Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

SONY DSC

Long time no blog!

So… I’m back in Korea now. (“Say whaaaaat?”)

Yep a lot has happened since my last post *cough* last year. Long story short I re-applied to the EPIK program and was accepted. I’m now living in Sejong which is right next to Daejeon. How lucky!

I’m going to try to get caught up and do a back log of some of my adventures over the past couple months, but today I wanted to show some of what I saw at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.

SONY DSC

A lantern parade float

I randomly decided on Saturday morning that I should go to Seoul and check out this festival that I had read about online. A lot of my friends in the EPIK program decided to go to Jindo for the Sea Parting Festival which I a) still haven’t seen but b) forgot to chime in that I maybe wanted to go haha. So a solo Seoul (Seoul-o?) trip it is!

I was able to book a hostel in Hongdae pretty easily which was lucky since my first choice place was booked up. Well, that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute. I killed time in Hongdae until I headed over to Jogyesa Temple where the festival was being held. Jogyesa is the chief temple of the Jogyesa Order for Korean Buddhism. The festival is held in honor of Buddha’s birthday, which fell on May 3rd this year in Korea. It changes every year because of the lunisolar calendar, but it’s typically in May.

It was such a sight to see! There were groups playing traditional instruments, people dressed in beautiful hanbok and other traditional clothes, and so many people carrying lanterns. And the parade floats! I’d seen pictures of past parades, but it’s a whole different thing to see them in person. I can’t imagine how long those take to craft. Plus, there were people from different places like Thailand and Myanmar marching together with their own floats in honor of Buddha. The people carrying lanterns were even just handing them to people as they passed. I got 2! One I got was shaped like a lotus, and a little girl was staring longingly at it. So I gave it to her, and she traded me the one she had. I ended up having to leave 1 behind at the guesthouse, though, because I couldn’t carry it all with me (boo!).

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

The floats were parked and lined up on the street, so I got to take a good look at all of them. I also explored Jogyesa a bit. There were soooo many lanterns hanging, and it just looked beautiful at night.

I also went inside the temple to pay my respects. I just quietly stood in the back because people were praying and I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I did, though, take part in the Bathing Buddha ritual. The ritual is supposed to help improve happiness and peace of mind. A person takes what is essentially a long ladle and pours water over a small Buddha statue 3 times. Each time you should say each of these things:

  1. May I eliminate all evil thoughts.
  2. May I cultivate good deeds.
  3. May I help save all living beings.

SONY DSC

Before I went back to Hongdae I walked down the street once more and came upon another celebration. There was a big stage set up with performers on stage (my guess is they were pansori singers, but I’m not sure). There was a large crowd watching, and also groups of people, both Korean and non-Korean, holding hands in a circle and dancing — or walking? They were walking in circles to the music anyway haha.

I honestly hadn’t expected the whole thing to be so lively. My initial thought was that since Buddha is such a revered figure that maybe it’d be a “tame” event, but it really was more like a party! I’m so glad I was able to experience it. If you’re in Korea around Buddha’s birthday you really should give it a go.

Advertisements

Comic World – Seoul

I went with a few of my friends to Seoul last week to check out Comic World. I’ve been to my share of conventions in the past, so I thought it’d be interesting. I knew it focused on anime mainly, but even though I don’t watch it anymore I thought it’d be a good chance to take pictures.

It takes place a few times a year at the Yangjae AT Center in Yangjae-dong. To get there you can transfer at Gangnam station and take the Yangjae line. I believe the stop is 양재시민의숲 (Yangjae Citizens’ Forest), and the center is right out the exit.

I wouldn’t call it a “convention” exactly. It’s more like a big cosplay gathering with an artists’ alley thrown in the building. Still, for a 4,000 won ticket it’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon. It only run it’s about 5:30 pm and I got there really late, so we didn’t spend lots of time there. I wanted to check out the artists’ alley, but my friends weren’t all the interested. We spent our time taking photos of cosplayers that caught our fancy. I did catch 3 Westerners cosplaying (Finn & Jake from “Adventure Time”, and a soldier), but that’s all I saw. I dunno if non-Koreans tend to participate, but it’d be cool.

Anyway here’s what we saw ~ my favorite were the “Adventure Time” cosplayers. 🙂

 

Nami Island & Cheongpyeong Temple

Last week I went on a business trip with my co-workers to check out other English camps to see how the operate. We can’t do all the things those places do mostly because they are situational-based (like, having classrooms that look like stores, restaurants, etc.).

Anyway other than visiting the camps we got to sightsee a bit on the way. We went to Nami Island (남이섬). Nami is a very small, but pretty island near Gapyeong. If your a fan of the drama Winter Sonata (which I must admit I’ve never seen) they filmed parts of it there. You can walk down tree paths, rent a bike, or take the electric car tour. There are restaurants like Di Matteo which specializes in pizza. A bit expensive like most pizza in Korea, but very tasty and much more Italian-style than the chain stores. There are also many small shops to buy souvenirs and some artist studios to visit. I picked up a nice pair of glass earrings from a glass artist.

We stayed in the Naminara Hotel (a.k.a. Jeonggwanru Hotel) which was a dream honestly. Our room was small, but very clean and artsy. They have traditional heated floors and our bedding was also laid out on the floor. I was quite comfortable and warm the whole night. They also offer breakfast in the hotel. Not extravagant but still filling. We also had the treat of seeing a wild ostrich walk up to the window while we were eating. Oh yes, the island has wild ostriches. Crazy right?

I highly recommend making your way out to Nami Island if you have the opportunity.

As for Cheongpyeong Temple, it was interesting to see and not a difficult hike at all. I always enjoy seeing different temples. They each have their own sort of personality. However, I wouldn’t go out of my way to go here. If you are in Chuncheon in Gangwon province then, by all means, take a look.

If you are in Chuncheon, though, make your way to Dakgalbi Street. It was really the best dakgalbi I’ve had since I came here. Before I would have awarded that honor to a place here in Daejeon, but by the end of the meal it’s too spicy for me. The dakgalbi in Chuncheon was just right. Actually there are 3 things you should eat if you are in Chuncheon – dakgalbi, makguksu (buckwheat noodles in chilled broth), and potatoes. Don’t go without eating those!

In Chuncheon we stayed at the Sejong Hotel. A little step down from our stay in Nami Island. Don’t get me wrong – it was clean, warm, and not far from restaurants and such. It’s just that the interior is very dated. I felt like I stepped back in time or something. All things concerned, though, that’s not a huge deal so it was fine in the end.

Monday we actually have one more work trip. We’re headed to Daegu and Busan, with a few stops on the way. I’ll make sure to report back here!

More photos at my Flickr page 🙂

My 1st Chuseok

Everyone loves a couple days off work, and celebrating a new (to me) holiday certainly adds interest to those days. Last week I got to celebrate Chuseok (추석), the Korean Thanksgiving. A time to celebrate the harvest, most people travel to their hometowns to be with their families. Like many foreigners, I didn’t have a family of my own to travel too; however, I do have some very kind friends who let me celebrate with them. 🙂

Monday a group consisting of me and a few other foreign friends went to Joey’s home, and ate a delicious meal cooked by his mother and sister.

nom nom nom!

Oh yes, that is bacon-wrapped tofu you see. And it was wonderful ~

Tuesday even more of us gathered to make songpyeon (송편) – small rice cakes with sweet fillings such as sesame seeds and sugar. It took a few tries before I got that hang of it, but even if they don’t turn out pretty they sure taste good!

Mrs. Park showing us how it’s done. She’s an expert ^^

Form the dough into little pot shapes and put in the filling.

Make sure you knead the dough well.  Mrs. Park said the secret to mixing the dough is use hot water.

I was feeling artsy, so I made mine into hearts, a star, and Snoopy ^^

After forming the songpyeon, they were steamed with pine needles. Around 10 minutes later we had delicious little cakes to eat.

Overall it was a nice holiday. I got to sleep and eat quite a bit of food. Plus the best part was being with lots of friends. It’s not very much fun spending holidays alone so far from home, even if it’s not a holiday I originally celebrated. I’m really lucky to have such good friends to care for me — and, just as important, who will feed me haha.

Walk in Banpo

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, so I went on a walk to the market with a couple co-workers. Now, my workplace is on the outskirts of Daejeon, technically in Gongju. There’s a small village at the bottom of the hill our workplace is on, and the nearest market is a 25-30 minute walk. We couldn’t resist though! Felt nice to stretch our legs even if it was a bit warm today.

Spotted these couches under the underpass. Comfy way to wait for the bus I guess!

Hello, little sprouts!