The 2013 Chuncheon Makguksu and Dakgalbi Festival

Each year in August the small city of Chuncheon, about an hour by express commuter rail from Seoul, hosts a week-long festival celebrating two specific Korean dishes: makguksu and dakgalbi. Apparently this year the town decided that late June was a more suitable time for the festival this year, and thank goodness because we’re really glad we got to go.

Dakgalbi, a casserole made from chicken ribs, rice cakes, red pepper paste, cabbage, and a few other things depending on where you’re eating it, was one of the first Korean dishes we ever had and easily among our top favorites. It’s prepared on a giant skillet in the middle of the table and shared among everyone present. We had been craving it since the moment we got off the airplane.

Makguksu was new, at least we’re pretty sure we had never had it before. It reminded us of bibimguksu, except with buckwheat noodles and possibly a different kind of broth. It’s a chilled noodle soup with a radish, anchovy, or beef broth. I think we had the radish variety. Apart from the noodles, the soup was a lot of different vegetables, some kimchi, and red pepper paste.

Picking a place to eat makguksu was not hard, though it definitely could have been. The festival took place in a large field directly outside the train station that we understand was once a military camp. The food tents formed a outer wall for the festival, with banners above them alternating blue and red, for the soup and the chicken, respectively. Despite what must have been two dozen possible choices, we were so hungry we sat down at the first one we came across.

After eating we walked around the festival, but eventually the heat became too much to bear, and with a surprising lack of shade, we reluctantly headed to a cafe for iced drinks to plan the rest of our day. We wanted to see some of the amazing lakes and streams that Chuncheon is famous for but didn’t have the will to jump in a cab, so we headed to Gongjicheon, a small stream running between the lakes nestled into Chuncheon’s mountains. It always struck us as amazing how well Koreans do the outdoors. Gongjicheon, like so many other parks and wilderness areas was beautiful, with well maintained walking, running, and biking paths (this park had at least 12k of track along its rivers and lakes). We ended up having a our dakgalbi not at the festival, but at a little shop along the stream. It might have been the best dakgalbi we’ve ever had. The chicken was excellent, and the vegetable combinations were perfect. I guess that’s what happens when you get it from the source.

You’re Back? Retuning to Seoul, three years later.

It was about three years ago that we said good bye to the Land of the Morning Calm, a sad day I think both of us will remember for many years to come. For all the struggles of living and breathing Korea for that year, it was a place that we came to love more than any other place outside our own homes. When it came time to return this week, we found ourselves at a loss for all the things we wanted to do. There was so much we never experienced while we were here, and even more that we wanted to relive, but where to start? We decided on Ilsan. Continue reading “You’re Back? Retuning to Seoul, three years later.”

It’s a Map!

We made a map showing our travels. This post tells how it was made, and where you can see it.

Seeing as this is a blog written by two travelers who can’t seem to write about their destinations fast enough, we thought it would be a good idea to map our travels. Now, you can see all our destinations at once—everywhere we’ve been in the entire world (though we’ve been so many places in the motherland that we only included a few), and click on them to learn more information. If there are blog posts about that place, you will see them listed below the place description, and if we happened to snap a photo while we were there, you’ll see one of those two. There are still some bugs to be worked out, and any suggestions—style, functionality, or otherwise—are more than welcome either in the comments here or by email. And now, without further ado, we present the map:

Click here for a map of the places we have visited, and learn more about them.

Cross-posted: Harms-Boone Admin Blog, Schoolhouse: ROK, Keeping up with the Magyars

For the curious: The map was generated with the help of the Google Maps Javascript API V3, no Flash was used to make this map.

Seoul, Hope, and Mustard Seeds: A Short Film on Philanthropy

You don’t have to be in South Korea long to notice two things: there is a large population of foreign English teachers and it does not have the best reputation. Truth be told, it is no struggle to find examples of ex-pats who show more interest in late-night drinking than day-time teaching. When you look a little deeper, though, there are plenty more examples of appreciatively respectful foreigners engaging with the people and culture in all sorts of meaningful ways. This short film made by Bodeene Amyot, a Canadian teacher and filmmaker, is a testament to the positive influence foreigners can have in South Korea. Seoul, Hope, and Mustard Seeds is a short glimpse into the many philanthropic organizations that foreigners give their free time to. Continue reading “Seoul, Hope, and Mustard Seeds: A Short Film on Philanthropy”

Living Strong in Korea

I had that dream again, the one where Lance Armstrong visits my little city in the Seoul suburbs as part of a new tour for LIVESTRONG, and for some reason, the powers that be put me in charge of giving him the bike tour of the city. It’s a strange dream for a few reasons, chiefly among them being that I’m not Korean but in fact a temporary resident of this town, here to teach English for the year and then be on my way. It starts at my tiny office-tel apartment wheeling my Surly out of the oversized walk-in closet of a living space I call home.

This was originally posted as part of 30 Days of Biking, a group dedicated to riding their bikes “every, friggin’, day.” Continue reading “Living Strong in Korea”

Gyeongbok Palace: A worthwhile stop

Kayagum players
The sound of the Kayagum, a traditional stringed Korean instrument apparently invented 1,400 years ago, played at Gyeongbokgung Palace. They were part of a large group reenacting a ceremony for court elders.

Home Again

Having recently returned to the land of parking lots and fast food, bread and cheese, and friends and family, I find myself in the United States with an an abundance of both sentimentality for all things Korean and newfound time. This blend lends itself perfectly to reminiscence about the last few month’s with the time to write about it. Continue reading “Gyeongbok Palace: A worthwhile stop”

Boseong’s Green Tea Plantations

Bamboo Fences
The green tea leaves of the Camelliea sinensis plant peak through bamboo fences, the bush that gives the world oolong tea, black tea, and of course, green tea.

Traveling from place to place, I often marvel at the luckiness of creatures who call some of the best places the world has to offer their humble homes. A mere human couldn’t scrounge up enough of anything to land themselves the right to set up shop in Spain’s Alhambra. Yet a number of pigeons air their morning coos  over the Sierra Nevada Mountains everyday, nestled among the bright mosaics of that ancient palace. And just imagine the view those plump marmots enjoy each morning, hunkered down like carpet across the alpine terrain of the Rocky Mountain’s higher elevations. Continue reading “Boseong’s Green Tea Plantations”

A Home-brewer’s Guide to Makgeolli (막걸리)

A makgeolli producer, whose family has been producing makgeolli for five generations.

We took our first sip of makgeolli back in late September on the first night of our farming adventure with Wooriwa, pouring from enormous drums like the kind my Grandpa once used to fill up the pontoon with gas at the cabin. Since then, we have become enamored with the beverage, and perplexed by its composition. About a month ago we had the pleasure of learning how the beverage is brewed by the people who knew it best: fifth generation professionals. Continue reading “A Home-brewer’s Guide to Makgeolli (막걸리)”

Globalizing Korea: A Rhetoric of Food

Daniel Gray, a Seoul Eats food blogger, recently published an op-ed in the Korea Herald regarding the public and private efforts to export Korean culture to the West—particularly to the United States. With coverage from the New York Times, CNN, and other high profile news organizations in the US, the government seems to be doing a fair job of gaining the attention of Western eyes, and now is focusing on making Korean food America’s Next Top Asian Cuisine. But these agencies certainly could be more effective in their pursuit.

Daniel Gray, a Seoul Eats food blogger, recently published an op-ed in the Korea Herald regarding the public and private efforts to export Korean culture to the West—particularly to the United States. With coverage from the New York Times, CNN, and other high profile news organizations in the US, the government seems to be doing a fair job of gaining the attention of Western eyes, and now is focusing on making Korean food America’s Next Top Asian Cuisine. Continue reading “Globalizing Korea: A Rhetoric of Food”

Biking among the cherry blossoms

Gyeongju's tree-lined streets
After a record-setting winter proved just how cold the month of April can be in Korea, there’s nothing better than seeing a tree, or a street brimming with them, blooming with the signs of spring. If a passerby wasn’t approaching a walk on this street with enough grandeur, the speakers blaring melodramatic classical music were sure to push anyone in that direction.

The timing of our trip to Gyeongju couldn’t have been better. We left on the tail end of the first week of April and a cycling challenge I am participating in called 30 Days of Biking. It was also smack in the middle of cherry blossom season. Continue reading “Biking among the cherry blossoms”