Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

Best Dakkalbi Ever!

I’d been dreaming of one particular place in Daejeon since returning home, and I couldn’t wait to go there when I was on vacation in fall. That place is 맛존 (mat-jon or Mat [flavor/taste] Zone). I have never tasted better dakkalbi than there.

The first time I went there was a few years back when my friend was working there part-time in college. It became a favorite place among our group. I always get “mild” spice because even that makes my nose run. I had “hot” once with co-workers and I could barely handle it. So good though! It’s secret too. The owner makes the sauce off-site and brings it in to the restaurant. Wow!

You can get add-ons like cheese or have them make it into bokkeumbap (fried rice) with your leftovers. Plus, they have yummy pineapple makkeolli!

Mat-jon isn’t too hard to find. It’s in Gungdong (궁동) which is the area right by Chungnam University. Start from Sobija Mart, where all the taxis drop off/pick up. Walk straight for a minute or so. Turn right at the first large street by Paris Baguette. Then make a left at the next street. Mat-jon will be on the right side. Enjoy!

matjon map

Address: 대전광역시 유성구 궁동 408-14
(You’ll probably get more accurate results plugging that into Naver Maps as opposed to Google Maps)

Tokyo Game Show 2015


Hey, all!

If you didn’t see from one of my previous posts, I had the chance to take a nice long vacation in fall. So I decided to spend a few weeks in Japan and Korea. I still had to do my course work while I was away, but it was worth it!

I didn’t plan much for the part of the trip in Tokyo. I had things in mind, but nothing set. So while talking with some other hostel guests, I found at that Tokyo Game Show was happening while I was in town. Lucky me!

I’m not a huge gamer – casual, you might say – but I like to play. Plus getting a chance to see new stuff in person was definitely a plus.

It was a really long day with people, people, people everywhere. Also, we didn’t get to demo lots of games because of the long wait times. We got to try a handful of games in the hall with the indie developers. The only game I tried in the main event hall was Disney Infinity Star Wars (really cool!). But we also got to see some neat stuff.

Take a peek at the photo gallery:

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“Hormone” curry?

This one throw you for a loop? Certainly had me confused and amused. Luckily, the good folks at RocketNews24 have an explanation. “Hormone” is a portmanteau (words that combine their sounds and meanings)– “the word actually means “stuff you’d throw away” (horu, to discard, mono, stuff). If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about offal, guts, entrails, icky animal innard bits grilled up yakiniku-style.” Ahhhh, now I get it. I probably would have tried it had I known.

And here are some of the cosplayers and promotional models at the show:

*Whew!* Long day, lots to see, but plenty of fun and a unique experience for my trip. If I’m ever back in Tokyo for TGS again I think I’ll be a bit more prepared for the experience.

Rest Stops in Korea

At the end of last month I went on vacation back to Korea. It was super fun and waaaay too short.

I filmed this video on a whim my 2nd day back. I had planned to rent a WiFi egg (portable router), but what I didn’t know is that you can only rent them at the airports. I, for some reason, had it in my head I could go to a cell phone shop or something. Nope. So the day after I flew in I actually went back to Incheon airport to rent the egg. Korea has more places with Wifi compared to, say, Japan, but it’s not everywhere so having an egg is super helpful.

So anyway I took the bus back which is cheaper than the train, but takes a little longer. And most of the time the buses will stop at these rest stops. The only exceptions are when a) the ride isn’t very long or b) when it’s a very late bus. Usually when I would take the bus back from Incheon to Daejeon after flying in late at night the bus doesn’t make pit stops.

The rest stops in Korea are pretty much the same everywhere. There are a couple exceptions for ones that are particularly big or have some shops or a bigger food court. But all the basic ones are the same – some bathrooms, a small food court, a convenience store, and other small food shops like Dunkin’ Donuts and shops that sell things like 호두과자 (hodu-kwaja) – a sweet bread/cookie with walnuts and, sometimes, red bean paste. Also there’s almost always a little stand selling weird odds-and-ends and trot music lol.

Not a bad place to stretch your legs!

Packing for Korea

Happy December to all!

Soon, those of you who applied for the EPIK program will be finding out where you’re going to be placed. Exciting, right? But here’s one slightly less exciting part of the process – packing.

I mean, how do you fit what you’ll need for (minimum) 1 year in 2 suitcases? Well, having done that move, I have some input.

Clothes

Bras/underwear – Ladies, I say bring as much as you can. For those of you that are smaller sizes it shouldn’t be too bad, but I’m a bit curvier so I never tried. I brought all my underthings with me. I will say, though, that when I was in Tokyo for vacation I found bras that fit me in American Eagle in Harajuku.

Jeans – Again, if you’re pretty small then if shouldn’t be too terrible. I’m roughly a size 8 US, with a bit of a badonk, so it’s not always easy. It seems like Korea fashion does not account for said badonks. Plus, it’s pretty much a lot of skinny jeans. If you like different styles or are a larger size then bring 2-3 pairs with. However, there are stores like Uniqlo, H&M, and Forever21, so it’s not impossible.

Shoes – I’m a size 8, so I didn’t have lots of trouble getting shoes. I am, though, on the larger side for ladies shoes over there. You’ll sometimes find less styles than you’d like. Also, I noticed that things like sneakers are a bit narrower. So bring a pair of sneakers, maybe a few flats, and a pair or two of dress shoes.

Professional/work clothes – It’s something you’re going to need right away, and don’t wanna have to search for. Plus, style and sizing can be an issue. Things like nice slacks and skirts are always good. Also dress shirts and nice sweaters.

Just in general bring a few of your favorite things. I never really found casual/every day clothes to be a probably to buy. Things like dresses or party clothes, you may wanna bring a couple of your favs. I found plenty of dresses I liked in Korea (especially in Seoul), but sometimes ones I’d see would be way too short on me.

Toiletries

Deodorant – Bring a 3-pack or whatever with.

Razors/shaving gel – If you don’t mind the cheap throwaway kind, it’s not a problem. Also I remember seeing shaving gel for guys, but not for ladies.

Tampons – Your call, honestly. I don’t use them, but I feel like it’s not impossible to get them. It’s just that pads are more favored it seems.

Vitamins/medication – Of course bring your meds with you! Also the prescription (this goes for glasses too). Things like Tylenol, Advil, ibuprofen, Midol, and stomach medicine are extremely useful.

Toothpaste – I don’t like Korean tooth paste, honestly. Also I hear it doesn’t have fluoride. Anyway, just bring a few tubes of your fav.

Make-up – Korean make-up is awesome! But if you’re a darker skin color then bring your favorite concealer/foundation/BB cream/etc with you. You’re just not going to find it over there.

Snacks/food:

Bring a few of your favorite snacks if you have room. It can help combat homesickness. I suggest Reese’s!

Also if you love Ranch dressing (Heeeey, Simon), then you can buy Hidden Valley Ranch packets at the store. Saves a lot of room and you can make it whenever you want.

Home

Bath towel – Get a big, fluffy one. The towels in Korea are small in comparison, and it’s so annoying!

Pics – Bring some to decorate your home or classroom. Speaking of classroom, anything you can bring to decorate it great. I brought a poster of my college campus, pictures of my home, etc.

Camera – You can buy one over there too, but no matter what get one! You’re going to be overseas for a year and you should document as much as you can.

Adapter/convertor – Definitely bring a couple adapters. If you want to plug in more than one thing at a time then you’ll want a few. Convertors are only needed if you bring something heavy duty like a game system.

Laptop – A lot of people wait to buy one in Korea. For me personally, it seemed like getting a PC was troublesome (having to change the language and other things). I ended up buying a new MacBook in my 2nd year cuz my old one was dying a slow death. Apple products are more expensive there, unfortunately, but I never had trouble with it. Actually, it was nice having the hangul written on the keys.

The biggest problem with Macs, though, is Korea’s outdated obsession with Internet Explorer. It just doesn’t work on them! There will be many times, especially with your bank, where you simply won’t be able to do anything on your Mac. In those cases I used my school computer or went to a PC bang. Annoying, but it works.

Etc

Pics and videos – Buy an external hard drive and load it up. Take videos before you leave: of your family, friends, workplace, old schools, whatever. The kids will like it, and it can be nice when you’re missing home.

Books – Don’t bother. I love books, but they take up way too much room. Download the Kindle app and get e-books. If you ever want a real book, though, you can always order from WhatTheBook in Seoul.

Movies – Meh, a toss-up. Bring a few of your favs if you like. Korea’s internet is amazingly fast though so it’s not hard to download things.

I hope that was useful! There’s probably a few things I forgot, so if you have questions leave them down below.

Thanks for reading. Stay warm!

Photo Jumble – Seoul

When you move abroad you can amass a number of things, I suppose. As for me, I have taken so many pictures on my adventures. It seems I haven’t shared all that many here though. For sure I have on Facebook and Tumblr (this is mine btw). Anyway, this is a random photo post for some of the pictures I had intended to share… like forever ago. There’s quite a few so I guess I’ll start with ones I took in Seoul to begin with.

Korea House (한국의집)

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Misc Palaces

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I think the palaces were just Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung, though there may have been a third in there? There’s so much to see in Seoul so it’s hard to keep track. Also I took these pictures about 7 months ago when my mom came to visit me.

I have so many photos that I want to share, so I’m going to try to separate posts as neatly as I can. I hope this entices a few of you to come to Korea. 🙂