Hong Kong Slideshow

Here is a slideshow of some of the best of the photos which I took in Hong Kong.

Asia’s Global city

So, for Chuseok I went to Hong Kong and Macau.  It was a really wonderful trip.  The bizzarre thing about it is it’s hard to pinpoint what was so wonderful about Hong Kong.

I think it’s great selling point, especially from someone living in Seoul, is how international it is.   I mean it was a hunt to find Chinese food in Hong Kong.  Western food from steak houses to McDonalds on the other hand were all over the place.  We found some Chinese food, but it was a bit of a hunt.

Not only that but if you like shopping Hong Kong has every premiere brand I’ve ever heard of there.  From Apple and Armani to Prada and Rolex if you want something expensive you can find it in Hong Kong.  Or if you want something cheap they have a huge selection of  pretty good knock-offs  and discount items.  I got a great ironic t-shirt.

 

Not only that but English was everywhere.   I was expecting it to be Seoul-like with most of the working class people only speaking Cantonese.  However, English was so common here.  It makes me so jealous.

It was a city with some beautiful sites to see.    The Skyline of the city was wonderful both from the ferry and from the top on The Peak’s observation deck.   The skyline also showed itself extremely pretty from the waters between Hong Kong proper and Kowloon.

The trip out to Lan Tau was a pretty remarkable side expedition.  The glass-bottomed cable car proved every bit worth the wait in the long line.   The Big Buddha was a pretty beautiful statue.  I was tempted with the cynical thought that if you’ve seen one Buddha you’ve seen them all but I think no that really isn’t the case as each beautiful statue I go to see is as cool as the last one.  The real star of this was the glass-bottomed cable car ride. The view up and down the mountain path is truly spectacular.    When you come over a hill and see the giant statue at the end of a long stretch of trees it’s quite spectacular.

Macau was really another great side trip.   If you don’t like gambling their is just enough to spend about a day wandering around this small island part of China.    It’s got a unique look thanks to several hundred years of Portugese occupation.  Also it’s one of the few places in the Far East that allows everyone to gamble on casino games.  So they have several big Casinos there.   We went to the Sands, and I won about $60 US playing black jack.   I was surprised to see row after row of baccarat tables.

I think the real star of the trip though was just the overall look and feel of Hong Kong.  I’d reccomend it to anyone looking for a break from Seoul’s somewhat provincial attitudes.

Macau live diary

Should Have Seen It: Casablanca

So Casablanca turned out to be another film which earned its reputation. It’s the kind of film they just don’t make anymore, for better and for worse. I hope that does not sound like bleary nostalgia, its more of a description than anything as some of the movie just screams,”This was made a long time ago.”

The film starts with a long introduction of the scene and an enormous amount of expository dialogue. It takes almost one-third of the film to know who all the principles are and what it is that they’re doing.

The importance of Casablanca may be lost on a modern audience. It was a way-station on the route out of Nazi occupied Europe for many people fleeing to America via Lisbon Portugal.

This owed to it being controlled by the Vichy French government, puppets of Berlin. Some of the tension in this film depends on this understanding– which I imagine everyone knew when this was released in 1942.

Once the story gets started, it has two tracks. A love story between Rick and Ilsa and an escape story involving a few more characters. Bogart and Bergman excel in both roles and have tremendous chemistry together.

A great deal about this film had been spoiled for me because of all the references over the years but seeing these scenes in their full context was rewarding.

The action in this film is great for how little action is in it. A gun is shown a few times in the film but only rarely are they fired. This gives real emotional weight to the scenes where the characters are willing to resort to guns.

Speaking of spoilers the ending deserves special discussion. I think the idea of spoiling one of the most well known scenes in a seventy year old film is absurd but if you don’t want to read about the ending stop reading now.

The ending is the good of why they don’t make films like this. Bogart chooses duty to humanity over being with his love. Oddly the film succeeds at making this a touching and bittersweet but not sad moment. I can not picture a modern film maker succeeding so completely.

One final note. I loved the beautiful theme to this movie’s score. Time goes by was a beautiful piece of piano. It complemented the feeling of the film exceptionally.

Should Have Seen It…The Godfather

The Godfather

I once read an interview that said the average gamer has seen one movie, Star Wars.  At the time, I think I took it too literally and got annoyed with the wording of it.  Lately, I realized it’s kind of true.

So I decided to  rectify this with me personally and watch the movies that I should have seen.  Some of which I’ve even been lying about having seen to friends and family members for years because I’m kind of embarrassed by how few of these cultural touchstones I’ve actually viewed.

The first movie I saw was Francis Ford Coppola’s  film the Godfather.   I was worried that this film wouldn’t really connect the way it did when it was released.  That too much of it had been spoiled by homages, or that things that were powerful in the 1970s would no longer have the same significance.

This wasn’t the case,  this movie is an amazing bit of storytelling that tells the story of the end of one criminal’s life and the rise of another.  I’m not going to pretend I know enough about film making to really critique this movie in a super serious way, but I love the way the characters are introduced at the wedding.  It brings in a huge cast of characters in a very condensed scene and makes people just having a conversation so fascinating before even really letting on what the film is going to be about.

What’s really amazing is how many characters are interesting, flawed, human, and yet empathetic.  On some level I know they’re all criminals who do bad things but you’re rooting for the Corleones to succeed.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I’m sure someone’s probably recommended it to you before, but it’s a movie that has aged really well.

The Ocean closes?

For the three day weekend around Korea’s independence day I decided to go to Busan again with Lost in Seoul.

We arrived in the afternoon yesterday.  After getting some sillyness with the trains sorted out and getting everyone together the first place we went was to Haeundae beach, just a short walk from the hostel.

The crowds were as expected–absolutely huge.   It was nearly impossible to find the sand there were so many mats and umbrellas there.

The beach was pretty awesome, but after only about half an hour I was told that the beach was closing.   That’s right at 6:30, THE OCEAN CLOSES.    Seriously what the hell?

I mean why can’t they just post a sign that says no lifeguard swim at your own risk.  I’ve been swimming in the ocean since I was a little kid and there was almost no undertoe to speak of, the waves were very mild (though bigger for Korea) and the current was a non-factor.   The water was safe for people to swim in.

So I don’t really get the point of closing the beach especially so early.

Secondly, from there we went back to Fuzzy Navel and had some of their “FN tacos.”   I got a chicken chimichanga, Corona and a strawberry mojito.  The chimichanga was delicious.    A strawberry mojito though is a poor drink.  Strawberries and mint just don’t go together well.

From there we went on a bit of a pub crawl.   There were a lot of drinks of varying quality consumed over the next few hours.

Then it was back to the hostel, which frankly does not impress.  We stayed in much more comfortable lodgings in June.   Chan’s Guest house however  has restrictions on using the air conditioning, and not a single chair in the place.

 

Bungee jumping with Lost in Seoul

So yeah I went bungee jumping with some old and new friends in Lost in Seoul.

Trying to describe it is hard,  you look out into the distance, to avoid looking down and then jump.   Then you fall for a bit, and the rope catches you and you bounce back up and down.

You can see that in the video.  What you can’t see is that an ankle jump is actually kind of painful.   I’ve heard a body jump is less so but I didn’t want to spend the money to go a second time.

When you reach the bottom all of your weight+ the force of your momentum is reversed and it really causes a lot of havoc internally.  I clenched all my muscles trying to keep my shit together.

This was maybe a mistake but when you’ve jumped off a bridge you’re not really in your right mind.

After that we  went and did some water sports.  Fly Fish is really cool.  It’s a raft that is unstable and every time it hits a wave it goes airborne.  The only mistake was doing this after we bungee jumped which made everything seem pretty vanilla.

 

Jeju slideshow

Jeju: The Third and Final days

So the last two days at Jeju were kind of a blur.   So much stuff happened.

 

So on the Third day we started out exploring.  We accidentally found a temple across the street from the nearby minimart and we decided to take a look .  It was very beautiful in there.  They had a great main set of statues.

Then we hung out on the beach and Glen ate his MRE that he had brought just in case.  .  I went swimming briefly on the  main beach for the first time.  I wasn’t preparing for it, so I swam in my shorts.  Went back  to my hotel and got ready to go out.

From there the first place we went was an all organic vegetarian restaurant.   They served up a delicious salary bibimbap.   It was one  of the best bibimbaps I’ve had  in Korea.  Everything was delicious, though I put a bit too much red pepper sauce in it.  The decor in the restaurants.

From there we went on to a lava tube cave.  Which was a delightfully cool tube cave.  It’s a fairly straight run down the side of a mountain made by a tube of lava.  Only the middle section of the tube was open to the public but it was really terrific to see the huge arching ceilings along the whole thing.

From there we went just a short hop to a hedge maze.  In the middle of the  maze is a bell to ring.   Our team had a lot of fun but finished last.  We just kept going in circles.

Next we went for  a nice hike at the Jeomul recreational forest.  In the forest included a really cool nature path, a fresh water spring, a buhddist temple, and  a set of super cool wooden statues.

After that we went to dinner.   I was starving at this point so the very average pork and mackerel tasted incredible.  I’m quite sure though that if I had not been quite so hungry I would have been unimpressed again.

Finally for the Third day, we went to the ghost road and Loveland.  The Ghost Road is a neat optical illusion where it appears as if the road tilts up when in fact its going down hill-and gives the illusion that ghosts are pushing your vehicle forward.

Loveland is hard to describe in words but it’ll have to do because most of the pictures are too NSFW to post here.  It’s an erotic theme park with a great many statues and other works of art throughout the park.  Jeju is the Korean destination for honeymoons so you will see many newlywed couples walking around here.  They’re all outrageous, and absurd to the point of being over the top.

From there we went home and more or less went straight to bed.  Next morning we woke up for some last minute beach shenanigans before we had to check out from the hotel.  People piled seaweed on top of one another in a disgusting game of can-you-top-this?

Lastly we went to a botanical gardens where there were many foreign species of plants growing.  A lot of these were very beautiful and something different from what we had seen on the rest of the island.

And that was all of my Jeju holiday.

Jeju: The Second Day

The second day started with a quick breakfast before we boarded the bus.   We went off for a hike around  a crater.   It was pretty awesome and tiring at the same time.   Walking down was really quite scary as it felt like you could fall down but the view from the top was well worth the enormous amount of sweat that penetrated all my clothes  to the point of feeling absurd.

From there we headed to a weird lunch buffet that was done to look like a European castle or something with copies of all kinds of famous European works of art.  The food yet again was disappointing.

From there we headed to O’Sulloc’s Green tea farm where we saw the green tea fields and a cool museum of tea.   I bought my co-teacher a gift from there and had a green tea milkshake which was quite good.

Then we headed back to our hotel for some time at the beach.  We went down to the beach right out in front of the hotel and swam.   The water was really nice and we played a ball game in the water.

After about an hour of this a group of about 9 of us went to a sashimi restaurant for dinner and it was very yummy.   We got to eat a ton of raw fish, and all the fixings along with some of the spicy fish soup that normally comes with sashimi.

Finally from there we went for some night fun on the beach setting off fireworks, drinking and generally just carousing.  A good time was had by all.