Vacation times and the end of times

Hong Kong, Japan, korea, Travel, weekends

20170819_151659As of writing this I have only have a few days left. I’m in the final stretch! It’s pretty weird really. I will probably do a big run down of my time here but that time isn’t now. That being said I definitely have some very mixed feelings about leaving. It’s been a ton of fun and quite a time that’s for sure. I didn’t expect any of this before I came. So it’s a bit upsetting all in all, but all good things must come to end right?

That out of the way lets talk about the past few trips I have been on. There have been a few of them too! After taking almost  0 vacations all year I loaded them all up near the end. So I went on three all within a couple weeks of each other. I have been pretty occupied because of that! I’m going to write about them in reverse order for no particular reason. First up is Tokyo!

TOKYO:

Tokyo was a city that was everything and at the same time nothing that I thought it would be it was weird. I think the biggest misconception I had going in was going to be the size and cramped space of the buildings. Sure the first picture won’t refute my claims but i’m serious. I expected towering apartments and jammed up cramped spaces. Actually pretty similar to what Hong Kong was. I was expecting something kind of like below. Not exactly that but I was imagining there to be a alot of vertical space to be taken up. Seeing how big it is I think I was looking for something like a hive.Image result for smoggy anime city

Maybe it was just the area that I visited but I didn’t get that vibe at all. Sure things were a bit small and there was definitely some packed aspects to it. There were also your fair share of sky scrapers. What I didn’t see however was the mega apartments that take up the skyline in both Seoul and Hong Kong. Instead there were a lot of 5-6 floor buildings crammed together. Even down some pretty narrow alleys. Though everything seemed to breath better and there felt like more room then there really was just because the scale of all the buildings was quite small.  Nothing ever got oppressive “city” it all seemed kind of spread out.

I’m not the biggest fan of anime and I’m not sure if i’m doing a disservice to Tokyo by saying it but I definitely got some anime vibes. Not sure what it was, but from the art, the buildings, streets, and just pretty much everything it just seemed like there was something I could relate to after watching something. It just felt right I didn’t even watch a single thing there or have I watched an anime in years but after coming back I’ve had a strong hankering to watch something.

Tokyo was awesome, it was definitely one of the best trips I have been on and it blows the last time I was in Japan out of the water. I’m glad I went back and gave it another shot. Something I won’t forget for at least 6 more months.

Lets talk about the trip for a bit though!

I had a flight at around 7AM. So I slept in the very comfortable chairs in one of the many lobbies. When I woke up I shaved away half of my hip from grinding it into those wooden chairs all night.

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I stayed in Shibuya which is on the west coast of the city. It also has a lot to do there. After having a bit of an incident on the train I finally found my way there and exited the station. I had a ton of time to kill before I could even check in. So I got to the station and all I could really do was walk around. I wasn’t looking for it but right there was the scramble. The scramble is the big famous cross walk in Tokyo. When ever you see pictures or a time lapse of people crossing a big busy street that is probably the place. It’s famous for possibly being the busiest cross walk in the world. It is also just kind of cool to begin with. I did a ton of walking and after 3 hours meandered my way to the hostel where I dropped off my bag.

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Dog

I walked along this river waiting for my friend to land in the airport. I ended up taking it way to far and not really knowing where I was. Out of all the possible pictures of the canal this is the one I took. Way to go me. There were way cooler areas trust me. It’s a one way road and most of the way up and around were windy roads with small restaurants, stores and cafes. I’d give it a 9/10 in atmosphere. Then out of all that this is what I take. With none of that in sight! 20170818_15102620170818_154154

Unlike Seoul they kind of added side walks in the back roads like this. Sure it’s still walking on the street but if you look to the left the railing sets a definite walking area. I wouldn’t say this is better or worse than the freedom system here in Seoul but it was nice to see since I haven’t before. However what really made this trip was Saturday and hanging out with friends all day and eating some amazing food. After waking up at a fashionable 11 we got underway and met a friend at the station where we went further in the city to get something to eat.

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We went to a sushi place that was just awesome. I have never heard of a bonito fish before and I never realized it was my favorite thing ever. If your wondering it’s the most normal looking meet on the plate above. What I wasn’t really expecting was how much was going to come.  My previous sushi experiences have all just been a plate or two all which was pretty good but never really anything to write about. This time though there was an entire thing. The plates kept coming and I was surprised every time. I didn’t take pictures of all of them but I think total there were 5 or 6?  All of it great.

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It also was probably one of the most expensive dining experiences that I have been apart of. I give it an easy 12/11 mainly because my zero key is broken.  I would do it again in a heart beat. It was really close to the Imperial palace so we decided to walk on over and take a look. It was as cool as you could get without actually going in the place. Apparently it’s only open like twice a year.  The only thing that really came of it was just highlighting the more European influence. 20170819_15160520170819_153240

Went to Asakusa where it rained a lot. There was a temple or something that I looked at from a far. There were also a bunch of shops. It would have been nicer if I had an umbrella and was trying to dodge the rain the whole time.

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Better yet though we played this drum arcade game that I just love. First played in Taipei and I play it every time I can. 20170819_17491620170819_181733.jpg

Walked around in the rain some more, saw the SkyTree and got something else to eat. The cool thing about the Sky Tree was how the top of it was in the clouds. The two things that I ate to this day had to be the best thing I have had in a while. 20170819_184738

There were 2-3 more plates after this guy. All were great.

Last day we went to a ramen place that was just cool. It was the normal Japanese setup with the U shaped counter and the staff in the middle.

This time though there were private stall the whole way around. So you really didn’t have to see anyone ever. In fact you didn’t have to talk to anyone. You order at a machine then give your slip to whoever is on the side. Hopefully the pictures above give you an idea. Then after you order they put down a flap down over your one “window” so you are even more secluded. The picture below shows it with the flap down. I was pretty excited over having water on tap though.

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The ramen as expected was great. I swear it wasn’t as gelatinous as looks in the picture. You could choose how much of whatever you wanted in it, and how soft or hard you wanted the nooders too. After this we quickly made our way to the Tokyo Dome because we had a date with a baseball game.  20170820_154820

The Tokyo dome is huge. It’s the first time I have been to a closed stadium too. The actual game itself was at a higher caliber than whats on display in Korea. Just the players were better. The Giants which was the home team quickly got out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and sat on it for pretty much the whole game. The atmosphere there was comparable to Korean games but I want to say it was even more rowdy than here.  The chants were non stop and the crowd was just living it up. There were trumpets there were flags there were crazy people. Asia knows how to watch baseball. Well atleast Korea and Japan do.

A few things stuck out to me in the game. One was concessions inside the stadium. This is the norm at home, but it isn’t at all in Seoul. It definitely ads to the atmosphere if nothing else. I didn’t do a whole bunch of snooping but it didn’t seem like anything crazy was really being sold there. Another thing I wish I took a picture of was the beer girls, and how many there were. They were everywhere at every second. Looking down in the lower bowls they looked like bees buzzing around or ants warming around a colony. There were so many of them and they were so busy. That would be a tough job for sure.

Lastly how busy the area around the arena was a bit surprising. Not because it was pack and going crazy but really the lack of anything going on. Arriving at Jamsil stadium you are smacked in the face that a game is happening. There are people and cars everywhere its very obvious and speaking of atmosphere pretty cool. While in Tokyo there was no body around. I easily could have been in the area and have zero idea that something was going down inside.

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Yay baseball!

With the game done we hustled our way to the airport where nothing eventful happened. Besides that we flew!

HONG KONG

Hong Kong in general was what the doctor ordered. It was just a great time and well timed too. Well for the most part. I wen there on a Sunday but everyone I went was going with was already there. So I had to meet them later. My only problem with HK was where we stayed and the lack of signs for the place. I spent a good 40 minutes or even more trying to find it. The only reason I found it was because I followed another white person.

To get it out of the way the weather here was terrible. It didn’t rain but it was humid like no other. Within minutes of being outside my shirt was drenched I can’t explain how sweaty and gross everything I owned got within a few minutes. You could tie your shoes outside and immediately have to go back in for a shower.

I got in pretty late on Sunday so nothing much happened then. The next day we went to the beach which was permanently overcast but nothing happened. Which was really surprising. Either way the beach was great and the water was just as great. We also went Kayaking for a bit too.

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At this point I’m actually a little fuzzy on the order of events so I’ll just talk about things as I see them.

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I had maybe only one bad thing to eat in Hong Kong. It wasn’t even terrible though. Everything else was just awesome. The service tended to be hilarious and the food added even more to the experience. There was nothing lacking in this department. The picture is at a dimsum place we went to on the last day.

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We went to the place of 10,000 Buddhas. We just walked up and up a path with a ton of gold painted statues like in the picture above. There were some pretty weird ones. Also there were a few missing so it wasn’t exactly 10k Buddhas, but we can let it slide. 20170801_13122920170801_131148

This is what to see at the top of the thing.

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Definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip was the all you can eat sashimi place we went too.

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Jesus

 

Hong Kong reminded a lot of home in some ways. It had a classic city feel to it. Also what it is worth noting is how varied the people were. Everyone looked different, there were people from other countries everywhere.  The city was also very crowded the building and apartment situation I thought was the most interesting.

There were so many different kinds of apartments. In Korea there are swaths of identical apartment complexes everywhere. Here there were many apartments but not a single one was the same and it didn’t seem to matter where you were. There were dozens of ramshackle sardine can apartments. Then right next to it would be a super modern 1000 story building. This was happening everywhere. Someone I was with said it the best, the situation was ruthless. It was apartment chaos. Also the AC dripped all over the side walk which I was not a fan of.

 

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With the trip being done, I have some serious reservations about HK express.

JEJU

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My sister came to visit for a few weeks so we went down to Jeju. Compared to the rest of the trips this was surprisingly the most difficult one. We stayed in the middle of nowhere in the south western part of the island which did us no favors. The one upside was that it was right next to Sanbangsan. So we could walk there in around 10 minutes. 20170725_10460020170725_122618.jpg

We spent the majority of the time at Jungmun resort which was not a day wasted. We saw waterfalls, banana milk cafe, and at the time I finally got to go to the beach.20170725_130752

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You have to be careful

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Hi Caroline!

The highlight was probably seeing my friend which was kind of a blast from the past. He was probably one of the first people I have ever met in Korea. I met him when I went to the Fire Festival in the first few weeks I was here. The last time we saw each other was last year when he was in Seoul and we went to a baseball game.

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I look creepy

 

 

He doesn’t even live close but he and his his parents came down and picked my sister and I up and took us to eat around a much cooler area whose name I can’t remember. They then took us to the guest houses they have been working on. My mind filled with regret realizing that we should have stayed here. To be fair I did ask if we could before we even came to Jeju. They eventually drove us back, but it was an awesome time and I’m really grateful for them going out of their way.

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Much nicer

Here are some pictures of what Caroline and I did while she was here!

The last one is worth talking about because, who really wants cheese with mango ice. I mean what? Either way I hope she had a fun time when she was here.


Well that has basically been the last month in a nutshell. It has been a very exciting and fascinating last month or two. Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Jeju were all great. Though if I had to rank the trips Tokyo was my #1. I can’t say enough how much it restored in my faith in Japan being a fun place.

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The sun is setting on my time in Seoul

When all is said in done it is Friday here and I have only one work week left here. I’ll be doing my last runs of places and saying my goodbyes for the week to come. So my time is winding down. I’m sad it’s all ending but really it’s a good thing I even had the opportunity in the first. place. Why stop here though? Lets keep this train running!

 

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Break and other things

korea

Went to Jeju for Korean Thanksgiving aka Chuseok aka 추석. I was there from Wednesday until Saturday with a few of my friends from work. Every time I go there I always think that there was something else I could have seen or done and this time was no different. In part due to weather. I’d go back although maybe not for awhile since the weather is getting worse.

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I’m not single anymore!-that guy

Our group got separated for the ferry which was lame. Although it did work out. We rode the bus all night long and I got almost 0 sleep. The ride on the ferry was pretty quick since we got the quick boat. We got to the island quicker which meant basically nothing cause we just spent it waiting for the rest of our group and sleeping on random benches.

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We got  there way earlier than we thought we would. Didn’t do much that I remember really. Spent most of the time sleeping and finding something to eat.  We found a black pig place that was really good. Supposedly food here is pretty bad, which I believe. However this was good. 20160916_200940

Day 2 we went to a maze, didn’t get lost at all. Easy. There were lots of spiders and lots of cats. Like 20 cats or something. There were a ton of them.

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We also went to a lava tube. It was pretty cool and pretty huge. 20160915_135256img_656720160916_145711

The food we ate was for the most part all good. we settled for Pizza a couple times which were the low points of the food experience. Places closed pretty early, the also opened pretty late. So it threw us off a bit. The stuff above was pretty good.It was moving when it came out which was a bit funky. The owner quickly pushed them under the boiling water and solved that! The clams in there were great. Again the food was good. We got help finding it though. If by myself chances are it wouldn’t have been like that. The last day we went to some back woods place that was really good. Had some amazing fish on the last day. The setup for it was really picture perfect too.

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I mean look at all of that. Another weird thing about Jeju was that the transportation totally  blows. We spent literally 2 hours trying to get back to our place one day. You can’t really just pick up a taxi like you can in Seoul. Which isn’t surprising really. We had to rely on call taxis but sometimes they weren’t available and it led us stranded for a bit occasionally. This is why there are so many rented cars there.

The last day was pretty fun though. We left at 5 in the afternoon and as usual this trip it was raining. Although this time I had a friend and they were willing to drive! We started it up by going to that fish place. Then traveled an hour across the island to go to some green tea fields. It rained a lot on our way over there. It was a bout as exciting as looking at this picture. Although the place had some pretty cool atmosphere. It was pretty swanky. Koreans are pretty obsessed about being chic.

Which reminds me. The whole place is pretty village esque. Then randomly there will be this super modern, artsy, square building. Which make sense because I figure a lot of rich people come here and set up shop on the weekends or vacation.

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green tea fields. The fans are to stop the plants from frosting.

Jeju was over for now. It was a really nice day outside up here though. So while I still could I went exploring to get some books from Itaewon. Overall it took about 3 hours. Pretty interesting. I saw some things I didn’t know existed and would probably check out again. For example the park in the first 2 pictures. If you follow it you go across the Ihwa mural village, which I didn’t actually go into but want to in the future. The road/ally that I was following had a lot of atmosphere. wish I took a picture of it.

In a surprise twist the thing stopped at Dongdaemun .3 .4. After I got there I walked around a pretty average road for an hour till I got to  a random path that turned into a wooded park. Wasn’t expecting that. cool part was part of the path went over the road as a bridge .5. Even weirder for the last hour I saw almost no one. It was relaxing!

After some wrong turns and almost making it the N tower by accident I found myself going up a really long and tall hill. I couldn’t believe Itaewon was on such a big hill..6 it’s not as flat as it looks. I haven’t been there much so I was surprised. Well it’s not. I ended up going right back down. At least not the part that I wanted to go to. It was a bit weird seeing it at it’s “back” though.

I finally found some books to read! Got some kebabs and walked away to Samgakji to get on the subway. I haven’t really been around that area much. It was a bit surprising because at some points between Itaewon and Samgakji it reminded me of Squirrel Hill at home. Freaky stuff. At the end of it all I realized how little of the city I have seen/know. This is isn’t much of a realization as it is reinforcement. I think little walks like this will keep on happening till it gets cold outside and I have to hibernate.

That’s what success looks like. ^^

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Panorama with my real camera. Turned out oook I realized way after the fact that they had 4.5 as the aperture. Which is kind of very frustrating. However I did learn how to make a panorama and blend pictures together. Lets compare it to the last time I was there. Weather looks very different.

(also hopefully the new one is better)

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So now random stuff that I have been up to.

Went to a giant horse race track and won a cool $10. Would go again. The place was probably x4 the size of the one at home and the track is x8 it looked like. It was huuuuge.

Then in no particular order, watched some baseball again. Played some hockey in the league I joined (im horrible)  walked are Konkuk Univ. area for some disappointing Indian food. Then went to the Kakao store in Gangnam, I might have bought something.

Bueno Weekends

korea

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Finally done with the super loaded month of classes called intensives. Where the parents aren’t sure what to do with kids during summer so we add more classes to the schedule. So the kids can spend the entire summer in school.So waking up early and doing a fair bit more classes is finally done! Including this past weekend I had some good weekends during and after intensives.

So last weekend I went to a boxing match. It was way better than the first one I went to. I went because one of the trainers I made the logo for his gym. That’s who is in the first picture. It was pretty cool to see it on shirts and see a bunch of people wearing them. Unfortunately our boxer lost but it was a great fight to watch! There were like 3 others that were also really entertaining.

After the boxing match we left and went to go watch the Bears stomp Nexen. Something like 8-1. I watched it with my friend from Jeju who I met like the 2nd week I was here when I went to the fire festival. It was a pretty active day.

This past weekend though was the most fun! i went to Jeju and stayed at a guest house my friend was staying at. Not the one from the baseball game though he couldn’t make it :(. Either way stayed at a guest house and met some very friendly and cool Koreans. They were super nice and there was a very funny couple there. Everyone but me actually lived in Jeju.

In the first couple hours I was there we went snorkeling with the gang. Couldn’t get off to a better start. It seemed like a proper vacation. Almost movie like with the characters that were with us.  I only had Saturday night there but it was super cool being able to drive around with them and explore the island. Ended up having a super fun night with everyone. I think authenticity is a thing that’s a goal but is still hard to experience. When it happens it’s great and I think this whole weekend checked all the boxes.

As for What I did Saturday I got picked up at the airport and went to a fish restaurant and embarrassed my self because I don’t know how to separate the meat and bones. All was good because I got plenty of help. The one I struggles with was the 1st on the left, the rectangle one. The best part of it though was the fish on the far right. It was a lot easier to eat but it also tasted better in general.

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After that went to the guest house and laid down for a bit. Changed clothes and went snorkeling at a place only a few minutes walk away. With the people who were at the house. Which was 6 of us. it was pretty cool, I have only done it once before I think. Only saw a few fish but in general it was great to finally swim.

Eventually we went out to eat and had some Japanese food as appetizers because they didn’t actually have what we were looking for. When we were travelling around it didn’t feel like I was a tour or just a 3rd party along for the ride. I felt a lot more in tune with what was going on. We went through a bunch of country roads and to some secluded places. It reminded me of being back In Elkins. Although a lot more tropical. We ended up going to a BBQ place who the couple I was driving with liked because they were friends with the owner I guess. There we just ended up doing the normal bbq routine. Fortunately for everyone I broke out my “Korean” as the day went along.

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The olleh(?) path marker that goes around the coast

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final destination ^

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Bad timing.

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At ze top.

On Sunday we did a lot of driving around in the morning. We were trying to find places to swim but high tide is a thing so we couldn’t. We dropped a girl from Busan off at the bus stop then kept out search. My friend and I came to the conclusion that hey maybe we should do something else. So they decided to take me to the place in the pictures whose name I forget. Since no one told me that we were going to be walking up something I only had embarrassingly small sandals to wear. Look at those tiny things in the 3rd picture. Regardless we got to the top. 20160821_131435_PanoI’m not sure the picture does it justice but it was incredibly pretty at the top. The sky is noticeably cleaner and you could see for miles. And tiny Mountains littered the Horizon. Very cool stuff. We wen’t to eat some raw fish in a fruit sauce that was sooooo sweet.

Since the ocean calmed down a bit it was back to swimming! So we wen’t to a beach we wanted to go to earlier and played around like morons in the waves. Fun stuff. The highlight was 2 guys from the house came with their surf board. So they taught me how to surf! I didn’t think that would happen before I came to Jeju but it did! Go figure I was bad. But I almost stood up twice which I’ll mark as a victory. It was a pretty sweet experience and one that’d I’d like to repeat.

for the most part that was the end of my trip. I just took a shower then we rushed off to eat some black pig which is a Jeju specialty thing. It was good, but maybe we rushed it a bit to much! The air port was packed so I was worried I might miss the flight! Like really worried, but I got to the gate with 12 or so minutes to spare(whew).

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I’m working on this for Caroline. There are a number of thing’s I want to improve but this is what I have so far. Should be done soon.

 

And that’s that!