Friday, December 18, 2009

Kuala Lumpur

So Sarah and I have been on the road for a couple days now. We had an incredible first few days in Singapore. We got in late to the airport and crashed for a spell until we could grab the train into town to drop off our bags. After doing so we took off for the Singapore Botanical Gardens, which were absolutely dazzling. Sarah said they were ranked #1 in the world by some magazine and I can definately see why.

After the gardens we checked in to The Hive offically and got cleaned up a bit. Then we went to Little India and explored the markets, ate some delicious Muslim food, and cruised around the streets a bit.

The next day we went to the Bukit Tihan Nature Reserve. Played with some Macque long-tail monkies and hiked through the primary jungle. Really incredible foliage and some of the largest trees I've ever seen.

Now we are in Kuala Lumpur. It's our last day here before we take off to the Cameroon Highlands. We've been a bit out of sorts since getting here, but are getting into the rythme of this wild city.

The hostel we are staying in (The Raggae Rest House) has been just that. A quiet place to escape the maddeningly chaotic streets of the city. Everywhere you turn there is something to take in. It's a mixture of gritty and flashy. Buildings covered in green moss with crackes running throughout, on the verge of losing a chunk here and there; mixed with posh hotels, frantic street markets and people--so many people. I have to stop from time to time just to look at the diversity of this city. Malaysian, Chinese, Muslim, European, American, Thai...etc. Too much to take it all in. Trying to just relax today and let things flow a bit more. It's easy for me to get caught up in the trying to absorb it all, but not very wise.

I've been snapping pictures non-stop, so I've hoping to get a couple gems. Unfortunately it's been raining off and on since we've been here, so lighting hasn't been the best.

We decide to just walk off from the hostel yesterday and wander. We ended up finding a small interior city park with signs that warned of scorpions, snakes, and so forth. The forest was dark and wet, so we took care to walk slowly. The end of the trail carried us up to the Communications Tower (4th largest in the world I believe) and we went up and walked around a bit. Then headed over to the Petronas Towers for a gander. Incredible to stand a the base of these two towers and take in their enormity.

Did a bit of shopping in the Central Market in the late afternoon and Sarah found a nice skirt and necklace. Lots of great deals to be had, just nowhere to put anything substantial. I'm really looking forward to the markets in Bangkok, which are suppose to be some of the best in the world for treasure hunting.

More later...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's been a while, so here's a bit of what we've been up to. start, we're now living up in Seoul. To be more exact we're in Gunpo-city, Gyeonggi-do Province. The area is quite different from where we were last year. It's rather modern and up tempo compared with Cheongok Dong, down in Ulsan. Instead of being on the last bus stop out of Ulsan, we're off the Line 1 of the Seoul Metro Subway, which essentially gives us access to this fair city of 22 million people.

The city of Gunpo was formerly an industrial and agricultural area with only a few reminants of this recent past. Today, it's being built up rapidly and has been reconstructed to have something of a new urban fabric. What I mean is that the city has taken the time to widen streets, add lots of trees, side walks, and parks. In many old parts of Seoul these things do not exist, but the government here is spending billions of dollars trying to improve the green factors here. From my window at work I see a golf course, luxury apartments, a couple smoke stacks and factories, and Suri-san Mountain set back behind it all.

Sarah and I have a nice 3bd/2ba apartment just up the street from work. It literally takes us about 4-5 minutes to walk in each day and we often go home between breaks at work to grab a bit to eat or catch a couple quick zzz's.

From our door step it takes us about 15 minutes to walk to the Gunpo subway station. About 1 minute to a convience store. 3 minutes to Paris Bagette bakery. We have several small grocery stores within 2-5 minutes, along with numerous chicken hof's (fried chicken + beer halls), samgyupsal restaurants (bbq pork restaurants), pharmacies, screen golf (video driving ranges), and dozens of other businesses.

It sounds like we're in the middle of a dense urban landscape, but we can actually walk to the base of Surisan Mountain and get a nice reprieve from city life. It's not a huge mountain, but it does climb up about 1000ft and gives us a chance to get away from it all. As everyone knows I love getting outside and hiking, so for me the access to three local mountain ranges is perfect. To the north we have Gwanak-san, to the east Morak-san, and then Suri-to the west.

Before getting back to Seoul, Sarah and I had a really nice visit home. We spent a nice, yet chilly couple months bouncing around Cody WY, Denver CO, Minneapolis MN, Hopewell Jct NY, Lancaster PA, and Lawrence MA. We're not sure when we'll be back, but maybe as soon as this summer for a shorter visit. We'll have to see how things unfold.

Some of the highlights for me in Cody were: photographing the Northfork of the Shoshone River near Cody, getting pushed around by the wind on a frozen reservior near Meeteetse while ice fish with Mike. Taking my nephew and niece, Ben + Abby, on a little hiking adventure around the fields in their backyard. As well as taking my nieces, Ava + Violet, on a couple walks around the windy streets in their neighborhood. Lastly, nearly polishing off a bottle of Crown Royal with Sarah's dad, Terry. Of course, coffee chats early in the morning are always enjoyable, with Sarah's Mom, Marla. This has become sort of a tradition.

Down to Denver: had a great time meeting up with my old buddies from NAU at Kerwyn + Elena's house. Got some good news about them expecting a pair of twins, as well as meeting, Duzan, Maurice and Sarah's son. Also, recently got word that Jed and Leni had their first baby girl, Ivi Mae. While there we took in a nice art walk in downtown Denver, skiied Keystone, ate some gourmet home cooking ala Elena + Kerwyn, as well as getting in some nice rounds of darts.

Over to Minneapolis: we walked into an awesome welcome home party at Poppy + Edward's. I got to jam out to some great local music at the 331 club in NorthEast with Jeff and got to snowshoe in the Minneasota Valley N.W.R on a bright sunny day with a foot and a half of fresh powder on the ground. We also had a great time hanging out with Carly, Stefan, and Aislyn for a couple days, doing a little bit of dining, sleding and chatting.

Further east to Hopewell Jct: Had a great time catching up with my folks and seeing all the home improvements they're done over the last couple months. We also had a great time over at my Jan and Tom's eating, drinking, and catching up. Tom and I even took a nice day hike/snowshoe trip us into the Catskills. Was a perfect day for it.

My parents have been venturing out more and more and found a great little Thai restaurant they took us to in Beacon. Fine foods and conversation were had on numerous occasions, but the best meal of all was a fantastic mexican restaurant they took us to just before flying back to Seoul. I've had tons of good Mexican food over the years, but this place was top notch.

A lot more happened then what I've mentioned here, including a couple short trips to visit my grandmothers in MA and PA. As always, we had a lovely time chatting with them and see what they've been up to. Oh...and to the people in MA. I think I'm a fan of Brown's now. Markey's was my childhood favorite, but Brown's had some of the best scallops and haddock I've had in years.

As you can see...eating was a big part of our trip home. After eating mostly Korean food for 13 months we were on a mission to enjoy as much good home cooking and Western style restaurants as we could. We ate everything from organic T-bones, to Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Greek, and so on. Food is life.

Anyhow, I'm getting ready to walk home. It's been a nice relaxing day a work. 4 classes and some grading and I'm off. Hope everyone reading this had a nice day, too!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Andong Mask Festival

The 2008 Andong Mask Festival-but you could probably tell already.

Got this one walking through a horde of people dressed in incredibly ornate costumes. Was rather fun actually.

Spotted this classy lady walking with her hand bag dressed in tradional Hanbok.

The face of the statue is representative of one of the tradional masks worn in a dance peasants preformed during the Joseon Dynasty. It was typically a satire poking fun at the Korean elite. Now the elite put on a festival to parade around their politicians and turn a buck off the peasant culture.

Kelly, China Women, + Sarah

"Welcome! I'll need you to put the backpack down, raise your hand over your head and spread your legs."

This guy was relaxing to the fullest. White gloves and all.

They had several types of puppets. Sarah got one that looks more like a monk.

Say, "Kimchi!!!"

A bit of tradional Korea dance, dress, and music.

This lady looked like she walked right off a movie set. She was great!

She was a lot of fun, too. They took photos with everyone, but they didn't turn out to good.

Our friend Dale takes a second to pose for this one. I'm not going to cut on him while I'm still living in Korea. He's a bit of a loose cannon. He once nearly flipped his tank while on maneuvers in the Outback.

Some days just aren't that happy in Korea.

These guys share their head dresses with the local highschool cheerleading squads during the week. Communism still has a hold on some parts of Korean society.

Would have paid a hundred bucks for a paintball gun!

"Come on Kim Su. I see big brother running this way."

"Hey...pass that over here Mr. Lee. You geezers are going to drink it all!!!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sobaek-san National Park

We started the hike at Samga Vistor Center (bottom right). It was a great day!

Birobong Peak 3.4km back up the way we came.

A nice pine forest with a rough 4X4 road as our trail.

Don't know when they built this trail, but the chunks of stone they used must have been hell to work with. This was a couple km from where vehicles could access the trail.

A couple Yew Trees. They ranged in age between 200-500 years old, according to our guide book. This small patch of trees is the largest grove of Yew Trees in Korea.

Gnarly old trees, ehh?

Don't know what kind of tree this is, but it had an interesting shape.

A leg of the trail to Birobang peak--on our way down.

Grassy meadows and some pretty steep sloping terrain.

A group shot on the peak.

(1439 meters)
A trail leading off to Gungmangbong (Peak).

Sarah is all smiles while looking around at the views.

A news helicopter pass by, as a couple of Koreans wave hello.

Sarah and Nathan taking a rest after reaching the summit.
Approaching the peak. The legs were shot, so I took a ton of shots on this final stretch of trail.

Approaching the peak. The entire hike up was well forested. So we really couldn't see much of the surrounding mountains until we arrived at this point.