Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Green Tea Garden and Bamboo Forest

Although I vowed never to go down south and come back home on the same day, I had to say yes to this opportunity since I am trying to get as many Korean experiences in before I leave. I am very lucky to have been invited on this Korean Tour, which we got a good deal fore. We only paid $35,000 won, which included transportation and admission fees.  

We left Seoul at 7:00 am and we where in Damyang, which is close to Busan by 11:00 am. Our first stop was the Green Tea Garden. It was refreshing to be out of the city and surrounded by so much green.

Green Tea Garden 

Group Picture
Our last stop was the Bamboo Forest. The Forest was a lager then I had expected, and we could have spent a few hours there. Unfortunately, we only had less then an hour there if we wanted to eat.

 We heard that the rice cooked in bamboo is really good at the restaurants close to the bamboo forest. We went to the location our tour guide always goes to, and we were not disappointed.

Here is my rice. I was able to take my bamboo cup home as a souvenir. 

They make everything out of bamboo. Even the hotteok 
We were on our way back home by 4:00 pm and once we were on the bus we were informed that we would not be making any stops to avoid traffic. We did make great time and stopped an hour away from Seoul. I was back at Express Bus Terminal by 7:45 pm and was able to go back home the same day. 


Now that the weather is finally nice, I am trying to stay outdoors as much as possible. My sister and I recently took a trip to Everland, which is in Youngin.

It was really fast for me to get to Everland because I took the express bus from Suwon station. The only down side to this is that I had to book my return ticket the same time I purchased my ticket to the theme park. I estimated that I would finish an hour before I actually did and I missed my bus. I had to take the city bus home and it took over an hour and a half just to get to Suwon.
The Entrance
The park was well maintained and it had a bit of a resemblance to Disneyland. My favorite roller coaster was the T-Express. There was really only 4 roller coasters for adults and the rest were for children. The food in the theme park stayed the same throughout the park and was just average.

Just a funny ride they had

So Korean! No one wants to get wet even on a ride

And of course there is a place to dry your clothes

Fans and heaters
We had a great time at Everland. However, it did make us miss the happiest place on earth: Disneyland.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I have so little time left in Korea and I am trying to do the most with my time. I feel like I have been able to do everything I set out to do in Korea. Jeju Island was definitely on my list. Jeju is one of the 7 wonders  in 2011 and it lived to its expectations.

I was only able to go for a weekend trip, but we did so much with the time we had. Unfortunately, it was raining very hard on Saturday but it was perfect temperature on Sunday.

Jeju is famous for their black pig

O'Sulloc Green Tea Museum 
Eongtto Falls: You can only see it when it rains or after it rains

Our Seafood Feast! Another thing on my list was to try the live octopus 

Sunrise Mountain 

Jeju's Olle trail 7

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom season started early April. It first started in the south, since it's warmer, and then it moves up. Once the flowers bloom, they only last about a week or two, which is unfortunate since it made everything look so pretty.

I was told that Jinhae is the best place to go to see the cherry blossoms. So we took a bus and with traffic it took us a very long time to get to Jinhae. In retrospect, we should have spent the night.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oysters Galore!

My sister and I headed down south to the City of Tongyeong this weekend. Our main purpose of our visit was to indulge in oysters, since we are still in oyster season. We decided to go to Tongyeong by bus from Express Bus Terminal in Seoul. It took about 4 hours to get to the other side of the country and it cost $32,000 won each way. The bus dropped us off at Tongyeong Central Bus Terminal, and we took a taxi to the harbor. Our first stop was an oyster restaurant, which was recommended by two friends. 
The restaurant was on the same road as the Tongyeong Citzen's Center
We ordered the $20,000 won set. This set came with oysters cooked in many different ways. It was impossible to eat it all. 

After lunch we looked for a place to stay. I was not able to find any hotels online but there were actually many hotels and motels to choose from. Some of the hotels where Labelle Hotel, Bay Condo Hotel, Tongyeong Hotel Gallery, Hansan Hotel and Tongyeong Anchovy Tourist Hotel, which is where we stayed at. It was a little more expensive that we planned on spending, but we where to tiered/lazy to look for anything else; we also didn’t want to waste time. The hotel was nice and the staff was very friendly. 

Our view from our room
It was forecasted to rain all weekend and we wanted to take advantage of the time that it was not raining, so we went to Mt. Mireuksan by cable car. The weather was very gloomy and by the time we got to the top it got very foggy. If the weather was better, the top would have given us a nice view of all the small islands we were surrounded by. 
Some of the islands

View of the harbor

On our way down in the cable cars
Once we got back to the bottom, we needed to figure out what else to do. We wanted to go to Dara Park to watch the sunset, but we knew it would be a waste of a trip since the weather was not that nice. We stopped at the tourist information center and asked where the Dongpirang Wall Painting Village was at. Next thing we know, one of the employees offered us a ride since her shift had just ended. Not only did she take us to Dongpirang, but she also gave us a tour of the “village”. Dongpirang was on top a hill and many of the walls where painted. Each wall had a different theme. 
The wall our "tour guide" and her friends painted 
You don't see to many artist in Korea

Cute village

Once we finished, our new friend wanted to take us back to our hotel but we still wanted to explore the city and we told her we would walk to the Traditional Market since it was just down the hill, but she insisted on giving us a ride. She dropped us off at the Cultural Plaza and told us she would be at the Tourist Information Center that was close to the plaza and told us to visit her again. Once we said goodbye, we walked around the market. The market had a variety of dried and fresh fish. We also had the opportunity to watch a lady open an octopus’ head with her bare hands to remove the ink and whatever else was in there. I have to say that experience was a bit traumatizing since the octopus was alive and still moving during and after all this.

Each city in Korea is always known for something. Tongyeong is known for their honey balls and tiny kimbop. After looking at our selection of honey balls vendors, we chose a location that they were making them fresh and they were still warm. Each pastry was filled with either yams, pumpkin, green bean, red bean and at one location it was filled with something that tasted like citrus. The dough was fried and it almost tasted like a doughnut. Then each ball was drenched in honey, which was more like syrup and topped with different kinds of seeds. 

This one was filled with a yam filling
For dinner we had kimbop. It was a lot smaller than the kimbop we are used to, and it was not stuffed with anything. It was just rice and seaweed. The kimbop was served with a seafood kimchi that was spicy and was a good combination with the kimbop. The restaurant we ate at served only this and while we were there many people came in to take some to go, which the restaurant had packed in advance.     

Sunday morning we went to the Culture Plaza to visit our friend and we brought her some honey balls. While we were there, some policemen came to talk to us and recommended we go to Hansando Island. After we talked to our friend and her coworkers we decided that we could make it to the island and back in time to take the bus home. We walked to the Tongyeong Ferry Terminal and took the 11:00 am ferry. The ride was about 30 minutes. The ferry had an outside area and the inside there was lots of room to sit on the floor. Many people had come prepared and where eating on the ride to the island. 
Once we arrived to the island we didn’t know where to go. It seemed like everyone was getting on a bus, which was free of charge. So it seemed like a good idea and we decided to do the same, luckily we showed someone where we wanted to go and they told us we had to walk there. Who knows where we would have ended at if we took the bus. We walked to Jeseungdang Shrine. The walk way was lined with trees on one side and water on the other. It was very beautiful and the most nature we have seen in a while.

Once we got back to the Tongyeong City we picked up some kimbop and seafood kimchi to-go to have for lunch/dinner on the way back home. I wish we would have had more time to eat at the oyster restaurant again. I would definitely go back just to eat. I also think it would be beautiful during spring with all the flowers blooming, and great in summer to swim since the water was so clean and clear.
Visiting Tongyeong has been one of my favorite things I have done in Korea. I think I even liked it more than Busan. The people of Tongyeong were so friendly and kind. All day Sunday we were approached my many people young and old who just wanted to say hi or ask where we were from. Maybe it was because we where away from Seoul, but it seemed like we were in a different Korea.
Evidence that spring is near! Cherry blossom season will soon be here

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

9 Months down!

Just got back from spring break and I can’t believe I only have 3 months left in Korea. The last 9 months have flown by, and I know I will be heading home before I know it. I‘ve started to reflect on my time here and I am really happy I have chosen to come, and a little sad that it is coming to an end. Life in Korea has just been so easy and the 20 days of vacation has made it all worth it.
Now it’s time to focus on the small amount of time I have left and make the most out of it. First I plan on eating as much sam gyup sal and chicken galbi that I can handle. I also plan on visiting Jeju, Seoraksan, and Tongyeong. Once my contract is up, I have 10 days to leave Korea, and I plan on going to Northern Vietnam during that time, which will probably be my last vacation for a long time.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Korean Wedding

The singles club is nonexistent now. Two of the members have gotten married in the past two months and another is getting married in February. The singles at are school are now few and far between. This is probably a good representation of Korea since being married is so important. 

I was excited to be invited to one of the weddings since I was so curious as to what happens in Korean weddings. Before the wedding, I have very minimal knowledge about weddings. I knew that there were wedding halls and that everything took place there, but I was not ready for what I experience. 

When we got to the wedding hall there was chaos everywhere. The wedding hall was a three story building and there were multiple weddings happening in the different rooms. 
This is outside

and the inside

Once we were directed to the correct location we were guided to a table. At the table there were two men who was recording everything they received. In Korea they do not give presents for weddings but rather just give cash. We were lucky to have gotten that memo prior to the wedding, but being foreigners we could not just give cash we also wanted to give a card, which they refused. They would also not take the cash from our hands. The school nurse was so kind as to jump in and take the money from us, take an envelope from the table, put the money in the envelope, gave the money to the man, and told the man our names, which I later found out she forgot and she told them it was from the foreigners. Once our money was received, we were given a meal ticket. 

We then went to the room were the ceremony was taken place. The bride was in a white and very sparkly wedding dress. I later learned that they do not purchase the gown, but instead rent it from the wedding hall, which has a huge selection. 

No real bridesmaids. They are actually staff that comes in the package deal

They are blowing out a candle on a cake

The streamers shot out of the the flower arrangement 

The wedding was different then back at home mostly because people were talking, on their cell phones, and constantly walking in and out of the hall. It also seemed very impersonal since everyone gets the same kind of wedding. There was also some Karaoking at the end, which was very Korean.

A very cutesy Korean photo of the couple 
After the ceremony we headed to the second floor for our meal. It was a very large cafeteria style room and the meal was buffet style. Tables were found everywhere and instead of center pieces they had soda and beer. There was staff just walking around and cleaning all the empty tables and replenishing the drinks. The people in the room were from different weddings and didn't know each other. There were also TVs showing live footage of the weddings that were currently going on so we could have just ate and watched from that room. 

A very wide selection of food

One of my plates 

Just cleaned table
The whole wedding was very short. It started at noon and we where out an hour and forty five minuets later.