Welcome to the second half of my trip to Tokyo, Japan. The first half was a great mix of cultural and historical sights. From ancient temples to traditional weddings, part 1 has a lot to offer. However, this second half of my trip is where things get good. From peaceful gardens to downright bizarre surprises, here is proof that Tokyo is an incredible city. And it's also easy to travel there from South Korea.
Teachers Share their Experiences While Living Abroad!
One of the things I found myself wondering about when I moved to Korea to teach English is what the holidays would be like. Granted holidays can range from the big boys like Christmas, to the ones we celebrate just for the excuse to party (hump day anyone?). Lucky for me and you, Koreans LOVE to party, so most holidays here are celebrated and always a fun time. This past weekend we ventured into Seoul, Gangnam to be exact, for Tomatillo’s Annual Cinco de Mayo party. It was definitely one of my favorite days in Korea and I know that for as long as I stay here, this is where I’ll celebrate Mexican independence.
Living in Incheon, South Korea has a lot of perks; I’m fairly close to the airport, near the coast, I can go and enjoy and enjoy the beautiful Songdo whenever I want, etc. But shortly after I arrived, I found out that one of the greatest things about living in Incheon was my proximity to Bupyeong Station (Incheon Line 1). Bupyeong station houses one of the most amazing underground shopping malls, where you can find pretty much everything and anything you could want. It’s cheap, convenient, and home to some of my greatest purchases while teaching English in Korea thus far. Here are my top reasons for being in love with Bupyeong:
I have no intention of making you jealous, but I have to inform you that I am writing this blog post from a beach chair 4 feet from the water on the small island of Koh Samet in Thailand. It is late afternoon and the beach area in front of my resort (My bungalow is $20 a night!) is starting to clear out for the day. I personally think dusk is the best part of a beach day. The sky's color is spectacular, the sun isn't as intense as it was a few hours prior and I can finally tell by looking at my skin that yes, I in fact did manage to tan and not burn after hours of frolicking in the surf.
I tell you all this because upon traveling to the island from Bangkok, where I spent 3 days being social and saying goodbye to 2012, I have come to the realization that solo-travel may just be the best thing I have done so far in 2013. I admit I was a bit nervous to embark on my solo winter vacation to Thailand. I had traveled alone before but those trips were always only short jaunts from one place to another to meet friends, family or study abroad groups. Because my other expat friends in Korea did not share my vacation days and I knew I didn't want to stick around Seoul for another week of winter, I booked flights to Bangkok and a hostel for the first night and hoped for the best.
A few close friends recently completed their year of teaching in Korea and returned home to the US. Although it was sad to see them leave, their last few months here were full of new adventures in Seoul. They made a list of things they wanted to accomplish before leaving The Land of Kimchi and I am glad they were serious in completing this to-do list. One Saturday, instead of heading into Seoul to experience the plethora of shopping and dining opportunities that we love, we ventured to a new part of the city and found our way to a traditional Korean hanok (home) where we (for less than $20) learned how to properly drink and serve tea and dressed in hanbok clothing.
Tags: fashion in Korea, dressing in Korea, Korean culture, a year in Korea, seoul, free time, cultural experience, Activities to do in Korea, cultural activities, hanbok, tea, Weekend activities in Korea
I live for live music. A perfect night for me consists of a few friends, an awesome outfit, a cold beer and front row standing room at a concert, preferably one with a performer who doles out dance-worthy beats. As soon as I started teaching English in Korea I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Seoul is a hub of fantastic music venues. I snatched up Lady Gaga tickets for the first show of her Born This Way Ball in late April, I aced 'KPOP 101' when my friend brought me to an exclusive taping of Inkigayo in Seoul, I ventured out to Nami Island to dance with Korean hippies and listen to Jason Mraz sing sweet nothings in June and I jumped for joy when I realized I could attend Seoul's Super!Sonic show in August. I originally thought I would have to miss the two day music festival because it was scheduled for mid-week (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Seoul, but I soon realized the Wednesday was not just any Wednesday, it was Korean Liberation Day, so I had the day off and attended my first mid-week music festival at Seoul Olympic Park.
Super!Sonic is the sister festival of Japan's famous Summer Sonic. I missed the festival's first day line-up (due to work) which included The Smashing Pumpkins, Gym Class Heroes, Idiotape, Soulwax and more. As much as I wanted to see The Smashing Pumpkins, Wednesday's line-up impressed me with New Order, Gotye, The Vaccines, Tears For Fears and Foster The People. What was supposed to be another rainy and humid summer day in Seoul turned out to be surprisingly sunny and comfortable. My friend and I spent the day shuffling in an orderly fashion (that's how it's done in Korea) between two stages where bands performed back-to-back sets.
Tags: a year in Korea, things to do in Korea, seoul, Korea, free time, events in Korea, Concerts, 2012, music, having fun in korea, Activities to do in Korea, Olympic Park, Super!Sonic, Foster The People, dance, Gotye
The COEX Aquarium is by far one of the strangest aquariums I’ve ever seen. Our ChungDahm branch took the students for a field trip there for their Albatross level up party, and instructors volunteered to chaperone. Although the students seemed to be disinterested the whole way through up until the gift shop, I was thoroughly amused by the weird, quirky things about the aquarium, and the reactions from the students.
If there is one thing that Korea is famous for other than kimchee, I would say it is the "jjimjilbang."
Since I started teaching English in Korea, my best friend/boyfriend and I haven't had a chance to spend much time together alone, so we decided to pick a quiet spot in Seoul where we could just walk around and feel like we were on an actual date. Insadong may be a popular tourist spot, but it's not as crazy as Myeongdong and has just as much to see as Garosugil. It feels very traditional, as you'll see many tea shops as well as shops that sell brushes and ink for Korean calligraphy.