Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Which We Walk Up A Whole Lot of Stairs (In Japan!)

So, I think I mentioned it in my last post. We totally went to Japan! We're back in Korea now and looking back on our trip. It was pretty fun and we saw a lot of cool things. We were there for four days. Since Nancy doesn't blog a lot, we decided to split it up. I'll do day 1 and day 3, and Nancy will do day 2 and day 4. That way it will be even. At any rate, our first day there was pretty fun. The first place we went was a temple called Kiyomizu-dera. According to our guidebook, it is the spiritual center of Japan. It was pretty busy, though a lot of the people there were tourists. There were, however, a lot of people who appeared to be worshiping there as well, which was kind of interesting to see. At any rate, it's this great big temple with some pretty neat buildings. They have a three story pagoda and their main hall is built out over the slope of the hill and held up with a huge trestle, which is pretty cool. They also have a lot of neat statues in the main hall, but we weren't allowed to take pictures of those (which I'm cool with, it's their religion, after all). It's also built around a sacred spring of some sort, so we saw a lot of people drinking the water with silver ladles. Anyway, here are some pictures of that.

Nancy with the main temple gate in the background.

Chinese lion!

Big pagoda


We were pretty sure that these were a whole bunch of mini-Buddhas

View across the valley

The we took the trail across the valley and looked at
this pagoda.

View looking back at the temple. You can see the trestle in this one.
You can also see the bazillions of people there.

The belfry

Nancy on the stairs up to one of the outbuildings.
You may notice something about a lot of these pictures. Many of them have something in common: STAIRS. Holy crap were there a lot of stairs! So many stairs! If there's one thing that these Buddhist temples really like, it's their stairs. Every temple we went to had at least some, and some of them had bajillions! Anyway, after Kiyomizu-dera the guidebook had us ramble around through some neighborhoods that I found only moderately exciting and totally left out an interesting-looking temple on the route that we decided to pass anyway because it cost 600 yen each (and if you're wondering about how much a yen is, it's basically one yen=1 cent. So 100 yen is one dollar. It's almost exact. Anyway.) to get in. We went to a nice park, and then went and took a look at a shrine down below it. Also, did I mention that it was really hot? We were drinking water like crazy on this day, and I sweated a lot. I mean, that's kind of normal, but I really sweated a lot. Anyway, the shrine was pretty cool. I don't really remember the name of it, and I can't really be bothered to look it up right now, but I'll put in some pictures.
This statue was in the park, not the shrine, but I thought it was cool.

One of the many mini-shrines in there.  If you're worshiping at it you're supposed to use the rope to ring the bell.

This gate is called a torii. I'll have much more to say about those in my post on day 3.

Main shrine building. Lots of lanterns and lots of gold things. Pretty cool.

After the shrine we headed a ways further north and went to a very big temple called Chion-in. This was probably my favorite part of this day. The main gate was HUGE and, of course, this temple had enormous amounts of stairs! The ones leading up from the main gate were even pretty big so they took extra effort to climb up. I kind of wonder if that's something to do with Buddhism, or if they just felt like making them like that. Nancy, I think, felt like they made them like that specifically to make her life more difficult. Anyway, the temple was pretty cool. It had some neat buildings, a really big bell, and we got to go inside of a lot of the buildings at this one and see the images and things they had in there. In the main hall there were a bunch of monks doing their Buddhist chants. I actually thought this was cool because I learned about this chanting in my Japanese history class at BYU, and I thought it was a really neat thing to see it/hear it in real life. They had signs up not to take pictures of that, but here are a few pictures of the temple.

Main entrance. Notice how it is huge. Apparently the guy who built it was accused of mishandling funds or something, and so, true to feudal Japanese form, he committed ritual suicide. Also notice the stairs.


Neat building, and more stairs.

Really big bell! (Which, coincidentally, was at the top of, you guessed it, even more stairs!)

Another cool temple building.

Yeah, there were more stairs.

Japanese cemetery.

Coincidentally, I took this picture from the top of more stairs.

Cool pagoda.

After Chion-in we had lunch and then took a bus up to a place that I was really excited to see because the guidebook talked the crap out of it. It's another temple called Ginkaku-ji, and the guidebook had it listed as number 1 in its top ten sights of Kyoto. Well, we went there, we paid five dollars each to get in, and while it was a nice temple, I have to say we were a little disappointed. It definitely didn't measure up to some of the other stuff we'd seen that day. It's biggest talking point was a "silver pavilion," and we had thought, since there is a temple in Kyoto that has a gold pavilion, which is actually plated in gold (Nancy will post about that one) we kind of figured this one would be exciting. Not so much. In fact, we completely missed it the first time we walked by it and had to backtrack. It's the silver pavilion because they view the full moon in it. So, it's just a wooden temple building. However, there was a pretty nice hike, a few more stairs (of course) and a good view, and we took some pictures of the pavilion because we had to. Here are some pictures from underwhelming, I mean Ginkaku-ji.

This sculpted sand was actually pretty cool.

Mini waterfall.

Excellent view going up the stairs. :)

A lot of the gardens at the temples in Japan have moss instead of grass. Pretty cool.

Sweet view out over the temple complex and northern Kyoto.

Another thing of sculpted sand.
The Silver Pavilion.

This is Nancy's "I'm pretty underwhelmed, but whatever." face.

After Ginkaku-ji we wandered around a little more and looked at a couple random temples. Kyoto has gobs of them. Then we finally found a subway station (Did I mention that I think the subway is cool? I think the subway is cool.) and headed back to our hotel. All-in-all it was a pretty good first day. With, like I've mentioned, a whole lot of stairs. I'll be back when I report on day 3. This is Captain Danger out.

Friday, July 26, 2013

In Which I Ride a Subway for the First Time

Just so everyone knows, we're in Japan right now. We're in our hotel in Kyoto and I'm pretty dang convinced this trip is going to be awesome! We made it here well, managing to handle everything concerning planes and trains and subways pretty well. Plus, when the train showed up, I had to drop my Big Bang Theory quote: "You have to say it like this: 'We're taking the train!'" Also, I got to go on a subway, which was pretty cool. I've decided that I like the subway. Tomorrow we'll be hitting the biggest sight seeing district in Kyoto and going to like a bazillion temples and shrines and a park maybe? I can't remember for sure, but it's going to be sweet. Also, our hotel is a fifteen minute walk from the old imperial palace! This budding historian/future history teacher who thoroughly enjoyed his Japanese history class will definitely be checking that one out. At any rate, I think that's about all I have to say at the moment. I think I might be going a little crazy with this blog again, but you know? I'm cool with that. It's up to you if you read it or not, right? And there must be at least one person out there who wants a full play-by-play of our lives overseas. I'm sure. So, now I need to get ready to be a supertourist tomorrow morning. This is Captain Danger out.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In Which I Set a Goal

So, I just saw this list on Jeju Weekly (one of the foreigner newspapers on the island, and I think the most popular one) and I decided I should totally turn it into a checklist! There are 20 popular beaches on the island. We have visited five of them. That leaves only fifteen! Here's the list. I will write "Check" next to the ones we've already been to.

1. Iho Beach                   Check
2. Gwakji Beach             Check
3. Geumneung Beach
4. Hwasun Beach
5. Jungmun Beach           Check
6. Hahyo Beach
7. Hyeopjae Beach         Check
8. Pyoseon Beach
9. Sanhosa Beach
10. Hado Beach
11. Dimnyeong Beach
12. Ham Deok Beach     Check
13. Samyang Beach

Okay, so it turns out that the article didn't really have all the numbers from 1 to 20. I just saw that the first number was one and the last one was twenty and assumed that there were twenty of them. I guess that I have seen, once again, what happens when I assume. Anyway, thirteen beaches is a much more attainable goal. Especially since some of these are kind of remote. Sanhosa is on a small island off the east coast of Jeju-do, and Hado is on the far east side of the island. But, I'm sure we can manage. At any rate, that's about all I've got for this post. I think that mostly I just wanted to let anyone who reads this blog (I guess there are a few of you, since we've made it to almost a thousand page views in just a month) that we really are living in a pretty awesome place right now. I mean, 13 popular beaches and who knows how many not so popular ones? Yeah. At any rate, that really is all. This is Captain Danger out.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Which We Take a Camera to a Place We Go Almost Every Day

So, this past Sunday is was a beautiful afternoon, so we decided to go for a walk up in the Halla Arboretum, where we go running almost every day. It was a nice change to not be gasping and choking and getting soaked in sweat up there and to just walk around and admire the place. Now isn't the best season to visit the Arboretum, because there aren't a lot of flowers blooming. However, I did discover that the place is about as big as I thought it was (really big), and there are some pretty cool things there! I had fun, and we'll have to go back and look around some more sometime soon. Here are some pictures:

Nancy on the main path. We run here like every day.

This photo was an instant keeper.

Bamboo garden!

I think whoever wrote this sign got a little bamboo-zled.

Don't worry, Nancy actually is wearing a shirt in this one.

So, now you can see how cool the place that we run is. Yeah, it's pretty dang cool. So, that's all I've got right now. This is Captain Danger out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

In Which We Find Some Kickawesome Waves. And Then They Find Our Stuff.

So, I figured that it was about time I got up and posted about what we did this past weekend, because if I don't do it now, too many things will start to pile up (especially since we're going to Japan this Friday! (Boo-yah.)) and then the thought of blogging to catch up will be too daunting and so I'd either have to quit blogging altogether or else just not tell you about it. And I think that neither of those are real options. So, here we go. This past weekend Nancy and I headed down to Seogwipo again. It was a fun trip. The weather was in and out of cloudy and sunny, but was pretty uniformly ridiculously hot. Our main objective was Jungmun Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the island. It was pretty popular, but I'll get to that. When we got to the area of the beach, I realized that the third of the really famous waterfalls on Jeju-do was right nearby, so we decided to go and check it out. This waterfall is actually three waterfalls, but the topmost one only flows after rain. We went and looked at it anyway, and it was cool. Of course, this being Korea, Cheonjeyeon Falls (that's the name of all three of them) has had a big complex of stuff built around it, including a good luck fountain and a super cool bridge with a bunch of nymphs on the side. Here are some pictures of our visit to the falls:

Third Waterfall

I really like this picture of Nancy

Nancy with the bridge.

First waterfall. It's not flowing, but it still looks pretty cool.

Second waterfall

Nancy on the bridge

This whole area just screams canyon, but unfortunately
swimming here is very much against the law.

Nancy with the good luck fountain.

The idea was to stand in front of one of the heads and throw your coin
at the money bag in the middle for luck in that area. Nancy chose
the Mandarin Duck, for love. She missed.

I chose the boar, for wealth. I also missed. Great.
So, after we had squandered all of our hopes for luck in the future (we could have kept trying, but we only had 100 won coins, which is about a dime, and we didn't want to spend too much on a fountain) we decided it was ridiculously hot and we should head down to the beach.That proved to be a bit harder than we anticipated, because the place where we thought the beach was wasn't actually the beach's location, and we ended up having to take a whole bunch of stairs down the mountain to get there, but we finally arrived. It was a pretty large beach, but they allowed you to swim in only a small part of the water and the rest was for surfers I guess? We weren't sure. Maybe it was that small so the lifeguards could keep track of it better. Whatever the reason, it was enough space, I guess, and the waves were awesome! So much better than any of the other beaches we've been to. I don't know if it was the time of day or what, but these waves were sweet. There's just something amazing about standing in waist-deep water and seeing a wave that's like twice your height screaming in to try to drown you. We decided to splurge and rent a tube here for the first time, and it was only 8000 won (about eight dollars), so that really wasn't bad, and it was worth it. We went out to the buoys and held on to the rope and then when a big wave came in and broke right on us, we would let go and let the wave carry us in to shore. It was awesome. As the afternoon wore on, the tide came in, and what we didn't realize while we were out on the water was that it was actually coming in and soaking our towels. By the time Nancy went in to lay out, our towels were soaked and thoroughly coated in sand. My backpack got it a little bit, but my tablet (which I had brought so I could read on the bus) and the camera, as well as Nancy's cell phone, were fine. We just had to figure out a good way to get really wet and really, really sandy towels home without ruining my backpack. We figured it out, and overall, the afternoon at the beach was a great success! The only thing that detracted from it was the lady who was bathing her child naked at the showers they had to wash the sand off. Anyway, here are some pictures (not of the naked kid, that would be creepy).

I'm in this picture and the next one. I'm the big fat white guy.

A wave came in while I was taking the picture. The water was cold.
At any rate, it was a fun trip, and we also got to see the other side of the island on our bus ride. Plus, we drove past Jeju Dinosaur Land! Yeah, I'm pretty sure we must go there. Well, that's all I have for now. This is Captain Danger out.