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Archive for September, 2010

Seoul Sights and City Lights

Wanted to get out of the ‘Gu for the week so we went to Seoul for some sightseeing adventures.

On Chuseok, the palaces waived the admission fee so we went to 3 of them in one afternoon. I have now officially been to all five of the grand palaces in Seoul!

First on our list was Deoksugung. Although Deoksugung is quite small compared to the other palaces, it’s worth a visit because it has an art museum and a large Western-style building where the king used to hang out. It’s difficult to take a picture without modern buildings in the background because it’s surrounded by tall buildings. Interesting juxtaposition!

Deoksugung

Next, we went to Changdeokgung, “the palace of prospering virtue.” This palace is fairly large, but like the other palaces, only a fractions of the original structures survived after the Japanese invasion. Changdeokgung has also has a large garden, but it was closed the day we went.

Changdeokgung

We walked over next door to Changgyeonggung, which, I’m sorry, looked the same to me.

Changgyeonggung

To end our lovely Chuseok holiday, we went up to Namsan Tower. We took a yellow bus (2 or 5) from Chungmuro Station up to Namsan Tower. You can also take a taxi up there, though it’s much harder to find one coming back down.

Locks as a symbol of eternal love, I guess?

I think the end of the day is a good time to go up to the tower to see the city all lit up. Unfortunately, it’s also quite crowded so be prepared to wait in line. Tickets to go up to the observatory cost 7,000won.

Just after sunset

You can spend as much time as you want in the observatory, I think. But it only takes a few minutes to walk around, take photos, and enjoy the view. It’s a little hard to get the pictures just right.

City lights

It was a great way to end our day and see the city that we spent the entire day wandering.

Han River?

Here are some helpful sites to check out if you’re interested in traveling in Seoul:

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Jeonju – Land of Bibimbap

Jeonju. Famous for bibimbap, historic buildings and Korean traditional paper. We took the 2.5 hour bus ride from Daegu early in the morning with my generous co-teacher as our guide.

Our first stop was lunch (of course) at a famous bibimbap restaurant. My co-teacher told me that the restaurant is famous because the woman who works there has a certificate from the government for making the special Jeonju bibimbap. The bibimbap was served in a brass bowl that clanged loudly when I mixed everything together with my brass spoon and chopsticks. The rice was boiled in a special broth mixture and was topped with various local vegetables.

Certifiably delicious!

I’m a big fan of bibimbap so I thought it was delicious! My co-teacher liked it as well, but she admitted that she couldn’t taste much of a difference. I really liked the texture of the rice (not mushy) and the crispness of the vegetables. Definitely a quality meal.

Later, we passed by the Pungnammun Gate but it was closed for renovation. It’s the last city gate that remains of the original four that surrounded the city.

Pungnammun

After lunch, we went to the Gyeonggijeon Shrine to see the portraits of King Tae-jo, the founder of the Joseon dynasty, and his successors.

King Sejong??

Sorry I don't know which emperor he is

Next door was a model of traditional living quarters. The buildings and walls were built pretty low since the average height during the Joseon dynasty was smaller than it is today. Well, I felt right at home.

Traditional village building

Then we walked across the street to see the Jeondong Cathedral.

Went to church

Another special quality about Jeonju is the effort to preserve traditional architecture. Some residents purchased multiple lots in the Hanok Village to build their homes. The government provided some money to subsidize building costs to residents interested in remodeling their homes in the traditional style.

A view of the village

We walked around the Hanok Village, which has nicely paved streets and even a small stream running along the walkway. The shops and restaurants were themed and well-decorated. It was clear that a lot of time and money went into planning this place. It seems like the government invested a lot of money to create an almost idyllic environment to showcase the best of traditional Korean architecture.

Main street

Gazebo

Many of the homes are beautifully constructed with expensive, custom-made wooden gates and clay roof tiles. A few of the homes are open to the public.

Gate

A peek inside

Another traditional craft that we saw was 한지 hanji, which is Korean paper made from mulberry bark. It’s surprisingly versatile since it can be made into ties, clothing and even socks.

Ties made from paper

There are gift shops, museum exhibits and even rooms dedicated to showcasing this unique paper craft. An entire room full of paper. Beautiful but hazardously flammable.

Paper cutting designs

Making 한지

We had an enjoyable day walking around Jeonju. The highlight of our trip was eating bibimbap in the region where it originated. And seeing these cute babies wearing hanbok!

Ready for Chuseok

Have a great Chuseok holiday everyone!

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Davis Cup

The bf came to Korea to see his first love: me tennis. I’m not very knowledgeable about tennis, but the Davis Cup matches are grouped by region and division, making it difficult for teams like the Philippines to advance and play the big countries like Spain and the US. So this was a rare opportunity for us to see the Philippines Davis Cup team in action!


What a picturesque setting

The Philippine team happened to be playing Korea while he was visiting, so I guess it was a fortuitous event from the beginning. The match was held in Changwon, about an hour and a half south of Daegu. We were only able to make it for the doubles match, but it was well worth the trip!


Philippine Davis Cup Team

We were the only Pilipino fans in the stands and I think that surprised the Philippine national team. They were kind enough to invite us to sit with them to watch the match. I’m pretty sure it made my bf’s day, if not his entire trip.

Getting started

Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey, both Pil-Ams, played against Hyun-joon Kim and Jae-min Seol from Korea. They started off well and won 3 sets in a row to claim their first victory against Korea. They lost the first two singles matches the day before, but they played together well against the Korean doubles team.

Taking a break in between sets ?

Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey both played singles the day before, while the Korean doubles players were playing fresh. It also gave the singles players on the Korean team some time to rest between matches.

It’s in the bag!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t come back to watch the final two singles matches on Sunday but we wished them luck! The guys from the team were really approachable and nice. I wasn’t sure what else to say to them since even after so long I still don’t know much about tennis :P.

We checked the results after our trip to Jeonju the next day and it turns out the Philippines won the last two matches to snag a victory against Korea! Mabuhay!!

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I did it. My first Korean concert! Thanks to some eagle-eyed friends of mine, I was able to sign up for free tickets to the Hallyu Dream Concert in Gyeongju. They offered a limited number of FREE tickets for foreigners through the festival website. Stick FREE on anything and I’ll take it.

The ever-reaching Hallyu influence

And all the big names were there:

  • Super Junior
  • 2PM and 2AM
  • SE7EN
  • KARA
  • T-ara
  • 2NE1
  • as well as others I wasn’t too familiar with: FT Island, 4minute, SHINee, Davichi, Cho Shin Sung, Beast, Son DamBi, After School, miss A, Flower, MBLAQ, Seo In-Guk, U-Kiss, Secret, Eru, Nine Muses

taken from the Hallyu Festival site

Here’s how the ticket voucher system works:

  1. Sign up for a ticket voucher on the festival website. Passport number is required!
  2. Print the voucher.
  3. Bring the voucher and passport to the ticket exchange booths.
  4. Get a ticket and wristband.
  5. Wait in line with screaming fans.

Pretty simple and little effort so it was definitely a worthwhile experience! Also, I’m still convinced that K-Pop is a political tool used to distract the population from domestic and international social and economic issues. With that said, here are some blurry photos from the concert!

The stage

The lovely and talented hosts who kept messing up and had to do over their entrance for the televised version.

U-Kiss

Miss A. Careful not to stare too much at this photo. One of the girls is only 15.

4 Minute

T-ara

And then my camera battery died :(. We had to leave before Super Junior, KARA, 2NE1 and 2AM unfortunately. But I hope I’ll have another opportunity to see them in the future. For free.

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