Heart and Soul of Korean Culture – Hansik (Korean Cuisine) in Gangwon-do

Hansik

One of the best way to immense into the Korean culture is through its food. Mention about Korean food , Kimchi and Bibimbap immediately comes to one’s mind. There are more than Kimchi and Bibimbap to Korean Food. Korean Food is characterised by its strong flavours, typically combining 3 essential sauces: Ganjang (soy sauce), Doenjang (soybean paste) and Gochujang (Korean chili paste). Gangwon-do in South Korea has its distinctive cuisine. Surrounded by Taebaek Mountain range and East Sea, Gangwon-do benefits from the fresh ingredients from the mountains and the sea. Due to its geographic makeup of the province, dry fields have been cultivated for farming of corn, potato and buckwheat. And having the East Sea to the east of Gangwon-do, the province is blessed with the freshest catch from the sea. The cuisine in Gangwon-do revolves around corns and potatoes, which has been made into rice, rice cakes and rice wine. While the buckwheat has been a staple food for people in Gangwon-do. Here are three of my top picks that are the signature cuisine in Gangwon-do, where one can taste food from the mountains to the fields to the sea.

Places where one can taste food that are only found in Gangwon-do

(published by Korean Travel Organisation)

Food from the Mountains – Yangyang Songibap (Pine Mushroom Rice)

Yangyang region is famous for producing the highest quality pine mushrooms in South Korea. Of all the cuisines made with pine mushrooms, Songibap (steamed rice with pine mushrooms) is the most popular here. Pine mushrooms are aromatic in flavour, rich in nutrients like vitamins B1 and B2 and is thought to prevent cancer. Songibap combines the delicate flavour of the steamed rice complementing the robust flavour of the chewy pine mushrooms, giving it a flavourful and earthy taste to the dish.

Songibap

(Photo credit: http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aid=2920045)

Food from the Fields – Bongpyeong Memil Guksu (Buckwheat Noodles) and Memil Muk (Buckwheat Jelly)

What place to enjoy authentic buckwheat cuisine other than Bongpyeong, a town located in the northwestern part of PyeongChang county, renowned for growing the best quality buckwheat in South Korea owing to its geographical makeup. Koreans have been making and enjoying noodles and jellies made of buckwheat since ancient times. Cuisines made from buckwheat is said to have lower calories and benefits of reducing blood pressure. There are no lack of restaurants serving up buckwheat cuisines in Bongpyeong, one of the best restaurants in this region is Migayeon. Migayeon is renowned in the area for their buckwheat menu, everything in this restaurant is made with buckwheat.  Their buckwheat cuisine, usually served with the freshest vegetables and high quality meat, is as tasteful as it is nutritious.

Buckwheat Jelly (Memil Muk)

(Photo credit: http://www.migayeon.co.kr/en/)

Buckwheat Noodles (Memil Guksu)

(Photo credit: http://www.migayeon.co.kr/en/)

Food from the Sea – Samcheok Daege Jjim (Steamed Snow Crab)

Nested by the coast of the East Sea, Samcheok is blessed with the freshest catch of seafood. People flock to this south eastern city in Gangwon-do for the seafood. One of the dishes that is a must try here in Samcheok is the Daege Jjim or Steamed Snow Crab, where it is famous for its abundant catch of the large meaty snow crabs. Visitors will be able to taste the freshest catch from the East Sea. Snow Crab is popular amongst the shell fish owing to the abundant meat in its legs. Daege Jjim here in Samcheok is steamed on order to preserve its freshness. One of the popular way to eat Daege Jjim is to add steamed rice to the shell, where the intestines and roe are, which tasted buttery.

Snow crab is best enjoyed steamed where one can taste its natural flavours

(Photo credit: http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/korea-food-map/index.html)

Steamed rice mixed into the shell of Daege Jjim

(Photo credit: http://m.kenterin.net/article/10518e)

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Jump – A Korean Non-Verbal Musical Comedy

A Unique Korean Contemporary Culture – Korean Non-Verbal Musical Comedy

A musical that is unique to the Korean culture is their non-verbal musical comedies. Such shows infuses dance and sometimes martial arts (depending on the show you watch) into a musical that makes speaking redundant. Nevermind that you do not understand the Korean language, one will still be able to understand the general plot of the show and laugh off the funny bits.

Of the Korean non-verbal comedies, Nanata, Chef and Jump are the more popular ones with locals and visitors to Korea alike. A few months back, I managed to catch the localised version of Chef in Singapore. After that show, I saw that another Korean non-verbal comedy is coming to Singapore, I wasted no time and recommended my friends to watch the show. The show Jump is in Singapore for 4 shows from 6 to 8 Oct.

Poster of Jump at the entrance to the theatre

Stage setting

Synopsis of Jump

The show Jump is a martial arts comedy. The scene is set in a martial arts house, where the students were seen cleaning and practising their respective areas of martial arts, ranging from Taekwondo, Taekkyun, Drunken Fist and gymnastic skills. The family of martial arts enjoy challenging each other to martial arts showdowns displaying their awe-inspiring expertise. The plot thickens when the house is being broken into by 2 burglars in the middle of the night. When the family discovers the burglars, a battle took place between the family members and the burglars.

Casts of Jump

One of the actors interacting with audiences before the start of the show

Jump is a mix of martial arts and dance that provides laughter to audiences

One of the many somersaults performed by the actors

There are a lot of “flying” movements throughout the show

Review on Jump

Never mind the lack of fanciful Phantom of the Opera like stage sets, never mind the fact that the plot of the show is simple, I find the show Jump very entertaining. The purpose of Jump is very simple, the infusion of martial arts (mostly Korean’s National martial arts – Taekwondo) with dance to produce a comedic effect. Jump kept audiences laughing throughout the 1½ hours of the show time.  I like the use of imagination in the show. There is a scene portraying the grandmaster’s speed in his martial arts, every actors on stage moved at controlled slow speed where the grandmaster moved at normal speed. There is also a scene where the actors portray the grandmaster’s flying skills where the actors carried him horizontally. Such scenes are common in Jump. There are no wires that hangs the actors on stage, all are done with what seem to be years and years of practice in their acrobatic skills. There are a lot more actions and acrobatic stunts in the show, displayed by both male and female casts of the show. Compared to Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab that I watched a few months ago, I like Jump better mainly due to more actions in the show. The neon light display of staff stunts in the dark was amazing, feels like one is watching light sabres being used from a scene in Star Wars live. A couple of audiences are invited up to the stage to interact with the casts of Jump, this adds to the comedic effect in the show. I highly recommend visitors to Seoul to catch Jump as such non-verbal comedies is uniquely Korea.

Actors in one of the fighting scenes earlier in the show

Female casts displaying their skills with a staff

Incredible flexibility displayed by one of the casts of Jump

Some of the stunts require not just agility, but strength too

One of the fighting scenes in Jump

Another fighting scene in Jump

This is towards the end of the show where the cast displayed coordinated Taekwondo

I like the neon staff display

One of the staff even light up at both ends, feels as if this is a scene from Star Wars

More “jumping” actions in the show Jump

The acrobatic display stunts audiences

The casts make all these flipping in the air looks so easy

A gravity defying flip

All the casts of Jump in coordinated martial art moves

The grand finale of the show Jump

The show ended with all the casts displaying their martial arts skills

Strolling Amidst the Autumn Foliage in Gangwon-do, South Korea

As the leaves turns from lush green to red and yellow in South Korea, autumn has arrived. The top pick for viewing autumn foliage in Gangwon-do on most travelers mind would have to be Seoraksan National Park, with its expansive area and no lack of trekking trails. Other than the usual Seoraksan (which has been extensively covered), I picked three other spots in Gangwon-do where one will also be able to enjoy the colours of the autumn in Gangwon-do. Gangwon-do is blessed with numerous mountainous sights. Baekdudaegan, the spine of the Korean Peninsular, is a mountain range that runs through the Peninsular. Most of Gangwon-do’s spectucular natural sights lies along Baekdudaegan, including Taebeak mountain range where Mt Seoraksan and Mt Odaesan is located.

Places in Gangwon-do to visit in autumn apart from the popular Seoraksan National Park

Nami Island, Chuncheon

Any Korean drama fan would have watched Winter Sonata, the K-drama that launched Korea Wave throughout the world. Nami Island is no stranger to these fans and those of us whom have watched the drama series. Nami Island, being the backdrop of Winter Sonata, has seen a surge in tourism after the airing of the drama. Located in Chuncheon county in Northwest Gangwon-do, the small half moon shaped island covering some 430,000㎡, is especially charming in Autumn.

There are no lack of spots to enjoy the autumn foliage on Nami Island. Visitors to Nami Island in autumn will be treated with clean and smoothing scent of bushy pine trees and tall redwoods that line the island. Other than the 20 gardens located in various corners of the island, there are numerous walking paths with trees lining up on either side of the paths for visitors to stroll on. The central artery across the island is dripped with the Korean Pine Trees, which visitors will encounter once arriving on Nami Island. From here visitors can choose to stroll amongst the Metasequoia trees,  Ginko trees, Cherry trees, White Birch, Cornel trees, just to name a few. Amongst the lanes, the most photographed and scenic would be the Ginko tree walk path, which is especially charming during autumn with tree leaves turning bright yellow. Other than strolling on Nami Island, visitors can rent a bike or the electric car around the island. There is even a UNICEF Tram that brings visitors around.

Visitors to the island can opt for the traditional ferry that departs every 30 mins and every 10 to 20 mins during peak hours of the day across the Han River. The more adventurous visitors can opt to cross the Han River to Nami Island via the zip line, where one will be treated with magnificent views around the Island.

Map of Nami Island

(image credit: http://res.klook.com/image/upload/v1486643761/Korea/Nami_Island_Map.png)

Nami Island during autumn
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

Nami Island during autumn
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

One of the walk paths on Nami Island

(image credit: https://namisum.com/en/) 

Nami Island is dotted with red, yellow and orange leaves during autumn

(image credit: https://namisum.com/en/) 

Ginko tree lane in Nami Island
(image credit: 
https://namisum.com/en/) 

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest, Inje

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is more popular as a winter destination thanks to the tall slander Birch trees that creates an exotic Siberian feel with white trees thrusting into the sky from the snow covered ground. Visitors flock to Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest as it is believed that Birch Trees possess mystical power of healing. Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is as charming in autumn as it is magical in winter. Instead of a land of white, Mother Nature painted the whole landscape with yellow and red in autumn. Coupled with the presence of leaves, which creates a smoothing rustling sound as wind blows through the forest, making it seem like the trees are whispering to visitors to this land. Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is about 20km outside the small mountain town of Inje. The hill that Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest sits on may seem ordinary at first, one has to immerse in the midst of the Birch tree forest to feel the tranquility the forest brings.

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is located on the side of Wondae Peak in Wondae-li. Visitors to Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest can choose to stroll along one or all of the 4 courses namely Birch Forest Course (0.9km: 40-50mins), Healing Course 1 (1.5km: 1½ hours), Exploration Course (1.1km: 40mins) and Healing Course 2 (2.4km: 2hours). The walks on these trails are relatively easy as the slops are not steep, providing visitors a relaxing time to enjoy the forest.

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in Autumn

(image credit http://gangwon.com.my/color-your-autumn-in-gangwon/)

Mother Nature painting Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest with yellow and red in autumn

(image credit: http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2016/02/25/0200000000AKR20160225180400062.HTML)

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest is as charming in autumn as it is magical in winter

(image credit:http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

View of Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

Wondae-ri Birch Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://blog.jeep.co.kr/?p=497&ckattempt=1)

Odaesan National Park

Odaesan National Park is one of three national parks in Gangwon-do, covering an area of 304㎢. Odaesan National Park compresis of 2 districts, Woljeongsa district despite being in a high territory, has some beautiful trails for hiking; and Sogeumgang district whose rocky formations are a sight not to be missed. Compared to the neighbouring Seoraksan National Park, Odaesan National Park isn’t as crowded and makes this the perfect place to enjoy the tranquility of the forested autumn foliage in Gangwon-do.

Map of Odaesan National Park

(image credit:http://english.knps.or.kr)

Odaesan National Park in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264215)

Odaesan National Park in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264215)

There are no lack of walking trails for everyone wanting to experience the beautiful autumn foliage. Trekking trails can be found in Woljeongsa district of the national park. For the mild trekkers, Woljeongsa Temple is a great place to start. The short 1kim Fir Tree Forest crosses over some streams, is also a filming site for the Korean drama Goblin. The Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest trail is rather flat, which makes it suitable for most visitors to enjoy the bursts of red, orange and yellow forest in autumn. For the more adventurous trekkers, Sangwonsa at Odaesan National Park would be the starting point. There are numerous trails for varying degree of difficulty for trekkers to choose from, ranging for the shortest 4.4km (takes around 2½ hours to complete) Dongdaesan Mountain Course to the longest 18.7 km (takes around 10 hours to complete) Durobong Peak Course.

Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: http://k-popped.com/2017/09/3-best-k-drama-filming-locations-to-visit-during-autumn-in-korea/)

Woljeongsa Fir Tree Forest in autumn

(image credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/xjVi_BuTGXE/hqdefault.jpg)

There are also no lack of opportunities to enjoy the autumn foliage in Sogeumgang district. For a start, visitors can take a short 2.2km (1 hour) hike from Guemgangsa to Guryong Falls and enjoy the autumn foliage along the way in the lust vegetation amidst a land of streams and rock formations. Visitors will also be treated to sights of groups of locals gathering for picnic on the flat rocks along the route towards Guryong Falls. The more adventurous hikers can continue the trail for more autumn foliage opportunities which is part of the 13.7km (takes around 10 hours to complete) Sogeumgang Course. The Sogeumgang Courses passes through forests, beautiful gorges and rivers towards Noinbong Peak.

Guryong Falls in autumn

(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=789858)

Noinbong Peak in Odaesan National Park

(image credit: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/6232468#)

Places to Visit in Gangwon-do During Winter Olympics

The adrenaline and actions for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will take place in less than 200 days time. Besides soaking in the thrills and excitement as well as watching the opening and closing ceremonies of Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in awe, there are numerous places of interest that Winter Olympics goers can visit whilst in PyeongChang. PyeongChang is one of the 11 counties and 7 cities in Gangwon-do, while Gangwon-do forms up one of the nine provinces in South Korea. Situated in the North-Eastern part of South Korea, Gangwon-do borders North Korea to the north and East Sea to the East. The province covers more than 20,000㎡ in area, with over 80% of the province being mountainous. Here are some of the places that visitors to the PyeongChang Olympics can visit while in the province.

Map of Gangwon-do

For the Nature Lover – Seoraksan National Park

One of the “must-go” places of interest in South Korea is Seoraksan National Park. This iconic national park was designated UNESCO Biosphere Protection Site, with oddly shaped rock formations, dense forests, abundant wildlifes, hot springs and ancient temples. Nature lovers would find it hard not to fall in love with Seoraksan National Park. The national park has a total of 15 hiking trails ranging from 1km to 24km, hikers of all levels of fitness are bound to find a trail that suits them.

Entrance to Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park

Rock formation in Seoraksan National Park

I visited Seoraksan National Park both my twice visit to South Korea, the beauty of Seoraksan National Park never fail to captivate me. Mt Seorak, the centre piece of Seoraksan National Park, stood majestically welcoming visitors to this area. Seoraksan National Park has activities catered for all visitors. Other than the hiking trails, a cable car system operated since 1970, has taken numerous visitors up Mt Seorak to soak in the views of the surroundings. From the summit station, visitors can walk up to Gwongeumseong Fortress, built around 1253A.D. during Koryo Dynasty to fend off Mongolian invasion. Instead of finding a building, what I saw at the Gwongeumseong Fortress was a bunch of rocks. As the fortress is built on top of the mountains, visitors are treated to views of the Seoraksan Mountain Ranges and fresh mountain air here.

View from Mt Seorak 

View from Mt Seorak 

View from Mt Seorak 

At Gwongeumseong Fortress

The other side of Mt Seorak

View from Mt Seorak

Nested within the valley in Seoraksan National Park is where Sinheungsa Temple sits. The ancient temple was believed to be built in 653 and is the oldest Zen temple in the world. With the surrounding tranquil mountain, I experienced a sense of peace and zen when entering the temple grounds. I could spend the whole afternoon here, sitting under the tree in the courtyard, enjoying the peace and calm the temple offers. This is a good place to escape from the sometimes massive amount of visitors to Seoraksan National Park.

Bronze Buddha Statue in Seoraksan National Park 

Temple building beside the Bronze Buddha Statue

Entrance to Sinheungsa Temple

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

Sinheungsa Temple

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

The peaceful Sinheungsa Temple grounds

For the History Buffs – DMZ

North Korea has always been a mystery to most people around the world. There are several places in Gangwon-do that allows visitors to get up close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Cheorwon county is one of the more popular places for visitors to get up and close to North Korea. Other than Cheorwon being situated on the North Western part of Gangwon-do, the county, bordering between the two Koreas,  was part of North Korea before the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement that created the DMZ between the two Koreas. The war broke out in Cheorwon during the Korean Wars, which saw the county being divided into two, with Cheorwon being claimed by South Korea. Speaking about visiting DMZ, many people flock to Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjeom, which is more expensive and crowded to peek into North Korea. Cheorwon offers a cheaper and less crowded alternative for those who are interested to learn more about the history of Korean wars and the aftermath of the war.

DMZ (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

View of DMZ (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

Cheorwon saw the fierce fight during the Korean War and reminiscence of war is still present today. Most of the War sites lie within the Civilian Control Zone that spans 20km from the border. The Second Tunnel, dug by North Korea in 1975, allows visitors to experience what the soldiers went through during the Korean Wars. The tunnel was a tactical move for the North Korean Army to infuriate into South Korea. About 1km of the 3.5km tunnel lies in South Korea and it’s large enough for some 16,000 soldiers to stream through per hour. The tunnel isn’t as cramp as the famous Vietnamese tunnel, however headroom can be a challenge at some parts of the tunnel. A 150m staircase leads down to the well-lit albeit damp tunnel, which brings visitors just 300m from the border.

Entrance to 2nd Tunnel(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Inside the 2nd Tunnel (image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

The Cheorwon Peace Observatory lies about 1km from the DMZ, which makes it a great place for visitors to glimpse into the mysterious North Korea. Due to the proximity to the North Korea, the coin-operated binoculars found on the second level of Cheorwon Peace Observatory allows visitors to gaze into North Korea and its ‘propaganda village’ of Seonjeon. There are exhibits on the first level of the observatory displaying photos of the Second Tunnel, military barracks, checkpoints, and the DMZ. A short video clip is shown in the auditorium at scheduled timings on the Korean Wars, however the clip is in Korean language.

Cheorwon Peace Observatory
(image credit: 
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Exhibits on the 1st floor of Cheorwon Peace Observatory(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Exhibits on the 1st floor of Cheorwon Peace Observatory(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 
Observation Deck on 2nd level(image credit: https://koreaprivatetours.com/tours/cheorwon-dmz-tour/)

Not far from the Cheorwon Peace Observatory is the Woljeong-ri Station, left as a memorial to the railway line between Seoul and Wonsan, and housing the battered, twisted remains of a bombed train.

Woljeong-ri Station(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

After passing a few battle-scarred buildings, visitors arrive at the former Labour Party HQ. Here is where one would be able to see the reminiscences of the Korean war. The surviving facade look and feels eerie, more like a haunted house. This building is where many civilians were imprisoned and tortured when Cheorwon was part of North Korea. Visitors are not allowed to enter the whatever remains of the Labour Party HQ as the building is being cordoned off, however looking up at the facade of the building is sufficient for one to feel the sufferings that war brings.

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482)

Ruins of the Former Labour Party HQ (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264482) 

For the Cultural Seekers – Naksansa Temple

One of the oldest temple in Gangwon-do, Naksansa Temple has a 1,300 year old history and is found by the ambassador of the 30th King of Silla Period in 671 after his return from China during the Tang Dynasty. Since then Naksansa Temple has been rebuilt several times and the most recent reconstruction of Naksansa Temple was in 1953 as the temple fell victim to the Korean Wars. Naksansa Temple is a major cultural attraction in this region, that also offers temple stays for visitors who wants to immense into the religious culture of South Korea. Through the temple stay, visitors not only are able to experience the life of Buddhist practitioners, they can also learn the various aspects of Korean Buddhist Culture and history through stories told by the monks in the temple.

Map of Naksansa Temple (image credit: http://www.koreanbuddhism.net/bbs/board.php?bo_table=250&wr_id=7)

There are two gates that forms the main entrance to Naksansa Temple. The first gate that greets visitors to this ancient temple is the Iljumun Gate, which is also called the One-Pillar Gate as it appears to be supported by a single pillar when viewed from the side of the gate. This gate sybmolises the one true path of enlightenment and purification that one must leave their worldly desires when entering the temple. The second gate that visitors will pass through before hitting the temple grounds is the Hongyaemun Gate, which is built by King Seo in 1466. The Hongyaemun Gate is built with 26 stones representing the number of counties.

Iljumun Gate – The first gate at Naksansa Temple (image credit : http://en.gangwon.to/cyber/en/board/read/id/en_themetour/page/2/num/34)

Hongyaemun Gate is the second gate that visitors will come across before hitting the temple grounds (image credit: http://en.gangwon.to/cyber/en/board/read/id/en_themetour/page/2/num/35)

Naksansa Temple is spread out over a large area and houses numerous cultural assets. A little further from Hongyaemun Gate, the first thing that greets visitors is the bell pavilion to the far left side, housing a large copper bell, one of the cultural assets in Naksansa Temple. Further from the entrance is where one would land themselves into the Cheonwangmun Gate, with statues of the Four Heavenly Kings guarding the temple. Sitting in the middle of the upper courtyard is another cultural relic of this temple, the seven-tiered stone pagoda. The temple building behind this pagoda houses the statue of Gwanseeum-Bosal. Further into the temple grounds, up a small slope is where visitors can find a large statue of Gwanseeum-Bosal. This 18m tall statue, looking out into the East Sea, also called the Haesugwaneumsang. The Haesugwaneumsang (Bodhisattva of Mercy) stands on a 9 foot tall pedestal looks peaceful and serene.

Copper Bell Pavilion in Naksansa Temple (image credit: http://chdkstks.tistory.com/233)

Seven-tiered pagoda in front of the temple (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

Golden Statue of Gwanseeum-Bodal inside the temple behind the stone pagoda (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

The 18m tall stone Haesugwaneumsang that looks out into the East Sea (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

The other highlight in Naksansa Temple is the pavilion built on top of the cliff facing the East Sea. Uisangdae Pavilion was built where Ui-sang used to sit and mediate. The view from this pavilion is stunting and peaceful. One can simply spend some time here and enjoy the scenery of the sea. A little further from Uisangdae Pavilion is where Hongryeonam, a small Buddhist temple built above a stone cave sits. There is a 10 cm hole under the sanctuary floor where visitors can peak through the view the sea.

Uisangdae Pavilion(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245) 

View of the East Sea from Uisangdae Pavilion (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

Hongryeonam, a small temple built on a cave(image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245) 

Hongryeonam up close (image credit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264245)

Winter Sports and PyeongChang Olympics 2018

With PyeongChang Winter Olympics happening less then 200 days from now, there are no lack of winter sports that I would certainly be watching out for. In one of my previous post, I mentioned there are a total of 102 Gold Medals up for grabs across 15 winter sports for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics game and 80 Gold Medals up for grabs across 6 winter sports for the Paralympics Games. Of all the winter sports, I like Luge, Skiing and Ski Jumping most. I had the opportunity to try out the amateur versions of these winter sports.

PyeongChang Winter Olympics is less then 200 days away

Sledding – an Amateur version of Luge

I was in High1 Ski Resort, 3 hours train ride from Seoul, last year for winter. Coming from a tropical country, snow is never seen here in Singapore. As I have never tried skiing before my trip, I was hesitant to try skiing without going through proper lessons. Being my first winter sports, I wasn’t ambitious in trying skiing, and opted for sledding instead. Sledding requires me only to slide down a short slope on a sled. Sledding is a fun version of the Luge, which is a competing sport in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics. Luge is a fast sliding sport where competitors (one or two lugers) race down 1,000 to 1,500m track while lying face up with their feet stretched in front of them. Runs are timed up to 1/1,000 of a minute. While the sledding is not as intensive nor the track is as long, however it gave me a glimpse of luge as a winter sports. Sledding requires no training, all I did was to grab a sled and slide down the slope. The only “technical” part about sledding is the braking. It is a fun sport for amateurs and families.

High1 Ski Resort, 3 hours train ride east from Seoul

The ski slopes at High1 Ski Resort in Gangwon-do

My friend getting ready to sled down the slope in High1 Ski Resort

Me and my friend trying sledding for the first time. This is our first time trying a winter sport

My friend with the sled in High1 Ski Resort

The snow in High1 Ski Resort is perfect for sledding

High1 Ski Resort in Gangwon-do

My First Shot at Skiing

As I visited Hokkaido earlier this year, I finally got to try skiing. I took a beginners lesson on skiing and I loved it. Without the use of poles, the trick to skiing is really to control the braking speed with the inverted “V” shape that one would need to form with the skis. Prior to learning to ski, I always thought that the poles are used to control the speed and was initially puzzled why I was not provided the ski poles. After some clarifications by the instructor, I realised that the poles are used to increase the speed of skiing down the slope, especially for Alpine Skiing, another event in the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where competitors slides down snow-covered slopes on skis with fixed heel bindings. Alpine Skiing is comprised of largely two types of disciplines: the speed (velocity) events and the technical (skills) events.Skiing down the slopes gives me a sense of freedom, just letting gravity doing its job. I can imagine the exhilaration the competitors must have feel during velocity Alpine Skiing, rushing down the mountain at great speeds. Skiing is a fun sport and is a fun even for kids.

Having ski lessons

I was glad that I managed to ski for the first time

My friend learning to ski

A Skier in action

Skier coming down the slope

Despite still learning to ski, we immediately fell in love with this winter sport

Me on a chairlift up a ski slope for beginners

My friend skiing down the slope under the watchful eyes of our instructor

The Elegant Ski Jumping

I had the opportunity to watch Ski Jumping broadcasted over the television when I was in Hokkaido. Prior to visiting Ski Resorts, I always thought Ski Jumping is boring. However with my very limited experience in Skiing, I came to realise Ski Jumping is quite fun to watch. The skier glides down a ramp at 90km/h to jump and fly as far as they can go in Ski Jumping. Because the downhill launch souring through the air is so beautiful, it is also called “The flower of ski sports”. Just looking at the jump from the slope is enough to deter me from trying this sport (perhaps one of these days I might try this sport). Ski Jumping is both elegant and thrilling just by watching it. This is also one of my favourite winter sports. Ski Jumping is also an event in the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Can’t wait to see Ski Jumpers in action during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.

Ski Jumper in action (image credit: https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/sports/ski-jumping)

Chef : Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab – Immensing in Korea’s Non-verbal Comedy Musical

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One of the dancing scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

Non-Verbal Comedy Musicals in  Korea

Non-verbal musicals that infuses Korean culture, be it food or lifestyle with dance and acrobatics, is one of the must-dos while visiting South Korea. These popular musicals are watched by Koreans and visitors. Several years ago I had a chance to watch Jump, one of the several such non-verbal musicals, whilst traveling in Korea. I was amazed by the fact that despite no language was used, I was still able to understand the show and was kept entertained throughout the show. It is refreshing that the Koreans are able to pack laughter throughout the theater despite not using any form of language. My friend and I managed to catch one of such non-verbal musicals that has made its round to Singapore. Chef: Bimbap is a show about a group of chef learning to make a perfect Bibimbap. It combines dance, beat boxing whilst introduces Korean’s iconic dish, Bibimbap to the audiences.

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Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab standee outside the theater

Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

The show that is being shown in Singapore, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab, feels like a localised version of the original show Chef. The story seem slightly different from the original Chef. Instead of having a group of chef learning to make a perfect Bibimbap, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab is about 2 chefs (green and red chefs) pitting their culinary skills to outcook each other. The show saw both chefs taking turns cooking up cuisines from sushi to pizza to Chinese chicken noodle and ended off with a show down of both taking the stage, with one side cooking the Chili Crab and the other Bibimbap. Despite departure from the orginal show, Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab, still has the same theme throughout and did not lose its essence of infusing break dancing and beat-boxing into the show. The 1-hour show saw the use of beat-boxing live on stage most of the time, with small occasions where recorded music was used or complimented with the beat boxing. The actors doing the beat boxing seem to be masters of the art, verbalising musics for the most part of the show (including the Korea Folk Song, Arirang). There is segment where they beat- boxed a series of songs from K-pop songs to Michael Jackson hits. The beat boxing added to the entertainment value of show.

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Beat Boxing was performed lived on stage

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Beat boxing was the main source of music throughout the entire 1 hour show

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One of the character singing to the tune of beat boxing

Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab packed laughter in the theater for the entire duration leaving audiences amazed by the breakdancing of the actors. There is a segment where one of the characters sang and the light went out. In pitch black emerges luminous hands mimicking fishes and scenes of underwater. There is even a diver swimming underwater in this scene. Audiences later were made known how this diver underwater was created with the diving appearing in a comic way. Audiences were also invited up to the stage to become part of Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab at times during the show, which adds more comedic effect to the show. Watching Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab does reminds me of similar performance that I watched some years ago in Korea, which has earned itself a place as a pop-culture of Korea. The show is highly recommended for one who wants to immerse themselves into this aspect the Korean Culture.

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab where the 2 master chefs pit against each other

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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The underwater scene in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Break dancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audience (the guy in the middle) were invited to the stage to participate in the show

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Final showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audiences were treated to breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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More breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdancing in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scenes in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdance showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Breakdance showdown in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Scene in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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Audiences were treated to a series of dance and songs in Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

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The cast of  Chef: Bibimbap Vs Chili Crab

 

PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018

Olympics Return to South Korea

After 30 long years, the Olympics flag is flying high in South Korea once more. The city of PyeongChang, about 2 hours KTX ride from Seoul, has been chosen to host the 23rd Winter Olympic Games. The last time South Korea flew the Olympics flag was in 1988 in the Summer Olympics version. More information, including ticketing and schedules can be found in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics website.

Image Sources:
https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/index
https://architectureofthegames.net/tag/pyeongchang/page/4/
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/sochi-olympics/see-you-four-years-russia-hands-south-korea-n36786