Sunday, February 20, 2005

Not just any other Sunday

I mentioned previously that I had been invited to go to the beach this weekend with my friends James and Courtney. We set off at about 10:30 this morning to travel south to Jeongja beach. Although the temperature is just below zero today - we decided that since the sun was shining we would still make the trip. I have included several photos for you to enjoy below. We arrived at Jeongja and walked through the little fishing village. Many fishermen were still busy at work, folding nets and cleaning their boats. In this town, there is also a small fish market where you can buy the day's fresh catch. We took a walk through the market, which was amazing. I have never seen so many different types of seafood....some looking like they would make a good meal, while others left me pondering mother natures sense of humor.
After the fish market, we travelled down the road a little bit to Jeongja beach. This beach is a popular spot, and offers breathtaking views of the East Sea. We ate some lunch at a fabulous restaurant and then headed up towards the Mt. Muryongsan. The road was very old and very narrow - requiring us often to pull over to let cars pass the opposite direction. When we arrived at the top, there was a snow sledding hill where many children were buy sledding through the man-made snow.
The wind was so strong on the mountain I thought I might blow over while attempting to take photos. After reaching the summit and admiring the views, we had a quick coffee to warm up in a little road side cafe. They had a wood stove which made me think of winters back home.
Since it was after 3pm and James had plans for later in the afternoon, Courtney invited me to join her at a bathhouse for an afternoon of soaking and scrubbing.
I had never been to a bathhouse before, but Courtney assured me it was a lot of fun.
For those of you who are not familiar with Korean bathhouses, they are somewhat similar to spas, however, much cheaper. It cost us 5000won (approx. $6cad) to enjoy the many different baths (including mud, salt and other skin tingling ingredients). There were saunas and cold and hot baths, along with baths with jets and a huge shower with the strongest jets I have ever felt. Painful but good.
Basically, you buy soap, scrub and anything else you might wish to pamper yourself with and you go into the bath completely naked. I will admit I felt a little strange at first, especially since Courtney and I received many stares from the curious Korean women, but after a little while it seemed almost normal.
After a few hours of soaking and scrubbing, we spent a while in the sauna and then decided to go home.
Now, relaxed and feeling rejuvenated I am going to get some dinner and then get an early night.
Ciao for now.

Fishermen folding nets at Jeongja Posted by Hello

Fish market at Jeongja Posted by Hello

Not sure what their real name is..but referred to as "sea penis' by the foreigners, these are the ugliest things I have seen in a long time. Posted by Hello

Fish market at Jeongja Posted by Hello

Happy dog - living near the beach..I would be happy too! Posted by Hello

James and Courtney. Snack time at Jeongja beach Posted by Hello

Fish restaurants at Jeongja Posted by Hello

Seashore at Jeongja Posted by Hello

Walking at Jeongja beach Posted by Hello

Woman carrying seaweed at Jeongja beach Posted by Hello

Jeongja beach Posted by Hello

Black pebble beach  Posted by Hello

People praying at Junjeon seashore Posted by Hello

The restaurant we ate lunch at in Gangdong Posted by Hello

Our lunch in Gangdong - Pindaettok (Korean pizza), mae-unt'ang and kimch'i tchigae Posted by Hello

Sledding hill at Mt. Muryongsan Posted by Hello

View from Mt. Muryongsan Posted by Hello

Friday, February 18, 2005

What a Wednesday!

Normally,, I do not go out too much during the week. Especially since I have begun my early morning classes. However, this past Wednesday was an exception. One of Ulsan's finest..and shall I add long-time resident, is leaving us. John Buckley, who some refer to as the grandfather, is leaving at the end of this month. He is a figure head for us Weguk's (foreigners) and a regular at the Writer's group that meet twice a month at Mackenzie's bar.
To honor his last Writer's group night, many 'a foreigner turned out this past Wednesday for one of many "farewell John" parties.
Normally, the writer's group does not get too crazy, but as the occasion called for it, most did not leave the bar until well after 5am.
So I thought I would share a few photos of the night with you all.
Let's just say Thursday wasn't a fun day for us teachers. Luckily, it past without too much drama and I made it to the weekend!
Spring is on it's way here in Ulsan and I am hoping to get to the beach this weekend. I have been invited to go for a raw fish dinner at Jinha beach on Sunday. Will take lots of photos if I go.
Have a good weekend.

Suzanne, myself and Jo at the Bench' Posted by Hello

John and me will be missed John! Posted by Hello

John...working on some report cards for his students at the bar - quality! Posted by Hello

Jay and Anj...just back from Thailand (nice tan you two) Posted by Hello

Writer's group at Mackenzie's bar Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Year of the Rooster - "say hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh".

As mentioned previously. this past week was Lunar New Years, also called Seol (not to be confused with the city). Basically a holiday for us foreigners but quite a special holiday for the Koreans; filled with tradition and family.
My school was only closed for 3 days :Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; while many of my friends were given 4 or 5 days vacation. So needless to say I tried to make the best of my short holiday.
On Monday after work, I met some friends for a much needed drink and to partake in the Superbowl activities. As I am not much of a footballer, I came for the game and stayed for the drinks. Tuesday came all too quickly - and I decided I had to take advantage of it. The weather was almost balmy, so I slipped out of my apartment, camera in hand, and headed to Ulsan Park for an afternoon of hiking in the park.
As the holiday had just started, the park was full of families and small children...many riding these tiny motorized cars (small but dangerous...if any of you have seen Koreans drive, their children are worse). After an afternoon of risking my life (slight exaggeration) in the park, I met a friend for dinner at the only Italian restaurant in the city and enjoyed some non-Korean cuisine. Later, I met up with Jo for a drink and some idle gossip. She was leaving for Japan the next day with her friend Suzanna (visiting from the UK). As mentioned before, many friends had extended vacations and so were leaving Korea for a vacation abroad.

Wednesday, I met with my friend James mid-morning to go for a drive and short hike to Gajisan (aka: Gaji mountain; aka: Diamond mountain). There are 3 temples on the mountain, however we decided to visit the one that is closest to Ulsan. The Temple is called Seongnamsa. Located in the far north of the park (Gajisan Provincial Park), it is a center for Zen monks of the Buddhis Bhiksunis (all female monks). There is a popular hiking trail that begins from this temple, however, as there were still ice and snow along the trails we agreed to wait until spring arrives before beginning the 20km hike around the mountain.
As it was a holiday, the Temple was deserted, except for a few people praying with the monks. This was great as it gave me a chance to get some excellent photos of the Temple and surrounding mountains.
After the temple, James and I drove further up the mountain and stopped for lunch at a tiny restaurant along the roadside. James, who was born in Australia but has Korean parents, often gets mistaken for a Korean. Funny since he just learnt to speak Korean a few years ago and can sometimes have a hard time understanding when Koreans speak to him. However, he has lived here long enough to be a good tour guide, and the fact that he has a car makes it easy to travel around. After lunch we decided to drive to Gyeounju. For almost 1000 years this was the capital of the Silla Dynasty (7th century) and is literally an open-air museum; home to temples, tombs, shrines, remains of palaces etc. Apparently Gyeonju is best in the spring, as I am told cherry blossoms are blooming and the city looks at it's best. This being said, I have planned a trip in April with my co-workers and didn't want to spoil all the excitement by seeing too much this trip. So James and I went to a pottery market and then to a museum that housed Silla artifacts and replicas of many of the temples and tombs. It is amazing and I can't wait to see the real thing this spring!
After my day trip, I returned home to Ulsan (my lungs feeling happier then they have in a while from all the fresh mountain air) and took a quick nap and got ready for my evening. Benchwarmers bar (my home away from home) was hosting a "Sun to Sun" party to ring in the New Year. Basically it began at 7pm and finished sometime after 7am. All you can drink (or perhaps more then you could drink) and 3 meals were provided. I have added a few (tastefully) selected photos so you can get an idea of what the party was like. It goes without saying that the last day of my vacation was spent sleeping from the previous nights activities.
Now that it is truly New Year, I have decided to make some New Years resolutions : The first being to study Korean daily. My coworker Julie has been tutoring me once a week for the past 3 weeks and I really have a strong desire to learn more. As I am getting a better appreciation of what it takes to learn a new language, I realize daily practice is necessary. Secondly, my resolution is also to travel as much of Korea as I can. Spring is on it's way and the travel bug is beginning to nip at my toes again. Thankfully there are many national holidays in this country which will allow me some free time to travel as far as I can. That being said, I am off to study some Hangul.
The past week has been fabulous!
Only in Korea do I get to celebrate New Years twice! So for all of you back home "say hay boke-mahn he pah du say oh" (Happy New Year).
Love Colleen

Some of the 'party-goers' at Benchwarmer's Sun to Sun. (L-R: Gino, Nicole, Ziggy, Gareth, Andy and Barbara).  Posted by Hello

Troy and Sharon, cooking our fabulous feast for the Sun to Sun party Posted by Hello

Martin and Orla (Sun to Sun Party) Posted by Hello