Green Tea and Strawberries

Standard

I get off the bus at the green tea plantation in Boseong and look at the almost empty parking lot. What a sad look for a place that was packed with food stalls and people last year! Of course, last time I was here, it was the green tea festival. This time it’s just a normal, slightly overcast, weekend. What did I expect?

I make a beeline to the nearest shop window that sells ice cream. It doesn’t taste quite as good as I remember but I chalk it up to faulty memory, and the cooler weather today.

Once I get into the park, it looks less abandoned. People crowd the outdoor seating area eating ice cream and other food from the restaurant. I suppose the upside of fewer people is that there are fewer distractions in the photos.

I take my time, walking around, trying to look at things from a different perspective. What did I miss last year?

I discover a little trickle of a waterfall on a path that goes behind the hill. Hikers coming down the trail tell me it connects to the lookout point at the top. Abandoning further exploration, I turn around and go back the way I came. Last year, I hiked the stairs to the top of the hill and decided that once was enough. The breeze was it’s only redeeming quality. Visually, the halfway mark is a better place to stand.

Actually, I start talking to those hikers: three Americans working at the military base in Osan. We talk about our differing experiences in Korea and their plans for the future. I linger, after they leave, taking more pictures. Between a row of tea bushes, I find some wild strawberries. 

 

My sister may be disappointed to learn that I did NOT, in fact, eat any. I capture them with my camera instead, then descend the hill.

I lie down on a bench and relax. Then snap a few pictures  of flowers.

upside-down view: relaxing on a bench

Yes, it’s upside-down. That’s how I took the photo, while lying on the bench.

 

When I leave the plantation, my bag is full of green tea chocolate and cookies. I can’t resist buying another ice cream cone on my way out. This time, it tastes just like I remembered.

 

Suncheon Bay and Wetlands

Standard

Every trip I’ve taken with Emily has had an element of surprise and things going not quite as planned. This trip was no exception.

It all starts when I convince Emily to go with me to the Suncheon gardens to look at the roses. Tulips are long gone and now it’s the peak season for roses. We decide to leave after church on Sunday.

We nix our plan to take a taxi from the bus terminal to the gardens when we see the long line of black taxis waiting for the gullible and the desperate to bend to their higher prices. They cost more since they are supposedly roomier and better quality and since the meter runs twice as fast as normal (or just makes bigger jumps) so rides often cost twice as much.

No big deal! I caught a bus back to the station last time. All we need to do is reverse my steps. Actually, this should work better! I think to myself.

After telling Emily about the Ecological zone that is connected to the Gardens via monorail (called the Sky Cube) we decide to take a quick look over there first, then go to the gardens to look at the roses. It’s the one area I haven’t visited yet even though it was part of last year’s garden Expo.

We find the bus stop but I can’t remember what bus number I took (I think it’s 101) and I’m not sure what the name of the stop is called. We ask someone nearby how to get to Suncheon Man (순천만).

We follow their directions and get on bus 67. We pass the sign for the gardens, but that’s okay; we should end up on the other side of the garden. But the bus keeps taking us further away. When we get off, I realize that we’ve been dropped off directly at the entrance to the Ecological Bay. We traveled the distance the Sky cube would have crossed to get here from the gardens.

This is better, I think. We were going to come here anyway, so we can just hop the Sky Cube back to see the roses when we are done.

Since the ground is wet, our path is a wooden walkway above the marshy ground. Mudskippers and crabs wriggle around beneath us. I watch as some people lean over the sides, trying to get the crabs to grab blades of grass they’d plucked. One woman succeeds and pulls a small crab onto the walkway then pushes it around curiously.IMG_7026

Mudskipper

Mudskipper

On the other end of the open area, the path continues, curving around and up a hill for a scenic view. At this point, Emily and I realize there will be no time to go to the gardens since things start to close once it gets dark. I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to show her the part of Suncheon I’m most familiar with, but realize it’s better to take our time than feel rushed to leave so we can have the last bit of daylight with the roses.

We hike the rest of the way, up the hill and to the main observation platform. Several people are there with tripods and fancy looking cameras, just waiting for sunset. This area is supposed to be best place for sunset pictures in Suncheon.IMG_7124 (3)

A Korean man approaches the two of us and strikes up an interesting conversation. He works in Suncheon as a government worker and he loves traveling. Due to his extensive travels, his English is excellent. We continue talking as we descend the hill and leave the park. I catch a few sunset shots at the bottom.IMG_7184

We part ways outside and Emily and I look for a restaurant. A large poster outside one restaurant advertises a set meal with a plethora of side dishes. We eye it, looking to see if there are enough vegetable dishes to satisfy a vegetarian and someone who doesn’t eat much meat. A woman from across the street (is she connected to the restaurant?) urges us to go in.

It’s  nearly empty but not for lack of quality. The food is delicious. On our ride home, we relive the day in pictures. IMG_7226 (2)IMG_7224 (2)

Company dinner

Standard

(Making up for a week of no posts, I’m overcompensating this week, with several).

For those of you who’ve followed me from the beginning, you may remember that my first full day in Korea ended with the annual company dinner. Jet-lagged and overwhelmed by everything new, I sat through hours of speeches I didn’t understand, food I was unfamiliar with and performances that seemed to have no end in sight.

Recently, we had this year’s company dinner. This time, we gathered at a pension owned by the company’s president.IMG_6982

Improvised table lighting: phone flashlights and full soju bottles

Sitting outside, eating food I now am familiar with and hearing speeches that I still barely understand, the experience was completely different. I sat at a table with all my coworkers and though I rarely joined in the conversation, I felt a part of the group. There were no long speeches this time and though the band that played was the same band from last year, no one performed Celine Dion’s “My heart will go on.”

Gwangju Accommodation – Pedro’s Hostel and B and B

Standard

Recently I had the pleasure of staying at Pedro’s House: a hostel single-handedly run by the same Pedro who organizes and leads the Lonely Korea trips. He’s a man of many interests. A native to Gwangju and an avid traveler, Pedro is highly knowledgeable about the popular places in Korea as well as lesser known areas. His English skills are excellent, though he’s rather modest about it.

Pedro’s House is appropriately named since the hostel is, in fact located above his family’s home. It’s located in a residential neighborhood conveniently close to a major street and the subway line. The bus terminal is nearby as well, but for those who don’t want to walk there, Pedro offers a shuttle service for guests that stay more than one night. The hostel is a short distance away from the 5.18 park (the biggest city park in Gwangju, that I’m aware of). The park is set on a hill and is large enough to give city dwellers a brief respite from all the concrete and buildings.

대문 사진 2

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

The sign outside the guest house is small and perhaps a little hard to see at night but following the map provided on the website is simple. Of course, there are directions for those who’d rather take a taxi, or bus, or subway.

There are two doorbells: one for his personal residence and one for the hostel. They are labeled so you know which one to press. The stairs to the second floor are a little narrow and steep but it’s hardly uncommon in Korea.

There’s a second set of stairs to the roof. It’s great place to hang out and talk with the other guests. Also, there’s a very comfortable hammock.

_D6M9387

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

 

Inside, it feels very homey. There’s a communal kitchen and a single, well-kept bathroom, and many books in English. Guests are free to use food in the refrigerator and in the kitchen to make their own breakfast. Personal food is marked as such, but everything else is free for use.

거실에서 찍은 더블룸

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

화장실

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

 

A couple of rooms have sturdy bunk beds, dorm style. Though the outside of Pedro’s house may seem a little narrow, there is plenty of room inside. The bedrooms have enough space for luggage and outlets for everyone to charge something without needing to take turns.

남자 도미토리 2

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

여자도미토리 1

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

 

There are also two double rooms, for couples or those who want their own room. One of the double rooms is actually downstairs from the rest of the hostel. It has its own bathroom and a mini-fridge.

더블룸 1

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

방전경

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

 

The walls of the common area are covered in shelves full of books in English and maps showing sites around and near Gwangju.

채스

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

책 사진 2

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

 

And of course, no hostel is complete without a map showing where all its guests are from.

지도

Courtesy of CHEOLstyle

Though the hostel is still small enough that Pedro hasn’t hired any permanent help (he finds someone to fill in for him when he leads the Lonely Korea trips), it is slowly growing. He plans on adding another room in the near future.

 

I enjoyed my stay there. I ate fried chicken on the roof and got to meet some interesting people, like an American who’s been traveling all around Asia for the past year on his savings and plans on keeping it up for at least another year, and a Chinese businessman who has also been to some interesting places. I slept very comfortably and woke up feeling rested. I left just as a new guest arrived.

For those looking for a place to stay in Gwangju, I recommend checking out Pedro’s House. You can visit pedroshouse.com for more information or to make a reservation online. The website itself is easy to navigate and well-organized.

You can also read another detailed review here.

**All of the photos used in this post are courtesy of one of Pedro’s friends who is something of a professional photographer. You can see more of his awesome work in the postcards found only at Pedro’s House.**

Kdramas 103: characters and pairings

Standard

I’ve introduced the basics of dramas talked a little about the common settings and themes, so now it’s time to talk about the cliché characters. Not every drama has these characters but many of them have at least one. Also, these characters tend to get paired with the same kind of people over and over. So I will introduce several common characters as well as their other half. Beginning with… Continue reading