute walk to Hakata station.  Secondly, it is very old, but, very gorgeous:

Bonzai style trees all over this place.
The Ryokan (hostel with private rooms) is over 90 years old, but in unbelievable condition.  It was only $50 a night and for Japan, that is insanely cheap.  The only catch was that we had to share a bathroom with the floor, and the bath is a public bath house (men and women separated of course).  I shared a bath with an Italian dude that was travelling the world.  He spoke perfect English and was a delight to talk to.  Had many stories and said he'd like to visit Canada someday. Yes, sitting naked in a big bath talking with other men seems weird at first, but for this European, he probably does this often.    

The rooms are amazing too.  They are traditionally decorated rooms with some modern upgrades.  The floor is this padded bamboo weave that is amazing to sleep on.  Yes, there are no beds as per Japanese culture (most of Asia, actually).  The modern upgrades were a mini fridge, A/C, and a flat screen tv.

I feel very Japanese in this room.
After dropping off our loot, we go to the Subway station to meet our friends Masafumi and Kana.  They are a cute couple who took ESL in Regina, and came all the way out from one of the satellite cities to show us around Fukuoka.  They spoke very good English so Sohee didn't need to speak much Japanese to them (for my benefit, as I only know two words).  The first place they take us is to Canal City, which is a huge circular like mall with many floors.

Don't jump.
It also has Ramen Stadium which is famous in Fukuoka.  8 specially selected Ramen restaurants are chosen and this has become one of the most famous spots for eating Ramen.

So many choices, I wish I had more stomachs.
If you are thinking: "Ewww, ramen is gross. I ate too much of that stuff in College".  Well this is totally different.  Not even in the same universe.  Firstly, the noodles are not fried.  They are hand made and boiled.  You can also order them soft, medium, or hard... much like ordering a steak.  Sohee and I bought the Tonkotsu style (boiled in pork bone broth and very famous in Fukouka).  Just look at that deliciousness.  The ramen noodles are at the bottom.  The pork slices on the side are devine, and the egg has a perfect soft yolk.

I could eat this everyday.
Hannah immensely enjoyed this meal.  She made quite a mess, but the staff was really cool and understanding of this little animal.

Canal City also has an arcade, so naturally, I have to go.  Japan has a huge arcade culture here, and it was amazing to see all the games and such.  Masafumi and I played this 2 player boat shooting game which was all in 3D (no glasses either), the chairs moved, and you got a shot of compressed air if you got hit.  It was very awesome.  They also have a ton (literally half of the arcade) of these crane games where you pick up prizes.

 They also had an entire floor of these photo booths where you can take silly pictures with your friends.  They even have an enhancement (like built-in Photoshop) where they make your eyes big.  Haha.

Sohee being silly.
There is a big emphasis on being cute here, hence all the pink and cute drawings around.  We get the natural photo with a few enhancements.  I took this photo from Masafumi and Kana's facebook, so hopefully they don't mind that I post it here.

This is so silly, but so much fun!
 Before heading out, we stop and catch the tail end of the fountain show.  It was really cool as it was timed with music and the water would shoot up super high.

 The KFC nearby might just be the most beautiful KFC in the world, with front row seats to the fountain show:

No Toonie Tuesday???  
We then all head back to the hotel to have a couple of drinks.  Masafumi and Kana buy me this Japanese soju (Soju is a famous Korean sweet potato alcoholic beverage).  It is very strong, but very delicious and smooth.  The beer was recommended by Masafumi and was also refreshing.  It's nice to have a cold beer with friends after a long, hot day of walking.

The powers combined to make me superhuman.
Unbelievable... To think... this was just all one day.  Fukuoka is amazing.  I might need 3 parts for Japan. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Korean Folk Village

Next we go to Korean Folk Village just outside of Seoul.  It's basically an in-depth live museum on how Koreans used to live.

There is also an amusement park for kids, but we didn't go to that because Sohee and I are too big, and Hannah is too small.

Anyways, near the gate is a few guards, like they have in some of the palaces.  This dude posed with me and didn't stab me with his sword.

Our shoes are centuries apart, yet quite similar.
 The main area has some beautiful trees and traditional restaraunts and shops.  Even though they look traditional, some are quite modern inside.  One of them was even a 7-11.  I'm not kidding you.

7-11 has been an important part of Korean history
Next, Hannah and I stop to feed a bull.  He was the smallest bull I have ever seen, but he was nice and had no qualms about letting me pet him. Come to think about it, maybe it was an oxen or something.  Whatever it was, it was hungry.

Thanks for the hay!!
 Next, we visit one of the many little houses they have set up.  They have wax statues inside of what they would be doing in particular rooms.  This one is educational.  A tutor is teaching a young child.

Teachers just don't have beards like that anymore.
Then there was a spot where you could play some traditional games.  They had jump rope and some other games, but I chose "throw-an-arrow-into-a-hoop" game.  It's harder than it looks.  Took me 5 tries to nail it.

Boom!  Nailed it!
We then take a short hike up a hill (notice I'm wearing shoes today), to the temple.  Not sure if it is a real temple, but it has everything a real temple would have, including a real Buddha.  The entrance gate has these cool stairs and beautiful architecture:

The temple itself is really beautiful.  Inside is a decent size Buddha and contains a whole bunch of candles lit up inside.  I couldn't take a picture inside as a monk was in there.  A few Korean drama scenes have been shot in this temple (actually all around this folk village), so it was cool to see some of these in real life.  Disregard the blue tarp, they were doing some reno's (I know that pain).

I just remembered I have more reno's to do at home in Regina.
Next we go to a part of the village they'd take people to get totured.  If you committed a crime or they wanted some information, they'd beat you.  This is place is so cool, because not only can you see the places, but they actually let you beat your friends with the paddles.  It really is a look and touch museum:

He was actually hit pretty hard. Friends always like to see you in pain.
Right beside the public torture is the jail. There is no light in this place, so it'd would have been best to not commit any crimes back in the day.  You might be asking yourself, "Jaret, you are wrong, there is lots of light in this photo", to those people I say "I'm near the door, and the camera is set to a long exposure".

Kid: "I want to go to jail when I grow up!!"
We keep walking around (the village goes in a circle path) and we come across this beautiful gazebo (I'm sure there is a Korean name for this).

Gazebo's are way cooler in Korea.
You can stop and eat your lunch here if you brought it, but we didn't so we head to the outdoor food court.  Here you can buy your meal ticket and get a traditional meal from folks dressed in traditional Korean outfits.

Another amazing meal.
Next we do some walking around the park area.  There are lots of trees, grass, and there is a small river (it's not flowing so maybe river isn't the right word) that has many bridges.  Some of them are safe with railings, some of them have no railings (like this one) and some are just scattered rocks.  Hannah is a little risky:

I hope my parents put the brakes on.
After walking around a while, we get to a Chinese Festival that was going on.  We were told it had Wushu (Kung Fu) and martial arts, but there was none of that.  We ended up watching a whole hour of Chinese gymnastics.  It was kinda cool, but not Kung Fu cool.

They were all kids.  Not fighting each other with rad weapons.
Finally, and the reason we came, rice planting.  Although this looks lame, this was actually the coolest part.  You basically put on rubber boots and a hat and get in the water field planting rice.  It was pretty fun because it was kind of had a community vibe, and we were all in this hardship together.  There was also a dude on the side singing folk songs for inspiration:

I have farmer's blood, so this is very natural for me.
After, they give out free snacks and rice wine (yup, just hand out alcohol) to anyone that helped.  I had quite a gathering around me because I was the only foreigner doing this.  What can I say, I love to help, and I do anything for free booze:

Reward for a job well done.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jeju Island - Part 2

Next up, we head out to pick some oranges. The oranges are super famous here.  They are very unique because they mixed a manderin orange with an asian pear, giving it a super sweet taste.  They sorta taste like a manderin orange, but they are bigger and have some citrus taste to them as well. 

Orange you glad to see oranges??
The oranges don't really look like what I just picked here.  These guys aren't ripe yet, but the dude let me pick them for the picture.  They are actually more orange and they have a bump near the stem, like this:

They are also very expensive, and found out it's sort of a tourist trap.  We bought a box of 5 for $25.  They were the best oranges ever, but they were not really $5 good.  We found out we can order them online for way cheaper, so when those come in, I'll give you the results.

Anyways, our next stop was this little folk village.  We didn't stay too long here, because we had many things on the agenda. This was kind of a rural area and it displayed a simpler lifestyle.  The statue you see on the left is a symbol of Jeju.  He has a big nose and if you want to bear a son, you are supposed to rub his nose.

Here's a part of the courtyard area.  The farmers/common folk had the grass huts, while the nobles had houses with those fancy curved asian tiles you see everywhere.

The sides of the house are made of volcanic rock, like my house in Regina.
This area was sort of the kitchen/food storage.  Some of the kimchi containers are stored under the dirt to stay cool.  Kimchi is pickled/fermented vegetables (mostly cabbage) and it was created so they could eat during the winter or when there was a food shortage.

These pots were empty :(
Next up, we hit up the Trick Art Museum.  Here is a lovely photo of my girls in front of the entrance:

This museum is full of "trick art"... made so you can take pictures as if they are real/alive.  It sort of has a 3D effect.  Better to show than to tell... here are a bunch of pictures of this craziness:

Hai there!!!
Tearing it off.
Perhaps this is child abuse?
Sohee taming a tiger.
Starry starry night, but better.
 I know it looks kind of lame, but the museum was really fun and it was cool to setup all the shots.  I have tons of these photo's, but I didn't want to bombard the blog with them.

Next up, we stopped for supper at a black pig restaurant.  Jeju is also famous for black pork.  So of course we have to check it out.  They even have an entire street dedicated towards black pork restaraunts:

 The BBQ restaurant we went to was quite famous and many famous Korean celebrities have eaten there.  By the way... the pig itself is black, not sure how that makes it special, but it was delicious nonetheless.  Proof:

I also loved those huge mushrooms.
The next day we pack up and leave our condo.  It was sad to leave as this was our last day on the island.  The condo itself was really nice:

Sohee packing our stuff into our microscopic car.
And our view:

Palm trees with an ocean view.  Just like my house in Regina.
So we head out and drive out to the other side of the island (about an hour drive) and go to the beach.  But we decide to eat first.  We haven't eaten any seafood yet and we are reminded to try some by these ladies, the mermaids ladies of Jeju.  This time, it isn't a show, they are actually fishing:

So we stop at a seafood restaurant.  The first dish we got was a white fish (not sure the english name), it was a little salty, but the meat itself was really good.  

The other dish was a spicy clam soup.  It was really good, but there was a catch.  Watch the video:

Yup. The food was alive.  You have to kill it in the boiling hot soup.  It was kind of sad... but at the same time, delicious:

Next up we hit up the beach.  It is a beautifully hot day, so it was perfect.  The sand was white, the ocean was blue, green hilly mountain islands on the horizon, and there was black volcanic reef scattered about.  It was really amazing.  Wish we could have spent more time here, but we had very many things to see, and this was the perfect way to end the trip to Jeju:

Hannah taking a dip.  Best way to learn is to just throw them in, right?
Hannah eating sand.
Then we rush back to the airport because we have a car to drop off and a plane to catch.  Lastly, we take a photo of the island from the air.  Gonna miss this place.

Had to jump really high to take this picture.
That's it for Jeju.  Stay tuned for more super adventures.