Category Archives: travel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

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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.

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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.

Busan Beach Day at Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장)

This past weekend, Chris Feese, Devin Thomas and I traveled to Busan to spend some time on Haeundae Beach (해운대해수욕장). A Busan beach weekend was a pressing item on my Korean bucket list. The boys braved the water, but I was not a fan. It was nice weather for laying out, but the water was freezing. The boys swear I nearly cried when they threw me in the water. I’d like to think I held back tears, but yes, it was way too cold for me to enjoy it.

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Then things got weird…there was a large, indescribable event happening on the beach. What started as a gathering of a few Koreans at what looked like a Sewol Ferry remembrance turned into a massive sea of Koreans in yellow vests scouring the beach. At first, it was bearable because there were many groups of foreigners doing the exact same thing we were doing: enjoy a beach day as we would anywhere else in the world. However, it quickly became an uncomfortable situation complete with Christian music playing on loud speakers in Korean.

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My Korean Bucket List

Korean Bucket List
  1. Get dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival - Enjoyed this festival so much! July 19-20, 2014
  2. Visit the DMZ, JSA and tunnels
  3. Eat a live octopus
  4. Get naked at a Jjimjilbang
  5. Break into a mental hospital
  6. Experience the beauty of Jeju Island - scheduled for July 30
  7. “Strut your stuff in a mega dance club in Gangnam,” Colin Grant recommends. Friday, June 6 at Vanguard
  8. Go cliff jumping on Geoje island
  9. Beach day in Busan Visited Busan on May 24-26, 2014
  10. Find some inner peace during a temple stay - try Haeinsa
  11. Cover my friends in paint at Life in Color Drenched in paint at Seoul Land on May 17, 2014 
  12. Hike Seoraksan I hiked the Yangpok course to see Oryeon Falls on May 31, and I trekked up Ulsanbawi on June 1. 
  13. Conquer a sunrise hike I did a solo sunrise hike up Apsan in Daegu on May 28, 2014 
  14. Visit the green tea fields  I visited Boseong Green Tea Fields on June 28, 2014
  15. Touch a fish at the Noryangjin Fish Market
  16. Visit a traditional Korean Village, possibly Hahoe Folk Village On June 28, I visited a traditional Korean village and fortress near Boseong
  17. Hike Bukhansan or Wolchulsan National Park
  18. Beach camping Spent Buddha’s Birthday on Muuido Island with friends May 3-6, 2014
  19. Cheer on a baseball team in Busan or Daegu
  20. See some dick…sculptures at Haesindang Park - I visited on July 12. It was hilarious. 
  21. Watch the monk’s night ceremony at Bongeunsa Temple in Seoul
  22. Enjoy a dinner in a Korean home My dear friend Ji Ah invited me to a Buddhist ceremony 
  23. Visit the War Memorial Museum Spent the day exploring Itaewon with friends May 18, 2014
  24. Check out Changdeokgung 
  25. Learn to cook at least one Korean meal
  26. Check out the Seonamjeong Temple on Inwangsan Mountain in Seoul
  27. Explore Gyeongju for a day I rented a scooter and visited Bulguksa on June 21
  28. Korea Burn - Beach yoga, bug bits and the burn! It was awesome. Happy July 4th!
  29. Explore Gyeongbokgung Palace On June 13, I explored the palace
  30. Andong’s Mask Dance Festival “Mid-Aug Catch Ulleungdo’s squid festival and enjoy delicious seafood in a unique island setting,” Lonely Planet Korea.
  31. Visit the Makgeolli Brewery in Busan (Geumjung Fortress Makgeolli Experience)
  32. Visit the Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan
  33. Be a snow bunny on the slopes of KoreaLearnt to ski at the beginning of the year

Kaikoura, New Zealand

On November 6, 2009, I was headed North again. Thankfully three friends from the ‘southbus’ were accompanying me all the way up to Auckland. The four of us got cozy on the near empty Kiwi bus and made the best of our time.

In Kaikoura, a sea-side town, Dan and Jen drank away their sorrows after saying farewell to Ash, a holiday romance and travel buddy. Paddy and I made new friends and cooked dinner for our new friends, Charlotte and some Irish boys. Thanks to Polly, I can know cook a few delicious dishes and enjoy the cooking part of it as much as the eating part.

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Kaikoura is the town where most people choose to go whale watching and swim with dolphins. The weather was a bit chilly and the price to go out with a guided tour was a bit steep. I choose to sit this one out. While I did not see any whales, I did see a few dolphins in New Zealand jumping about as I took the ferry between Wellington and Picton.

After Kaikoura, we left the beautiful South Island on the ferry headed North to Wellington. Wellington entertained us with its free four-story museum which houses the world’s largest squid. It was there that I had a personal guide, an elderly gentleman who taught me all about the squid as well as fun facts about whales. Ever need to know information about a blue whale? I’m your girl.

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Leaving the South Island was hard because we left so many dear friends. Wonderful memories were made there. All good things come to an end though. What kind of a saying is that really? All good things should last in my opinion. No worries, mate. The North Island had a few tricks up its sleeves. I was in for many more good days in Northern New Zealand.

originally posted on December 28, 2009

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