My Top 5…Moments of 2015

IMG_7947Oops, I’m a bit late with creating this post since it’s already over a week into 2016, but I guess late is better than never!

 

2015 was an incredible year and one that I won’t forget anytime soon! Myself and Jason are, for the first time, heading in to a new year with so much uncertainty and a bit of fear. I hope that 2016 ends up being an amazing year, but for now I’m going to focus on how great 2015 was.

So here are my top 5 moments of 2015:

5. WWOOFing in Washington

wpid-img_20150929_111024.jpg

This was a great chance for both myself and Jason to firmly leave our comfort zones. We worked hard, learned a lot and most importantly had fun while working at Paradisos Del Sol Winery in Zillah Washington.

I highly recommend WWOOFing to anyone interested in getting off the beaten path and seeing the world in a unique way.wpid-img_20151003_084246.jpg

4. Weekend trip to Seattlewpid-img_20150910_074009.jpg

For Jasons birthday I got him tickets to see the Mariners play baseball. That, coupled with the gourmet food tour that our friend Ian gave us, created an awesome weekend full of fun memories that I’ll cherish for a long time to come!wpid-img_20150908_120110.jpg

3. Beomosa Temple Stay

IMG_9198

What an incredible experience! We got to live in a temple for the weekend, meditate, pray, eat and drink tea like monks. We also learned a lot about Buddhism and were able to clear our minds for that wonderful weekend. IMG_9292

2. Finally Spending Christmas with Family

image

It had been 6 years since I’ve spent Christmas with any family. Both myself and Jason were getting down in Denver thinking about spending another Christmas alone, so we made the decision to load up the car, drive 2 days to Washington and spend the most incredible 2 weeks with his family! We even had a white Christmas…it was so perfect and gave our spirits a badly needed lift.
image

1. Our honeymoon in Singapore and Bali

wpid-img_20150222_152222.jpg

Ever since myself and Jason got engaged we both knew that if we had to choose, we wanted our honeymoon to be the highlight instead of the wedding. At the end of the day, we care way more about travel and experiences than we do about dresses and place settings so we did exactly that, had a low key wedding and enjoyed the most wonderful 2 weeks in both Singapore and Bali. We splashed out and stayed in an amazing villa with a private pool in Ubud and the memories from our honeymoon are going to stay in my mind forever.wpid-img_20150224_073315.jpg

 

So there we have it, my top 5 moments of 2015. It was so nice to look back on them while writing this.

How about you? What are your favorite memories of 2015??

 

My Top 5 Uniquely Asian Activities

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of my Top 5 posts and as I sit here in a wintery Colorado, my mind is currently being transported back to wonderful Asia.

As you know, It is impossible to choose just five but here it goes, in no particular order, These are my top five uniquely Asian experiences.

Doing a temple stayIMG_9198

This was such an amazing experience that I will treasure for a long time to come. Asia is the best place to find a temple stay that will teach you about Buddhism and meditation. It’s a great way to strip away any stress that you may have and also learn a bit about the country that you are in.

Hiking in the Himalayasimg_4378

They are an amazing mountain range with the highest peaks in the world. There is nothing more magical than knowing that you are standing on the roof of the world and seeing beauty around every corner.

Seeing the Taj MahalIMG_5171

Few famous buildings live up to their hype but the Taj Mahal definitely isn’t one of them. I remember just being in complete awe when first setting eyes on it. It is amazingly beautiful and will leave you breathless.

tip: Go first thing in the morning to beat the crowds.

Seeing Orangutans in Borneocb61f-malaysia058

Okay, Asia has some wonderful wildlife and you can just as easily replace the word orangutans with turtles, whale sharks, tigers or rhinos. But for me, when I got to see orangutans up close and personal without barriers at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, it was astounding. It was something that I had dreamed about for years and when it finally happened I was left in awestruck.

Karaoke38255_1428887613677_7902928_n

Yes, I know that karaoke exists everywhere in the world, but to enjoy a karaoke session somewhere in Asia, it’s a completely different experience. Most singing rooms are small and fit a private group of people. While in the room, you snack on food, drink alcohol and sing songs while playing the tambourine. Also, most of these places are open 24 hours so you can enjoy it after a night of partying. I have had way too much fun in singing rooms over the years, especially the ones that have costumes!

 

Okay, so that’s my list…how about you? is there anything that you’d add, or remove from this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My Top 10 Things To Do In Korea

Well, after five years in this beautiful country, I officially only have one week left.

During those five years, I have seen and done some incredible things.

Below is my list of the ten things that anyone visiting Korea should do!

1. Go hiking

1413785588887Korea is about 70% mountains, so no matter where you are, you are guaranteed to have a mountain close by! It’s a great way to see the sheer scale of Korean cities from up above or to just get away from it all and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Hiking is insanely popular among older Koreans, they usually hike in groups and bring lots of beer and soju for when they make it to the top. But, you can always find quieter mountains and trails.

 

2. Get out of SeoulIMG_9098

There is so much more to Korea than Seoul! I have always said the same thing about Ireland, so many people only visit the capital city and it’s such a shame because that is only the very tip of the iceberg. Korea has amazing historical towns like Gyeongju, beautiful beaches down south and on the East coast, skiing up north and lots of beautiful national parks. If you do get to Korea, make sure to get out of Seoul and see the real Korea!

3. Go to a festival

IMG_9039In the Spring and Autumn, Korea has hundreds of festivals. Some of my favorites are, the lantern festival in Jinju, The Green Tea Festival in Hadong, The Cherry Blossom Festival in Jinhae, The Fireworks Festival in Gwangali and one that I’ve never been to but would love to go to is the Andong Mask Festival.

4. EAT!

20150111_192253Okay, this is pretty obvious. In recent years, Korean food has become insanely popular abroad. It is so delicious and a Korean meal is much more than just the food, it is an experience in itself. I love cooking my own food at the table while snacking on side dishes and drinking and having fun with friends.

5. Take a stroll down Insadong

162988_1610106264030_1768509_nI love this street! I don’t know why, because at the end of the day it’s a tourist trap, but I love it. Here is where you’ll find all of your souvenirs and Korean artwork. It is also home to some beautiful tea houses.

6. Go to the DMZ

68479_10152278723065062_1420238085_nThis was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. The DMZ is the most heavily guarded border in the world, it is a border of two countries who are technically still at war. We booked through the USO and had to sign disclaimers saying that if we were killed it wasn’t their fault. There were so many rules to adhere to and it was all so intense and serious but it definitely gave me a better understanding of the war between North and South Korea.

You can read more about our experience here.

7. Do a Temple StayIMG_9198

This was such an amazing experience for me and definitely one of the most unique things that I’ve done while here in Korea. It’s a great way to find some peace, learn more about Korea, it’s culture and Buddhism. It’s 100% a must do experience while in Korea.

You can read about our temple stay here.

8. Go to a noraebang

38255_1428887613677_7902928_n

A noraebang is a singing room and best visited when you are drunk! These places stay open nearly all night long so you can go in, they will bring you to a room, you order some food and drink and then sing to your hearts content. My favorite noraebangs actually score your singing out of 100 which allows for a bit of competition. The photo above was taken at our favorite noraebang in Jangyu, they provide costumes and it’s so much fun!

9. Go to Gyeongju38830_1445311944275_4583817_n

Gyeongju is the historic capital of Korea. It is just full of temples, burial sites, historical buildings and amazing food. I have been here twice and absolutely loved it both times. There is so much to see and do while there that you’ll never get bored!

10. Go to a dog/cat cafe

You can’t beat having a little playmate while sipping on your coffee. We used to have a cat cafe in our city and I loved going there. It was a dream world for cats as it had lots of hidden nooks and they could climb all the way up to the ceiling. Unfortunately, it has since closed down but we do have two dog cafes (that I know of). Which keep us busy and allow Willy to socialize with other dogs.wpid-1422148833566.jpeg

You can read more about dog cafes here.

 

 

So, there you have it, this small country has some spectacular scenery, culture and food…makes sure you get to experience it all if you ever come here!

How about you? Is there anything that you would add or take away from this list?

 

Just Over a Week Left

I can’t believe that we have less than 2 weeks left in Korea.

I haven’t been posting much recently as I’ve been extremely busy with everything. I’ve been cleaning and clearing out the apartment, getting Willy and myself ready for moving to America as well as teaching.

We have talked long and hard about the future recently. I guess now that the time has finally come, we are starting to freak out about our job prospects. We have decided to apply for jobs that we would like in many different states and let that process decide where we’ll live. At the end of the day, there are amazing things about many different states and cities in America so it’s quite exciting to have no idea where we’ll end up. I have also started the process of job hunting. It’s a tough process and I’m sure that me still being in Korea doesn’t help things much but I’m hoping that I’ll be successful with the job hunt soon! Jason is being so supportive through it all and is willing to live anywhere if it means me getting a job that I want. He has been looking in to going back to school next year so we are both busy researching!

This weekend, we have our friends wedding reception in Busan which should be fun, we’ll also be busy moving furniture out of our apartment and start packing our suitcases! I’m also hoping to get one final hike in Gimhae in before we leave.

We’ll then have our last week of school before saying goodbye to the place where we met and got engaged. Gimhae has been the only home that we have ever known as a couple, but we are looking forward to the next stage of our life together.

It’s all so exciting!

We have some very exciting things planned in our first few weeks in Washington too, I have bought Jason some VIP tickets to a Mariners baseball game (for his 30th birthday), our friend, Ian, bought us some tickets for a really cool food tour of Seattle, we’ll be catching up with all of Jasons family and we have also organized to go to work on an organic winery with a farm attached to it for a couple of weeks (Willy gets to come too!).

paradisosdelsol.com
paradisosdelsol.com

I can’t wait to write all about it, but for now, I have to get back to packing 🙂

 

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Our wedding :)Last week, myself and Jason celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I can’t believe that we have been married for a year! It has been an amazing year with some difficulties thrown in, but our relationship has definitely become stronger than ever! I feel so lucky waking up next to him every day.wpid-fotor_143951658952742.jpg

Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great as we were so busy with packing up to leave, selling our stuff, saving money for our future and taking care of a friends dog! So we decided not to do anything too over the top or crazy. We have a weekend in Seattle planned in a few weeks (I can’t believe that we’ll be in America in a few weeks!!) so we have decided that that will be a mini anniversary celebration.

Regardless of all of this, we decided to go for a nice lunch in Busan. There is an area of Busan (Marine city) that we don’t frequent very often and the few times that I’ve been there I’ve seen a lamb restaurant that I really wanted to try so we decided that our anniversary would be the perfect time to go.wpid-fotor_143951648150318.jpg

Marine city is an interesting area, everything is brand spanking new there and it is also where the rich in Busan live. You constantly see expensive cars driving around and the streets are spotless!

The restaurant, Agnello, is right by the water and even though there is a road and a small wall blocking the water from you,there is still an amazing sense of calm and relaxation there.wpid-fotor_143951655217289.jpg

We got to Agnello to find that there was a nice breeze coming from the sea allowing us to sit outside (a rare treat, in a very hot and humid Korean summer)wpid-fotor_143951683704529.jpg

We ordered a rack of lamb and a pizza between us. Jason ordered a craft beer that was on tap and I ordered a cocktail.wpid-fotor_143951664126899.jpg

The food was absolutely amazing! The lamb was so succulent and came with some lovely side salads that complimented it really well! One salad was a salmon salad and the other was a delicious summer salad of tomatoes and cucumber in a light yoghurt dressing.wpid-fotor_143951668044782.jpg

wpid-fotor_143951679251150.jpgThe pizza was also delicious, definitely worth the money!wpid-fotor_143951675465247.jpg

I’d definitely recommend stopping by here if you are looking for a bit of the home in Busan or just want to treat yourself.wpid-fotor_143951671647338.jpg

How to get here:

It is only about 500m from Haeundae beach and it’s a pleasant walk from there.

By subway: take the green line to Dongbaek station and take exit 3. It is about a 10 minute walk from there. The restaurant is located on the waterfront.

 

Visiting a Tea Shop in Seoul

image

If you only go to Seoul once then this has to be on your list of things to do!

This is one of my favorite things to do when I visit.

Insadong is a very famous street in Seoul, it is very touristy and has souvenir shops and art galleries everywhere! But it also has many tea shops hidden up stairs or down alleyways. Last weekend, myself and Jason had to go to Seoul for my American visa interview. We both knew that it would be our last time in Seoul so we decided to revisit Insadong while there. I have always loved this area, the buzz of the streets and the diversity of the people that shop there.wpid-fotor_143926508161320.jpg

Luckily, the hotel that we were staying in was right next to Insadong which was perfect for us. After wandering the streets for a while we decided it was time for tea.

When choosing between places to have tea in Insadong, I always try to choose an older tea shop rather than the newer ones that have been popping up recently. We chose one up a stairs.wpid-fotor_143921165510145.jpg

Once we got to the top of the stairs I knew that we had chosen well. The doors leading to the shop were absolutely beautiful.wpid-fotor_143921072246881.jpg

Once we were inside, it was like an oasis of calm. You could tell that it was a very old shop. It had lots of different areas allowing us to relax in a small corner by ourselves.wpid-fotor_143921090721268.jpg

wpid-fotor_143921152604128.jpgWe were brought a menu with so many different tea options! Seriously, they had so many types! Myself and Jason both decided to stick with green tea (of which they had plenty of different options)wpid-fotor_143921080285311.jpg

Jason chose a fermented tea (which we had tasted and loved during our temple stay) and I chose a regular green tea.

When the tea came out, it came out with a traditional tea set each. The lady set it down and walked away. We had both watched tea being made using these tea sets before but there was an extra bowl this time around which confused us. I ended up having to google it and found out that the extra bowl was a waste bowl (you pour hot water in to the pot and other bowls first to warm them up and then pour that water in to the big bowl.wpid-fotor_143921110328219.jpg

Both of our teas were delicious! I think we must have sat there for about an hour just chatting and watching the world go by.wpid-fotor_143921116141839.jpg

It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Seoul.

 

wpid-fotor_143921126531684.jpgWhere we went: We chose Jidaebang tea house which is on the main Insadong road. You can find the trip advisor reviews here.

 

English Market Day

wpid-fotor_143876330762642.jpgIt was that time of year again, the tests were all finished, the books for this semester were completed and there was still a week left in school.

Usually at this time of year it allows us to do things that we didn’t have time to do during the year. One of those things is a market day.wpid-fotor_143876289705623.jpg

Market days are a great idea because you can reward students with “dollars” for good behaviour long before the market day.wpid-fotor_143876340484033.jpg

On the market day itself, we decided to get all of the students to bring in toys and stationary and anything else that they wanted to sell. The kids that brought in more items ended up with more dollars to buy other things.wpid-fotor_143876311730398.jpg

It was a great success, that morning there was a buzz around the school as the students checked what the others had brought for market day.It was so wonderful for us teachers to see that nearly every single kid had brought something in for market day.wpid-fotor_14387628523503.jpg

Before they sold their stuff, we taught them about “reduce, reuse, recycle” (since they would be recycling their old toys that day) and we taught them basic phrases to use when buying and selling.

Then, they were finally allowed to sell their stuff. There was so much buzz in the classroom with the kids running around trying to buy the best toys.wpid-fotor_143876335214687.jpg

There were a few toys that were in high demand so we decided to have an auction for those ones (making the owners of those toys very rich!)wpid-fotor_143876305719257.jpg

Once all of the buying and selling was complete, the students counted how many dollars they had left and we kept a note of it for the next market day…unfortunately I won’t be a part of that one 😦wpid-fotor_143876293745091.jpg

wpid-fotor_14384781478002.jpg