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…)

240-2

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.

Advertisements

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.

037

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.

Say “Yes.”

Apologies for the blog-silence. Last week I had student reports due and it made life VERY hectic and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep every night. After such a crazy week, I needed to get out of town and this past Sunday provided the perfect opportunity.

The first view of the day that made us go "woooooow" and pull over the car to take pictures. There were many more of these throughout the day.

The first view of the day that made us go “woooooow” and pull over the car to take pictures. There were many more of these throughout the day.

I know I like to say that I have a good sense of adventure; I love to explore new places and try new things, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes, I just want to stay in bed and watch Netflix. Take, for example, this past Sunday. I was planning on Skyping with my mom, making some breakfast, watching some Buffy (rewatching, really), heading to my knitting group, and then going to grab some groceries. It seemed like a pretty good plan for a sunny Sunday. Then Angelica (remember her?) came a knockin’ on my door and says “Hey! I’ve got a car, want to go?” Of course I said “Yes!”

My lovely traveling companion

My lovely traveling companion

While there are many places to go in Korea by subway, bus, or even train, there are some that can only be accessed by car. Such was the case when Angelica and I ended up in a tiny river/mountain area between Daejeon and Okcheon (approximately here). After a very relaxing two hour drive, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful mountains with wide, sweeping rivers flowing between them.

Mountain, river, repeat; it just doesn't get old.

Mountain, river, repeat; it just doesn’t get old.

We spent the next few hours going “OOOOOOOH! WATER! LET’S GO THERE!” And driving between all the different points in the area. While we never had a very specific destination in mind, it ended up being exactly what we both needed in the day. It was a beautiful way to relax, take in the Korean scenery, and enjoy an afternoon. We saw some fantastic houses (and pensions that can be rented by the night, week, or month, apparently) and daydreamed about what it would be like to live in some of these places. Some were very old-fashioned while others were nothing short of architectural wonders. All were situated to best take in the incredible views.

Our dream house overlooks both a mountain and a river. Perfect.

My dream house overlooks both a mountain and a river. Perfect.

My favorite spot of the day; we hiked a bit to get out on this peninsula. This was the view when we turned around.

My favorite spot of the day; we hiked a bit to get out on this peninsula. This was the view when we turned around.

The other view from the peninsula. Yes, the dirt really was that red.

The other view from the peninsula. Yes, the dirt really was that red.

After a long day of wandering, exploring, and seeing such amazing scenery, we were a little tired and a lot hungry. We headed over to Daejeon for some BBQ and ended up meeting up with a friend of mine from training. All in all, it was a lovely day and (totally not surprisingly) I’m really glad I said “Yes!” to these last minute plans.

In other “Say Yes!” news, I’m meeting up with a group of people to participate in the Daegu Stamp Trail this weekend. It seems like a great way to explore my hometown and you get a pretty sweet souvenir at the end of it all. In addition, I’m headed to a Samsung Lions baseball game this weekend with my coworkers! It’s shaping up to be a pretty good weekend.

Seomun Market

This past weekend, after a morning of work, a friend and I decided to pay Seomun Market a visit. Seomun is one of the many many many traditional markets in Daegu. They specialize in silk products (especially fabrics by the bolt and hanbok) and dried fish, but have many many many other products, too. The market is winding and easy to get lost in. When I think of “traditional market” this is exactly what I picture. Stalls overflowing with items to buy, strange and wonderful smells coming from street food vendors, and people crowded into tiny spaces to bargain for the best deal of the day.

The entrance for Seomun market

The entrance for Seomun market

The market is divided into sections loosely based on what is being sold; fabrics are in one area, seafood in another, etc. However, there are other vendors interspersed throughout.

We started with the dried fish and kitchen goods (pots, pans, dishes, etc.). There were stalls upon stalls filled with every size and type of dried fish imaginable. I think most of the dried fish is sold to be put into soups, but I’m sure the smaller ones are for snacks (probably as anju, or food to be consumed with alcohol). In addition to the fish, there are mounds of dried seaweed and kelp. Some of the packages are over 8 feet long! That is more than you or I might ever use in a lifetime, but when you live on a peninsula surrounded by the ocean, it makes sense to eat it.

I have no idea what this is. Anyone want to help ID this fish?

I have no idea what this is. Anyone want to help ID this fish?

More dried fish. These were about 8'', but they got bigger (up to about a foot and a half) and much smaller (tiny ones about half an inch  long!).

More dried fish. These were about 8”, but they got bigger (up to about a foot and a half) and much smaller (tiny ones about half an inch long!).

A view down the street when you first enter the market.

A view down the street when you first enter the market. Those are all packages of dried fish and sea vegetables of various sorts.

After the fish/kitchen area, we headed inside to take in the sights  at one of the more central market areas. Inside was filled with people eating, buying, meeting friends…the hustle and bustle of life. While there were clearly tourists at the market, on a Saturday afternoon it was mostly locals buying their groceries or running errands.

The fried bun station was one of the most popular street foods. I nearly got knocked down trying to take the picture below because someone thought I was trying to line jump. I just wanted a picture!

This fried bun station was BUSY! I didn't get a chance to try one because the line was so long, but I'll be back next time!

This fried bun station was BUSY! I didn’t get a chance to try one because the line was so long, but I’ll be back next time!

Seomun is known for selling pig feet, and they were everywhere. The market is set up so there are two sets of stalls, one behind another, and a central aisle. The front stalls are usually food and the back ones are dried goods. The food stalls all have very similar products in each aisle. The little benches in front of each stall were nearly all full and people seemed to be enjoying their meals. I think I’ll pass on the pig brains, but it was an exciting sight to behold.

Pork products, for my dad :) I think intestines, feet (for which the market is famous), and...butt? Unclear to me, but very very popular.

Pork products, for my dad 🙂 I think intestines, feet (for which the market is famous), brains, and…butt? Unclear to me, but very very popular.

A view of one of the market's aisles from above.

A view of one of the market’s aisles from above.

Seomun market is a delight for all the senses (ok, sometimes the smells are a little much, but that’s part of the experience!) and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in Daegu. I love markets and my next adventure is the traditional herbal market in town. I can’t wait for next weekend’s adventures!

Korean Delights

There are lots of amazing things about Korea. The underground shopping, the mountains, the food…and if you know me you know I’m all about the food. I’m attempting to do a better job of cataloging what I’ve eaten here (the chicken intestines I accidentally [didn’t realize what they were until too late] ate the other night are a good example of foods I will not be trying again but wish I had gotten a picture of), but we all know how I am with these sorts of things.

THAT BEING SAID, I did pretty well documenting my most recent culinary adventure; makgeolli! Makgeolli is a Korean rice wine that was traditionally fermented by farmers but is now coming back into style in cities. Hipster appeal!

Our makgeolli setup; soup, beondegi (silkworms), sauce for the pajeon, two bowls of makgeolli, and our kettle

Our makgeolli setup; soup, beondegi (silkworms), sauce for the pajeon, two bowls of makgeolli, and our kettle

Traditionally, makgeolli is served with pajeon, a rice flour pancake with green onions (and in our case, octopus). My makgeolli drinking friend (Angelica) and I dove into the pajeon so fast I didn’t take a picture of it, but it was great. Nice and greasy to help absorb the alcohol, super tasty (if you like green onions), and with little bits of seafood as a nice surprise in some bites.

Cold soup, beondegi, and dipping sauce

Cold soup, beondegi, and dipping sauce

It wouldn’t be a Korean meal without side dishes, and the makgeolli house we went to did not disappoint. We were served a soup, a dipping sauce for the pajeon, and beondegi, or fried silkworm pupae. I have a “try most things once” philosophy in life. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to eat these again? The picture below shows the apprehension on my face before I tried these. I’m sure they are very popular for a reason, but I can’t figure out what it is. I did NOT like these at all. It might’ve been the texture (crunchy, but with a juicy center) or the smell (like they’d been in the trash for too long and then covered in dirt), but these come pretty close to my least favorite food ever (#1 is natto).

About to eat, and then spit out, beondegi

About to eat, and then spit out, beondegi.

All in all it was a lovely post-work meal, and I would absolutely go back again (but not for beondegi). The makgeolli (we got the “house” one, but they also have bottled varieties) was 5,000 Won for about 6 servings and the pancake was 4,000 Won for more than enough for two people. That’s around $9 USD for a meal for two with drinks…pretty good. The menu also had ramen, udon, and other types of soup, as well as fried chicken, and other things we couldn’t quite figure out.  We also noticed the guy at another table was eating whole fried fish. I’m going to need to really get my Korean up to speed so I can order that next time!

Angelica enjoying her makgeolli

Angelica enjoying her makgeolli

Makgeolli houses are all around Korea. They usually have the gold kettles outside or hanging near by. The meals are cheap, the food is good, and the makgeolli is delicious. I want to try some flavored ones in the future (chestnut? berry?). Do you know of any really great makgeolli houses in Daegu? I’d love to hear about them!