Countries I have visited

My goals:

Here are the countries I have visited – in order.

  1. U.S.A. – 1990
  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. Slovenia
  18. Austria
  19. Czech Republic
  20. South Korea – 2013
  21. Cambodia – April 2014
  22. Japan – October 2014
  23. China (Shanghai) – October 2014
  24. Thailand – November 2014
  25. Myanmar – December 2014
  26. Mexico – July 2015
  27. Canada – July 2016
Map your travels.
Map your travels.

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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).

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

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.