Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taiwan and Temple Stay!

Hello All,
Three weeks left, cannot believe it. The next couple weekends will consist of boring studying and saying goodbye to friends. The latter will probably be much harder than the former. This will be my last post until the end of the semester. So this past month has been pretty eventful. The 10th-11th we spent the weekend checking out the club scene around Hongdae. Some of them were really cool, while others were pretty sketchy. On Friday night we went to a couple bars and then went to our first club called "Club Naked". That should have been our first sign. It was banging some good hip hop so we thought we'd give it a shot. What we witnessed was something none of us were prepared for. It looked like a scene out of a rap video. All the American military personal go there to party, and this was very apparent with enormous black men. Like six and a half feet tall. Since I have been in Asia, I have forgotten what tall guys look like so this was a wakeup call. We quickly left the club haha. Then we went to this club called gorilla or something like that. It had 3 different venues so we stopped at all of them to get our free drinks. They were pretty good places. Small, but good music and a good vibe. They club life in Hongdae is pretty popular and luckily we live right next to it. Saturday night we went back to Hongdae but this time went to FF Club. This was a little different in that it was more Indie and rock music. They initially had a live band which was really cool. Then they started playing some great rock and punk rock throwback songs. Even played "cant stop" by RHCP. Really good night and we have been back to that club a couple times sense.


The weekend of the 17-18th I went to a temple stay with my Swedish friend Per. This was a fantastic experience. We arrived there on Saturday afternoon and had lunch with our group of about 20. Everything was vegetarian and made at the temple so it was a nice change up. We followed that with an hour and a half meditation hike through the temple mountain. This was very relaxing. After arriving back at the temple, we walked around the temple grounds and what the specific temples and areas were used for. After dinner (at 5:00!), we learned how to properly bow like a Zen Buddhist. As I have bad knees, it was very painful for me but I managed to do it! I have no idea how they manage to do it 108 times in one time period. Then we learned how to properly meditate, Zen style. By the time we were finished it was time for bed, at 8:30. I don't even remember the last time I went to bed on a Saturday night at 8:30. But this was because we had to wake up at 3:30 on Sunday morning. Surprisingly this was easy for me. We started the morning with some Zen meditation, and then we participate in morning chanting. This was very interesting to see how all the monks chant and a true Buddhist religious ceremony. Afterwards we had breakfast and a chance to talk with one of the monks and ask him some questions about his life and Zen Buddhism in general. Quite the weekend but it was very interesting to learn about the culture and be able to take a chance to relax for a weekend in a temple in the mountains. Highly recommended for anyone who travels to Korea.


Now this past weekend I went to Taiwan! We went with 3 of us guys and 4 girls, all from Yonsei. We arrived last Thursday night and got lost on our way to the hostel. Luckily a Taiwanese girl managed to help and point us in the right direction. We finally arrived at our hostel and ready to start the day bright and early. We woke up to a cloudy day, and unfortunately stayed that way all day. This was okay though because most of our activities were inside. We started off by going to the National Palace Museum. This is one of the most famous museums in the world because most of Ancient China's artifacts are located here. I could go into a long history lesson but basically they were no longer safe in China and had to be moved to Taiwan to be preserved. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in there but wow it was cool, probably my favorite part of the trip. We then went to a temple and memorial place. Pretty cool touristy areas and got some great pictures. At night we went to Taipei 101, which is now the second tallest building in the world. The inside was really well done but the view from the top was amazing. We could see the entire city skyline. We were pretty tired afterwards and went back to the hostel for the night. The next morning we went to the Taipei Zoo, which is the largest zoo in Asia. It was so cool and we got to see Pandas!! We then went on the gondola ride which went for about an hour around the mountains. At the top we went to a tea garden and had authentic tea from the locals. That night we went to the Shilin night market. Taiwan is very famous for its night markets with cheap merchandise and great food. The dumplings I had were absolutely amazing, best I have had in Asia so far. I really enjoyed my trip to Taiwan as it was much different from Seoul. You can tell it’s in the process of "westernizing" but still has a bit ago. I enjoyed the more "Asian" aspects of the city though. Well I think thats it for now. Just sent out a bunch of postcards today so hopefully you get them soon! I'm done with school the 22nd of Dec and leave for Japan Jan 2nd, so in that time period we should Skype as you will all be home and I have a lot of free time! Hope to hear from you guys and have a great holiday, miss you all!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Another week of Korean adventure!

 Hello all,

Another week done. This semester is just flying by and now it’s already November. I will not be participating in no shave November this year, but during winter break I will be making up for it by letting the beard going loose. Anyways this week was pretty fun. School-wise it was pretty easy with nothing too difficult. The next couple weeks I will be getting my midterm results back which I am pretty anxious about. We went out for Halloween on Wed night but I did not stay out too late because I had taekwondo early the next morning. Either way it was pretty fun, but just not the same as American Halloween. During the week my roommate and I also watched the Lord of the Rings extended edition, just finished the last one today. Good way to spend 12 hours of your life. The weekend was jammed packed with man Korean activities. Friday morning I walked around taking pictures of my University for all of you to enjoy. Our campus is beautiful and it really shows its beauty with all the fall colors.

That afternoon I went to Dongdaemun, which is a traditional Korean market. They have a lot of fake brand name clothing which is pretty interesting to see. Also everyone tries to lure you into their shop with their "cheap" prices. Some can be pretty nice and like to ask where you are from, what are you doing in Korea, etc. I am trying to figure out gifts for everyone but so far turning up short. Don't worry though it will come through in the end :). That night we saw the new James Bond movie which I highly recommend. It was shown with Korean subtitles which were interesting to read because I can now understand some of it and it’s cool to see how they translate some of the English into Korean. Saturday morning we went and hiked Bukassan Mountain. Hiking is one of the most popular sports in Korea since the landscape is full of mountains. We took the bus there and it was packed with Koreans ready to start their day with a hike. The little hiking town just at the base of the mountain is full of little food shops to bring with you up to the top of the mountain and mountain gear stores. They not only have The North Face, but they also have The Red Face, The Black Face, and TheNobleFace. It’s pretty funny seeing all of these brands copying the popularity of North face but they seem to be doing pretty well. The hike itself took about 6 hours total, but we stopped for pictures and it was quite crowded at the top of the peak so there was a lot of standing around. The views from the top were amazing. We went on a beautiful day and you could see so much of the city landscape. The fall scenery was also amazing. After the hike we went out to Hongdae and stopped at a couple different bars and clubs. The last club we went was called Club Naked and was a very hip-hop club which included a very ghetto crowd mostly of American soldiers. It was pretty fun, although not the type of club I would go back to multiple times. Another fun-filled week of Korean adventures. Make sure to check out my new albums on facebook and I look forward to talking to you guys!