I’ve never been to Korea in summer. Crazy, I know. I’ve been in winter many times and even spring, but never when the weather was really nice and warm. That will all change in a few weeks. I am heading over to Seoul with Rory to visit the family again but this time, I will frolic with the students playing guitar on park benches, ogle the sea of short skirted and high heeled ladies and get out of the city into the rugged countryside of a beautiful country. In fact, we’re going on a road trip!
That’s right, Rory and I are planning a 4 day trip around most of the peninsula. We’re open to taking any suggestions from readers who might suggest some great stops along the way, but here is the general plan:
Day 1 – From Seoul to Gwangju: We don’t expect the drive to be too exciting along this route but the destination is. For anyone that knows me, I love bamboo. I believe it is the most versatile, renewable material on earth. The Chinese build 50 ft scaffolding with it, it’s edible, bugs don’t eat it, it grows faster than anything, and it doesn’t rot. I also think it’s beautiful and some of my favorite scenes in Asian martial arts movies is when they have elaborate fight scenes in majestic bamboo forests. So that’s where we’re going on Day 1.
Damyang forest outside Gwangju, is a very popular spot in Korea. Damyang plays host to the Damyang Bamboo Festival which is located within a forest of 2.4 kilometers of bamboo and includes many activities celebrating the beauty and function of the bamboo plant. We won’t be there for the festival but I still hope to take some fun pictures there. So stay tuned.
Day 2 – From Damyang to Gyeongju: After a nice winding drive through South Korean hillside, we will arrive at Gyeongju, also known as the ‘Museum without Walls’. Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) which ruled about two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. The city has 31 National Treasures, and Gyeongju National Museum houses 16,333 artifacts. There are four broad categories of relics and historical sites: tumuli and their artifacts; Buddhist sites and objects; fortresses and palace sites; and ancient architecture.
Day 3 – From Gyeongju to Donghae: The next leg, and the longest will see us up the Eastern coast of the Korean peninsula. I’m really looking forward to this drive as it will be most beautiful, winding through mountain roads with the China Sea on our right. We will spend the night in a coastal city called Donghae, which is famous for its scenery and beaches and the next morning will venture to one of the most popular beaches in Korea, located in Gangneung. We expect it will be extremely packed, much like the image below, which is kinda why I’m excited to go. It looks absolutely nuts.
Day 4 – Gangneung to Seoul: The last leg of the trip will have us going through some lush mountains, back towards Seoul.
All in all, it’s a pretty fun 4 days that I get to spend with Rory all to myself. I’m really looking forward to it.
I’ve added the spots to our Google Map of Korean Tourist Destinations. Check it out and feel free to let us know what other great road trip destinations we should add on the map.
By the way, here are some other great Korean Road Trip Blog Posts:
Happy New Year! Lunar New Year that is.
I’m currently writing this while visiting Korea and preparing food for the Ancestor Ceremony tomorrow morning. This year in the Chinese zodiac is the year of the Dragon. Most people know the Chinese zodiac to have 12 animal signs but what they don’t often realize is that each animal also has one of five elemental signs. These exact signs only repeat every 60 years. This is the year of the Water Dragon.
According to the zodiac, dragons in general tend to be popular individuals who are always full of life and enthusiasm, with a reputation for being fun-loving and a “big mouth” at times. People born in the Chinese New Year of the Dragon are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered, and stubborn. They are also honest, sensitive, brave, and they inspire confidence and trust.
People with the dragon sign neither borrow money nor make flowery speeches, but they tend to be soft-hearted which sometimes gives others an advantage over them. People under this Chinese New Year zodiac are well suited to be an artist, priest, or politician.
Generally, dragons are compatible with Rats, Snakes, Monkeys, and Roosters. They also tend to exhibit characteristics like-
However, they possess a couple of negative characteristics as well. For instance, they crave for attention and are egoistical by nature. They aren’t modest and have a bossy temperament. Their general tendency is to dominate others. They detest solicit advice and may be insensitive and tactless to their partners.
Dragons are often blessed with good health. The only thing that bothers them is stressful situations. At work, dragons are pretty imaginative and prefer taking a radical approach towards their work.
Dragons share similar kind of objectives as well as goals in life. The best suited occupations on their part are as follows-
The key to the Dragon personality is that dragons are the free spirits of the Zodiac. Conformation is a Dragon’s curse. Rules and regulations are made for other people. Restrictions blow out the creative spark that is ready to flame into life. Dragons must be free and uninhibited. The Dragon is a beautiful creature, colorful and flamboyant.
An extroverted bundle of energy, gifted and utterly irrepressible, everything Dragons do is on a grand scale – big ideas, ornate gestures, extreme ambitions. However, this behavior is natural and isn’t meant for show. Because they are confident, fearless in the face of challenge, they are almost inevitably successful. Dragons usually make it to the top. However, Dragon people should be aware of their natures. Too much enthusiasm can leave them tired and unfulfilled. Even though they are willing to help others when necessary, their pride can often impede them from accepting the same kind of help from others. Dragons’ generous personalities give them the ability to attract friends, but they can be rather solitary people at heart. A Dragon’s self-sufficiency can mean that he or she has no need for close bonds with other people.
The water dragon, born in 1952 and 2012 has slightly unique characteristics compared to others born wiht the dragon sign.
Water has a calming effect on the Dragon’s fearless temperament. Water allows the Dragon to re-direct its enthusiasm, and makes him more perceptive of others. These Dragons are better equipped to take a step back to re-evaluate a situation because they understand the art of patience and do not desire the spotlight like other Dragons. Therefore, they make smart decisions and are able to see eye-to-eye with other people. However, their actions can go wrong if they do not research or if they do not finish one project before starting another.
For all those born this year, yours is a unique an coveted sign in the Chinese zodiac. Use it well.
Sehai Pok Manu Paduseyo 새해 복 많이 받으세요 (Happy New Year)!
Rory and I will be in Korea for the 2012 Lunar New Year. I’m excited, even though I’m told that it is a very family-oriented holiday, without a lot of activity and fanfare in the community. My impression, mostly from seeing Chinese people in Canada celebrate the New Year, is that there should be lots of festivities and parades and firecrackers, etc.
In a way, Koreans still hold many of the traditional values around the holiday that have been commercialized in surrounding Asian countries. This is why I am most excited to go this year. Korean New Year, or Seollal (설날), is the most important of the traditional Korean holidays. The three-day holiday is used by many to return to their home towns to visit their parents and other relatives to perform an ancestral ritual. This year, Rory and I will perform the ancestral ritual known as charye (차례) in our colorful hanbok.
What is the ritual you ask?
Firstly, the room must be spotless cleaned first, then a screen and a table altar are placed in the room. On that table several foods are presented. The placement of the food has a certain order.
Jwa po woo rye: On the left, jerked meat. On the right, rice drink
Doo dong mi seo : East : head. West: tail
Hong dong bek seo : East: red color. West: white color.
“Chi bang” is the paper where the names of ancestors are written. On the left men’s names are placed with women at the right. Written vertically from left to right the order is: great great grand parents, great grand parents, grand parents, parents.
When offering to ancestors, transparent liquor is served. Vegetables may include ko sari, doraji, sookju namul. The broth is made of mussels, shrimp and pulp or squid fish. Jerky can be both of fish or beef. There are some specific rules, however. For example, peaches are not included among the fruits offered (can someone tell me why?). Also, fish with names ending in “chi” like kong chi, kal chi are no used either. These rules are commonly observed, but people tend to serve what the deceased liked most while they were alive. The idea is that the deceased ancestors must be well nourished so they have enough energy to give many blessings to their descendants.
This is an illustration of the various elements involved in charye:
Performing the ritual is called Chesa (Charye) and it involves the following:
Here’s a video on the proper way to bow for New Year’s (in case you ever find yourself with a Korean family)
I’m also excited to take part in the tradition of sebae, which is a traditionally observed activity on Seollal. Children wish their elders (grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents) a happy new year by performing one deep traditional bow (rites with more than one bow involved are usually for the deceased) and the words saehae bok mani badeuseyo (새해 복 많이 받으세요) which translates to please receive many blessings in the new year. Parents typically reward this gesture by giving their children new year’s money (usually in the form of crisp paper money) and offering words of wisdom, or deokdam. Historically, parents gave out rice cakes and fruit to their children instead. I’m looking forward to the money though.
In addition to these traditional rituals, many Koreans also greet the New Year (both Western and lunar) by visiting East coast locations such as Gangneung and Donghae in Gangwon province, where they are most likely to see the first rays of the New Year’s sun. Many traditional games are played with children as well. The traditional family board game Yunnori (윷놀이) is still a popular pastime. Traditionally children would fly kites and play jegi chagi (제기차기), a game in which a light object is wrapped in paper or cloth, and then kicked like a hackysack.
On New Year’s eve, people clean their houses and light it with colorful lamps. Koreans will also often take a bath with hot water and burn bamboo sticks to casts off the evil spirits.
See the latest post on the Chinese New Year of the Dragon and what it means.
The Obama family stopped by Dubai recently and asked us to be in one of their Christmas family portraits. How do you think it turned out?
Etihad Airways, the airline that Rory works for, has officially begun flying between Abu Dhabi and Seoul, Korea. Rory was part of the crew that flew out before the launch and took part in the press conference as well as events with high-level Korean officials.
This is great news for Rory, as she can now visit her mom whenever she has to work on a flight to Korea and it is good for me also, because now I will be able to see my in-laws as it makes going to Korea a lot easier.
I think that this new service route was a long-time coming. Recently, there has been a lot of big business deals between the UAE (particularly Abu Dhabi) and large Korean businesses (Chaebol 재벌).
I want to do another post that explores the huge Korean conglomerates in more depth. But I think this shows how there are many ties between Korea and the UAE.
For anyone interested, I have put together a map of Korean restaurants, groceries and entertainment venues in the UAE. If you know or find somewhere that isn’t on this map, please feel free to suggest it in the comments and I will add it.
UPDATE - I just saw in the National newspaper today that there will be a Korean film showcase in Abu Dhabi hosted by the Korean Embassy. The free, three-day Korean Film Series will be held at Abu Dhabi Theater starting on Saturday, December 18, marking 30 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and the UAE. A Korean chef will prepare food during the screening and free flights to Seoul will be given away. Abu Dhabi Week did a good article on it too.
Apparently, the event is co-organized by the Embassy and King Sejong Institute, which was founded at Zayed University this past October and is the the first organization to teach Korean language and culture in the UAE.
I know it has been soooo long since May 2nd. It really shouldn’t have taken us this long to get our photos from the wedding up, but here they are. While there were thousands actually taken, these are the choice shots taken from our hired photographer, as well as good friends @ayhoom, Tai and Stephen. I will use the photos to also explain the different elements of the wedding ceremony. If you would like to see the whole set, please visit the photos page. Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have in the comments section. Enjoy!
If you want to see the rest of the pics from the ceremony, please see the photos sections of the blog.
I look forward to finally getting the video and editing it down so that we can share it as well. The music, the dancing, the outfits and the bowing. It really was quite a magical day. If you have any questions about the ceremony, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks.
I just got a notice from my web hosting company that we have automatically renewed our account for this site. That means that 1 year ago we started on this little journey. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot has transpired. Let’s look back shall we, at the 10 most popular posts on our humble blog.
10) And the date is…. – This was our first real post that described how our wedding date was decided by a Korean shaman who read our futures in the very stars themselves! We expanded on the post in one dedicated to Korean Shamanism here.
9) Strange Korean Foods (part 1 of many) – The first of many Strange Korean Foods posts, in this one we looked at one of the strangest… Beondegi (Silkworm Larvae) ewwwww!!
8) In Korea, racism is normal… sort of – This post was a bit of a serious one for a wedding blog, I’ll admit. Here, we tried to paint a realistic picture of the isolation, war and other conditions that shaped Korean’s perceptions of theirs and other races. It stirred a bit of debate actually. We just wanted to help our friends and family understand the differences in our cultures.
7) Korean Toilet Culture – One of the favorite posts on our blog examined the very unique toilet culture of Korea.
6) Korean ‘Fan Death’ – Similarly interesting was a post that demystified the urban legend of ‘Fan Death’ that has gripped the Korean society for generations. However, it, like the Sasquatch or Loch Ness, still haunts the psyche of Koreans to this day.
5) Our Trip To Korea – We had a few posts that described the wedding planning process and the fun times we had while in Korea in December. Of most significance was the post relating to our legal marriage while in Korea and meeting the family for the first time (I was so nervous).
4) The Hanbok – One of our most popular posts was on the beautiful, colourful, national dress of the Korean nation.
3) Korean stars steal our wedding date! – When Jang Dong Gun and Go So Young, Korea’s version of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt announced their marriage would be the exact same date as ours, I just had to do a post about it.
1) Stu Stu Studio Pics – By far the most popular of our blog posts has been the studio pics. If you haven’t, please check them out.
So a year later, we thank all of our friends and family (and strangers) who have followed us on our wedding adventure. Now we will continue with the blog and share other exciting moments of our lives as our two cultures collide.
Rory and Jamie
The following photos were taken at a wedding studio in Seoul called Greeda Studio. This was a full day that exhausted us both. We are pretty happy with the results though. I originally posted the rough images that they originally sent us but Rory made me take down the post! These are the final ones that we chose to put into our album. Enjoy and let us know your favorites :) We’ve also recently added photos from the wedding itself as well as details about the different elements of the ceremony. See theme here.