Category Archives: travel

Bucket List Item: Hike Bukhansan

With one month left in Korea, I was determined to hike Bukhaksan (북한산국립공원-도봉 지구). I hiked to the top of Bukhansan’s highest peak yesterday to check off another Korean Bucket List item. The highest peak is Baegundae (백운대), which is 837 meters high (2,746 feet).


Chris and I took our time and enjoyed the day hiking along the fortress wall, originally built in 1711. While the hike wasn’t horribly hard, it did seem more difficult than Seoraksan, but it also could be that I have not been running lately because I’ve been sick.


To get to Bukhansan National Park, take the subway to Gireum Station (길음역) on Line 4. Walk out of exit 3 to the bus stop for bus 143 or 110B. We took bus 143 and got off at the last bus stop and made another stop for water at a nearby convenience store. I recommend taking a good amount of water. There was only one spring water station along the hike, and it was pretty early on (maybe within the first half hour). We packed some tuna and crackers, which gave us just the right amount of fuel to make it to the top.


From others’ experiences and blogs I have read, this hike is meant to be really crowded. So, in hopes of avoiding the crowd, I hiked on the Monday of the Chuseok holiday. Chuseok is a Korean “thanksgiving” holiday, which meant I had a five-day weekend. In my opinion, it was a great time to hike Bukhaksan. Most Koreans are spending time with their families. While Chris and I ran into a handful of hikers here and there. We spent most of the climb alone.


On the way down, I twisted my ankle. It really wasn’t a big deal. It hurt really bad (including my pride), but I didn’t need medical attention. However, we were conveniently outside one of the information centers situated along the mountain pathways. A Korean or two witnessed my tumble and found me professional attention. I was embarrassed, but I let them work diligently as they wrapped and sprayed my ankle with some type of Korean icy-hot spray, which felt awesome.


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Architecture Cafe Utopia

I visited the Architecture Cafe Utopia in Seogwipo City on Thursday during our visit to Jeju Island at the end of July. Seogwipo is the largest city on the southside of the island. Within a few miles, you can see waterfalls, coastal views that will amaze you and enjoy black pork on about every block.

The Architecture Cafe Utopia provided a different experience from Korean BBQ. Stop in for some coffee, quiet time or bask in the sunshine.



This cafe opened earlier this year and provides an open air experience including quality beer and oddly shaped seating arrangements. I first read about it in the Jeju Weekly article. I knew I wanted to stop here if we had time. We thought the weather was going to be alright on Saturday to hike Hallasan, so we had a leisurely day on Friday. Unfortuantely, we were so so wrong and missed out on climbing Hallasan. However, we got to spend our day drinking beer and eating pizza, so we shouldn’t complain…but we will. Just a little.



Order a coffee or a beer here.




The cafe had an art exhibit which including electronic exhibitions. There were three or four raised areas to sit and enjoy the view. The cafe also included a large reading area including a bookshelf full of both English and Korean books. However, this light-up horse was the highlight of the displays.


We grabbed a pizza at eMart and bought beer at the Cafe. It was nice way to enjoy lunch outside.


Directions: South on Leejungseop-ro. Turn right down Jungang-ro 4-beongil. Architecture Cafe Utopia is on the left.
Address: 409-10 Taepyeong-ro, Seogwipo City
Phone number: 064-762-2597

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Gamcheon Culture Village 감천문화마을


The Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을) is located in the coastal town of Busan. Typically, expats visit the beaches of Busan, spending time on the most popular beach, Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장), or late-night hours in noraebangs (노래방), singing rooms or karaoke. My trips to Busan were never much different.


I first visited Busan for the Firework Festival in October 2013. Then I had one epic night in a penthouse suite with my friends. We spent the evening lighting sparklers on the roof, dancing on the bed in fancy dresses and suits (Okay…I think only one guy had on a tux but it set the mood). There was pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, alongside shots of soju. Needless to say, Busan never ceased to impress me.

This past weekend, I wanted to see another side of Busan, so I decided to venture west of Busan Station to the Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을). Just four stops away from Busan Station, the Gamcheon Culture Village is well-worth a visit.


The alleyways and staircases act as art galleries themselves. This step was my personal favorite: “You need diet.” Nothing like a reminder that you’re out of breath as you climb the stairs.


During the 50s, Koreans were fleeing to safety, and Busan welcomed half a million refugees in 1951 alone. Places like the hills of the Saha district (사하구) were a refugee for hundreds of thousands. In the early 1950s, the refugees in the Saha district started building shacks, communal areas such as toilets and drinking wells. Before long, the Gamcheon village had grown to more than 800 homes.

Today, nearly 10,000 residents call Gamcheon home. These residents live peacefully in the colorful homes. That is if you consider thousands of tourist visit peaceful.The village seemed to welcome tourist with open arms. A handful of villagers shot me a quick smile before going about their day. The visit was extremely touristy considering I paid 2,000 won for a map so that I could collect stamps like a scavenger hunt. However, the bright colors and winding alleyways made for a beautiful scenery and a good morning.



I suggest visiting when the weather is nice because you’ll spend a good amount of time wandering the alleyways, exploring the shops and taking handfuls of photos. The mountains create a beautiful backdrop while the sea provides another breathtaking view on the southside. On Friday, the weather was turning for the worse. I thought I was going to be poured on but, thankfully, it was just spitting rain all morning.

Collecting stamps was fun at first, but after about four or five, I was ready to move on. If the weather had been better, and I had had a partner in crime, I might have stayed longer and enjoyed a cup of coffee with a view.


For more pictures, you can visit my Flickr page.


Take the Line 1 subway to Toseong Station (토성역). Only
Take Exit 6, walk straight to the intersection and turn right.
Walk 100 meters or so to the first bus stop.
Take bus 2 or 2-2. It costs 1,000 won and takes about 10 minutes to arrive at the Gamcheon Culture Village where you can buy the 2,000 won map to collect stamps and explore the village. Or forgo the touristy map and simply walk at your leisure.

Free entry.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Website (in Korean):

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Ed the Jeju Horse

Chris wanted to pet one of the horses tied up alongside the road, and who was I to stop him? He named the horse Ed. So, meet Ed.


A few Koreans took notice and before we knew if we had a group of seven twenty-somethings and a family of four wanting to pet Ed the horse. The twenty-something guys asked us in broken English how we know how to be with horse. These two little boys were amazed that we were touching the house, too. I took the boy’s hand and touched the horse. The boys’ eyes got so big and his face lit up. It was a cool moment.


This is near Seogwipo (서귀포시) on the south side of the island (제주도).

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Camping in Jeju Island

We spent our first night camping on Hyeopjae Beach (협재해변) on the northwest side of the island. We woke up to someone outside of our tent yelling in Korean to get our attention. When I poked my head out, he seemed very surprised to see two white people inside.

“외국의,” he said loudly with a look of disappoint. Translation: Foreigner.

Guilty as charged.

After a moment of contemplation, he pointed his finger at me and said, “No Camping!”
“Ok,” I replied with a weak smile.
“No camping!” he said again sternly.
I shook Chris and informed him of the news, “No camping!”

Looking for Hyeopjae Beach (협재해변)? Hyeopjae-gil, Hallim-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do (제주 제주시 한림읍 협재길)


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Visiting Jeju Island (제주도)

I took my summer vacation and flew to Jeju Island, a volcanic island south of the Korean peninsula. Jejudo (제주도) has been compared to Hawaii and while I have yet to say aloha to any of the Hawaiian islands, I can say that Jeju Island is absolutely breathtaking. With thousands of scenic spots, this 45-by-25-mile island, is well-worth the hour flight from Seoul. Many Koreans visit Jejudo for their honeymoon, so I felt lucky to simply hop down for a five-day weekend.

While the typhoon kept us from climbing Hallasan (Halla Mountain), our days full of adventures. We were bummed we couldn’t hike South Korea’s tallest peak, a volcano reaching 6,400 feet high.  We made up for it by renting a car, camping wherever we pleased and visiting a few noteworthy parks, Loveland (제주러브랜드) and Hallim Park (한림공원).

On Friday, August 1, we drove to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉), created by a hydro-volcanic eruption believed to have occurred 100,000 years ago. We arrived to the eastern coast of Jeju Island just as the weather started to turn. A typhoon hit later that night.

It didn’t take us more than twenty-five minutes to summit the peak. We were dodging stopped travelers on the staircase as we made our way to the top.


Twenty minutes after we started to climb to the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, the authorities stopped letting visitors climb. The wind was so strong, It started to spit rain. We were able to get some very funny shots in the rain. Check our the rat’s nest of a hair cut I am sporting. Oh, and do I have to mention the killer matching rain jackets we have.

Being foreign in Korea is rarely boring, and it was no different last week when Chris and I visited Jeju Island’s Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉).

Can you tell it is a little windy? 

Can you tell it is a little windy?

We made some friends on our way down Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉). First Sandra (on the left, next to Chris) walked up to us excitedly asking “England? England?” I replied with a big smile, “미국!” which means America. She giggled and tried to think of what else to say.

After walking down the stairs with us for awhile, her older sister asked if she could take our picture and before we knew it we had three friends and four people taking our picture.

Driving there?  284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do (제주특별자치도 서귀포시 성산읍 일출로 284-12)

Cost: 2,000 won

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The Bau House: a puppy cafe


Chris and I had a favorite solely because it was the dog with the oddest sitting posture.

Iden Baghdahchi, a fellow American and traveler who I met in our guesthouse, invited Chris and I to a puppy cafe. Chris had never heard of this concept, so when he heard the words “puppy” and “cafe” in the same sentence, he immediately wanted to know more. When it was explained as a cafe where you can play with his puppies, he was not only in but also ecstatic.

The Bau House is located within walking distance of Hongik Station near Hapjeong Station on a street parallel to the main road. On Sundays, they open at 12:30. Here’s the Bau House Address:  서울특별시 마포구 서교동 394-44 제일빌딩 후면 1층 ( 394-44 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul). We walked from our hostel, the Seoulwise Guesthouse, which is located south of Hongik Station in Hongdae. It was a quick walk and not too hard to find.

I walked in and was immediately welcomed by the pet store smell but less heavy on the treats and more heavy on the urine and dog fur. It wasn’t a deterrent. If anything, it got me ready for what I was about to experience: a lot of dogs. At the front of the cafe, the right wall is lined with a booth style seating. There are five small round tables with chairs. This is the small dog area, and you guessed it: this is where the small dogs are. I’d estimate that there are about 12 small dogs in this area including an oddly skinny miniature greyhound and my personal favorite a Cavalier King Charlies Spaniel.


This girl seemed to be the dog whisperer.

We opted to walk past the adorable little pups into the next section of the cafe, the big dog area. Divided by a gate, the big dog area is about five times bigger than the small dog area. The walls are lined with roughly 11 booths where you can sit and enjoy the action. And there was a lot of action happening. I immediately had a smile on my face. I found that watching 20 dogs play together is mesmerizing. There were all sorts of breeds and sizes all mingling and playing together. There was a feisty boxer who was fighting with the bigger dogs, some three times his size. The Bau House was an incredibly welcoming place full of families and young people. The staff are all young Koreans who seem to love dogs so much. Why else would they work there?

My heart melted when I saw a Korean child playing with the dogs. Their entire face lit up when a dog would come close. Chris, too, was in his element. He and Iden bought some treats and had a blast feeding it to the dogs. The dogs went nuts, but I never felt threatened or as if they were out of control. Now there was, of course, moments of pee and poop, but the staff did an excellent job cleaning it up quickly and thoroughly using some speed and disinfectant spray.


Take a look how this dog sits when it begs for treats.

The cafe is FREE to visit, but they, of course, expect you to buy a drink. The drinks range from 5,000 Won to 8,000 Won (roughly $5 to $8). While seven dollars was a bit steep for a mediocre cafe latte, it was well worth it to see the dog cafe. Also, I thought I’d feel unsanitary, but oddly, it didn’t bother me that there were dogs jumping in and on the booths and tables. At one point, I had a pup in my lap while sipping my iced latte. There was very little to complain about.

Now,  I have a confession. I have one flaw. (Being humble not being it). I regretfully admit that I am not a dog person. Unlike people who say they are not cat people, I do not hate dogs. How could I hate dogs? Come on. I’m human. I just simply have never owned a dog. Thus, I am not a dog person.

I like to explain it this way: we all people who do not know how to act around babies. Maybe you’re that person. You’re asked if you want to “hold him” when you meet a friend’s newborn. Out of respect, you don’t yell out, “God, no!” although that’s your first instinct. You hold the child at arm’s length making everyone in the room uncomfortable. It is obvious you do not have a clue what you’re doing. Yeah…that’s how I feel around dogs. It all started when I once was asked to dog-sit a friend’s little white dog, and he bit me. Drawing blood, I might add. I don’t hold it against him. But it is like being pooped on or spit up on by a baby that isn’t yours. You don’t really want that happen again any time soon.


I’ll admit this face made an appearance more than once during my time at the Bau House.

As I grow up, I realize dogs are lovely creatures. They have personalities and offer great companionship. I have babysat for families who have incredibly kind and likable dogs, too. I was a dog sitter for the sweetest old lab in Florida. It was then that I realized that I want to own a dog someday given that my husband knows how to care for a dog properly. And technically it starts off as his dog so that I have a way out in case I decide I am not a dog person after all.

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Homesick: Kansas City Barbecue

I rarely find myself homesick, but one thing that is guaranteed to make me yearn for home is the mention of Kansas City barbecue. The Daily Meal posted an article “America’s 25 Best Ribs” highlights the best barbecue joints. To no surprise, three of the Top Four are Kansas City favorites. The four Kansas City joints to make the list the are Oklahoma Joe’s, Arthur Bryant’s, Gates Bar B-Q, and Fiorella’s Jack Stack.

My personal favorite is Oklahoma Joe’s. Last time I visited Kansas City, my dad took me straight to the original location from the airport. And yes, the best barbecue in Kansas City started in a gas station, where it still remains today. I recommend stopping in Oklahoma Joe’s original location for a Z-man or a pulled pork sandwich every chance you get. My mouth is salivating just thinking about it.

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The Great Unification Buddha



Less than 50km from the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the Great Unification Buddha sits outside Sinheungsa temple near the entrance in Seoraksan National Park (설악산). This 62-foot tall Buddha statue, also called Tongil Daebul, cost $4.1 million to construct and represents the Koreans wish to unify the peninsula.

Chris and I took a moment to be silent. I am really grateful for an opportunity to hike Seoraksan. Also, I couldn’t ask for a better travel partner. Yet another wonderful bucket list item: check.

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Hiking Apsan (앞산)

While I still have four months in Daegu, I am starting to diligently cross off bucket list items. The next three weekends are filled with hiking, music festival and an island getaway trip. Conquering a sunrise hike was a top item on my Korean Bucket List, so this morning I forced myself out of bed before 3:30 a.m. and prepared for a quick trek up Apsan (앞산). 산 is pronounced “san” and means mountain in Korean. This upcoming weekend I am headed to to a mountain on the northeast coast called Seoraksan (설악산), again “san” is mountain.


Regardless of the fact that my coworkers bailed, I was determined to conquer Apsan this morning. So, I cooked up some quick eggs and coffee and was out the door. I grabbed a 6,500₩ ($6.30) taxi to Sangdong Bridge at the base of mountain closest to my apartment. At the bridge, I asked the taxi driver to turn left and then a quick right. Then, I was where I wanted. The taxi driver had been talking my ear off the whole ride—some English but mostly Korean. “America! Good!” he repeated. Thanks man. He even shook my hand when I exited the cab—this is not normal behavior.



I was at the base of the mountain at 4:27 a.m. With some pep in my step, I made it to a point to take this photo by 4:55 a.m. The sun was meant to rise at 5:15 a.m. So, I climbed another 10 minutes and was able to get some amazing shoots despite the heavy heavy smog. Daegu sits in a valley so humidity and smog seem to stick around longer than I’d like. This morning was an especially smoggy one with a ungodly amount of yellow dust. 



On my way up, I only ran across to ajummas (Korean women of a certain age). They were friendly with large welcoming smiles as I passed. On the way down, there were many friendly exchanges. Numerous ajusshi (literally means “uncle” but is used for older Korean men similar to “sir”) were listening to small handheld radios. I couldn’t help but think about my dear Grandpa Jim, who always had the radio on in his shop.



No hike is complete without a cheesy video intending only for my parents, but it turns out that I have no shame. Enjoy the 20 second hello.