Posts Tagged ‘seoul’

Walking up to Jogyesa Temple last Sunday, I had no idea what I was getting into. The courtyard was packed with people of all nationalities. Dancing and drumming echoed around the streets. Incense burned filling the air with a hearty, floral punch. Lanterns flooded the sky with colorful shade. Photographers craned their heads around crowds and searched out new photo-ops like a mother bird searching for breakfast.

The Buddhist Street Festival spanned several blocks of the 6-laned street in front of the temple. Buddhist culture was presented to anyone who wanted it, and most people wanted it. Incense making, acupuncture and moksa therapies, wish-making, lotus lantern making, Buddhist literature, temple food. White tents lined the street filled with smiles and a wealth of experiences and information.

At dusk, the infamous Lotus Lantern Parade began at Dongdaemun Stadium and made it’s way down to Jogyesa. Lanterns lit the streets for two and a half hours bringing ajummas and ajusshis, children and chanters, drums and dancers. Monks were applauded as they filed past the spectators. Fire-breathing dragon lotus lanterns the size of several cars were oohed and ahhed.

At the finale, pinks papers representing lotus petals rained down on spectators as lanterns were swooped up to take home and music blasted out of speakers above the crowds.

The day brought feelings of comfort, generosity, compassion, and loving kindness. Free things are given to you as you walk down the street. Free food was offered to us while debating where to go next. Everyone smiles and treats festival-goers, Buddhist or not, with respect and generosity. And it is infectious. I found myself still smiling on my way to work the next day. No other festival has impacted me as much as this one.

But this was just my own experience. There was so much to do and enjoy on this joyful day it was hard to take it all in. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. Do everything. And stay through to the end. You won’t regret it.

There will be a video later, but until then, here are some photos. Be sure to check out our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set for even more photos of the glory.

Taeguk in lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Happy birthday, Buddha! Photo by Anna Waigand

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Graceful lantern carriers
Photo by Anna Waigand

Fire-breathing dragons were a crowd favorite
Photo by Anna Waigand

Ajumma's and their lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Lotus petal rain and fire-breathing dragons Photo by Danielle Harms

For more photos, be sure to go to our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set!


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Rockin' Out Photo by Andre Francisco

Seoul’s new young, hip generation has a billowing new underground music scene popping out in pockets around the city. One of the greatest examples of this we have seen (and become slightly obsessed with) is The Rock Tigers. The group looks like a bunch of Korean punk rockers, but they wail like a fresh, up-beat Elvis Presley.

Rock Tigers Photo by Anna Waigand

The style is called “Kimchibilly,” a Korean version of the age-old American Rockabilly. Why and how this 1950s version of rock has become popular in Korean and even earned its own nickname is beyond me, but for the amazing nights I’ve had rocking out to it, I’m glad it has. We’ve seen them twice in concert and each time the audience has been kept rocking and moving to the beats.

Check them out if out if you ever get the chance. You will surely have a hip-swaying good time.

Rock Tigers, the whole group Photo by Anna Waigand

For upcoming performance dates, check out their website at http://rocktigers.com/.

For more information about the band, check out our friends’ blogpost at http://harmsboone.org/what-world-kimchibilly.

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Taking the subway every morning in Seoul can garner some widely varying results. Andre’s trek to work is like pressing the snooze button on the alarm: he is guaranteed a seat to relax in and free space to lounge. My trek on the other hand is a whole different kit and caboodle.

The first leg of my trek is packed to the brim. I am consistently squished up against the door with people propped up against me like Barbie dolls in storage, unable to move our legs, hoping that the train doesn’t stop too abruptly. Invariably though, it does and we all tumble over each other creating a live Korean version of dominoes. Eventually we all get our bearings and brace ourselves for the next stop hoping we, and the person next to us, has learned a lesson and fixes the issues at hand before the next stop.

After my transfer which consists of a hike up two flights of stairs, usually spent jogging since the Koreans love to jog to the escalator just to passively let it push them upstairs and I always get swept up in the fast-paced excitement, I have another packed train. Don’t worry, though, it is no where near as filled as the first. Instead, I actually have room to move my arms and even write this little informative piece on my way to work.

So, when taking the subway, beware. Each leg of the subway is different from the next, but here are some quick tips for when the going gets tough:

  • Koreans love to push. Never apologize for a nudge or a jab. Unless you have truly injured someone, apologies will fall on the footsteps of the ajumma that has already taken that seat you were rushing to grab.
  • When the train is packed and you’re in a rush, stay by the door. It’s the easiest to get out when you get to your destination. If you don’t, you risk being pushed further and further back each time new passengers jam in. And even worse, you risk missing your stop all together because you are just too packed in and the people around you are just too oblivious to your futile attempts to squirm out. The easiest way to stay in the front is to immediately go to the left or right upon entering and rest against the railing of the seats. No one can push you away from here. Stand your ground.
  • On at least one of the doors for each train there is a guide that tells you the best door to stand at for the quickest transfer route, depending on where you are going. This is really helpful, especially when there are those hellish, 15-minute, practically-walk-across-the-city transfers (and yes, they do exist). Also, each train car has a number and each door has a number. This is very useful if you are meeting someone on the subway.

Happy travels and may your trek be easier than mine.

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Last night during a night out on the town for Andre’s birthday, we came across a new Korean dish: Pig Backbone Stew. Wanting some food, we had two rules: it needed to still be busy at 12:30AM (we didn’t want to walk in somewhere that was about to close) and it could not have chicken feet on the menu. What we ended up finding was an interesting new stew that we may or may not go back for.

Photo by Anna Waigand

It came as a stew and was everything a stew should be: hearty, heavy and hot. It seemed a popular choice among the young, late-night Korean crowd seeing as almost all of the tables were full by the time we left. Drunk 20-somethings kept stumbling in, eating and drinking until their red faces stumbled back out into the cold again.

We were uncertain about what we were eating until a Korean with very good English (he studied in Australia for eight months, apparently) told us that it was pig back bone meat. With that mystery solved, we dug into the fragrant stew that was bubbling on our table. We combed through the spinal bones to find the meat that was still ever so loosely hanging on. It was the most perfectly cooked spinal meat that I have ever had (although I suppose that isn’t saying much). We jabbed it off the spine easily with our chopsticks and it arrived at our mouths juicy and tender. To help it go down, the hearty broth provided a vibrant Korean style taste (think: Korean chili powder with some garlic and green onions) with a miniscule kick at the end. Vegetables swam through the stew providing some extra flavor and a slippery texture.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The problem that we found was the amount of meat that actually came in the stew. As one might imagine, spinal meat is not very plentiful. The size and shape of the bones were much more impressive than the meat volume of the stew. So, it was a delicious meal perfect for a cold late-night on the town, but not something I would want to eat on a regular basis.

If you live in Seoul and would like to check it out, the restaurant was off of the Sinchon subway stop, exit 2. Take a left after the big red tube, then your first right, then your first left. It’s across from the chicken feet restaurant (you’ll know which is the chicken feet restaurant because it has a big picture of a man with chicken feet and it says “Chicken Feet Restaurant”). If you check it out, be sure to let us know what you thought!

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Yes, we have been away for a while.

My family visited over Christmas break.
We have been working on a new, non-food-centric website.
The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and sleep has been a priority.

But we are back and to get us back up and rolling here is a silly, little video involving South Korea’s latest craze from infants to ajummas: Tamiflu.

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Time to walk on the right

When Anna and I first got here we were relieved to see everyone driving on the right side of the road, but then we were confused to see everyone walking on the left side of escalators, sidewalks and stairs. Even the sidewalks in our neighborhood have a yellow line of bricks down the middle that divide the two sides. Our first week, we got caught in the wrong direction of the crowd a couple of times.

But now the city of Seoul is making a big official push to get the population to start walking on the right, according to Korea4Expats.com.

According to Korea4Expats

because the vast majority of Koreans are right-handed (88.3%), walking on the left is difficult for them and apparently slows them down. According to a city official, “When people walk on the right side they go 1.2 to 1.7 times faster.”

I hope this is the explanation for the slow moving crowds that I encounter daily in Seoul. Anna and I are fast walkers in the U.S., but here we have to do a lot of weaving through crowds to get anywhere.

This major switch in how walking is organized in Seoul will be supported by a barrage of PSAs and signs. The campaign is supposed to start Oct. 1, but I’ve already noticed stickers on all the staircases in a couple subway stations that are redirecting traffic with arrows.

I hope this catches on quickly.

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