Sometimes, getting all your paperwork together to teach English in South Korea can take just a little too long. Or, you may already be in the country when you secure a job and need to head overseas to swap your visa over to an E2. Whatever the reason, visa runs are an inconvenience, but luckily Fukuoka is a mere hour flight away from many cities in Korea and makes for a pleasant enough getaway. Here are some tips to make your visa run from South Korea to Fukuoka as easy and stress-free as possible.
“Fancy joining us?”
I glanced up from my book, meeting the eyes of the backpacker who’d asked the question.
“Where’re you headed?”
“The Hungry Ghost Cave,” his friend chimed in.
I considered it a mere moment, then bobbed my head eagerly. “When do we go?”
“8 o’clock tomorrow morning,” the first guy said, extending a tanned hand. “I’m Miv…”
“Ronnie,” his mate offered, lifting his hand in turn.
“…and this here’s Ching, he’ll be our guide.” Ching nodded at me from across the table, and I did my best to commit their names to memory.
I headed back up to my room, but as I climbed to the fourth floor I felt an icy tendril of dread coil in my gut. Hungry ghost… I shook my head. Buddhism is filled with stories of the restless dead and even has a festival every year for which participants make offerings and pray to appease the pain of roving spirits. The name was just that: a moniker, a legend.
Jangsa…. a little voice whispered in the back of my head, drawing out the word with sadistic glee.
I shivered, clenching my fists as I lay back on my bed. That had just been an accident. A terrible, terrible accident. My mind had… broken. Seen things.
I dug my knuckles into my eyes until I could see supernovas, then curled into a ball and did my best to sleep. [Read more…]
I treat the camera like a person – I gaze into it. Photos are a flat thing, and you need to put life into them.” – Cara Delevingne
Sometimes travel is dangerous. I know it as well as anyone. From being jumped on a cobblestone street in France to battling altitude sickness while crossing a pass between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, I’ve had my fair share of close calls. Sometimes, though, those calls are more than close. Sometimes, they come at great cost. Sometimes, they lead to you saying goodbye to an old friend.
I’m referring to my trusty Panasonic Lumix GX1, who’s been with me for almost 3 years and has traveled with me through 10 countries. She survived changing lenses on a dune while being shielded from the whipping sands of the Gobi desert. She stuck with me on an arduous journey through Central Asia, over mountains, through storms, and in sketchy taxis. She survived all that and more, but Thailand has proved her undoing, and will be the last country she experiences with me.
To commemorate our time together, I wanted to look back at ten of my favorite memories captured with my GX1. So, without further adieu:
A Break During the Motorcycle Ride from Tsetserleg to Tariat
Just about a month after buying my camera, I rode a motorcycle for the first time. For my training course, I decided to do the 160 km stretch of Mongolian steppe from Tsetserleg to Tariat. Mid-way along that route, there is a sublime stretch of tarmac as straight as an arrow. Surrounded by plains and ringed by mountain ranges, it was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip.
This year, Christmas is going to be weird. Not because I’m spending it in a flat near the outskirts of Pohang or in a Korean beach-side pension with many of my dear friends. Not even because I’m spending it on a beach in Thailand belting Johnny Cash tunes out across the waves. No, this year is weird because I’m going to be home.
I’ve missed the past three Christmases, and it hasn’t been easy. This year, there are many things I’m looking forward to: eggnog, my mom’s delicious Christmas baking, hot buttered rum, seeing the Christmas lights in Leavenworth, having a Christmas tree, and so on. But perhaps the thing I’m looking forward to the most is being with my family.
I remember seeing a picture of my dad’s relatives all gathered for Easter this last year. My dad is from a huge family who, quite honestly, multiply like rabbits. Out of all the youngest generation, I’m the oldest. Looking at this picture, I was stunned by how much my cousins had grown. I could tell, just by looking, that I would no longer be looking down on them the next time we met. Perhaps the hardest thing was realizing I barely recognized some of them. Four years is a long time when kids are growing.
I’ve got a lot to be thankful for from this past year. My second year in Korea was a wonderful one. I had a job I loved and got to spend some quality time with some wonderful friends; I even had my two best friends, Brandon and Cody, travel to Korea to visit me. Even more awesomely, my little sister decided to follow me across the Pacific and start teaching in Korea as well! Having the opportunity to experience some new spots in Korea with Alisha–who is every bit as addicted to travel as I am–was definitely one of the highlights of my year.
Korea wasn’t the whole of my 2014, though. I spent a week and a half exploring Japan in May, highlighted by hiking part of the ancient Nakasendo with Brandon. After my second contract in Korea ended, I headed for Kyrgyzstan, hoping to start a motorcycle journey through Central Asia. Though I failed in that adventure, I still made it to Tajikistan in story-worthy fashion, nearly giving my poor parents a heart attack in the process. Uzbekistan was next, highlighted by the ancient Silk Road city of Bukhara. After finishing in Central Asia, I spent some time floating along the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul before heading to Iran on an organized tour. Iran was a wonderful experience, doing the one thing every good trip should do: shattering misconceptions. I’ll never forget my time there. Before heading home, I made a final stop in Sweden and got to visit some friends from my previous trip in the process. Thanks for a great time in Stockholm Ellinor and Mikaela!
Now, after so many amazing experiences, I’m home. It’s surreal, because it almost feels like I was never away. Not even a month after coming home and it seems like I can barely recall my favorite memories of Korea: playing ‘Lonely Boy’ and ‘I Will Survive’ with the Seonhwa Band, snuggling into my favorite chair in Cafe 1944, cooking dinner with my friends in Auraji, ukulele lessons with my coworkers… I can barely remember missing my life back home (in the USA)–the one that is currently making me antsy and restless.
To all my family and friends in the States, I’ve missed you so much and can’t wait to see some of you in just a few days! Kif, I wish you could be here this year, but it was awesome hanging out with you over the past month! Safe voyage, bro. Sissy, keep living it up in Korea, hopefully our paths cross sometime in 2015. To my friends in Korea, I miss you guys like crazy. I’m hoping to make it back to Pohang in September for Dan and Seonhwa’s wedding… hope to see you all then! And to everyone else whom I have met on the road, thanks for making my journeys all the more memorable. With each new friendship, I find myself more and more enamored with the world as a whole. You are the cookies in my ice cream 🙂 And that, my friends, is high praise indeed.
The rain started as we walked along the final stretch of the Nakasendo–the ancient Japanese postal road–between the restored Edo-era towns of Magome and Tsumago. Clouds gathered overhead and the air grew thick with the smell of petrichor (thanks for the word, Bijoy!) as the earth prepared to be inundated by the sky.
Kyoto is the city most people familiar with Japan will recommend to the first time visitor. Having been the former capital of Japan for a span of over 1000 years and being spared the devastation of bombing raids in WWII, Kyoto is one of the cities in Japan where a wealth of historical architecture is still intact.
This is a city you should spend at least a few days in to even begin to appreciate the wealth of culture it contains. Here are five must-do activities for when you’re exploring Kyoto.
One of the most iconic structures in the city, Kinkaku-ji is a stunning, shimmering, garish affair–bound to be swarmed by tourists, but absolutely worth visiting for a quick look.
Let’s go back to 8th century Japan. The imperial infrastructure of the country had been growing for quite some time, causing the empress to choose a permanent location for the capital. She picked a spot on the Yamato plain and the construction of Nara began.
At the time, Buddhism was becoming more and more deeply rooted in the cultural identity of Japan. Laws were even passed requiring each family to have a household shrine. As a result, there were an abundance of shrines dotting the city–many of which remain to this day.
“If one walks, a road is made.”
So reads the cover of the walking map for the Nakasendo I brought back with me from Japan–a sentiment which perfectly encapsulates the origins and spirit of the Nakasendo. An ancient postal road connecting Kyoto (Kyo) and Tokyo (Edo), the Nakasendo was built over 400 years ago in the Edo period. Much of this route has remained frozen in time, transporting travelers back to a time long past.
We don’t have many castles in America. European settlers arrived on the continent after gunpowder had rendered the structures practically obsolete and the tribes of the First Nations weren’t really into the whole castle notion. Aside from a few drab affairs I visited in Europe, I didn’t have many first-hand experiences exploring castles. That changed when I arrived in Osaka.
One of the premier attractions in the city is Osaka Castle. Towering over the grounds of an extensive city park and protected by two massive moats, it sticks out in an otherwise modern and buzzing city.
I love to hike. Hiking is one of the most relaxing, exciting, and rewarding activities I can think of. Part of the allure, part of the charm, is that it’s usually free. So, when I walked through Nara Park and came to the base of Wakakusayama Hill, I was disappointed to encounter an admission booth charging a pittance to walk up the hill. It wasn’t much (150 yen), but the principal of the thing bugged me. So, I pulled out my handy map and did a little exploring.
There’s a small access road which goes around the south edge of the hill between it and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine. From that road, there is a well maintained hiking path through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest to–you guessed it–the top of Wakakusayama Hill. Disappointed squashed by the heady buzz of victory, I set off along the path.