Sunday, December 14, 2008

Andong Mask Festival

Here's a belated report from an early October trip to Andong, Gyeongsang Province, a few hours southeast of Seoul. The area is famous for traditional Korean cuisine eaten to honor ancestors (heotjesabap, similar to bibimbap), an old Confucian academy, and Andong's annual mask festival. Matt Kelley and I joined throngs of festival goers on an uncharacteristically hot October weekend. Here are some photos from the festival. For more information about North Gyeongsang Province, visit Matt's "Discovering Korea" website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seoul, city of SOCKS!

Can't decide what to buy your friends and fam for Christmas? I suggest socks! And Seoul has plenty of 'em. One can't help but notice the prevalence of sock vendors around the city; in the subways, along the sidewalks, and one after another in any shopping area. They range from the practical to the downright wacky. They're long, short, plain, colorful, and some even get political. Korean heartthrobs grace the cotton of some varities, along with old standbys Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and "Coach" socks go for just two or three dollars a pair on the streets of Itaewon. In fact, they're as afforable as their less illustrious counterparts. So, this holiday season, stuff the stockings with . . . stockings!

I'm particularly keen on the variety of tights in Korea. In a rainbow of colors, they come with feet, without feet, and even with half a foot . . . but no heel. A fashionista's options are endless!

Wintertime offerings get warmer 'n fuzzier, but socks are plentiful in Seoul year-round.

The won-yen exchange rate has brought many a Japanese tourist to Korea in recent weeks just for shopping. Something tells me they aren't buying "Dokdo Love" socks, though. I wonder if there are "Takeshima Love" socks in Japan???

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Street squatting

In a previous post, I marveled over the prevalence of squatting among Koreans. It seems like anywhere you go, from the bus stop to the peaks of Mount Seorak, you'll find locals young and old resting on their haunches for seemingly excruciating amounts of time. I thought I had seen it all until I noticed a particularly dangerous display of this cultural phenomenon on my way to work a couple weeks ago. Does this woman have a death wish, or what?! Unfortunately, my video doesn't actually do this death-defying act justice. By the time I wrestled my camera from my bag, the traffic light was changing from green to yellow and the cars were slowing in speed and frequency, but you get the picture.