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Friday, December 26, 2014

The Day After








While I'm up to my eyeballs in all my grand Connecticut escape planning, another holiday has come and gone. I'm a bit of a stickler for tradition and perfection - just as much as I like to plan my trips right down to the tiniest details in the same order, year after year Christmas is the day where I'll put on some festive colours and head out. 

The thing about living on an island with a year-long summery climate is that the air is humid and sticky, very unlike the typical expectations of our Northern friends. What I like to think of how Christmas would be is also much like that of the upper hemisphere - snowy white, cold and full of Christmas trees lined with jolly decorations in hues of red, green, white and gold.

In less than a week we'll be ringing in the new year and with another 2 more weeks I'll be scooting off to the USA for a half-year worth of horsing around - studying, making new friendships and quite literally hanging out with actual horses on another continent. 2015, I'm welcoming you with the warmest hands!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yonggungsa, Busan




















If there's anything you ought to do before clicking that little confirmation button of your flight ticket booking, it is to check the weather of your travel destination. This is the golden rule - check, check, and check again because weather forecasts aren't entirely predictable and are subject to change. Being impossibly excited about going to South Korea in the summer and more focused on avoiding the holiday peak periods, I went on the local Skyscanner, found the cheapest acceptable flight available and got 'em ticks. 

It was a bad choice (can someone call Minor Mistake Marvin for me, please?). Immediately after, when I set forth to plan the itinerary, I finally checked the weather and I saw squares of white clouds and a random square of sun speckled in grids of dark clouds. 2 weeks later, all I saw were clouds and they were mostly grey. My heart fell out. As it turns out, summer in Korea is not exactly the sunniest in July, in fact it is the peak of monsoon season.

On one of the nights in Seoul when we were having dinner with our incredibly hospitable friend and her family, we saw reports of billowing winds in Busan on the family TV. They told us, "You should cancel your plans to Busan, the monsoon is especially bad there and people have gotten injured". I was so dismayed - now the train tickets would go to waste and there goes some of the nicest sites I've been looking forward to. 

Well, Lady Luck was particularly kind and we made it to beautiful Busan sans probleme. On a late afternoon, we set off to Yonggungsa Temple. I dare say that Yonggungsa is easily one of the most underrated attraction in Korea, which I suppose is due to the rather inaccessible area. If I do recall correctly, we spent an hour to get there and another one back on one of the worst bus rides possible and there is a (rather horrifying, which I am guessing is a kilometre) walking distance between the temple and the bus stop.

Anyhow, the costal temple was absolutely breathtaking and easily the most serene place I've ever been, and all the trouble we went through for it was completely worth it. 

To get there: Take Bus 181 after coming out from Exit 7 of Haeundae Station and get off at Yonggungsa, which is one of the last stops where everyone gets off. The way I managed to keep track of which stops we were at and where we would be due was with the help of my minimal Korean reading abilities, which I found extremely helpful when taking Korean buses.