Umm…hello

Hi there,

I know it’s been awhile…a long while. But I’m excited to be back. Mostly. To be honest, I probably won’t ever blog like I did in 2014. Because well…other social sites have gotten a lot better at sharing stories quickly than this baby.

But it is my baby. And it’s in need of some cleaning and some upkeep. I’m not sure exactly yet what that will look like. Definitely a re-design is in order. (Maybe I’ll get to show off some HTML/CSS and JavaScript skills I’ve picked up in the intervening years.) And hopefully some semi-regular blog posts to keep my writing in practice. And of course, more photos and video to better show, not tell, stories.

Mostly though, I just want to say thank you. What a pleasant surprise to find I still have followers! You may have forgotten about me, but I’m still here.

I can’t wait to write for you!

-Krista

P.S. Here are some recent outtakes to catch you up.

Galbitang

The full spread--all of it for one

Galbitang (갈비당) is a sweet beef soup I’ve come to love and overindulge in regularly in Chungju. (It helps that galbitang is available 24 hours a day at a nearby restaurant.)

The soup is made from big beef ribs  boiled in some kind of stock. I still haven’t quite figured out what the stock is. I’ve seen it, tasted it and even cooked with it, yet I could not tell you what the base of most Korean soups is.

The soup is served boiling hot in a black stone pot with plenty of tangy onions and black pepper for spice. Occasionally the soup is served with local spices I cannot identify. The spice I get most often is most like boiled fresh ginger in it’s texture, but the taste is much more tree-like. Not that I’ve eaten tree, I just think of bark when I bite into this stuff. It’s not terrible just kind of bland.

In addition some glass noodles are thrown into the mix. I’ve even had a few dishes with thick rice noodles in them. And of course, the most memorable galbitang had potatoes in it. That made my heart dance in happiness.

The side dishes--kimchi, kimchi and onions

In wonderful Korean tradition, restaurants serve a few side dishes or banchan (반찬) with every dish. Generally galbitang comes with cabbage kimchi (the one you are probably thinking of), cucumber kimchi (my favorite kind) and onions soaked in soy sauce. Depending on the restaurant, I’ve gotten different sides including dried squid stir-fried in hot sauce and fermented daikon.

The ever-present rice or bap (밥) is served with a tang (soup) as well. I love to mix the rice in with the left over broth after eating all the meat and glass noodles. All the carbs make for a deliciously filling finish to the meal.

Galbitang is delicious, not at all spicy and a wonderful dish for anyone curious about Korean cuisine. Plus it would be fairly easy to make on your own if you’re far from a Korean restaurant. Meanwhile for those of you in the ROK, galbitang costs between 4,000 and 7,000 won at most restaurants.

Galbitang--a sweet beef soup found in South Korea

A Seoul afternoon

The National Palace Museum in Seoul is not to be missed. Typically I’m not one to suggest activities for large cities where it’s easy to get turned around, but Gyeongbukgung is one attraction that should be on any traveler’s list.

Gyeongbukgung is one of the oldest palaces in Korea. It was built during the Joseon Dynasty when the capital was first moved to Seoul. The palace has been rebuilt several times. It was completely destroyed by the Japanese and damaged severely in the Korean War–not to mention the general wear and tear of being over 500 years old.

I arrived late in the day as the palace itself was closing down so I made for the nearby National Palace Museum. I walked around the outside display  and the gardens for a bit, noting the architecture and detail of a deconstructed palace from the 1970s.

This first modern reconstruction was built entirely of cement and then joined together, like wood, as part of Park Chung-hee’s push to make Korea an exporter of industry. The deconstructed palace was doubly fascinating as I’d just been reading about Park and his economic policies in “Korea’s Place in the Sun”. (A great book for anyone interested in a an overview of Korean history.)

I was happy to head inside as the afternoon cooled to a chilling -7 degrees. (That’s Celsius, people.) The National Palace Museum was beautiful. I’m no museum expert, but this museum was awesome. Unfortunately they do not allow photos of the exhibits, so I’ll do my best to walk you through with words.

My first stop was the science room which completely made me fall in love with the whole place. Right in the center of the room was a giant black stone, the front and back smoothed and polished with small gray dots carved out.

“Huh, that looks like a map of the constellations,” I thought walking and closer. It was! I almost had a nerd-gasm on the spot. I was staring at the second oldest astronomical map of the stars! The awesomeness overwhelmed me. A few seconds later, I was sad to notice that the constellations happen to be one of the few displays with no English. Sadly I was not able to learn much about early Korean astronomy. (But I’m totally looking it up now.)

The museum continued to awe me with incredible displays of furniture, clothing and music. There was even one alcove completely dedicated to name stamps of the Joseon Dynasty.

Once I was completely overwhelmed by Korean history, I made my way to the display on Vietnam.  The Vietnam display was very cool. It was incredible to see the contrast between the two cultures side by side. It certainly inspired me to one day visit the country.

After two hours, I finally made my way to the subway to begin the journey home. I’ll definitely be heading back to check out the palace and the National Folk Museum too.

Directions: Take the Orange Line (Line 3) to Gyeongbukgung Station. Follow the signs to Exit 5. If it looks like you are in a museum while you are still in the subway station, you’re in the right place. Oh, and expect to be overwhelmed by tourists from everywhere. Admission is free.

The people of Thailand

Waiting for the boat to leave the dock for Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.

Painting a Buddha black at Wat Pho.

Dancing for the tourists at Wat Pho.

While the other girls check out Facebook.

A monk watching TV at Wat Pho.

Before Thailand I never took photos of people unless they were close friends, the experience certainly made me want to take out my camera more frequently to photograph the people around me.

Bangkok, Thailand–The Sights

A brief travel tale in photos because I love you and I’m lazy.

Just one of the many incredible views from the tour boat on the Chang Phrayo river as we made our way to the Old City.

The spires surrounding Wat Pho.

The back of the Reclining Buddha’s head at Wat Pho.

Shooting light at Wat Arun.

My favorite sight was definitely Wat Arun. The crumbling disrepair, the soft gray light and the lack (or at least fewer) tourists made it a great photo spot.

The statues guard every entrance to the Grand Palace.

A small wat next to the Grand Palace.

The actual Grand Palace.

Another wat at the Grand Palace.

My favorite statue. These half man half bird statues guard many of the wats in Bangkok. This one is at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on the same compound as the Grand Palace.

These photos in no way do justice to the scale of the three major sights I visited. The Reclining Buddha was so large I’m still not sure I believe it’s real. I was right there with the little girls who “oohed” and “aahed” every step through his temple at Wat Pho.

Wat Arun was absolutely marvelous. It definitely inspired me to visit Angkor Wat at some point in the future since the Cambodians actually built this temple when they were in power back in the day.

Finally, The Grand Palace is a sight most tourists go to. After all it is where the Thai royal family ruled and lived for many, many years. The scale of the compound is enormous. I was so overwhelmed by everything I sort of aimlessly wandered with a sweet Welsh girl until we were so sunburned we decided to call it an afternoon.

Posting these photos I’m truly amazed by how much I saw in just one weekend in Bangkok. I can’t believe this is my life!

Mireukri

Mireukri is one of the most beautiful temple sites I’ve seen yet in Korea. It’s a ruin, but it was lovely. People think the temple was built in the early Goreyo Dynasty, then was rebuilt three times before it finally fell into ruin.The Buddha statue itself is built from six rocks, but the face is surprisingly well-preserved. The locals claim they provide no maintenance to the statue. But I suspect his well-preserved face has something to do with the “hat” he is wearing.

Mireukiri is located at the base of the Woraksan mountains. We went to Mireukri on one of the last days of autumn, just as the colors were changing from brilliant reds and yellows to browns. The hazy day provided some gorgeous soft light for photos. We started early enough around 10:30 that we didn’t see too many people on the trail. (Seriously love South Korean mornings!) We even thought the haze would burn off eventually, but it didn’t. The fog hung around for a couple of days before a lovely snow, sleet, rain, ice storm blew it out of the area.

Directions: From a Chungju bus station, take bus 246 for 45 minutes going towards Suanbo. Fare is 1,200 won. When you get off at the end of the line, take the right trail head to the oldest Buddha statue in Korea. You can continue along the trail to Poamosan for a brief and vigorous hike straight uphill.

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