Sunday, April 30, 2017

Olle Trail 7-1, a new favourite

Start/End Points:
(East point) Jeju Olle Travel Center - Korean Address: 서귀포시 서귀동 316-1
(West point) Seogwipo World Cup Stadium Square (North-East Corner of Emart) 월드컵경지장 광장
View of Halla over the Rice Field
You can show the following text to Koreans if you would like help getting a taxi.

도와 주세요. 탁시 전화해 주세요.
(Toe-wa ju-say-yo.
Tak-shi jeon-hwa-hay ju-say-yo.
Meaning: Please help and call a taxi for me.)

East Point location/address: 
제주올레여행자센터에 가고 싶어요. 
서귀포시 서귀동 316-1

West Point location:
월드컵경지장 광장에 가고 싶어요.
(서귀포시 이마트)

Bus #100 goes between the two end points and would take about 16 mins. (A taxi ride is about 10 mins)

Trail Length: ~15 km
Estimated Time: 3.5-5 Hours
Key Scenic Points: Geolmae Eco Park - Hanon (large rice field) - Jenam Children Center - Mt. Gogeun - Eongtto Waterfall (best after rainy season)

Le before and after.
Last Friday, my friend Jess and I decided that along with the nicer weather, we needed to be outside. What better way to get exercise and sunshine than a hike? (Well... or any outdoor sport really. ㅎ). Because we had a limited amount of time, we needed a trail that was less than 45 mins away and that would take under 4 hours. I also didn't want to repeat any of the trails that I've already completed which meant that all the trails close to our school were out.

The benefits of 7-1 is that both ends are near bus stops. Plus, with one end being at the Seogwipo Emart, it also has a taxi stand. This made it very convenient to park at the eastern point, walk the trail and then quickly catch a taxi back to my car. (It would also be easy to catch a taxi in the city back to the Emart should you choose to walk from west to east).
View of Halla on the trail up Mt. Gogeun
Mt. Gogeun, the highest point of the trail, is about halfway through the trail, so no matter which way you are walking, count on a fair bit of uphill.

Note: there are a number of benches in the shade along the top which is where we chose to stop for a small lunch.
Another angle of the rice fields
This is my 11th Olle trail to date, and currently I would say it is one of my favourites because of the diversity of the terrain. I've seen a lot of farmland on my quest to complete all of the Olles, as well as a lot of tangerine groves so far, but this is the first time that I've walked through a large rice field (there just aren't many in Jeju because there are not many ideal growing locations).

For a moment I thought I was back in Vietnam or Taiwan (granted, on a smaller scale). At another point along the trail, we were walking beside these smooth cliff faces. Trees sprung from the tops, looking like tuffs of broccoli and Jess and I thought we were somewhere in Africa. Then we stumbled on an orchard with a sweet little cafe/house that easily looked like it was somewhere in Europe.
Cliff Faces near Eongtto Waterfall.
Near Eongtto Waterfall, a vineyard-looking orchard.
The images really don't do the views any justice. Le sigh... It was simply a gorgeous walk with lovely city views as well (which I of course didn't think to take pictures of... Oops.). Before the summer heat is upon us, I encourage you to get out for some exercise!

Love and Hugs

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sanbangsan Ferry Ride

*Photos from August 2016*

Address: 서귀포시 안덕면 화순해안로 106번길 16
Address: 106-16 Hwasunhaean-ro, Andeok-Myeon, Seogwipo-si
Price Range: Under 20,000 per person
Times: 11:00, 14:10, 15:20
Facebook: Unofficial Link
Parking: Parking available in the Harbour and back toward the beach area if you are willing to walk more
Looking around the side of Hyung Jae Some toward SanBangSan.
 As winter releases its windy hold upon Jeju and the sun begins to bring colour back to the neighbourhoods, all I want to do is be outside. (Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have gone into Outdoor Ed instead!).
SanBangSan and Hyung Jae Some from the south side
Today, instead of a restaurant or cafe, here's information on how to take a mini cruise--in case that wasn't obvious by the pictures... The ferry boat goes past SanBangSan (산방산), around Hyung Jae Some (형재섬; I'm really not certain if this is how you would spell it in English, but it fits the pronunciation best) to the point of Songaksan (송악산; pronounced with a long O sound like Song-ahk-san and not Son-gak-san) and then back again. The whole trip takes about an hour and if you are lucky enough to have clear weather, you get a killer view of Hallasan in the distance.While my friend and I couldn't see the summit when we went, the cloud art made up for it.

We're on a boat!
I stumbled into this trip by accident. I follow a couple local Korean instagram accounts and during the summer one of them posted a video speeding along the coast. I sent it to my Korean friend asking if she knew how to do something like this. I was both surprised and pleased when she said that it was easy and fairly inexpensive.

In Korean, the cruise is called called 산방산 유람선, romanized as San-Bang-San You-Ram-Sun.

Here are some key things to know before you go:
1. Make sure you have your ARC card or Passport with you. Whenever I've taken a boat trip from Jeju, I've always needed to show my identification.

2. You may need to go early to get your ticket. Popularity depends on time of year and day of the week, and I've found that some ferry rides fill up fast. If you have a Korean friend who can help you, I think you can reserve tickets online, but I don't know how. My friend and I went about 30-45 minutes before the departure time and we were okay.

3. Throughout the ride, an announcer tells you different things--probably about SanBangSan, the islands and history, but naturally if you can't understand Korean (like me), you will miss that part of the experience.

4. I didn't get nauseous, but if you get seasick really easy, maybe think carefully about going.
SanBangSan and Dragon Head Rock (Yong-Meori; 용머리)
I really enjoyed the ride because it offered a new perspective on one of my favourite parts of Jeju and my favourite lump of rock (I'll leave it to you to figure out if I mean SanBangSan or Hyung Jae Some ㅎㅎㅎ). And naturally a huge photo-op for our camera-addicted society.
Close up of Hyung Jae Some (형재섬).
It was also really cool to see Hyung Jae Some up close. I never realized that the small islands had such vibrant colours!
Rounding the little islands.
All in all, this is a fairly relaxing outing that would be fun if you're just travelling through or if you've lived here for a while and looking for something new to do.
Looking back toward Jeju~~
Happy Spring Adventures!

Love and Hugs 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Gyeongju: The Golden City

So you've been to Seoul--seen the sites and toured the town. Maybe you've been to Busan, too. After a while, big cities all look the same, eh? For my coworkers (and other foreigners living in Korea) who don't have the money or maybe time to go international, look no further.  For those tourists who want to see more than another big city, be prepared to travel a little further off the popular route and head to Gyeongju.
Near 보문Lake (English: Bomun, pronounced Bo-Moon Lake)
The only reason I travelled to this smaller city was because my mum came to visit and she wanted her "international debut" on the racing circuit. There weren't any races happening near me so I pulled up the list to find one that we could easily travel to from Jeju. When I spotted the Gyeongju CHERRY BLOSSOM Marathon, I said heck yes to flowers while running. Let's go. A simple google search revealed that it was only about hour bus ride from Busan or Daegu. Or a couple hours on the KTX from Seoul.

My mum and I were originally only going to stay one night--fly in the night before, wake up to do the race and then leave. However, when I mentioned my plans to one of my students, she said that there was a lot to do in Gyeongju and that as part of Korean schooling, most public schools orchestrated trips to the Golden City. Why? I asked. Because, she said, Gyeongju was the capital during the Silla (신라; pronounced more like Shilla) dynasty. 

The Silla kingdom is one of the world's longest enduring kingdoms and there is a lot of history there. Intrigued, I extended our stay an extra day. I'm so glad I did.

Traditional Korean Hanok House and our Airbnb in Gyeongju. Isn't it lovely?
From what I've seen, the price to stay in a Hanok style house in seoul is expensive and can be a couple hundred a night. With the multitude of Hanok houses in Gyeongju, it's a lot more affordable.
I like the juxtaposition of the traditional style and current day construction.
I was expecting something similar to Jeju City or maybe even Cheongju City. Many Korean cities are built on and around mountains (Busan and Seoul being the big examples), and whereas Gyeongju shared the proximity to small mountains, it definitely was not the same. Nestled within the folds, Gyeongju has a small-town feel. The tallest building I saw had 10-12 floors. If you're up for a longer walk, you could easily get around a large part of the city on foot--or you can rent a bike/scooter at one of the many rental shops by the bus terminal. 
There's a couple rental stops right across from the Bus Terminal.
My mum and I rented bikes shortly after arriving and then headed out to the race course to scope out the scene. Our hostel was near the terminal and the course was by Bomun Lake and the tourist complex. It was at max a 10km bike ride out to the edge of the lake which was really nice along the river. My mum and I didn't explore much around the lake, but it looked like there was a number of cool museums, a bird sanctuary of some sort, and even a water park for warmer weather.

Back toward the central town area, there are a number of historical sights--aside from the fact that many buildings around town are built in the traditional style.
Sacred Bell
Mum and I just wandered around nearby the day before our race, and ended up at Daereungwon (대릉원). Both us of wondered about these giant hills that dotted this park as well as some other areas of town. 
Trail through Daereungwon beneath a Magnolia Tree.
What we learned was that these giant mounds of earth were actually tombs.
This is a tomb. Human captured for size perspective (not in Daereungwon).
To think that somewhere on the other side of the world, another civilization aside from Egypt thought that the best way to bury its kings was by constructing giant tombs... Definitely cool. A couple of the tombs have since been excavated and their artifacts are now at Gyeongju Museum (which we didn't have time to visit), BUT at the park, they left a door into one of the mounds so that you can see the layout and what the tomb would have been like from the inside. 

My mum spent the rest of the day lazily wandering before turning in early for the night. Lots of rest before race day! If you have more time, there are a few more tourist spots in the surrounding area--at most about 18km from the bus terminal according to one map. 

Unfortunately, our Cherry Blossom Race was probably 2 days too early for most of the trees. But we could see the buds. I can only imagine how beautiful Gyeongju is at the prime time for these soft flowers.
These trees were so close to blooming and probably only needed 2 more days!
In the midst of the pack.
And I'll end with this last picture of Starbucks merely because it's one of the coolest looking Starbucks I've ever seen, being built in the traditional style. For those of you who might be interested, Gyeongju has it's own unique Starbucks mug as well. 
Fancy looking Starbucks.
That's it for this mini-trip. Until next time!

Love and Hugs

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Things I've learned about Taiwan

As I reflected about my time in Taiwan, I found it difficult to think about things for this list. And then I realized that because of my time in some other countries, I was ignoring aspects of Taipei that made the city different from the western world of my childhood (despite some similarities to the countries I've now travelled to). Trying to keep that in mind, here are a few things that I've learned about Taiwan.
View from Taipei 101 on a cloudy day...
1. You can do everything at a 711. From my time in Korea, I already know that convenience stores are way more common and have a wider purpose than what I'm used to in Canada. Honestly, in Canada, I never really bought anything at a convenience store. Not so in the asian countries I've visited. I felt like Taiwan took it to an all new high. Not only can you buy almost anything you might need on the fly (from shampoo, pads, first aid kits, alcohol, ramen or milk), you can also top up your transit pass AND buy tickets for the train and other places. Seriously, it's your one stop store.

2. Stinky Tofu is really Stinky. I've heard of this "food" but I had no idea how smelly it actually was until my first time walking around the night market. It was bad. I thought about trying it, but for this trip, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I'll just have to go again and try next time.

3. The Motorbikes. Having been to Vietnam, Malaysia and China, I think I was a little desensitized to seeing people stream around street corners, but my mum reminded me that it is not a common occurrence back in the true North. And while Vietnam still wins in my experience as the craziest motorbike-flow, Taipei still had enough that it is cool to see. They drive so confidently.
In the Shilin Night Market (Friday Night).
4. That Night Market Life. My mum and I visited Shilin and Ningxia Night Market and both were very different from each other. Shilin, being the biggest, reminded me more of Seoul's Hongdae-type shops with a Namdaemun Market atmosphere (if you know the references). There were a number of stores that sold clothing, phone cases, toys, stuffed animals, etc and then among them pop-up street stalls that sold all sorts of food (steamed buns, chicken, stinky tofu, sausages, fresh cut fruit, and more). On the other hand, Ningxia reminded me more of the Old Quarter of Hanoi meets a Kuala Lumpur food court. There were some hole-in-the wall restaurants along the sides of the street with the small stool chairs and tables along the sidewalk. Down the center of the street, there were two rows of pop-up stalls. Some stalls also had a section of stools and tables while others you just grabbed your food and went on your way. Really popular foods had some crazy-long lines, especially on the weekend, so be prepared. The selection of food between the two markets is also different, so if you are in Taipei, I recommend hitting up both of them.
Whatever this is, I really liked it. (Shilin Night Market).
Some delicious steamed buns!
5. Don't stay in the City. While there is a lot to see and do within Taipei, there are so many amazing places to go in and around Taiwan. Even if you only have a couple days, dedicate 1 to out of city.
Mountain Hike Views: Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan Fumaroles.
I climbed above the clouds over Yangmingshan with a couchsurfer and new friend. My mum and I had the chance to go to Taroko Gorge on one day, which was amazing and so worth it. On another day, we hopped on a bus and road along the North-East coast. We hit up the Queen's head and a couple other places along the way. I was initially worried about taking the bus away from the city because if we got lost in a small town without Internet and potential English, things could get complicated quickly. (Ha). But there were a couple buses that went along the coastal road and it was easy to hop-on and hop-off at your fancy. On the way back, we came through the Tamsui District which is the top of the Red subway line in Taipei. I really wish we had ventured that way a day earlier because I would have liked to explore the area in more depth. Le sigh. At that point I was tired and didn't take many other photographs.
The Yehliu Harbour; there's something about a portside photograph... 
View from the Yehliu Peninsula back toward the island.
Do I even need to say that my time in Taiwan was too short?
Love and Hugs.

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...