Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gwanak Mountain

On our seemingly never ending journey to ready ourselves for Fuji-san next week, Amanda and I headed ourselves down to the Seoul National University this weekend for a little hiking on Gwanak Mountain. Our day was rife with mishaps, as we have become accustomed to, involving such instances as getting off the Subway at Seoul National University of Education, hiking two mountains instead of one, etc... all of the little unforeseen events that we've come to expect when we make plans with each other.

(click to enlarge)

We did finally manage to make it to the right subway station, and climbed the first mountain with ease, taking some absolutely beautiful pictures. The top of the mountain provided some beautifully, breath-taking views of the city, and of the Han River which snakes through Seoul from one end to the other. The pictures taken by my inexpensive point-and-shoot camera really don't do any justice to the view from the top of the first mountain, or show how you could pretty much turn 360 degrees and see little pockets of humanity nestled in the valleys between the mountains and hills. Koreans, as a rule, build generally between the mountains, instead of on them-- it makes for beautiful scenery.

Amanda was also trying her very best to squeeze a few extra pixels of detail, or just the tiniest bit of zoom-a-bility from her little camera. I'm sad to say that she was no more successful than I was. She sure looked cute with her little pigtails though! Maybe that's why so many middle-aged Korean men stopped us along the way to say hello, or give us random snacks...

It was here at the peak of the first mountain, that our trip got a little sidetracked and caused us to climb a second neighbouring mountain, instead of climbing down and heading home, as we had originally been intending to do at this point. I blame it all on this particular Buddhist shrine that we both felt compelled to take a closer look at.

It was such an interesting sight, perched on the edge of this cliff like a sea bird, watchfully overlooking the city. How were we to know that our curiosity about this quaint little shrine would turn our planned two hour hike, into a six hour marathon? We weren't surprised of course, by the turn of events, being ourselves, and acknowledging the types of situations that we usually get ourselves into. Truly, we were all the happier for our little extension, and all of the different sights it let us see. I'm not sure if I'll ever tire of the juxtaposition of the city of Seoul, peaking through the pristine mountains to remind me that while I've hardly left the city, I'm in an almost entirely different world.

Korean people love hiking. For most of my time spent living here, I'd acknowledged it as a funny stereotype of Koreans that I didn't really understand. It only took a few weekends of trying it out for myself to convert me to their way of thinking. Some days, I feel like I'm practically Korean now.

One of the funniest points of the day was near the end of the day when we had been hiking for 4.5 hours and weren't really sure how long of a hike we had left to eventually reach the bottom and start our tired bodies towards home. Coming through the trees into a clearing I happened to glance this out of the corner of my eye.

For the briefest of milliseconds both Amanda and I panicked, thinking we had somehow walked as far as Ingwangsan! Within the same second, we would both of course realize that it was impossible, seeing as we hadn't crossed the Han. This was obviously just another helicopter pad, but we both got a fair bit of amusement out of our initial gut reactions.

Once we finally reached Seoul again, we decided that we were in need of, indeed deserving of, a treat. We managed to find ourselves an Out Back restaurant close to where the mountain finally deposited us in the city, a full six hours since we originally started climbing. It was the most delicious meal of ribs, baked potato, Aussie cheese fries and ranch dressing I think I've ever eaten. The hunger Amanda and I were both feeling, helped transport the already delicious food into something out of this world. We even ordered dessert.

A perfect way to end a long, tiring and wonderful day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Of Breakfast and Baseball

Butterfinger Pancakes is, as the sign says, "my kind of place." Tucked away in a little part of Seoul mostly frequented by the well-to-do, some friends of mine came across this place quite by accident a few months ago, and its a haven for foreigners in a city where breakfast usually consists of rice, kimchi and fish.

Always having been a fan of breakfast restaurants, and having worked in one myself for over a year, I was aware that I had probably become a bit of a breakfast restaurant snob. As excited as I was for the visit, I was worried that said snobbery would be an obstacle in enjoying this decadent experience to the fullest. Happily, this was not the case.

Just feast your eyes on these two plates of deliciousness! The was also a stack of delicious blueberry pancakes and strawberry compote which didn't make it into the picture. As anyone in the tiniest bit knowledgeable about my likes and preferences can tell you, I have a soft spot in my heart for anything even suggesting of cheese. Please notice if you will the large waffle to the right that had been baked covered with a mountain of cheese. This breakfast had me before hello.

Whether this breakfast was truly as amazing and life changing as I make it out to be, or if I had just not had a 'proper' breakfast in such a long time, combined with idealized memories of my trip to Butterfinger, I'm not sure. Although a little on the pricey side, the fact remains that I'm itching to go back there again. Delicious!

Although I have a lot of experience with breakfast and with breakfast restaurants, the next experience of the day was to be something that was a first for me. Those of you from Newfoundland will understand how this is plausible, although I think that those outside will find it a little ridiculous that Sunday after Butterfinger was my first time at a baseball game.

I had been to a baseball diamond before, I had even played baseball and softball in gym over the years. The last time I remember going to watch a baseball game, however, was when my cousin, Mark, now about to graduate from high school played T-ball. How old is a kid, when he's too little to have the ball thrown to him, and it just sits there on top of a stick waiting to be hit? Suffice to say it was a long time ago, and quite different from....

This! The Doosan Bears vs. the Lotte Giants, last game of the season, thousands of screaming fans (Koreans are a little fanatical about baseball), cheerleaders, drummers, costumes and strange hats made out of plastic bags.

Korean people are normally pretty reserved, and while this picture happens to show some people in rapt attention to what is happening on the field, it does an injustice to the madness that was happening around us. People were singing, and dancing, and as I said, wearing strange orange hats made out of plastic bags.

This little boy doesn't seem to understand them much better than I do. Some cute, though!

Ingwangsan, and a Rooftop BBQ!

The weeks have really started to go by more quickly, as my time in Korea comes to an end. I don't even know where they go anymore. Sometimes, I feel like I blink, and then another week has passed, and another weekend is upon me. Time sure flies when you're having fun!

Partially because we are headed to Japan at the beginning of October, and partially, just because we enjoy ourselves, Amanda and I have planned a series of hiking trips to prepare ourselves for the big one on our vacation... Fuji! We know that Fuji can be dangerous around in October, and therefor don't intend to summit the mountain, but we do want to have a little practice, so as to not thoroughly embarrass ourselves when we get there.

Thus, here we are... Inwangsan, or Inwang Mountain.

At first, in true Amanda and Laura style, we couldn't quite seem to find the mountain in question, or more precisely, a path to get up the mountain. We wandered around the pathway to a temple for quite some time, were accosted by Korean school children, took pictures of some cool rocks, and generally wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

Eventually, however, we found our way to a path -- quite a distance from where we had originally been looking. Ah, the wonders of language barriers! -- and started our hike up the mountain. As has happened to us many times before, we started out a little frustrated with the experience, but quickly found ourselves just as enamoured with the area as we had been when we first read about it in a Korean guide book.


Although we were tired and dirty from our mountainous travels, I can't say that our weekend ended there. Saturday evening, as were arriving back in the area of Seoul we call home, there was a birthday party and rooftop BBQ calling out names. I'm not going to show you my picture from that evening, as it truly is a sorry sight, but I will show you a picture of the beautiful Birthday Girl and her cake to make up for it!

Danielle is not a coworker of mine, but is a fellow Canadian, and the best kind of girl that you could ever hope to meet! We celebrated her 23rd birthday in style on the roof of our apartment building, and was it ever a time.

Did our evening end there? Most certainly not! After having left the house quite early to go hiking, and then having a BBQ in the evening, Amanda and I put on our game faces, did our hair and makeup, and headed out on the town to celebrate Lindsay's last night out in Seoul. I'm afraid I was a little too pooped-out to really give it the gusto that is deserved however, but we didn't call it quits until 1 am. Not to toot my own horn, but did I mention that Amanda and I are troopers?
And that was only Saturday!
To be continued...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Renting the Seoul National Museum

... or something like that.

This was quite a busy weekend.

Amanda and I kicked it off right, by heading back to the Seoul National Museum, where we had seen the Ancient Egypt a few weeks before, to take in the Museums regular fare, and we were not to be disappointed.

The museum was, of course, absolutely beautiful, and Amanda and I wandered around for hours upon hours, finally leaving without seeing everything.

If you are determined to visit and see every last exhibit, I encourage you to wear good shoes, and bring a lunch. Well worth it, though, it was very interesting.

I think the one on the lower one looks a little like a bikini from this angle... what do you think?

We dragged ourselves home, exhausted, after trapezing around the museum for almost 6 hours! What troopers! We needed to get our beauty sleep however, because Sunday night...

... we saw the ORIGINAL BROADWAY CAST OF RENT!! Well, in all honesty, I think that there were only a few of the original members, but really, who can blame them after all these years. It was nonetheless fabulous!

Needless to say, the lot of us were so excited that we could barely breathe! It was, in one word, Wow.

On a completely unrelated side note: There was a mustache being passed around, so we decided to take some pictures with it. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Blogaversary!!

Blogspot just informed me that today marks my one year anniversary since I started this blog. This is both exciting, and a little bit sad, as one year ago my Korean adventure was only just revving its engine, and now we're nearly at the end.

WARNING: I may henceforth be a melancholy blogger from time to time. Please don't hate me.

Its been quite a tumultuous year, filled with ups and downs, although I'm happy to say that I do belive there were more ups. I like to think that through the year my blogging has gotten a little bit better since my first post, but of course I've also had better and better things to write about, so that may have contributed.

For example, nights, like Amanda's birthday, where under the expert tutelage of Amanda and Meghan and I start the night looking like this:

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Or, perhaps better yet, the nights where under the sordid influence of my youngest sister, Ricki, I end up looking more like this...

Frightening... isn't it?

Here are some of my favourite from the year thus far:

There are of course some others, but I thought that the list was getting big enough already, so I thought it best to leave it at that. I instead turn it over to you, which are your favourite posts?

Free Hit Counter