Red Clay Trail

I’m well aware that I’m a terrible blogger. No posts for nearly two months?! What is this business…Yes, I’ve been busy with work (I just picked up another class and we had student reports due), but I’ve also been busy living life in Korea. Sometimes it gets a little wild.

Almost a month ago now (!) I went on a nice hike (organized, once again, by my favorite Korean tour guide). Again, we went with the KJ touring company, but our destination was a different trail that I’ve wanted to do for some time now: Gyejoksan. Gyejoksan is a special mountain that is home to the red-clay trail. A local soju distillery has an eco-partnership with the community. What this means is that they spend time and money to maintain the mountain as a way to offset some of their less environmentally-friendly activities. In 2006, they installed a clay-trail that leads up the mountain and turned it into an eco-park. The park is only maintained for a few months out of the year, so I’m glad I got a chance to hike it.

This sign highlights the "benefits" of walking the trail.

This sign highlights the “benefits” of walking the trail.

The trail is described as “soft clay,” and I think I was expecting dry clay, not wet clay. They come by and hose the trail down every few hours or so to keep it mucky. If you’ve ever touched clay before, you know it can get pretty slick, and there were times when I was really afraid that I would just bite it (we saw a few kids wipe out pretty hard…).

Red clay trail on the right.

Red clay trail on the right.

I love the clay trail :)

I love the clay trail 🙂

All our gross, clay-covered feet.

All our gross, clay-covered feet.

The trail was pretty tame, as far as Korean hiking trails go. No super steep inclines, very well maintained, and, despite the fact that it was the weekend, pretty empty (by Korean standards). That all changed when our guide said “Let’s go see the top!” I’m pretty sure that we could’ve stayed on the same trail for another few miles and reached the top, but he decided we needed to take the shortcut in order to get back to the bus on time. His job keeps him very in shape and he was more or less running up one of the steepest, rockiest, most difficult inclines I’ve ever done in my life. I managed to make it to the top and there, at the top of a 4th century fortress, we found a beautiful view of Daejeon.

The view from the top

The view from the top

I'm pretty excited about having reached the top

I’m pretty excited about having reached the top. Maybe this will be my new header?

Victory makgeolli! All the Koreans drink this or soju while hiking. (L-r, Christine, me, Angelica)

Victory makgeolli! All the Koreans drink this or soju while hiking. (L-r, Christine, me, Angelica)

After taking a bit of a break, we headed back down (this time with our shoes ON; the clay was quite a workout and it was very hard to stay standing) and soaked our feet for a bit while listening to a live opera being performed. It was a little odd to hear Puccini in the woods, sung (poorly) by Koreans, but it was a very neat experience.

Cooling and rinsing our feet in the little foot pool. You can't really see here, but the water was a gross red/brown color.

Cooling and rinsing our feet in the little foot pool. You can’t really see here, but the water was a gross red/brown color.

As we headed out of the forest, we saw a few more beautiful sights and reflected on how much fun our day had been. It was certainly one of those “only in Korea!” sort of things, and I’m once again so thankful for having had the opportunity to join in on these adventures.

The raised trail on the way down.

The raised trail on the way down.

A very pretty scene between the trees on our way out

A very pretty scene between the trees on our way out.

No promises on when I will write next, but I will keep having my adventures. Maybe there is even a knitting update in the near future….

Korean food (so far)

This is now the second in what will (hopefully) be an ongoing series on Korean food. The first post was dedicated to my first experience with makgeolli (and beondegi), and you can read about it here. This one is more of an overview of the things I’ve been eating. Food is often very inexpensive in Korea. While it is true that you can get meals for $3-5 USD, most meals are slightly more coming in at the $7-10 range. Still VERY inexpensive! I still try to cook at home a good deal (because, if I eat vegetarian, it is cheaper to eat here), but I certainly eat out much more here than I did back in the States. This could also be due (in part) to the fact that Korean food is just so GOOD! So, here is a fairly incomplete list of things I’ve eaten recently, in order from least to most formal meals.

Hotteok in Seomun market

Hotteok in Seomun market

First up, we have the street food. Korea is well known for having some great street food culture and there is no keeping me from it! Above is the hotteok (Korean doughnuts, but waaaaaaaaay better) cart in Seomun market. They average 1,000 won/each, so it’s a pretty good deal (especially on a cold day)

Below is my favorite twigum lady. Twigum (pictured just out of frame, on the left) is fried food. I don’t know if it refers to anything specific, but I typically see peppers, squid, eggs, squash, and kimbap pieces. Prices range from 500-1,000 won/piece, and many places have specials if you get 3 or 5 pieces. Her stall (which is, conveniently, set up right outside my office) also has odeng (the squiggly fish cake in the center), grilled chicken hearts and intestines (I’ve had the hearts; they’re a little iron-y), and a variety of other meats on sticks.

My twigum lady

My twigum lady

Next up, we have the more cafeteria-style foods. The two major stores near me, Emart and HomePlus, both have lovely cafeterias and I’ve always been very impressed with my meals. Below is my udon (thick noodles) set with kimbap (just plain rice with seaweed around it). The food was good, but the real star was the ojingeojeot (dried squid kimchi). The dried squid gave it a slightly sweet taste and really helped to round out all the spice. The whole meal set me back about 3,000 won

Emart lunch; I think this was a kimbap and udon set

Emart lunch

Emart’s main competitor, HomePlus (owned by the British company, Tesco) has, in my opinion, a slightly better cafeteria. I went the other day and got a bibimbap (rice with stuff on top) set that was very good. They gave me enough food for two people and the rice was perfectly cooked. The toppings were generous and well seasoned. My only complaints are that the egg was fried through (I like a runny yolk) and I was turned down when I tried to refill on the fishcake kimchi. This lunch set me back 5,500 won, so it was still VERY budget friendly.

HomePlus lunch; bibimbap with soup

HomePlus lunch; bibimbap with soup

Next up is tent-food. Maybe this one would better fall between street-food and cafeteria food, but I’m also including atmosphere. I’ve posted this before, but after a somewhat cold, rainy day of hiking around town, this meal really hit the spot. Big bowls of udon and some bulgogi (marinated beef) made for a lovely meal, despite the drunk high schoolers near us. This meal was maybe 5,000 won (again, so inexpensive!)

Tent dinner! Udon with bulgogi

Tent dinner! Udon with bulgogi

And now, onto the restaurants! I get out of work at 10 pm, so sometimes I’m really too tired to cook. Enter Okaduk. Koreans do chicken like you wouldn’t believe. I typically like their oven-roasted chicken (the skin is super crispy and a little sweet, whatever they put on it is MAGICAL), but they also have really good fried chicken. A typical meal is between 8,000-10,000/person, and they always give enough to share. Add in the cheap pitchers of beer, a convenient location (literally right around the corner from school), and it’s not hard to see why we frequent this place. My biggest complaint is that the meal is usually only chicken. No rice, no veggies, nothing. They do give out sides of moo (daikon radish), but that still doesn’t feel particularly healthy.

Okaduk chicken, a work favorite

Okaduk chicken, a work favorite

One of my favorite parts of Korean meals is that they come with banchan (side dishes). Typically these can be refilled as many times as you want (and you will want to refill them), but sometimes they bring out a special dish and you only get one. I went out to sushi with a friend a while back and they brought us out a whole grilled fish before we got our sushi! The sushi itself was “meh” at best, but the banchan fish was incredible. Very fresh and grilled to perfection, we ate every single bit of that dish.

Some banchan before a mediocre sushi lunch

Some banchan before a mediocre sushi lunch

I went on a bike ride last weekend and afterwards was quite hungry. Luckily, I was in an area primarily populated by students, so cheap eats were easy to come by. I sat down and ordered what I thought was one soup, but turned out to be another (probably better) one.Yukgaejang is a Daegu specialty. A thick soup with lots of pepper paste, bean sprouts, and shredded beef, it is simmered for hours so the flavors really meld together. Add in the generous portion of rice (or use the seaweed to make mini wraps) and you’re in business. This meal set me back a staggering 7,000 (including the soda). I’m pretty sure this is what Korean dreams are made of…

Yukgaejang, maybe. If it is, it is a Daegu specialty

Yukgaejang, maybe. If it is, it is a Daegu specialty

And finally, my newest love; shabu-shabu. I always love hotpot meals, but Korea has Vietnamese style places that take it to a whole new level. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese dish that has spread around the world (for a very obvious reason; it’s delicious). So I’m eating a Japanese dish in the Vietnamese style in Korea. Confusing, right? BUT SO GOOD. There are three rounds to shabu-shabu, so come hungry. Round one is the wrap round. They bring out a plate piled high with veggies and you can add some into the pot of broth (especially the mushrooms and greens), and start adding meat very slowly. Once everything is nicely cooked, you take a rice paper wrapper (the circle things), dip it in hot water or broth, set it on your little plate, and start adding uncooked veggies, sauces, and finally a piece of meat. The key is not to add too much, because then your roll won’t close! I’m guilty of this all the time…

Shabu shabu, aka the new love of my life

Shabu shabu, aka the new love of my life

After you’ve eaten your fill of rolls, they will bring some more broth to add to the pot (it gets low, some people like to just eat the broth as soup) and dump in the noodles. Sometimes rice noodles, sometimes delicious homemade buckwheat udon, they create a soup that is to die for. Remember all the meat and veggies that were thrown in earlier? They have now cooked down and imparted their flavor into the broth, so it tastes a little like heaven.

I really really love the noodle part.

I really really love the noodle part.

Round three involves the host pouring out most of the remaining broth and adding in rice, more veggies, and an egg to create a porridge-like ending to the meal. Usually I can only eat a few bites of this, but the rice is really delicious (I need to remember to save room for this!). And there it is, a three course meal for about 10,000/person.

This concludes my essay on Korean food (so far). I’ll make sure to update on things I eat in the future, since I clearly like to eat 🙂

Wherever you go, there you are*

*The title of this post is meant to reference the works of the Buddha and not a 1980’s movie.

I couldn’t tell you the exact point in my life when I decided I wanted to come to Korea. There was no single moment where I said “Yes! This is where my life is headed.” It was certainly on my radar for a number of years before I took the dive and flew over, but there was never one of those “ah-ha!” moments for me. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling, especially amongst my fellow expats. Korea seems to be full of people who are searching for something. We come here with the intent of escaping any of a multitude of sins back home:debt, ex-loves, responsibility, etc.

I don’t know if I knew I was running when I left. Maybe I thought I was simply leaving something behind, but, then again, maybe we spend most of our lives running: sometimes away from one thing, sometimes towards another. I want to think that, after years of running away, I’m finally running towards something. There is not, as of yet, a way to tell what I’m running towards, but I feel a definite shift in how I see the world these days.

A lotus blossom handed to me by a monk on my way in

A paper lotus blossom handed to me by a monk.

One of the most noticeable changes is that I am learning, slowly, to be happy with myself. Most days, I am content to keep my own company. While there are the bouts of homesickness, loneliness, and those hollow, empty days that are (inevitably) part of life (and the experience here), I don’t spend time dwelling on those feelings as much as I did my first few weeks (months) here. At 27, it feels like I am finally learning to be happy with me (my hope is that this growth will continue, and in 10 years I’ll look back on what I wrote here and go “WHAT WAS I EVEN THINKING?!”).

I don’t know if there is a point to the above rambling, except as a way to say that a few weeks ago, after having every weekend scheduled to the brim with events (all good! But still busy), I needed some down time. I intentionally planned to spend some quality time with myself and had nothing on tap except maybe heading to a park to partake in the Buddha’s Birthday celebrations. I spent a better part of the day just wandering around in Duryu park.

Around 5 p.m, I headed to the outdoor amphitheatre to take part in a floating-lantern ceremony for Buddha’s birthday. The event was combined with a memorial for the victims of the Sewol ferry-boat disaster, and it made for a very moving and beautiful evening.

Lanterns and candles to celebrate Buddha's birthday and commemorate the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster

Lanterns and candles to celebrate Buddha’s birthday and commemorate the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster

Lanterns lined the park and there were various choirs performing on the large stage up front. As people filtered in, they handed out rice balls (a sign of generosity and peace) for people to snack on, and each person was given a lantern and candle.

This girl and her mom were so sweet together

This girl and her mom were so sweet together.

As the sun started setting, a performance group took the stage and brought offerings to the idol on stage. There was more singing and chanting, some speeches (to acknowledge the deceased, I think), and then they dimmed the lights for the lantern send-off.

Another little girl who kept waving at me and singing with her friends.

Another little girl who kept waving at me and singing with her friends.

Group after group of people around me started to send of their lanterns; each inscribed with a message of peace or love. It was quite a sight to see 5,000+ lanterns heading off into the night sky.

Lantern send-off.

Lantern send-off.

A lantern floating off into the night.

A lantern floating off into the night.

Lanterns rising past Woobang Tower

Lanterns rising past Woobang Tower

Korea is never what I expect, but (slowly, slowly) I’m finding my way. Thanks for sharing this journey with me 🙂

Windy Hill (Geoje Island Area)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with some members of the Daegu Hiking Club (facebook link) and explore the Geoje Island area. The original plan was to explore the hilly area on one of the islands for a bit and then take a ferry-boat to Somamuldo Island. However, because of the recent Sewol disaster and a bit of a rough chop on the seas, our day was cut short and we were only able to explore the Windy Hill area.

Hiking in Korea is a lifestyle. People here form clubs, don matching gear, and rent (or BUY) charter busses to take them to different hiking destinations. The Daegu Hiking group is maintained by a Korean who connects the group with different touring groups (mostly KJ Hiking Club). It helps them fill up seats on their bus (keeping their costs down) and lets foreigners see a whole new aspect of Korean culture. Win-win, if you ask me.

Our day started bright and early at 7 am. We met up downtown and boarded our bus. About 45 minutes later, we made a stop and had some Korean-style breakfast (part of the fee for the trip). Korean breakfast is delicious; seaweed and soybean soup over rice with kimchi and a few other types of banchan.

Breakfast amongst the azaleas

Breakfast amongst the azaleas

Breakfast was provided by the tour group and I found out later that there are kitchens who sell “hiking breakfast kits” to the various groups. The group tells them how many people and a price-point and the company sends boxes of rice, soup, banchan, and utensils. The fact that a service like this even exists should tell you how popular hiking is in Korea.

After filling up, we got back on the bus and headed further south towards the coast. I have to admit I slept for most of the ride; I was dead tired from being up so early. When I awoke, I was greeted by some very tropical-looking scenery. Maybe it was just the contrast from being in the city, but it just seemed so green. All around us were amazing coastal vistas, lush forests, and hills that seemed to sprout up right from the coastline.

Just before we got off the bus; this was one of my first views of the area

Just before we got off the bus; this was one of my first views of the area

At this point in the day, we were fairly certain we wouldn’t be going to the island to hike, so they gave us a bit of extra time to wander around the area. The area known as Windy Hill is a thin strip of land that rises up and connects one part of an island with another part. It is barely a mile from one side of the island to the other (width-wise), but the climb up the hill makes it feel much much much longer. The coastline is rocky and reminds me of Spain quite a bit. We had great fun exploring each side, before heading back to the bus.

The coast on the right (eastern) side; we went out to explore the rocks on the left-hand side

The coast on the right (eastern) side; we went out to explore the rocks on the left-hand side

A closer view of the rocks from the beach.

A closer view of the rocks from the beach.

Our intrepid leader (name withheld to protect the innocent!) and Angelica on the eastern side

Our intrepid leader (name withheld to protect the innocent!) and Angelica on the eastern side

Another view of the coastline on the eastern side

Another view of the coastline on the eastern side

A boat tied up in the western harbor.

A boat tied up in the western harbor.

This old woman was selling all sorts of sea creatures for people to snack on. I tried some, but was not entirely impressed. They needed to be cleaned a bit better to be really enjoyable.

This old woman was selling all sorts of sea creatures for people to snack on. I tried some, but was not entirely impressed. They needed to be cleaned a bit better to be really enjoyable.

The coastline on the western side; it was significantly windier on this side

The coastline on the western side; it was significantly windier on this side

It was REALLY windy!

REALLY windy! (Photo c/o our leader, whose name I cannot put on here because of his top-secret job 🙂 )

All in all, a really lovely way to spend a Sunday. Despite not getting to go on the hike, we had a very nice time hanging out by the water, climbing rocks, and taking in the scenery. Thanks again to KJ Hiking Club for a great day!

I am the Yeongdeok Crab Queen

This is part two of a two-part post. You can read part one here.

After a beautiful morning of cherry blossoms, we headed further east and ended up in Yeongdeok for their annual Snow Crab Festival. We were hoping for a day of crab, entertainment, and adventure, and we got all three in spades. (The last post was picture-heavy, this one is wordy…)

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Upon arriving, we stopped at the very first location, which happened to be the “catch your own crab” spot. A little investigation revealed that it was 20,000 won/pole to catch crabs (don’t worry, we made all the appropriate jokes, and even some inappropriate ones). We decided to pass on the event and just watch. As we headed over to a little viewing area, a man shoved a fishing pole into my hand and then pushed and prodded me over to the fishing area. I’m not sure my friends even realized where I had gone to, since it happened so quickly (luckily I’m easy to spot in a crowd of Koreans- LOOK FOR THE RED HAIR!). The fishing pond was more or less a cement tub, a little larger than a swimming pool, covered in a blue tarp. There was a raised platform extending over the pool and an MC was standing up there getting the crowd excited for the upcoming event. I was placed, very intentionally, right next to the platform. After a bit of shouting and heckling from the crowd, three or four men in waders climbed into the pool with big crates in their arms. After a “hana, dul, set!” (one, two, three) from the MC, they opened the crates and started throwing the crabs towards the edges of the pool for people to “catch.”
I know this might come as a bit of a surprise, but I’m horrible at fishing (side story: there was once a picture of my dad and me in the local paper, fishing pole in hand, and the caption said “I don’t like touching the worms, so I make my dad do it”). One of the volunteers ended up taking the pole from my hand, did some swirly arm maneuvers, and basically trapped a crab for me with the fishing line. He handed the pole back to me, but I was so overwhelmed with what was happening that I didn’t pull it back quickly enough for his liking and he ended up grabbing the pole again and lifted the crab out of the water. It swung back at me and I FREAKED out. I don’t know if I just wasn’t expecting it to head straight for me like that, if I was afraid it would fall off and pinch me, or what, but I took a step backwards, tried to grab the railing of the platform next to me, missed, and ended up falling over a stair, knocking over a very large box of apples, rice, and eggs next to me. The very friendly (and probably amused) volunteers helped me up while I hurriedly tried to help put everything back in the box. They handed me an apple and I thought that was the end of my fishing experience. I tried, desperately embarrassed, to walk away with my one crab, but the volunteers once again pushed me back towards the pool, pole in hand. Twice more they helped me to catch a crab (I tried, really I did, I just don’t have the finesse necessary to catch crabs in a swimming pool). After what I thought was the last one, they said “one more, one more!” so back I went. This time however, I put my pole in and one of the men in waders grabbed my hook, stuck it into the underside of a crab, and threw it back at me. As I pulled it out (assisted, of course), people started shouting “Winner! Winner!” They took my last crab off the hook, put it in my hands, and thrust me up onto the platform over the pool with the MC. He had me hold it up to show the crowd and began asking me questions in Korean. I still have no idea what he said, but he kept having me smile for a camera with my crab, turning me around in circles so everyone could see my “catch.” After a few minutes of this, I was pushed towards the steps where an ajumma (older woman/grandmother) came to congratulate me. She took one of the winning crab from my bag and pulled a gold-colored band from around the pincer. Then, taking the ring, she shoved in on my finger and started saying something in Korean and smiling at me. I would later learn that this was some sort of wedding ceremony and I was now married to the King Crab, making me the queen.

The ring didn't fit on my ring finger, so it went onto my pinky. Photo c/o Angelica H. Bonus

The ring didn’t fit on my ring finger, so it went onto my pinky. Photo c/o Angelica H. Bonus

In a sick turn of events, I then took my lovely crab husband to be steamed (for the incredible price of 1,000 won, or about $1) and we feasted on him and his friends.

My "husband" and friends. Not sure which was which, but they were DELICIOUS.

My “husband” and friends. Not sure which was which, but they were DELICIOUS.

And that is how I ate crab for $1 and became queen of the crab festival. A few people came up to me throughout the day to congratulate me, and I learned from some Russian women that the ring was actually 24K gold (!) and probably worth a bit of money.

The rest of the festival was mostly just tent after tent of seafood (THEY GAVE AWAY CRAB SAMPLES, SO DELICIOUS AND FREE!) and enjoying the overall atmosphere. Here are a few more photos from the day (if you made it all the way through the story above)

Enjoying a ride on the crab bus. L-R Me, Angelica, Dawn, and Katie

Enjoying a ride on the crab bus. L-R Me, Angelica, Dawn, and Katie

Boats in the harbor.

Boats in the harbor.

Crabs for days.

Crabs for days.

Squid drying in the sun

Squid drying in the sun

There were tables and tables of dried fish

There were tables and tables of dried fish

FRESH FISH!

FRESH FISH!

A woman sitting in the wet market area with some of her (very much alive) fish for sale.

A woman sitting in the wet market area with some of her (very much alive) fish for sale.

Another weekend adventure

This is part one of a two part post, the second part is forthcoming. I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy!

A few weekends ago, a few friends and I headed out to Gyeongju for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Saturday’s weather wasn’t ideal, but it was still beautiful. I’m going to keep this post light on the commentary and let the pictures do most of the talking, which is to say this is a very picture heavy post, so sorry if you have a slower connection.

We started by visiting some burial mounds (next picture) with a wishing turtle at the front of the park.

We started by visiting some burial mounds (next picture) with a wishing turtle at the front of the park.

The ladies and one of the burial mounds.

The ladies and one of the burial mounds.

View from the top of the park.

View from the top of the park.

Cherry blossoms and terracotta

Cherry blossoms and terracotta

Tiles outside the state park

Tiles outside the state park

Funky trees. I love some good topiary

Funky trees. I love some good topiary

Finally, the blossoms!

Close up of some of the blossoms.

Someone's house; I think they weren't too pleased we were taking all these photos, but I loved the contrast of the rust, crackling paint, and trees

Someone’s house; I think they weren’t too pleased we were taking all these photos, but I loved the contrast of the rust, crackling paint, and trees.

Gold and pink and green all over.

Gold and pink and green all over.

We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky, as we lie in fields of gold (this was bliss).

“We’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky, as we lie in fields of gold” (this was bliss).

A little (huge) grasshopper to serenade us along.

A little (huge) grasshopper to serenade us along.

We checked into our love-motel (which was, by almost any standards, quite nice, despite the name and reputation) and crashed for the evening. The next morning, we packed up and headed out to see the flowers along the lake. The day was sunny, if a little cold, but it made for some spectacular viewing. We got there early, so there weren’t a ton of people out yet.

The path leading down to the lake; surrounded by blossoms and trees.

The path leading down to the lake; surrounded by blossoms and trees.

The ever lovely Angelica posing by the lake.

The ever lovely Angelica posing by the lake.

Lake, bridge, blossoms. We had views like this for hours and hours.

Lake, bridge, blossoms. We had views like this for hours and hours.

A perfect blossom.

A perfect blossom.

After our walk (and some much needed coffee), we headed off to Yeongdeok for a crab festival. I’ll write (and post) that story soon, as it was quite the adventure…

The Daegu Stamp Trail (part 1 of ???)

Let me start by saying that the internet is an amazing place. Yes, there are all sorts of horror stories and crazy websites, but as someone who travels, it can be a really great resource. Last weekend, for example, I got connected with a group of people who wanted to check out the Daegu Stamp Trail, a mini-tour of the city where you get stamps at various locations and enjoy the variety of things the city has to offer. I was thinking of doing this on my own anyways (it seems like a really easy way to hit all the major points of interest in the city), but doing it with people who have been here a little longer made it a little easier (navigation!) and I got to meet new people, which is always a plus 🙂

Outside the museum; the stone path around the fountain is supposed to massage your feet (you walk barefoot around it)

Outside the museum; the stone path around the fountain is supposed to massage your feet (you walk barefoot around it)

We started out at the Yangnyeongsi Oriental Medicine Museum. The area surrounding the museum is a bit more historic looking than some of the other parts of downtown that I’ve seen. The whole area smells like ginseng (which we saw quite a bit of) and the surrounding shops are full of barks, roots, and animal parts that I assume cure various maladies.

One of the little scenes in the museum. This one depicted a traditional village market with the various medicinal products for sale.

One of the little scenes in the museum. This one depicted a traditional village market with the various medicinal products for sale.

I’m very glad the museum was free, because it was slightly disappointing. I’m sure it would’ve been better if I spoke Korean, but even the Koreans in our group didn’t seem all that interested. I think the museum was geared very much towards little kids. They did have samples of the various medicinal herbs to smell, which was interesting, but that was about it.

Also, I got a chance to dress up in hanbok.

Also, I got a chance to dress up in hanbok.

After the museum, we walked over to Sang-Hwa Yi‘s old house for a visit. Sang-Hwa was a nationalist poet who actively resisted Japanese rule. The house was left to deteriorate until the late 1990’s when a group of citizens restored it. It was dedicated to the city in 2005 and now serves as an educational center on his life and work. The house is quite beautiful and is decidedly pre-war in style. The contrast between the short, intricately carved, wooden structures and the cement buildings which surround it is startling. The house compound was very quiet and peaceful; it was a nice break from the city and I would really like to go back and spend more time looking at the houses and just enjoying the quiet.

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From here, we walked to a tiny neighborhood where we wound down many narrow alleys and finally found ourselves at a Confucian Academy. The academy is situated slightly up on a hill and provides a nice view of the nearby cathedral. I imagine in the later spring and summer seasons the gardens are very beautiful, but when we were there, the soil was just being turned for planting.

One of the buildings at the Confucian academy

One of the buildings at the Confucian academy

Old/new architecture. This is a view of the cathedral from the school.

Old/new architecture. This is a view of the cathedral from the school.

One of the many front gardens of the homes surrounding the academy

One of the many front gardens of the homes surrounding the academy

My favorite part was wandering the alleyways around the academy. The homes were so old and really took me back in time. Peeking through the gates was always a surprise, as most people have very nicely manicured yards. I wonder if they have a garden tour here like they do back in Ann Arbor…

After the academy, we headed over to Seomun Market (which I’ve been to before) to wander around, drink some rice punch, and generally get lost in the chaos that is a Saturday afternoon at the market. The only notable difference was that this time we found a few yarn shops! Now that I know where they are, I just need to figure out a time to go back!

The last stamp trail stop of the day was Dalseong Park. The park includes part of a castle wall (I’m not so sure we saw that; by then I was a little tired and it started to rain). We grabbed some pumpkin taffy (NEVER. AGAIN.) outside the park from a man dressed like a depressed clown and headed in to explore.

The park entrance. The topiary and landscaping continued throughout.

The park entrance. The topiary and landscaping continued throughout.

The first thing we came upon was the most depressing zoo I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t bring myself to take any photos, as the animals all looked miserable. It broke my heart to see them in such cramped and dirty living conditions. It’s a free zoo, and they clearly do not get sufficient funds to maintain the habitats.

Once we got away from the zoo area, it was a little easier to enjoy the park (though the animals’ living conditions  still weighed heavy on my mind). The cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom and I got my first proper view of them.

Yes, a selfie. It was a bit rainy, but look at how happy I am in the cherry blossoms!

Yes, a selfie. It was a bit rainy, but look at how happy I am in the cherry blossoms!

Cherry blossoms and a pond

Cherry blossoms and a pond

At this point, we were tired, cold, wet, and hungry. If you travel at all, you know that this can be a deadly combination. One of our group members suggested an udon place nearby and we headed in for a lovely meal. It was one of the famous “red tent” places that only locals seem to know about. As soon as we walked in, we instantly felt better. The warmth and light provided a great contrast to the dark rain outside and we were greeted like old friends. The owner immediately brought over two bottles of pepsi and our food was out to us in a flash. After walking in the rain, the udon and bulgogi warmed us up and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and company (even the high schoolers getting drunk at the table behind us).

Inside the red tent

Inside the red tent

Our dinner! Only 6,000 won/person

Our dinner! Only 6,000 won/person

All in all it was a great day and I am really looking forward to seeing more sites on the trail. Hopefully I can go with the stamp trail group again, as they really seem to know what’s going on.