Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shanghai Eats

Some people like to shop on vacation. Some like to lie on the beach. I like to eat.

Shanghai is fantastic for street food. I loved the pork mooncakes. I could eat these everyday.

And Portuguese egg tarts… mmm. I need one of these bakeries next to my house.

Pork and rice cooked in (banana?) leaves.

Oh, and the pot stickers that shoot out hot oil when you bite into them (so be careful!)

Don't forget stinky tofu!

Since this was China and I couldn’t read anything, I would enter a restaurant with a decent amount of customers and shrug my shoulders, point to something on the menu or a neighbor’s dish and dig in. Great method if you don’t have any allergies or dietary constraints.

But I didn’t get to try everything I wanted. Time ran out and your belly can only hold so much food. Crayfish were on the top of my list, but I overindulged on street food and didn’t have room for any crustaceans. I guess that means I’ll have to go back. And probably eat some more eggs and tomatoes. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shanghai: Yuyuan Garden and the French Concession

When I stepped off the plane at Shanghai airport, I felt slightly shocked to be in China. Although I had traveled to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2012, being in China proper just feels … different. I’m in the second largest country with the world’s largest population, and I don’t understand anything! Sure, there are signs in the Roman alphabet and I recognize a handful of Chinese characters, but I really do feel lost in this country. And earlier today, I actually was lost for about an hour.

Luckily, though, streets are at 90 degree angles and some of the street signs are labeled with an E and W to help with cardinal directions. If I get lost, I can just head East toward the Bund. And once I’m there, I’ll be rewarded with such an impressionable skyline.

I saw the Bund when I first landed on Saturday. Unfortunately, half of China seemed to be enjoying the Bund with me. I used my height to take pictures over all of the tourists around me, but couldn’t stay long on the waterfront with so many travelers jostling around me.

I had an early night, and spent Sunday morning at the beautiful Yuyuan Garden. Although the garden was also crammed with tourists, the area is so massive that you can find some space to breathe. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the beautiful buildings, impressive rocks, and extensive greenery. After a while, I became a bit overwhelmed. The original beauty of the place was replaced with thoughts of ‘How can there be so much?’ I particularly enjoyed the details on the roofs, with dragons, phoenixes and their mythical brethren. Unfortunately, I’m traveling with my cell phone for a camera, which is not the best for detailed distant photography.

With an entry fee of only 30  Yuan (5 dollars), it is definitely a must-see in Shanghai.

The afternoon was spent wandering around the city looking for People’s Square. Somehow, I missed it but ended up at the French Concession.

The tree-lined streets were beautiful and provided a nice contrast with the morning’s garden stroll. A visit to the Site of the First Meeting of the Communist Party of China rounded out the afternoon.  I imagine it was a bit propagandical, but the information in English was sparsely translated with just a couple of dates and names.

I’m back at the hostel now for a quick rest, but I’ll be back out to explore for dinner and some more sights!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Banpo Bridge

Banpo Bridge at night. I like how blurry it is. The bridge lights up on the hour I believe...

North of the bridge, you can see a sunset over Itaewon (with the higest point being the mosque). Beautiful.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

East Sea Weekend

Back in June we decided that the last weekend of July would be spent on the East Coast. It started out as four of us, but as the weekend progressed, our group grew.

Our first night we spent at a love motel in Samcheok. A bit dirty but also dirty cheap. We spent Friday night on the beach slurping up ramen with shellfish and taking pictures at dusk.

Breakfast in the morning was a bit of a hassle to find, but once we found a restaurant, we enjoyed a Korean breakfast of 청국장 (fermented soy bean soup) and kimchi-jjigae.  

After meeting up with the rest of our companions at the bus stop, we headed to our Saturday destination: Jangho (장호). I had traveled to Jangho port last year when I camped on Samcheok's beach and really wanted to see it again. CNN Go listed Jangho as Korea's most beautiful village and I can see why. However, for some reason they like to describe it as Korea's Naples. This is Naples:

And this is Jangho.

So they are completely different. Plus, Naples is full of trash. Korea, stop calling X the Y of Korea. Jeju is not the Hawaii of Korea. Jeju is just Jeju. Comparing apples to oranges just ends up disappointing people. We were definitely not disappointed in Jangho, though, and spent the day basking in the sun, swimming, and drinking beer.

The evening was spent back in Samcheok with grilled shellfish and spicy octopus (쭈꾸미). A bit expensive, but mad delicious.

Sunday's activities were chosen last minute, but were probably my favorite of the weekend. We took a taxi to 무릉계곡 (Mureung Valley) for some hiking and mountain bibimbap. HS and I zoomed of and ended up by ourselves looking at waterfalls, climbing 'Heaven's Door' and looking out over the entire valley. What a day!

Poor deer lost its head...

This was my last weekend trip in Korea! Well, at least for this year. I'll probably be back again.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

물 메밀국수

What could be better than iced whole wheat noodles on a hot summer day? Not much... but maybe I should have ordered the whole wheat makkeoli as well.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Inwangsan (인왕산) The Mountain of the Generous King

Four of us climbed Inwangsan on Saturday. This is another portion of the Seoul fortress wall, but not nearly as well marked and with much less guards protecting the Blue House. We started out near Dongnimmun Station and made our way east to Buam dong. The hike only took about an hour and a half. Although we were only about 330 meters up, we had some great views of the city. This blog post is mainly just to share this nice panorama.

Heading out of exit 2 of Dongnimmun station (독립문) you take your first left and wind up along tons of apartment complexes. Eventually, you'll find the trail, but it is not very well marked so good luck. Near the foot of the Dongnimmun side, there was a very atmospheric temple. We were kind of in a hiking hurry, so I didn't get any pictures. Lame. But I did get a decent pic of the wall...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yummy Summer

I love 회덮밥. So much. Aren't the colors beautiful?
Raw fish, rice, and veggies with some spicy sauce.

I had this near Nakseongdae station with HS. Not the highest quality, but still great and refreshing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bukaksan: Northern route of the Seoul Fortress Wall

On the 6th of June (Memorial Day), C and I went to hike part of the Seoul Fortress Wall trail. There are four sections to this trail, and we took on the northern section that starts near Hansung station and ends up at Changuimun in Buamdong. This section goes through some peaks on Bukak mountain and it quite the nice walk. Starting from the east, you meander up against the wall until you reach a checkpoint where you have to show your passport or registration card. This is to stop would-be-assassins, as the Blue House is at the southern foot of Bukak mountain, so they need to be careful who they let in. This also means that there are only certain places where you are allowed to take pictures, so my pictures aren't the most amazing. All of the great views were in no-picture zones. Sad face.

You can see the wall!

If you are going to do this route, make sure you go east to west! If you take it west to east, you will have a ton of stairs, whereas the easterly route gives you some gentle inclines. The whole hike takes about two hours. To get to the trail, head out of Hansung station exit 5.  The Korea Tourism Organization provided this lovely map to get you to the fortress:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Last week I was let out of school early for Buddha's birthday, so I decided to visit Unhyeongung (운현궁) Palace in central Seoul. Although it isn't one of Seoul's true five palaces, it was the housing of Prince Regent Daewon-gun who ruled the Joseon dynasty during the 19th century. After paying 1000 won, I entered into the courtyard.
You can see how the city is right outside the palace's walls
There were four main buildings: Norakdang, Noandang, Irodang and Sujiksa. Honestly, they all looked kind of the same. Norakdang and Irodang were residences for women, while the guys would hang out at Noandang. Sujiksa would house the servants and guards.



 Irodang was my favorite building because of the elevated room. So, I took a selca that turned out surprisingly well.
For more information about Unhyeongung, check out the Visit Korea website. Here are the websites directions:

Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) Exit 4
50m from station
Jongno 3-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 5) Exit 4
Go 300m towards Anguk Station

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jeongneung Tomb

On Wednesday, May 15th I was let out of school early for the long weekend (thank you Buddha!). As most of my friends needed to work, I ventured out alone to Jeongneung (정릉) which is a tomb close to my workplace. Along with other Joseon dynasty tombs, it is  a UNECO world heritage site. Score.

 After following a bunch of signs up and down hills, I finally found the entrance to Jeongneung. I paid a small entrance fee (1,000 won), grabbed a map, and walked around. As it was a Wednesday afternoon, there were few people in the park: mostly ajjumas and ajjeoshis. A quick walk brought me to the tomb. Well, within sight of the tomb.

As you can see, the tomb is at top of the hill. I saw no way to get up to the tomb, so I imagine it isn't possible to get a close look. The tomb houses Queen Consort Sindeok, who was the second wife of King Taejo (the founder of the Joseon dynasty). Her place in history is a bit interesting, so to learn more, check out the Korean Cultural Heritage website for details.

I imagine the surrounding vicinity rather than the tomb itself gives reason for the locals to visit. Smack dab in a very apartment-heavy neighborhood is a very green and walkable area. One walking course goes around Jeongneung's land, and takes about thirty minutes.  If it was a little closer to my school, I would visit often to go for jogs. Peaceful, if a bit hilly, Jeongneung can be seen in about an hour.

Jeongneung was a bit difficult to find... here are the directions from Visit Korea:


In front of exit 6 of Sungshin Women's University station (Donam station / Seoul Subway Line 4), take city bus No. 1012, 1014, or 1212 and get off at Arirang Market. Walk 5-10 min.

Operating Hours

6:00-18:30 (Mar-Oct) / 6:00-17:30 (Nov-Feb)
Yeonsangunmyo 09:00~18:00