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….

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.

Settling in

Apparently, if the emails, gchats, and questioning over Skype from my father are any indication, I am a bit remiss in my blogging responsibilities. Sorry! I’ve been getting settled in to my apartment, my new job, and a whole new country.

I will do an update on my apartment once I can find a cord for my camera. I left mine at home back in the States and need to buy a new one here (relatedly, isn’t “home” an odd notion? I’ve moved a number of times in the last few years and only the last place I lived ever really felt like “home.” Now I’m trying to make this place my new home and it is really hard work!). My apartment is quite large (I have a bedroom!), but there was A LOT of cleaning I needed to do when I first moved in. I’m just finishing up the last of it and once I do that and put up a few more things on the walls, I will photograph/record it.

I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting to know my new city. I’ve been to the big EMart (like a super Target, but better) a few times, I found a local supermarket I like for my everyday groceries, I’ve been out to eat a few times.

026

Yes, that is an octopus. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, I ate a ton of this for dinner one night. AND IT WAS CHEAP!

031

BBQ on Monday nights is a thing. SO MUCH GOOD FOOD ON THAT TABLE.

Ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve been out to eat a few times. It’s just so GOOD. And the prices aren’t that bad. That soup, split between two people (there was a ton of soup…we each had 3-4 bowls) was about $6/person. BBQ is more expensive, at around $12/person, but still totally reasonable for a large group. It’s also a fun meal, since you get to mix the meat with all sorts of yummy things (see all that stuff on the table? It’s all there to accompany the meat!)

I needed to work some of that food off, so this past weekend a few of my fellow teachers and I went to climb Palgongsan (Mt. Palgong). The mountain is amazingly beautiful and only about 40 minutes outside of Daegu. If you want to visit, just take the 1 bus (the red regional bus) out there. Once you see mountains, get off, or wait a little longer and the bus will take you about 1/2 way up. It’s really cheap (1,600 Won, or about $1.60 US) and very convenient. It does tend to get crowded on weekends, so get to the stop early.

We started our afternoon by wandering around the Temple area. There are many different temples and shrines, each constructed to best suit the type of prayer or offering one is making. The buildings were quite beautiful and the whole Temple complex had the scent of incense wafting through the air to really add to the ambiance. The highlight of the Temple area is a 50 foot tall Buddha. The area around it is covered in intricate marble carvings and statues with beautifully manicured gardens. It’s quite a peaceful setting.

033

This 50 foot Buddha is one of the highlights of Palgongsan

After the Temple area,we decided we were too tired to hike up the mountain so we headed down to the main road and around to the cable car area. Thank goodness we did that; that cable car was one of the longest rides up a mountain in my LIFE! I swear it took us almost 10 minutes to get to the top. However, it was totally worth my nerves being rattled (such a tiny car and the door kept almost coming open. AHHH!), as the view at the top was breathtaking. The fog created beautiful layers and really highlighted the mountains in the distance. I’m sure it would be great to see Daegu and the surrounding areas from a distance on a clear day, but this was beautiful in its own way.

036

A view from the top. This is pretty much what I saw while eating dinner in the restaurant at the top.

After our cable car ride, we headed back down the mountain, past a street full of these cute (and sometimes weird) statues, and tried not to fall asleep on the bus ride home.
034I‘m working on making friends (I am part of a knitting group!) and figuring out how to do everyday things (how the heck do I mail a letter?). I know that it will take time before I feel completely comfortable (how do I even order food in a restaurant without just pointing and hoping for the best?), but this is the exciting part and exactly why I wanted to travel. ADVENTURE!

Korea Bucket list

I’ve been reading up on Korea since before I knew I would be working there. I’ve read many many blogs start to finish, I follow a number of Korean culture and travel (ok, and FOOD) blogs…I’m feeling at least a bit prepared for my move. In preparing, there are a number of things I have come across that really piqued my attention. I’m sure I will add to this list once I’m actually IN Korea, but, for now, this is my “to-do” list for Korea (in no particular order).

63 Building in Seoul– a skyscraper with great views and lots to do.
Sannakji– eating live octopus (probably when my parents come to visit)
Jagalchi fish market– the largest in Korea
Jjimjilbang- Probably Spa Land in Busan, but I imagine others. I just need to get over my fear of public nudity…
Shinsegae Centum City– If I’m going to Spa Land, I might as well check out the world’s largest department store, right?
Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain– This seems so pretty!
Boryeong Mud Festival– Health benefits and mud? Count me in!
Hwanseon Cave– Largest limestone cave in Korea, one of the largest in Asia
Seorakasan National Park– one of Korea’s 21 national parks, and a UNESCO site. This looks amazing.
Dongdaemun Fabric and Craft Market (Seoul)– to feed my love of all things crafty…Although Daegu also has some great craft markets, so that might do it for me. We’ll see!
Gyeongju– in the south eastern part of Korea, I really want to visit Mt. Namsan, but the whole region looks amazing.
Baengnyeong Do (Pangyeong Island)– this island looks great for a short vacation, as well as all the FOOD!
Shabu Shabu- Yes, this is a Japanese dish, but there is a strong tradition of variations of this meal in Korean culture. I WANT IT!
Seomyeon (in Busan)– for when I want to shop shop shop…
Duck in Pumpkin (호박오리, hobak ori)- A traditional Korean dish, especially in the fall. YUM!
Samcheok and Haesindang Park– WARNING, THIS IS NSFW!!! The legends that surround this park are interesting, to say the least, but mostly I want to go for the kitsch factor 🙂
Jindo Sea parting festival– The real name is the “Jindo Miracle Sea Festival.” The miracle is that the sea parts enough to let people walk across land to another island. HOW COOL IS THAT?
Hwacheon Ice Fishing festival- Fish! Frozen stuff! Hokey festivals! I LOVE IT.
Makgeolli House- makgeolli is a fermented rice drink that has a hint of sweetness. I tried some recently and I think it is a bit of an acquired taste (I was the only one in the group who liked it). This drink is native to Korea and traditionally was a farmer’s drink. It’s typically served with pancakes (pajeon) and I can’t wait to try it in a specialty shop!  (Done! Read about it here)
Nami Island– a small island created by the damming of the river, this place looks picturesque as can be.
Boccaccio Brau in Daegu– This is a local brewery in Daegu. Maybe not as exciting as some of the other things on this list, but I think it’ll be neat!
Tripitaka Koreana at the Haeinsa Temple– a temple library housing the most complete collection of Buddhist texts from the 13th century CE. The true nerd comes out 🙂
Baseball game- I love live sports, especially baseball. Asia, and Korea in particular has really taken to baseball, and I’m excited to see a live game there.
StarCraft live match– Yeah…this is more about the cultural experience than any actual interest in StarCraft (yes, I’ve played, but only a few times). Apparently watching this happen (I’m hesitant to use the word “sport” here) is a national event in Korea. It should be very interesting.

And that’s my list! If you have any suggestions on things I MUST do while in Korea, I’d love to hear them!

Also, I just want to point out that the Korean Tourism Organization’s website is INCREDIBLE. Many of the links above direct to there; it’s a really really great resource.

2 DAYS!!

Time Wasting

I’m currently out of work to do, so I figured I’d do a little update…

Image

Pickley goodness, just getting started!

In preparation for Thanksgivukkah, I made a batch of pickled cranberries (that’s probably one of my new favorite blogs- so much pickley goodness!) that will journey up to Lake Ann, MI for my family’s annual Thanksgiving festivities.

That photo is from about two weeks ago. I swapped out orange for lime (because that’s what I had and I’m lazy) and added about an inch of ginger. I just tasted them last night and they are AMAZING. They get much less bitter, have a lovely texture and “pop,” and I anticipate they will be just about perfect in a week.

Also on the DIY front, I made some super exciting holiday gifts for my family and friends. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to keep that a bit tight-lipped until after the holidays. I CAN show you a picture of the process by way of my Kitchen Aide in action (I love it)…whip whip whip…

Image

Yep, that’s something amazing in-process 🙂

Finally, a few photos from a recent walk I took with my family to see the Sand Hill Cranes migrate. We didn’t see many cranes at the park, but on the way to eat some BBQ, we saw a ton in a cornfield on the side of the road. It was great fun for all.

Image

Super lens-flare! But the real point here is the grasses which are tamped down from the birds.

Image

A heart-shaped log from the walk. Or, as my friend Matt said, “A butt!” So mature…