I came, I saw, I did not conquer: Korea’s Jeju Island

Originally I wanted to visit Jeju Island over September, during the five-day “weekend” of Chuseok. Back in June, I checked for flight tickets and was slapped with reality when there were literally no tickets to be purchased. Not a single seat on a single plane. Sold out.

Koreans are serious about their Jeju Island trips, apparently. So, a random weekend later in the year, it was. The weekend straddling November and December was chosen, tickets were successfully found and purchased and off the Jeju I went! Getting to the airport took some time, seeing as I live in a very rural area, but once on the plane, the trip was short. The actual days themselves were also short, and suddenly the ambitious sightseeing plans proved to be not only ambitious, but undoable. There is just too much on Jeju Island for a weekend trip, I’d need to stay a week to see everything I wanted to see.

So this post will be a list: what I saw and what I put on next trip’s itinerary, because yes, I’ve already planned my next trip. If you’re planning to visit Jeju, hopefully this will help you to see the places that I wish I could have seen and skip the ones that were hyped up. Links go to information, pictures and the addresses of the locations. (Photo posts, stories and food are all still to come. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them!)

I came, I saw:

Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장)
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This beach is apparently quite famous and is dotted with weird naked statues, white sand and black rocks. It’s likely better in the summertime (it is a beach), but it was pretty enough in winter to be worth the visit.

The Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art Grounds and Area (제주현대미술관)

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There were some statues hiding in the bushes. I found them.

While I didn’t go into the museum, I did walk around the grounds and look at statues and some strange houses. Apparently only artists live in the neighborhood behind it and they spend all of their time making… well… art.

O’Solluc Tea Museum (설록차 뮤지엄 오설록)

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A member of the staff pouring sample cups of tea for visitors.

The actual museum part was closed for cleaning/updates, so I missed out on the cool exhibitions of pottery. I did, however, sit down and eat some yummy green tea ice cream, try freshly brewed mandarin green tea and walk to the roof to see a not-that-impressive view.

Songak Mountain / Olle Trail #10 (송악산 / 화순모슬포 올레 #10)
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Clearly I wasn’t on the walking trail, but the goat trail. Sorry for intruding, goats.

I couldn’t walk too far on this trail, time was short, but what I saw was pretty and interesting. Japanese military dug bunkers into the mountain to prepare for war back in the day, the view of the ocean and nearby island were gorgeous, and I spotted some wild goats.

“Daepo Columnar Joint” aka Interesting Volcano Rock Cliffs (대포주상절리)

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Beautiful? Absolutely. The same picture as every single other person on that same platform? No doubt.

Honestly, this would have gotten a thumbs up if there weren’t so many damn people on the same tiny platform, staring at the same rocks. Try to avoid the crowds (early morning, weekdays) and you’ll be able to appreciate the strange beauty of these cliffs.

Jeongbang Falls (정방폭포)
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What waterfall? I’m creeping on the female divers, thanks.

The waterfall isn’t so spectacular, it’s just a small waterfall, but nearby there were famous female divers, Haenyeo (해녀), pulling the day’s catch of octopus out of the water. It was worth it just to see them hauling giant heavy nets over their shoulders. (However, if you have any kind of physical handicap, climbing over the giant shoreline rocks for a good view will be a trial, so this wouldn’t be worth it for you.)

U-Do / Cow Island (우도)
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Yes, this is the ugliest picture from the entire island. I don’t want to ruin the future photoessay for you, right?

I fell in love with this little island off of an island. Renting a scooter and zipping around the perimeter was the highlight of my trip. The scenery was breathtaking, the homes rural, yet there were several cafes and one of them served giant, delicious-looking burgers (and coffee of course). Super beautiful, super relaxing, super worth your time to see and yes, there is definitely a Cow Island photoessay in the future.

Manjang Cave (만장굴)
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Sorry, this is the best I could do in low lighting / while very badly needing to pee.

Many people say this is an overrated place to go, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps because I’m more fascinated by/obsessed with volcanoes than most people. If you want to learn about the science behind the lava tube and its formation, then this will be fun for you. The “big reveal” at the end? Meh.

To Be a Whale Cafe (고래가 될 카페)
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The view of the ocean from the back porch is pretty spectacular, yes?

Apparently this cafe is very famous among Koreans and if you want any evidence that hipster, pretentious Korean culture does indeed exist, then this is the place to see it. They also make incredible drinks: I had a Joeulba Coffee (조르바 커퓌), or black coffee with cloves, cinnamon and other crazy spices, and it rocked my world. So hard.

I did not conquer:

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak / Sunrise Mountain (성산일출봉)

I KNOW, I know. I didn’t go to the most famous UNESCO Heritage site in all of Jeju Island. Hit me over the head a couple of times, I know I’ve already done it myself. Seeing the sunrise from the top of this peak is on my list of things to do next time along with getting to bed early enough that it’s possible, next time.

Halla Mountain Hike (한라산)

Seeing as this was a weekend trip, a five-hour mountain hike didn’t fit very well into my plans. But it’s something I want to do next time I’m in Jeju, since Mt. Halla is also an extinct volcano and I’ve already mentioned how much I love volcanoes, right?

Olle Trail #12 (무릉용수 올레 #12)

I really adore long, beautiful walks and Jeju Island might be the perfect place to do that, though sadly it didn’t fit into the schedule this time. Most of the Olle trails are beautiful, and they all hug the coastline, but I’d love to do this one that crosses part of a beach, has a cool view of some windmills and generally just looks spectacular.

Samyang Black Sand Beach (삼양 검은모래해변)

Technically I was here, but it was too dark to see anything, including the fact that the sand was black. But the area looked clean and pretty, so I want to give it another shot. Apparently ajummas also like to bury themselves in the sand for the therapeutic effects, and that’s a sight I don’t want to miss twice.

Kayaking in Soesokkak Estuary (쇠소깍)

Technically I was here as well, but it was also at the end of a day and I couldn’t see a thing. The sand here is also black, I was able to make that out at least (so cool!), but what I most want to do is take one of the clear kayaks into the ravine and weird crazy blue-green water.

Jeju Dinosaur Land (제주공룡랜드)

Look, I just have a weird thing with dinosaurs and I can’t explain it. I need to go here.

Overnight on U-Do (우도)

I fell so in love with U-Do that I want to do an overnight, instead of just a morning trip, next time. My pictures of hermit crabs got messed up and I wasn’t hungry when I went to the cafe with giant burgers, so those situations must be rectified.


Have you ever been to Jeju Island? What did you see and what did you miss? Am I an idiot for missing sunrise mountain like an idiot, I’m an idiot?

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Featured Photograph: White on Water

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Hamburg was a pretty city, partially thanks to all of the waterways and ports throughout the city. In the Innenalster, or inner port, buildings are built directly next to the waterway, so close that people on top of boats could have climbed right onto a sidewalk if they had wanted to. This building’s bright white facade impressed me, especially placed next to the dark port water. You know how I love a good contrast, right?


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iPhone Photoessay: St. Hilarian Castle in Cyprus

Did you know I went to Cyprus? And I barely even told you about it, shame on me. Almost a year later, I’m going to make this up to you. While I was in Cyprus, I wandered through the ancient ruins of Salamis (I just probably put those pictures up, too…) and spent lots of time with some family friends that live on the island. They introduced my mom and I to a gorgeous castle on a mountainside: St. Hilarian Kalesi. I can’t help but say the word “hilarious!” immediately following mention of the castle’s name. I dare you to try it and not do it ten times in a row.

Some history (thanks Wikipedia): the castle began as a hermitage site and then a church during the 10th century, and finally it became a castle. Once it was a castle, you know how castles with excellent lookout points go… people fight over them, over and over. Some 500 years later, people starting taking it apart to reduce the upkeep of the building. I presume the ceiling was about to fall in and they figured it was easier to just pull out the ceiling and give everyone winter coats than build a new one. Jerks.

In order to get to the castle (located in Northern, Turkish Cyprus), you need to drive there and past several military installations and soldiers. If they’re doing training in the mountains, you may have to choose another day to head up to the castle. If they’re not, you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself, except for the random Brit that seems to show up at all those deserted European sights, alone. Uncanny.

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When you get there, they’ll probably be a castle-residing stray dog that’s both super friendly and desperately in need of a bath.
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Looking up, it’s amazing to see arches that (hopefully) won’t fall on your head as you walk through.
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No, no, I’m not climbing rock formations at the top of a really tall and sheer cliff.
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But at the top of unsafe climbing await breathtaking views of the island.
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Oh boy, these people even had interior design skills. Look at those stripes!
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If you get stuck at the bottom with fear, or only climb half, you can still enjoy the view of that top section instead of actually going there.
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Or you can climb, don’t worry, there are safety railings!
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Sheering cliffs, coastline and a panoramic view? Yes, please and thank you.
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A gorgeous old watchtower that was just a little out of reach for my hiking skills.
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The building blending in with the mountain makes it simultaneously beautiful and confusing. Am I on the mountain now or still in the castle? Hmm…
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It’s best to climb immediately next to “danger” signs and live voltage.
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Because it’s prettier at the top of those rocks.
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The view is definitely breathtaking.
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I feel like a princess with really long, braided hair is missing from this photo.
north cyprus hilarian castle mountain photo
Goodbye, it’s been terrifying and fun!

Looking back, I really wish I would have bought a DSLR camera already, my iPhone does zero justice. I guess I’ll have to return! And to anyone thinking of visiting the Turkish side of Cyprus, it’s highly recommended and although Wikipedia describes it as “illegal and internationally-unrecognised”, I can assure you it’s also quite safe.


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Photoessay: (One of) Taean’s Secrets, Padori Beach

The area of Taean, South Korea is tucked into the West coast under Seosan and seriously underpopulated. It’s covered partially in a national reserve and is essentially an old, disintegrated peninsula and the islands that remain, with a little, beat-up city in the middle. Taean doesn’t even have its own police station, they’re patrolled by the nearby city. Because of this geography, Taean is blessed with beaches galore. Beaches everywhere. Beaches, beaches and beaches! And since they can’t all be popular, that leads to a lot of little gems. Padori Beach is one of them. (Hagampo is also one of them, see that photoessay here!) If you live in the area, it’s the perfect place for a weekend trip.

In case you wanted to know. Ya know?
In case you wanted to know. Ya know?

If you’re into bright white sand and little cocktails with umbrellas in them, Padori is not the beach for you. (Nearby Mallipo Beach might be, though.) If you like rugged, interesting rocky landscapes at low tide and a little bit of sand to lay on further down the beach, then you’ll like Padori. Also, you can’t be too mad about a little garbage at the waters edge… though that is likely also the case at nearby Mallipo. It’s not like this is Aruba; it’s some random beach on the West coast of Korea! Perspective.

Amendment: a freaking gorgeous random beach on the West coast of Korea.
Amendment: a freaking gorgeous random beach on the West coast of Korea.

You’ll also like Padori if you’ve always wanted to go hunting for sea snails, small crabs and other urchins to cook and eat. You can get a pair of gloves from whatever place you’re staying and hit the rocks at low tide. I got there about eleven in the morning and was a bit late to the game, but still found plenty of little critters. Ten would have been better, since the sun isn’t completely out yet. If you stay at the place I stayed, the lovely landlord/renter will help you. (If you don’t, you’re missing out cause she is one friendly and generous lady! Just sayin’. Details at the end of this post.)

I’ll go ahead and get to the part you want to see: the photographs.

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What can I saw, I’m a sucker for the flower shots.
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“Hi, I’m a giant, bright orange rock and I’m just gonna stick myself right here, in the middle of the beach.”
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Fishing town equals fishing garbage… but at least it looks kind of pretty.
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Tip: wear sturdy shoes, because walking over rocks like this with flats was a bit of a challenge.
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Can you believe this is South Korea?
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This poor starfish didn’t realize it was a full moon and low tide. Silly starfish.

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This is what Mary thought about the sandy part of the beach.
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Father and daughter go fishing.
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Obviously Mary is a fan of Padori Beach.
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The verdict: I like this beach. (And how dare this stranger put their arm in my otherwise perfectly good photograph? The nerve!)

Where I stayed:

Jaeil House is a pension which provides plenty of rooms for two, right by the beach. I wouldn’t call these rooms four star hotels, but the landlady is a doll and owns a few other pensions in the same area. If you smile sweetly, maybe she’ll upgrade your room. (Beware of her five-year-old daughter, who is liable to chase you, tug at your arms and question your tattoos, lovingly.)
Cost: Depending on the room, between 70,000W – 120,000W for two.
Address: 충청남도 태안군 소원면 파도리 697
(697 Padori, Sowon-myeon, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea)
Phone Number: 041-672-9247. I’m not gonna lie, she’s not much of an English-speaker, but she gets by. Getting a Korean speaker to make the reservation for you will be helpful, or just show up and use sign language.


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Photoessay: Lübeck, Germany

A couple years ago, my mom introduced me our neighbor’s new German au pair. His name was Aljoscha (eye-yo-sha). I invited him to my impromptu, three person birthday party at the bar, introduced him to Pabst Blue Ribbon and we’ve been friends ever since. So when I planned my trip to Germany, I knew that seeing Aljoscha was a no-brainer.

We spent the first day walking around the big city of Hamburg, which has plenty of beautiful sights but requires a lot of leg work to see them all. The next day, he took me to his home city: Lübeck. The city of Lübeck is smaller than Hamburg, but definitely packs a punch in terms of gorgeousness per square foot. It feels a little more cozy and friendly, and didn’t give my feet too much of a reason to complain. Aljoscha and I wandered, sat by the water and went searching for tiny alleyways to duck into. The photographs will do this gorgeous little city considerably more justice than my rambling words, though, so let’s begin!

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The unknown is scary, until you realize that your entire life has been unknown.

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What To Do in Korea: Sally’s List

I recently met up with two bloggers on a world trip who’d just arrived in Korea and hadn’t jumped into seeing everything yet. I was bubbling with suggestions of things to do. I then saw another Internet friend tweet that she wanted suggestions for her Korea bucket list. That’s when I decided this had to be a post. Then I sat down and made the list and it turned out to be 50% food suggestions. That’s when I decided this had to be two posts. Here’s the second list: What to Eat in Korea.

Keep in mind two things. First, I live in the countryside and don’t know Seoul as well as some. There are probably some other cool attractions in Seoul that I’m missing, so forgive me and comment with your own suggestions. Secondly, I don’t know much about clubbing or nightlife, so this list doesn’t include any specifics in that area. Once again, if you are an expert, then comment please!

Suggestions are in groups of five, the top groups more essential than the bottom groups. However, there is nothing in this list that I wouldn’t recommend doing. If my family would ever visit me (hurry up, Mom!), I would drag them on every single one of these endeavors, provided I had the time.

Without further ado, here is my list! Enjoy South Korea!

  • Go see one of the “great gates” of ancient Korea
  • Overnight at a temple (temple stay), preferably outside of Seoul
  • Overnight in a jjimjilbang (찜질방), or Korean spa
  • Go to a Noraebang (노래방), or karaoke  room
  • Climb to the top of Namsan Tower
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
  • Walk through one of the large outdoor markets, like Namdaemun or Dongdaemun
  • Visit one of the old, royal Seoul palaces located inside the city
  • See Hongdae at night or go out in Hongdae
  • Take the subway across the river (and don’t forget to look out the window!)
  • Visit a dog or cat cafe
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
  • Visit the Korean countryside
  • Visit a city outside of Seoul (Gyeongju, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, etc.)
  • Walk through a Shinsegae department store
  • Visit Insadong
  • Attend any festival going on in Seoul at the time
You won't find this is Seoul
You won’t find this is Seoul
  • Go shopping for socks or smart phone cases
  • Walk through Gangnam (while listening to PSY)
  • If you have the guts, go to a service in one of Seoul’s megachurches
  • Climb Mt. Ansan for a killer view of Seoul
  • See Cheonan’s Independence Hall of Korea
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
  • Do the Samcheok Ocean Railbike on the Eastern coast
  • Drive down the 30 minute stretch of road between 고래불해변 and 축산리, staying close to the shoreline to see seafood hanging out to dry for long stretches (summer only)
  • Visit the Mr. Toilet Museum
  • Walk into a traditional Hanbok shop
  • Have coffee in a themed cafe in Seoul


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What To Eat in Korea: Sally’s List

After a few people came to Korea for the first time and I was bubbling with things for them to do and especially eat, I knew that this post needed to be written. I’m obsessed with food and I love eating. I’ll try almost anything at least once. This list is definitely not an exhaustive list of everything delicious in Korea; that’s just impossible to do. This is just a list of what kinds of food I would definitely force my family members to eat if they came to visit. That means what I find especially delicious will easily find itself at the top, it’s just the nature of the game. Soju & makgoelli are also on this list, despite being drinks.

I’ve grouped them into fives, the ones at the top are more important than the groups at the bottom. Meatless items have an asterisk (*) and full-blown, no fish and no meat vegetarian items are doubly starred (**). I’ve linked each item either to my own post, a Wikipedia entry or occasionally elsewhere to clarify what exactly it is.

Are you ready to eat? You’ll need a very, very empty stomach and perhaps a solid week to even manage all of these items. Here they are!

  • Patbingsu**: Ice, condensed milk, sweet red bean, rice cake, maybe nuts or other additives and you have one addictingly delicious dessert. That link leads to a guest post in which I raved for several paragraphs, in detail, about the food I’ll miss the most from Korea.
  • Instant Ramyeon noodles** from the convenience store, because when in Korea…
  • Hwae*, or sashimi (Wikipedia has such a weird spelling for this word, please disregard) is basically sushi, just without all of those unnecessary extras like rice or avocado. Raw fish, dip in spicy sauce, and eat.
  • Samgyeopsal or Korean barbeque is meat-tastic and delicious; technically samgyeopsal refers to thick pieces of bacon that you grill at your table, but the same shops will also sell several other cuts of meat like rib or beef. Eat with lettuce, spicy sauce, garlic and other additives for a mouth-flavor explosion.
  • Bibimbap(**) is a very typical cheap lunch with a rice base and several different kinds of vegetables that you mix together and maybe add spicy pepper paste to. You can ask for no meat, if you’re a veggie, and some versions already replace the meat with a kind of vegetable.
A classic Patbingsu without any of the extras.
A classic Patbingsu without any of the extras.
  • Hoddeok** is the sweet dessert of my dreams during the winter. It’s fried rice cake, filled with cinnamon and other nutty flavors on the inside.
  • Ddeokbokki* is a street food that’s especially good at night, after a few glasses of alcohol, with fried foods to dip in the sauce. Think hot rice cake and little bits of fish cakes covered in liquid spiciness.
  • Soju** tastes terrible but it’s a rite of passage, however don’t underestimate the alcohol content in it. It’s like vodka’s weak and grosser cousin that for some reason grows on you.
  • Makgeolli** is amazing when done right and an unfortunate decision when done wrong. Kind of like rice water with sugar and alcohol.
  • Sweet filled rice cakes**, preferably purchased from an elderly Grandma on the street are usually filled with things like honey, sesame seeds, or red bean. It’s always a surprise when you bite into one!
A good candidate for buying rice cakes.
  • Fried chicken with sweet chili sauce. Self explanatory.
  • Mandu, or Korea’s version of dumplings, are addicting. Three typical kinds: kimchi (spicy!), pork and vegetables, or seafood.
  • Grilled eel* is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s yummy.
  • Raw beef and I promise you won’t die. Really. Mix with raw egg for the most tasty results.
  • Cold noodles(**), but proceed with caution because there is a large variety of tastes and some are quite strange, for best results, get a solid description in English (some noodles are in a beef broth, some are not).
No dying involved, simply deliciousness.
No dying involved, simply deliciousness.
  • Kimbab(*)(**), it looks like sushi but can have meat, tuna or simply vegetables inside instead of raw fish. It’s perfect for being on the go.
  • Dakgalbi is chicken, grilled at your table with spicy sauce, cabbage and rice cake. For some strange reason it’s really good.
  • Pork bone soup sounds terrifying, but it’s absolutely delicious. See the link for a more complete description: number 4, “Haejang Guk”.
  • Coagulated blood soup also sounds terrifying, but tastes so yummy if you can get over the fact that you’re eating blood jello. Don’t worry, there are noodles and vegetables too!
  • Squiggling, moving octopus* that you should chew very well before swallowing. This isn’t on the list for the taste, no it’s here because of the experience.
Delicious food for dinner helps soothe the pain of half an hour drives.
Pork spice soup, stacked high with kimchi, potatoes and other vegetables.


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Upcoming: 2 Weeks in Germany

Here's a picture of me at 17, in Austria, falling in love with the German language. (No, really, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I was doing in this picture. Trust me.)
Here’s a picture of me at 17, in Austria, falling in love with the German language. (No, really, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I was doing in this picture. Trust me.)

Wonderful things are on the horizon! Yes, I’m talking about my upcoming vacation time, the majority of which will be spent in Deutschland.

Why Germany? To explain it properly, I’ll have to tell you a little secret.

Continue reading Upcoming: 2 Weeks in Germany

Rural Korea: 6 Things to Do, See and Experience

A shot from my backyard in rural Korea.
A shot from my backyard in rural Korea.

It’s true: not many Westerners think of vacationing in Korea at all. And it’s even more true that those who do come to Korea spend the majority of their time in Seoul. As for short excursions out of the city, famous temples and mountain hiking tend to be the way they go. Rural Korea? Why would anyone go there?

I want to change that.

Continue reading Rural Korea: 6 Things to Do, See and Experience

Mini Photoessay: Sudeoksa Temple Village

The little villages outside of famous temples are sometimes serious tourist hubs, in stark contrast to the zen-like feeling just a few miles up the road. This particular village sits at the foot of Sudeoksa Temple (수덕사), snuggled against Deoksung Mountain (덕숭산).

I went to Sudeoksa Temple for a temple stay as well; see the written post about that or alternatively check out the photoessay.

ginseng candy korea sudeoksa
The machine’s three bars rotate around each other, stretching the ginseng candy out until it’s ready to eat.
A shop selling weird things to eat or cook with.
A shop selling weird things to eat or cook with.
Any wooden souvenir your heart could desire can be purchased here.
Any wooden souvenir your heart could desire can be purchased here.
A rice snack vendor, where 5-10 grains of rice are steamed, flattened and somehow magically turn into these warm, crispy rice cakes.
A rice snack vendor, where 5-10 grains of rice are steamed, flattened and somehow magically turn into these warm, crispy rice cakes.


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