Tag Archives: scenery

My New View

My New View

This view, from the kitchen of my parents’ home, is helping me deal with the sadness I’m feeling over no longer in Korea. That’s Angel Island out in the distance. The hills covered in houses is Sausalito. The view changes every morning thanks to the heavy fog and bright sun rising over the bay.

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Day At The Cemetery

I mentioned in my last post that Conor (Ireland), Scott (New Zealand) and I spent most of last Saturday exploring Daegu.  Our trip to the temple was awesome, but I had even more fun at an ancient graveyard.  After leaving the temple, we caught a city bus back to Scott’s neighborhood, Bullo-Dong.  We made a pit-stop at the 7-Eleven beside Scott’s apartment for food and drinks before heading to the burial site.

I’ve heard a lot about this cemetery from Scott over the past few months.  He said that there are some old burial mounds a short walk from his apartment and that he likes walking around them.  Frankly, I didn’t have much interest in visiting, but I decided to tag along for the company.  Now I’m glad that I did.  The burial site is no ordinary graveyard.  It is a big hill dotted with hundreds of huge mounds in which thousands of people were buried more than 1,500 years ago.  If the history of the place wasn’t enough, the view sure as hell was.

Ignore the jackass reflected on the sign… I didn’t think about it until I got home and looked at the picture.

We spent the rest of our afternoon exploring the mounds.  The view from the tops of the mounds was amazing.  The mounds aren’t as high as the mountains surrounding the city, but they are much closer to the center of town, so the view was still impressive.

The site was empty with the exception of a few old folks wandering around, so there were plenty of peaceful spots to relax and take in the view.  Conor and Scott drank makgeolli (Korean rice wine) and I had a nice gas station lunch.  We spent several hours sitting on some of the biggest mounds telling stories about our old lives.

Here are some of the pictures we took.  Enjoy the view.

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Until next time.

-Taft

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Teachers Retreat

I went on a teachers retreat Monday and Tuesday.  It was an exciting mix of weird and fun.  Every step of the trip was a total surprise, because I didn’t have any idea where we were going on what we were doing.  A few of the teachers tried to explain the nature of the trip, but I never quite understood what they were telling me.  Case in point, I spent the entire trip expecting to attend some sort of teaching seminar.  There wasn’t anything remotely close to a seminar the entire time.

On Monday morning, after the students last exam, all of the teachers at my school boarded buses.  Often referred to as “limousines” (a misnomer), they are buses meant to be more comfortable than the normal tour bus.  Instead of four seats per row, there are three large reclining chairs with adjustable footrests.  For the first time in Korea, I was able to fit in a space designed for a single person.

Because I had no idea where we were going, I didn’t have a clue how long the trip would take.  I sat back and relaxed as we began our journey northward.  I know what you’re thinking: “Taft, didn’t you get super bored?”  Nope – not possible on a karaoke limousine/bus!

About an hour into the trip, after our first break at a rest stop, the principal fired up the bus’s built-in karaoke machine.  It felt like we were in a rolling 노래방 (no-re-bang or Korean “singing room”), complete with two big binders full of song choices and two wireless microphones (for the inevitable duet).  The teachers weren’t shy – they stepped up to the front of the bus and gave us show after show.  Much to my surprise, the majority of the teachers were decent singers.

Around 3pm, we made a second stop.  It was time to start drinking, and they couldn’t have picked a better spot.  It was part gas station, part scenic overlook about halfway between Daegu and the DMZ.  Per Korean rainy-day tradition, the principal and vice principal busted out the makgeolli (Korean rice wine).  Like a sweet, effervescent version of sake, this stuff goes down easy and can sneak up on you.  I was careful to limit myself to two drinks, but the other teachers weren’t so concerned.

This is the view from our table at the gas station viewing deck.

After working up a healthy buzz, we loaded back onto the bus to continue north.  Still not sure where we were going, I settled in for what could be a long drive.  The teachers fired the karaoke machine up again and the mic made its way around the bus a second time.  They wanted me to sing, but the song books didn’t have any good English karaoke songs.  I couldn’t find any Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffet, or Skynard.  I don’t know what they expected – but I can’t make magic happen without the right tunes.

About two hours after the first round of drinks, we pulled into a parking lot in the middle of the woods.  At first I thought we were taking a stretch break, but then two empty tour buses followed us in.  Teachers filed out of our buses and into the new ones.  Now I was really curious.

I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of the trip.  For the sake of brevity (too late, I know), I’m going to break this trip down into a few posts.  Tune in later this week for Part 2.  I can assure you that the pictures alone make it worth your while.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Haeundae Beach Trip

This is Busan:

I decided at the last minute to take a trip there this weekend.  Seth and I caught the KTX (awesome!) at 3:57pm, and we were on the beach before 6pm.  Living in a country the size of Kentucky can have some major advantages.

The KTX

I can’t say enough good things about the KTX.  It’s fast, easy, and relatively cheap.  We showed up at Dong-Daegu Station a at 3:15, and we were speeding toward Busan less than an hour later.  Unlike the subway, KTX economy cars are fitted with comfortable seats and are quite relaxing.  The train was so smooth that I didn’t even realize that we were moving until a shadow swept across my window as we passed a building.

We made a brief stop in Ulsan, and we were on our way again.  The entire trip, including the stop in Ulsan, took about 50 minutes.  Like in Daegu, the KTX station in Busan was very nice – clean and open with high ceilings.  We walked out the main exit and found ourselves in a small park where we found hundreds of people enjoying the weather.

Haeundae Beach

From the KTX station, we caught a cab to the beach.  We knew immediately that Busan was different from Daegu – the cab driver spoke to us and made an effort to understand what we were trying to communicate.  Hell, he even took us where we wanted to go.  The trip took about 25 minutes, so we had to split a whopping $16 cab fare.  We stepped out of the taxi and walked directly onto the beach.

For the first time in months, I didn’t feel like I was in Asia.  Between the masses of foreigners on the beach, and the hillsides covered in buildings, it felt a bit like we were transported onto a Mediterranean beach.

FYI: I don’t know this girl, but she was kind enough to pose for my picture anyway. It’s like when you think someone is waving at you, and so you wave back, only to find out their friend is standing behind you…but this time it’s captured on film.

After spending a few minutes on the beach, Seth and I checked into hostels and got cleaned up.  Seth got the last bed at the hostel in which all of our friends stayed, so I walked across the street and checked into a different one.  Fortunately, Indy House had plenty of room.  It was also quite nice.  Indy (the proprietor) keeps the place very clean.  It felt more like a ritzy summer camp than a hostel.

We all went out to dinner at a nearby beach called 광안리 (Gwangalli).  Dinner was aggressively mediocre (buffet), but the view from our table overlooking the beach made it all worthwhile.  After dinner, we walked back out onto the beach and enjoyed the weather and the full moon.

We spent the rest of the night bar-hopping.  I had to cut out early as I was incredibly tired.  I jumped in a cab before 1am.  I found out that next morning that I missed out on a lot more fun.  But that was OK, because I was awake and alive the next morning to enjoy the beach one last time before heading home to Daegu.

Until next time.

-Taft

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A View Of Daegu

My friend Seth (Philly) and I spent most of the day Sunday hanging out.  It was a beautiful day, so we decided to spend some time outside.  We had lunch in his neighborhood, called Daeshil, which is near mine.  After lunch, I changed into some shorts and tennis shoes, and we decided to take an above-ground walk along the subway route toward downtown.

We only made it half way – it was WAY longer than we expected.  We dipped underground and hopped on the subway for the rest of the trip.  When we emerged from the subway station downtown, we found ourselves in the middle of some sort of festival.  There were funny rickshaws with giant decorated shells (dragons, ladybugs, etc.), kids walking around carrying signs, and street-side booths packed into two city blocks (see slide show).

As we traversed the festival, we decided that it was some sort of Green Energy or Eco-Friendly fair.  There were booths with solar-powered toys, solar-powered appliances, and the occasional sign with a few English words.  In the center of the festival, there was a stage on which people took turns dancing.  Some of them were pretty awesome – I was a bit embarrassed for a few.  The best part of the fair was a booth where a bunch of cute Korean kids were holding “Free Hugs” signs.  One had a sign that said “Free Love”, but I knew what she meant.

After the festival, Seth told me that he wanted to show me a place that he found recently in a local department store.  He said it was the “coolest spot” in Daegu.  I was a bit skeptical – how cool could a department store be, right?  I followed him to Hyundai department store, which is among the nicest department stores that I have ever seen.  It has 9 floors packed with high-end merchandise (mostly clothing).

We rode a bunch of escalators all the way to the 9th floor.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when we reached the top.  There was a park on top of the building.  There was a huge area with (real) grass on which a bunch of kids were running around and playing games.  In the corner of the park, there was a huge window looking out over the city.  Because each floor had exceptionally high ceilings, I am confident that we were at least 20 stories above the ground.  We could see half of the city.

This is the view from the top of the escalator.

Seth at the viewing window at the top of Hyundai Department Store.

As we were headed back downstairs, Seth told me to take a look at the view from the bathrooms.  I didn’t understand what this meant (though it sounded a bit creepy).  I walked toward the bathrooms, and instantly understood.  The hallway that links the women’s and men’s bathrooms had an incredible view of the city – even better than the view from the park.  The hallway was at least 50 feet long and the entire exterior wall was a huge window.

I used the panoramic photo setting on my new phone. The quality isn't great, but the picture is still pretty amazing.

The rest of the afternoon was great.  The weather held out and it was warm until the sun set.  I’m going to do my best to enjoy the spring weather before summer sets in.  I heard the other day that it can get as hot as 40+ degrees (C) for weeks on end here.  That’s over 100 degrees, and Korean humidity is apparently awful.

Enjoy the slide show.  Keep your eyes open for some more creepy mannequins and an awesome Engerish sign.

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Until next time.

-Taft

 

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