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PLACES TRAVELED 2011

In the midst of list season,  I deliver to you the first of far too many to come. Here is a tale told through images of places I traveled in 2011.

HANOI, VIETNAM : : FEB. 2011

The Ho Chi Minh Memorial in Hanoi

A young boy properly suited for Tet festivities

Tran Quoc Pagoda

HA LONG BAY, VIETNAM : : FEB. 2011

Local dwellings of the Bay

Giant vertical rock formations

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM : : FEB. 2011

Cathedral Notre-Dame

Soaking up the afternoon sun

Ho Chi Minh statue in front of the Peoples Committee Hall

MEKONG DELTA, VIETNAM : : FEB. 2011

A vessel of the Delta

Snake liquor for sale and a local curious fish

Coconut candy makers selling their product in the Delta

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA : : FEB. 2011

A fellow giant, me, greetings the Petronas Towers

One of oh so many delicious plates served up in Malaysia

PENANG, MALAYSIA : : FEB. 2011

On the water, island life

A monk giving alms at a Chinese temple for the Lunar New Year celebration

Botanical garden locals

A city of temples for ranging beliefs

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA : : 2011

Hongdae’s infamous makguelli man

Awaiting the sunrise near the sea

Fried goodness for sale near Seoul Station

Seoul Lantern Festival 2011

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA : : JUNE 2011

Gwanggali beach

Seafood stew successfully devoured

Bidding farewell to the sun over Gwanggali

PORTLAND, OREGON : : JULY 2011

Street art spotted in NW PDX

Sweet nectar from Mecca

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS : : JULY 2011

Chicago Theatre

Skyscrapers and fields of grass

The Magnificent Mile

Meeting giant Marilyn

DES MOINES, IOWA : : JULY 2011

Iowa feels like home and these are some of the state’s finest folks and dear friends of mine.

Wall art at Big Tomato Pizza

The lovely lady Anna and I,  faces glowing in humidity

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON : : AUG. 2011

Exterior of the Seattle Art Museum

Roomies reuniting in Seattle

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA : : AUG. 2011

View of San Fran from Lombard Street

Annie Danger and I at the base of the windiest street in the world

Decor of China Town

Alcatraz sighting in the bay

Message of the Mission

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA : : AUG. 2011

Kaili and I playing with a sculpture park illusion

Minne’s Spoon and Cherry sculpture

Bridge wisdom

CANNON BEACH, OREGON : : AUG. 2011

Sunny day at the seashore

My puppy dog, Sadie Hawkins, hiding out in the tall sea grass

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA : : SEPT. 2011

Jackson Square

Intricate bead-work of a chief suit

Taking a shot at General Lee

Draping Oaks

NOLA pride: Abita beer and the Saints logo in the distance

Cafe Du Monde, possible location of heaven on Earth

DMZ/JSA/NORTH KOREA : : OCT. 2011

South Korean guards standing in a kill stance in the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea

The flagpole carrying the weight of the heaviest flag in the world in North Korea

Peering into another world

HONG KONG : : DEC. 2011 (COMING SOON)

For more photographs of my travels and Korean life, visit my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seafaringwoman/

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48 Hours in Busan

Last, last weekend was Korea’s Memorial Day weekend and to celebrate my coworkers Will and David, our friend Amila and myself decided to venture south to the beaches of Busan to soak up the sunshine, dine on fresh seafood and splish-splash in the salty waters of the East Sea.

SATURDAY

The journey began late on Saturday night as we took a 3-hour train ride from Seoul to Busan and since there were no seats left on the train we made ourselves comfortable in one of the standing cars. The trip itself went by fairly fast, no doubt with help from the service cart selling beer at the same cheap price as convenience stores (~2,000 won or $1.50). When we finally arrived in Busan, our first mission was to fill up our bellies and after a little bit of roaming around and swiftly moving out of the sketchy Russian quarter, we settled on a small Korean restaurant for some pretty standard grub; I had a bowl of some scrumptious bibimbap that included some raw fish. After having drinks in a different section of the city that kind of reminded us of Hongdae, we decided to make the trek to a nearby jjimjilbong (Korean spa/baths) to wash and sauna off the day and catch some zzz’s.This jjimjilbong was quite nice with multiple hot baths, a large pool and two saunas, and the common room for sleeping was rather large though a little on the discomforting side due to the extra hot temperature.

SUNDAY

Waking up around 11 AM feeling fairly well-rested, we hit the sauna, showered and grabbed a quick bite to eat before catching the subway to Gwangalli Beach.

Group shot at Gwangalli Beach (left to right: me, Will, Amila and David)

This beach was absolutely gorgeous and not too overcrowded, which was rather nice. We basically spent the entire day laying on the beach sipping makguelli, taking dips in the ocean to cool-off and grabbing food, coffee and water just across the street whenever the need arose.

Salty East Sea waters

Amila gazing out at the sea and Gwangan Bridge

My sandy toes

On the boardwalk

After beach lounging for several hours, we had all worked up a mighty hunger, but David and I were specifically craving some spicy cold noodles which isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea, so we left Will and Amila on the beach to hold our spots and got ourselves some giant bowls of noodles!

Mmmmmmmmmm!

All too quickly our day at the beach was turning into night and for the evening hours we made our way to Haeundae Beach, which though I haven’t ever been to Cancun, I feel confident in making the comparison deeming Haeundae essentially to be Korea’s Cancun. Though Haeundae isn’t the kind of beach I prefer, it made for an eventful and amusing night out, and the surrounding area/section of the city was actually a lot of fun for grabbing dinner, drinks and whatever other entertainment seemed necessary, like noraebonging!!

Haeundae Beach by night

For a few hours we sat on the beach near the water playing drinking games and chatting, listening to terrible bands performing on the giant stage that we couldn’t manage to get far away enough from to allow the sea to completely drown out the sound. One game we played was a number/counting game that sounded too easy at first, but surely enough after a few rounds we were all becoming sufficiently goofy off of our beach beverages of choice, especially Amila who had trouble remembering some of her times tables! With the beach growing chilly and our stomachs rumbling, we went inland to find a spot for dinner that we could all agree on, which took far longer than it should, but eventually we settled for a giant pot of seafood stew and it was thoroughly satisfying to say the least.

Remnants of a seafood devouring session

Will and I had been really aching for some singing time so our next destination was a noraebong (singing room). The first place we went to basically refused us, a sometimes occurrence for foreigners just about anywhere, but the woman was very kind and directed us to a different noraebong nearby. Though we were all in attendance, Will and I were total mic hogs, but Amila and David didn’t seem to mind too much! I wish I could remember the entire tracklist for the night, but of what I can recall I know Will and I did a spectacular job with Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” and Queen, Prince, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones and Rick Astley (yes, we rick-rolled ourselves) all happened at some point.

Will, Amila and David at the noraebong…I think the boys were doing “Kung-Fu Fighting”

This might have to be one of my profile pictures for life

The rest of the evening went as most Korean nights do, unpredictably predictable. We walked around exploring the city at night, laughing at the strange sights and generally causing mischief whenever we foreigners could. David and I “played” a little volleyball on the beach and Will and I dared drunk David to run to the top of a sand mountain, which he did. All was magically well until we made it to incredibly beautiful looking, both on the interior and exterior, jjimjilbong we planned to sleep in only to discover that it was full. I didn’t think this was possible and certainly doubted the front-desk women until she allowed me to take a peek at the sleeping area to see if we wanted to stay there still and it literally was the most packed sleeping quarters I’d ever seen in my life. Fortunately jjimjilbongs are a plenty and after a short cab ride we found a place to rest our weary limbs.

MONDAY

For me, Monday began all too abruptly as an adjumma (someday I will go into all that this single word encompasses and signifies, which is a surprising amount, but for now just know that this is the word used to describe a particular and common type of Korean woman, but literally translates to married woman) woke me by shaking and hitting me with a square brick pillow and in a whispered shout said something in Korean that my mind translated to “get up and move now!” This all happened at 9:30 AM, which maybe in my U.S. days would have been a normal waking hour for me, but in Korea I’m lucky if I’m out of bed before 11: 00 AM. Exhausted and off-kilter from waking in the middle of my sleep cycle, I presume, I headed for the sauna in hopes of sweating myself to a state somewhere closer to awake than I was; it half-worked, but I think the cold pool after is what really did the trick. Or maybe just being surrounded by a ton of naked Korean women starring at me is what did it.

Amila and I were ready to go before the boys had even gotten themselves off the floor (somehow they avoided being rudely awakened by some Korean woman), but we managed to all meet-up for some breakfast before returning to Gwangalli Beach to spend yet another day on its glorious sand. Unlike our lazy Sunday, much of Monday was spent in the ocean playing with the volleyball David brought along. It was super fun running around and hitting the volleyball in the salty water and just being in the ocean like that reminded me of how I used to spend my weekends on the Oregon Coast surfing when I was younger. I’m sure I’d be awful at it now as I was never even that good, but I’m actually looking forward to busting out my surfboard when I get back to America and seeing what I can do.

The day was winding down fast and all too soon it was approaching the hour for Amila to catch a train back to Seoul. For our final supper together we grabbed some Mexican food and mojitos at a restaurant with a patio right next to the beach and it was an excellent meal to bid farewell to one of our posse members.

Last supper all together in Busan

From that point, the weekend was already perfect and extremely memorable, definitely among my favorite weekends spent in Korea. I couldn’t really imagine at the time what would’ve made the trip significantly better, but sure enough we came up with something. While eating dinner, the next mission was determined to be to get onto the roof of a building, specifically with our eyes on the linked twin towers that were so intriguing and architecturally attractive in the skyline.

Before embarking on our rooftop adventure though, we checked out a beach carnival that was next to the buildings. It was a quaint operation when it comes to carnivals, but it certainly created some great photo opportunities. I especially loved the bright colors, neon lights and terribly reproduced popular images.

The Crazy Flip

TERMINATOR in Korea!

Loving this DISCO light

The sun was destined to set soon and thus we made our attempt to get to the roof of a building near the sea. The first tower we went up to the fifteenth floor and had no luck–every door was locked despite the deserted appearance of the building. With our fingers crossed, we took the elevator to the top floor of the second tower and as the boys turned to head for the stairwell I felt compelled to at least try the doors to the empty office next to the elevator and to my complete shock the doors were unlocked, as were the doors to the balcony overlooking Gwangalli Beach. We were all so ecstatic and simply couldn’t believe that we had discovered a high up in the sky to call ours for a little while. There are few things in life that I call perfect, but that occurrence and our luck in that moment and watching the sunset over the sea and edge of the hills in the distance of the cityscape really was perfect. Spending whatever time we did up there really was the ideal way to end our trip to Busan.

The view from our claimed balcony at Gwangalli Beach

Busan in the evening hours from up above

Well, that concludes the tale of my 48 hours in Busan. As I’ve already said, the trip was amazing and it was so wonderful to see another part of Korea. It’s finally setting in that I’m leaving soon and may or may not be back. It’s going to be difficult to bid this country farewell, it really is.

26 days and counting….

For more photos and higher quality images from my time in Busan as well as my travels throughout Asia, please visit my Flickr.

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See Through My Seoul

I can keep the Seoul puns coming for eons and in the midst of messing with words, I suppose I can post a photo or two. Here’s a photographic update of my last two months. I cannot believe I’ve already been living here for three months; the time has been speeding past and I can’t hardly wait for whatever the next few years hold for me in my South Korean jaunt.

This is the Kring Culture Space, which is quite possibly my favorite building in Seoul. The interior is just as stunning as the exterior! I visited the Kring building for a multimedia art event put on by Intel and VICE Magazine called The Creators Project. It was quite a party and perhaps the perfect space to host such an event.

Dance party!! The crowd was awesome and everyone had a great time dancing and jamming to DJ Soulscape

Cell phone charms for sale in Myeong-dong, a popular shopping area in Seoul. There are an infinite number of options when it comes to phone charms, so be sure to select wisely!

A peek into the immensity of Seoul as seen from the viewpoint on the trek to N Seoul Tower.

Art installation at the base of N Seoul Tower

These are “locks of love,” which cover the metal railings and some metal trees at the observation deck of N Seoul Tower. There are hundreds of thousands of these love locks left by people to symbolize a promise to stay with someone forever—be it a lover, child, friend or family member. Some people leave messages with their locks, expressing their love even further. It’s a beautiful sight to see and such a romantic, adorable and generally dear gesture.

Art installation in Hongdae that I’m oddly fond of. Hongdae is a super hip area (near Hongik University, which is a major art school in Seoul) packed with bars, cafes, night clubs and eateries. In the very near future I plan to explore all the cafes over there including the few roasteries I’ve spotted.

On the way to the cat cafe in Hongdae…can you feel the cat love all around?

Welcome to Gio Cat cafe! This was hands down one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in Seoul. For 8,000 Won (about $6) you get a coffee beverage and the opportunity to spend as much time as you like with the roughly 20 cats at the cafe. As one would expect, many cats were napping, and it’s against the rules to wake up a sleeping cat, some cats were climbing platforms and snooping in the bags patrons left sitting out and other cats were friendly and greeting their excited visitors. I went on a Saturday and the place was quite packed with Koreans taking a million pictures of cats. Of course, I too brought my fancy camera and couldn’t resist snapping some shots. If you ever have the chance, go to a cat cafe!!

Look at that face!! Probably my favorite cat the cafe!

So, that’s basically the last month summed up in photos. I still have a ways to go before I’ll have conquered Infinite Jest, but I’ve decided to start a 365 photo project when I’m done reading, so get ready for a steady flow of photos in the not-so-distant future that may or may not turn out fantastic. Until next time, I’ll work on crafting some more stories from these Asian waters.

(All photos taken by Chelsea Marie Hicks using a Canon Rebel T1i)

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September Typhoon

I experienced my first typhoon in the still dark, early morn and found myself inspired by the tinges of fear nature splashed on me as the winds beat against my window and tore apart the neon lights of nightlife vibrating below my apartment. My walk to work today allowed me time to witness the wreckage of a storm passing through and moments to talk to the trees bent, broken and ripped from their earth by forces they simply couldn’t withstand.

To the trees and that beast Komapsu that awoke me in the night, this is for you: my very rough draft, September Typhoon.

September Typhoon
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

Today I talked with trees, a conversation caught in pine cones and sap,
where words taste like honey
and smell like dirt wet from a recent rain.

In their whispers they warned
of a storm set to shatter glass and make stoplights shutter,
though these things could have felt nothing
had they never been fashioned from sand.

Like a vertebrae writhing–the backbone of a gymnast
shape-shifting through time–wood went to waving
as though everyday were a September typhoon.

They knew they would be ravaged when the winds came
and though they could bend to mother’s whistling blows,
they scattered and snapped to show their respect.

Like hairs leaving traces of ourselves never present,
they left their leaves in places as if to say:
we are here.

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South Korea: a month in photos

Changing of the Guards ceremony at Deoksugung

 

 

Deoksu Palace, one of five royal palaces in Seoul

 

 

Looking up

 

Cheonggyecheon Stream

 

 

 

 

Booze earrings: Cass or soju?

 

 

Changdeok Palace

 

 

 

 

 

Korean Wood

 

 

 

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I’ve been eating books for breakfast

I’ve been digesting endless amounts of paper. The ever so pleasureable act of reading and writing has taken on a fiend-like presence in my life here in Korea and I’m beginning to remember what it feels like to be full of words, ink and pages. It’s a sensation I have missed, one I went searching for with fingers, limbs and organs crossed that it could be discovered across the sea.

Though by no means complete, here is a piece I’ve been working on…

Stale Florescence
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks

I used to believe in gravity until the soil
rose above me, exposing the roots
of foreign fossils, a place like a room
growing stale from the scent of wet paper
clouds, littering the floorboards of dreams
pronounced dead.

Here, humid skin is softened
by the sound of rain and neon lights,
the florescent glow, mixed with voices
made of words never once seen as familiar,
beating damp a pulse along my brow.

This place, where eyelashes dance like islands
water tides meeting sand for the first time,
is where I disappear, flesh folding into flotsom,
marrow blown into salt.

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What I’ve learned in my first 48 hours in South Korea

-I’m freakishly, perhaps frighteningly, tall and every Korean likes to remind me of this fact

-Cell phones are apparently a status symbol
Every kid in school, regardless of their age, has some sort of fancy cell phone and the fact that I’m even considering buying a used one is “kind of gross.”

-Koreans spend an obscene amount of money on education
Children not only go to public school, but on top of that there are specialty schools for every subject (we’re talking math, art, English, physical education, science) in the afternoons and evenings that many students attend. Not only are these outside schools costly, but this also means that many students are in school the ENTIRE day into the night. I must say I’m amazed by how hard they work, even if some kids do act up in the classroom.

-Korean food is AWESOME
And really spicy and the serving sizes are immense. I’ve eaten more in the past 48 hours than I probably ate all of last week! Every meal, aside from the main dish, comes with several side “salads” that include almost always kim chi, some sort of pickled vegetable, salted and dried seaweed and then a few other fresh batches of something. I’m especially fond of the spicy garlic asparagus I had with my seafood, tofu stew. Oh, and the dried anchovies were pretty scrumptious. Side note: though I’d started eating fish again back in the states this summer, I basically broke veg the second I stepped foot in Korea. There is wayyyyy too much fried chicken and delicious looking barbecue that my tongue was instantly watering to try.

-There is roughly a million and one different kinds of instant coffee
Seriously, just wait until I snap a photo of the “coffee” aisle at my local E Mart and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s insane.

-Beer in Korea is, unfortunately, quite expensive
I’ve never been entirely classy enough to be exclusively a wine drinker, but, due to the price tag of every beer (we’re talking about $7-$8 a bottle), Australian wine is sounding mighty fine to me.

-The party don’t stop ’til six in the morning
Anyang, the suburb of Seoul that I work and reside in, is fairly hip and densely populated both with people as well as restaurants and bars, and though I have yet to stay up late enough to live the adventure myself, apparently people be living it wild until the wee hours of the morning.

-Koreans are a very group oriented culture and doing anything alone is kind of weird
I have yet to go out to eat or to the movies by myself, but I’m bracing for some stares once I finally do.

That’s all for now, but undoubtedly there is more to come.

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