Beijing-tiful

China is so big and being in Beijing is just the tip of the iceberg. Lauren and I were there for a week. We only planned to visit 2-3 places so to not exhaust ourselves and it was still enough time to do everything that we wanted to do and other things. I think we kept a good pace and I wasn’t as tired as I was from my Kyoto trip even though my that trip was shorter. Here’s just a brief descriptions of places and reactions I had of places that we visited.      

Day 1  

20150725_203453_aWangfujing Market – This placed is awesome for street food but SUPER crowded! The most exotic street food — grilled scorpions and seahorses! I had an egg roll stuffed with bean sprouts and other things which was delicious! I also had some baozi (steamed buns). The pork filling was good but I felt the bun part was not properly steamed.  

Day 2   

Pajayuan Dirt Market: The setup of this place like a flea market. People were there selling lots chinese goods but what I really remember from this places was beads and beads. They came in all of all shapes, sizes and colors. However, what i found cool was there was this aisle that the vendors sold Miao (or at least I think it’s Miao) jewelries, clothes, and textiles. I did thought about the buying some jewelries because the Hmong new is coming in 5 months but I decided not to for whatever reasons. Also, there was this area of the market that sells books and pictures of Mao Zedong. While looking at them, I couldn’t help but remember China’s Cultural Revolution. I guess it was just bittersweet that Mao was able to industrialized China and bring it to the modern age but at the cost of losing so much of china’s rich culture. However, maybe Chinese citizens view this part of their history different than a foreigner’s point of view otherwise they wouldn’t be still revering him still.  aSAM_0273

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a20150726_160704Temple of Heaven: This is one of the greenest place in Beijing except for when you’re actually on inside the gates of the temple area which was a barren land of cement. The grounds is huge, maybe 2 or more blocks wide. There’s many life here. Outside the temple, in the shade of the many trees, people are dancing. In the hallways, elderly people are chattering and playing Chinese games. The temple itself is pretty and I like the blue color of it with the gold dragons.

Day 3:



Summer Palace:
Inside the palace is the Kunming Lake. The emperor would move to this palace during the summer as it was cooler in the summer because of the lake. The palace boast the longest corridor of any palaces and I can see why too! The emperor built it so that his mother can walk along the edge of the lake and enjoy the scenery. It was a shame that the air was bad and you couldn’t see clearly across the lake. I bet it must have been more beautiful before the pollution problem. We didn’t stay here that long though. Just did a walk-through because it was really just a walk through.

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a20150727_134435_5Great Wall of China: Yey! Finally made it here which was super awesome and was not crowded at all! As a matter of fact it was the least crowded place we went. We took the cable car up to the wall. In this heat, I’m not crazy enough to hike up to the wall. It an amazing feeling to be standing on the wall and seeing the wall stretch on and on. Well due to it being the hottest hours of the day, I tried to imagined the I was on another Wall instead… built of ice where the crows are… but my imagination wasn’t strong enough as I was still hot as heck and drench in sweat. However, I did enjoy random people just saying Hi or smiling as they pass by us going the opposite direction. Without saying a word, there in that moment, we understood the pain and exhaustion each other was going through but still enduring it because it’s worth it! After 2 hours walking on the Wall, it was time to go. We took a toboggan slide down. It was my first time and it was extremely fun! I would do it again.  

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Well this is not my whole trip yet but I think I will end this China blog post here before it gets too long… I’ll post up the 3rd part soon!       

Thoughts on Beijing

Forbidden City

For a long time, I have always wanted to visit China. I was finally able to make a trip to Beijing with my friend, Lauren, during our summer vacation away from South Korea. I enjoyed Beijing but perhaps it was the wrong time of the year to be there. (Although I don’t know if there’s ever a right time to go to Beijing.) As you all know, China is the most populated country in the world. The amount of domestic tourists was just overwhelming. I think there were more of them than there were foreign tourists, especially since it was vacation time in China also. (Perhaps it’ll be less overwhelming during low season.) Adding pollution and heat to the mixture did not help the overwhelming feeling but we just made the most of the time we had in Beijing.

People, people everywhere!

People, people everywhere!

Chinese people are definitely different from Koreans. I feel that majority of Chinese people is definitely more relax about their appearances in public, whereas Koreans tend to strive for perfection or to be fashionable. Another amusing thing was that many of the Chinese men would lift up their shirt, exposing their stomach to cool down in the summer heat. I would never see that in Korea. All the ajjushi just seems to be in hiking gears all year long.

In addition, a “I-cannot-believe-it” observation we had was all these toddlers wearing a very unique pant. The pant looks normal but if you observe closely, it’s actually cut in the crotch area, revealing the genital and butt area when a kid walks. This make it very convenient for toddlers to just relieved themselves without going to the restroom. The parents would just have something for the kid to #1 or #2 in. In other cases, I’ve see a parent just hold their kid over a bush while he is urinating. Perhaps this is pretty normal in China but I found this very disturbing, even if the toddlers are just kids. In my opinions, these actions should just be kept in private rooms for sanitary reasons.

On the other hand, there are good stuff to Beijing. I was impressed by how much trees and greenness Beijing have all around since I was just expecting Beijing to be a metal jungle with lots of pollution. I think it even have more trees than Seoul. Also, I really like the Hutongs around Beijing too. These are the old neighborhoods where the houses are still in traditional Chinese architecture. You really feel the age of the city in these neighborhoods. Additionally, Beijing had trashcans and public restrooms everywhere. This might be something silly to mention but living in Korea, it’s very hard to find trashcan if you are walking around on the streets and needed to throw away trash so trashcans was something I definitely notice about Beijing.

Food

The food in Beijing was awesome as well. I heard from a lot of people that food in China was plainer than Americanized Chinese food but that is false. Food in China, or at least in Beijing is just as flavorful. Sweet and sour pork was just as delicious. Kung Pao Chicken was a little different though. It’s much sweeter and less spicy than the ones I’m used to in the States but still very good. Also, one cannot go to Beijing and not eat Peking Duck . They duck we had was tender and the skin was perfectly crispy. Another popular food in Beijing is the meat skewers. They were so delicious. Gosh, I miss all the food already just writing about them.

Accommodations

On our first night when we found our Hostel, we were quite disgusted by our room. The room had lots of bugs. The bed sheets were old and torn up. I felt gross just sitting on them. The bathroom was moldy, even the toilet seat covers was lose. Lauren and I did our best to convince ourselves that we could stay there. We went out for dinner and came back and took a shower. After our showers, we both agreed and we didn’t want to stay there for the next 6 days that we had left in Beijing. We got our refund and was able to find a new hostel to stay at. That place was five stars compared to our first hostel.

Drum Youth HostelThe hostel we eventually stayed at is called The Drum Tower Youth Hostel. The staff was very accommodating and helpful. They were able to find a room for us and change tour to the Great Wall for us. The hostel even have their own western restaurant and bar which was so convenient if you didn’t want to go far for food and drinks. The bartenders were very kind and helpful as well. I would highly recommend this place to anyone going to Beijing!

Transportation

Riding a rickshaw touring a Hutong.

Riding a rickshaw touring a Hutong.

Getting around in Beijing was pretty easy. You just need to purchase a rechargeable ICC Card from the ticket office at any subway station. I believe you have to pay a 20 yuan deposit and then charge 20 yuan on the card too. This is the cheapest way to get around Beijing. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that you have to go through security check before going onto the subway. If you have a water bottle, you have to take a sip of it in front of them to prove that it’s not hazardous.

Other transportation include taxi and rickshaw. Taxi usually charge a fare unless you and the taxi driver have a agreement. As for rickshaws, they can be fun to ride but you usually have to bargain with them and they are expensive. They are known to rip off foreigners so be careful when you are taking one.

Stay tune for my next blog of all the destinations I visited in Beijing! ^^

Hiking in Jeollanamdo!

Spring was upon us and the weather was just too wonderful to stay indoors. In May, I found myself being a busy body and doing something every weekend! Korea is mostly covered in mountains and hills and you are never too far from any good hiking trail. I was able to take two hiking trips. One to  was to Wulchusan (월출산). It was an extreme hike. The another was to Gangcheonsan (각천산) which was more of a pleasant stroll along a mountain stream.

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I’ve gotta say when it comes to hiking, nobody does it quite like Korean ajjushis and ajummas! As I mentioned earlier, Korea is mostly covered in mountains; therefore, hiking gears is extremely popular in Korea. They come in all sorts of styles and are very colorful! The ajjushis and ajummas are always deck out in their super awesome hiking gears and walking sticks. They are swift and will out-hike you, especially if you haven’t hiked in uhh… forever! However, do not be intimidated by them. Most of them are very friendly and some stop to ask you if you are okay and sometimes even offer you food or drinks.

My most favorite part about hiking in Korea, when you get to the top or wherever your destination is, you sit and enjoy a light snack, most of the time it’s kimbap, and just enjoy the amazing scenery. Some ajjushiis even drink beer!

The first trip was to Wulchusan (월출산). With kimbaps in our backpack, my friends Didi, Song and I decided to take this trip one random weekend. Thank goodness the temperature was just in the mid 70s that day! Our first time hiking in a while and we chose one of the hardest mountain to hike in Jeollanado, said one of my friend’s co-workers. However, we were not deterred by that and was determined to at least make it to the Cloud Bridge (구름다리). The peak? We’ll see how we feel when we get to the bridge.

The hike was indeed extreme, filled with rocks and steel stairs. Thank goodness we were under trees most of the time so it was very cool. We stopped several times to breaks and had conversations about the daily happenings at schools and our day to day life while the ajjushi and ajumma flew past us! While on one of our breaks, an ajjushi came and talked to us. With our little knowledge of Hangul and body language we were about to have a simple exchange of words. He asked us where we were from, to which we responded that we were from America. Thus, he concluded that that’s why we were not in hiking gears but in t-shirts and shorts. Then he proceeded to ask us where our parents were from and we said Laos. He shared with us that he was in Vietnam during the war and that we were the lucky to have gotten to immigrate to the US because the other weren’t so lucky. From there we continued our hike.

Alas, we made it to the top and were given some tomatoes from one of the ajusshi’s friend. The view does not disappoint also! At the top you can see the different patches of farmlands, the roads and a lake. The bridge was awesome too especially since it dangled between two mountains and you can feel it swaying. We took some quick pictures and ate our kimbaps on what little shade we could find. Then it was time to go down the same way we came up.


The second hiking trip was to Gangcheonsan (각처산). This time it was only Didi and I who went. Didi have heard from her co-worker that there was another place (this one) with a bridge and waterfalls. That was enough to convince us to go. So one weekend, after the pouring rain stopped, we headed for Gangcheonsan. With the help of friendly locals, we were able to get to our destination.

One funny story was that when we boarded the bus, Didi tried to put her ticket in the usual ticket/money slot thingy by the bus driver, but the bus driver had put a water bottle on top of it to block the opening where you would usually put the ticket in. The bus driver was telling Didi to give him the ticket instead but because we didn’t understand Korea, Didi was still looking for a way to put the ticket in. He got a little frustrated at Didi thinking we were Korean (you know since we look Korean) until one of the workers says “Waygook-saram-i-ae-yo.” (They’re foreigners.) The bus driver gave us a little “Oh” and used a nicer tone with us. When we sat in our seat, which we were the only two on board, and the bus departed for the mountain and he proceeded to ask us the same questions you always get ask if you’re Asian-American (not of Korean descent)  and you’re a foreigner in Korea which goes something like:

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from America”

“Really? You’re not Chinese/Korean?”

“I’m American.”

“Where are your parents from?”

“Thailand/Laos.”

“Are you sure you’re not Korea? You look Korean.”

Anyways back to the hiking trip. Unlike Wolchusan, this trip proved to just be a relaxing stroll underneath the shade of the perfectly lined trees next to the stream which made us wonder if they ever filmed a Korean drama here. I really liked how fresh the water looks you were able to see the many fishes swimming in the stream. These white flowers grew on the trees and when they fell, they looked very pretty as they floated on the still surface of the water. The waterfalls were not great big raging ones but still gave you awesome feelings just standing and taking in the scenery.

Gangcheonsan also have its own bridge dangling between two mountains. Compared to the Cloud Bride in Wolchusan, this one was definitely not higher but still gave amazing view of the misty mountains ^^ (it was raining, thus there was a mist in the sky). The bridge was narrower too and swings more. It began to pour as we walk on the bridge so we didn’t walk across in though. We walked a third of the way and retreated because of the rain, however I thought I was still exciting to stand on the bridge in the midst of the rain and wind!

 

Trying to get back to Gwangju proved to be rather complicated though. We arrived at the bus stop just in time to catch it but didn’t know where to buy the bus ticket. Through pointing, the bus driver told us we need to go to the tour information place to buy it. We went there only to find an elderly man who we could not communicate with and he pointed back to the bus driver, so were lost and confuse as to what to do. Finally the bus driver just ushered us in and told us to give him money. We got back to Gwangju and grabbed Burger King for dinner. So much for that hike! =P

Kyoto: City of Ten Thousand Shrines Part 2

Here’s the second installment of my Kyoto trip. I’ll try to keep it short and simple this time.

Kimono Experience

I love trying on traditional cloth all around the world. They’re all so beautiful.  So of course, I have to experience wearing a kimono! Before going to Kyoto, I looked up some kimono rental websites but I didn’t feel like figuring out how it worked and so I forgot about making reservation. Walking around Kyoto, I saw many tourists dressed up in kimono (and some even in the full-on geisha wear). Everyone looked so pretty, it made me want to dress up too! So after the first day, I was determined to find a kimono rental place. When I got back to the hostel, I started looking for kimono rental websites. I tried to make reservation for the next day but it was no good, it was all book. (So if you want to wear kimono in Kyoto, book ahead of time and don’t be like me.) Luckily, I found this website where they have an international line where tourists who speak English or mandarin can call to inquire. Unfortunately, it was after business hours and I had to wait until the following morning to to call.

At 9:30ish, I made a phone call to Yume Yakata. Gotta love smart phone app! I was able to make a reservation to go for a kimono fitting. The place was right off the a subway exit so it was very easy to find. The whole process was fairly easy. I checked in and was instructed to go to the upstairs. Someone discussed my plan with me (in the best English possible). I  opted for a dress and hair package. Since it was winter, I also rented an outer jacket (don’t know what it’s called). Afterwards, I went on to choose a kimono, sash and jacket. I was kind of disappointed in the designs/colors of the kimono in the section that I had to choose from. Maybe other people took the good ones already since I came a little later? So I chose a dark violet kimono with flower print (which was the best one in my opinion.)

Next, It was time to put on the kimono! I was instructed to go up another floor to the fitting room. The room have giant body mirrors all on the side of the wall you’re facing. I picked out my inner wear and a pair of sock and a woman helped dress me in the kimono. Putting on a kimono is like putting on Hmong cloth; lots and lots of padded layers! Afterwards, I felt the tightness on my stomach which reminded me a lot of wearing Hmong clothing, minus the coin sash.

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The last process was to pick out a bag to match your outfit and getting your hair done (if you choose to at extra cost). You can buy accessories to wear in your hair to make your entire outfit extra kawaii ^^ Lastly, you choose your shoes, which are flip-flop like. I honestly do not know how I walked all over Kyoto in them! They were not all that comfortable.

With my fitting done, I went back to Fushimi Inari. I wanted some pictures of this place in a kimono. Here’s some snapshots I took thanks to my trusty selfie stick 😛

Araishiyama – Bamboo Grove, Tenryu-ji Temple & Togetsukyo Bridge

This is a famous place for viewing cherry blossom during peak season of the flowers but since I came top Kyoto a little too early, I chose to go to here because of the famous bamboo grove. I was somewhat disappointed when I got there though. “This is it?” was the question I asked myself. Maybe my legs were killing me coupled with the bad shoes, that I didn’t want to go further into the grove. I looked on the map and it did seemed like “This was it.” So I decided to turn around. Maybe that was not it? I’ll never know since I did not walk any further. I would have to say that the grove was the biggest let down on this trip. There was many websites/videos that listed this place top beautiful places in Asia/Japan. I was a bit disappointed because although the bamboo were big, the grove was not as thick as I thought it to be. It’s a perfect example of expectation versus reality. I like the Damyang Bamboo Forest more.

bambooWell after leaving the grove, I stumble upon the Tenryu-ji Temple while heading towards the Togetsukyo Bridge. The temple is registered Unesco World Heritage site so I decided to check it out and I’m glad I did.  The temple has a pond and a zen garden that was slowly starting to be filled with flowers reminding me I should have came in the spring. Darn you winter, everything is so dead!

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After the temple, I bought a soft half green tea half cherry blossom ice cream cone and went to enjoy it on Togetsukyo Bridge. It was pretty busy here. Many people just walking and looking at the scenery. Many strangers asked me to talk photos with them because I was wearing a kimono 😛

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Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Now this is a place that does not disappoint. The words were just taken out of my mouth when I saw the golden pavilion. Everything in front of my eyes look like a picture, only it wasn’t and I was really standing in front of this pavilion! The pavilion served as the main part of this place. When I was done admiring the pavilion, I walked along the path to the back garden which was fairly small for the temple.

 

Osaka Castle

Having done all I wanted in Kyoto, I board the subway and made my way down to Osaka to visit the the Osaka Castle. This castle in nested in the middle of high rises which serves a good juxtaposition to modernization. I really like the colors on this castle, turquoise and gold. They make the castle looks elegant. It seems so peaceful that it’s hard to believe that this was actually a war castle.

It’s a gloomy day because it will rain soon. Forgot my selfie stick in my rush to catch the subway =(

You can buy a ticket to go inside the castle and they will have exhibition about the history of the castle, how the castle grounds used to look like in olden days and about Toyotomi Hideyoshi who ordered for the construction of this castle. You can go all the way to the top floor of the castle and look and Osaka’s skyline and beneath at the base of the castle.

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The castle was stunning and I can see why it is depicted in so many manga and Japanese video games. The castle was the last big spot I visited on my trip. I walked around Osaka for a bit but nothing really stood out to me. I caught the subway back to Kyoto.


It was the first time I traveled by myself. Although I definitely like moving at my own pace, I also would have enjoy company too. Kyoto feels really safe so I never worried about traveling alone. Overall, I had an amazing time in Kyoto. It was relaxing yet exhilarating, busy yet cultural. The people there was very nice and many of them speak a little English, enough to help you.

 

I only had 4 days to really explore Kyoto. At first, I feel like it wouldn’t be enough time to see everything. However, I slowly remember how tiring it was to travel and site see. My legs were killing me by the third day and by the time I got to visit Osaka, the only thing I wanted to see and walk around was the castle. Also, I think the trip was fulfilling because I knew what I wanted to do and I did it. I wanted to see Fushmi Inari, Kinkaku-ji, Osaka Castle, and wear a kimono in Kyoto. The rest of the things I did were like extra sweet detour  on the side. So my time in Japan was short but it was awesome. I wish to visit other places in Japan if another opportunity should open up because I know that there are still many wondrous sites in Japan that I haven’t seen.

Anyone traveling to Japan, you’ve got to go to Kyoto! You won’t regret it!

Kyoto: City of Ten Thousand Shrines Part 1

The title does not lie. Kyoto really is a city of ten thousand shrines! While riding the bus in Kyoto, one can hear the telecom announcing at every 2~3 bus stop, “This stop is _______ passengers can get off here for _____ shrine/temple.” This 1000+ years old city is an amazing place where the past meets the present. One minute you can see traditional Japanese houses and shrines and then the next, you are walking on a street buzzling with cars and sky scrappers. One can catch the subway/bus or leisurely ride bike around the city. The combination of all of these make Kyoto busy like the city but relax like the countryside.

Anime romanticism much?  

Well, I grew up watching anime and reading manga. I don’t watch or read them much anymore but I still do from time to time. Maybe my imagination a little too big but walking around Kyoto was like seeing anime/manga come to life. You see these crazy train tracks that runs through the city. Every time I see a train track crossing, I am reminded of the ending scene of an animated movie, Five Milimeters Per Second, where the two leads cross path again at the train track.

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I’m pretty sure all city in Japan may not be like this but going around Kyoto, you can see small canals or rivers that bring to mind scenes in anime, where characters sits on the grass and contemplate about whatever is on their mind.

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Day 1 ~ Touring Shrines/Temples

Day 1’s plan was to visit all the shrines or temples I could. There was simply too many to visit so I just visited the big ones. I started from Fushimi Inari and decided I will make my plan as I go. So my day ended being:

Fushimi Inari Taisha –> Tofukuji Temple –> Kyomizu-dera –> Yasaku Shrine  

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Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is the first shrine I visited in Japan so I was very in awe of its beauty and it’s definitely a must visit place if you’re ever in Kyoto. The shrine is painted in a bright vermilion orange color making the shrine stand out among the the buildings and trees.

After passing the entrance, there’s a small shrine to the right where people can write their prayers and hanging them up along with thousands of paper crane. You can also take a drink of spring water here.

This is the main shrine. While I was here, there was a prayer chanting going on. Many people can pray and ring the bells.

After seeing the main shrine, I climbed up to the Senbon Torii (1000 gates) that leads up to Mt. Inari, a sacred place. Painted in bright vermilion also, these 1000 gates are what really make this shrine stand out from all other shrines and attract hundreds of people. Walking through the gates felt remarkable and you can just feel the age of these gates. It was my favorite part of this shrine. Sadly, I didn’t climb up to the top of the mountain because of the limited time I had.

Tokufuji Temple

I made really quick stop at the Tokufuji Temple. The temple was one of the least crowded place I went too, maybe because it was still winter and the grass was not quite green yet. I decided not to go into the garden and walked around the outer quarter instead. Here, I saw my first blossom trees in Japan. So sad that I same a little too early for the cherry blossoms.

Kiyomizu-dera

While biking to Yasaku Temple, I made a random stop and realized that I almost pass a location I starred on my map when I was planning for Japan. Kiyomizu is not on the main street and you have to walk up a small street for about 10 minutes to reach it. I like the walk because of all the small shops you can look at through the windows or browse in. Upon reaching the top, there was a lot of tourists there. Once again the buildings on the outside was painted in bright vermilion colors. The weather was perfect for a ice cream break so I bought myself a green tea ice cream (which was very sweet and highly perfumed) and sat on the stone steps just observing the scenery and the tourist passing by.

BeautyPlus_20150310185035_saveI finally got up to go inside the main temple after finishing my ice cream and giving my legs a break. Once I entered the temple, I immediately smelled the scent of burning incenses which was due to people burning incenses for prayers /wishes. I decided to burn one and ask for better luck. I was having bad luck ever since the day I departed to catch my flight to Japan. I think it did work because I don’t remember anything bad happening for the rest of my trip. It went smoothly.

The temple sits on the side of the a hill that overlooks Kyoto and you can see buildings in the distant. Across from the temple, on the other side of the hill you can see a small pagoda-ish building. You can walk to the small pagoda building and see the temple. Beneath the temples are several cherry blossom trees. It was a shame that there was no blossom there when I was there but it can be really pretty when the blossoms bloom.

 

 

Street Shops

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So at this point I’m dead tired. My legs were killing me. I decided to take a break and sit on this stone step.

Now heading back down the hill, there’s an even busier street filled with lots of souvenir shop and Japanese snacks. I took the time and looked through several shops. Japan sure have a lot of thing that are kawaii! There were lots of pretty hair accessories, stationaries, fans, and even a shop full of Hello Kitty items only. However, I didn’t buy anything as I was looking around for the best prices!  However,  I do love buying street food, so I bought a Japanese pork bun and and meat rice ball dip in terriyaki sauce. They were hot and delicious!

 

Zen Park and Yasaku Temple

After exploring the street shops, I made my way to Yasaku Temple. I walked through the neighborhood and I really liked how all the houses was still in traditional-like architecture. It really made you feel like you weren’t in a big city at all. I somehow ended up at this zen park. It has a name but I forgot but it was. I like the park but the colors were pretty dull still since it was winter. I think it will look much better in the spring and summer. This park have big koi fish in the pond! (Did you know that in Japanese legend, a koi fish will turn into a dragon if it can swim up a waterfall? That explains why Magikarp evolves into Gyarados in Pokemon!) I also took some pictures with the the sun setting in the background to capture the blue sky turning orange.

Luckily, the zen park happened to be right in back of Yasaku Temple. I was able to enter the temple from the back. What I like about this temple place is the small lamp post that are line against the fences and path ways. Maybe it’s because anime romanticism? Maybe because it was twilight and the light seems to illuminate the place? I didn’t spend too much time here because it was my last stop and It was getting dark and my pocket wifi died. I told myself that I would come back in the morning to really look around the temple. I walked over to Gion district and looked at some shops and then headed for the subway back to my hostel to call it a day. Sadly, I never made it back to this area because  there was just simply too much to do and not enough time!

One last thing I want to add is that Google Maps works perfectly in Japan which comes in very handy.  It can navigate you through neighborhoods and it even tells you the cost of transportation and estimated arrival time of subways and buses!  Google Maps does not work that well in Korea so I was pretty excited about it working in Japan!

Jeju Island Part 2

Day 3

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After getting medicines for my cold and allergies, we headed to a beach that have two horse-shaped lighthouses Afterwards we grabbed some hand dripped coffee and waited for the taxi driver we hired to take us around for the day.

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The first place that the taxi driver took us to was a beach. This beach was very pretty and the water is also very clear. More people were here swimming and playing compared to the beach we went to the day before.  I wouldn’t have mind if we had spent the rest of the day on this beach, but alas, were still many places to see.

Osulloc Green Tea Plantation & Innisfree House 

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The plantation’s shop and ice cream parlor was packed with people! I enjoyed walking around and smelling all the different types of teas and flavors. They all smelled really good. I bought some strawberry tea and mango tea. (I really like them!) Next, we ate some green tea ice cream, which is a must if you ever visit the plantation (or a chain shop)!

We then made our way to the Innifree Jeju House. I was excited to go inside because I wanted to go see how big the place was andif they have any special products you could not find in other Innisfree shop. However, I was a bit disappointed. The place was rather small and I saw all their products already. It was nothing special from a regular Innisfree shop.

Finally we left to go walk in the green tea field. It’s not as big as the Boseong Tea Plantation though. After a few pictures, we took off to Mini Land.

Mini Land

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Mini Land was a good quick stop. We only spent close to 45 minutes there because we had somewhere else to be. It was a fun place to take silly pictures and was awesome because I was able to “travel” to the many countries and saw lots of beautiful building from around the world!

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-Last Destination —- walking and temple

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I can’t recall the name of our last destination but I enjoyed it. We walked along a very rocky shoreline that must have stretched for a few miles. The side of the cliff was pretty, you can see the different layers of rocks.

While on our walk, we saw many fishermen fishing. Ah, the simple life! Many halmeonis were also there selling their freshly caught seafood. We also saw some small fishes trapped in tide pools. I was tempted to catch the fishes and release them to the ocean but didn’t because I didn’t want to get wet.

At the end of the walk, we hiked to a temple on side of the mountain. The temple offered a beautiful view of the small town, an island in the distance, and the ocean. At this time the sun was setting and the sky was turning orange. It was an amazing way to end a wonderful trip to Jeju.

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Departure

We wrapped up the next day with a quick visit to a traditional market and bought some Jeju chocolate. Next, we visited Jeju’s folk museum. Finally, the time came for us to catch the ferry back to mainland Korea and go home!

 

Phew! Finally finished! I left out lots of details because I want to share about the places and my impressions of them.  Jeju has so many things to do from visiting nature, museums, to theme parks. You’ll never get bored! I didn’t get to see all of it but I saw enough to make me satisfy with the trip.

“The world comes to Jeju and Jeju goes to the world.”

Jeju Island Part 1

You can find these Dol Hareubangs (Stone Grandfather) all around Jeju!

You can find these Dol Hareubangs (Stone Grandfathers) all around Jeju!

This blog is long overdue but I decided that I will blog about it because it was a great trip. Ek! So many things to write about that I decided to split this blog into two parts! 

First of all, I want to thank Ji Hyo, my co-worker, for being a wonderful “tour guide” and making all the plans. She did an excellent job at guiding and taking care of everything, from booking transportations, the guesthouses, tour sites, and finding places to eat at!

Ji Hyo invited me to join her and her friend, Julia, on a trip to Jeju Island, one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, just a little over two weeks after I started teaching at the English center. I was so excited and accepted the offer to go. Who gets to go to Jeju Island just after they landed in Korea (besides the Jeju EPIK teachers)?! The trip was five days long. It wasn’t enough to see all of Jeju-do but it was a good amount of days!

One of my favorite things about this trip was getting to know Jeju-do through the eyes of the natives and hearing their stories. Our first tour guide was Ji Hyo’s friend, Miso. She showed us around her hometown and where she used to live. We had a wonderful dinner sharing stories of naughty students. Our next tour guide was the owner of the guesthouse we booked. I believe his English name is Martin. He took us to some of my favorite places on Jeju. Our last tour guide was a very friendly taxi driver who we hired to drive us around Jeju for a whole day. He was awesome and told us about the lifestyle of people on Jeju and some of Jeju’s myths about the Gods!

**I took pictures on my phone only. It does not do the colors of Jeju justice!**

 

Day 1

Seonimgyo Bridge and Cheonjiyeon Waterfall

20140907_123044By going to the waterfall from the eastern entrance, we came upon the Seongimgyo Bridge. At first it seemed like a regular bridge we need to cross to get to our destination. However, this bridge was more beautiful than I thought. From a side view of the bridge, I saw that seven nymphs were carved onto it. The lush green trees that surround the bridge make the scenery really pretty also. Atop this bridge, the view was also amazing! I saw the greens hills stretching to the palm trees and ocean. After some pictures, it was time to move on.

There are three waterfall at this location. The uppermost waterfall is called the Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, while the other two were just called the Second and Third Waterfall. (I know, pretty special name right?)

We started off by going to Third Waterfall. Walking the third waterfall felt kind of long and we were going downhill. The final destination to view the Third Waterfall was this very small wooden patio. It was very crowded with lots of people and the waterfall was not anything amazing. I don’t even have a picture of it! We only stayed for maybe five minutes and left for the Second Waterfall.

20140907_123523Walking uphill to the Second Waterfall, you can feel the moisture in the air and there were water running along the pathway. The Second Waterfall was definitely more worth it than the Third one. The wooden patio was much bigger and was actually on the base of the waterfall where you can definitely feel the waterfall’s mist. We snapped some photos and then it was off to our final destination.

Walking to Cheonjiyeon is a little further than the second waterfall and more slippery. Unlike the Second Waterfall, Cheonjiyeon did not have a wooden patio area so tourists were allowed to just stand on the rocks. In my opinion, this waterfall was not as impressive as the Second Waterfall but the water streaming from it looked so calm and cool, it made me wanted to jump into it after a long hike.

A combination of coldness (from the ferry ride to Jeju), heat, humidity, waterfall mist, and sweat just threw my body’s system off balance and, unfortunately, I fell sick after this hike. Overall, I liked the Second Waterfall best.

Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff

20140907_145801After the waterfall, Ji Hyo’s friend, Miso, who is a native of Jeju, came and picked us up and took us out for some native Jeju food. From there we headed to Daepo Jusangjeoli Cliff. Here, we saw volcanic rocks that have been sculpted into cube or hexagon pillars of all sizes by the ocean’s waves. It was pretty crowded here but once you drown out the sounds of the crowd, you can’t help but just be memorized by the sound of the waves as it crashes onto the rocks. You can see sail boats cruising along on the ocean. It was indeed a relaxing sight.

Oedolgae Rock aka Lonely Rock aka General Rock

20140907_160648Next, we made a random stop at this rock site. From a certain angle, the rock looks like person’s head coming out of the water. The few trees on top of it look like strands of hair. According to legend, a Korean general disguised the rock as a giant military general that scared their enemy so much that the enemy committed suicide or retreated.

Day 2

Morning on the Beach

We met up with Martin, the guesthouse owner, the next day. First, he took to a beach on the north eastern side of Jeju. That beach was amazing. It was the first time that I’ve seen such a clear shore in person, it made me really happy! I really wanted to just jump in and swim but it was quite windy and I didn’t have spare clothing with me. We stayed there for almost an hour taking lots of pictures.  You can’t go to the beach and not take jumping photos!

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Volcanic Tube

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** On our way to the volcanic tube, we saw two ladies walking to go there. Our guest house owner stopped and offered them a ride. Their names was Alexis and Angelina and are English teachers in Jeonbuk. From there on, we spent the rest of the day together.**

Argh, I don’t remember the name of the volcanic tube that we went to but I was definitely one of my favorite activity we did. I’ve never been in a cave before so this was very exciting for me. Plus, being underground meant I didn’t have to deal with allergies. Upon entering the lava tube, you can feel coldness coming from inside. The ground was all wet and water was dripping from the ceiling. Through the lightly dim lights that were installed in the tube, you can see the different rock layers on the wall. It was about a 30 minutes’ walk to the end of the trail were you were no longer allowed to go further. There was really nothing super special about the tube (if you’re not into rock or is not a geologist) but I still really enjoyed this part of the trip.

Oreums

20140908_133548There’s nothing quite like the oreums on Jeju. According to Ji Hyo, oreums were not popular sites to visit until a photographer took pictures of them. From then on, more people started visiting oreums. The oreums were a great escape from all the tourists as there were not many people here.

It was absolutely beautiful to be here. The open fields were so green and peaceful. At the top of an oreum, you can see for miles and miles just how green Jeju is. You can also see lots of farmland and windmills. I couldn’t help but remember the scene from Windstruck were the main leads was on a hill top and the guy says to the girl that when he dies, he wants to become the wind. I, too, thought it would be nice to be like the wind!

Seongsan Ilchulbong

Our last destination of the day! There was so many people there. At the base of the crater, you can see people either coming from or going up to the top of the crater. Maybe there was just something about the greenness of the grass and trees and how it reflected the sun’s rays that made me felt like everyone was making a holy homage!

After a long day of walking around already, hiking up to the top of the crater was no joke! I was so tired upon getting to the top; I took a seat at the closest open spot and didn’t move! The view on the outside of the crater was worth it though because you can see the oceans and the towns from below. However, I can’t say the much for the view inside the crater. It was just a big hole with grass and bushes.

After sitting from about 30-40 minutes, we made our way down to finally call it a day! At this time, I was dead tired from hiking and my sickness. I couldn’t wait to just be in bed!

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Continue to part 2.