South Korea (2) – When it’s not Rainy in Daegu

When it stops raining, Daegu becomes quite charming. You can finally leave your hotel room and venture towards the mountains that surround the city and shelter many traditional temples.

One of the must-sees in Daegu is the Bullo Dong Ancient Tomb Park, in the northern part of the city, on the way to Mount Palgongsan. The park has about 200 traditional Korean tombs, dating from the 6th century and they are believed to be the tombs of those who ruled the area.

The bodies and items like pottery, iron weapons, gold ornaments were placed in stone crypts, then a large stone was placed on top, onto which dirt was piled, until they got their distinctive shape.

The site offers a nice and tranquil walk between the lush green ball-looking tombs and it’s also a perfect place for picnic.  I met a large Korean family who was having lunch and who generously offered me some potatoes :).

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After the tombs, Mount Palgongsan is a perfect place for some more serious hikes and temples watching. The mount has three peaks, Birobong and Dongbong which are the highest (1,155m) and Seobong. On the way up there are a number of Buddhist temples where you can stop anytime. I stopped at Donghwasa, which is one of the biggest and oldest, dating from the 9th century

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The hike to Dongbong which I took was lovely and not too difficult but it was very misty and raining by the time I reached the peak so I couldn’t see the view from the top (which I read that it’s a very picturesque one).

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I managed to get home in time, before the rain started again.

And on my way home I experienced a big dose of Korean hospitality: I was offered a delicious peach by an old lady who was selling them close to the trails, then a nice couple offered me a ride to the bus station and finally, an old lady in the bus gave me her coat as she saw me shivering from the freezing AC.

I accepted all three of them. I was very happy to meet such nice and warm people.

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South Korea (1) – Rainy Days in Daegu

It’s the third day since we’ve been in Daegu and it’s been raining almost constantly, making it impossible to do any activities.

Not that Daegu has much to offer anyway. Apart from some hikes in the mountains that are close by but unreachable under the pouring rain, Daegu is the the city where nothing really happens. There are a couple of temples (but out of the city), some small museums whose explanations are only in Korean, some parks and a lot of restaurants, pubs and cafes. There’s even a street that’s called “Cafe Street” where coffee shops and Western-style restaurants line up.

But I did discover a fascinating place for spending these rainy days: the markets.

Seomun Market is one of them. One of Korea’s three largest markets, Seomun has been famous for its textile and sewn items (Daegu being known as the ‘Textile City” , though in the past years the textile industry shrank). But actually I’ve been more fascinated with the food you can find here.

The food stalls crammed in the narrow alleys display anything from seeds and colorful fruit and vegetables , delicious mochi sweets to more heavy things such as pork intestines or cooked silk worms (Beondegil).IMG_20140806_142112IMG_20140806_150418IMG_20140806_150509IMG_20140806_144929

The mochi sweets have various color in Korea, unlike Japan where they are usually white, brown or green. While also filled with red bean pasta, they are sweeter than in Japan and less soft.

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The cooked silk worms are a really popular snack in Korea (they are high in protein and low in fat :)). You can find them even at convenience stores or buy them live and prepare them yourself. I consider myself quite adventurous when it comes to trying new food but I admit that worms or other insects are a really big barrier. So far.

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But a delicious and safe thing is the ‘hotteok’ – a very popular street food. It is a deep-fried pancake filled with brown sugar, honey, cinnamon and nuts. It just tastes divine!

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We still have two more (and looong) days to spend in Daegu….with the rain and no attractions around I might be reconsidering trying the silk worms. At least it’s something exciting :).

Sayonara, Kyoto!

I still can’t believe that the time passed so quickly and that tomorrow is our last day in Kyoto.

I’ve been very nostalgic these past days, taking long walks and late-afternoon rides with my bike, trying to keep every detail in mind. It still feels strange to think that so soon we’ll no longer eat ramen and sushi, hear the chicken waking us up at 7 am, take the bike for every visit in the city or any hike, being greeted with the ubiquitous “Irashaimasse!” (Welcome!) whenever entering a store, a restaurant, a bar.

So, dear Kyoto I write this to you to say that I’ll miss every part of you and every single day spent here, but mostly I’ll miss:

– your calmness and your 2,000 temples full of history and tradition

– your lush green hills and mountains, so close to the city and with some of the most lovely hikes 

– go running in the evening by the river banks and take a glimpse of the beautiful geishas, sitting graciously in the fancy restaurants that line the river

– being surprised at the sight of the deers that would sometimes appear in the evening in the middle of the river

– riding my bike home from an evening in the city and having to stop suddenly to let a snake cross the narrow path along the river

– the hundreds of public workers that just stand near the crossroads or construction sites to show you the way, with a deep bow

– the ceaseless afflux of traditional greetings that you hear when entering every store or restaurant

– your always on-time buses and their drivers wearing white gloves

– your quiet streets and quiet people; I’ve never heard any car honks or people quarelling or shouting to each other. Never.

– the beautiful Japanese girls, stunning and elegant sometimes, cute and childish at times,  loud and colorful some other times, always wearing  their high heels proudly

– the arts and crafts stores where you can spend your entire day

– the beautiful and elegant kimono’s and yukata’s that color every corner of the street

– exploring your narrow, quiet stone streets with Minty ( my bike:))

– savouring your delicious sweets, bizarre at first but so good after you get used to the red beans taste, matcha or mochi texture

– admiring your stunning crafts and beautiful patterns  in any form (from pottery, to paper objects and delicate artifacts such as fans, textures, or adorable chopsticks rest).

Until we meet again, I take a deep bow and I whisper ‘Sayonara, Kyoto’.