Tuesday, October 26, 2010

North Gyeongsang

My aunt has been telling us for about a year now to come down to the area where she works because it's beautiful in the fall.  Well, last weekend we finally made the trip down and it really was worth the visit.  For two days my aunt and uncle drove us around North Gyeongsang Province to see just about everything there is to see in the region.  That included the school where my aunt works that is practically in the middle of nowhere (and is home to about a dozen students... total).

Our first stop was Buseok Temple, which is one of the oldest wooden structures in the country.  Nestled away in a corner of Bonghwang National Park, it has a great view of the rolling mountains and is supposed to be an excellent place to see the sunset (too bad we were there in the morning... still good, though).

We then made a stop at Bulyeong Temple, about an hour's drive east, where there was a fall harvest feast going on and hundreds of people from around the region had gathered to load up on free, delicious temple food.  We got pretty caught up in the crowd that was piling up their plates as much as possible for fear of the food running out -- which was ridiculous as there was plenty to go around -- and were left half-an-hour later with painfully full bellies.  We walked it off with a stroll around the temple grounds and were then treated to a bizarre concert of pop music sung by a pair of colorfully-dressed twins and then some more traditional Korean folk numbers sung by slightly more modest performers.

Bulyeong literally means "Buddha's Shadow".  There is a stone structure that resembles a Buddha figure on the mountain adjacent to this pond that can be seen in its reflection from a certain angle (but not this one).

The next day my uncle took us over to Hahoe Village, which is about 600 years old and amazingly, still is home to a little over 100 people.  Most of the thatched roof houses have been modernized, so to speak, to the more common, hanok-style tiled-roofs, though many of the older style homes still remain.  It seemed to be a big deal that Queen Elizabeth visited this site a few years back, and even planted a tree to mark her visit (but I think you have to be either Korean or English for this to really matter).  I think the strangest thing was seeing all these very old homes with all kinds of modern enhancements -- some even had satellite dishes attached outside.

Hahoe is known for its masks.

Thatched-roof home with a jolly greeter
One of the things my Dad told me when we moved here was to try and visit every province before we left.  So far we look to be on track to do that.  Though both of us separately have been to the Jeolla region we haven't spent much time there.  That may be something to do when it gets warm again (it suddenly turned into winter temperatures in Seoul this week).  Same goes for the Chungcheong area.  There is also, of course, the famous Jeju Island (Korea's tropical paradise).  Suffice it to say, more to come.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pusan International Film Festival

I'm a little late with this post, but two weekends ago we got to go to the Pusan International Film Festival -- Asia's largest cinema event. We saw some really interesting films from all over Asia including Thailand, China and Korea. But our favorite film of the festival was Raavan -- a Bollywood action film featuring "the most beautiful woman in the world."

I went to a press conference for the film and took some photos of the film's stars Aishwarya Rai, Abhishek Bachchan and Vikram. I have to admit I was pretty starstruck. We also saw Kim Ok-bin and Kim Yun-jin (from Lost).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kimchi crisis

My first piece in The Christian Science Monitor was published this week. You can read it here.