Jul 28, 2009

Japan Itinerary

Just FYI until we come back and can give you a full run down!
July 29th
3:30 am - Take the bus from Gwangju to Incheon Airport in Seoul
9:40 am - Depart Incheon
11:30 am - Land in Osakatake the train to Hotel VIlla Fontaine Shinsaibashi http://www.hvf.jp/eng/shinsaibashi.php
Explore Osaka
July 30th am. - Take the train to Kobe
Explore Kobe
pm. - Take the train to Kyoto
Kyoto Tokyu Hotel
July 31st
Take Viator Tour through Kyoto and Nara
See - Nijo Castle
Kinkakuji Temple
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Todaiji Temple
Deer Park
Kasuga Shrine
Kyoto Tokyu Hotel http://www.tokyuhotelsjapan.com/en/TH/TH_KYOTO/index.html
August 1st
Take the train to Hiroshima
Explore Hiroshima
Take the train to Osaka
Hotel Kinki http://hotelkinki.com/eng/
August 2nd Explore Osaka
5:10 - Leave Osaka
7:05 - Land
8:20 - Bus from Seoul to Gwangju
Midnight - Home

Jul 26, 2009


After a lazy Saturday we decided to pack it up and ditch the pup for yet another domestic excursion. This trip lands us in the capital city of Jeollabuk-do known as Jeonju. Famous for food and historic buildings, we thought it would be a nice place to check out some of the traditional homes that are hard to come by in Gwangju amidst the imposing skyscraper apartment army that looms over the city. Surrounded by rolling hills and the usual beautiful countryside of South Korea, we found Jeonju's traditional homes to be gorgeous. And I don't use that word lightly (unless we're talkin Ferarri's and Aston Martins...and Nicole!). The style and graceful nature of a traditional Asian home trumps anything I've seen in the states. The historical sights that housed some of the memorial temples were fantastic and ultra peaceful spots that Nicole and I both agreed would be very sweet cribs (had we been alive a few hundred years ago......and Asian).

The trip wasn't all peaches and cream though. I managed to lose our uber-cool nikon coolpix camera in a taxi when we first arrived so the pix you see in the video are from the phone. We did grab a new Samsung VLUU L201 camera when we got back into Gwangju that's actually not even available in the states yet for a really good price so in the end, not as devastating.

For dinner because we are fat bastards, we went to TGI Fridays at the bus station. We thought a salad sounded kinda nice and..... not snot producing spicy. I think the highlight of that event had to be the waitresses in bunny ears and funky animal hats for no apparent reason as entertainment for the guests. Here's ours ;)

3 days till Japan yall! Hope you all have a fantastic week!!!

Jul 24, 2009

Dumpster Diving at its Finest

One man's trash is another man's treasure, especially here in Korea. Our small two bedroom apartment came with very little furniture when we moved in...basically a bed and a wardrobe. So, we often keep our eyes open for special finds on the side of the road. We ended up splurging on an $80.00 green futon.

We thought it was a great splurge, just in case anyone comes to visit and needs a place to sleep. Plus,we needed something to sit on to watch Korean tube.
When I was home for the wedding, Adam walked up the hill behind our house and found the most ornate desk. It has beautiful carvings in the doors.

I guess I should explain "behind our house." Up the hill, behind our house are I think three buildings of the typical high rise Korean apartment buildings. At the bottom is a huge area where they sort their trash for recycling. Plastics, Styrofoam, Cardboard etc. There is a special spot for furniture, so a few times a week, on our way home from work, we ride our bikes past there looking for goodies.

This is our "endtable"
The other night, it was a fabulous night, NO RAIN, we took Olive for a walk and then to Baskin Robbins for some mint chocolate chip heaven. We went by the treasure area and found a great sight, someone, it must have been someone older, had moved out, or had a decorator come.

There was tons of furniture. We decided to haul back a painting, an arm chair made out of football material which we have covered with some cotton material and a gorgeous tv armoire. The armoire has a secret compartment that we can't quite figure out how to open. The TV actually didn't even fit, we had to take the set apart with a butter knife makeshift screw driver and put the tv back together once we had it inside of the armoire.

Our house is now fully furnished. It is perfect for entertaining and we love it. We talked about it last night and realized that we can make our home anywhere, with any budget.
Enjoy and come visit soon!

all you need is love....dogs and coffee, some scandelous shoes at Burger King and soccer.

Happy Friday to all and everyone who has the distinct honor of reading this blog today!!! You should feel really good about this.....or not. Let me start off by apologizing for the gap in entries....i've really just been a lazy $hit about it and thats all I can tell ya.

There have certainly been some events the past few weeks and even some photos to prove it so i will begin. To begin we have been doing pretty well in our Korean language classes and I have even learned how to write a few things in Korean, including my name (which shocks the $hit outta the kids when i write it on the board for them at school). We have our third class tomorrow and a reading test so we've been studying and i've been asking my kids for help at school. Even though they think its funny to teach me how to say "see ya later" when I find out that it actually means something more like "piss off" so i have to be careful with them.

2 weeks ago after class we were downtown looking for a coffee spot which led us to a most interesting establishment. I don'tknow what it was called but we went into an upstairs coffee/pet store to relax and check out some fashionably amazing dogs and cats while we had a cup of joe. Nicole thought the place was amazing but theres just something about random smelly dogs from foreign countries sitting on my lap while I drink my coffee that just doesn't turn me on the way you might think. I did however take a few photos for your enjoyment.

After our romp with the animals we worked up an appetite for some good ole' american cuisine so we decided to check out the Burger King down the street to see how it compared to the states. Conveniently they have a "couples" combo that goes for about $10 bucks that includes 2 drinks, fries, nugget sticks, a whopper and chicken sandwich so we grabbed one of those and headed to the upstairs dining area to prove how American we really are and shove it all down our throats. While we were eating (which aside from the chicken sandwich tasted the same) we noticed a trend among the women walking down the street that was extremely common but certainly not something you see as much of back home. All the girls, and even older women are very touchy with one another....don't get excited, i'm really referring more to the fact that they hold hands all the time and have to have at least one hand on the other at all times....ok, its a little exciting. Anyways, we thought we would be creepy for a few and snap a few of these lovers for your viewing pleasure.

We just thought this chick at BK was just way too scandalous not to take a picture of.

Finally, we got to catch our first soccer match at the world cup stadium last weekend between the Gwangju Phoenix and Jeju island team. The stadium was used for the FIFA 2002 World Cup and was really pretty impressive. The stands were pretty empty but the fans that were there were very passionate and that was probably partially due to the 50 cent beer and free refills the stadium was offering ;) It was also ladies night so all the women got in free. i would have taken more shots but the battery decided to crap out early on me.

Nicole will be posting her take on our "dumpster diving" adventure very shortly so stay tuned and have a phenomenal weekend errrrrrbody!!!


Jul 5, 2009

Naked Ladies, definitely different than Naked Men

we just got back from the jinjilban (i think that is the right pronunciation) the sign on the wall said, "Official Korean Hot Spring." I know Adam made a post before, but after we talked about it, my experience in the women's bath was much different than his.

after paying 4800 won i went up to the 2nd floor. when you walk off the elevator there are little lockers to put your shoes in and then there is a matching large locker with your clothes further inside. i did not know truly what to expect after Adams experience. the minute I stepped into the main room, there were naked ladies. the room was large, they had a counter which sold trial size shampoos, scrubbies, soap, drinks and clothing. there was an area where women were putting on make up and doing their hair. i found my large locker, stripped down, sucked in my breath and walked out into the pathway to the baths. Inside the room with the baths were about sixty women or so, of all ages, and all sizes. There were 6 baths, three saunas, an area where a larger woman with underroos on was giving massages, and a huge area with showers and stools w/ faucets.
I tried the regular bath first. It was at a temperature of 42 Celsius. I sat in it awhile and then like the other ladies, decided to just put my feet in a sit on the ledge. They handed me a cup with ice and sweetened tea. After awhile I moved to the 40 degree bath which was much shallower. here you can lay down if you would like and put your head on the ledge. I was sweating at this point and didn't lay all the way down, but did stay in for about 15 minutes. Then I ventured to the black tea bath. There are actual large canvas bags with the tea leaves inside floating within the tub. Each of the tubs has a fountain in the center and a faucet pouring in fresh water. The tubs are the size of a huge hot tub. After this bath I attempted to go into the cold water bath, but it was way too cold for me, so I followed the Koreans and poured a bucket quickly over me. I next went into the green tea bath which was also very warm, but smelled good. It was here that I remained until I was ready to go.
When I first arrived I found myself staring at everyone, watching what they all did. For such shy people I was amazed at how they all just sat there stark naked and chatted with each other. When the bathing was over, the women sat on the stools and scrubbed each other down with all sorts of bath salts and soaps. Younger women bathed the old and mothers bathed their children. They all wrapped their hair up in towels and brought these ribbed cushions with them to sit on. Many of the women had bruises on their bottoms. I am not sure if it was from riding a bike. Some of them had large oval shaped bruises up and down their sides. I know they give suction cup massages there, but I can't imagine that would be on their sides. The women come in all shapes, just like in America. I wouldn't say they were all skinny, or all muscular, or all chunky. It was a bit eye opening to me because here I am thinking that none of the women here are shapely, and I guess I was just not looking. Most of the women do not have any muscle mass, regardless of their size and the one or two that did, truly stuck out. Although the women scrub every orfice of their body until it is red and blotchy clean, they do not shave their underarms or anywhere else.
I hate to use the word liberating because that isn't quite how it felt. It was more at peace with who and what we are. I guess it is something to the effect of we are all just humans. I could not tell who was rich or poor, or who was old and who was young. (except for the really old ladies and the young children) There was no judgement in the bath house. I did notice a few staring at first at me, but I think it was more just to see how I was different from them, just as I did to them.
After the baths, I went over to the shower area and although I did not bring shampoo or soap with me, I stood in the cool water for quite awhile. It felt fantastic. I did not save one of my towels to dry off with so, I went back into the locker room area, but could not stand on the floor because I was dripping wet. As I stood there waiting for the worker to bring me a towel, I heard, "Hello, Nicole Teacher." Son-of-a.... yes, as embarrassed as I possibly could be in the states when seeing a student, nothing compared to standing there, stark naked, dripping wet, waiting for a towel and staring at a 13 year old student.

enough said. that was how my jinjilban experience ended.

We are now home and I am drained of all energy. I definitely will go back, often. My body feels refreshed, relaxed and exhausted. I'm off for a nap. Sorry there are no pictures.

Muduengson Mountain, how hard can it be?

so, yesterday we attempted for the fourth time to take the right bus to Muduengson Mountain. The 50 took us there in under fifteen minutes. At the base of the mountain is a parking lot, bathrooms and a few camping stores. We arrived a little before one in the afternoon and many of the Koreans were finishing their trek. I wore jean shorts, a tank top and hiking shoes (at least I owned those). Adam had on gym shorts, a tshirt, our tiny backpack and sneakers. We packed some almonds, two water bottles, two protein bars and some plums. Coming from Florida, neither of us had climbed a mountain before. Really, truly, in our minds, we had no idea that climbing a mountain, meant CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN.

I have really been busting my butt at the gym the last two weeks and I was able to tell a difference in our upward climb, at first. The beginning of the climb is a paved road with lots of little stores on the side, ajummas selling veggies and popcicle vendors. I had a popsicle and we bowed our heads and "annya haseyo" ed all the Koreans.

After the initial uphill road climb, the signs pointed up and to the right and we saw ahead of us some stairs, brush and a not well marked path, but the Korean's pointed for us to go up that way, and they are all very honest people, so up we went, and this was the beginning of well, the hardest workout/ mental "yes you can do it, keep going, you can't go back" three hours of my life. After the stairs, there became nothing but crag like rock paths. Once in awhile we came upon some wooden stairs, I guess the crags may have washed away, but the majority of the climb was anywhere from 4 inch high to 2 feet high steps up a pretty steep path. At one point, I had Adam sing the song from Rocky, then I heard this buzzing and it kept getting louder, I yelled at him to shut up because he couldn't hear my whisper and we looked above us, there was a swarm of some insect. Lets just say running up 18 inch crags screaming high pitched girly sounds...us Meegooks really stood out from the locals. After climbing for about an hour, we ran into a family. The father was carrying the little girl in a backpack up the mountain and the other little girl was climbing herself, she must have been 4. Adam had already ran ahead (he swore that running up it is easier, whereas I had to will my legs to lift each time). So, the little girl and I climbed the last bit together and we were all rewarded with the most beautiful sound. A man yelling, ICE KEE! (ice cream, korean style) So, yes we each downed another melon pop. But, we had hit the first ridge. I have no idea how high we were, but the view was magical. We were definitely not at the top, but we were able to see so far. The greenery on the other mountains in the near distance, you were able to see Gwangju nestled in between the hills.

Adam and I decided to keep going. I couldn't comprehend why we would only climb halfway, even though we were soaked in sweat and our bodies were crying. So, up the mountain we went. Three different stops along this trail allowed us to scoop water out of a mountain stream to refill our water bottles. Koreans stopped us twice to feed us, tomatoes, peaches and powerade. I guess we looked like we weren't going to make it. We did not see much wildlife except for the buzzing mosquito like things above us a few times.

When the locals climb the mountain I think they take all day, literally. Decked out in their gear, which I now wish we had, they stop every few thousand feet for a rest, snack and to stretch.

Anyway, up the last stretch we go and come out into a clearing. It was a huge area that we thought was the top of the mountain, until we saw people still climbing up. After much deliberation, because at this point, we were both dead tired, we decided that it didn't look that far and "other people were doing it." So on we went for the last time. We ended up at the top of the mountain. There are huge rectangular rocks at the top of the mountain made out of volcanic lava. All of the small rocks on this part of the mountain are a rainbow of colors, purples, blues and magenta's. I would imagine that this too was from the lava from the meso something time period.

The view from the top was unexplainable. You will have to check out the video we took from the top so you can see for yourself. The video does not pick up the full effect, but you will get the idea.

It is said that Mt. Muduengson looks over the city of Gwangju like a proud grandfather. The mountain is famous for its tea grown here and the mountain grown watermelon that used to be a favorite gift for royalty.

Just as we understood the full effect of being at the summit of a mountain, I think the gods were laughing at us and it began to rain. Actually, it began to pour cats and dogs.

What else do you do, when you are at the top of a mountain in the pouring rain, without rain gear or a tent, you climb down.

When we got down to the first clearing, we thought the map said to go to the right to get down the mountain. This was not true, we ended up at the end of the road, but we had a spectacular view which offered some great pictures. We did pass two korean men in the ditch on the side of the road with their shirts off (which is unheard of here in Korea). I swore they screamed, "Not Gay." Anyway, at this point we decided to go back the way we came, in the pouring rain, with no rain gear. We were SOAKED. I slipped four times and fell on my rear, Adam kept slipping but somehow always ended up on his feet, even though he looked really funny saving his fall with one leg in the air. We couldn't really hear each other through the pelting rain, but every once in awhile one of us would yell out a mini screech. There were these HUGE frogs which were camouflaged into the ground, but when they jumped, we did see them. How gross if we missed one and stepped on it..ugh.

Anyway, when we got to the ridge and about to turn onto the path we took up, there was huge yellow tape that said, "no approaching." so we took a different path down the mountain. The rain finally stopped and we ran into a nice Korean couple who said they would walk with us down to the bus area. Well, we began our journey with them, stopped a few times for snacks, and eventually made it to the bottom. Little did we know, that it was not the same bottom we had started at. We were on the completely other side of the mountain.

The couple bought a bottle of rice wine they shared with us and we all got on a bus. They had invited us to dinner, but I think when they realized how wet we were and where we lived they let us go. We got off the bus and decided to take a taxi home. It was almost 8 pm. We were so tired, so wet, so cold and so hungry.

All in all, if you are thinking of coming to visit us, Mt.Muduengson is something we must do. So kick your butt into shape (I know I have too or else I will be the one looking like a fool).

Enjoy the pictures.

Jul 3, 2009

we got soul foo, not seoul!

So when we started the blog we were a bit stuck on what to call it, so the name "Seoul Survivors" seemed fun and cool since it encompassed anything and everything we knew about South Korea at the time which was one city, Seoul. However, in our brief experience in this fun-tastic land, Seoul has not played a part at all and so it only seemed fitting that we update the title of our blog to something a bit more suiting and so became "with eyes wide open." I don't think I need to break it down too much but it's been the theme from the second we hit the international terminal at SFO on our way over to Korea, open eyes and an equally open mind. With that said, we hope to open you up a little bit more everytime you read our entries ;)Here's the direct link to those of you who recieve email updates so you can view the blog outside of your email and see our new look....it is the coolest!


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