Saturday, November 29, 2014

Adventure Time: Part 2

It's time for more Korean adventures! A little overdue, but late is better than never, right?

Cat Café!

Surveying its cat kingdom
"Oh I'm sorry, were you
planning to sit in this chair?"
 Yes, there are things called cat (and sometimes dog) cafés all over Korea. You buy a drink as an entrance fee and literally sit and pet cats for as long as you want. It’s a cat lovers’ dream. The felines are scattered all over the café—on the tables and chairs, on the counter where the baristas prepare drinks (not sure how sanitary that is, but oh well), and in wooden cubes set up in the middle of the room. In the café that I went to in Daegu, I counted around 25 cats and kittens, and almost all of them were deep asleep. What’s amazing is that they’re so used to being pet by random strangers that they didn't even bat an eyelash (or twitch an ear)
at my touch.

Better not disturb the cat while
you're paying!
The most regal cat pose I've seen
Amazingly comfortable around
so many strangers

The English Café/Bookstore

A welcome sight for English bookworms
Western products! :D
One of the first places I was shown when I arrived in Daegu was the charming Buy the Book Café. Located in the heart of downtown, this inconspicuous little store was started by a previous ESL teacher who decided to make a life for herself in Korea. It's filled with English books, mostly used but still in good condition. There are comfy couches and chairs scattered around with plenty of Western board games perfect for a rainy day. It offers Western food (even hummus and chili cheese fries!) and has bookshelves filled with Western productsbut beware of the prices! One stick of deodorant (uncommon in Korea because Koreans don't sweat or smell as much as Westerners) and a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix were each $10!!

Jinju Lantern Festival

     As part of a weekend travel group in early October, I went to

     the huge annual lantern festival in Jinju, Korea. It completely

      changed my conception of what a lantern could be. Most of

    the lanterns there were larger than life and came in all shapes,

         colors, and designsthough a good proportion of them  

       were dedicated to lovers (more on that later). There were 

      dozens floating on the Namgang River and hundreds more
      scattered around the park on either side. What's great is that  

      they weren't roped off, either—you could get as close as you 

      wanted for the ultimate selfies. Seeing all the lanterns light 

                   up at night is an experience I won't forget.



Who knew Korea had its very own German village? Turns out it was built in the 1960s for Koreans returning from their life in Germany. Located near Namhae Beach, this little town is made up of picturesque German-style houses and was the host of Korea's annual, foreigner-filled Oktoberfest celebration. The main attraction for most people was probably the overpriced beer, but there was also a large stage, lots of loud Western music, and a small museum commemorating the existence of the German village. (Too bad I couldn’t understand any of it.)

I like how they consider a cellphone
from 2000 an antique worth display.

Jinju Bullfighting

I had been warned beforehand that I might be disappointed by the Korean version of bullfighting... I had envisioned a man with a red cape shouting "Toro!" in true Spanish style. Instead I got over 2 hours of two bulls butting heads until one backed down, in addition to constant chattering by a far-too-energetic announcer, blasting music, and having to shift seats every 10 minutes so I wouldn't bake in the sun. Prooobably not something I would do again.

Busan Firework Festival 

I’m not entirely sure what the occasion was for this festival, but Busan (on the southwest coast of Korea) is known for its impressive fireworks every October. Unfortunately, from my viewing position on the much less crowded (and cheaper) side of the popular Haeundae Beach, most of the fireworks were hidden behind some annoyingly tall buildings. Still, what I did see seemed nice enough.

Kudos to my friend who climbed a mountain to get the best view and then let me use his picture.

Cycling, My New Favorite Hobby

First of all, no, I do not own a bike. However, my city is awesome because it offers completely free bike rentals from several of its subway stations, with the only conditions being you have to return the bike by 10pm and you may have to give up your ID in exchange. I’ve gone on many cycling adventures with these clunky old mountain bikes, starting in the city (the bike paths are built onto the sidewalks so you have to do a lot of pedestrian-dodging) and winding up in the middle of the beautiful Korean countryside. I’m fairly sure that one of the paths I’ve frequented stretches all the way from Busan to Seoul, if you have a few days to spare. One day….

A perfect day for biking!
You can find several of these nifty
bike shelters along the main path.


These hundreds of bowing blue men
inside the ARC are supposed to
 symbolize human solidarity.
It seems there's never an end to the wonders waiting to be discovered in my city. This time it was the ARC (Architecture of River Culture and Artistry of River Culture), a giant whale-shaped structure by the Geumho River. It looks more impressive from a distance, but it's still interesting to look at up close. I've been told it looks even better when it's lit up at night. Inside there's a small museum, a photography section, and a circular projection screen. On the roof is a café and a viewing area that offers a nice panorama of the surrounding river.

Daegu Arboretum   

My favorite smiling cactus
It took me forever to be able to say this word right, but the “arboretum” in Daegu is the equivalent of a botanical garden. It’s filled with trees and plants and peaceful pathways, and is just a nice place to observe nature and stroll around, especially in the fall. The neatest part was the greenhouse dedicated entirely to
cacti. I had no idea cacti came
in so many shapes and sizes, and 
I’ll admit it was more than a little
tempting to reach out and see just
how spiky they really were.

More adventures coming soon!


Victoria said...

Yay! These sound fabulous! (Though you haven't texted me about half of them – making me wait on your blog posts with the rest of the peasants . . . tsk.)

Victoria said...

Well, okay, maybe half (or more), but definitely not the last two! I'm mostly sore about the arboretum . . . it sounds awesome and I want a bonsai tree so badly!!

Victoria said...

Of course, I'd probably kill it. :(

Lisa said...

I miss all of the cool events in Korea! (There are probably some here too, I just don't know about them, ha) I did not get to do any of the things you mentioned! I really wanted to go to a dog cafe and ride bikes at Hangang but never ended up actually doing either. I always went to Hangang when the bike rental hours were over. :( I love that regal cat, haha. And the German village is so cool! I never knew that existed!