Saturday, June 12, 2010

Korean Pears

I'm going to take a moment to talk about Korean pears. They are delicious. They are larger than most apples. They are not soft and smooshy like the pears we are familiar with. Rather, they have a juicy crunch to them. You should not eat the skin as it is very tough. And they are oh-so-delicious! 


The cut pears.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dr. Fish

There is a very popular spa treatment in Korea called Dr. Fish. There is not much to say other than you put your feet in a pool of water and special fish come and suck the dead skin off your feet.

Dallas and I went to visit my friend Ashely in Songtan, and we did Dr. Fish! Ashely had just hurt her foot, so she didn't want the fishies nibbling on her cut, so she sat out. It was only about $3.00 for 20 minutes of fish time. It took Dallas and I about five minutes to get the guts to stick our feet in the water. I did it first, and all of the fish instantly latched on to my foot. It tickled like crazy and I pulled my foot out right away. They even went in between the toes!

We decided that it would be much better if we put more feet in at once, because there would be less fish per foot. It took several minutes, many screams, and a ton of laughter until we were able to have our feet somewhat comfortably in the pool of fish.


Last weekend we had Friday off because it was Buddha's Birthday, so Andrew and I flew down to Busan for the long weekend. We haven't really left the area of Seoul until now, and it felt very good to get away. Busan is the country's second largest city and is located in the South Eastern tip of Korea. We were going to take a 5 hour train ride down, but because of the holiday weekend all the trains were booked. The flight was only about $20 more and lasted about 45-50 minutes, so it was the obvious choice!

(I circled Busan)

Our flight was early at 8:30am on Friday morning. We were up at 4:30 to get ready and make it to the airport. We had about 1.5 hours of sleep and were exhausted, but we were ready for the trip! We were out of the Busan airport and in a taxi by 9:30. We made our way to our hotel and had an early check in. We quickly freshened up and headed for the beach!

It was a very hot and sunny day, so we decided we needed sun screen. We stopped at a 7-11 that was next to our hotel. The man working was extremely nice. He told us that the sunscreen there was too expensive, and he directed us to another store about a block away. We thanked him and started walking. We weren't quite sure which store he was talking about; after walking about two blocks, we turned around and started heading back.

We then saw him running towards us saying, "This one! This one!" With that, he turned around and ran back to the 7-11. He had left the store empty to run about a block away to show us the correct store. We then decided that we'd go back there throughout the trip to support his kindness. 

Hussy Coffee? Really?

Once we got to the beach we were starving. We walked around the beach area for a little while, then settled at a Korean barbecue restaurant. It was delicious! 

The white things in the middle are mushrooms. 

Haeundae Beach! It was starting to get a little foggy, so we couldn't see all the cliffs in the distance. 

Perfect beach attire! 

And again... perfect beach attire! 

The water was absolutely freezing!

This was seconds after a big wave came up an hit me in the butt as I was posing for a picture. 

After laying on the beach for about two hours, we decided to utilize the good weather and celebrate Buddha's birthday at a Buddhist temple, of course. We took a taxi through the winding mountains and up to the cliff side temple. Our travel book said this temple had the best scenic view, and they weren't kidding!

This guy was at the beginning of the road to walk toward the temple. 

This is his friend.

These twelve statues are the statues of the Chinese zodiacs. People would go up to their statues and put coins on them, some would say a prayer.


Andrew reads the history of the temple. 

A little boy shows respect to his zodiac statue. 

This is the walkway leading to the temple. It was absolutely packed because it was Buddha's birthday. Under all the umbrellas there are crafts, foods, and Buddhist trinkets for sale.

We stood in a long line to get in to the temple area. This little boy was in front of us. He wouldn't stop looking at me - his mother wasn't looking - so I snapped a few pictures. 

Even as he was walking forward he kept his eyes plastered on us! 

We were let in the back door because there were too many people trying to get in the front. We got a side view of the massive Buddha! 

The temple's exterior looks much like any other traditional Korean building. They all seem to have the same colors, patterns, and paintings on them. 

Under the lanterns. 

There were random sculptures on the cliffs.

Buddhist knick knacks were placed in the most random places.

The back of Buddha.

Prayers written on each lantern. They were hanging the prayers as we were walking through.

A bridge crosses two sides of the cliffs. 

People throwing coins toward the Buddhist sculptures.

We got a peek inside the temple. This appeared to be somewhat of an altar. I didn't want to go in and disrespect their religion by taking photos, so I tried to take some from outside. 

It is a giant massive Buddha! Happy Birthday big guy! 

(I had to buy a t-shirt from a street vendor so I wouldn't show my shoulders in the temple. It was 90*, humid, and I was wearing two shirts. It wasn't pretty!)

You can see the lanterns from above. 

It looks like a colorful blanket. However, there are hundreds of people underneath. I bet it would have been amazing to see at night when they were all lit up. 

The people were praying at the base of this statue. It is the best picture I could get of it because of all the lanterns. Also, I couldn't back up because it was a cliff. 

Again, sculptures on the cliffs.

Did I mention the Buddhist knick knacks?

So beautiful!

What a perfect place to put a temple!

This is the best zoomed out view I could get of the temple. This is also the bridge from the other side.

Haedong Yonggungsa Buddhist Temple, in all it's glory.

This is also a picture of the statue where the people were praying.

Running on no sleep, we decided to head back to our hotel and call it an early night. We were sleeping by 7pm... awake at 10pm to go get dinner... then back to bed again for the night. 

The next day was raining, so we headed back to the 7-11 to get umbrellas. The umbrellas we have are massive and not travel friendly, so we left them at home. The same man was working, and when he saw us looking at the umbrellas he said, "No, no! Use mine!" And with that, he handed us his umbrella. 

We then headed off to go on a city bus tour. We waited outside in the rain for nearly an hour, and finally got on the bus. It was a double decker bus, but the top level was full. The first level was kind of like a conference seating with a massive table in the middle. We didn't have a very good view for a while. After the first stop a lot of people got off the bus and we headed upstairs. 

On the bus.

You can see that there is a big table in the middle, with the windows behind us. Slowly everyone started falling asleep. Now, I've been wondering why in the world would people pay to go on a city tour, just to sleep. I still haven't figured it out. At one point Andrew and I were among the only three awake on the whole first level of the bus. 

It was very hard to take pictures because it was raining and we were moving so fast. But it was gorgeous getting to drive around the port areas and see the small mountains everywhere. 

After the tour was finished we decided to putz around the Chinatown area. The streets were pretty much empty because of the rain. Most of the stores were Russian, and we were starting to get very cold because a strong breeze was added to the mix with the rain. We headed back to the hotel and spent the night in. (It was really exciting because they had extra English channels than what we had at home. We got to watch CNN!)

For dinner we went to a Korean restaurant next to our hotel. We sat down at the table where a lady cooked for us at our table. She sat at the table with us and stared at us. It looked as though she were trying to figure out what to say to us. It was almost as though she were running through English in her head trying to work it out. We didn't say much, but she sat staring at us. I kept saying, "Mo shi soy yo! MMm... Mo shi soy yo!" in an attempt to break the awkward silence (It tastes delicious!).

She started rambling something off in Korean, held up a massive aloe plant in one hand and a blender in another, and poured us a drink. Koreans drink aloe here. We've had it before and were never crazy about it. There is something weird about drinking a chunky drink. However, whatever concoction she mustered up was delicious. It tasted to be a mix of the plant, sprite, and sugar.  It was a bit odd having chunks of the hard leaf in the drink, but it was definitely Mo shi soy yo! 

After the meal I needed floss. We went to a convenient store to try and find some. The man said they didn't have any, but he reached in his pocket and gave us his (unused, of course). We tried to pay him for it, but he told us no. 

The next day was pouring rain again. We decided to head to Shinsegae, the World's largest department store. 

This was in the lobby of Shinsegae. 

This place was massive. There were 14 floors with anything you could imagine...

... a golf range...

... an ice rink... 

... an academy ... cinema ... 

This was hanging from the ceiling in the entrance to the store. 

This is looking up just one section of Shinsegae... much bigger than Mall of America, that's for sure!

Koreans love couples outfits. We see these all the time. They will be matching down to the pants, shoes and accessories. We think this is hilarious. Our students have asked us if we have couples outfits, and are shocked when Andrew and I tell them that we don't. They even advertise the ever popular "couples underwear".

We then hit up Sushi Train! Busan is famous for their raw fish, so of course we had to experience it! The plates are on a conveyor belt. Each color plate cost a certain amount. As the plates pass by, you pick up the plates you want to eat. When you are finished they tally your plates and you pay! 


After Shinsegae, we decided to go to the Busan Museum of Modern Art. After a couple of hours of walking around, we headed to the casino. Casinos are illegal for Koreans. They are allowed to go to one casino in the whole country, which is found on the East coast. At the door of the casino they check passports to be sure that you are not Korean. 

We sat down at the slots, and I managed to win about $25! We headed out and back to our hotel. We had successfully ran out of indoor activities in our travel book and were calling it a day. We headed to be early because we had a 7:30am flight Monday morning. 

We got to the airport at 6:00am. We went to check in. Upon doing so we were informed that our flight was actually for 7:30pm. Everything with importance is done with military time here, so when we bought the plane tickets on an American website, we didn't even think of checking for AM/PM. Oops. 

We got worried because we were supposed to be at work at 12:30 in Suwon. They put us on standby and told us to go back to the counter at 6:35 am. We were given tickets at 6:40 for a 6:50 flight. We still had to make it through security so we took off running. They had called the plane and told them we were on our way. We made it through and made it on the plane. We actually made it home ahead of schedule and managed a two hour nap before work! Great success!

All in all, I fell in love with Busan. It was gorgeous and the people were a lot friendlier. If I were to do Korea again, I'd definitely move down there.