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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NaNoWriMo Busan 2012! Launch Party Sun. Oct. 28

Launch Party Sun. Oct. 28, 5-7 pm, Starbucks Gwangan Beach near Millak, 3F

Calling all writers and would-be novelists in the Busan-and-surrounding areas! Come join us this November for NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a 30-day-long global event where participants attempt to write 50,000 words (the rough equivalent of a novel) during the month of November. Why? For fun, cheap thrills, and to proudly tell others, "Why YES, I have written a novel"! 

Along with two friends, I've made myself a self-appointed organizer for NaNo Busan 2012. We are having a Launch Party this Sun. Oct. 28 from 5-7 pm at Starbucks on Gwangan Beach, 3rd floor (near Millak NOT Geumnyeonsan, directions & map below). Come out, meet some new people and fellow writers and find out what this event is all about!

Sign up for NaNo at, it's free or by voluntary donation and join the "Asia: South Korea: Busan" forum for questions and updates. We also have a Busan Nano group, where we will post about events, including this Sunday's Launch Party, write-ins, a Halfway Party, and the TGIO (Thank God It's Over!) Party.
Feel free to contact us through the NaNo Busan facebook group. Share this event and hope to see you Sunday, Oct. 28, 5-7 pm at Starbucks on Gwangan Beach near Millak, 3rd floor!

NaNoWriMo Official Site:
Nano Busan:https:

irections (7-9 minute walk from Gwangan station):
- Take subway to Gwangan station (stop #209 on Line 2, Green line).
- Take Exit 3, and walk DOWN the main cross-street towards the beach.
- Take a left when you reach beach boulevard.
- Walk past Lotteria, and a burger joint.
- Starbucks will be on your left. It has a porch facing the beach, 3rd floor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

WKB Tour 2012 - Gunsan and Goodbye, Day 3

Jinpo Marine Theme Park in Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do

Today I'd like to tell you about the last day of the special reward trip that I earned by blogging for the second round of the Korea Blog. The other WKBs Annabel and EmaGiselaMaria, DorotheaAsif, and I arrived in Gunsan on our last day. We had already enjoyed a welcome dinner in Seoul and tours through Jeonju and Seonyou-do the previous two days, and now only had a few hours left together on our tour. 

Dongguk-sa Main Hall and garden

We began our Gunsan journey by visiting Dongguk-sa (Donguk Temple), Korea's only remaining Japanese temple left behind by Japan's occupation of Korea. The white-and-brown facade of the temple looked markedly different from the colourful Korean temples to which I've grown accustomed. The walled courtyard was paved with small white pebbles and held a carefully manicured garden and artificial pond, in contrast to the tree-lined and more natural dirt courtyards of the Korean temples that I've visited. In their book This is Korea, authors Choi, Jung-wha and Lim, Hyang-ok explain that Japanese gardens are walled, with artificially landscaped mountains, sea, and forest lying within as the Japanese believed the consistency to be aesthetically pleasing. In contrast, the Korean garden allows nature to run free, embracing the changes in landscape and season, and reflecting a reverence for nature. Both are very beautiful, but very different.

In and around the temple, including the main hall

Inside the temple hall, Dongguk-sa's decor was again more muted than its Korean counterparts. The hall had white walls and dark wood floors and rafters, contrasting again to the light floors, red beams, and painted ceilings of the Korean temple. It was interesting to compare and contrast the Dongguk-sa to other Korean temples and it is well-worth the visit for those interested in Korean history during the Japanese occupation, or temple architecture in Korea. 

We had Gunsan's famous marinated crab for lunch

We were eager to learn more about Gunsan's fascinating history only after grabbing a bite to eat - a theme of this trip, I've noticed! We dined on another seafood meal, trying Gunsan's specialty of marinated king crab. I have an adventurous appetite, but I'm afraid the treat wasn't one of my favourites. I did enjoy the other dishes, namely crab roe and rice, spicy seafood soup, and a variety of sides, and once again was stuffed full without even really trying.

Old Gunsan Customs Office
With another massive meal under our belts, we staggered off to the Gunsan Modern History Museum, a bright building with a spacious courtyard overlooking the ocean. The museum is conveniently located near several other interesting sites, including the Old Gunsan Customs Office and a former branch of Japan's eighteenth bank. 

The museum's varied collection is spread out over three floors. On the first level, a lighthouse replica overlooks the spacious lobby and displays about modern fisheries and ocean life. The second level housed a special exhibition about the heartbreaking Okgu farmers' rebellion, when Gunsan area farmers attempted to fight back against the Japanese forces that controlled them. Finally, the third floor replicated the streets of 1930's Gunsan for a special quarterly exhibition called 1930's Time Travel.

Exhibition halls in the Gunsan Modern History Museum

The third floor hall held a mock bank, school, harbour, and theatre. We really enjoyed the interactive exhibit, trying on the costumes of the day and using the various tools on display, including ink stamps and rice scales. I tried on a black and white hanbok and some rubber shoes and posed on a rickshaw for photos. It was a true trip back in time. I was impressed with the museum's English-language signage and general navigability, and I definitely recommend a visit there.

Ema models a hanbok while Han, Annabel, and Gisela take pictures

We continued down the boardwalk from the museum to the Jinpo Marine Theme Park, an outdoor museum dedicated to documenting marine and military history. Here you can check out different models of tanks, planes, helicopters, and boats used during Korea's various military missions, and you can even peruse a museum built into one of the ships. The boat museum showcased miniature battle recreations, military photography, and mock-ups of a ship's living quarters.

Annabel and Ema pose with Korean soldier statues at Jinpo Marine Theme Park

With the day winding down, we knew it would soon be time to part. We made one last stop to peek at a few more Japanese-style homes but unfortunately for us they were under renovation. The spectrum of Japanese influence in Gunsan was very interesting and appealed to the historian in me, so I think I may find myself back in Gunsan soon.

Japanese-style homes in Gunsan

Asif and I then headed to the bus terminal to return to Daegu and Busan. We posed for one last group photo and exchanged hugs and well wishes with the others, now on their way to Seoul. It was truly a phenomenal weekend with wonderful people. Thank you Korea Blog, and my fellow WKBs for our time together and for another wonderful weekend in the Land of Morning Calm!


Choi, Jung-wha and Lim, Hyang-ok. This is Korea. Hollym Corp. Pulishers; Seoul, Korea, 2011.

WKB Tour 2012 - Scenic Seonyou-do, Days 2 & 3

L to R: Asif, Dorothea, Gisela, Ema, Anabel, and Maria,
and our guide Grace and me in the front, smiling on Seonyou Island

If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that a few weeks ago my blogging for the second round of the Korea Blog was rewarded with a special trip. The six other bloggers Annabel and EmaGiselaMaria, Dorothea, and I met in Seoul for a welcome dinner, and Asif caught up with us in beautiful Jeonju

We spent the first day and night of the tour in Jeonju, but just before lunch we set off for Seonyou Island or Seonyou-do, a tiny island set in an archipelago of 65 islets off Korea's west coast. Seonyou Island, alternately spelled 'Sunyou', 'Seonyu', or 'Sunyu,' is known for its tranquility and relaxed island lifestyle. It is a popular destination for cyclists and for those simply looking to "get away from it all." We were excited to get there, but not before a lunch break, of course.

Seafood specialties in Gunsan

We stopped for a seafood lunch in Gunsan's Raw Fish Town, a building housing a series of seafood restaurants and their vendors near the ferry terminal. We took an elevator up to the top floor and were led into a private room. We had drop-down seating on the floor, meaning that our legs could hang below us in a hollow space underneath the table. It is like sitting on a chair, but with no back, and it is very comfortable. 

We had a great view, but most of the time we spent looking at the variety of strange seafood covering the table. The long, low tables were filled with side dishes and various delicacies from the sea, some of which we'd never seen before. We ate thinly sliced raw fish, mussels, clams, crab, and scallops. There were a few other specialties I couldn't identify, but I tasted them all because I wasn't sure I'd ever have the courage to order them on my own again! We even tried some sannakji, or live octopus. The octopus is chopped up and served in sesame oil, its tentacles still wriggling as they slide down your throat and it is certainly one of Korea's more adventurous delicacies. Needless to say, some of the bloggers stuck to soup.

We went straight to the ferry terminal after lunch. The ferry ride was an hour long, and we were followed by a pack of ambitious, snack-seeking seagulls for the majority of the trip. Once we arrived at the island we just had to take a short drive - on the back of a truck!

Loaded onto the the truck bed, tiny chairs and all!

A bumpy, giggle-filled five minutes passed before we arrived at our pension, a series of small single-room houses set atop a hill overlooking a rock beach. We tumbled out, unpacked, and set off again for a tour of the island before dinner. 

Gisela and Yeon relax on our way to Janga Island

Fishermen playing jokgu
We took a winding walk, crossing a bridge to the tiny Janga Island. We stopped to admire the sunset, scenery, and antics of the local fishermen, who were either busy casting reels, playing jokguor simply taking a rest on the rocks. We drove back to eat a delicious barbecued dinner, sampling the local treat of small, crunchy seasoned crabs eaten still in their shell. We tossed the whole meal back with some jokes, stories from our home countries, and of course a beer or two. As the sun set, our little island family crawled down to the rocky beach where we took turns shooting off hand-held fireworks and being silly with sparklers. Still the night ended too quickly and soon we tottered off to bed.

Resting on the rocks

The next morning was a blur, as we rushed out to the waiting golf-style cart that was to show us around the island, while a few of the braver bloggers took bicycles instead (not me, in case you were wondering!). The pension owner was an able tour guide, navigating the bumpy and narrow roads with ease. We passed couples strolling along Seonyou-do's aptly-named "16-Kilometre Beach" and stopped for some photos with mural art. We drove to the "Praying Lighthouse," a quaint red, hand-shaped building peeking out on the sea, taking our last looks before we headed back to the pension for a Korean-style breakfast of soup, rice, and kimchi

I told you I was an angel! This mural art was made for me ^^

We then bid the pension-owners farewell and took one last bumpy truck-bed ride back to the ferry terminal.Just two hours later we arrived in Gunsan, ready for next adventure, but still not quite ready to tell the peace and quiet of Seonyou-do goodbye. 

So long, Seonyou-do!

WKB Tour 2012 - Welcome Dinner in Seoul

Dinner at Bulgogi Brothers in Seoul Finance Centre with my new blog friends.
L to R: Ema, Annabel, Grace, me, Gisela, Dorothea, and Maria

Ten months ago, I was chosen for the second round of the Korea Blog, and last month my blog was selected to attend a special reward trip. I traveled from my home in Busan to Seoul on the KTX, Korea's high-speed train system and hurried my way through Seoul Station to meet five other bloggers and the Korea Blog staff for a welcome dinner at Bulgogi Brothers Restaurant in the Seoul Finance Center.

Bulgogi Brothers!

The overseas bloggers had met one another earlier in the day. I met Annabel and EmaGisela Maria, Dorothea, and our guide Grace on the drive to Gwanghwamun station, home to the glorious grand gate of Seoul's historic Gyeongbukgung Palace and the shining Seoul Finance Center. I was delighted to meet my new international friends, but I must confess I was equally excited for dinner, and I was not disappointed. 

Oooh, oooh mandu!
We were ushered into a private room with rust-colour paneled walls and a long, black tables with flat burners on top. Our KOCIS representative Cathy arrived just as multiple servers appeared carrying enough side dishes, or banchan, to fill the table. We dug into sweet steamed corn on the cob and small, salted whole potatoes, which Cathy informed us are one of the restaurants most popualr side dishes. We whetted our appetites with kimchi, fried mandu or dumplings, and some mouth-watering bulgogi with rice before waiters reappeared to light the burners and throw on the meat.

I can't really say it, but I sure like to eat it:
Yangnyeom galbi

Naengmyeon, yum yum
Our group spent the next two hours noshing on a tantalizing array of platters served in seemingly endless succession, each one tastier than the last. Soup. salad, rice, and mushrooms and meat on skillets arrived one after the other. We ate what must have surely been some of from Korea's finest bulgogi, marinated beef, and ribs. We sampled side dishes as varied as lotus root, steamed egg, and quail egg. We finally finished off the meal with a helping each of iced buckwheat noodles or naengmyeon and some plum tea. The service was excellent and our private room was perfectly conducive to chatter about all things Korean. It was so fun to share such a nice meal with so many interesting people from around the world!

IP Boutique Hotel, Itaewon

After dinner, we headed to our accommodation. The IP Boutique Hotel is a quirky and elegant hotel located only minutes from the busy centre of Itaewon, one of the multi-cultural hubs of Seoul. The hotel's brightly-coloured exterior shone even in the dark and a sculpture of a knight on horseback greeted us at the doorway. The lobby was home to a slew of eclectic chairs and a pair of elevators made to resemble designer suitcases. The funky design continued into the rooms, with large wall appliques accenting an all-white decor. The beds were soft as clouds, and the bedding was equally heavenly, perfect for an angel like me! ^^  The morning brunch buffet was a delectable mix of Korean and Western tastes, served with just the right number of refills for my coffee.

The yummy breakfast buffet was a perfect mix of Western and Korean -
I took kimchi AND French toast  ^^

Dinner at Bulgogi Brothers was a wonderul culinary adventure and an even better bonding experience and the IP Boutique Hotel was the perfect launching point for our tour. There's no finer way to start a trip than with some good food, good friends, and a good sleep!

*All images taken from official sites, unless otherwise noted

Bulgogi Brothers logo and images retrieved 2012/10/12 from

IP Boutque Hotel image retrieved 2012/10/12 from

WKB Tour 2012 - Historic Jeonju, Days 1 & 2

Front to back, left to right: Me, Dorothea, Annabel, Ema;
Maria, Gisela and Yeon enjoy dinner in Jeonju

In January I was selected to contribute to the second round of the Korea Blog, and in September my blog was chosen for a special reward trip! I joined six other Korea enthusiasts known as the WKBs or "Worldwide Korea Bloggers" on a wonderful trip through Seoul, Jeonju, Seonyoudo, and Gunsan. Today, I'd like to tell you about our trip through the historic Jeonju city in North Jeolla province.

After our welcoming dinner in Seoul on Thursday evening, our WKB Team assembled on Friday morning at the Nambu Bus Terminal. Along with our Korean tour guide Grace, Annabel and EmaGiselaMaria, Dorothea and I quickly our photographer Han and two-man camera before boarding our bus to Jeonju.

We arrived in Jeonju just in time to lunch on the region's famous bibimbap, or mixed vegetables with riceWe were joined there by a local bibimbap expert - the art of Korean food is serious stuff! He told us that Jeonju is famous for its traditional foods due to their perfect blend of colours, taste, aroma, and texture. Of course after he told us that, we couldn't wait to start eating. We happily sampled the hanjeongsik, a spread of up to 30 side dishes that cover the table!

Eating until we could eat no more, we pried ourselves from the chairs to waddle off for a guided tour of Jeonju's famous hanok village. Our guide explained that a hanok is a Korean traditional home, known for its beautiful sloping tiled roof and airy architecture. The Jeonju hanok village is comprised of over 700 hanok homes that sit on picturesque cobblestone streets.

Overlooking Jeonju's hanok village, made up of of over 700 traditional-style homes

Our guide led us to National Jeonju Museum and palace and the elegant Jeondong Cathedral.  We also snacked on some patbingsu or red-bean shaved ice from a trendy local spot before saying goodbye to our guide. 

Jeondong Cathedral, one only three cathedrals in Korea
Enjoying your patbingsu, ladies?  :)

We then had the chance to try some experience programs. We hand-dyed some handkerchiefs and then we learned about the traditional tea-pouring ceremony, one of my personal highlights from the trip. 

We hand-dyed handkerchiefs in the traditional way, using natural materials 

All that creativity worked up an appetite, so we enjoyed a bimibap and galbi dinner, and we toasted to our health with makkeolli or rice wine, and moju, a local drink known for its smooth, sweet taste. 

We finished off our day by watching some pansori. Pansori is an evocative musical performance that has been named both a Korean National Treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage art. We listened as the pansori singer lilted, bellowed, and whispered her way through a melodic story to the beat of a single drum. After that, Asif finally arrived and our group was complete. A few of us went for a Jeonju-style nightcap, enjoying more makkeolli and yet another round of hanjeongsik. How do Koreans stay so thin with all this delicious food around??? 

The pansori singer uses her emotions to tell a story

Bellies full again, we walked to our accommodation. We spent the night in our very own hanok home, Hakindang. We slept on the cozy heated ondol floor, surrounded by darkness and silence in the center of the city. In the morning, Hakindang's owners gave us a tour and showed us into their own home,  which was built with the same wood and by the same designers who built Gyeongbukgung in Seoul! The wood came from Baekdusan, the most famous mountain on the Korean peninsula. Their home was a treasure trove and their attic neatly filled with various curiosities and Koreana. The antiquities were a delight to behold before bidding our hosts farewell.

Our homestay, Hakindang
Our home-stay offered serenity in the city

We set off next for the Jeonju Film Studio. Led by the studio manager, we learned how movie sets are built and how special scenes such as raining scenes are shot. We got to see sets being built and even play with some of the props and costumes from famous Korean movies! We posed with catapults, thumbed through original scripts, and tried on some costume pieces. 
Out and about at the Jeonju Film Studio complex
Dorothea tries on some costume pieces

We stopped for one last coffee break before continuing on to our next destination, Gunsan city and Seonyou Island. As we left Jeonju, I quietly began plotting my return. I know now that this beautiful city has so much more for me to explore, and that one weekend simply wasn't enough.