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Lantern Festival for Buddha’s Birthday in Dongdaemun, Seoul, South Korea

These pictures are from the 2009 Lantern Festival around Dongdaemun in Seoul. I took these back in April of 2009, my third month living in South Korea.

The Lantern Festival is a celebration for Buddha’s Birthday, which is a really big deal in a lot of Asian countries. Buddha’s Birthday falls on May 21st and, according to wikipedia, many temples offer free food and tea to all visitors on this day.

This year (2010), the parade will be held on May 16th from 7pm-9:30pm. Get more information here: http://www.llf.or.kr/eng/03introduce/introduce.asp

To get to the festival, I took the Seoul Subway to the Jongno-3 Station and followed the huge crowds. The parade was by the shopping district in Dongdaemun.

If you go to the Lantern Festival, let us know what you thought about it in the comments!!!

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Ice Skating in Gwangwhamun, Seoul, South Korea

Jermil has really wanted to go “ice skating” (just “skating” to we Canadians) this winter, and coincidentally in the December issue of “Seoul Travel and Culture” magazine, they suggested some venues for skating. We decided to check out what Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul had to offer.

Getting to Gwanghwamun Plaza and other information:

· Take the Seoul Subway Line 5 to the Gwanghwamun stop, and leave the station from Exit 2 or 3
· Hours: Mon – Fri, 10 am – 10pm and Sat –Sun, 10am – 11pm
· Open from December 12, 2009 to February 15, 2010
· Admission costs 1, 000 won and that includes admission AND skate rental! What a deal!

The skates were slightly dated, and I suspect the ice hadn’t seen a zamboni all day, but we had a good time nonetheless! Live at the scene, we present to you an on-ice video (and pictures below)…check it out!

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Great Chinese food in Sinchon, Seoul, South Korea

Ever since we travelled to Beijing in June 2009, Jermil and I have been on a quest to find some flavourful Chinese food in Korea. Walking around in Sinchon, Seoul today, we stumbled upon a sign for Well Chai-New Style Chinese Restaurant. The menu had food titles written in English, and the interior of the restaurant was modern and inviting, so we thought we would sample the cuisine.

The modern and inviting interior of Well Chai

The modern and inviting interior of Well Chai

How to get to Well-Chai:
Take the Seoul subway Line 2 to Sinchon station, and leave the station from Exit 3. Walk straight and at the first major intersection, turn right. Walk for a few minutes and on the left side of the road you’ll see a big yellow sign that says “Nolita”, the elevator for Well-Chai is in that entrance way.

Why you should try the Chinese food at Well-Chai
Both Jermil and I ordered from the lunch menu that was reasonably priced (8 000 – 10 000 won per dish). We got the “pork garlic pork” and “barbecue beef”and both of us were delighted with our meals. Here’s why we recommend Well-Chai:
• The quality of both the pork and beef was very good.
• We were impressed with the delicious sauces in which the pork and beef were prepared.
• We loved the plentiful stir-fried vegetables that were part of our lunch platters.
• Our meals came with a generous portion of authentic Chinese fried rice.

Pork Garlic Pork

Barbecue Beef

Fried Rice

We also ordered a separate appetizer of crab dumplings (crab rangoons) that were served with a tangy dipping sauce, and they were amazing! Good Chinese food is not easy to come by in Korea, but we really enjoyed Well-Chai, and the food reminded us of some of the flavours were sampled in Beijing!

Crab Rangoons

We need your help!

Of course, since we were in a Chinese restaurant in Korea, we were served several kimchi side dishes, including, what we think was the spicy Korean version of egg drop soup. Jermil really enjoyed it, and our waitress told us the name of it, but we can’t remember it! If anyone has had this spicy soup, and knows the name of it, let us know in the comments!

Spicy egg drop soup

Well Chai is a Foreign Tourist Restaurant

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Insa-dong: The Traditional Area of Seoul

What makes Insa-dong unique?
According to Seoul’s Best 100 guide, ‘in 1998 Insa-dong was designated a traditional culture district in order to preserve its look of a traditional Korean market place’. On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, it is a car-free zone. Many Sundays, festivals are held here.

How to get to Insa-dong
Take Seoul Subway line 3, and get off at Anguk Station. Head out Exit 6 and walk straight for about a minute, and you’ll pass a tourist information booth. You’ll see the main courtyard-style street of Insa-dong almost immediately after on your left.

Anguk Station, Exit 6

What to do Insa-dong

    Rub the frog statues for good luck as you enter the area.

    Shop: most people come to this area to peruse the copious amounts of souvenirs. A lot of the merchandise looks mass-produced to me, but there are some stores with some good finds. Look for traditional Korean paper dolls there; they are quite beautiful and tastefully constructed. I also found chopsticks, chopstick rests, fancy tissue box covers, placemats, and tea strainers to bring home for my friends and family. The prices were reasonable, you can bargain a bit and the gifts were a big hit back home.

    Souvenirs in Insa-dong

    Souvenirs in Insa-dong

    Ties made of paper and silk in Insa-dong

    Silk and paper pouches in Insa-dong

    Drink tea: you can find many traditional Korean tea houses where you can sip on tea, relax and take a break from shopping.

    A Tea and Magazine shop in Insa-dong

They have tried to maintain an old-world feel in Insa-dong and a lot of the signs are in Korean only…even Starbucks.

Starbucks written in Korean

Have you ever been to Insa-dong? Did you find or do anything special while you were there?

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What To Do On New Year’s Eve In Seoul, South Korea | Part 2

Even though it was as cold as strawberry ice cream cake, we actually made it to the 2010 New Year’s Eve celebration in downtown Seoul, South Korea. Here’s what we experienced.

The directions we found on the internet for what to do for New Year’s Eve in Seoul were accurate for the most part. We read on another blog that you can’t get off the subway at the Jonggak station and were told to get off at the Jongno-3 station. But when the train stopped at Jonggak, almost everyone on the train got off. We decided to follow them and see where we’d end up.

New Year's Eve decorations in Seoul

New Year's Eve decorations in Seoul

We went out exit 1 and saw the Bosingak bell across the street. We went back into the subway and tried to come out right near the bell. We failed somehow but hung around the crowd there.

We saw the walls of policemen who were there to keep the crowds where they wanted us to be. I saw that the policemen had tiny fire extinguishers strapped to their shoulders. I figured those were in case someone got themselves set on fire during the fireworks and roman candles portion of the night after the New Year officially starts.

Policemen with fire extinguishers

At some point, we saw the crowd running in a certain direction. We didn’t know where they were going or why they were running but I figured we should get running too!

We ended up by some stage where the New Year’s Eve show was taking place. They had 2 hosts who explained everything that was going on (all in Korean). The show consisted of Korean drumming, rapping, and a lot of singing.

The New Year's Eve Stage

The New Year's Eve Stage

The New Year's Eve Stage

They also had the countdown to the new year. I guess they warned us that it was coming (in Korean) but we didn’t catch it at first. They started counting from 10 and by the time we figured out what it was, it was almost over.

Roman candles were set off starting from just before the new year until a while after. But I didn’t see anyone shoot any near me. I expected everyone to be shooting roman candles recklessly. But it was way safer than the normal roman candle shootings that you see at night by every beach in South Korea.

Roman candles after midnight

The subways kept running for a while after midnight. We caught a train at 1am. I believe the subways in Seoul kept running until 2am on New Year’s Eve.

Overall, it was a really good New Year’s Eve event. Even though it was FREEZING COLD out there, while we were in the big mass of people, it wasn’t bad at all. See more pictures below!

If you attended the New Year’s Eve celebration in Seoul this year, let us know what you thought of it!

Father and child at New Year's Eve in Seoul

x and the wall of policemen

The wall of policemen directing traffic

Koreans happy to see another new year

Son and father holding a baby bear

If you attended the New Year’s Eve celebration in Seoul this year, let us know what you thought of it!

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