Friday, March 27, 2009


Our final adventure last weekend was to Silleuksa. Its about a forty minute walk from our house but we took a cab (to save our legs for exploring). Silleuksa is home to a famous Buddhist Temple. It is rare because it overlooks a river. Most temples were built high in the mountains to avoid noise and trouble. This is, supposedly, the only temple in Korea that overlooks a river!

This is Shawna standing in front of a tree. Everyone else was having their picture took there so we figured we better do it, too.

We'll come back when the trees are in full bloom. These pagodas sitting in the forest are still pretty amazing.

There were some really beautiful, golden statues of Buddha inside the buildings. The doors were open so I was able to snap a few photos of these glowing monuments. There was incense burning in the temple and sights and smells mixed for a really magical experience.

We were able to drink some fresh spring water from this fountain. Very nice!!!

After exploring the grounds of Silleuksa Temple, we went off to check out the little gift shop. When we got there a gang of bikers came in. (You can see one of them in the backgound of this shot.) They were a bit scary looking and smelled like booze but the guy in this photo bought Shawna some ice cream so she was happy. He had said that he'd been to Toronto so we had a little chat and some ice cream with them. We would have taken more photos with them but they were "outlaws" (therefore, did not want to be photographed).

Later, when the bikers had left and the ice cream was gone, we went down to check out the river. The Namhangang river divides Ohak (where we live) from Yeoju (downtown).

Shawna was very excited to see these swan paddle boats so we wandered down and went for a ride.

We had a beautiful day at Silleuksa and took home some incense and a couple of $1.oo clay pots to spruce up our apartment.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Hello!!!!!!! Welcome back to the blog!! Let's start with some history . . .

This 12 metre high stone pagoda was built in 1465. Its a Korean national treasure. Its located in Tapgol Park in Seoul's Insadong area.

The Insadong area is one of the main tourist destination in Seoul. Its main street has a ton of little art stores and gift shops, restaurants and cafes. We really loved it there and will go back a few times I'm sure.

The street is "walking only" on some weekends but on this day there were cars. Its so jam-packed with people that the cars have to go at a crawling pace which makes one wonder why they would choose to go down this street at all. But they do . . . the sea of people parts and the cars squeeze through.

The next photo is just for Nick . . .

We found the Suh - Tah - Buk - Suh - Koh - Pi !!!!! (The girls are asking Shawna to take their photo in front of the Starbucks not realizing they're in my picture.) This is an old area and they wanted to keep the Korean language intact so Starbucks was required to make their sign in Korean lettering. Its the only Starbucks in Korea that has a sign like this.

We thought this was funny . . . when we went to the hospital we noticed that everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, was hooked up to an I.V. People were walking through the halls carrying their own IV bags, kids were riding the IV racks like skateboards. When we were in Seoul we saw this sickly tree and noticed they had it hooked up to its own I.V. so we had to take a picture -- Looks like an art project

After the I.V. drip, I believe the trees will look like this one . . .

After Insadong, we walked to the Cheonggyecheon river. It runs right through the middle of downtown Seoul. Up until 3 or 4 years ago it was covered up with a massive highway. The government decided, in order to beautify Seoul's downtown they should knock down the highway and reopen the hidden river. Now that its open, the Korean people really cherish it. Its super clean and provides a wonderful walking path through the city.

Shawna thought I was taking a photograph but I was really taking a video. That should explain the slow motion poses.

When we came up from the river, we found ourselves back in the Dongdaemun area. We took a few snaps of the 'positively electric' lighting district and then hit the market again to see what it was like at night time.

This fellow posed for our camera and yelled 'action!' so I believe he deserves a spot in the blog.

That's all for now - next update will feature our day at Silleuksa Temple

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yeoju 5 Day Market

Hello All!!

Just wanted to share this video with you. I took a few shots at the Yeoju 5 Day Market. Every five days they have a free for all market downtown. We've been couple of times now and the sights and smells are incredible. It's super busy and there are people selling everything. Live animals, dead animals, food, jewellery, housewares . . . and a ton more.

The video is rather shakey but I'm trying to shoot incognito. (the older Koreans don't like to be photographed very much) You can see Shawna trying on some shoes, hoards of people buying and selling, live eels swimming around, and my favorite . . . Bun Dae Gi . . . silk worms. (in the middle of the video you can see a table covered in the little brown things.) I haven't tried them yet but I'm sure I will at some point on this trip!

More pics and videos coming soon . . .

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shopping in Seoul

Our first stop in Seoul was at Dongdaemun Market. Its about the size of a city block and its made up of tiny little streets and buildings selling everything imaginable. The food section was the coolest with a multitude of animal parts hanging all around us.
In the center of the food area were a group of stands making some street snacks. We tried one that looked like a thick pancake. It was made by grinding some sort of unknown grain and making a batter with onions, sprouts and other stuff - then deep frying it. It tasted sort of like a greasy, garilcky hashbrown.
Very nice!
We didn't buy anything other than food from Dongdaemun but we saw some nice stuff. I have to convince Shawna to buy a Hanbok (the traditional Korean dress).
She liked the shoes . . .
After Dongdaemun, we took the subway to COEX.
Its a giant underground mall. Saturday was "White Day" which is like Valentine's in Korea so there were many festivities and flowers and candies everywhere. We saw a Dixie Jazz band in the mall. I never imagined I'd see a Sousaphone my first day in Seoul!

Bongeunsa Temple

A five dollar bus ride took us 100km to Seoul on Saturday. Our very first trip to Seoul included our first of what will be many temple visits. (And the first of 1000's of temple photos I'm sure.) Bongeunsa is about 1200 years old but after the Korean War and a fire, most of the original buildings were destroyed. Most of the ones standing here have been rebuilt in the last 30 years so it gives a you good idea of what the buildings would have looked like in their heyday.

The detail on the ceilings and roofs is incredible!

If you click on the photos they should enlarge:

Shawna and I hope to come back here at night sometime to see all of the million hanging lanterns and lights when they're lit up.

We took a little video, too. In one building the monks were meditating and in another we could hear their drum practice.

Bongeunsa offered a temple stay program. Maybe on vacation we could sign up. I'm sure it would be an enlightening experience!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Welcome Dinner

Hello All!

We had a wonderful "Welcome Celebration Dinner" the other night and wanted to share some photos with you. The Vice-Principal was sitting right beside me and the Principal was across from me in the purple tie. Our co-teacher, Kyung-Ran was sitting next to Shawna when she wasn't taking photos for us.

We ate Budae-chigae which is a meat stew with rice and a million other side dishes (as usual in Korean dining). Delicious!! It goes especially well with Soju (a sweet potato wine) which reminds me of vodka. The vice principal was keen on filling my glass whenever it got near the bottom.

After dinner, our friend Mya took us to our first Korean lesson. We were able to meet some of the other ESL teachers living in Yeoju there, and learn a little bit of the language. After the lesson we snapped a couple of pics of a meat market on the walk to the bus stop.

Maybe these are the leftovers from dinner . . .

Here's our school - Ohak Elementary

And Shawna in her classroom:

English Classes start on Monday!!!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday's Adventure

Sunday morning we had breakfast at home and then took the bus to downtown Yeoju. The bus costs 1000 Won (85cents).

We wandered all over downtown checked out some stores and went into Lotteria for lunch. Our first attempt at ordering fast food in Korea went well but we didn't get quite as much food as we hoped. It was tasty though. Shawna is a good share-er.

Take a gander at these phots of a typical Sunday in Yeoju-Gun:

The bridge between Ohak and Yeoju

Yeoju is famous for its ceramics - There are pottery stores everywhere!!!

Even the Street Lamps are cool here.

We saw this Jet Pack man flying above us all day - maybe some form of Korean surveillance.

All of this walking made us thirsty for Ga To Re I:

Shawna enjoying some K-Pop in the afternoon:

Now we're off to bed - Tomorrow we start school!!!

Talk to you soon,
Jon and Shawna