Thursday, March 22, 2012

Photo Walk through Dongmyo, Hwanghak-dong and the Seoul Folk Flea Market

 Dongmyo Shrine

I met a couchsurfer the other day to walk around town and take some photos. She said she wanted to see flea markets, so I figured what better place than my neighborhood? First stop was Dongmyo and the flea markets around there....

Used clothes in front of Dongmyo

 This whole backstreet sells only fabric

 Old school uniforms! Super cool!

From Dongmyo, it's only a 5 minute walk or so over to the Seoul Folk Flea Market. I've been here several times before, but it's always fun to have a fresh look. 

Military equipment and an old mail box


 Korean traditional masks, I think...

Old cameras and seriously old cameras

 Antiques for sale in Hwangakdong

Then we crossed the Cheonggyechon into Hwanghak-dong, my neighborhood. It's always fun to walk through the flea markets over here. You'll never know what you'll find. 

Is there anything you can't find in Hwanghak-dong?

Maybe a new watch tickles your fancy?

Or maybe you're more into digital nowadays..

 Down a side street from Jungang Market

 Our last stop was a stroll through Jungang Market where I do a lot of my grocery shopping. I hate taking too many photos here since I don't want the vendors to get to know me as "that annoying weigukin with the camera", but sometimes I'm able to get a few good shots.

I'd like to take more photo walks around Seoul. Nowadays I tend to have a lot of free time in the afternoons, so if any readers would like to join me for a photo walk around town, please send me a message and maybe we can meet up to snap a few photos!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FC Seoul v. Daejeon: An afternoon enjoying K-League Football

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon or evening in Seoul is heading over to World Cup Stadium in Sangam, Seoul to catch a K-League football match. Last weekend I was able to see my first live game of the year, a match between FC Seoul and Daejeon. 

FC Seoul's fan's were out in huge numbers as usual, despite the chilly spring air.  Koreans often use plastic sticks like this to cheer at games.

The fan club is always encouraging folks in the "Fan Seats" in the North section to get involved in every chant and cheer. Watching the crazy fans can be just as exciting as the game at times. It's not uncommon to see huge flags waving throughout the game, drummers banging on their drums, and everyone decked out in red and black, FC Seoul's colors.

Daejeon had just a few loyal and enthusiastic supporters. I was really impressed by the huge banner that they rolled out as the game started.

The match was exciting as usual. Mauricio Molina, a Colombian player on FC Seoul scored both goals of this 2-0 match, assisted by Kim Tae Hwan's serious speed and fancy footwork. He was really impressive to watch. 

And don't forget the last great thing about a K-League football match. Food, friends and a little bit of beer. Patrons are allowed to bring in any outside food and drink they like, so you'll see families bringing in a whole picnic worth of food to the games. Pizza, fried chicken, all the snacks you want to last you the whole match. If you run out, of course, there is also a GS25 inside the gates as well with very reasonably priced beer and snacks, too! 

The next home game is on March 25th at 3pm against Cheonbuk. Cheonbuk is a strong team in the league, so it should be a match worth seeing. Tickets are very reasonably priced and can be purchased at the door, they never sell out as the stadium was built to host the World Cup in 2002. Fan seats behind the goal post are 10,000 won, and tickets for seating along the east side of the field go for 14,000 won and there are no assigned seats within any of these sections. Take line 6 of the Seoul Metro get off at World Cup Stadium. You can't miss it! For more information, check out the FC Seoul English website:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting Fired Up in a Bulgama

After a long day of skiing at Yongpyong Resort one weekend,  we headed down the old Daegwallyong Highway to find 대괼령 불한증막 사우나 (Daegwallyong Bul-Hanjeungmak Sauna). This sauna is popular for their amazing bulgama, or extra hot clay oven sauna. I didn't see the exact temperature posted here, but generally these saunas are around 100˚C, aka boiling point. The bulgama here is extra special because they use pine wood to heat the sauna and the inside of the bulgama has piles of pine branches to feel the pine aroma.

Duck down low to enter the bulgama

While it seems that no human could survive in 100˚C temperatures, because the heat is dry, and because no one would spend more than a few minutes in here, it's actually great for your body.  As soon as you enter, you immediately start to sweat. Sitting on the floor is wisest, because heat rises, of course, and you can feel a difference in temperature from the ground to when you stand up. Generally, people don't spend more than 5 minutes in this sauna, and I couldn't bring my camera in, for fear of damage from the heat.

The sign has been burnt from the intense heat from the bulgama

I only spent about 2 minutes in here at a time because of the extreme heat. Five minutes is probably the maximum for even a healthy person, though, this man from Finland withstood 100˚C for 30 minutes to break a world record. I don't recommend attempting to do what he did though...

Hot, sweaty me after 2 minutes of 100˚C temperatures

While the bulgama is the main attraction at this sauna, there's more than just that. Another great room was the salt room where you can lay on hot salt crystals and pile them on your stomach and chest to feel the heat radiate through your body.

Salt Sauna

Another nice sauna was the 쑥 (wormwood) sauna, which was filled with the herbal aroma of sook. And, just like any good jjimjilbang, there was a cafe, restaurant, massage areas, comic book reading rooms, and a bath area with three different baths. We particularly liked the eggs sold in the cafe which were steamed from the heat from the bulgama.

Eggs steamed in the sauna. Three for 1,000 won.

From Yongpyong resort, it's quite easy to reach this sauna by car. Take the old Daegwallyeong highway which starts near the highway exit in Hoenggye. Follow this road down the old, twisting road for about 14 km until you see the sauna on your right. It's one of the few buildings on the road. At least one staff member is fluent in English.
Visit their website here:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Silleuksa in Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do

While passing through the city of Yeoju, Gyeonggi-do, we saw signs over and over for a temple called Silleuksa. We weren't in any rush so we thought we'd stop by and find out what the fuss was all about. It turns out, we had stumbled across a temple dating all the way back to the Silla dynasty. It was built around 580 AD, and though the temple has been burned and rebuilt several times, like most temples in Korea, it retains many treasures such as a 500 year-old Juniper tree, a 600 year-old Ginko tree, a Goryo period brick pagoda and the portraits of three important monks from the Goryeo dynasty period.

A view inside one of the prayer buildings

Stones containing the sari of past monks.

The small structure pictured above is Josadong. This is the oldest building on the premise and home to three portraits of Goryeo dynasty portraits of the monks Naong (c. 1320-1376), Muhak (c. 1327-1405), and Jigong (d. 1363).

I always love the doors on temples. Here are a few good examples.

All in all, it's a great, historic temple to visit. Yeoju itself seems to have a lot to see and I hope I have time to make it back again this summer when thew ether is nicer. Next time you're in the area, be sure to make a stop by!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eating in Eskisehir

Eskisehir, Turkey is not a tourist destination and it was a bit random how I ended up there. Of course, as usual, I was couchsurfing while in Turkey. For most of the places that I went I didn't have too much trouble finding a place to stay, but I had originally intended to go to Bursa, the 4th largest city in Turkey after Istanbul. I tried for two weeks to find a couch to sleep on, but everyone seemed to be too busy to host me. So, I looked at a map and decided to just pick a city in between Istanbul and Ankara, which was my third stop. The city that popped up was Eskisehir and I just sent out some couchsurfing requests without doing much research besides a quick wikitravel check. I immediately got back about four replies, all yes, and then I had the awkward job I am not used to having, which was to actually turn down some people. I just chose the first person that said yes, which was a cute university age girl and her boyfriend who lived right in the center of the city. And since I came on a weekend, they were totally free to show me around and hang out with me and become my travel buddies.

The great thing about these couchsurfers was that they were just as obsessed with eating as I am. And not just obsessed with eating, but finding all the local specialties in little neighborhood restaurants that a tourist like me would never have thought to enter. Our first night, they gave me the grand tour of the little college city.

This is boza. It's a drink (drink-ish... I ate it with a spoon...) made from chickpeas and I don't know what else. Apparently, most foreigners hate the stuff, but they have to bring everyone by to try it since this little shop is famous in town. I actually found the drink to be quite nice if you add cinnamon, which most people were doing. And quite a bit of cinnamon. Without the cinnamon, well, it was like drinking plain chickpeas, which isn't quite so appealing... but the thing with chickpeas is that they taste so nice with other spices. Why else would hummus taste so good?

This is a wrap made with cig kofte. As I now look on the internet it seems cig means raw and kofte is a kind of meatball, and cig kofte is kind of a spicy raw meatball but the spices "cook" the meat and keep it from spoiling...but the particular variety that we ate was actually vegetarian.

For breakfast the next morning, they took me out for another local treat: gözleme. This is a flat pastry filled with a layer of fillings. There were lots of options for the filling like meat, veggies or cheese, but they convinced me to get the supreme, a little bit of everything. While there is many ways to enjoy this thing, I did the easiest thing was to just roll up the big flat pastry and eat it like a burrito. It was absolutly lovely and a perfect amount of food. Oh, and all those vegetables on the table were "service" as they say in Korea. Aka, free. 

After our brunch we headed out for another tour of the town. They took me up to the highest point in town to get a nice view of the mountains and the city below. And they took me through the old town, Odunpazarı, full of old 19th century Ottoman style homes. Fans of my blog will know I have a weakness for old places... 

 My last morning, before hopping on the train to Ankara, we stopped in another local joint for some çiğ börek for breakfast. This fried pastry along with some ayran, the Turkish yogurt drink, was the perfect last memory of Eskisehir.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

High1 Resort on March 2nd, 2012

On Friday, we finally made it down to High1 Resort in Gangwondo. As a regular skier at Yongpyong, Korea's oldest ski resort, coming to High1, one of Korea's newest resorts was a bit of a shock to the system. It was kind of like comparing Las Vegas and Boston. Yongpyong is classic and, for the most part, refined. High1 is flashy, modern and feels a bit like stepping into some unnatural, constructed ski world.

End of Zeus 3 slope at the base of High1

From the base of the ski resort, it's impossible to see the rest of the mountain. It left me feeling really curious about what was up there. Getting into the gondola didn't help either because the snowy/foggy conditions made visibility quite low in the morning.

Midway down Hercules 3, an advanced slope

Looking at the map, there seemed to be quite a few "advanced" and "expert" trails. I was a bit confused what those meant, though, because they don't use the North American standard "green circle" "blue square" and "black diamond" system. Instead hills were color coded green for beginner, blue for intermediate, red for advanced and purple for expert. What the difference between "advanced" and "expert" are I really can't tell you because the two expert trails were both closed, much to our chagrin.

A lunch of Udon noodles and Odeng 꼬치

The problem with High1 for us is that while the elevation is quite high, the resort is actually split between two peaks which meet together in a valley. The valley, unfortunately, is also at a very high elevation, making the actual runs quite short.

Free test skis were available for 1 hour trials

I was also quite surprised at how wet the snow was here on Friday, despite the elevation. Yea, I know it's March now and we can start to call this spring ski season, but the following day in Yongpyong the snow conditions were still great despite all the warm weather we've had. Even at the bottom of the hill.

A view of Victoria 1, an advanced slope that was hosting a snowboarding competition

Anyway, it is a decent ski hill in Korea, considering most resorts here are much smaller that what I'm accustomed to in the states. Probably best to go when the weather is still really cold as all the best trails were closed already when we got there on March 2nd. Also, don't expect long expert runs, despite the elevation, the runs are quite short, not much longer than any of Korea's smaller resorts. I'm glad I went to check it out, but I don't expect I'll be going back any time soon, especially not for spring skiing. One good thing, though, was that the towns at the base of the resort are full of motels and we paid just 30,000 won for one night in a room with a bed.