South Korea

Yeosu- What to See and Do

I have been living in Yeosu for two years now and I know I still haven’t experienced everything this city has to offer.  What I have found though is there is more to do here than some people would imagine.  While Yeosu is considered a small city in South Korea there are many people who live here and and so much to see and do, unless you are into clubbing that is.

So here are some things to check out in Yeosu.

Yeosu Expo

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The Yesou Expo is the site where the 2012 World Expo was held.  While I wasn’t here for that event the site remains and is one of the bigger tourist attractions in Yeosu.  The main even hall is mostly used for special events but you can go there to view different sculptures and sometimes performances that are held there.

One of the main events to see is the Big O Show.  As you can see in the picture there is a large ring in the water.  This is where they do a water and light display show that is quite pretty.

Yeosu Aquarium

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The Yeosu Expo area is also home to the Yeosu Aquarium.  There are many different sea life creatures to see there and while I wish some to the exhibits were larger especially for the Beluga whales it is a very nice aquarium.  There is even one exhibit with raccoons which I find funny because I’m from Iowa where raccoons are everywhere.  There are different shows that you can watch at the aquarium but one of the best is in the large tank before they feed the manta-rays and stingrays.  The performance involves swimmers who dive down into the water and dance to music.  There are also clowns that perform outside of the tank along with the swimmers.  They change the show every couple of months so you can see a different performance is you back for a second or even third visit later.

Odong-do

Odong-do is an island connected by a bridge to the main land and it is near the Yeosu Expo site.  It is a nice little island to see various plants and has an even better view of the ocean.  20150515_180742

There is also a nice open area where you can watch a water show that is timed to music.  It is small but it is a nice place to sit and rest your feet if you need a break. This island is a very relaxing place where you can just enjoy nature.  This is free to go to and if you like you can pay to take the trolley across the bridge if you don’t want to walk, though it really isn’t that far of a walk.  If you also want to take a boat tour around the island you can find these at the start of the bridge.

Mosagum Beach

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This is one of my favorite beaches in Yeosu.  It is just north of the black sand beach and is a great place to enjoy the sun with a group of friends.  I have spent many summer weekends on this beach with my friends.  We often will bring tents and camp over night here.  There are also pensions that you can stay at as well if camping isn’t something you enjoy.  The best times to go to this beach are in April and June.  While July may seem like the perfect time to go to the beach I wouldn’t recommend this beach in July because it gets very busy at this time of year.  If crowds don’t bother you then by all means go and enjoy the sun with all the locals.

Just keep in mind that you may get funny looks for wearing a bikini or not wearing a shirt with your swim trunks.  Koreans are very concerned about the sun and tend to swim fully clothed, so don’t be surprised if you see them jump in with shirts and leggings.  Over the 2 years I’ve enjoyed beaches in Korea I’ve noticed some popular themes.  There is always someone getting buried in the sand or someone getting tossed into the water by four other people.

Lee Sun Shin Plaza

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This area is a popular area in Yeosu and just a bit south west of the Yeosu Expo.  It is one of the main shopping areas as well as home to a traditional fish market.  That is not all that resides in this area though.  There is a historic site, a museum and even a replica of one of the famous turtle ships.  Once a year the turtle ship festival is held here as well  so if you find yourself here during that festival enjoy the food, music, and performances!

Lee Sun Shin was a famous navy commander in Korea who had many victories against the Japanese during the Joseon Dynasty.  He is very famous in Yeosu.  Up the hill from this statue of the great navy commander you can find one of the remaining sites that were used by the commander during the war.

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If you look towards the water from the statue of Lee Sun Shin you will see a replica of one of the famous turtle ships.  You can even walk inside and look around.  It is free to go in and you can learn more about the ship and the different jobs performed on the ship.  From the ship you also have a good view of Dolsan bridge which connects Dolsan island to Yeosu.   You can also see the cable cars as well.  I have yet to go on the cable cars but they take you from the island to the mountain near Odong-do.20150515_173731

One of the museums in this area is the Hamel Museum.  This is a very interesting museum to check out while you’re in the area.  In this museum you will learn about the explorer named Hamel who became stranded and enslaved by the Koreans.  He managed to escape and return to his homeland.  He is known here because while traveling home he wrote of his experience in Korea and was the first to bring back written documentation of Korea to western countries who up until he had done this little was known about Korea.  It doesn’t take long to go through everything in this museum but it is defiantly interesting to learn about his life and experience.

There is so much to do in Yeosu if you only know where to look.  Even after living in Yeosu there is still more that I have yet to do.  I have one year left and I want to do it all before I leave.  Cable cars here I come!

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South Korea

My First 10 Days in Korea

First Look

Getting to South Korea from Iowa is not a small matter.  It took me three flights to get to the Incheon Airport and from there a four hour bus and a very long taxi ride to the hotel where my orientation would take place.

Being at orientation was like putting training wheels on or dipping your toe into the water to test the temperature.  In between teaching seminars to prepare myself and the other future English teachers for our new jobs we were taken on cultural experiences to learn more about the country and culture we were going to be living in.  It was a great way to be introduced to a new country which I at the time knew very little about.

Korean Music, Performing Arts, and a Wedding

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Traditional Korean Drum Lesson

We got to take a traditional Korean drum lesson at one of the places they took us to during orientation.  It is a two sided drum that sits on the floor in front of you.  Many traditional instruments are played while sitting on the floor.  When playing this type of drum only one hand has a drum stick.  The patterns to play on this drum were tricky at first but the more we practiced the easier it got.

After the drum lesson we watched a Pansori performance which is traditional Korean theater.  This type of theater is very different from anything I’m used to and not just because it’s all in a different language.  The style was very unique with both the singing and the dancing.  The dancing was very slow and in the Korean style clothing there was more focus on arm movements.  It was very simple and because of this you know that they performer put a lot of work into making sure each small movement was timed to perfection.  While this is not my favorite type of performance I still enjoyed the experience.

On a different day we got to try on traditional clothing and even learn about a traditional Korean wedding.  The traditional dress for woman was made of two main garments.  The first being a dress that wraps around your chest.  It is a bell shaped dress with little need for tailoring so size was not an issue for anyone.  Over the dress was a small crop jacket.  The jacket was usually in a contrasting color and some of them had beautiful embroidery.

One of the married couples in my orientation group were chosen to help demonstrate a traditional Korean wedding.  The clothing for the wedding was beautiful and colorful.  The bride wears a special hat and little red circles on her cheeks.  The hair is also styled with a special hair pin with ribbons draped over the pin.  She also carries a shawl that covers her arms.  The groom wears blue robes and an embroidered belt.

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The ceremony has many different steps that are performed in order and  I could easily see it taking all day.  While they still do some of the traditional weddings now days, Korea has westernized their wedding ceremonies.  Many times they will have two ceremonies, a western style wedding for friends and a Korean style wedding for close family.

The traditional wedding starts with formal bows performed by the bride and the groom.  The bride has to do three formal bows while the man only has to do two.  Some parts of the wedding ceremony I found to be quite funny.  One part of the ceremony has a friend of the groom hit the grooms feet with a stick, then the groom has to give the bride a piggy-back-ride around the room to prove that he is strong enough to take care of the bride.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

Bamboo and Baseball

One of the trips they took us on was to a bamboo forest.  It was nice to finally get out and see nature after being stuck in the hotel for a week.  I had never seen that much bamboo in once place before.  My only experience with bamboo before this was the small bamboo plant I had in college named Effie.  I had it all four years before it finally died.  What can I say, I’m terrible with plants.  11162342_10155427324745333_7986019864381894279_n

It was amazing to see how tall the bamboo grows and the path that you walked through in the bamboo forest was beautiful.  They even had bamboo ice cream that you could try.  It was pretty good, it has a nice fresh taste to it that reminds me a bit of green tea.

While baseball isn’t an interest of mine it was really cool to go and see one in South Korea.   Going to a base ball game in Korea is similar to a game in the US I would imagine.  The game itself is played exactly the same but the cheerleaders in the stands were something that I was not expecting to see.  It was fun to go with the new friends I had made in orientation and I really had a good time talking with them.  To be honest I talked to my friends more than I watched the game.  I have never been a fan of baseball.  Had we gone to a soccer game I would have been way more interested.

노리방 (Singing Room)

One of our free nights lead us to a 노리방 or singing room.  It’s a private room for you and your friends to go and sing karaoke in.  It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.  What I think is best about these singing rooms is that you don’t have to sing in front of strangers.  It’s just you and your friends.  The staff will also bring you drinks and snacks while you’re there.IMG_5829

And so continues Danni’s Travels.

South Korea

My South Korean Apartment

Apartments

Apartments in Korea are not too different from apartments in the USA but there are a few things that can throw you for a loop.  The apartment that I live in is a classic studio apartment with a separate bathroom and entry way.

The Entry Way

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The entry way to my apartment like most Korean apartments have an area where you can take off your shoes.  Apartments aren’t the only places that have this area in the entry way, many traditional Korean restaurants, schools and hotels have this as well.  Most apartments will also have a cupboard where you can store your shoes in this entry way too.  It is very common to wear indoor shoes or slippers while at school for teachers and students.

The Bathroom

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Everyone in the USA knows that a typical bathroom is a sink, toilet and shower all separate and with their own space.  However in many small Korean Apartments the shower is a shower head attached to you sink and a drain on the floor.  For me its held up in between my sink and toilet so whenever I take a shower my entire bathroom gets wet.  In some apartments you can hand up a shower curtain to block out some of the water from getting everything wet, but not in mine.  This took some adjusting to when I first arrived in Korea.  Many people will also wear shower shoe in their bathroom even when the floor isn’t wet from the last shower you took.  I have grown to like my little bathroom regardless of the incredibly we floors after a shower, but if I could change anything at all it would be how cold this room gets in the winter.

The Main Room

(*Quick note: I didn’t have a bed my first week in Korea as the school had just ordered it and it hadn’t arrived yet.)

This is the room that is just like any studio apartment you will see anywhere.  I actually lucked out a lot by having the corner apartment because it means that I have an extra window.  I get a lot of fresh air coming in which makes for a great spring, summer and fall.  Most Korean Apartment will have a wall air conditioner that I try to avoid using as much as I can because I prefer to keep my windows open.  The heating unit in South Korea is a big change from the central heating most people back home are used to.  In South Korea the main heating is the Ondol, or floor heating.  It can take nearly an hour to heat your apartment on cold winter nights and I know many of my friends prefer to get heat lamps or lizard lamps.  The lamps are cheaper to run than the Ondol and they do keep you quite warm.  Many people will also get heated blankets or mats to keep them warm instead of turning on the Ondol.

The Kitchen

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The thing I miss the  most about having in my kitchen is an oven and dish washer.  A lot of the food I know how to cook needs to be done in an oven and while I have a small toaster oven, it’s not exactly big enough for a casserole.  I also do miss the convenience of a dish washer but I manage well enough without having one.  My kitchen is tiny compared to most kitchens you would see back home, unless you live in a tiny New York apartment.

My kitchen is also my laundry room.  The washing machine is across from the sink next to the refrigerator and I usually have my freshly washed clothes hanging up on the pole.