Thursday, May 31, 2012

Busan - Part 2

The next day is beautiful and sunny. But we are far from the beach. Nonetheless, we trek to the Busan tower, which is a tower built on a little mountain. We rejoice in the fact that we don't need to hike up this little mountain. It has 4 long escalators (not even kidding).

Busan Towahh!

At the summit (or whatever you want to call it), there are plenty of little sites to see. The first thing you see is the new years bell. Which is used to bring in the new year (correct me if I'm wrong). It is of course housed in a beautiful traditional building that is a staple of Korea.

Perhaps the greatest bell I have ever seen.

Buddha's birthday was coming up so everything was decorated in preparation for the event. All these folk displays were set up. They were made out of a thin paper-like material and I'm guessing that they light up at night. Would have been cool to see, but we had limited time here, and crowds are not super fun when you have a stroller to push around.


There was also a little love seat where you can take a picture with your loved ones. On the fence were a bunch of locks that had love messages on them. You can't take them off the fence. It is a symbol that you are locked together forever (unless you know the combination :P ).

Love my family :)

After paying $5, we go up the tower and are treated with some crazy nice views of the city:

Oh my... next day, we hike up that mountain in the background.

Crazy roof building is the fish market.

Hannah doesn't seem to know where she is or what's going on. We certainly are troll parents because we take her to all these awesome places and she'll never remember them. At least we have pictures :)


After the tower stuff, we check out the music museum that is next door. It had instruments that were native to Korea and there were a lot foreign instruments as well. What was cool about the museum is that on the second floor, every single instrument is available for you to play.



Next, we meet our friend Jin Hwan, and go to another temple called Beomeosa. This is one of the biggest urban temples in Korea. By the entrance, they have a ton of lanterns set up Buddha's birthday. Makes for a nice shot.


There are a ton of these buildings around the area, as at one point in history, over a 1000 monks stayed here.

Ma girls.

There are also a lot of these beautifully crafted things (I can't articulate very well):


The water here is special. Folklore says it comes from a golden well and the water never runs out. I have to agree as it ran the whole time I was there. It was also delicious.


After going home for a little rest, we meet up our friend SangMi to go to a baseball game. The game is like nothing else I have ever seen. It is one big party. You can bring in your own food and drinks, so everyone is bringing in their own case of beer and making pyramids with the empty cans. Every hit, strikeout, homerun, etc the crowd goes insane as if a championship was just won. Literally everyone is dancing, singing songs, etc.

I'm going to attempt to post a video here to try so you can experience some of the craziness:

video

Near the end of the game, the whole crowd does the "rally" caps thing, but they use orange plastic bags.

When a pitcher comes in relief, he is delivered in a Mini Cooper Convertible.

The bullpen pitchers are lazy.

The next day, we go to Taejongdae park. It is a nature trail with temples, observatories, and it also has a lighthouse. It is a long walk. About 6km, most of that is uphill in flip flops. Here we go again...

Map of our ridiculous hike.

The observatory is neat. It has a few restaurants and a great view of the ocean.


Random isle all lonesome.

Walking down a bit further, there is a neato lighthouse. We had to do a fair hike down the side of the mountain to get here, but it's pretty neato site.

After this fun, we go back to the hotel to pick up our bags and prepare to leave Busan. Not before hitting up a sushi restaurant first. You always gotta have sushi in a city near the ocean. This is one of the best sushi places I have ever been to. It has 2 sushi trains. One slow one that has all regular menu food, and a fast "bullet" train that the chefs send out for specialty orders.

Mouth is watering just thinking about this meal again.

Well, that's it for Busan... ah wait! Just about to leave, but then we remember the famous korean pancake (podaek) that a street vendor is selling nearby. What's special about this is that there are various nuts inside the brown sugar gooeyness. If you are ever in Busan, you need to find this. And eat it.

OMNOMNOMNOM!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Busan - Part 1

After another short bus ride, we end up in Busan, the second biggest city in Korea. It is a lot more laid back than Seoul, and the people are super friendly.

We check into our condo in the Haeundae Beach area. This is supposed to be our fun in the sun for a few days, but as luck would have it, it's rainy and a little cold. I have been to Busan twice now, and both times have had zero luck with weather. Rather than mope around, we decide to go to the market nearby.

I dodged traffic to take this picture. You better like it.

The street is quite narrow but very lively. There are a ton of things to buy and of course there is a lot of food to eat. With most market food, it's cheap and amazingly good. The seafood is fresh as it comes in straight from the ocean. Sohee buys up some taekboki.

Spicy, yet delicious.

I love Korea because you can buy a tall beer for $1.50 and just walk down the street drinking it. Why are we so uptight in Canada? We used to be cool.

Crazy out-of-line foreigner.

The next day, we wake up early for another long busy day. We hail down a cab driver and he ended up being totally awesome. Folded up our stroller and was super kind, and super hilarious. Our first stop was Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple. This temple is famous because it faces the ocean and the monks fought off the Japanese twice. But before you get there, you guessed it. Another short hike in flip flops carrying a baby/stroller. This is becoming a theme.

Me, looking very stoked to carry the stroller down the stairs.

Near the entrance are a few monuments... including the calendar year animals and carvings of Buddha. We are there super early so nobody is around except some staff that are sweeping and cleaning getting ready for the day.

The Swastika is a Buddhist symbol here, so calm down guy.

After a short 5 min hike (yay!), we are treated to some really cool views.

Inside the temples, nobody is there to stop us from taking pictures... so here come some pictures of Buddha:

Beautiful colours.

Outside in the courtyard are many statues of Buddha. This one is very happy:


On my way out, I buy a bracelet with the talisman symbol of my calendar year. It is also a reminder to stay calm in crazy situations that we will likely encounter.

Yes, I know my wrists are twigs.

When we get back to the empty parking lot, our taxi driver is waiting for us which is rare in Korea. He was a truly rad guy. He then took us on a mini tour of the area, but we didn't stop because it started raining a bit harder. He then gave us suggestions on where to eat, and thus took us to one of the most incredible meals we ate. The big bowl of soup comes hotter than the surface of the sun, and there is raw pork on top which you stir in (it is thin, so it cooks immediately). You then use your veggies in your own bowl to customize your taste preference. It was phenomenal.

We then went for a short walk on the beach a long our way to APEC house. Normally, the beach is crazy busy, but since it's rainy and chilly, it is pretty much deserted.

Peace.

After another short hike up a mountain, we arrive at APEC house. Which is a circular building that was built for an international political summit, but has since been used as a memorial hall and holds other international conferences.


Inside is kind of cool. It's a big round table and has the country's name plate.

Canada nameplate is in here, but it didn't make the cut for an interesting picture.

Busan is a huge city, and the Haeundae beach district is pretty far away from the downtown area. So, we then board a subway (not the sandwich) and move to a different part of the city for a couple of days. Hannah's first subway ride!

Most comfortable seat on the subway.

Our hotel is near Nampo dong market, which has amazing food, and crazy cool sites.

Arches are neat. St. Louis agrees.

In this part of the city, the night life is more active. There are plenty things to see and do in this area. This is something you just can't see back at home. The streets are alive.


We were then feeling sleepy, so we check into our 70's hotel and fall asleep to prepare for another busy day.

Like Busan? I'll blog more about it in: Busan - Part 2.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ulsan - City of Good Friends

Ulsan is an industrial city, but Sohee has lots of friends here that she met through the ESL program at the UofR. So we decided to see the sights here and visit some old friends.
Firstly, we check into our hotel. The Hyundai Hotel. Yup, same company that makes the car. Hyundai, Samsung, LG make and do everything here. We even bought some LG diapers for Hannah... ahahaha! Anyways, this was by far the nicest hotel we stayed at.
It was in the industrial part of the city, but it had a pretty good view.

Hannah enjoys heights.

Not far from our hotel was a McDonald's, and you always gotta check out what other countries are doing. We were there for breakfast, and it is pretty much the exact same menu. I'd say the quality was a little bit higher. The coffee was really nice, the McMuffin was built with care, and the hashbrowns were nice and thick.


One thing that was pretty cool (and you see this in a lot of restaurants) is the way they handle the trash. Liquids go in one bin, cups get stacked, food waste in another, and regular trash in another. They try and recycle as much as possible which is quite rad. We need to start doing that in Canada.

Do it for the polar bears.

Next day was busy. We first have lunch with our friend Cheol-Wook. His parents own a restaurant with the most amazing samgyeopsal (pork) ever. I have even blogged about this before, but it was worth mentioning again. It's amazing. Secret recipe. You need to go there now.

Pork flip, son.

When we offered to pay, they refused our money. Amazing food and amazingly kind. Many thanks!

CheolWook and his mom.

Next, we hit up a traditional cultural festival that was going on in Ulsan (Soeburi). It is supposed to be a festival celebrating Ulsan steel making and engineering. They have a huge history of engineering here and they celebrate it with old and new innovations. But in reality, it's much more... It's basically a cultural folk festival. Here is a marching band playing traditional Korean music.


Each one of those tents has something different. Some had traditional items like masks or carvings of scriptures, and some had an activities you could participate in. Like drumming! One of the beats they were playing was very similar to one of the cadences I played in high school, so we had a little jam session going.

Crazy foreigner knows the traditional cadence for some coincidental reason.

Next, we found the marching band playing again... and they were putting on a performance. Some were playing traditional music with traditional instruments, and some were break dancing (b-boy). Traditional mixed with modern freestyle dance. Deadly combo.

What a crappy photo of something that was very awesome.

We then found this blacksmith dude engraving names into metal. He was surrounded by crazy eager kids jacked up on sugar, so I was astonished that there wasn't a terrible accident involving liquid metal.

Protip: red coals are hot.

We then stumble apon the main area of the festival where another perfomance was going on... probably the highlight. There was a 30 minute-ish performance of a traditional ceremony. There was a lot of drumming, music, singing, and speeches/prayers.


The ceremony itself was sort of strange yet intriguingly rad. They were praying to a ghost for good luck, and offered the ghost gifts, one of them being a pig's head (it was fake, but I bet there was a time when it was real).

Head of swine (could be a rad band name).

When the ceremony was all over, they had a big party. They broke the 4th wall and the party was for everyone in the audience too. They started playing happier music, dancing and handing out rice cake (it's a dessert used for a lot of celebrations) and makkoli (unfiltered Korean rice wine). That's right, they were just straight up handing out alcohol to everyone in the crowd. It was amazing. We seriously need to lighten up our liquor laws in Sask. So, because I was a foreigner, I was offered a fair share of both.

Rice cake entering my mouth.

I was then offered to come on stage and party with them. I have no idea what I'm doing, but they seem to enjoy the fact I'm willing to participate with them. It's really my pleasure as I enjoy dancing (badly) after drinking a little free rice wine.

The High Ten dance with the leader dude.

After resting a bit, we go to the beach.


But we are not here to relax. We are here to hike the mountain that is to the right of us. In flip flops. Holding a baby. Why am I so crazy? We'll never know. Actually, it's not a steep climb. It's basically like walking up stairs for 45 minutes. And then down. The first part actually is steps. Haha. Great fun.

The start of our journey with CheolWook and his girlfriend:

Why you gotta take me everywhere?

When you get to the top, there are some wicked deadly views of the beach, city, and ocean. I won't ruin it with my smart ass comments. Just enjoy:


Making our way back down, the sun is beginning to set. It was a long and tiring, but the view made it all worth while.

Past our friends, past Sohee and Hannah, you can see the beach, where flip flops are advantageous.

Next up, we meet the rest of the crew (all of the old ESL students) at a Jajangmyeon Restaurant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jajangmyeon). The food was amazing, and it was good to see some familiar faces again. They are such kind people and it was really cool that they all came out to see us.

Peace for everyone.

Lastly, before I wrap up... here is a picture of our drinks. Soda Pop is still served in glass bottles. Yes, I know you can still find it in Canada if you look hard, but it is straight up the most common medium here. Hell yes. Pop is just better out of a glass bottle. If you think otherwise, I don't think we can be friends anymore. Also in this picture is Pineapple Fanta. I really didn't know what to expect, but it was #%$*ing awesome! You can't get it in Canada, so I might take a suitcase of this stuff with me. The taste is so refreshingly good, it'll blow your face clean off.


Where will our journey take us next? Here is a not so suble hint: Busan.