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Studio Ghibli comes to Seoul

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Are you a fan of Princess Mononoke, Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and other Hayao Miyazaki favourites?

There’s a special exhibition at Seoul’s Yongsan I’Park Mall that runs till the end of Feb 2015. It’s rather pricey at 15,000 won and it was disappointingly small, so I wouldn’t recommend it to casual visitors. But if you’re a big fan (like me) then you absolutely have to visit it anyway, haha. There’s also a gift shop with cards, folders, jigsaws, soft toys and more.

Howl's Moving Castle. It really moves.

Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke on his elk/reindeer mount.

Evil old witch.

No-face looks lonely, would you like to take a selca with him?

Draw your own characters and add them to the sticker wall.

I maintain this site as a hobby and have personally verified or experienced most of the information posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you’d like to contribute an update or additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below!
Prices provided in Korean won or US dollars.

Overwhelmingly Marvel Biased: House Tour Part 2

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While I posted a tour of my apartment back when I first moved in, I realized recently that I still haven't posted any pictures of the finished product. I have furniture now! Art is on the wall! Things are surprisingly color coordinated! So, without further ado, I present to you: my house.

The entryway is largely unchanged. I love the little shelf/window thing, and it was actually the first place I decorated when I moved in. I feel like I should move the books now that I have a real bookshelf, but I like the effect so they can stay for now.

I'm also collecting pretty wedding invitations.

Next, I invite you into my bathroom. I initially assumed the violently pink towel would be temporary, but here we are, months later, so I guess it's permanent.

One thing I don't like about the red sink and toilet is that it's harder to notice when they get dirty. I guess that could be a good thing if you're lazy about cleaning and don't want anyone to notice, but...

Um yeah also I have Hello Kitty cleaning products.

Okay, enough bathroom talk. Time for the kitchen and living room! I had a difficult time deciding what sort of color scheme I wanted to go with, but as I bought things, a nice palette of reds and oranges just sort of naturally occurred. 

My bedroom is overwhelmingly bright sometimes.

When I first bought the couch, I hated the cushions and planned to make nicer covers for them, but I haven't done it yet and I guess they sort of grew on me.

These posters are probably my favorite thing in the whole apartment. They were laying on my floor for a month before I was able to put them up, though, because it's kind of a two person job. Fortunately I was able to con Harry into becoming my assistant.

The placement of each poster in relation to the others was carefully planned.

Now, if we turn around, you can see my tiny kitchen. I've added to my fridge decorations since I took this picture, though, so now the side of my fridge is a Marvel movie shrine, with the Korean posters for Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Big Hero Six. I'll post a picture if I remember.

The flowers are totally fake.

I do wish I had more counter space, but at least I have a proper stove and a nice big sink. It's hard to see, but the cabinets all have a subtle floral pattern, which is a nice touch.

Yes, that is an Iron Man mug.

Last but not least is my bedroom! Much like the living room, I accidentally managed to coordinate all of the colors perfectly, though in more of a pastel and white palette, which sort of makes me feel like a princess, which honestly is entirely fine by me.

The bookshelf I got used, the desk was  put together mostly by Harry (with me getting in the way trying to help) and the chair I found on Gmarket. Getting it delivered was kind of hilarious, actually, because one day I got home and there was just this chair, sitting in front of my door, wrapped in bubble wrap. I didn't have to take it out of a box or put it together or anything. It was magical.

I may be a bit Marvel biased.
Cards from my kids~

I'm trying to keep my clothes organized, but so far it's not going so well. Using my old bookshelf as a sort of dresser is really helpful, though, so I don't have to just pile my socks and tights on the floor like a loser.

I'm still scared the clothes hanging rack will fall down in the night.

I also really love how bright and sunny my room gets in the afternoon. I may not have the best view, but the light was what first made me want this apartment. 

Captain America keeps my air moist.

Well, that's my house! I also have a spare room that I keep my laundry and boxes and stuff in, but it's scary and messy and no one should ever see it. I'm actually pretty proud of how everything turned out. It's the first time I've had the chance to decorate my own place exactly how I want, and I hope I can stay here for a while.

Teacher Pretty
Middle school ESL teacher, lover of pink, eater of kimchi, addicted to Etude House, expert procrastinator, meeter of 2-dimensionial popstars: Ana. That's me.

About   Teaching   Advice   Beauty   How-To   Food   Langauge   Tumblr

The 99% Theory

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IMG_2567Why is it that the most defining experiences of our lives are often the most difficult to describe? Just when we need the “right words” the most, suddenly we have none. Try as we might, it seems impossible to string together the most accurate series of adjectives, nouns and verbs.

Does our desperation to paint the perfect picture override our cognitive abilities and cause our brains to force-quit? Should we have been paying closer attention in the moment in order to have a better memory of it later? Or, is it because there are some things in this world that can only be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched and felt by means of personal experience, and there is no substitute for the real thing?

Love. Heartbreak. Happiness. Anger.  It’s no surprise that such grand, powerful and universal emotions like these would fall into the category of “indescribable” experiences. But what about places? What about structures, cities and countries? Surely the tangible and empirical nature of these things must mean we can capture them on film or paper.

But is that true? Can we really? Can our words, pictures and videos do justice to all the treasures that this world has to offer? After recently returning from the Eighth Wonder of the World, Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I am having a hard time putting my experience into words. So I guess the answer is “no.”

I am at a loss for words, which would normally frustrate any writer. But in this case, I’m grateful. I’m grateful because it means I’ve just experienced something truly extraordinary and life changing. I’ve learned, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched and felt things that no second-hand experience ever could’ve given me to the same extent. And that’s an incredible gift.

In part, this blog is about trying pass along as much of that same gift to other people as possible; taking readers along with me to the places I go, the people I meet and the things I do. But after thinking about it, I’ve realized the most I’ll ever be able to give is 99%. For some reason, the universe is always going to withhold that last 1%, preserving it in my mind, heart and soul where the experience first originated, in a form that even I can’t articulate.

Maybe that’s the universe’s way of giving us permission to be a bit selfish sometimes, to keep some things completely to ourselves even when we want to share it with others. Maybe that’s how we become inspired to communicate with one another, to tell our stories and listen to those of others, because if we do, just maybe we’ll find the missing pieces to all the second-hand information we acquire over a lifetime. Or, maybe it’s the universe telling us to get out there for ourselves; that there is no substitute for the real thing; that it’s time to stop settling for 99% of someone else’s experience when we could have 100% of our own.

To view the original post and other great content, visit Korealizations at:

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Reading List: "queer, fly"

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The BF is was a student at SNU and a member of Queer in SNU (QIS) and brought home their biannual queer, fly journal. A collection of essays, stories, and reports on queer issues, most all of the articles available online are written in Korean, but the most recent journal (number 17) has two articles written in English. Unfortunately, article 17 isn't available online yet, but you can find it on SNU's campus.

For those who can't head over to campus equally, you can see articles from previous journals over at queer fly's website

“Korean Age”: Old Before My Time

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John Bocskay:

This is my latest over at Sweet Pickles and Corn: Life on the other side of the International Age Line. Wait, what? Just read it.

Originally posted on SWEET PICKLES & CORN:

By John Bocskay

People say age is just a number. Koreans say it’s just a slightly larger number.

As an international traveler, you get used to the idea of various countries using different measures to refer to the same thing. The same size-four dress in Australia will translate into a size-five in svelte Japan. That which we call a size-eight trainer in London will smell as sweet in L.A. – OK, maybe not – though it will be labeled a size-ten (and will be called a sneaker). A “small” soda in the States is what Koreans call “large”, and what Americans call large, Koreans call a bucket. I big-gulp-kid-carouselhave no trouble wrapping my head around these things, but even so, I found it exceedingly weird to board a Korean Air flight in New York as a 27-year-old and disembark thirteen hours later in Seoul at age twenty-nine. I…

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Low Blows in Shanghai

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Pudong International Airport

Pudong International Airport

It was 9:00 on a Thursday morning and I had just landed in Shanghai, the largest city in China by population and the largest city proper by population in the world. I was ultimately headed to the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. However, before I could bask in the tropical temperatures and dubiously bathe myself in sunscreen, there was one thing standing in my way: a 9-hour layover.

Originally, I had every intention of just staying put between flights, rendering myself a temporary prisoner of Pudong International Airport. But after talking to a few other survivors of long layovers in this city of 15 million people, I decided that 9 hours would be plenty of time to hop the fence and explore a few of the main downtown attractions, like the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Bund, before scurrying back to the smokey confines of Gate 213. Besides, China was never high on my list of places to visit, so when else was I going to be back here? Plus, my lay-over status gave me up to 72-hours in the country without having to pay the obnoxious $140 visa entry fee, so all the signs were pointing out the automatic doors of the arrivals terminal.

Some simple detective work on Google revealed my two best options for getting around. Option 1: rent a car for a few hours and run the risk of getting ripped off by sketchy, price-gouging drivers. Option 2: navigate the relatively foreigner-friendly high-speed Mag-Lev train and subway system for a much lower price. I was determined to avoid getting scammed and ready to challenge my street smarts, so after innocently smiling at the customs agent whose stare seemed to say, “You better get back on your next flight Mr. American and not get me in trouble for letting you in here,” I collected my backpack at the baggage claim and set off to find the bullet train platform.

Then, out of nowhere, a voice called to me in near-perfect English–it still amazes me how our native tongues can pierce through crowds of people speaking other languages to reach our ears from even the greatest of distances. The voice belonged to a friendly looking middle-aged Chinese woman who was sitting behind the counter of what appeared to be an information center. In need of a map and some reaffirming directions, I happily wandered over to her.

Oriental Pearl Tower (pre pah-king incident)

Oriental Pearl Tower (pre pah-king incident)

What happened next is still a little unclear to me. In short, one minute she’s asking me harmless questions about what brings me to Shanghai, what I’m interested in seeing and doing, and how I plan to get there. Then, the next thing I know, I’m handing her $80 in Chinese RMB for a private car to take me around the city. A few minutes after that, it hit me, “Shit. I fell for it.”

I vaguely remember trying to assert myself and insist that I could handle using the Mag-Lev and subway on my own; that I knew where I was going and how to get there, I just needed a map. “Oh, but Shanghai is a strange, big new city for you. You don’t know Shanghai. It will be very stressful for you, I think. How about car? We have nice car for you. Only 900 RMB,” she said with a deceiving smile that was subtly tearing away at my traveler’s self-confidence. Then I think I said that that was way out of my price range, to which she responded, “Ok. What is good price for you? What is in your budget?” And that, I’m guessing, is where she got me. Once the negotiation began, that was it. She was about to deliver a low blow square into my wallet, and my daily budget would be out for the count. In the end, she conned me into believing I had driven her down to almost half her original price, now 500 RMB or about 80 USD.


Downtown Shanghai

It was only once I was sitting down, waiting for my driver that it dawned on me what a rip-off this “deal” was. But by then there was nothing much I could do, so I rationalized my stupidity by telling myself that I was paying for the convenience and expediency of not having to deal with buying train/subway tickets and getting off at the right stops. And at any rate, the train and subway tickets were going to set me back at least $20 roundtrip, so I’d only lost $60, not $80. I also had the privacy of my own car where I could safely leave my bag while walking around. I would be spending more time in the city above-ground, where I could sightsee, instead in the dark tunnels of the subway. And my driver, allegedly, spoke English, so he could tell me all about the city as we went along.

Unfortunately, this false sense of positivity brought on by my feeble attempts at self-validation didn’t last long. In total, between coming from and going to the airport, plus a bit of walking around, the whole ride lasted barely 3 hours and left me feeling cheated, frustrated and underwhelmed. The driver initially greeted me with the clearest, most native-sounding, “Hello, sir!” But it quickly became apparent that his skills didn’t extend much beyond that. Equally bothersome was the pungent odor of cigarette smoke that pervaded the vehicle and his constant hacking, coughing and throat clearing. ‘He can’t help that he’s sick,’ I told myself as I raised my scarf to cover my nose and mouth throughout the majority of the car ride. ‘But he better keep his phlegmmy, germmy cooties to himself cuz there’s no way in hell I’m getting sick on the first day of my vacation.’ Not helping things was the gloomy, rainy weather and cold, damp temperature of the day.

Finally, the straw that broke this traveler’s back, and bank, was when I returned to the car after walking around the Oriental Pearl Tower. My driver had managed to find a parking spot on a nearby street and had been patiently waiting for me. Once I was buckled back in and ready to head onto the next place, he handed me this little white slip of paper with Chinese writing and the amount 40 RMB stamped on it. “Pah-king, you pay me lay-tuh, okay?”

‘Um. What?’ I said to myself. ‘Didn’t I just drop $80 with your boss and now you’re telling me that doesn’t include any parking allowances? We were in this lot for less than 20 minutes, and now I owe you $6?! Is this a joke???’

Nope. No joke. From then on I had to repeatedly make it very clear, “No parking, okay? No. Par. King.”

“Ahhhhh okay okay okay, no pah-blem. No pah-blem.”

‘Yeah, mhm,’ I thought, fuming. ‘No pah-blem.’

“Yah, pah-king Shanghai expensive. Much money. Too many money!”

At that point, I was done. The fact that I was far from getting my money’s worth out of this experience didn’t even matter anymore. For about twenty more minutes we drove through a few more parts of town that might have been interesting if I hadn’t still been reeling over the pah-king incident, or if the driver had actually been able to tell me anything about them in intelligible English. After that we set course to return to the airport where I was able to move on and put all the unpleasantness behind me.

In hindsight, it was stupid to be upset over $6. But in the moment, it was less about the $6 I’d lost and more about the fact that the misunderstanding was just the rotten cherry resting atop the most over-priced sundae ever, complete with cloudy whipped cream, cigarette scented sprinkles, and ice creams flavors of regret and foolishness.

Every traveler has their story of the first time they truly got scammed or hustled. Now, thanks to Shanghai, I guess I have mine.

There's a really neat circular walkway near the Pearl Tower that gives you a cool 360-degree view of downtown. Home is where The Hut is. Historic shopping district of Shanghai Knick-knacks and knock-offs


Best of 2014 Photofest Prizes

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Photo Contest Results
Complete Exhibition Here
Thanks very much to all those who participated in the Photofest.  It was not easy to select prize winners as judges and website visitors voted for a wide array of photos and final tallies were quite close. As such, we reworked our prize structure just a bit to include more entrants.   That said, contest prizes go to.....

Top Overall Photo - W100,000
Family Walk
by : maki

Category Prizes  - W50,000 
Riverside Ride
Life in Technicolor



Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do)

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An overcast sky at Yongjusa Temple in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongjusa Temple, which means “Dragon Jewel Temple,” in English, is located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do. Yongjusa Temple was first founded in 854 A.D. It was first known as Galyangsa Temple. During the 10th century, the temple was further expanded. The temple was completely destroyed in 1636 during the Manchu War. But in 1790, under the orders of King Jeongjo, the temple was rebuilt in honour of his deceased father, Prince Sado (1735-62). This was one of the few times during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), under the heavy influence of Confucian ideology, that the Joseon royal house supported Buddhism directly. It was also at this time that the temple changed its name to its current one: Yongjusa Temple.

You first enter the temple grounds through the Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are some of the fiercest Heavenly Kings that you’ll find in Korea. With their eye-popping intensity, they exemplify the intimidating poses these figures should make when welcoming visitors to temples.

Past the admission booth, and up a meandering pathway, you’ll next come to the Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple. With two red painted poles connected by a top beam, this gate speaks to the temple’s royal ancestry. Typically, this style of gate is found at a royal tomb.

Through the neighbouring Sammun Gate that is adorned with some ancient stone statues, you’ll enter the outer courtyard that houses a five-story stone pagoda. It’s only after you get your fill of the natural beauty that surrounds the temple in this part of the grounds that you’ll pass through the Boje-ru Pavilion. It is only then that you stand inside the temple courtyard.

Sitting in the centre of the temple grounds is the Daeungbo-jeon. The exterior walls of the hall are painted with Palsang-do murals; but uniquely, there’s no pagoda framing the main hall at Yongjusa Temple. Inside, the main hall is highly elaborate. Sitting on the main altar are a triad of statues centred by Seokgamoni-bul. He’s joined on either side by Yaksayore-bul (The Medicine Buddha) and Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). The statues on the main altar are backed by a highly original platform painting. Measuring four metres in height and three metres in width, it was painted by Kim Hongdo, who was a famous Korean painter as well as the county magistrate. The life-like features of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are quite unique in their design. The older looking canopy, as well as the white-clad Gwanseeum-bosal and Gamno-do painting make the interior to this hall a must see at Yongjusa Temple.

To the left of the main hall is the Cheonbul-jeon Hall. Housed inside this hall are a thousand tiny white Buddha statues, as well as spherical golden lights that front the golden triad of statues that sit on the main altar. Behind this hall is the compact Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. All three of the shaman murals inside this hall are unique, but it’s the Sanshin mural that stands out the most with the big headed tiger protectively standing next to The Mountain Spirit.

To the right of the Samseong-gak, and across a bit of a field, is the elegantly designed pagoda. In front of this pagoda are two more shrine halls. One of the two is the Jijang-jeon Hall that houses a green haired statue of Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) on the main altar. The exterior walls to this hall are painted with murals that illustrate the various stages in life. The other shrine hall, the Hoseong-jeon, houses the memorial tablets of Prince Sado. Out in front of this hall is a uniquely designed three-story pagoda with a black body that has Korean writing on it about filial piety.

In total, the temple houses National Treasure #120, as well as two additional Treasures.

Admission to the temple is 1,500 won.

HOW TO GET THERE: To get to Yongjusa Temple, you’ll first need to get to Byeongjeom Station on  Line 1 on the Seoul subway system. From there, you’ll need to take the bus from behind the station. You can take any number of green buses like Bus #34, 34-1, 44, 46, 47, or 50. The bus ride to the temple should take ten to fifteen minutes.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10. There are quite a few unique features to Yongjusa Temple which starts at the entry with the intense statues of the Heavenly Kings and continues towards the Hongsalmun Gate. Another amazing feature is the temple bell, which also just so happens to be National Treasure #120. In combination with these features, you can enjoy all the amazing murals around the temple grounds like the Sanshin mural and the murals inside the main hall. With the temple pagodas, you have more than enough reason to visit this royal temple from the 18th century.


The Cheonwangmun Gate that welcomes you to Yongjusa Temple.


One of the intimidating, and eye-bulging, Heavenly Kings.


The path that leads up to the temple grounds.


The Hongsalmun Gate at Yongjusa Temple.


Some of the decorative artwork in front of the Sammun Gate.


A look towards the Boje-ru Gate at Yongjusa Temple.


The five-story stone pagoda out in front of the Boje-ru Pavilion.


Passing under a ceiling of dragons and the Boje-ru Pavilion.


The Daeungbo-jeon main hall at Yongjusa Temple.


 One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the main hall.


A look inside the Daeungbo-jeon at the main altar.


A look towards the Cheonbul-jeon and Samseong-gak.


National Treasure #120.


A look inside the Cheonbul-jeon at Yongjusa Temple.


The uniquely styled Sanshin mural.


The view from the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.


The white two story pagoda at Yongjusa Temple.


A closer look at the highly stylized pagoda.


A look towards the Jijang-jeon.


One of the life-cycle murals that adorns the Jijang-jeon.


And a look inside the Jijang-jeon at Jijang-bosal.


A look towards the neighbouring Hoseong-jeon and the three-story pagoda that stands out in front of it.


A look inside the Hoseong-jeon at the memorial tablets housed inside it.


One last look at the temple grounds at Yongjusa Temple.

The post Yongjusa Temple – 용주사 (Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

3 Years. 7 Photos. Constructing the Lotte Mall Gwangbok in Busan, South Korea

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I’ve been in Korea for longer than I initially expected to be. Sometimes I lose sight of how long it’s been. Every once in a while I’ll have a conversation with someone that reminds me of how long I’ve been here.

DSC03039However, it wasn’t until recently that I really felt the impact of how much time I’ve spent in Korea. I know there are some who’ve been here longer. Much longer. But for me, having not planned over three years in the ROK, it’s a big deal.

When I first came to Korea I lived on an island called Yeongdo which is connected to the main land of Busan by a few bridges. The bridge closest to me went directly to a shopping district called Nampo-dong. In that shopping district was one of the main department store chains called Lotte Department Store. About 6 months after I arrived, Lotte began breaking ground to add a new mall as part of the massive complex.

DSC03041Every 5 or 6 months when I’d be walking to Nampo I’d take a picture of the progress thinking, “wouldn’t it be cool to take photos periodically of this construction until it’s finished?!” After about a year and a half into it I began to realize that I wouldn’t likely see the project through to completion.

Well, I was wrong.  Here are the 7 pictures ranging from May 2011 to February 2015.

Building the foundation 5/20/2012



Them bones!  1/23/2013


Progress!  5/12/2013


Gettin’ there!  8/17/2013


Fighting!  1/5/2014 (Now with a new bridge to boot)


Almost there, guys! 4/29/2014


C’est fini! 2/7/2015



Pretty cool, isn’t it?


The post 3 Years. 7 Photos. Constructing the Lotte Mall Gwangbok in Busan, South Korea appeared first on .

the Red Dragon Diaries

ESL, Travel, and Judo!

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