2 Canadians in Korea

Welcome to our blog. It's designed to give people back home an idea of what it's like living in South Korea and to allow you to follow us on our journey.

I've been blogging a lot of facts and I feel I should say that some of it is copy pasted from books, the internet and the signs that I took pictures of at the tourist site itself.

Click here to view my videos on my You Tube Channel

To view larger images just click on them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Korean Music

Since we've been here at the start of 2008 we have heard several hit songs that get overplayed by every shop, TV commercials and anywhere else with speakers. I have managed to get a list together and I have found the videos on "youtube" for you to watch in no particular order. All the videos have subs and can be viewed in HD. Enjoy!

Wonder Girls - So Hot

Jewelry - One More Time

Big Bang - Strong Baby

Generation Girls - Gee

Lee Hyori - U Go Girl

Super Kidd - Love Dance

Uhm Jung Hwa - D.I.S.C.O.

Rain - Rainism

Wonder Girls - Tell Me

I could keep going but I'll stop now. Most of these groups have several his songs that you could find on "youtube".

Friday, March 6, 2009

Taekwondo Event

Our Tae-kwon-do teacher was watching competitions on his computer one day and we asked if he could take us to a tournament. He was very glad to hear we wanted to see a tournament and he immediately called a friend and found one in Busan for the following weekend. He drove us there and back and took us out for lunch.
We were expecting to see some fighting and maybe a little blood but we didn't. Instead we watched a bunch of kids doing some routines and forms which was still amusing. At the start of the event, a pro broke some yellow brick thing with a chop and everyone cheered him on and then the event started. It was fun to see the kids compete and most of them looked bored, tired and wanted to go home to play video games but a few of them took it very seriously.
Most of these kids have black belts and from what I'm told it is vurtually impossible to have a black belt at the age of 10 in Canada as there are requirements that a 10 year old kid would not be able to accomplish. We were doing Tae-kwon-do for 5 months or so with a white belt and then one day without testings our teacher gave us each green belts which means we skipped the orange belt. He said that we have learned the routines required to receive the green belts, no tests required.
We had a great time doing Tae-kwon-do and even though we aren't going anymore I feel much more confident in my abilities to defend myself if the situation demands it. I would want to strech a little first if the attacker allows it though.

Penis Park

On one of our trips with our Korean tour guide, Charles, we stopped by what we have come (no pun intented) to call a penis park. The park was about a mile long, along the shore of the East coast of South Korea, North of Busan. There was a pathway with several monuments, posts, totem poles, benches, fences and almost anything else you can think of shaped like a penis.

It seems to be a family attraction as we saw several families there with kids running around enjoying the artwork. Charles bought us a bottle of Soju that is ment to increase stamina and stiffeness. The results aren't in yet. There may be a hint of viagra in it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Subway, Eat Fresh?

Pierre and I recently decided to visit the one and only Subway restaurant in our city. Pierre has already been and was rather disappointed, and we have heard less then raving reviews from friends, but we were hungry, in a rush, and in the area. So, away we went!
When we got there, it had just opened, so we were thinking “Alright! Fresh toppings!” Well, were we mistaken! First of all, the topping containers were almost empty. Then, as we began to list off the toppings we wanted on our sandwiches, we noticed that the lettuce was wilted, edged with brown, and rather sad looking. As we notice this less than thrilling fact, the server begins to proudly boast “We have the freshest lettuce in Changwon!”
As we’re trying not to laugh, Pierre notices the fresh cookie display. As I’m a lover of cookies, Pierre excitedly says “Look Honey, you can get fresh-baked cookies!” The proud server once again pipes up, “Yes! Fresh-baked! We made them yesterday!” This guy is not a marketing guru.
Now we’re laughing, finishing up our sandwich order. The server is diligently placing 4 tiny pickle slices, a couple of green peppers, and to Pierre’s horror, only 3 thin tomato slices on his 12 inch sub. So, Pierre asks for more tomatoes. At this point, I should clarify that my 6 inch sub is tomato-less and the server is holding up two slices. As the slices are hovering over my sandwich, the server points out that he only has a few tomatoes left, so he must use them sparingly, in case he gets another customer. Pierre is in disbelief, and asks in a pleading voice “So, I can’t get any more tomato?!” The server, feeling the pressure, says, “Sure. You can have one more.” Well, guess where this extra tomato comes from? My sub! His hovering hands move from my sub over to Pierre’s, where my tomato finds its final resting place! Now, I have a 6 inch sub, with less than fresh lettuce, one tomato, and about 4 shaved bits of turkey meat.
Less than satisfied, but hungry nonetheless, we move to a table to eat our lunch. Well, the server watches us the entire time, waiting for our reactions of joy and glee. When he gets nothing, he finally asks us if it’s delicious. Of course, we politely thank him for the delicious sandwich. Satisfied with another job well-done, he states “Yes, I am good food maker. I have proud in your sandwich!” Still wanting a little more glory, he continues to ask us if Subway restaurants in Canada are the same as this one. We couldn’t bare to tell this proud fellow the truth about our abundantly fresh and overloaded sandwiches prepared with as much, or as little, fresh toppings as we please, so we just politely nod and say, “It’s pretty close!” All this for the whopping price of 14,000 won. Rather steep for a lunch in Korea.
Subway, eat... not fresh!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Korean Traditional Music

On one of our trips, our faithful tour guide Charles brought us to the middle of nowhere and we stayed at a traditional guest house which is also part of a temple. We were 30 minutes late and our tour guide was on the phone getting directions that whole time. When we arrived we found out that there was an event planned for us and we were going to see a small group of young girls do a preformance of traditional Korean music for their families. We walked into a small room filled with people sitting towards the back leaving the front seats for us. It was really something for these young girls since it was a really small town and we were the second group of foreigners to ever stop for the night so it was big news that we were there. We heard a group of 6 girls playing on their Gayageum then 2 girls each did their own traditional Korean dance and then we heard an older girl who was very very good play the Gayageum alone. We later got to drink and eat food from a BBQ to our hearts content and we got to sleep in one of the buildings with blankets and pillows on the floor. It was a great time and I would do it again. I have attached a link to someone playing the Gayageum on YouTube.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Temple and Sights in Hadong

Hadong is very secluded and very beautiful. They have a really old temple and the residents of the temple harvest tea and sell souvenirs for an income. We saw the same things we usually see at a temple however we did get to see monks in action this time which is a rare experience for us thus far. Several of them stood at a big drum that was sideways as one monk drummed a beat and the others stood and listened until it was their turn. They played for a good 20 minutes each taking their turn by smoothly transitioning from one to the other without missing a beat. The sound was really loud and could be heard from a distance which is how we found them in the first place. After they were done beating on the drum they sounded a big bell for a good 10 minutes and walked back into their temple.
The grounds had a few buildings that were open to the public and we saw some carvings that were really big and kind of scary. This one is trying to stab Angele. Every temple has a large quantity of plants that are well maintained. The plants often overgrow walls and other buildings which makes it that much more beautiful. We also found a really nice river that had a few waterfalls in it and we have several pictures of my doing crazy things in front of one of them but I chose to only post 1.

Green Tea Festival in Hadong

In the summer of '08 we went to the Green Tea Festival in Hadong. We took the train to a nearby city and from there we had to take a bus through the mountains and the smallest towns imaginable with really old hut looking buildings. I remember asking Ben several times, "are you sure we are on the right bus?"

Hadong was not much bigger than the towns we saw on the way but it did have a few modern buildings built for tourism and a small tourist strip with restaurants and souvenir shops. Once we got there we went to the information booth and saw that they had a few English translators walking around. We also got these awsome paper ajumma hats that didn't last long and some free green tea.

The festival had a lot of great things to see and do such as making green tea soap, a traditional banner, candals, other arts and crafts, face painting, getting your name written in Korean on a fan and much more. There was also a stage where various artists played music and they had presentations but they were in Korean.

The best activity is visiting all the tea-makers' booths. You can sit with the pros and talk with them. We managed to find a booth with an English speaking lady who spent several years in Vancouver and she told us all about tea. There are a few variations to the tea we were tasting and I only remember the green tea, yellow tea and black tea. Each tea is made the same by pouring warm to hot water through the tea leaves and that's it. You don't let the leaves sit in the water like we do with regular tea back home. They use ceramic 2-3 ounce cups and they sometimes have a ceramic lid to keep the warmth in.

In the museum we got to read all about how green tea was brought to South Korea by a king in the good old days and how tea became well known and important in South Korea. We got to read about the 5 effects of tea and my favorite was #5 Eliminates a hangover. We got to sniff the multitude of tea variances that is grown in South Korea which is what you see here in these gars on posts.

At one point during the day we spotted our translator running around franticly looking for all foreigners. She grabbed us and told us to follow her. We ran to a gathering where a contest was about to start. We were all brought into a quarantined area of green tea bushes and were told to look for small bags that would contain prizes and one golden bag which contained the big prize. I pushed my way through kids and old ladies and searched like I never did before but I didn't find anything.

Making Green Tea

At the Green Tea Festival in a very small town called Hadong we got the opportunity to take part in the process of making green tea. It's really quite simple. First you have to roast the tea leaves in a very hot, big bowl-shaped thing that has a fire burning under it. You have to be sure to toss the tea leaves around while this is happening so not to burn them. We could see the leaves lose life and shrivel up.

Next, the tea leaves are dumped onto a big piece of dry cloth and with your dry cloth gloves you scrunch and roll the leaves around to break all the outer cells of the leaves so that once you make the tea the inside of the leaves will easily be released into your hot water.

And lastly, the leaves are placed on what looks like a screen door and placed on a rack for a few days to dry. To participe, it cost us each $5 and we got a small package of tea made by the previous people. I wonder who is drinking the tea I made?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wolseong Palace

There was a great palace built by King Pasa in 101 in Gyeongju called Wolseong and it was also called Jaeseong meaning a king's residential palace. Ever since, the succeeding kings made the castle their residence until it was destroyed when the Silla rulers were ousted. Only a few remnants remain from the palace such as corner stones that the pillars from the buildings layed on. You could walk the grounds of where the palace once stood and see where the buildings were as you see in the first two pictures.
The only building that remains is the Seokbinggo, the ice storage. We went to Gyeongju for our 1st year wedding anniversary which was July 7th and it was extremely hot that weekend. We walked for 4 hours touring the sites and had to go back to our hostel to shower and change since we were soaking wet. When we climbed down to the gate of the ice storage the tempature dropped dramatically to the point where it was almost too cold and there wasn't even ice in it. The building was 3/4 below ground and was really damp. I bet the kings took breaks from the hot days in there, I know I would.
Close to the palace grounds is the Cheomseongdae which was built during the reign of Silla Queen Seondeok between 632 and 647 and is the oldest astronomical observatory in East Asia. the observatory is 5.17 meters in diameter and 9.4 meters in hight. The bottle-shaped tower made of square granite stones stands on the square stone base. The lenght of the stone base is 5.25 meters. Up to the 12 layer from the bottom, this hollow tower was filled with soil and pebbles. Between the 13th and 15th layer, there is a square opening through which an observer can ascend to the top.

Royal Tombs

In Gyeongju, there are hundreds of royal tombs scattered across the city dating back as far as 2000 years ago. It's kind of strange really as you will be on a bus going down a business street and there is a break in the line of buildings for a nice grassy mountain which is a royal tomb. I don't think they know who's under all the tombs but they have quite a few of them labelled. They have excavated a few of them and we got to go inside one tomb called Chonmachong (Heavenly Horse Tomb) which got its name from an artifact found in the tomb which was a painting of a white Heavenly Horse on birch-bark saddle flaps. We were able to see the painting up close but we were not allowed to take pictures. In the tomb, which dates back to the 5th century, was 11500 other artifacts such as a golden crown, bracelets, jade ornaments, weapons, pottery and they even found some ancient eggs. Knowing I was going to see a crown I had an image in my mind of what I was going to see and I was wrong. The crown was not a rigid chunk of gold like a ring would be but more of a sheet of gold paper formed into a crown with three tall stems with designs carved into them and bean shaped jade pieces tied into them.
The tombs were built the way they are to prevent people from digging them up to get the riches that were burried along with the kings. Each of them are a little different when it comes to size and this one was 13 meters high and its circumference is 157 meters. They placed the body along with his treasures in the middle of the tomb in a wooden box and pilled small boulders on top until it was a big hill. Then they put 6-10 inches of clay, 3 feet of dirt and finally grass. The idea is that no one can dig it out without it caving in on top of them. Althought I wasn't allowed to take a picture inside I managed to sneak this one in which shows the layers under the grass.

The Divine Bell of Great King Songdok

The bronze bell, nicknamed Emille Bell, is housed in a pavillion on the grounds of the Kyongju National Museum. The bell is 3.33 meters high and the diameter of its mouth is 2.27 meters. Known as the most outstanding bell in Asia, it is also the biggest one in Korea. King Kyongdok had a giant bell cast with 120,000 kun of copper to be dedicated to his deceased father, King Songdok. However, the bell was completed in 771 during the reign of King Hyegong. The bell holds a dragon-shaped hook that suspends it. the sound of the bell is exceptionally magnificent. The bell's body is decoreated with heavenly figures, floral designs and an inscription showing details about the casting of the bell.

I got the details from a guide book I bought, what it doesn't say is how it was built which we got to see at the museum. The mold was made below ground and the fire melting the copper was above it. There was an intricate system that allowed the melting copper to pour properly into the mold. It was first made of bronze but it didn't work out since it was full of cracks and didn't sound good. The second attempt is what resulted in the bell you see here. We didn't get to hear the actual sound of the bell but it is said that it could be heard over a 3km radius when struck only lightly with a fist but you are not allowed to test this claim. Regardless, the bell is extremely famous in Korea and small versions of it can be found in just about any souveneir shop right next to all the buddhas.