Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lantern Festival Parade

A little warning . . . because these posts go in reverse-chronological order - I suggest you quickly scroll past these photos to see the daytime post before the nighttime one . . . but its up to you.

The parade was really beautiful. I haven't seen many 'night-time' parades in my life but the lights and sounds were really magical.

There were hoards of people carrying lanterns (the parade took about 2 hours to pass us) but the giant floats were the main attraction.

Some were candle-powered and some were electric.

We even got to see the Buddha-Mobile!!

There were many dancers and musicians - there was even a marching band!! Anywhere in the world you travel - a parade just ain't a parade without a marching band!!

Don't forget to click on these photos to see them super-sized!!

Shawna took most of these photos while I was taking video footage. Hopefully I will find time (and a computer powerful enough) to edit them and post them to the blog.

I'm sure the pictures don't do it justice. It was really awesome.

The Lantern Festival

Good day to you all!!

We spent the majority of this weekend in Seoul (it keeps sucking us in like flies). Buddha's birthday is in one week so the festivities were kicked off this weekend with a Lantern Festival. We met some friends on the bus to Seoul who were heading to the same spot so we went in search of it together.

First stop - Insadong - Seoul's tourism capital. We found the festival headquarters and signed up for some lantern making.

Shawna looks focused whilst building her Lotus Lantern like a seasoned professional.

Our finished products are below - Shawna's is pink and mine has the orange petals (and about five pounds of glue). They hang in our bedroom now and, I must say, look quite dashing!

Jason seems proud of his Lantern - as he should be!!

After our lanterns were completed, we walked down the closed off street to check out the festivities. A few of us picked up some North Korean icy-cold noodles from a street vendor. It's quite the popular dish in South Korea as well - especially in the sweltering summer heat.

We walked further down and found a temple that was filled-to-the-brim with lanterns. It was really amazing especially when we saw them lit up at dusk.

Hana, Dul, Set . . . Kimchi!!

Here you can see the festival in a broader scope and the infamous Jongno Tower in the background.

Cruising on the subway with our lanterns in hand.

We know about 30 out of the 60 million people that live in Korea and we ran into one of them in Seoul. As we were heading to the parade we happened to bump into our school's vice-principal. He wanted us to join him for some dinner and drinking after the parade (or, at least I think that's what he was getting at) but we had already paid for our bus tickets and it was Sunday so we opted out. I demanded that we get a photo together, however.

We kept on towards Jongno 3-Ga to see the parade. There were some lanterns along the route that gave us a taste of what was to come but nothing like the parade itself.

Next . . . the glorious Lantern Parade!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Walk Between The Palaces

Toronto . . . That Way!!!

We took a lovely, morning stroll through the streets of Seoul between the two palaces. This area is interesting because it is very historic but it is also home to many of the most modern art galleries in Seoul.

And some interesting architecture with the new surrounding the old.

After you pass the palaces and the galleries you get to the Blue House. This is the Presidential Residence. The area actually reminded us of Sussex in Ottawa - A little ways past the fancy galleries and bistros you find the home of the leader. On the way up to the Blue House a police man stopped us and asked us what we were doing. We showed him the international "picture taking" sign language and he let us go onward.

After a quick cup of tea with the Pres . . . we went over to Samcheong Park to continue our stroll.

Shawna declared that we had been eating far too much Kimchi and needed some exercise to burn up the excess calories. Lucky there was a gym in the middle of Samcheong Park!!

As if a 8 hour walk weren't enough . . .

After pumping some iron we felt invigorated and decided to climb a mountain (well Shawna decided we should climb a mountain). It was worth the effort though - we had an incredible view and some extra space in our stomachs for a Kraze Burger!

We saw some soldiers at the top of the mountain at a watch post so I snapped a photo for our records. I didn't realize at the time but if you zoom in close you can see they were watching us pretty carefully with binoculars.

On the way back down they had they're rifles out. One false move . . .

After we came back down from the mountain we replenished ourselves with some cold Pocari Sweat and made our way to the Hanok village. This is a rich neighborhood in Seoul - only a few people can afford to live outside an apartment building here! It is an old-style village but kept in tip-top shape by the people living within. It was quite beautiful and there are some "B and B" type Hanok houses here. We hope to stay here some night in the future.

Check back soon - our next post "Buddha's Lantern Festival" is ready to go and coming right around the corner!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cherry Blossoms on Easter Sunday

Happy Easter! The weather was fantastic and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom so we had a wonderful Sunday. We went to Yeouido in Seoul. It is famous for its cherry blossoms and it has one of the largest churches in the world - so it was the obvious choice for Easter.

We got there pretty early in the morning and headed off in search of the Yeouido Full Gospel Church. We found the Congress building instead. No big deal - the church has eight services every Sunday so we were bound to catch one of them. So we decided to wander the streets and view the cherry blossoms in all their glory because they only last for a week or two.

We were not the only ones in Yeouido on Easter morning - not by a long shot!!

The cherry blossom is a Japanese tree and the Japanese planted them all over Korea as a sign of dominance when they invaded. So, as beautiful as they are, they are still a little bit of a sensitive issue for the Koreans. Actually, at one of the palaces, they cut down trees as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of liberation from the Japanese occupation. Anyway, there were still hoardes of people out wandering and snapping photos along with us.

In Japan, so I've heard, cherry blossom viewing is like a competitive sport and you have to be fierce in order to get the best pics, so many Japanese come to Korea during the season to have a more relaxing time . . .

maybe just a tiny bit more relaxing . . .

On our journey around Yeouido we happened to find the church we were looking for so we wandered on in. The Yeouido Full Gospel church has the largest congregation of any church in the world. Every Sunday they have eight services with multiple overflow buildings set up to catch the people who don't fit in the main sanctuary. The church has 800 000 members. They had a full orchestra, a massive choir, and some really incredible solo singers. The service was instantly translated into 7 languages through headphones in the 'foreigner section'. We took a couple of photos about 20 minutes before the service started - just before a sign when up "No Photos Please". We were lucky enough to attend the one service that the founder of the church, Rev. David Yonggi Cho, was preaching at. You should check out their website: - The church has quite the interesting history.

After the service we went out for some more walking. I was a little hungry so we opted for a little bite of street food. Some BBQ chicken on a stick for 2000Won ($1.80) and a can of beer. I couldn't be happier!

What a lovely day we had!!