Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jeju, Korea Part II: One Last Korean Adventure

I dragged myself out of my soft, cool bed and into the shower. Sunscreen was applied, maps were consulted, shoes were tied, then we re-entered the humid world of Jeju Island. On that particular  morning, the target was Seongsan Ilchubong, which is part of the exclusive "UNESCO Triple Crown," group of sites, and is considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World. At least this is what they claim with enormously large writing at the entrance, but I haven't been able to verify this since. Judging from how impressive it was, I'm going to guess they were telling the truth. What exactly is it? According to the Korean Tourism website, it a large rock structure, resembling a natural castle of sorts, that was formed during a volcanic eruption approximately 100,000 years ago. There's a natural crater on top of this formation that's about 600 metres deep and 90 metres high. The views are spectacular from the top, so that's where we were headed. Firstly, I'd love to show you a bird's eye view of this immense, authoritative, behemoth of a rock. By the way, if you're looking for the intense scientific lingo in relation to this, then it's more specifically referred to as an "archetypal tuff cone" which was formed by "hydrovolcanic eruptions." You can nod your head with interest, but let's be honest, you've never heard of an archetypal tuff cone before in your life. Don't worry, I haven't either, but I've apparently seen one.

The sweltering heat was discouraging, but we were poised to get to the top of this and look down upon the greenest crater we've ever seen. Quite honestly, it wasn't a particularly gruesome trek at all, and we were nearly up to the top in about half an hour. It must have been the determined photo we took just before our departure.

Inevitably, we reached the summit of Ilchubong, and the views were remarkable. Slurping out of the ice cold water bottles also didn't hurt the cause. Quite bluntly, I'd never seen anything like this before in my life, and these feelings are what keep you committed to the cause of travelling. One day when one of my friends becomes a geographer, then I can tell him or her that I've been to the summit of one hell of an archetypal tuff cone in South Korea.

After descending, we grabbed a cab to the ferry terminal where we took a short boat ride over to Udo Island, which literally translates to "Cow Island." This is due to the fact that the island apparently looks like a cow lying down when viewed in full. The following picture is from our approach. I want you to guess how this island formed. Hint, it rhymes with "molcano." 

If you guessed "volcano," then you're absolutely right. It is, in fact, a lava plateau.  For one reason or another, the picture above seems a little blurry to me, but let's just attribute that to the fact that your judgement was momentarily cloudy while you were consummating the answer to my previous question. I recognize how wildly corny and cheesy that last sentence was, but that's the kind of cheese that has made this blog (moderately) successful. As I was saying, we arrived on this lush lava plateau, the proceeded to rent a "premium" bicycle from a rental shop (Koreans are very fond of the word "premium" to mean the absolute best). I've always ridden sluggish mountain bikes in the past, but the bikes we rented were aerodynamic angels. 

We used them to scoot around the island and take in the sights and smells. On our few hours on the island, we stopped for a swim on Korea's only white coral beach, then moved our way up the east coast to find some of our own hidden gems. I feel like we did a fairly good job, plus it's always a pleasure to aimlessly explore. 

Cow Island, indeed.

On our way home, we crossed paths with a very pleasant couple, Jim and Sile, from the US and Ireland respectively. It quickly became apparent that we were both heading back to the Seogwipo area, as they were CouchSurfing near there. We'll be doing a fair bit of CouchSurfing on our trip through Southeast Asia, and it's truly a fantastic community. Anyway, a great chat led to dinner, and dinner led to drinks. Before we knew it, there were a parade of people, beverages in hand, in front of our hostel on the picnic benches. Jim and Sile brought out Dan and Amy (another lovely couple who was hosting them for the night via CouchSurfing) who brought their friend Mars out. There was also a wonderful array of people who were actually staying at the hostel with us, including Lydnsay and Warren. The reason I'm going into such depth with the network of people is to adequately explain how we ended up with a free car on Jeju during our stay. Yes, you read that absolutely correctly. After a fantastic night by the water with a few drinks, Mars was kind enough to offer us her vehicle for the following two days as she'd be at work. It wasn't a drunken promise by any means, but merely a well-intentioned, kindhearted gesture. All she asked was that we "pay it forward" the next chance we could. This incredibly generous and moving offer changed the entire face of our trip, and I'll most certainly pay it forward the next chance I can. The following two photos provide a sum off the interaction almost perfectly.

Lydnsay leisurely strolled into our room the following morning and asked Warren (Warren and I were bunkmates, or "bunkies", as I so fondly referred to us), Bri, and I what we were planning for the day. We swiftly replied that we had a car, then asked if she'd like to join in on the action. Of course this made for an instant "yes", and right then and there we had just formed a sensational quad of people. Lyndsay hailed from the east coast of Canada, while Warren hailed from Ohio. They were (and continue to be) incredible people on their own, but the four us together had an unstoppable air about us. Bri put the car into first gear, I played the first track on my iPod, Lydsay unfolded the map, and Warren nodded his head in approval as we veered onto the street before us.

The open road. What a completely and utterly foreign concept on the mainland of Korea. The streets tend to be congested with cars, and the sidewalks tend to be congested with people. It was pleasant to roll down the windows and have the air surge through the car, although we didn't really have a choice considering the air conditioning was broken. Our first destination was the UNESCO World Heritage Manjanggul Lava Tubes. They are precisely what they sound like, but they happen to be particularly special in that they rank in the top 15 in the world in length (around 7,500 metres). Apparently, the caves were formed several hundred thousand years ago and are noted for their overall preservation. The highlight would be the lava column inside which happens to be the largest in the world. Not bad, huh? One of the personal highlights for me was the extraordinarily noticeable temperature shift. It felt miraculous to me that I could escape the plaguing Jeju heat and walk around these caves while gleefully shivering along. A joke was made several times that perhaps it would be a wise idea for Warren, Bri, Lyndsay and myself to never leave those delightfully cold confines. It would likely make for a popular story among the major Korean news networks.

Lava Flowlines
Lava Stalactites
Manjanggul's famed "Turtle Rock"

Reluctantly, we rejoined the rest of civilization and its horrid humidity. As it turned out, we were only headed a few hundred metres down the road to the hedge maze. Alas, it was a good opportunity to get some much needed sun, as some would have suggested I was looking rather albino prior to that. The hedge maze was created by a man from the States who had been living in Korea for quite some time. He was apparently a tourism professor who chose to make this his grand retirement project. I believe it's called the Kimyoung Maze, but don't quote me on that. It actually made for some clean, wholesome fun, and you can quote me on that. The four of us enjoyed childishly parading our way through it. Not to mention, the whole maze had a certain "Alice in Wonderland" appeal due to the well groomed, green bushes, and that's always a bonus in any scenario.

A sweat was discernibly broken during our walk so the next stop was logically towards the beach, and thus some sort of large body of water. We drove to a nearby beach, which happened to be fantastically beautiful, then spent the next few hours there lounging around without much aim at all. It was pretty much the best decision that could have been made. Eventually, we headed back to our hostel and indulged in a few of the aforementioned cheap beers at our hostel. The night spiralled into a wonderful affair that was capped off with a visit to the noraebang or karaoke room. Once we learned that Lyndsay had yet to go to one, then it was only a matter of time before poor North American voices would grace some nearby Korean microphones. As I mentioned before, I'll sincerely miss the noraebang. It was one of the better days, and late nights, that I'd spent in Korea, and it couldn't have happened among better people.

The following morning didn't quite have the early start that we'd planned. Wait, we never planned to have an early start, and that was the beauty of it all. When we were good and ready, we grabbed some delicious pizza from a place nearby called "Pizza Ran?" I can't really get enough of that name. I mean are they asking me if the pizza ran away? Or where the pizza ran? Or is it simply asking if pizzas can run in general? It's hard to know exactly what answer they're looking for with that peculiar question. We also had a new addition to our entourage in the form of a motorized scooter, thanks to Warren's determination to find one. And what a marvelous addition it was.

The Scooter - "How real gansters roll"

The expression on my face just says it all. This baby was a speed demon. Honestly though, Warren and I both took it for a spin on the highway cruising nearly 100 km/h. I'll put in a quick disclaimer here for my family (and perhaps Warrens) that it was entirely safe (I was wearing a helmet!) Anyway, there's no use worrying over it anymore, as we've both made it back in one piece. After our armada cruised around the island for a while, we ended up on a beach once again. We put on our swimming gear and headed for the beach, but we suddenly realized that no one was swimming. In fact, there were hundreds of people waiting right on the edge of the water. We quickly found out that the police had "discontinued" swimming for the day because of the typhoon! We were in absolute shock. At best, there was a mild wind, but the sun was shining in the sky. I swear it's because the general Korean populous are miserable swimmers. I kept on thinking what outrage there would be in Canada if anyone actually tried to enforce this. This was what we were faced with. I mean...really?

Who could swim in such monstrous conditions? It's not even one of those things that you can reconcile to a different country's policies. It simply didn't make sense to me, and still doesn't. So, with proud North American resilience, we wandered down the beach and found a suitable cove for ourselves that was covered from the police presence. Talk about breaking the law! We decided that if the whistles were blown (quite literally) on our little adventure that we'd have to have a little fun with the absurdity of it all. Warren politely took a picture of our planned action. To prove that they'd in fact been right about the dangers of the water we "played dead." This is the result that brings me to stitches every time I see it.

Eventually, a kind policeman did come over and ask us to get out of the water. We, of course, obeyed because it's not really worth fighting against steadfast Korean policy. In the end, we had our fun and cooled down, and that's all that matters. The rest of our time in Jeju was spent in great conversation, with an array of beers, watching peculiar Olympic sports, and generally appreciating our vacation. We gratefully returned the keys back to Mars, who I simply cannot thank enough for her trust and hospitality. I will certainly "pay it forward" when the time arises.

Well, it appears I've run out of time. Yes, I'm referring to this post and the fact that it's getting rather late, but more broadly I only have five days left here. Therefore, this will officially be my last post directly reliving a Korean excursion. Luckily, I managed to keep up with all of my blogging while I was here. Believe it or not, I've actually made about fourty posts since I started my blog back up in Korea. I couldn't be happier with how everything has turned out. Traffic really picked up, I was sent so many encouraging messages, and of course I became a World Korea Blogger, which has been an incredible experience. In fact, I'm looking to continue posting while I'm on the road in Southeast Asia, and maybe even in Canada if it feels right. Don't expect long, elaborate posts because there's plenty of exploring and wandering to be done in Southeast Asia. However, I'm sure I'll retell a few tales while I'm on the road. My next post will likely be from Vietnam, so until then, hold tight. If it takes a little longer than expected, then have patience. There is so much to be seen.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Comings and Goings

Have I mentioned that I'm leaving Korea? Hm, yes, you're right...I've mentioned it in just about every blog I've written for the past month. However, I haven't necessary stipulated how I feel about it, other than incessantly writing about my excitement for Southeast Asia. The truth is, there are a lot of things I'll miss about my life here in Korea. Although, Canada is my true home, so there are a number things that I've missed in Canada for an extended period of time now. I am officially leaving in one week for Hanoi, Vietnam, and thus the start of our fourteen week expedition across Southeast Asia. This trip will take us through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. At least that's the plan as it stands now. There's always a possibility for alteration, which is the most beautiful part of travel. This fourteen week chunk of time will likely be a great transition period where I'll consider what I'll miss about Korea, but also what I'm looking forward to when I get back to Canada. So, I decided to write a blog completely dedicated to those two considerations. I'm talking about the little things that quietly define a country.

What I'll Miss About the Pleasant Peninsula



1) There are no taxes on purchases. Well, at least they are included in the price, and substantially less imposing than in Canada. Will I miss that? You better believe it. The Canadian Government levys taxes at its citizens like it's their job. Wait...it is their job. Anyway, your $9.99 lunch in Canada quietely turns into a 12 dollar affair, but in Korea your 9,900 won lunch will remain the same. It's a glorious feeling to purchase something and not have to cringe at the cash register and wait for the taxes to be tagged on. So, that's obviously something I'll miss.

2) No tipping. These last two points may paint me as a frugal grinch of sorts, but that's far from the case, and my bank account can attest to that. However, I'm not a wild spender by any means either, and the lack of tipping provides that extra padding to my wallet. I suppose this is a little ironic because I was a bartender at university who survived off of tips, but in Korea it's a nice bonus not to have to tip. In Canada, someone takes all of thirty seconds to pour you a beer or mix you a drink and you're expected to tip a dollar. In Korea, someone takes a few minutes to make your drink, and you're not even sure if you'll have to pay for it let alone tip for it.

3) All your friends are employed. It turns out that almost all of your friends will also be English teachers, thus will also be earning an income. This tends to have quite an impact on your general social life. Everyone is willing and ready to spend a little extra money at the theme park, or enjoy a quality meal at a nice restaurant. Even further, everyone is usually up for going on a last minute trip, and can generally be convinced to hop on any activity if it sounds inticing enough. What's even funnier is that you basically make the same wages as well, so no one really can covet the excuse, "sorry, but I'm broke right now." Life is generally more exciting I'd have to say, especially considering Bri and I are always up for anything.


4) No last call. There are few things that I'll miss more about Korea than the lack of a last call. No one anxiously looks at their watch to see if they're nearing the impending last call around 2am. I've mentioned this before on my blog, but it does have a profound effect on the way that you plan your night. In Canada, the last call bell rings and you are forced to make a decision on whether you're going to sleep or possibly head to a friend's house. In Korea, you don't have to go home until you are ready to go home. Now, that being said, I'm not entirely sure I could handle this policy for more than few years, as eventually it would take quite a toll on me. However, I was just thinking about our coming home party and wondering, "What are we going to do after last call?" That problem doesn't exist in Korea, and it made it quite a ride.

5) The Noraebang. Also known as Karaoke for you folks back home. Sometimes, when the night is fading away and thoughts of sleep begin to enter your brain someone (usually me) yells, "noraebang!" That would be the definition of revitalizing a night, and ultimately ensures that it goes down in the books as a phenomenal night. Before you know it, you've got your own personal room and you're arm in arm singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," or perhaps Journey's classic song "Don't Stop Believing." I'm also a big fan of singing CCR's "Susie Q" and getting my classic rock swagger on, but when the mood is right you can find me raising the pitch of my voice, adding a little twang, and getting emotional to Neil Young's infamous "Heart of Gold."It would, of course, be blasphemous for me not to mention the song that Bri and I cherish the most as a duo - The Cranberries' classic song "Zombie."

Honourable Mentions (What else will I miss?)

- Cute Korean babies being baffled by the sight of a foreigner. The result is often prolongued eye contact, but the baby seems no surer of you even after said eye contact.
- When it's raining, you enter a store, and they have either an umbrella stand (from which no one will steal your umbrella) or those little "umbrella shaped plastic bags," thus nullifying the water you'd inexorably spread all over the store.
- Being able to get food at pretty much any hour of the night. Moreover, the 24 hour convenience stores who never stop selling anything that'd you'd want, including beer. This is a far cry from ultra regulated Ontario and the LCBO (the Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
- The students who made each and every day worth it, and provided me with enough souvenirs and mementos to last a life time.
- The convenient access to public bathrooms all across Korea, which generally are in good condition, although often don't have toilet paper and lack proper insulation and heating in the winter.
- Most importantly, I will miss the wonderful friends I've made here. This experience couldn't possibly have been the same without them, and for that I'm forever grateful.


What Beckons Me Back to the Great White North?


Probably the best looking flag around. (Source)

1) Tim Hortons. I'm fulfilling a number of stereotypes by adding this to my list, but it's the honest to god truth. Bri has described to me in detail about how she would like to indulge in a ham and cheese sandwich, substituting honey mustard for the ranch sauce. I, for one, think that's crazy, because the ranch dressing or "Tim Sauce" at Tim Hortons is indubitably the best sauce on the planet. Personally, I've got my eye on the everything bagel smeared with delectable herb and garlic cream cheese, a large regular coffee, and perhaps a banana nut muffin if I'm feeling especially wild. (While editing this, Bri rejoiced in the recollection of fruit explosion muffins. I'd have to say that I'm not particularly looking forward to those, as I'm not a fan of mysterious jellies, creams, or custards hidden within baked goods. Seriously.)

Less than 4 months. Then you're mine, everything bagel. (Source)

2) Driving. I miss my beloved 1991 Honda Civic, and I'm talking special edition! Speaking of special edition, its been a special addition to my life. I've been driving that sexy beast since I was 16 years old. My brother, Dave, drove it to Dalhousie University in Halifax a number of times, and I've taken her around Canada and the US quite a bit as well. The largest trip would have been the road trip down to Tennessee to attend Bonnaroo in 2011, a music festival of epic proportions. I revel in blasting music on the poor and distorted sound system around the streets of Toronto and Kingston. Plain and simple, it's my baby, and I can't wait to rev that miniscule engine once again. She is legendarily known only as "The White Bandit." (It sounds best when whispered.)

The White Bandit in all her glory.

3) Friends and family. Anyone who has met me, or known me for more than thirty seconds, will likely understand that I'm a sociable individual. I'm blessed with an incredible array of friends back home that I absolutely can't wait to get back to! It's a little bit of a conundrum though, as I'll ultimately have to leave the friends I've made in Korea to go and see my friends in Canada. Luckily, I've met a lot of great North Americans, so we can always reunite on that side of the planet. The moral of the story is that I'm one lucky fellow in terms of friends, and I never take that for granted. I remember when I came back from Norway and my close friends were hidden in my room when I stepped in the door with a beautiful 2-4 of Canadian beer. That's what it's all about. Most importantly, I can't wait to eat my mom's food, talk politics with my dad, and watch some sports with my brother. Friends and family are everything in life, and there's no way around that.

4) Canadian Beer. Every country I travel to reaffirms the fact that I've been spoiled by Canadian beer. However, I'm just going to have to say quickly that, unfortunately, the Czech Republic, Germany, and likely Belgium have a little more going for them, particularly in their fondness for 1 litre serving glasses, or steins. That being said, Canada has a lot of fantastic beer, and I could certainly use a nice, cold Alexander Keith's at this point. I've mentioned before that Korea has average beer, but thankfully, Canada does not. The price is a deterrent, but the taste and quality are by no means a deterrent. I'm excited to get my hands on a Sleeman's, Moosehead, Labatt's Blue, and a half dozen other Canadian classics. Let's be clear, I'm not looking to go home and be a beer behemoth. I'm legitimately just thinking about a great Canadian brew with some barbequed meats in the backyard, and perhaps a few friends.


5) Fresh air and open spaces. I suppose this would be most accurately summed up by saying that I dearly miss my cottage in the woods of the Canadian north. However, I really miss stepping outdoors and feeling invigorated by the air, as opposed to bogged down by it. This isn't particularly applicable to Toronto, also known as "the big smoke", but in the Canadian rural areas the air is as crisp as a cooler, and lightly scented with flowers (I possibly constructed the light scent of flowers in my idealistic imagination).  The bottom line is that I miss frolicking. In Korea, I feel like I'm constantly waddling through people and can't quite get anywhere as fast as I'd like to. It will be a joyous occasion to once again wander through forests, hike in solitude, and take deep breaths without worrying about how polluted the air is. Canada, my great white north, I cannot wait until you once again become my natural playground. Those chilled fresh water lakes are calling my name.

Honourable Mentions (What else am I looking forward to?)

- Having my own personal backyard, which is something that doesn't really exist in Korea except in rare circumstances. Honestly, I've found that "yard" and "lawn" are some of the hardest words to teach my Korean students because they simply can't understand the concept, seeing as they all live in apartments.
- Access to garbage cans and recycling bins will be a nice change. They simply don't have garbage bins anywhere! I've literally held on to empty bottles all day without finding a receptacle to put it in! Also, there's no focus on recycling in Korea, so it will be refreshing to once again be in an environment that respects the planet.
- Diversity. Plain and simple, Korea has to be one of the most homogenous countries on the planet. I can't wait to get back to one of the most multicultural cities on the planet! I especially can't wait for the plethora of cuisines that come hand in hand with Toronto and diversity.
- My cats, Smokey and the Bandit.

Well, that about sums it up, folks. I've had one of the best years of my life here in Korea, but I'm also overjoyed by the thought of landing at Pearson International Airport. I'll be home on December 12th, so mark it on your calenders if you're a Canadian. Let's see how long I can stay put this time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jeju Island Part I: Submarines and Sexy Themes

The busyness in my life has not subsided, but I'm slowly checking items off the vast list of things that must be accomplished before my departure to Southeast Asia. More accurately, Bri and I are working together as a duo with immense organizational prowess seeing as we are both former tour guides. Although, Bri could easily defend the argument that she's just a little more organized than I am. Funny enough, writing a blog on my trip to Jeju was on the list, so I'm feeling a little extra productive about my efforts today. I've given away the secret as to what I'll be chatting about in this post, but I promise it won't ruin the surprises to come. Not to mention that it wasn't really ever a secret, but more something to be revealed inevitably. So let's just cut to the chase, shall we? Bri and I sorted out our tickets, took a one hour flight on a miserably cramped Korean airplane, then arrived in a slightly hotter climate with minor knee problems. But if you think that airplane was a tight squeeze, then you should really take a trip on a submarine. Which is exactly what we did shortly after our arrival.

The Seogwipo Submarine actually has a little bit of history behind it. It was acquired from Finland in 1988, and became the first "tourist submarine" of its kind in Asia. In fact, it was the third of its kind in the world. I'd say it still looks pretty snazzy considering it's about 25 years old. It goes about 40 metres under water around Munseom, which is an area with plenty of coral and colourful schools of fish. It's not a trip that will change your life, but it certainly provides some quality entertainment for a little while. On a bright note, the staff there treated us like we were made of gold, which I can only deduce was because we were foreigners. No complaints here, but I feel as if some of the other passengers may have had some.

Do you know what has even more history than the Seogwipo Submarine? Jeju Island, but only by about 2 million years or so. What makes Jeju so astounding is that it was made almost entirely from volcanic eruptions, thus black rocks are strewn about the island giving it a more rustic and natural feel than the mainland. Mt. Hallasan would be the predominant feature of the island, which is in fact a dormant volcano and South Korea's highest peak. I think of Jeju as quite different from mainland Korea, which makes sense as they are technically an autonomous, self-governing province. There seemed to be less emphasis on appearances and superficiality on Jeju, and the people seemed generally more welcoming and real. On the bus ride into Jeju I wrote down that Jeju "reminded me of a handful of countries," but I wasn't sure if "Korea was one of them." I believe I still feel the same after my time there. I was constantly looking across blackened rocks and saying, "that reminds me of Northern Ireland," or looking out across an ocean and reminiscing on a past experience from Greece or Croatia.

Luckily, our hostel was nearby Seogwipo's harbour. We chose to stay in this area as opposed to the more bustling, and apparently more drab, capital of the island - Jeju City. I'm quite sure that it was a wise decision, as I really felt as if I was on vacation in quieter and breezier Seogwipo. Not to mention the harbour was unquestionably charming, as it was accented with the spectacular Saeyeon Bridge.

Shortly afterwards, we departed for our hostel which was called "Backpacker's Home." The name itself had an inviting twang to it, but the facilities were even more inviting. The interior was standard, clean, and modern, but the exterior was phenomenal. It included a full service bar with cheap beer, and there was a healthy dose of the Olympics always playing on their large screen television. Not to mention that every night there was an all-you-can-eat BBQ going on for a mere 10,000 won. Bri and I ended up indulging in some of that BBQ, and after I'd eaten all I could we wandered around Seogwipo's bar district and did a little exploring. We awoke nice and early the following morning to catch a glimpse of Jeju's famed "Love Land," which is a basically a tourist attraction created by Seoul's Hongik University students for the mass of Korean honeymooners who arrive. It's both daringly sexual, and perhaps instructional for some of the riskier honeymooners.

I'd heard some fairly fun tales about this place from Jason and Jen, and the rumours turned out to be precisely true. This is apparently a rather large tourist attraction in Jeju, and it was definitely memorable. The entrance sign, a large green penis, welcomes you right on in!

How does one recap one's journey through a perverse Korean love land? Well, I think I'll just share some general highlights. I should paint you a quick mental picture first. In the middle of the park is an enormously large phallic structure and all around you are explicit statues of all varieties. There are also a few pavilions to visit which are shaped like breasts, but I can assure you that they are nothing like the pavilions from the Yeosu World Expo (Part II). Actually, in the effort to save everyone some unnecessary awkwardness, general uncomfortableness, and perhaps even a small stroke, I'm merely going to post three blunt photos that will undoubtedly capture the "essence" of Jeju Love Land. Behold...

Well, there you have it. If you've asked yourself, "Wait, is that...???" Then the answer is most likely yes, but let's move on. I'm often an overly descriptive writer, but in this particular circumstance, you're simply on your own. We walked back to the bus stop, then departed for Jeju City in short order. After consuming a delectable melon flavoured popsicle called a Melona, which is the greatest thing known to man, we decided to inspect the Samseonghyeol Shrine. It featured a few pleasant buildings strewn upon a forested property. However, the selling point of this shrine was that this is where the holes from which the three demi-god brothers, Go, Yang, and Bu supposedly emerged to found Jeju. It is of course a legend, but I was interested to see what the "caves of the three clans looked like." Evidently, it looked like a large dimple in the earth with three holes in it, but I've always had a keen enough imagination to appreciate these sorts of things. As people, we believe some pretty perplexing things, so what makes this so bizarre after all?

A wonderfully short cab ride later and we were near the coast within hearing distance of the crashing waves. We took the short walk right down to the coast to Yongduam, also known as "Dragon Head Rock." It was absolutely packed, and it surely wasn't for the aesthetic pleasure of the view. While it was nice, it didn't particularly resemble a dragon's head to me, although I can see how a legend would have formed. However, this place holds a large amount of symbolic value for the Koreans. Especially since 2012 is the year of the dragon, which only happens every 60 years. There are innumerable legends about this place, and it's said to be a place that can make your wishes come true. I snicker when I write these things, but in reality I always make a wish at places like these. I did the same thing in Kyoto, because there's no harm in trying to increase your luck in this unpredictable world of ours.

The day was getting on, but Bri and I were determined to get into the water before the day's end. I haven't mentioned it yet, but the heat was almost unbearable. It was actually the humidity that was so miserable, but a cool body of water solves all no matter what heat mother nature can muster. Thus, we departed from our bus in good spirits as we walked towards Jungmun Beach. Jungmun Beach is arguably one of the most revered beaches on Jeju Island, and is the centerpiece of a large complex of resorts, which, like Love Land, accommodate those doting honeymooners. It is said that this is the beach that most accurately lives up to the claim that Jeju is "Asia's Hawaii." We walked past the ever expensive Hyatt Regency, veered left, and arrived on a large stretch of sandy white beach. White-capped waves bounced along the shoreline, and practically begged us to jump in. We stealthily discarded our clothes while changing in some nearby bushes, then dashed for the water. Oh baby, did we ever redefine "The Nestea Plunge," as an entirely new sense of refreshing was created once our bodies graced the water.

As we walked back up from the beach shortly after using the Hyatt Regency's outdoor showering facilities, we agreed that we deserved a quality meal from the Hyatt. Our hostel was fantastic, but it certainly was no Hyatt Regency. But we figured, hey, we may not have the money to stay at the Hyatt, but at least we have enough money to fill up on their rich, delicious, cuisine. And that's exactly what we did. The next three or four days would turn out to be absolutely packed full of surprises and adventure, but all we knew at that moment was if the food was half as good as the rooms, then we'd have to come back and spend the night at some distant point in the future.

Thanks, Hyatt.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

50 Inspiring Travel Quotes

As many of you know, or perhaps don't, I'm a strong believer in carrying around a notebook, especially when travelling. I do indeed use a Moleskine notebook, but I can assure you that I don't think I'm a regular Da Vinci, who also purportedly used such notebooks. I've been writing rather religiously in them since about late 2009, which is right around the time I was bound for Oslo. I use them to write down quotes from novels I'm reading, to jot down observations, or write in somebody's contact info. Quite simply, it's what I use to keep my thoughts in order, and my life moving forward steadily. I've recently finished another notebook, thus I picked up a new member of my notebook family at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan. It looks a little like the photo below. That's somewhat vague. What I should say is that this is precisely my notebook below that I personally photographed. There's certainly no use mincing words.

Words. The fact that I can keep track of the words that grace my eyes is probably what I love most about having a handy little Moleskine. So, not surprisingly, when I cracked open my notebook today I decided to write down a few travel quotes that I've always kept in mind. It also had to be somewhat related to the fact that, as a writer of sorts, I've always detested the sight of a blank page. Well, about two hours after beginning this project I was still writing, and I decided that maybe I should share of few of them. On some level, it makes sense for me share all the beloved travel quotes with the readers who have been reading about my travels. I've shared quotes before, but never purely on travel, and that's something I'd like to do. The following quotes inspire me, but also act as a justification or possibly even an orthodoxy for my travels. One thing that all of these quotes have in common is the way in which they eloquently suggest that travel encompasses a lot more than a few plane tickets and a hotel. I don't want to be overly dramatic, but travel has changed my perspective on life drastically. In all honesty, it has changed my life drastically.

Here are the 50 travel quotes that I hold dearest to my heart. I sincerely hope that you can also appreciate them, in whatever manner you so choose. You'll find some of my personal favourites in bold typeface. You'll also find some of my cherished photos strewn throughout. Bon Voyage!


1. "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
2. "Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe."  ~ Anatole France
3. "No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow."  ~ Lin Yutang
4. "Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness."  ~ Ray Bradbury
5. "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home."  ~ James Michener
6. "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself."  ~ James Baldwin
7. "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."  ~ Mark Twain
 8. "I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad."  ~ George Bernard Shaw
9. "I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine."  ~ Caskie Stinnett
10. "To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries."  ~ Aldous Huxley

Portrush, Northern Ireland, 2012

11. "The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see."  ~ G.K. Chesterton
12. "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."  ~ Martin Buber
13. "Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God." ~ Kurt Vonnegut
14. "I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list."  ~ Susan Sontag
15. "A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for." ~ Gael Attal
16. "Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to." ~ Alan Keightley
17. "The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." ~ Bill Bryson
18. "I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it." ~ Rosalia de Castro
19. "Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." ~ Henry David Thoreau
20. "Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it." ~ Eudora Welty

Paros, Greece, 2010

21. "The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them." ~ Amelia E. Barr
22. "I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." ~ Robert Frost 
23. "To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." ~ Freya Stark
24. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." ~ Marcel Proust
25. "We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." – Hilaire Belloc
26. "Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey." ~ Pat Conroy
27. "When overseas you learn more about your own country, than you do the place you’re visiting." ~ Clint Borgen
28. "Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." ~ Miriam Beard
29. "One of the gladdest moments of human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy." ~ Richard Burton
30. "You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself." ~ Ella Maillart 

Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2010

31. "When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable." ~ Clifton Fadiman
32. "Travel has a way of stretching the mind. The stretch comes not from travel’s immediate rewards, the inevitable myriad of new sights, smells, and sounds, but with experiencing firsthand how others do differently what we believed to be the right and only way." ~ Ralph Crawshaw
32. "People don’t take trips . . . trips take people." ~ John Steinbeck
33.  "Not I – Not anyone else, can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself." ~ Walt Whitman
34. "You don’t choose the day you enter the world and you don’t chose the day you leave. It’s what you do in between that makes all the difference." ~ Anita Septimus
35. "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." ~ St. Augustine 
36. "The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are." ~ Samuel Johnson
37. "A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it." ~ John Steinbeck
38. "Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going." ~ Paul Theroux
39. "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." ~ Lao Tzu 
40. "A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles." ~ Tim Cahill

30,000 feet above a mountain range, China, 2009

41. "Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." ~ Benjamin Disraeli
42. "What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road." ~ William Least Heat-Moon 
43. "Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white." ~ Mark Jenkins
44. "It is better to travel well than to arrive." ~ Buddha
45. "Travel teaches toleration." ~ Benjamin Disraeli
46. "I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them." ~ Mark Twain
47. "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." ~ Helen Keller
48. "Not all those who wander are lost." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
49. "No matter where you go - there you are." ~ Confucius

And last, but not least, the quote that I have tattooed on my ribs as a strong reminder of what life means to me. That's probably also an indication of how deeply I believe in the written word and travel itself.

 50. "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore" ~ Andre Gide