Jeongdongjin: Gem of the East Coast

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I looked up some photos online before I came to Jeongdongjin. I remember thinking that the beach looked beautiful, but I’m sure it’s more underwhelming in person.  Surely these photographs have been adjusted to make the reality of the place seem more appealing.

Wrong.

What you see in the picture above is what you get. Crystal blue water.  Light sandy beaches.  Quaint seaside town with so many delicious seafood dishes to choose from.  And if you arrive in May (before swimming season begins in Korea), you will find that you have lovely beaches largely to yourself.

 

Arriving to Jeongdongjin via bus and taxi, we checked into our hotel on the hill with the lovely view, but quickly walked to the beach below before it got dark.  As the sun set, we found ourselves pretty much alone on the beach, with the exception of a few families.  Had we arrived one month later, we’d probably be lucky to find a place big enough to fit a beach towel.

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Haemultang

We had no trouble finding food, there being so many beach-side seafood restaurants competing for business.  We decided on Haemultang, a spicy red-pepper-based soup containing an assortment of fresh seafood.  Being by the ocean, this was the perfect chance to get the freshest crab, fish, clams, and so on.  A very delicious soup, but the spice level was so high that I had to throw in the towel.

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Jeongdongjin is a place famous for its sunrise view. So, on the second day, I pried myself out of bed to catch the sun coming up.  Our hotel, called Goodstay Davinci Hotel, had a small balcony with an ocean-side view, perfect for seeing the sunrise.  Waking up to the quiet peacefulness of early morning was well worth it.  My photograph will never do it justice. If you go to Jeongdongjin, wake up early and see for yourself.

Should you venture in that direction during New Years Eve, you can attend the Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival.

 

After sunrise, we walked back down the hill towards the beach.  The beach area and the little town are all walkable areas. If you want to venture out further, you should consider grabbing a taxi. Buses run, but infrequently.

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Next on the to-eat list was more seafood.  Again, seafood is a must, and is likely the majority of restaurants you will find in Jeongdongjin.  I found a menu item I had never seen anywhere else: samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, with abalone.  Besides the large abalone resting on top, everything else is standard samgyetang.

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From our hotel, we could see this well-known hotel, Sun Cruise Resort.  We were told that at the top was a 360 degree rotating cafe.  Being that, unlike in the rest of Korea, we were largely unable to find any coffee shops at all, it was time for a caffeine fix.

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I would be lying to you if I said I enjoyed the whole experience.  I didn’t.  The rotating view of the outside would be beautiful without the rotating part. It was making me dizzy, so I had to concentrate on not looking out the windows.  The iced coffees we ordered were $9 each.  NINE DOLLARS EACH.  WE PAID EIGHTEEN DOLLARS FOR TWO COFFEES.

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The following day, the sun was beckoning us outside.  There are many gardens and terraces to get awesome views on the property of Sun Cruise Resort, so we spent the day walking around and taking photos.

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If you are living in or traveling through South Korea, do not skip Jeongdongjin. With clean, uncrowded beaches (before mid-June), crystal blue waters, and fresh seafood, you won’t be sorry you made the trek.

 

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Boseong: Green Tea Fields Forever

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보성녹차밭 대한다원

On Korea’s southwest coast, you will hopefully find yourself in Boseong, the green tea capital of the peninsula.  Make your way to the Daehan Green Tea Plantation, the largest one in Boseong.

On a particularly sticky morning, I came to that very plantation to see the beautiful tea terraces and taste some of the green tea items for sale.  Entering from the parking lot, before ascending to the tops of the green tea filled hills, the cool shade of the cedar trees below deceived me into thinking that the ascent would be easy.

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At the bottom, in the shade.

There was a pond beside various paths snaking through the trees.  There were also gift shops and cafes as well to satisfy the thirty, hungry, or empty-handed.  I arrived early, about 9 am, but despite this, the paths were becoming more lively with the slow arrival of visitors.  Resolving to shop and eat later, and before the sun got too high in the sky, I made my way up.

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The heat of the sun burned on my shoulders.  My hair and back were wet with sweat.  I was thirsty.  And I was only about half-way up.  But it was quite beautiful already.  Stacks of green, my favorite color.  Fresh air.  And a sense of being in solitude–or as much solitude as possible in South Korea.  The solitude wouldn’t last for long; I couldn’t help but notice the droves on people at the bottom making their way up quite quickly.

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The view at the top is wonderful.  No photo I took really did it justice.  The earlier you show up and walk to the top, the better.  The longer you wait, the more crowded the paths and fields will become.  Also, the hotter it will become.  Although summer is fine to visit, it is extremely hot and humid.  If possible, come in the late spring.

After circling back around to the entrance, there are plenty of foods to be had and shopping to be done, as I already mentioned. I partook in each and then made my way out of Boseong.

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Green tea ice cream

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Green tea pork belly.  Can’t say I tasted much green tea flavor, but at least it’s pork belly.

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My purchase of loose leaf green tea to take home.

For another cool blog and a great travel video about Boseong, check out Nomadic Samuel‘s site!

Also, transportation information.  There you have it.  Happy traveling!

1 Day in Macau

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If you’re in Hong Kong, it’s necessary to do at least a day trip to Macau.  Take a high-speed ferry, and you’ll be there in about one hour.  There are several ports in Hong Kong where you can get to Macau and elsewhere.    I used TurboJet and had no complaints.  So off I went, and luckily, the skies were bright blue and the water was calm when I made my trek.

I had heard about Macau before I went, most of which pertained to the many casinos dotting the place.  I am not much of a gambler, myself.  What I came to see and taste was the fusion of Asian and Mediterranean.  And perhaps, if I had time, I would visit one casino.  Perhaps.

Once off the ferry in Macau, there was a bus station as well as a plethora of taxis to get where you need to go.  I somehow, magically, stumbled onto the correct bus to get to Senado Square.

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Immediately I was struck by my surroundings in this former Portuguese colony.  Was I in Asia?  Certainly I was.  I have never been to Portugal, but standing in Senado Square made me feel as though I could perhaps be somewhere in the Mediterranean.   Palm trees, hot sun, tiled walkways, and beautiful brightly colored buildings like ice cream scoops.  A girl could get used to this place.

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I opted out of any kind of walking tour.  It was hot, humid, and the sun was baking the top of my head.  I wanted the freedom to wander slowly and duck into random restaurants or cafes as I went.  And so I did.

 

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First of all, PORK BUNS.  That was number one on the list.  A deep-fried pork chop in a bun.  How can you go wrong?  Available in many variations, I had the original and the pineapple pork buns.

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Gooey chocolate cake

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Cinnamon pudding

There are also several cafes and restaurants serving Portuguese-style food, wine, and dessert.

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Alright, fine, so I did a little gambling.  But, not much.  I don’t know how to play Black Jack.  I do not understand Poker.  But I understand the card game known as War.  And they have it in casinos, apparently.  It’s an easy and very short game.  The problem is, I learned, that your odds are not very good.  It only took me one turn of losing about $40 USD until I huffed and puffed away from the gambling tables for the remainder of the day.

If you find yourself at the Venetian Casino, however, there is much much more to do than simply gamble.  There’s shopping, dining, and gondola rides.  Yep.  For a (small?) fee, you can be serenaded by the gondoliers as you glide by all of the luxury shops.

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To get to the Venetian, I used a free shuttle from another hotel.  I just asked around to see how to get there.  Turns out it is quite far from the ferry port and Senado Square, but well worth it if you want to shop, gamble, or just simply see the largest casino in the world.

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Saying peace-out to the world’s largest casino

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All in all, Macau is worth at least a day trip.  For some, it’s the architecture, for others, it’s the thrill of betting.  For me, mainly, it’s the food.  It’s always the food.

 

4 Days in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong:  crowded, frenetic, expensive, delicious.

These words, in no particular order, are what comes to mind when I think of Hong Kong.  I had a lot of exploring and eating to do and a short four days in which to do it.

TEMPLE STREET NIGHT MARKET

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First stop, Temple Street Night Market.  Through the bustling crowds, several restaurants with outdoor tables or stall seating were competing for business.  Hungry and tired from travel, I sat at a random table and ordered from the large menu.

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After eating, I was better able to handle the noise and immense amount of people.  There are many stalls and items to choose from, but staff prefer if you order, eat, and leave quickly.  That is exactly what I did.

Aside from eating, there are many things to buy.  From clothing to shoes to accessories to housewares, you will find many things and more to practice your haggling skills.  This market is most lively from 6pm – 11pm.

Directions:  Exit C2 from Jordan MTR station, follow Bowring Street or take exit C from the Yau Ma Tei MTR station and follow Man Ming Lane.

 

TIAN TAN BUDDHA (BIG BUDDHA)

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This gigantic bronze Buddha statue is located at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island.  As you can see, the weather was not ideal for a clear view.  It did, however, create a kind of mystical, eerie atmosphere which I enjoyed.  I was also spared from being flame-broiled by the hot sun thanks to the cloud cover.

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Surrounding the Buddha are 6 smaller statues offering gifts such as flowers and incense.

At the base of the Buddha lies the Po Lin monastery.  Here, you can view the temple and walk the peaceful wooded paths.  Everything is open from 10 am-5:30 pm.  You can get here by cable car or by bus.  On this particular day, the cable cars were being repaired, so the lines of people waiting for the bus were insanely long.  No matter what, this excursion was worth it.  Especially to see this random bull running about.

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VICTORIA PEAK

Victoria Peak is the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island, and you will be able to get some amazing views of Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline.  To get here, you can take the Peak Tram from Garden Road.  Or, like me, take a taxi.  However, do not think you will be able to escape the crowds here; there are throngs of tourists crowding the viewing decks.  The view is still worth it.

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THE MAIN ATTRACTION: FOOD

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Roasted pork and duck

Beside the markets, views, temples, ease of transportation, shopping, and energy, food is what will draw you to Hong Kong and keep you coming back for more.  Everywhere you go, there is food.  Good, delicious food which will have you going back to look at the photos you took just so you can attempt to relive the flavors.  If you ever get the chance, go to Hong Kong and try everything.

Another Side of Hongdae

I guess my memory is pretty terrible.

My friend refreshed my memory.  Four years ago, Hyehwa station was my first destination in Seoul.  After arriving at the airport, we were whisked away to the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) for our EPIK training.  When I was not attending classes or sleeping, I wondered around Hyehwa station, not venturing too far, jet-lagged and intimidated by the vast sprawl that is Seoul.  Yes, that is why I knew those streets.

After the mystery of my afternoon had been solved, my friend took me to the Italian restaurant where he worked called The Dining Lab (더다이닝랩).  This restaurant is in Hongdae, which is normally the area catering to university kids looking to drink and sing in noraebangs until the sun comes up.  I, however, was in Hongdae for a reason of a more delicious variety.  Let me just show you what I ate.

Sous-vide pork jowl with ratatouille

Sous-vide pork jowl with ratatouille

Pork, fatty pork, is the stuff I live for.  Sous-vide (sealed airtight to sit in a water bath for an insane amount of time), well, there’s not much I can say.  The fat melts on your tongue and leaves you wanting more.  The bursts of freshness from the ratatouille underneath is the perfect compliment.

Mare Pasta

Mare Pasta

Ever eat a dish where you just close your eyes, unresponsive to dinner conversation?

The first sign of amazing pasta is the done-ness of the pasta.  This pasta was perfectly cooked, al dente.  The sauce, judging by the depth of flavors present, must have been cooked for a long time and with care.  The flavors of the seafood, wine, hint of spice, and I have no idea what else (couldn’t concentrate on the explanation as I ate) makes this something you want to order again and again.  I believe it is called Mare Pasta on the menu.  Go to Hongdae and give it a try.

Address and Directions:
Mapo-gu, Donggyo-dong 153-5
Seoul, South Korea
Honggik Station, Exit 3.  Go straight and turn left at the GS25.  Walk about 50M down the small side street.
주소:
서울시 마포구 동교동 153-5
홍대입구역 3번출구 정면 직진 후 GS25 편의점 골목에서 좌회전, 50M 안쪽에 위치
Phone:
+82 2-6010-0499

Also check out The Grey Suitcase blog entry about the Dining Lab, where you’ll find excellent photos of the interior and some dishes which I haven’t tried.

Revisiting? Hyehwa Station

Have you ever been somewhere new but had the distinct feeling that you knew the place?

That, for me, was Hyehwa Station.

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It wasn’t that the small streets were particularly remarkable; they looked like many others in the vast sprawl of Seoul.  But something about this neighborhood felt familiar.

Hyehwa Station, as known as Daehakro , is dotted with cafes and accessory shops, but most notably, theaters.  This neighborhood is known for it’s cultural arts performances.  There were many plays and concerts to choose from.  However, everything is Korean language only.  That is something to keep in mind if you are looking for English or other languages.

I strolled aimlessly until I came upon a coffee shop that looked like nothing I had seen before in Korea.

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b2project is a very unique cafe/Scandinavian furniture shop.  After browsing the basement’s chairs, tables, and shelves, I made my way upstairs for coffee.

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I enjoyed my afternoon here.  I sat for a long time taking in the tranquil atmosphere and sipping my espresso.  There are plenty of cozy spots and vintage chairs to choose from.  The prices are reasonable and the espresso is strong, the way it should be.

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DIRECTIONS – b2project Address: Seoul Jongno-gu, Dongsoong-dong, Dongsung3-gil 6-6 (서울시 종로구 동숭동 동숭3길 6-6), Phone: 02-6369-2900

Before leaving Hyewha, I heard about a place called Cafe Haewon, which serves earl grey bingsu, or shaved ice.  Typically only seeing red bean, green tea, berry, and mango flavors available, and being a fiend for all things earl grey, I had to try it.  Cafe Haewon was only a short 5 minute walk from b2project.

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The people behind the counter thought I was crazy for eating this by myself.  Truthfully, I only got through half.  But it was delicious, and the earl grey ice cream on top was the best part.

I headed to the subway after a long afternoon of eating to meet a friend in the neighborhood of Hongdae for more eating.  Once I arrived, I explained my strange afternoon of feeling so familiar with a new place called Hyehwa, but having never been there.

“Hyehwa?  You should remember that place.  You have been there before.”

Eating My Way Through Insadong

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Exploring the small side streets of Insadong.

On any trip to Seoul, I’m always happy strolling through Insadong’s main drag and winding side streets.  Of course, people come here to buy traditional Korean souvenirs, but on this particular day, I came to eat.  First on my list–Jeong Sik (정식).

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The many dishes of jeong sik (정식)

Jeong Sik literally translates to “formal meal”.  It typically includes a soup, rice, kimchi and an array of other side dishes, which will vary depending on the region and season.

In my own private dining room, I was served several small dishes.  The meal cost ₩15,000, which is about 15 USD.

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Japchae (잡채), stir-fried sweet potato noodles with vegetables and soy sauce.  Chewy noodles with the crispness of the green vegetables.

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Doenjang jjigae (된장 찌개), soybean paste soup. Salty with a bit of spice. Has a strong smell, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

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Dororimuk muchim (도토리묵무침) is a jelly made from acorn starch. It is mixed with some cabbage, onion, and red pepper paste. This particular one was quite salty.  It is clearly delicious because I have eaten most of it before I could snap a photo.


After lunch, it was only about five minutes before I found myself eating again.  I stumbled upon several street vendors selling desserts.  The one that caught my eye was the green tea ice cream served between two macaroons. The crispiness and chewiness of the macaroon paired great with the cold ice cream.  I needed it because it was HOT outside.

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The next stop was a traditional tea shop.  I ordered some Sujeonggwa, a chilled persimmon and cinnamon tea.  It is often served as a dessert because it is so sweet. 11813440_764035490328_1727561755986479627_n

I was sad to leave Insadong, but there are so many other neighborhoods in Seoul to explore.

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