Chuseok Vacation – Kyoto, Japan

Every fall, Korea observes its annual harvest holiday, Chuseok.  During Chuseok (추석), Koreans leave the cities and return to their ancestral hometowns.  In many ways, it is similar to American Thanksgiving (without the turkey!).

Unfortunately Chuseok fell on a Sunday this year (so much for the three-day holiday…), but we still managed to take a trip.  Andy and I choose Kyoto, Japan.

This post is very picture-heavy.  If you’re interested in seeing my photos, click the following link.

Andy at a ramen shop
conveyor belt sushi – this one is tuna
at Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of orange gates
5-story wooden pagoda at Toji Temple
maiko (apprentice geisha) outside of Gion Square, a well-known theater in the neighborhood
sukiyaki (Japanese hotpot with meat and vegetables) at an izakaya (Japanese pub)
Tenryuji, Temple of the Heavenly Dragon
Andy in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Salmon roe (fish eggs) for sale at Nishiki Market

The trip was super fast 🙁 although it might have been a blessing in disguise, because Japan is certainly the most expensive country I’ve ever visited.  Even more than Switzerland in my opinion, although some people might disagree…

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Camping at Geoje Island

Monday, May 28 was Buddha’s Birthday in South Korea.  It celebrates the date when Buddha came forward into this world, and is a federal holiday – meaning no work!

Rising to the occasion, I went camping with Andy and several of our friends.  We chose the less-frequented Geoje Island (거제도), two hours south of Daegu.  Geoje is the second-largest island in the ROK, after Jeju, and is home to most of Korea’s shipbuilding.  We spent a few weeks researching the locale, but little information was available on the internet.  Undeterred, we bought some bus tickets (and camping gear!) and were on our way.

Our group, sans Emily, the photographer from whom I stole this photo (left to right: me, Keir, Jenna, Claire, Andy, Deva)

We chose Gujora Beach as our campsite.  Gujora (구조라) is a sandy beach and is very close to a small town and harbor.  Possibly due to the holiday, the beach was very crowded during the day (with Koreans and foreigners alike), but at night it was mostly campers.  The Koreans all camped in a parking lot near the bathrooms, while the foreigners camped on the actual beach.  Wacky Koreans… We chose the wooded end of the beach, which was great for privacy and some scant shade in the daytime.  For firewood, we foraged through some construction site refuse.  All in all, I’d say it was pretty ideal.

Gujora Beach – we camped at the far end

The natural bay of Gujora Beach… the water was amazingly clear!
Tiny pink tent… my home away from home

After the first night, we trekked into the town to check out the boat schedules.  The boats fill up fast so I recommend buying tickets as soon as you arrive (this goes for the bus back to Daegu too).  We almost missed out on Oedo, but we were able to get some fancy tour in the nick of time.  At the harbor, there was a small seafood market with tables next to the water.  Across the road, there were many seafood restaurants as well.  Live seafood swam in tanks outside.

Oedo (외도), or Oe Island, is home to a large botanical garden.  It reminded me of the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, although not quite as impressive.  The owners of the garden tried to infuse as much Mediterranean influence as possible, so the flowers and shrubs were overshadowed by Greco-Roman statutes, amphitheaters, columns, etc.  It was chaotic and crowded, but the views of the sea were absolutely gorgeous.  I think Oedo would be much more enjoyable on a less crowded day, when you have time to wander at your own pace.

A pair of stone birds on Oedo

Mediterranean-style church

Partial image of the grounds

Most of the trip was spent on the beach, relaxing around a fire and talking with friends.  It was a perfect weekend escape from Daegu.  I love seeing more of Korea – I’m constantly surprised by how beautiful it is.

 Check out a short video I made of the trip here.

For fellow expats, there is more detailed information after the jump.

Expat Info:

  • Buses to Geoje were available at the Dong-bu bus terminal in Daegu.  Each way cost 13,600.
  • There are a few buses you can take to Gujora.  22 and 67 are two off the top of my head, but there were others.  From Gujora you must walk through the town to access the beach.  We just plopped down a tent and were not bothered by anyone.
  • Ferries to Oedo are 16,000 + 8,000 for admission, but we got some kind of special package for 23,000 which included both.  Definitely try to get tickets ASAP because there was a crowd of miffed Koreans who missed out.  Same for the bus back to your home city… we bought the tickets as soon as we arrived and were almost unable to be accommodated – although we had 7 people in our party.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to comment.  I know we struggled with the lack of information in planning this trip, and I’m happy to provide some.

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Happy White Day!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, February 14 is Valentine’s Day in Korea as well as in the States.  Here, it has a different meaning – Valentine’s Day is when women give men chocolates as a token of affection.  If you received some chocolate… you reciprocate on White Day! Exactly a month later, this holiday is observed March 14th.  According to Wikipedia, men usually reciprocate with candy.  I was grocery shopping last night and I saw the candy aisles swamped with men.  They also were buying tremendous teddy bears, flowers, and other massive gift sets.

A White Day cake

Interestingly enough, White Day is called White Day (화이트데이) in Korean.  It definitely sounds a bit strange with the Korean accent!

Do you remember what happens if you don’t receive a gift on Valentine’s Day or White Day? On Black Day, April 14, you eat jajangmyeon… black noodles.  I wrote about these Korean-Chinese noodles in another post.  They’re pretty tasty, so I don’t think I’d mind too much!

Edit: One of my students gave me some candy today, so I’ve officially celebrated my first White Day! Yay!

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