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


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home