Seollal in Busan

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We spend our Lunar New Year’s in Busan. Lovely lovely sea city. Here are pics from our trip.

  1. Jjimjilbang – Slept there for a night. Basically it’s a spa/bathhouse where people chill at. The floor was boiling hot. Not the best experience I had.
  2. Busan Tower – Lovely view, got to be part of some public art (video to follow) and went inside to the mini art gallery
  3. Jagalchi Fish Market – Had a freezing great time taking pics here. Unfortunately we were already full from our lunch so we didn’t have a chance to eat fresh fish. Oh well, till next time. 
  4. Norebang – Ended the night doing some karaoke. And ended up busting a bottle of wine. Eeek. No, we did not drink it haha. 
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Jeju Pt 2: The Chocolate Museum

I had high expectations

Great Expectations

The Chocolate Museum in Seogwipo, Jeju is the second largest chocolate museum in the world (the largest is the Cologne Chocolate Museum in Germany). The building looks like an ancient castle made of chocolate (it’s actually volcanic rock from Jeju). I had high hopes for this museum from the beginning. It was named as one of the ‘World’s Top 10 Best Chocolate Museums in the World’ by the members and editors of VirtualTourist.com and it is the only chocolate museum found in Asia. 

With our free coffee with purchase of ticket

Awesomeness…

What we found inside was a strange conglomeration of things. Yes, they explained the production method of chocolate and its movement through history. That is what excited me the most, seeing some Mayan history in a random Korean museum. Aka my ancestors. Half of them anyways.  

A bit of my culture

Cacao bean

So apart from this cool intro to the history of cacao in early civilizations, you also get a look at the ‘Collection Square’. The ‘Collection Square’ features a wide array of chocolate cases and other items that Mr. Han Ye-seok, the museum director, has collected from around the world. 

Heading towards the Museum store, you are stopped by the glass walls that let you see into the kitchen, where a chocolate artisan is creating these awesome little truffles that make you want to melt. 

Choco Facts:

Weirdness..

And then there was the Christmas room. Say what? Some portions of this trip were just plain random. Like this room for example, followed by the strange items they sold in the shop such as lighthouse figures and nutcrackers. Hmm. For a chocolate shop, it really lacked the creativity to really draw the conclusion to a powerful close. The expensive truffles weren’t worth it. We left wishing it was more like a cafe – with offers of decadent chocolate cakes and creamy chocolate drinks. Unfortunately, we were left to fend for ourselves. Just look at those faces! We were like pitiful children, left with no dessert after dinner.

Gorging on random donuts from a random Korean bakery

Jeju Pt 1: Land of Oranges, Pigs and Lovers

Image

MAY: Jeju Island, the perfect getaway to spend time with the girls. Though, technically, it’s a “Honeymooner’s Paradise”. The three chicas and I thought, “hey, what the heck? May as well enjoy its beauty”. We all had a must-see added to the list of things to do, but what made it easier and complete was renting a car. Can’t have a girl’s weekend without making it a road trip right?

Jeju Island is the only autonomous province in Korea. It lies south of the mainland, and is a short 2 hour flight from Daegu. Jeju is a bit different than the mainland. According to most, mainland Koreans sometimes have a hard time understanding them because of the dialect. A volcanic island, Jeju is famous for its unique flora and lifestyle. It’s like traveling back in time to an isolated island. To learn more here are some useful sites: here and here. Jeju can be summed up in 3 words: oranges, pigs and lovers. This is an over simplified version of what Jeju is, but for the four of us, this was our vacation summed up to it’s core. 

Source: Visit Korea

About those pigs…. Samgyeopsal (삼겹살). Pork belly, as it is called in English, is what Jodi and I usually eat at the traditional BBQ place. But here in Jeju, it’s different. Why? Their pigs are black. I wouldn’t think that made a difference but suddenly it does and it is a must have from what I have been told. 

What can I say? I was a bit traumatized, and for various reasons. First, we noticed that our pork belly still had hair engrained in it’s layer of fat. Seriously, I can see hair follicles. Now, I know I am “Chica Vs. Food”, but I think it is a fundamental feeling everyone has that they just don’t appreciate hair in their food. Secondly, the price. Regular pork belly is so cheap you could have it for a week without making a dent in your wallet. Here, we paid around $80 for it. What?! That is unheard of here in Korea. On top of that, I personally am not a fan of pork and for me this Jeju pork must have been overfed because its layers of fat were a lot thicker that the inland pigs of Korea. I left feeling queasy for various reasons. 

Source: Wiki

Now to further make this article complete, I did some research. Probably should have done that BEFORE I went. Needless to say,  I found out that this samgyeopsal we ate, is actually called Ddong Daeji (똥돼지). Literal translation? Poop pigs. 

No joke, further research led me to the traditional Jeju ways of raising their black pigs. They literally ate whatever came out of the home or communities’ outhouses … and you know exactly what that means. “The population began to diminish when farmers were not eager to breed them and the Saemaeul Movement replaced traditional toilets with modern ones. The Jeju Husbandry Promotion Center is breeding some 200 indigenous poop pigs to preserve their pure blood. So the Jeju black pork you currently get is actually from a mixed breed” (Joogangdaily). 

Don’t judge, it’s not like you’re eating actual poop. And anyways, nowadays that isn’t how they are raised. A little historical tidbit my Korean friends failed to tell me. No worries, I judged it after I ate it. Though apparently most people love it, so maybe I ate at the wrong place. Read this guy’s perspective. Ha maybe this should have been a “Chica vs. Food” episode. Lesson learned…research next time and THEN eat it. 


Niagara Falls

The Experience

Some shots from my family trip to Niagara Falls. If you are in the area, that place is a must see. It was my dad’s dream come true, and I loved having the opportunity to have fun taking pictures at a leisure pace. My family is made up of a bunch of nerds, including myself. I love learning random facts and tidbits. I would be the dork going along an educational tour and truly enjoying it. 

Niagara Falls, NY

What struck me about Niagara Falls, NY was how different it was than Niagara Falls, Canada. They are the complete opposite. The NY side is a bit more “nature-y”, acting as an introduction to the magnificent Falls. Beyond the gardens though lies the declining city with its dilapidated buildings. It has the feel of a ghost town. Bloomberg Businessweek even wrote an article on the city’s decline. 

Our first view of the falls.

 Ya know that “larger than life” feeling you get sometimes? Where something just feels so infinite and majestic? That’s what the falls looked like the first time I laid eyes on them. 

Just wow.

 The roaring …. it is in the roaring. The water is rushing past you and the sound just lures you closer and closer. You want to be deafened by it’s power. I loved it. 

Just like a postcard.

Even though the day was grey, it was still amazing. My parents were a little trigger happy and wouldn’t stop to just watch the falls for a while until we asked them to stop. They just wanted to take non-stop pictures of us posing in front. Though this makes for great memories, I just want to remember the moment for a second, the pictures won’t capture all of  that.

A classic.

 You have to do the package deal. 5 attractions in total will give you a pretty good picture of what the Falls are all about. We were able to do all that in 2 days. 

The Facts

  • Niagara Falls is made up of 3 falls 
  • The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a 63 year old female schoolteacher.
  • 600,000 US gallons of water fall per second on the longest fall within the Niagara Falls.
  • 1/5 of the worlds freshwater lies in the Great Lakes, and most flows over Niagara Falls.
  • Only 1 person has survived falling in Niagara Falls.  A 7-year-old boy in 1961, who went over the Horseshoe Falls

Randomness

Don’t try this at home
Ha, this cracks me up every time. You know the quirks of belonging to a family? Don’t deny it. We all have those random moments that make you either cringe (especially when you were a kid) or laugh because you realize only within the context of family could it ever exist. 
The beginning of our trip consisted of just that. My mother suddenly asks if we want cucumbers with lime and salt. (Again, it should be noted that I am hispanic….and thus this part is not actually weird). When I say yes, she suddenly starts taking out all these supplies from some random Mary Poppins bag she has by her foot and proceeds to act like she is back in our kitchen.
Yes…. she had our very own traditional wooden board thing (I don’t even know what the name is) and had begun to dice a cucumber and cut a lime and even had the freaken salt from our dining room table. Hahaha, only my mom.