All posts tagged: South Korea

Sakura Sakura Sakura 

For most of our visit in South Korea the temperature was averaging minus one degree Celsius in the morning and reaching 16 degrees Celsius by mid afternoon. For us island folks we were freezing and could not feel our fingers and toes if we stood outside for more than 10 minutes. But the turning point was seeing the lovely Sakura blossoms starting to bloom on the trees where ever we looked.  This was a telling sign that spring is definitely approaching and the weather will be getting warmer. There were many people who were walking around with shorts, t-shirts and sandals. Standing next to them our group looked like we were going skiing with all the layers of clothes and protective gear we were wearing. We were all lucky to see the beautiful Sakura blossoms, and I hope my other Hawaii friends who will be visiting South Korea next month will find a Sakura in bloom, too.  Seeing these beautiful flowers in person was quite lovely as their petals looked so fluffy and delicate.  I …

Architecture (Photo 101, Day 12)

For the past month, we’ve been practicing hula in a space with no mirrors and dance-unfriendly flooring, but tonight, we returned to dancing in Polihua a Mauliola, a quonset hut that was converted into a hālau dance space and where we’ve danced our entire training prior to ʻūniki. Stepping in to the space felt kind of like visiting your childhood home after just settling into your first apartment. Returning home, everything feels intimately familiar. You know where things are located and you can relax in the space, but the truth is, itʻs not really your home anymore. That’s how I felt tonight. I missed Polihua, but more so, I missed how my body responds in that space, and how I am able to dance beside people I’ve danced with for all these years. Here are some other photos I’ve taken on my travels that speak to the amazing architecture I’ve never really noticed before going abroad.  

Green Optimism

In response to Optimistic: I love the concept of bike-sharing. As a tourist, it’s an affordable and “green” way to sightsee, while also getting in a little physical activity. In Taipei last August, I saw these bike rentals outside the hotel, and immediately thought to rent one and ride down to the Daan Forest Park. In the end, I decided against it since I had 1 hour before having to check out of the Chaiin Hotel in Dongmen. Also, the instructions were in Chinese and it was a stifling 90 degrees. Excuses, excuses, I know, but I really was pressed for time. One of the things I’d like to do when I go back to Seoul is to rent a bike and ride along the Han River. Other bloggers have mentioned how beautiful the views are so it’s definitely on my list of Seoul To-Do’s. Our local university here in Hilo recently implemented a bike share program for students. Abandoned bikes on campus were given makeovers, with new seats, tires, and fresh coats of paint. Now students can borrow these bikes for free to run errands …

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grid

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grid.” In June, my hula sister and I were determined to find Bukchon Son Mandu, a mandoo restaurant that boasts positive online reviews. Mouths watering, we traversed Insadong, in the sweltering heat, searching for the restaurant and on the way, we came across this unique structure. I had never seen anything like it in Hawaiʻi, so I snapped a pic of this modern, urban twist to the traditional “rock wall”.

At Home in Gangnam

In June of this year, after spending some time at home with my family on Kauaʻi, I returned to Seoul with one of my best friends, despite the MERS advisory for South Korea. We stayed in Gangnam for two weeks and during that time, I realized that had I not gone into Hawaiian Studies, I would have likely been living abroad. I’ve been adventurous, fiercely independent, and a traveler from a very young age, so with a knack for languages, I think I would’ve found myself living the better part of my life on foreign soil. I don’t regret the path I chose for my life because it’s been a beautiful journey, but this latest trip to Seoul helped put to rest the “what if” of whether or not I could’ve “made it” living so far away from home. For some reason, this recent epiphany is sweet because after a lifetime spent in Hawaiʻi , it’s thanks to my life thus far that I’m truly able to recognize and celebrate the beauty of difference when I engage with new cultures.

Seoul-O Travel Reflections

Spending time in Seoul reaffirmed one thing about myself: I love traveling, but more importantly, I love who I am when I’m somewhere foreign and unfamiliar and I can totally travel alone. When I’m at home, I’m careful and my sensibilities are in overdrive, but when I’m somewhere new, my adventurous self shows up. Eat silkwork larvae? Absolutely, hand it over! Walk into a space with live, feral monkeys? Sounds fun! Traveling to new places allows us to suspend judgement, to immerse ourselves into landscapes, and to blend into the background. It’s through these experiences that we begin to scratch the surface of a place and a people. The most enlightening experiences I had about South Korea were not spent in places like Insa-dong or Myeong-dong, where foreigners are expected to show up en masse, but rather, it was on the subway, watching people commuting to or from work and smartly dressed young friends getting excited about a new music video they’re watching on a hand phone. Although my Korean is limited, the language of emotion is universal. …

Realizations about Solo Traveling

While riding the metro today, I realized that I really like being where the tourists aren’t. There haven’t been a lot of them since I’ve arrived, other than the huge group I saw at Insa-dong yesterday. I saw a ton of them walking the streets and suddenly felt uncomfortable being around other foreigners. I think it has more to do with the fact that I could be grouped into the classification of people that are generally misrepresented by a few “bad eggs”. Unfair, I know, but when traveling alone, I’m extra sensitive it. The one thing I find refreshing is that people in Korea don’t give you a second look when you’re a foreigner. I rather like it. Maybe they’re too busy to notice, or maybe I’m a nobody, or maybe it’s just not a big deal. Either way, I like blending into the background and people-watching. I don’t think they know what to make of me since I’m quiet, but quick to flash a smile and a bow. They know I’m not in my 20’s and …

Day Trip to Apgujeong and Gangnam

After yesterday’s marathon wandering, I decided to take it easy and head down to Gangnam and Apgujeong, the status locations of South Korea and I immediately noticed the difference in terms of the dress, cars, and style of the people in these areas versus where I’m staying in Jongno-gu. If I had to assign an equivalent, I’d say Gangnam is a lot like New York. People do high end business here and as a result, have access to a lot of money. The suit, tie, and fine leather shoes are standard attire here. These are the people who look like they are chaebol characters in Korean dramas with slick haircuts and a kind of confidence that I’ve not seen since I arrived. The difference from New York? Streets are wide and clean and people aren’t rushing around. They’re probably in their offices already so sidewalks are relatively empty. As I sat in the local The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I saw one bus drive by. This area feels the most like the United States. …

Misadventures in Seoul

I had read about Dongdaemun being the mecca for traditional medicines in South Korea and being that I long divorced myself from over the counter pain relievers and embraced ancestral knowledge by opting for traditional medicines, like my preventative daily tonic of ʻōlena tea, I just knew I had to go there. After arriving in Dongdaemun, I walked briskly on the main drag, keeping up with people rushing off to work, but after a few moments, I realized I was lost. None of the names I saw on the signs looked vaguely familiar and to avoid looking like a pathetic tourist like I did yesterday, I ducked into Coffee Bay Coffee and Bakery, to let the foot traffic die down, check my metro map, and enjoy two lattes while I continued pecking away at my computer to bide my time. In the meantime, I enjoyed two coffees: a goguma (sweet potato) latte and a red velvet latte, each being 3300 won. I don’t know about you, but getting a less than $3 regular latte is …

Korean Baseball Experience

In preparing for my trip, I read a blog post somewhere that baseball games in Korea are fun, so I ended up going to one by myself in Jamsil between LT and Doosan. Normally, I’m not a big baseball fan, but considering it’s an experience I should have while I’m here, I took the plunge. I caught the metro and amazingly, the station was a few feet from the ticket office. Then again, I’m realizing that everything in Seoul is this convenient. I bought my ticket and it costed me a little less than $10.00 USD. Not too shabby. Being solo on this trip, I’m thinking it might’ve been fun to attend the game with friends, to share a bowl of ddeokbokki, drink beer, and actually converse with someone, but alas, it was not meant to be and so I sat alone, amongst hardcore fans, and enjoyed being somewhere Seoulites gather during their downtime. As expected, fan cheers are amazing. Here are a few clips of fans getting rowdy with their inflatable noise makers.

Finding your Seoul

I am sitting in The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Jongno-gu and watching people hurrying about on a Sunday. It is quite a sight. Young couples, dressed alike in the same shirts or jackets or shoes and holding hands, while others are bundled up as the temperature continues to drop outside. Here, indoors, there have been two arranged dates in the last hour and the men seem enthusiastic, while the women appear ambivalent. I’m not sure if it’s a strategy to not seem overexcited, therefore forcing the man to pull out all stops in the dating game or if they really are thinking about mundane things like doing laundry or what they’ll eat for dinner. I am not an expert in Korean dating behaviors, but it is an interesting process to observe. You can only order 2 sizes of coffee here. Small or regular and both are smaller than the U.S. equivalent of a tall and a grande, but more expensive per ounce and I am silently grateful that this country doesn’t contribute to …