Sunday, March 26, 2006

Happy Trails

Today was another fantastic day, the sun was shining and I had the opportunity to get outdoors and go for a hike along the same trail I visited last week. However, I managed to hike quite a bit further this time. I walked for about 5 hours through forests, and although it isn't as spectacular as some areas of Korea, it is still quite amazing. The photos below are from my hike today.
Interesting enough, as the day went on; the smog seemed to increase quite a bit. I didn't find it too bad in the mountains where I was, but plenty of people were wearing masks along the trail (hmmm....maybe not a bad idea, now that I look back at my photos).

The rest of my weekend was pretty low-key.
Friday night I had an impromptu dinner with my director and his wife. They called me just as I was leaving work and asked me to join them for a lovely 5 course meal. It was nice to get a chance to talk with them one-on-one, although their intentions were clearly to work at persuading me to stay at their school for (as they put it) "a very long time".
Regardless of their intentions, it was a lovely dinner, good to be appreciated for my hard work and nice to get to know them a little bit further outside of work.
Although, I am still undecided if I will extend my contract at this school or move somewhere else, I promised to let them know within the next month what my plans stay tuned.

Saturday I pretty much relaxed all day and did as little as humanly possible.

Ok. ok..boring boring boring.
Enjoy the pics below....I promise to come up with something a bit more interesting for next weekend

Yongin city in the morning

This is the same photo as above but was taken
about 4 hours can see how the smog
has increased throughout the day.

Another smoggy day over Yongin
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At one point the trail went down to a road that
I had to cross.
This is a photo of an interesting store front.

Some tombs I past on my hike today

The mountains here never go above the tree line,
so it's a little difficult to take photos sometimes.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Longing for Spring at home and other ramblings

Now that spring has arrived (well...begun...each day is a little bit warmer and I feel that the leaves and flowers will be here very soon) I am a little nostalgic for spring-time in Canada. You know, as the snow melts and the lawn chairs come out. I long for the first day when patio-season opens, everyone gets off work a little early and heads to the pub for a few too many as the sun goes down. Things are a little different and generally a little smellier here in Korea during spring-time. They haven’t yet discovered the full potential of patios, and the smog has already started to creep up as the temperature rises.

But, beyond the smog and the lack of a decent patio for a beer, Korea can be quite lovely in the spring. There are tons of cherry blossoms that bloom each year and when things start to ‘green’ again after the long winter, it feels like a whole new world.

Anyways! Still happy to be in Korea...but I long for a good ‘ol fashioned Canadian spring....and summer...and fall get where this is going.

I guess I am missing home a bit.

I almost forgot to wish happy be-lated St.Patty's day to all my Irish friends...and those 'honorary' Irish (which pretty much means the rest of you).
My St. Patrick's celebrations were a little lame...I had a few drinks at a local pub with my coworkers. There was no Guinness available ...but we managed to make the most of it.
On Saturday, my friend Julie came for a short visit and we spent the day relaxing and shopping (for shoes and books mostly, but still it was nice to do some shopping). Then Saturday night we went into Seoul for some Mexican food (fajita’s and daiquiris!!! shear pleasure) and then a few pints at a pub in Itaewon.
On Sunday I went for a short hike in some mountains (more like hills) near my house.
The weather was cool and sunny - a perfect day for a hike.
I met a Korean man who walked with me for a bit and told me that the trail I was on actually extends for several kilometers (I think it’s about 25 km) towards Seoul. He told me it takes about 8 hours to hike the entire trail and then there is a bus back to Yongin (where the trail begins).
So this weekend I am planning to do the full trail...and this time I will bring my camera! to the gym...there is one thing sure to make a person feel out of shape...and that’s hiking up a mountain and being past by ajjuma’s (Korean old ladies)...never again!! (Helen you know what I’m talking about... ha ha).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Georgeous Gyeryongsan National Park

Since my good friend Helen is doing some writing for the Ulsan Pear
and has been asked to do a piece on hiking, I spent the past weekend with her in one of Korea's 27 National Parks.
Gyeryongsan National Park is located about 40 minutes outside of Daejeon and is home to one of Korea's most famous mountains, Gyeryongsan.
Gye: means 'rooster' and ryong: means ’dragon’ because of it's peaks that are lined up like a dragon wearing the crown of a rooster (or so the park literature says).
My friend Helen and I met in Daejeon on Saturday afternoon. Since it was raining, we tried to wait out the rain in a small cafe. Our original intention was to only hike one of the two days, but as the rain let up early afternoon, we decided to begin our hike Saturday instead.
The trail we took led us between two temples, beginning at Donghaksa and ending at Gapsa.
Although we had read that the 4.6km trail takes about 4 hours comfortably, we soon realized that 'comfort' is somewhat of an exaggeration and we would have to push it a little harder to make Gapsa before sunset.
Although our first day was quite overcast and foggy, we managed to have a great hike and were enthusiastic about continuing the next day.
When we reached Gapsa temple, we found a small hotel (yeogwan) in the tourist village just outside of the temple, had some galbi and a few beers and fell to sleep with the satisfaction that one gets from a good day's hike and lungs full of fresh air.
On Sunday, our intention was to get up at the crack of dawn and do as much hiking as possible; however, our sore muscles had other intentions.
After hitting the preverbal 'snooze' button a few times, we managed to crawl (and am speaking literally) out of bed and got ready to begin another day's hike.
The trail we chose to return to Donghaksa was a little bit longer then the first day (5.6km), but guaranteed to provide breathtaking scenery and since the day was a bit clearer, we knew we would have some chance for some better photos.
Before hiking, we stopped in at Gapsa temple to get a glimpse of temple life and perhaps motivate our minds and spirits for the next few hours.
Gapsa temple is very beautiful (as most temples are) and the sounds of monks chanting as we walked through the temple grounds was more then enough to take my mind off my aching muscles.
We began our hike around 11am towards Donghaksa, and managed to arrive there just after 3pm. It was a fantastic, but bone-chillingly cold hike. Although the sun was out, a cold wind had ripped across Korea the night before and temperatures dropped as we ascended further up the mountain. Neither, Helen or I were prepared for just how cold it got...but the breathtaking views kept us going.
You will see from my pictures just how incredible it was...although I was even more delighted when we got to the bottom and finished our day with a soak in a local hot spring (as much as I like hiking, my sore legs liked the hot tubs even more).
It was a great weekend and we are making plans to do another hike on the long weekend in May.
Enjoy the photos below!!

Helen checking out the information board

Funny sign (No howling dogs)

It was a bit foggy our first day of the hike

Nammaetap Pagoda Posted by Picasa

Hiking Gyeryongsan


Yongmun Falls

Me at breakfast on our second day

Entrance to Gapsa Temple Posted by Picasa

Photos at Gapsa

Fantastic artwork on a door at Gapsa Temple

Shrine at Gapsa

Gapsa Temple

View of Gyeryongsan Mountain Posted by Picasa

Day 2 of the hike through Gyeryongsan National Park

View of Gapsa Temple...far away

Climbing over some big rock
It was pretty busy our second day on the trail

On top of the mountain! Posted by Picasa

Walking to Yeoncheonbong peak

Stairs at Yeoncheonbong peak

Stairs down the mountain....the scary stairs!
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Gyeryongsan photos

View of Donghaksa Valley
-that's Donghaksa temple in the distance...where we are finishing our hike

Eunseon Falls - usually these falls are quite large ,
but not this year

Walking past Donghaksa Temple
-the end of our journey!! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spring has sprung in the South (Korea that is)

Ok...well the warmer weather is here...the last snow fall fell almost 2 weeks ago and I think it is safe to say that spring has arrived!
Everyone seems to have an extra bounce in their step and a warm smile that only accompanies that 'extra special' feeling that people get this time of year.
Our new school year has started. We have a ton of new students and fresh minds to mold....the world is good.
It's been a long few weeks...preparing everything under the sun for our new school year, but finally the stress is beginning to ease and everyone seems to be settling into their routines.
We have a new coworker, Sue, from Canada ...and she seems to be a great addition to our Boston Campus family.
Last weekend, Sue, her husband (Justin), myself and a former coworker, Jon went out for a few pints and ended up at a nori bang till the wee hours. The photos below are a small example of just how stupid people get after too many drinks.
This weekend I am travelling to Daejeon to meet up with my friend Helen. We are going to do some hiking in Gyeryongsan National Park. Apparently some of the mountains look like a dragon's head and have quite a few waterfalls and pretty things to see along the way. It's only about 3 hours from where I live, so it should make for an excellent weekend getaway!!
I am excited to get outdoors and do a little treking!! It's been a long winter.
Will post lots of photos when I get back this weekend.

Justin and I singing at the Nori bang....quality!

Beer, soju, powerade and some tamberines....good times!

Sue, Jon, Justin and myself (pre-nori bang)

It's funny what you think will look 'cool' in the picture.

A picture of Gyeryongsan National Park...perhaps my photos won't be this fantastic...but I'll try my best!