Thursday, January 19, 2017

UK visit: Wales Part II

Taking a break on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales

The weekend of Guy Fawkes, a.k.a. Bonfire Night on November 5th, we traveled out to Pembrokeshire to stay at a cottage in a little village there. Pembrokeshire is a county in Wales, in the south and western most point. It's a really beautiful area with white cliffs, lovely beaches and rolling hills throughout the countryside. 

Our first day there we drove out to a beach near where we were staying and walked along the Pembrokeshire coastal path. It wandered along tall, flat cliffs that abruptly dropped out over the sea, spotted with the occasional sinkhole and flock of sheep. The trail dipped down to quiet beaches along the route.

Headed down to a beach along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

U.K. Visit: Wales Part I

Chepstow Castle

Most of my travels in the U.K. so far have been in Wales, since it's so close to where I'm staying in Bristol, and Anna's mom is originally from there, so she's been our tour guide. I'll have to break it down into a few posts on all the places we've visited so far. 

My first trip out to Wales was to a small town not far past the border with England called Chepstow. It's a cute little village along the winding river Wye, with a nice castle built on the cliffs overlooking it. I wandered through the castle with Anna, which was pretty exciting for me since it was my first castle in the U.K.

View of Chepstow village from the castle

Sunday, January 15, 2017

U.K. Visit: Bristol

I've been in the U.K. since around the end of October, and even took a break in the middle to spend three and a half weeks in Greece, but I've still done so much here that it's hard to know where to start. I'm staying in Bristol, which is a city in the southwestern part of England near the border with Wales. Anna and her family have been showing me around Bristol and the areas nearby; we've made a lot of trips out to Wales and Cornwall especially. I'll be doing a series of posts catching up on what I've been up to here, and a few on Greece as well. There's been a lot of traveling, but there's also been a fair amount of hanging out at pubs and playing with cats.

My first pub in the U.K.! And catching up with some old friends from Sendai, Japan

How will I ever say goodbye to you, Peaches?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Best apps for learning Korean

I've been on a little break from Korea since September, but now it's time to get ready to go back. I'm mostly spending my time getting ready to job hunt again, but I'm also working on my Korean. One of my big goals for 2017 is to reach a genuinely conversational level. Not "conversational" as in I can get by ordering food and talking to taxi drivers, which I can already do, but "conversational" as in I can have a real conversation with a Korean friend.

So here are some of my favorite apps for studying Korean. You can also check out this post, where I mentioned websites, Youtube channels, and other Korean language resources besides apps.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Texan Travels Part II: Road trip!

Last October I went on a road trip from Dallas, Texas down to Corpus Christi for a special family event. We stopped along the way at Austin, San Antonio, and visited the Texas Hill Country. Here are a few highlights from that trip:

The fist stop was Austin, but we mostly just enjoyed the food and the nightlife while we were there. It lived up to its reputation for a great music scene, with live music happening every day of the week in the downtown area. We had some amazing Tex Mex at a restaurant near the nightlife area, and caught a live band on a rooftop bar.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Texan Travels Part I: Dallas

Fall display at the Dallas Arboretum

In September this year I completed my one year contract teaching in Pohang at a Montessori School and decided that it was time for a break. I really enjoyed my work in Pohang, but it had been many years since I'd taken a long break from teaching and I also wanted the chance to spend some more time with my family. So I decided not to renew my contract and to travel for the next 6 months instead.

Saying goodbye to Pohang friends :(

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My new favorite Korean food: Jjimdalk

Andong Jjimdalk, a thing of great joy and beauty

For me one the best things about life in Korea is the food. In general it's much healthier than western food, with lots of vegetables, fish, fermented things like kimchi that are great for naturally stimulating the growth of pro-biotics and uses a lot less salt. The one downside is the spiciness - although I enjoy spicy foods, my heartburn does not. Also, compared with Japan, the portion sizes are generally bigger in Korea. But at least in Korea there is somewhat better variety with rice, so you're not always served the same starched, nutrition-less white rice that is so common in Japan.

After a year in Korea trying as many new dishes as I could, one emerged as my definite favorite: Andong Jjimdalk.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Masks and fireworks in Andong Hanok Village

A traditional home in Hahoe Folk Village

Last summer I went to stay in the Hahoe folk village near Andong, and it was one of the best things I've done in Korea so far. The city of Andong is about an hour north and inland from Pohang. You can get a bus there from the Pohang intercity bus terminal and the ride out there is actually pretty scenic, passing through valleys full of rice fields and mountains. From the Andong bus terminal, catch another local bus into the Hahoe village.

The village is on a round piece of land like a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by rivers. The first thing you'll see when you arrive is the Hahoe mask museum. It is absolutely worth your time.

Hahoe hand-carved wooden masks

Models of Hahoe mask dance performers

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pohang Camping: Chilpo Beach

Camping at Chilpo Beach near Pohang

Pohang isn't the most bike friendly place in the world, but it does have a few nice cycle paths around the city. One of them follows the canal past Posco, along the docks, past the main beach and downtown area, and if you continue around the headland eventually curves inland toward Jangsangdong, near where we lived. From there, the cycle path heads back toward the coast and about a 45 minute ride later will take you to Chilpo Beach.

The cycle path meets up with the coastal path here and you can actually go much farther, up to the next nice beach, Wolpo, and then on to the fishing villages and more beaches farther north.

Everything I need for camping strapped on my trusty mama-chari

Anna and Will ready to hit the road

Monday, January 2, 2017

Jinju City & Jirisan National Park

Flowers in bloom on Nogodan Peak in Jirisan National Park

At the end of April last year I was lucky to get some time off work and decided to take the opportunity to do a multi-day hike in one of Korea's most famous national parks, Jirisan (지리산국립공원). I was hoping to do the main trail along the ridge-line that hits most of the peaks in the park and is meant to take 2-3 days.

To get there, we caught a bus from Pohang to the city of Jinju (진주), which takes about 4 hours. We only had a half day to walk around the city after the bus journey, but I was surprised at how nice Jinju was. Compared with other cities I've visited in Korea, it felt much more quiet and relaxed, perhaps because of the big river that moves slowly through the center of the city.

River walk in Jinju