Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seoraksan National Park for Chuseok

The Onofrays with our friends, the Gordons, ventured out to Seoraksan National Park to celebrate Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving, but more of a day to honor your family with a visit home and to the cemerety than "pig out" on turkey as American Thanksgiving has become)

Seoraksan National Park is about 180km from Seoul so we ventured out on our first Korean road trip. Since the entire city of Seoul empties out for Chuseok, and everyone has returned to their home towns, the ride was pretty smooth.

Arriving pretty early in the day, we enjoyed a nice hike with Maddy.

There is a VERY large Buddha statue at the entrance to the park. We stayed at a hotel right in the park that overlooked that statue, so awoke each morning to a chanting Buddhist monk. You can see him in the picture on the right. He repeats his chanting several times throughout the day and you can buy candles and/or rice as an offering to the Buddhist Gods. Pretty cool actually.

After the first day with Maddy on the hike, we found out that we are not allowed to have dogs in the park or the hotel. Now, I am a pretty organized person and did check on this beforehand, as you would all expect, but I think the language barrier got in the way. So, Mike and I took turns doing some hiking...Here are some pictures from my hike...

This is a rock that defies all of the laws of physics.
It is lying on its side on the edge of a cliff and the legend
says that many people have tried to move it but it doesn't budge.

Some food from our trip...

First night with bibimbap and pachan.
Bulgogi stew of some kind with banchan (side dishes).

Mike manages to find some fried food
anywhere we go..this is a double-battered &
double fried hot dog.

Some sights from our trip that don't fit into any category...
Lots of statues like these in the markets...
take a closer look!

Since we were on the East Sea, seafood was very popular.
Some dried sting-ray for you?
Seoraksan Mountain is beautiful and definetly deserves a trip if you have the time in Korea. It is one of just 10 or so National Parks in Korea...a large amount for a country of such small land mass. We hope to go back in the fall sometime again to see the leaves changing colors.

Seoul Drum Festival

Mike and I took a bike ride over to the Seoul Drum Festival on Sunday. Finally, beautiful Fall has arrived in Seoul and the weather is perfect. Watch this clip of some of the smaller drum groups we saw.

We had to have some lunch...Cass and Sweet Potatoe Chips.

Some shots from the bike ride home...

Banpo Rainbow Fountain Park. The Han River Path is a very popular place.

Self-portrait with Banpo Rainbow Fountain in the background.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I thought Monsoon Season was over!

In Season 1 of Storm Stories of Seoul, Jennifer & Michael Onofray are found clinging to a tree limb as their car floats away into the Han River...

Ok, that didn't happen, but the three consecutive days of rain this week definetly make it very feasible...more feasbile than any other time in my life.

I have never experienced such terrential downpours, consistently for 4-5 hours (so far) in my life. Walking home from the subway, my umbrella was giving into the rain and I was getting wet THROUGH my umbrella.

Look at this picture on the Yongsan Military Base...pretty sure we should not have been driving.

And, this is a shot outside Dongjak Station...yes, these are the types you see in "Storm Stories" on the weather channel. All our Korean friends keep saying, "Don't worry, the rain will end soon and it will be a beautiful Fall." There is only so long I can continue to believe.

Yes, that green path used to lead it leads to a well-overflowing river.

Pray for sunshine for us! I hope the rain ends soon, but weatherunderground is predicting otherwise. Ahhhhh!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skypin' with the vonB's!

Shout out to the vonB' was great catching up on Skype.

Cai couldn't figure out how to get closer to Maddy. I think he was thinking..."I hear her, I see her, but I can't touch her" one point, he knocked the camera off the computer and we were looking at them sideways!

We miss you guys!

Dunkin Donuts...not quite like home.

Just a quick post to share our unique find at Dunkin Donuts. Kimchi Croquettes!

I am leaving this as a "Must See (Do)" for someeone else...I don't think I can brave it. I have definetly developed a liking for Kimchi here, but I just cannot go there.

Flip-Pics...Me Enjoying Bingsu

Mike took these pictures of me enjoying my Bingsu one can enjoy me in action!

Bingsu is a desert made up of finely-shaved ice on the bottom and topped with just about anything (I've seen gummy bears on one hand and fresh fruit on the other.

My binsu tonight had green tea ice cream, nuts, corn flakes of some kind, rice balls, and lots of other stuff. It sounds strange, but as all of the toppings start to melt into the shaved ice, it is even more delicious. For those of you from my generation out there...its like Pee Wee Herman's ice cream soup (once it all melts). My facial expressions speak for themselves...

Bingsu...add it to your Korean "Must See (Do)" list for that trip you are planning!

Subways at Rush Hour

Most of my travel time is spent off-rush hour, so I hadn't seen much subway crowding to this point. I was warned and on a venture out for dinner one night...Mike and I ran into lines.

The craziest part of this is that there is silent organization and norms that just happen...for instance...
  • You form two lines for each subway door (Why two...I don't know, but it works)
  • The people exiting the subway car come out the center of the two lines...
  • Pushing, bumping is ok...actually hard to avoid when you have 20 people in line to get into the subway car and it is already full
  • These subway car doors "take no prisoners"...they don't reopen if you try to hop on at the last minute. They WILL close on you, so best that you wait for the next train. It is actually the same with elevator doors (Maddy, our dog, has almost been crushed by the one in our villa a few times)
For those of you planning your trip to see us...don't let this frighten you. It really isn't like this all of the time. And, even though there were all of these people in line, we all managed to stuff ourselves onto the first train!

Biking Along the Han

Cell Phone....check

And I was off for my first bike ride along the Han River. Our seatainer arrived last week and with it, our BIKES! Yeah! I have been watching everyone bike along the river with great envy. It was my turn last night.
Me, geared up for the ride...figuratively & literally!

This was my route. The riverside path is completely
paved and marked. Not too many people here, but definetly got
busier as the night went on.
Lots of cafes and yes, 7-Elevens, along the riverside path. Even tables
outside to stop and enjoy some co-pee, ice cream or whatever your heart desires.

I took off for the ride about 5:30PM and was able to see the river as the sun was starting to set. It was a beautiful site. Here are a few to share...(pretty good camera skills if I don't mind complimenting myself...these were taken while riding...don't tell Mike. He would be upset with my lapse in safety ;-)

Bike Ride along the Han is another "Must See (Do)" for your next visit to Korea!

Sunday, September 12, 2010's an adventure!

Yes, Costco is here in Korea.

There are four across the country and I am have been told that they are the highest-grossing Costcos in the world. Can this be true you ask? Well, let's do some quick math. Seoul has about 10 Million people and 2 or 3 Costcos...that is 3-5 Million people per Costco. Livonia, Michigan has 2 (maybe 3 Costcos) and has maybe a few hundred thousand people (totally guessing), which means that is about 100,000 people per Costco. Yeah, I would say it is believable.

With so many people, Costco is an outing and not just a quick stop-over after work. On a Wednesday at 10AM, we waited in Costco parking lot traffic for 1 hr...just to get into the parking garage (this does not include the time to travel from my house to Costco).

There are Costco-employees directing traffic because there are so many people...

Also, since space is at a minimum, Costco is on two floors versus the open plan layout of the U.S. This creates a problem of getting those large Costco carts between the two floors...enter...escalators that can handle shopping cars. The guy at the top (in the yellow vest) helps pull your cart off the moving escalator, as the it can be a bit tricky coming off that incline with 50 lbs of stuff in your cart.

Needless to say, my days of running into Costco for that quick trip are temporarily least until we get back to the states. It does bring a little bit of home to Korea though.
This is the light at the end of the tunnel...
we are just about to enter the garage.
There is a significant number of people just directing traffic.

Cherweon DMZ Peace Marathon & Race

This morning was the Onofray's Inaugural 10K in Korea. Mike and I joined the Seoul Flyers Running Club and completed the 10K in Cherweon near the DMZ (demilitarized zone between North and South Korea). 2010 is the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War and this race was a celebration of the end of the war and continued hope for on-going Peace.

American Baseball team hats are popular here. Some Korean women were happy to get a picture with me...sporting their (not mine) Detroit Tigers Hat! Go Tigers! Mac, Neil and Team Toast - I think we found some new team members for DWD 2011!

We also had a smaller fan. This little guy was so excited to talk in English to Americans. He finished the 10K too! By the way, the 2-finger sign does not mean "Peace" as in the U.S. Not exactly sure what it means, but no picture in Korea is taken without it.

Another note, Shira (the girl in the blue shirt below from the running group) ran a 100K ultra last weekend and still beat me by 4 minutes today. I really need to step up my game.

The course was rolling hills, but beautiful scenery with rice fields and gree,lush mountains all around us. Here are a few pictures from the race.

Another last funny note...our driver, Kay (drove us to the race) insisted on running behind us for the race. Kay smokes about 1 pack of cigarettes a day and had one about 30 minutes before the race started, but he was very worried for our health, so again he insisted running behind us. Kay did run the 10K (very impressive given the probably shape of his lungs), but we lost him after about 1km...he said, "Jennifer, you run too fast."

Kay is the guy on the right in the navy
blue t-shirt...running behind us
like he is the secret service and we are important people or something :-)

Free post-race meal. Korean BiBimBap...rice (bap),
veggies and a spicy sauce. It's a staple here in Korea.

Happy Finishers!
Happy Jen...I beat Mike for the first time (fair and square) and had a 10K PR of 54:05!
Although, to be fair, Mike works harder and longer in the office than me these days.

This is a re-post but we also had some picture of Korean War Tanks...the only real sign that we were near the DMZ...