Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Shawna D!!!

It was Shawna's Birthday last week so we went to Seoul to celebrate with friends. First we were off to dinner in Itaewon. Itaewon is where the largest US military base is located so it has become the place to find foreign food, books, or people - if foreign things are what you after.

7:00PM We went for some Thai food and it was good. . . We were joined by our Canadian friends Ashley and Andrew.

10:00PM Next, we were off to Hongdae in search of a bar for some drinks. We met up with quite a few teachers from Yeoju there (and they brought cake). The bar was called "Jane's Groove" and had some extremely poignant graffiti in the bathroom that had to be photographed.

It was 90's night so they were playing a bunch of hits from the good ole' days . . . we heard The Spice Girls, Hanson, and The Backstreet Boys all in a row!! It was horrible and fantastic all at the same time.

I think we may have been the largest group of Waygookin's they had seen in some time because they treated us very well. When they found out it was Shawna's birthday they brought us a bottle of Champagne on the house.

After we polished off the bubbly, we were off to see some more bars. This time we stepped it up a notch. We went to the "Ice Bar". They dress you up and send you in to a giant freezer. It was a good time . . . reminded us of Canada.

12:30AM Here we are getting suited up before entering the Ice Bar . . .

You book the entire place for your group's private party. We were lucky to have so many people with us because I'm sure it wouldn't have the same vibe with just the two of us in the whole bar.

"I triple dog dare ya. . ."

Our cool bartender making us some cocktails.

Shawna enjoying her drink in a glass made of ice.

Shawna enjoying my drink in a glass made of ice.

I think I may have had a little too much to drink because everything was starting to look hazy. . .

1:30AM We were getting tired while our friends were ready to party on. We had a big day ahead of us (at Everland) so we wanted to get some sleep but we couldn't resist checking out "The Cave Bar" they were headed to. So, we popped in for a couple photos and then headed off in search of a motel.

The Seoul-ites really seem to enjoy their 'theme' bars / restaurants / motels / parks / etc. It does make a night of partying more memorable!

2:00AM - Now we're off to bed - gotta get up early for a day in the theme park . . .

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jongmyo, Changgyeonggung, and The World High-Wire Championships

Today we're back in Seoul visiting a shrine and one of the main palaces. The shrine is called Jongmyo and it houses the 'spirit tablets' of the Joseon Dynasty Kings and Queens. It is said that their spirits reside inside these tablets.

This building is where the tablets lay. It was really massive - can you see Shawna in the picture? (click on it to blow it up)

The next group of pictures are from Changgyeonggung!! Originally built by King Sejong (who is on the back of the 10 000 Won bill, invented the modern Korean writing system, and happens to be buried in our little town of Yeoju).Through the palace woods you can see Seoul tower watching over the city.

All those years of school really paid off - I forgot my watch but Shawna was able to tell the time with this sundial - we would have missed the bus if it wasn't for her valiant effort.

Here is the Great King Sejong's throne room. The painting on the wall behind his throne is also behind his mug on the 10 000 won bill - as you can see in the following photo. We wouldn't have even noticed but we were eavesdropping on a tour group and saw their guide showing the bill to them.

RANDOM SHOT OF SD AND A SQUID - Just to see if you're still paying attention!

Later that afternoon, we went in search of a "World High-Wire Competition" we heard about. After some serious walking, and coming close to giving-up, we found it!!

It was quite the unique experience - I've never seen anything quite like it in my life. The 'walkers' were up on scaffolding waiting to for their turn. Their destination was all the way across the Han River!! It took the guy we watched about 45 minutes to make it. He stopped a few times and sat on the wire (safety boats waiting in the river below) but eventually made it across.

I took a lot of video footage of the High-Wire event that I will be able to string together someday. It's really difficult to imagine the distance based on these photos.

Well - we considered ourselves lucky to have found and witnessed the event and went happily on our way back to Yeoju on the bus.

Next post: Shawna's Birthday - Clubbing in Seoul and Chilling in Everland!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Welcome to Gyeongju -- South - South Korea!!! Our first stop in this historical city (known as an "outdoor museum") was at Bulguksa. One of Korea's largest, and most-famous Buddhist temples. It was a beautiful day and was Buddha's birthday weekend so it was the perfect time to visit Bulguksa.

A long and winding walk up a steep hill gets you to the entrance of the temple. Once you enter the gate you are faced with some awe-inspiring scenery to get you into the tranquil mood that is desired.

Just be wary of the guards at the gate - they don't exactly look friendly!!

We were happy to see that the lotus lanterns were still up the day after Buddha's birthday. (they did begin to take them down later that afternoon)

Sorry for the lack of interior photos but it was prohibited. This is still a practicing temple so they didn't want any photos taken to respect the privacy of the Buddhists.

Shawna peeking inside. . . at the Golden Seated Buddha

There were millions of these little rock formations behind one of the buildings - they looked kind of like Inuksuit.

Later that afternoon we went to see the Tombs of Gyeongju. They built huge mounds around the tombs of important people. There are still many standing today in Gyeongju.

We were able to go inside one of the tombs - after a long wait in the hot sun. These tombs were home to millions of artifacts. Like the Egyptians, they buried many precious items for the deceased to take with them to the next world. Most of the original buried treasure was taken by "Tomb Raiders" and the Koreans are still working hard to collect all the items for museum displays.

Here's some kids respecting the tomb . . .

It's very likely to see couples or families dressed alike in Korea these days. Matching clothes is a really popular thing to do right now. (Shawna is trying to convince me to buy a set "couples shirts".) This is a random photo for the afternoon but we couldn't resist taking it when we saw what was written on this family's shirts. Take a close look at the black and yellow ones . . . What??

Here's a famous observatory in Gyeongju. It is called Cheomseongdae and was built in the 7th century. Its the oldest known observatory in Asia. It has 12 blocks for its base and 365 blocks composing the tower. Interesting . . .

Here's Shawna standing in the "Kim Forest" where the orginal Gyeongju Kim was found and named.

A stop for dinner - 20 bucks got us some Soju and about 50 different dishes!!

Our final destination in Gyeongju was Anapji Pond. An artificial pond constructed in the 7th century as part of the Silla Palace. It was really incredible to see it at night.

This was really the highlight of our trip to Gyeongju. I'm sure we'll be back here again before we leave South Korea.

I was mesmerized by the Bamboo forests and now I just have to go see the big ones in Jeolla Province. Maybe next long weekend!!