From Sask to Seoul

Alright so I am well aware that I havent posted anything on here in months…. I blame it on winter hibernation… Since I thawed out in the Philippines and it is nearing spring is Seoul I decided its time for me to write a little something.

Lets start with our flights… We took the cheapest direct flight option to Cebu which consequently meant we were on a red eye. We arrived in the warmth of the Philippines somewhere around 3 am. We didnt want to leave the airport since we had a domestic flight to Borocay at 10 am. So we set up camp on the cold metal chairs of Cebu airport. Wrapped in as many skirts as my body could house for warmth I got an hour or two of sleep. Eventually it was time for check in and we proceeded to Borocay.

Once we arrived at the Kalibo airport we had to take a 2-3 hour bus ride to Caticlan to then take a ferry to Borocay. This may sound like hell considering we were running on about 2 hours of airport sleep but to my surprise it was a great start to a more amazing trip.  We decided to take a mini van to Caticlan, a bit more expensive but only by about a dollar so we figured it was worth it. When we got into the van there were only the 4 of us girls (Jess, Leslie, Steph and myself) and a couple others which meant it was very roomy. As we were driving along the driver would pull over and pick up random locals of all ages. We kept doing this, over and over and soon the van was full. There were even people sitting on laps, I got quite up close and personal with a Philipino man myself ;). lol not really but he was very interested in the way my ipod touch worked. This was our first encounter with Philipinos and it was quite fun. What made the ride even better was the amazing scenery. We drove through valleys of palm trees and along the coast of a crystal clear blue ocean bordered with white sand. Absolutely gorgeous.

Once we arrived in Borocay we took a tricycle which is basically a motorbike with a weird cab attached on the side for passengers to our hut. This is the basic form of a taxi in the philippines. We arrived at our hut, dropped our bags, and realized we had a few hours of sunlight! So we explored the beach and enjoyed our first San Miguel and sunset. The next two days basically consisted of beach bathing, swimming, eating and a bit of drinking.  As fun as this was, we decided when we started our scuba course we needed to be sober. So the drinking ended, and we began getting serious about scuba. We found a great dive resort called Blue Mango located on Boat Station #3. They were absolutely fantastic to us. Our dive master Matt was so understanding and a really great teacher. He was very calm and patient. We all had our moments, between Leslie being afraid to breath underwater, Steph freaking out and trying to swim to the surface, and me not being about to equalize my ears, he had his hands full. He claim we were easy and quick learners but I think he was just trying to be nice. Scuba diving is a complete new world that everyone should try if they can get over their fears. My favourite memory quite possibly of the whole trip was our first open water dive. As soon as we were on the bottom of the ocean floor Matt pulled out some bread for us to feed the fish. Suddenly with the bread in my hands the beautiful multi-colored tropical fish completely swarmed me. They were everywhere, in my hair, and all around me. It was so overwelming and breathtaking. As well, the quiet of the ocean was so serene and peaceful underwater. Overall diving was an amazing experience. If anyone is planning on going to Borocay definitely check out Blue Mango Dive Resort, they are great! As well, now that I have my Open Water Divers course I can scuba dive worldwide! I cant wait to go on my next adventure and try diving there!

Before we knew it it was time to move onto our next location,Loboc River,  Bohol. In Loboc we decided to stay at Nuts Huts, a group of huts on the banks of the river. The only way to get to Nuts Huts is by a little row boat or a 20 min hike from the nearest road. It was a little rustic but nothing this Sasky girl cant handle! When we first arrived, in the rain I may add, the owners told us they had no room! We had no plan B and had a moment of panic. However within 10 minutes someone had checked out and they said they could make room for us in the dorms until some huts opened up. This turned out to be just fine, we shared the open dorm style hut with a group of Frenchies, there was only one awkward changing moment, eh Jess? lol. Anyway the next day 2 huts opened up and we were set.

While we were staying at Nuts Huts we took a day trip to the Chocolate Hills, a tarsier sanctuary, a butterfly sanctuary and a hanging bridge. Sounds like an action packed day, it kind of was but was a bit different than I expected it to be. The Chocolate Hills were a total let down, we werent able to actually walk through them or hike in them, just go to a look out point. A complete tourist trap. The surprise of the day was the butterfly sanctuary. In itself it wasnt that cool but our guide Joel (Can I have your button?-Jess lol) made the place so fun! He taught us all about the sexual practices of butterflies, how long they last, how often they do it, and so forth. I have never met anyone who loved butterflies as much as this guy.

One of the best moments in Lobac was our swim up the river to the small waterfalls. We got some great exercise and Steph provided us with some great entertainment. The whole time we swam numerous floating restaurant boats came by full with tourists who proceeded to take many pictures of us. We were constantly dodging the kareoke boats, it was like floating Norebang! As far as the Steph entertainment goes, we met up with a few Australian attractive missionaries during our swim. We hung out with them for a bit and then we thought they had swam far away from us. Well it turns out they werent that far away and Steph gave us her opinion on what it would be like to date one… I wont say anything else but needless to say she was a little embarrassed when we figured out they could probably hear every word we were saying!

We also got a chance to hike up to a high point in the river valley and get a spectacular view of the Loboc River. As well, the main part of this hike included the bat caves. Here we crawled through dark muggy caves in search for bats. We found them and along with them million of spiders! Leslie wasnt a huge fan of the spiders and we were constantly checking her back for “bananas” the code word for spiders. Along with the hiking and caves was probably the sweatiest day of my life, attractive yes I know. Im going to blame it on the humidity and the caves but lets just say the pictures arent my sexiest moment. lol.

At the end of our stay at Nuts Huts we had to say so long to one of our travel teamates, Leslie. From there she had a crazy flight filled 2 days ahead of her, at the end of which she would be in the Dominican with her mom. After we said goodbye it was time for us to head to Anda, another island that boasts secluded serene beaches. The bus ride was intesting, no windows, just open spaces on the side of the bus, and many gansta teenage Philipinos, gave me a reminder of my Cochrane days.

We had heard that Flower Beach was the place to be in Anda. So when we arrived at our cheapest on the island resort “Dap Dap” we decided we would explore a bit and look for Flower Beach. We were told it was the resort next to Dap Dap so we decided we would try to just walk along the shore till we hit it. Well we soon realized that it wasnt a sandy shoreline and we’d either have to swim there or walk through the foresty coast. So we opted for #2. Along the  way we ran into a full out beach party including people of all ages and inner tubes. We didnt stop here, although maybe we should have. Eventually a Philipino guy told us he’d show us the way and this is where our adventure began. Since we expected to be walking along a beach shore we were equipped in our hiking best, that is bikinis and flip flops. It ended up being quite the trek through thorny bushes and unbroken paths. As well, at one point we were scaling the side of the ridge, holding on for dear life and trying not to fall into the ocean! Eventually we made it to Flower Beach to find a resort and beach pretty much the same as ours except there were actually people there. We hung out there for the day and ate a delicious meal before heading back to Dap Dap. On the way back we decided not to go through the bushes and instead take the long route via road. On the walk back we were lucky to come across a random festival fance rehearsal. Here we stopped, took some videos of the dancing and chatted with some locals. It was a great way to talk to some locals who weren’t trying to sell anything and were just out having a good time.

The next day in Anda was a complete beach bum day. We found our own secluded private beach and set up camp for the day fully equipped with Peanut Butter and bread for lunch time sandwiches. Basically all we did was tan, swim, and of course a full out jumping shots photo shoot. Mid-afternoon we decided we would go out looking for this underground swimming area in a cave. Afer a few wrong turns we finally found it and it was really neat. We climbed into the cave and swam in crystal clear water. It was a bit cold so we didnt stay long but it was worth finding.

As there wasnt much to do in Anda other than relax we were in bed by 9 every night. After 3 days and 2 nights we decided we were ready to move on to Panglao. This area of Bohol boasts some of the best scuba diving in the country. So we figured it was time to put our scuba certification to good use. We decided to go with a German dive shop called blue planet…. DO NOT dive with them if you do not speak German! It was absolutely horrific! First of all, as open water divers we are only technically supposed to dive to 18 metres. Well our dive master took us to 25!! As well, Steph was running low on air, and when she told our dive master and panicked a little he made fun of her! On the boat we endured constant mocking in German by our dive master and fellow divers. We definitely did not feel welcome. But all this aside, the diving was spectacular. We saw many different tropical fish, sea turtles, baracudas, schools of Jack fish, beautiful corals, and much more! It made the hazing completely worth it!

Another day in Panglao was spent renting a boat and boatman and going island hopping and snorkeling. This was also a great experience. We saw 3 different islands including a sandbar where we docked and ate some more peanut butter sandwiches. It was completely deserted and really cool. Snorkeling was really good as well. Totally different from scuba diving, although scuba diving we got to see  many cool things, we saw some pretty good stuff snorkeling too. Its just a different perspective and different creatures are more near to the surface compared to lower underwater.

For the rest of our stay at Panglao we basically just relaxed on the beach, drank Pina Colodas, and did a little Kayaking. It was really great to have a bit of time right before we left to just take it all in. Overall the trip was fantastic. It was everything I hoped for and more. The worst part had to have been getting back to Seoul in the cold and going back to work! Now all I can do is look forward to my next beach holiday and the summer!

As Im sure I’ve mentioned before, life in Seoul is great but often the weekends are filled with booze and bars. Life as an expat in Korea is pretty easy with little to no consequences for stupid drunken behavior. This definitely has given me a free pass to enjoy being 22 years old in a foreign country meeting great people and experiencing great things. However the bar and booze life does get a little old and tiresome after a while. For this reason and because I’ve found a new love for climbing mountains Jess, Juli, and I decided to do a weekend getaway from Seoul to a few national parks and a folk village in the Southwest of Korea. The trip took us to Jirisan National Park, Nagan Folk Village, and  Nae Jang San park.

Our adventure began at 11:00 pm on friday night. Their were’nt enough people to fill a charter bus so our only option was to rent a 12 passenger van and drive to our destinations. So we crammed into this van and the plan was to sleep on the way to Jirisan, a 5 hour drive. In theory this was alright but as it often is, in practice it was a disaster. Jess, Juli and I took the seat in the very back of the van and of course I had a very tall German man sitting in front of me. He reclined his seat into my knees, needless to say I didnt sleep a wink.

We arrived in Jirisan at about 4 am and our driver decided we would take a 45 minute power snooze before the climb. The German man was still reclined into my knees so I just chilled to my music. Then at 445 am we got up and started getting organized for the hike. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast and started up the mountain. Soon after we began, we realized that we’d driven up the majority of the mountain and would be hiking up a road and then stairs to get to the peak. This was only about an hour-long hike. When we got to the peak it was still dark out so we set up camp for sunrise. It was freezing cold outside so Jess, Juli and I huddled together. Our guide even brought a propane cooktop so we got to have some instant coffee at the top. We watched the sunrise and it was absolutely breathtaking. After sunrise we began down the mountain. We took a different path, and this time we were going all the way down not just to a point where the van would pick us up. The hike was actually a really nice, relaxing stroll. Jess, Juli, and I sort of made out own group,  and hiked alone for the most part. It was a really fun 4 hours of quality girlfriend time. Our conversations were on a permanent loop between travel plans and experiences, Starbucks, and of course boys lol.

When got to the bottom we were greeted by the rest of our group and restaurants. We got some bibimbop but were disappointed at the quality. After lunch we got back into the van and headed to Nagan Folk Village. Once we arrived we were so surprised at what we found! The village was surrounded by fortress walls from when the Japanese invaded Korean. It was really neat. All the houses were made of bricks and had straw roofs, it was all a really great place to take in. We decided we needed a quick nap in the afternoon before we explored the village so Jess, Juli and I layed down and tried to get a little sleep. I couldnt sleep, so  I had a nice relaxing hour on the porch of our hut. Once the girls got up we took a wander around the village. It was really awesome, we could even walk on the fortress walls. It made for a great view of the entire village and an amazing sunset.

We had a great 10 hour sleep on saturday night and were ready for another day of hiking sunday morning. We drove to Nae Jang San national park in the morning and arrived to arguably the most beautiful red maples in Korea. We were greeted by an amazing festival that included live music performed by midget clowns and a wild ajumma dance party. Of course you know me, I had to join in! Jess and I joined the party and the Koreans loved us! We took a ton of pics and couldnt wipe the smiles off our faces for hours. Then we decided it was hiking time.

We went with 2 others from our group as the rest of the group was too tired and enjoyed the leaves from the base of the mountain. We started with a group of Koreans and our 2 other members but about 50 meters in Jess and I stopped to take a picture. Little did we know this would lead to quite the adventure. When we got back to the trail our group was no where in sight. We thought we saw some people in a distance so we headed that way. WE GOT COMPLETELY LOST! We found some random school in the mountain, no one was there, so we turned around and backtracked to our original spot. We called our other group members and they kept telling us to take a right every time there was a fork. We tried this and it got us even more lost. Turns out the meant take a left every time the road forks. Eventually we ran into a completely Korean ajumma and ajushi hiking group and somehow charaded our way to explaining we wanted to hike to the cable car. We ended up just following them to the top. They soon fell in love with Jess and I, offering us rice wine, candy, and mystery snacks. One man even held my hips from behind and pushed me up the mountain at one point! Another wouldnt let go of Jess’s hand! All in all they meant well and we were very grateful to join their group. About half way through this climb it started to pour rain and blow wind like Ive never seen on a mountain. It was far worse than the rain we endured on Seoraksan. Jess and I were quickly soaked, freezing, and on a high of adrenaline. We were scaling the top on this mountain with nothing but steep rocks to hold onto, yet another time where hiking boots would have come in handy! We kept thinking the cable car was close but it felt like it would never come! Finally we arrived at the cable car, soaking wet. We had to wait in line for about 45 minutes to take the car down. Lucky for us a lovely Korean woman offered us an extra poncho she had which Jess and I managed to fit under together. This protected us from the rain as best it could. Once we got down we immediately had to find our group as we were supposed to depart in 15 minutes! Turns out the other 2 from out group that were supposed to be hiking with us turned and climbed down instead of up to the cable car and they were finished about 2 hours before us. Luckily we had a few minutes and some extra clothes to change into. I only had new shirts to put on so i had to ride the 5 hours home in soaking wet pants. Jess however found some tights in her pack and got to be completely dry… so jealous! Next time I know I need to pack at least one complete change of clothes.

The ride home was a little irritating, but we were lucky to stop at the most amazing pit stop I’ve ever seen. Jess and I were obsessed with finding hot dogs, hot chocolate, and kimbop. To our surprise we found all three! It was a great surprise and an amazing way to end an unforgetable weekend.

After having a couple amazing weekends filled with soju, wine, and lost memories I finally decided to give sobriety and nature a shot. Before I tell you about this Ill do a quick overview of one of these ridiculous weekends.

The first being a weekend trip to Busan with Jess, Olivia, Joel, Wes, Ryan and the late comers Mark and Mike. We went on a weekend getaway to Busan, the second largest city in Korea. For the first and probably last time in my life I took first class transportation. Joel and I were late on buying train tickets so we were forced to go first class in order to get to Busan at a decent hour. It was only 20,000 won more so it was totally worth it to arrive 3 hours earlier. First class was not so exciting, all we got was more leg room and a bunch of snooty Koreans who shushed us half way through the trip.

Once we got to Busan, we went straight to our hostel, which was awesome. We stayed at some man’s house basically. We all stayed in bunk beds in one room and enjoyed the man’s outdoor rooftop lounge area. There was a ping-pong table, hula hoops, and even a nice dog named Cha-cha. We went out to some crazy Korean techno bar called Ghetto on friday night it was a really fun time, we had a great time dancing. Then saturday we decided to check out some temple in a mountain. We got there, checked out the temple and decided to try to find a temple that was a bit higher up the mountain. Poor decision. Jess, Wes, and I were all wearing flip-flops and Jess and I were in tight jeans. I was carrying my giant red purse on top of all that, needless to say it wasnt my most enjoyed hike in Korea. We got about half way up and decided we didnt want to go all the way. We turned around and started heading down. It was difficult enough as it was but to top it off I accidently stepped on Jess’s flip-flop and broke it! We had no idea what to do about this, but my quick girl guide thinking told me to use a hair elastic to hold Jess’s foot in the flip-flop. It wasnt perfect but it definitely did the trick. Eventually we got down the mountain and decided we would never do something like that again, if you are going anywhere near a mountain, always wear proper attire!

Saturday night we went for a great seafood soup sort of dinner. The soup was filled with crab and other delicious shell-fish. Then for night life we had planned to go to a DJ show at a club that we heard about via facebook. An Irish DJ was playing at a club and some mutual friends had told us about the show. We didnt want to get to the club too early so we decided to do some curb drinking beforehand. We grabbed a few Cass and some fireworks and set up camp. This quickly turned into quite the show. We were shooting off fireworks in the middle of the streets in Busan, talking to every Korean we saw, and I even busted out a little Ukrainian dancing in the streets. The DJ and club ended up being ok but the curb was definitely the highlight of the night.

First I’m going to tell you about Muido Island. About 30 of us decided to take a quick one night getaway at Muido.  It is a small island just off the shore near Seoul. It makes a great quick weekend vacation spot. To get there all you have to do is take the subway to Incheon Airport, catch a bus at the airport to the ferry, and then take the ferry over to Muido. Although this sounds relatively easy and light on the transportation side, it sucks if you and your friends decide to consume 7 bottles of wine and some beer and soju the night before. On Friday before our Muido trip me, Leslie, Jess, Juli and Joel decided to have a stay in night at Joel and Leslie’s building. This night started tame and before we knew it I was falling down stairs, bruising my body, salsa dancing in Joel’s apartment, and singing at a norebang (karaoke). Needless to say we had a really fun night but we paid for it in the morning. We were up by 8 am, well at least most of us were, Jess Leslie and I made a quick trip to Dunkin Doughnuts and Joel was told by Jess if he wasn’t at the subway by 915 we were leaving without him! Nice Jess, way to welcome someone to a new day! lol.
Once we got onto Muido Island we had to take a bus to the beach we were staying at. This bus ride was from hell. I was having a hard time being on the subway but this bus was ridiculous. We all felt like crap after it. Once we got to our huts on the beach we spend about an hour relaxing in the sand, recovering from the night before. Then we went for a walk down the beach. The tide was low so we walked through a ton of mud. This was cool except there were millions of little crabs and snails we were crunching the entire time! Gross! Next we decided to play beach volleyball, too bad we had no actual volleyball, instead we used a soccer ball. It worked alright except for the bruises we had all over our forearms for a week later. Also there were so many huge rocks in the sand that we had to keep throwing off to the side. Of course I was the one who stubbed my toe on one. It bled but being the die hard volleyball player I am, I persevered.
For dinner we decided to go to a BBQ place on the beach. We ordered prawns but sadly they were not as great as we’d hoped for. After dinner since we were too lazy to collect wood during the day, we went off to find wood in the bush with a couple flashlights and headlamps. Somehow we stumbled upon a pile of dry branches and burnable materials. There were even carts for us to take the wood back to the beach! We started the fire way too early, and were told to put it out. Then 10 minutes later we decided to start it again. This happened about 4 times till eventually the police told us to just burn the rest of the wood but not to get anymore, awesome.
Around this fire many songs were sung and many games were played. We decided it would be a good idea to have chicken fights on land, yes on shoulders and all. The only injury from this game was Jess punching Joel in the eye in attempt to break the bottom half of our chicken. Well it worked but I think she should have been disqualified. Next we decided to have wheel barrel races. First we tried the girls on the bottom and the guys holding our legs, too bad girls have no upper body strength. Since this didn’t work we switched, guys on the bottom, girls holding the guys legs. This worked much better and I’m proud to say Joel and I won. The next and last game was the biggest mistake. Joel decided to show off and flip Jess over his back, well I decided I could do this no problem with Leslie. Bad decision. We tried, I failed, and I practically broke my neck lol. I’m still suffering almost a month later.

The next morning I was definitely feeling the effects of the many injuries from the many games we played. I could barely sit up! Since some of us were sore, and some of us a little sick, we decided to head back to Seoul early. To our luck we caught every transportation hub right on time! Other people left hours before us and we just kept catching up to people. Once we got back to the airport, we took our smelly selves to McDonalds and KFC for some morning after medication. It was definitely the cure.
Muido was an amazing time. I’m sure we will return at some point but next time hopefully the games we play will result in much less injuries and much more wins!

So, in Korea they have a holiday in October called Chuseok. Chuseok is kind of like the Korean thanksgiving and maybe Korean national day. Im still a little confused on what they celebrate but I do know it’s a big deal here. Since it is such a big holiday we were given friday and monday off of the Chuseok weekend. Because of this Leslie and I decided that we should go somewhere. We searched our options are were lucky enough to find a super cheap flight to Shanghai leaving at noon on friday and coming back to Seoul on monday morning. we decided to go for it.

Since my school had midterms the week before Chuseok I thought I would have a perfect opportunity to plan for our trip to Shanghai. Turns out I had to proctor exams the entire time and was just as busy as I would have been if I were teaching. The nice thing about this week was that I had the afternoons off to do whatever I want. For two of the days I had to go for lunch with some staff but it didnt take up the entire afternoon.

The first lunch was interesting, probably the craziest thing Ive ate to date. We get to the restaurant, sit down, and the waitress bring in our food. It looked like 2 pots of soup or something that would finish cooking in front of us. Then, I see them, the octopus that are still alive and trying to escape. The spicy pot already had the live octo’s in the pot, and they were trying to get out the top, the managed to get a couple tentacles out to top of the pot, but slowly boiled to death. This sounds horrible I know, but it gets worse. I can see there is a medium sized clay pot with a heavy plate on top. The next thing I know I can see tentacles trying to escape, soon enough the entire octo is on the table squirming around, suctioning to whatever it can find! We all scream and the waitress comes over and saves us. She throws the octo’s in the pot and we watch them suffer a slow boiling death. Next it was time to eat what we watched die. It wasnt too bad except I kept thinking the tentacles were still moving. Then the waitress came over and chopped up the octo head, and ink spilled out of it. That was by far the grossest part. I could eat the tentacles but no inky head for me. All in all I was glad I did it and it didnt taste too bad.

Later that day Joel and I decided to go sightseeing since neither of us had to teach in the afternoon. We saw a palace for a dollar, would recommend skipping it though, wasnt even worth that. Then we listened to some orchestra in the park and watched a crazy woman wander the fountain park. Next we watched the changing of the guard which was the actual reason we went for. It was really cool, we even got to dress up in traditional Korean outfits and join the ceremony!

So onto the point on this entry, Shong-hey. Yes I actually mean Shanghai but someone Leslie knows kept insisting she should pronounce it Shonghai.  For some reason I thought I heard Shong-hey and it was funny so we called it that ever since. So we had a great flight to Shanghai, it went really quickly, only about an hour and a half or so. Of course since I made the poor decision of dying my hair the day I took my passport picture, I was stopped and asked for other ID and was looked at very suspiciously. When we got to Shanghai we took a bus to our hostel which worked pretty well but took quite a long time.

Our hostel turned out to be really nice. It had a European feel to it and was a cafe in the front and a hostel in the back and upstairs. This meant people would come to the cafe and when they used the washroom they would see us brushing our teeth, putting on makeup, etc. On friday we decided to try to find this jewelry market that I read about online. It claimed to have a bunch of cheap jewelry including salt water pearls. We got into a cab and tried to explain where we wanted to go. He took us to the right area, but dropped us off in front of this crazy expensive jewelry store. We were worried that our version of cheap and someone elses version of cheap were very different. Turns out we were just at the wrong building. We did some wandering around the area and eventually found the right building. If you go to Shanghai, make sure you check out the First Asia Jewelry Plaza, 3rd floor, 288 Fuyou lu. It was amazing! The entire floor was full of pearls, turquoise, jade, and many other types of jewelry. Moreover, its a market so we were able to do some bargaining. We didnt pay first offer on anything, my most impressive bargain was when a woman told me 120 yuen (which is about $18 CAD) for a necklace and I dropped her down to giving me two for that price. I got so many pearls and such great deals, I strongly suggest if you are in asia and a pearl lover like me, to go to this market you will be in heaven!

After a few hours of jewelry shopping Leslie and I decided it was time to find some delicious Chinese food, namely some Shanghai noodles! We searched and searched for a place to eat for about an hour through crazy crowds of people. Many Chinese tourists stopped us to take our pictures which was really strange, we were like celebrities! We finally found some chinese food place and decided to try it. We ordered some Shanghai noodles and some pork thing. The noodles were quite delicious but the pork things were cold and had a huge rib in them.

After dinner we made our way back to the hostel. We decided to find a lunge for a drink when we got back since we werent too energetic but werent ready for bed. We came across a little lounge with live mellow music and a great atmosphere. It was a great place to wind down.

Saturday was a pretty busy day. We  got up, ate some American style breakfast at our hostel, and hit the town. We went to an artsy district which was pretty cool but a bit too expensive for our taste. Then we found a great shopping street, to our surprise we were greeted by and H & M! We did quite a bit of shopping and then headed back to our hostel. In the evening, we had a Shanghai night tour an acrobat show to attend. We were picked up by our tour guide and the van they called the shuttle lol. We were the only ones on the tour, probably because it was a national holiday in China. We got a quick tour of the bund and the French Concession and then we were dropped off at the acrobat show. The acrobats were pretty cool but the performers were so young! Im pretty sure some of them were around 12 years old, a little disturbing. After the show we were picked up and dropped off at the French Concession for the rest of the evening. We had dinner at a French restaurant and enjoyed many glasses of great red wine. After the wine was finished we asked our waiter where we could go to find a place to dance. He recommended a club, so we decided to check it out. It was pretty fun, lots of techno. There were a few foreigners in the club so we werent the only ones which was nice. Although we did got cheered on a little which was a funny surprise!

Sunday ended up being a pretty relaxed day. We went back to the jewelry market to purchase a few last minute gifts, and to find an earing that Leslie had bought and lost. We were successful in the earing hunt after stopping at every stand we saw. Then we tried to go to a temple where they boasted a giant jade Buddha, but we were 10 minutes too late! We ended up going to a jade museum that had some pretty cool statues and jade carvings. We also walked around People’s square and People’s park which was a nice relaxing time. For dinner we thought it would be a good idea to have another traditional Chinese meal. We found this hot-pot place that smelt and looked fantastic. It was the most difficult time to date trying to communicate with our waitress. She knew no english and could not figure out our gestures. Finally we were saved by a customer who had some English. She kept asking us if we were sure we wanted chicken and not beef, and we insisted on the chicken. Well, when we got the chicken we immediately saw a foot pointing out at us. We fished out the feet and the head and ate it anyways. It was really difficult to eat because they dont prepare chicken the same way we do. The meat isnt on a drumstick or in a breast form or anything, it’s all just randomly chopped up with bones all over the place. It tasted really good but was a bit of a struggle.

We had to wake up at 5 am on monday to catch a taxi to the airport so we kept sunday night pretty tame. We went to our lounge, had a beer and headed to the hostel to bed. The taxi picked us up in the morning and we headed to the airport. Again the flight went really well and was really short.

All in all our trip to Shanghai was really fun. Leslie and I made great travel partners and I hope we get to do a few more trips together over the course of the year. Also, Id like to comment on the English spoken in Shanghai vs Seoul. In Seoul people are very shy and not overly willing to help foreigners. In Shanghai everyone seems to be more outgoing and confident with their English. This made it really easy to navigate a new city. However, Seoul definitely wins on cleanliness, appearance, and over all feel of the city in my books.

Alright, so Im going to start at one of the most exciting. fun, and physically debilitating weekends of my life. My friends Adam and Joel told me about this hike/climb up Seroak Mountain, the highest mountain on mainland South Korea. Sounded like a great idea to me so me, Joel, Adam, Jess, and Steph all decided to take on Seroak-san.  So they forwarded me the information for the trip. It was described as a 2 day trip, the first day being a 5 hour hike. The email said the first two hours would be pretty tough, and then the last three hours would be a “leisurely stroll along the ridge”. Well, I could describe the first day in many words, but the words leisurely and stroll would never, ever be used! We took a bus from the Seoul National University of Education subway stop to Seroak National Park, about a 3 hour drive. I guess if I had to use leisurely in this description thats where it would fit. We arrived at the park, grabbed some bibimbop, and saw the rain storm coming. Since some people like  Joel thought it alright to hike in jeans and a t-shirt, and bring no rain coat, some people had to do a little overpriced shopping at the convenience store. Lucky for them Pancho’s were available.

So we started the hike at about 130 pm. The first 30 minutes or so were up some really steep steps, it wasnt looking like it would be too fun, I stopped and used both blue and orange inhalers to keep my energy up lol. In fact, the first 2 hours were tough, the terrain was pretty all over, with stairs, and large rocks and boulders, and mud. On top of all this, it poured rain for 2 hours straight! I bought an amazing hiking raincoat the day before and i was really happy with my decision, the rain literally bounced right off of me. At the end of the 2 hour rain pour, we stopped to take a break. We were pretty tired but as usual for this trip, we were in extremely high spirits. At one point I was asked if my raincoat kept me dry, I said “well yeah, it did, but dont get me wrong, I am moist.” and then Im not sure what it was but I could not stop using the word moist! It became one of the words of the weekend.

Then came the next 2 hours of the hike. It was not raining, but man was it moist! We were all pretty soaked, not to mention the ground below us. As Jess kept saying, “these rocks are slippy!” and were they ever! I can’t count how many times we fell or slipped on the rocks. On top of that there was mud everywhere! These middle 2 hours really were the best of the first day, pretty easy going, other than the slippy parts.

Next came possibly the most trying part of the trip, the 3 hours of darkness. We kept asking our guides how much longer, and they kept saying “about 30 minutes”. They said this for 3 hours! Again, to many of your surprises we were still in high spirits, laughter never ended, and in the end we felt there was nothing we could do. We couldnt go down, we couldnt be picked up, and we couldnt stop, so there was no point in getting down. Steph however, felt a little different. She began to sour at about hour 5 of the day. It might not have helped that the other 4 of us were happy-go-lucky the entire trip. This trip really made us know each other on another level. I wont tell you all of our secret shameful moments, but I will share this one of my own. At one point in the middle of the darkness we were offered carmels by one of our guides, Hot Dog. We all took one and began to unwrap them. I got mine and clumsy me dropped the carmel into a mud puddle! Well, At this point we hadnt ate in 6 hours and the shelter was no where in sight. So I picked it up, dusted it off, and said “you guys, I really want this carmel, and Im going to eat it anyways”. I popped it into my mouth, and Im not sure if it was the hunger or the lack of care, but it tasted terrific. Another great line from the darkness, Steph to Joel “Joel, how accessible are your nuts” haha. Well Joel brought a bag of mixed nuts, they were accessible, and yes he shared. Another interesting point of the darkness, we obviously didnt think we’d be hiking in the dark so barely anyone packed flashlights or headlamps. We had to share a headlight for every 4 people or so. This made the slippy and pointy rocks a little bit more tricky.

Eventually, after yes you counted it a 7 hour day of hiking, we made it to our “shelter” if you can call it that. We were so relieved to arrive, and then we looked around. There were people already sleeping outside, but there was food cooking and we were starving. Hot Dog pulled out a 10 pound container of pork from his giant pack and began frying. We enjoyed pig meat, rice, and curry sauce it was delicious. Now to mention beverages. Remember how Joel didnt bring a raincoat? Well, he did find room to pack a bottle of red wine! We were all very excited and enjoyed a nice paper cup of red before bed.

We were so excited to go to sleep, thinking hiking for 7 hours would be a great remedy for a good nights sleep. Well, it could have been if we had a bed but not so much. We slept on a cement floor, on top on some tinfoil-ish pad and Jess and I shared a blanket. Even that wouldnt be so bad but Jess and I decided to take the spot with our head right below everyone’s backpacks. All through the night people were getting up, going through pack and stepping all over us! Then, if this wasnt bad enough, they would frequently drop packs onto our heads in the middle of the night. When people started waking up at 3 am we didnt care, we welcomed this to the concussions from the packs. We finally started getting up and going around 330-4 am. As Jess and I got up to brush our teeth outside, we heard these guys ask to borrow our toothbrushes. We look down and who do we see but Joel and Adam sleeping on a plywood picnic table, with one sleeping bag for the two of them! And we thought we had a rough night! There was no room in the mens shelter so they took a spot outside.

When we got organized and started up to the top to see the sunrise, there was a choice, climb to the top and see the sunrise or start going down. Jess, Joel, Adam and I went to the top but Steph, claiming this trip was worse than childbirth will be started her way down lol. The summit, was absolutely incredible, totally worth the entire ordeal. We watched the sunrise and enjoyed the view and started on our way down. The way down was a different path and it was absolutely breathtaking as well. We hiked down alongside a ravine the entire time, absolutely gorgeous. The only downside to the hike down was the hardcore, crazy Korean hikers! As we would carefully be stepping onto dangerous rocks and cliffs they would cut us off with their poles, knocking us over! Well, we all were going a little crazy, and we needed to give them a danger name in order to warn each other that one was coming up on us. We named the females Koogies and the males Boogles. Everytime one would come we would shout “BOOGLIE!” or “KOOGIE!” and we would all know to get out-of-the-way.

At the end of the hike, we entered another area of the park where there was a giant Buddha, it was really breathtaking and really unexpected after being in the wilderness for 2 days. Once we got onto the bus, we all crashed right away and slept all the way. Or should I say most of the way. Hot Dog became very fond of Jess and I and at the end of the trip came to the back of the bus and decided he wanted to take a nap… In our crotches… haha well we eventually fended him off and it made a good memory.

All said and done, you may think this sounds like one of the worst experiences of my life. But I would say the complete opposite. It was amazing. Every part was crazy fun, even when we thought we’d never make it out, the laughter never quit. I made some great friends for life, and memories that will last forever.

P.S. pictures to follow another day when Im not on my work computer.

Hey all.

So there are many reasons I havent written on my blog for like a month. Im not going to lie the main reason is because Im lazy.  But for the past couple weeks Ive been wanting to write and I could not remember my password for the life of me! I finally cracked my own code today. I have way too many passwords to keep track of, and they say you are never supposed to write them down, well im going to have to start because its just too much. Anyways, Im going to write a few real posts soon, probably later this afternoon with regards to climbing Seroak Mountain, my trip to Shanghai, and my island getaway weekend to Muido. Trust me, lots of built up information Im dying to share. Hopefully Ill be up to date by the end of the week.

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