Monthly Archives: September 2014

First Hike: Mt. Palgongsan

IMG_6327 Well, it’s taken me a while to write this, but Saturday, September 13, I went on my inaugural Korean hike! We headed to Mt. Palgongsan, one of the larger mountains in Daegu, with some (new to me) friends. First of all, you need to know that hiking is a big deal in Korea. It’s right up there with taekwondo, which is the official national pastime. And people dress the part. I’m talking full-on color-coordinated pants, shirts, and jackets. And! Walking poles! I’m telling you, it’s legit. There’s generally no doubt about who’s going hiking. We got to Mt. Palgongsan around 11:15, and the weather was lovely. We wondered about for a bit in the hopes that we were headed toward the “big Buddha.” Everything along the way was decorated with beautiful lanterns, which I think were left over from Buddha’s Birthday celebrations. It made everything feel so festive and wonderfully Asian! IMG_6331 The architecture was beautiful and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of everything. It’s hard to choose what to include in here!

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Don’t you think all stairs should have dragon statues instead of handrails?

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These guys were truly ginormous--maybe twelve feet tall. And you can't see it, but they were crushing people (presumably their enemies) under their feet.

These guys were truly ginormous–maybe twelve feet tall. And you can’t see it, but they were crushing people (presumably their enemies) under their feet. It’s a little blurry because I wasn’t sure I was allowed to take photos.

We finally made our way to the big Buddha at Donghwasa Temple, and I found it so serene. This was my first experience of a Buddhist temple–or an Asian temple in general–and it was impressive. I didn’t enter any of the shrine areas; it would feel disrespectful. But I didn’t need to in order to get the effect. It was powerful just to see a holy place in the midst of nature. It made me want to go to church on top of a mountain. Let’s get on that, ATX. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?Buddhist beauty. IMG_6336 Post-Buddha we made a few wrong turns and somehow missed pretty much every trail opportunity. We ended up walking on the road all the way back down to the beginning. But not just to the entrance of the park–all the way to the foot of the winding uphill road that leads to the entrance of the park. As in, the road the bus had driven us up before. It was quite the hike just back to square 1. After some revitalizing ice cream, we decided to make the actual hike up to the hermitage. It started with an intense set of stairs, as if to tell me, “Oh, so you think you can hike? Well, welcome to Korea.” But it was beautiful anyway–the weather was perfect; we were in the shade; and at various points we were accompanied by the sound of running water. About 2.6 km later, we made it to the hermitage.

Doesn't he look thrilled?

Doesn’t he look thrilled?

Buddha carved in a rock.

Buddha carved in a rock.

Ancient pagoda.

Ancient pagoda.

Hanging out at the hermitage.

Hanging out at the hermitage.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an exhausting hike for Neil and me–maybe not so much for everyone else. But it mainly pumped me up for all the other hikes we’re planning to go on while I’m here! The weather keeps cooling off bit by bit and the leaves are starting to change colors. I can’t tell y’all how excited I am to experience a true fall. And in the mountains(ish), no less!

To adventure!

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Well, I Live in Korea Now

I made it to Daegu, South Korea! After a ten-hour flight, a two-hour wait, and a three-hour train ride, Neil and I made it safely back to his apartment on Saturday, 9/6! *Cue the cheering crowds*

First things first. If Korean Air wanted to pay me to wax poetic about their awesome service, I would be all over that. But even though they haven’t offered (fools!), I’ll do it anyway. Y’all. This is by far the best airline I’ve ever flown. (It helped that the flight was mostly empty so I had my own row.) But from the moment I entered the plane, it was a lovely experience. Classical music played over the loud speakers while everyone boarded–and we all know that classical music levels up pretty much any experience.

Let’s talk meals. Meal #1: traditional Korean bibimbap; fruit; tea; and two glasses of complimentary wine. (The wine gave me hope that I’d be able to sleep, but no such luck.) Awesome first Korean meal!

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Meal #2: Chicken and rice; salad with tiny shrimp and Hawaiian pineapple dressing; fruit; roll; coffee. No wine. 😦 (Also, I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to take off the foil before I took a photo.)

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Later they came through and handed out some snacks. The lights were completely turned off, though, so I couldn’t see what the choices were. She said one was a brownie, so I reached for that (duh). After the flight was over I looked at the package and saw that it was indeed “Real Brownie.” Good thing they didn’t stiff me and give me a fake one.

I managed to watch four movies on the flight–so obviously I got a lot of work done. Chef, The Other Woman, Maleficent, and Mom’s Night Out went by as everyone around me enjoyed about eight hours of shut-eye.  Neil has since informed me that, as a people, Koreans seem eerily adept at falling asleep anywhere at anytime. I envy them!

Finally I got my first glimpse of Asia! Don’t be too intimidated by the quality of my photos; I’m pretty professional.

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This was when things finally started feeling real. Up to this point, I’d just been taking another trip. But it really started to hit me that I was about to see Neil for the first time in a little over six months. Truth be told, all I could think of was that I needed them to turn the cabin lights back on so I could put on some makeup. A girl can’t have a reunion like that without at least a touch of mascara!

Immigration took about an hour and thankfully my bags were waiting for me beside baggage claim when I was done. It had taken Neil a week to get his bags whenever he flew in, so I was paranoid that the same thing was going to happen to me. Shoof!

Then, finally . . . it was time to see this guy! 

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Check out those cacti. Shout out to the Lone Star State!

Let the adventure begin!

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