Sunday, April 25, 2010

Learning how to be Civilized

Several months ago a government mandate was announced in Shanghai encouraging the residents to be more civilized in preparation for the upcoming world Expo which begins on May 1.

Interestingly enough, instead of focusing on things like: scooters, bikes and cars on sidewalks, pushing and cutting in line, uninhibited public urinating, and my favorite the spitting of huge luggies everywhere; the government has decided that there should be no more pajama wearing in public!

Admittedly, there are a large number of Shanghai residents (like the one below) that can been seen on a daily basis wearing their pajamas on the streets as they go about their shopping and socializing, but really?  It's a bit strange that this is the way the government measures the civility of a city.

We came across this park last week and I had to wonder if the government was keeping tabs on it to ensure no pajamas were worn inside.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is it really a National Park?

Last week, Jason & I set out on the subway to explore Sheshan National Forest Park.  We're always looking for ways to escape the city and this seemed like a good one.  We'd seen the place in the distance before and had done a little research to find out that it is literally the only spot in Shanghai that isn't flat. 

As we got closer, we realized once again how spoiled we've been to have spent most of our lives living in places where there are amazing national parks...that being said, we did have a fun day exploring this park and even found a few paths where we didn't see any other people for a few minutes.

The only "mountain" in all of Shanghai.  Yep, that's it.  Pretty impressive, right? ;-)

At the highest natural point in Shanghai (I am sure there are buildings downtown taller than this little hill).

A really cool flower growing alongside the road. 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wandering through Bukchon Village

Although quite a touristy area of Seoul, Bukchon was one of the cutest neighborhoods I've seen in a long time.  Originally popularized due to the over 900 hanook -- traditional Korean -- houses, it is now a hot spot for ecclectic shops and cafes that left me wishing I could stay longer to try them all out. 

Home Depot, eat your heart out.

Some final street food before we head to the airport - SOOOOOO delicious!!  These had a brown sugar and nut filling that only left me wanting more.
Goodbye Korea ....

Seoul is Good for the Soul

My first clue that Koreans might be a bit more polite than the residents of Shanghai ... these "Etiquette Bells" were mounted in each bathroom stall at the airport bathroom.  During our 2 1/2 days there we did notice that in general people were more polite than what we've become used to; although spitting anywhere and everywhere was still completely acceptable, along with some pushing and cutting in line...

Reunited with our Peace Corps friend, Amanda and on our way to hike at Bukhansen National Park.
I love that there is a Dunkin' Donuts at the trail head -- along with a ton of vendors selling everything one might need for the hike.  Jason observed that one could have arrived at the trail head with absolutely no clothes or food and been outfitted in a matter of minutes.

Ahhh .... hills!  I remember what these look like!  The air quality below wasn't quite as good as we'd hoped ... thanks to the desert sand that has been blowing here from China.
A man who asked to have his picture with us.  Nearly every Korean we saw was outiftted as if they were going on an extremely strenous climb.  Boots, backpacks, walking sticks, mats to sit on, etc were all part of the costume for the day.  We may have been underdressed by Korean standards, but we managed just fine. :)

Our hike ended with a walk through this village that somehow had the feel of a small alpine village.

An entire store covered with empty "Soju" bottles (the Korean drink of choice).
Koreans definitely win the prize for their creativity in preparing foods at your table.  Mouth-wateringly good food and the entertainment of watching it get prepared in front of you.  You can't beat it!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Heading for the DMZ

That's right ... tomorrow morning we are flying to Korea!  Until I started doing a little research for our trip, I had very little idea how close Seoul is to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and North Korea -- only about 30 miles!  

While I don't think we'll really be going for any DMZ tours, we are extremely excited to be going to visit a friend from Peace Corps who is now teaching school there.

Amanda and I shared a room and Tongan host family during our first few weeks in Tonga (see a couple pictures below of our house, room & family).  We relied on each other a lot as we went through the sometimes difficult adjustment of life in Peace Corps.  I am thrilled to get the opportunity to visit her and to do a little exploring of another country.