Monday, October 26, 2009

In lieu of a real post (because I procrastinate)...

Just one?

beautiful fall colors by the bus stop

view of Seoul from Taeyeon's wedding reception

I'm going to have a real update soon...I swear!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Random pictures

Gina and me on top of a mountain

relaxing in a meadow

making my wish rock pile

fun with chopsticks

foamy coffee makes me think of Shan my boss (and Gina, but he looks sillier)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jeju-do, Part One

So, before I start this blog post about my recent trip, I wanted to ask your opinion on something: are the pictures good here or should I just blog and do the pics on Facebook? Are they distracting? Let me know what you think....

Ok, now the good stuff. This past weekend was Chuseok, the Korean version of Thanksgiving. It's the biggest holiday here, outside of the lunar new year (which falls in February this year, I think)...anyway, the school was closed for Chuseok so I had a 5 day weekend! SCORE! Plus, my boss gave me a fruit box which was wonderful because I love me some fruit and I got to try the massive Asian pears that I've had my eyes on but was scared to try because they're just so big! For the record, they're amazing and I'm now in love with them.

Anyway, I had originally planned on going to North Korea* for Chuseok on an awesome tour of Mt. Kumgang. BUT, sad to say, this tour isn't running right now...hopefully it'll open soon, because I really want to see this place during the autumn while the leaves are changing. So, I changed my plans to Jeju-do, an island off the southern coast of Korea. It is advertised as "Korea's Hawaii" and how could I pass that up? So, I contacted one of my oldest and dearest friends, JD, to come hang with me for Chuseok.

Seriously, this place is gorgeous. I was a little worried when we arrived because it was all rainy and grey, and what use is paradise if the weather is bad? We said our prayers that the weather would improve and it did, thank the Lord! The first day there, JD took a nap while I wandered around looking for food...found a little place and had some spicy, cold noodles that were really pretty good...headed back to wake JD up and we headed to "Hotel Alley" where all the expensive hotels are for Korean massages (one of the most painful things I've ever had done), and then on to Nanta Theatre for a really cool show.

The next day, Victor, our guide, picked us up at the hotel and we headed to our first stop. It had cleared up overnight and we had some amazing views from the volcanic crater. Jeju is a volcanic island, so there are dozens of craters and lava tubes and rocks....absolutely stunning scenery that makes you just want to sit there and not stop looking, ever. The sky was so blue, the rocks so black, the trees and grasses so green...and then the water that was every shade of blue-green you could imagine.

The first crater was beautiful (I have a feeling I'll be using that word a lot in this post) and the peaceful feeling brought on by such quiet and beauty was intense. As was...the wind. Haha, the wind buffeted us every step of the trip and I'm STILL brushing tangles from my hair. Pictures of us on top of the crater don't show the intensity of the wind, but I'll show you anyway :)
After the crater, we stopped by a gorgeous beach on our way to the botanical gardens. JD and I decided to hang out at the beach instead of going to the gardens and Victor, being the chill guide that he is, agreed to come pick us back up in a couple hours for lunch. JD hung out there and I wandered down the coast to explore. I've always been a beach girl at heart, but I also love the mountains. This was the best of both worlds because I had crystal clear water in beautiful shades of blue and green, a backdrop of volcanic mountains, and the stunning lava rocks that made up most of the coast. The beach we were at was one of the few white sandy beaches on Jeju and I spent the better part of an hour wandering in and out of the water, playing with hermit crabs and enjoying the solitude. Pictures just do not do this beach justice....

After lunch, we drove to a green tea plantation. It's amazing to see how it's all done the same way it's been done for thousands of years. Row upon row of lush, green bushes with tiny white flowers stretched across the hilly fields. The rows were dotted with carved, wooden birds perched on top of tall poles, guardians in Korean culture and, in the distance, Mt. Hallasan served as a picturesque backdrop to this unique farm. We were able to sample some of the green tea and all in all, it was a charming and beautiful visit.

After the tea plantation, we hit up a waterfall near Hotel Alley. I forget the name of the waterfall, but legend says that it has something to do with fairies. Hmm...I guess I should have been listening to Victor instead of taking pictures :) Anyway, we walked down lots of very steep stairs (what is it with Asians and really steep, narrow stairs?!) to the waterfall, which was (of course) beautiful. I SO wanted to jump in but no swimming allowed :( After checking out that part, we hiked up more stairs to a....would I call it a pond? No...not sure what it was but it fed the waterfall. It was even more beautiful because it was so clear and was turquoise colored. So pretty...

For a first day of real touring, we got to see a large portion of the island and learned a lot about Jeju-do and it's people. More to come about day two....

*Yes, I want to go to North Korea. I know some might find this absolutely crazy, but it's a good tour and very safe. I have no plans to be insulting or rude, so I should have no problems...I just want to see the scenery!