Category Archives: travel

The Bau House: a puppy cafe

IMG_1417

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.

IMG_1398

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.

IMG_1397

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.

IMG_1370

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Great Unification Buddha

IMG_1200

 

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

apsan

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.

IMG_0718

 

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. 

 

IMG_0764

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.

IMG_0778

 

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.

IMG_9261
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.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

My Korean Bucket List

Korean Bucket List
  1. Get dirty at the Boryeong Mud Festival - scheduled for July 19
  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 - scheduled for July 12
  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 - scheduled for July 4
  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.

DSC_0439 copy

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.

DSC_0441

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

Tagged , , , , ,

Cambodian Monks at the Royal Palace

Sorry:

- Instagram feed was successfully retrieved, but no photos found.

I spent Sunday walking around the Cambodia’s Royal Palace in the capital city, Phnom Penh with Sabeen. The park was full of local who were also enjoying the cooler part of the day with family and friends. Among them were many young monks – some no older than 12 years old. Their saffron robes seemed to decorate the green lawn in front of the palace. One of the three monks noticed I was taking a photo behind him and started to giggle. He nudged his friends, and they smiled at me. We shared a laugh and a head nod.

Check out Sabeen’s blog, Restless Wanderlust.

Tagged , , ,

My First RyanAir Experience

Along with four other University of Kansas students, I arrived at the Dublin International airport with no problems thanks to my newly acquired travel skills. This was my first time leaving the States. At the ripe age of 19, I had just spent the weekend in Ireland visiting Dublin and Galway. I was making my way to Florence to study Italian for the summer.

Once arriving at the airport, we went to check our bags. Of course, the boys’ bags were underweight while Hannah and I were running the risk of our bags being overweight. No surprise there, right? I flashed my nearly empty passport and a smile at the check-in counter. The woman had me set my bag on the scale and that’s when the trouble started. When the middle-aged Irish woman weighed my bag, I am pretty sure she rolled her eyes. As she broke the news of potential fees, my jaw dropped along with my heart. At the time, RyanAir only allowed one carry-on and one checked in bag. 

My bag was 13 kilograms overweight while Hannah’s bag was a mere 6 kg over the maximum weight limit. For those of you on the imperial system, 13 kilograms is 28.6 pounds. So, we’re not talking about a few pounds here or there. We’re talking about a small child. A small child who RyanAir was not going to allow to accompany me without charging me 198 euro. For Hannah’s measly 6 kilograms, they wanted to charge her 95 euro. 

What was a girl to do? Determined to avoid the fees, Hannah and I grabbed our bags from the check-in counter and dragged them to the side of the airport. We dramatically opened our bags and began to stuff some of our things into the boys’ bags, which, of course, had plenty of viable room. This helped some but not enough. The next plan was to layer, and when I say layer, I mean layer. I had nine shirts on under my jacket by the end of this, and my carry-on was stuffed to the brim. Needless to say, we looked like idiots. All of this dressing and repacking was taking place in the middle of the Dublin International  airport.

Hannah and I stripped down and layered up in the Dublin International Airport May 30, 2009. Photo by Mitch Kraemer.

Hannah and I stripped down and layered up in the Dublin International Airport May 30, 2009. Photo by Mitch Kraemer.

Within fifteen minutes, we returned to the check-in counter. The middle-aged eye-rolling Irish woman had been replaced by a lovely Irish man with beautiful eyes.

“Do you have my boarding pass,” I asked with a forced smile. My arms were slightly raised to my sides because of the ten layers of tops I had on. I looked straight out of scene from the Christmas Story.

The twenty-something Irish man jokingly told me no at first.

Oh, Mr. Funny guy, I thought silently. This is not the time for flirting.

Nearly oblivious to his flirting, Hannah demanded her boarding pass. Her bag was still 4 kg overweight, but the man smiled kindly and set her bag on the conveyor belt. Hannah was relieved. I crossed my fingers and forced a smile on my worried face, which was starting to perspire from the thermal layering. Just then a number flashed on the scale. My bag was still 7 kilograms overweight. My heart sunk. It felt as though he paused for a minute, but then he rolled his beautiful eyes at me and checked my bag. Instead of charging us the 15 euro per kilogram over, he nodded in approval and checked our bags free of charge. Surprised and relieved we headed through security. Once at the gate, we stripped off our layers. Once again we looked like idiots, but all in all, it was a complete success. We made it to Pisa safe and sound—free of extra baggage charges.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Countries I have visited

My goal is to visit 100 countries before I turn 65 and visit every continent before my 50th birthday. I also hope to visit six continents before my 30th birthday; I’ve visited five already.

Here are the countries I have visited – in order.

  1. USA
  2. Ireland – 2009
  3. Italy
  4. The Vatican
  5. Denmark
  6. Sweden
  7. Germany
  8. France
  9. Spain
  10. New Zealand
  11. Australia
  12. Peru – 2011
  13. England
  14. Scotland
  15. Poland – 2012
  16. Hungary
  17. Slovakia
  18. Slovenia
  19. Austria
  20. Czech Republic
  21. South Korea – 2013

In four short years, I saw 19 countries. That’s not bad, but I have some work to do! Now, I’m at 21. Watch out world because here I… am.

Map your travels.

Map your travels.