Friday, July 20, 2007

Performance in July 2007

July 18 (Sat) - Medfest
2700 California Ave. SW
West Seattle, WA
*Dancing Starts at 12:45am

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ukraine - Kiev

I arrived in Kiev like a zombie. After almost an entire day of sleepless flights (of no fault of my own), it was like landing in a strange place. It didn't help that I spoke just about no Russian and very few people there spoke English.
Somehow despite the language problems, I met up with people I was supposed to meet up with and was taken about the city. 
Kiev center
I would say Kiev reminded me of Korea of many years ago...just as it was growing into more modern city. Perhaps if I spoke Russian like I speak Korean in Korea, it might have made things so much better. But with 2 hours of sleep in 24 hours, I am not sure if that would have helped.

Near Independence Square
City itself was bustling with people. It was strange mixture of fancy modern buildings and old Soviet architecture.
Kiev Center
We took some sort of people mover train to the top of the mountain to see this gorgeous church. I still have no clue what is called.
Mikhailovsky Cathedral
The church or cathedral on top of the mountain was in different fashion than other Cathedrals I am used to. It is of course eastern orthodox based. Yet the beauty of the chapel was still the same.
Mikhailovsky Cathedral
Mikhailovsky Cathedral
From the top of the hill, we walked down and down windy street, which I am told afterwards as somewhat of a tourist attraction. The small streets were full of street vendors selling this and that. I walked through them as if in a dream. 
Andreevsky Spusk - oldest streets in Kiev
I don't remember much of the first day I arrived in Kiev, but I do remember wishing I had few more days to explore at least the orthodox cathedrals.
My last night in Kiev was the Easter night. I was so lucky. The church opens all night, the streets and church are filled with people carrying Easter baskets. 
Saint Vladimir Cathedral
The subways at Kiev are somewhat old and dirty, but definitely great as a transportation and cheaper than anything I've known in terms of public transportation. We wandered the night streets of Kiev...which I would say is infinitely better than the day.
Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra
I was able to walk into several churches, see the brightly lit gilded statues, murals, and even see the top honch of the eastern orthodox church...who I'd say wasn't really the focal point of the night. I was more impressed by several hundred year old chapel.

Theater in city center
Books about Ukraine & Kiev:

Turkey - Alanya

Alanya is extremely tourist beach resort neighborhood on the Mediterranean part of Turkey. I found myself there in April, which isn't quite the tourist season. Having an empty beach all to myself was nice although it was a bit nippy. Alanya has beautiful sandstone beaches with millions of small pebbles. The water is clear and I could envision the days of old.
Beach nearby Alanya
Endless sandy steps surrounds the beaches of Alanya. I wonder how they came to be. I sit on one of the dry stone steps and look out into the endless ocean. I wonder...will I be transported back in time to the world of ottoman empire?
Beach nearby Alanya
One structure no one will miss in Alanya is the Red tower and the surrounding fortress structure. I hear you will be able to go all the way to the top of the mountain on foot, but exhaustion led us back down in the midst of our climb. The view out to the ocean and to the top of the mountain is spectacular from the red tower.
Red tower
In olden days, one could hypothetically travel all the way to the top from Red Tower. We embarked on one such path only to the thwarted by the erosion due to aging fortress structure. My advice is to take a transport that gets you all the way to the top!  
From Red Tower
You get a spectacular view to the Alanya surrounding beaches from the red tower. I could only imagine what it would have been like many hundreds of years ago.
From Red Tower
You also get a spectacular view to the top of the mountains. Next time, I plan to be on top of the mountain looking down. I suppose next time too, I will want to get a historical details on this coast of Turkey before coming. This apparently used to be a favorite vacation spot for Seljuk kings.
From Red Tower
Looking at the openings on the ceiling, I assume this used to be Hammam, the bath house. I wonder if it is still working Hammam...perhaps it has long ago been abandoned. Wouldn't it be nice to restore something as beautiful as this? I wouldn't so mind living in Harem.
From Red Tower
Alanya coast. I guess I can see why this would have been the favorite vacation spot for Seljuk kings. Who wouldn't want to be here? Seriously though...if you really want to see the rest of Turkey, plan ahead! 
Books about Alanya:

Turkey - Istanbul

I could say I almost died going to Istanbul. Well, I did say I'd go to Istanbul even if it kills me and it did almost happen. I suppose as no fault of my own, I found myself sitting on a bus for 15 hours just to get to this city of my dreams.
Even almost dying was quite worthwhile. When I landed myself in front of Sultanamet...I was overjoyed. All the perilous journey forgotten. It really didn't matter as I walked in, with my head covered into the mosque, feeling equally awed by these mosques as the cathedrals I've seen.
I guess it is a priviledge to actually be able to see inside these structures. As tourists and guests of the mosque, I actually felt more freedom as I wandered and was able to see all, but not be completely part of it.
I have become more and more fascinated by the doorways of old. I don't know, something about the intricate designs...imagine paying such detailed attention even to the doors.
Sultanamet, the doors
So Hagia Sofia I had studied and read about in my Medieval art class...which I had taken many many years ago. I had then not known much about the mosques and thought Hagia Sofia one of the greatest thing on earth, but if I had seen Sultanamet before it, I probably would have been slightly disappointed.
Hagia Sopfia
Hagia Sofia wasn't completely disappointing. It does somehow combine best of east and west, somehow the blend of religion and culture seem to work well.
Hagia Sofia
It is rather incredible to see Byzantine mosaics and Islamic writings all in one place. No matter what, I tells us the wonders of the history...the changes, yet architecture still stands.
Hagia Sofia
The seat of the Ottoman power...I had so wanted to see Harem, but it was closed during that day. The palace was full of beautiful artifacts.

Topkapi Palace
I found myself wandering the streets alone...quite a lot. Especially in the mornings, the picture taking opportunity was incredible. I loved the intricately designed doorways, fountains, windows...every few blocks, I'd find some random architecture I couldn't help but take picture of.
Istanbul street
Suleyman mosque was really massive. I passed through the university, climbed a small hill and saw massive mosque. It was worth a hike. It is certainly one of the most massive and beautiful mosque. 
Unlike other places I visited, I did not know much history of Suleyman mosque. I did know Ottoman empire history, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the sign of the tomb of Suleyman the magnificent.
I am not sure, but I certainly was in awe as I walked into the tomb of Suleyman. I thought I'd feel something, but I am not sure...I didn't feel anyone's presence there. It certainly was a privilege to see it. I had not planned on that. 
Tomb of Suleyman the Magnificent
Another doorway. Who passed through there? I wish I knew...
Suleymani doorway
Suleymani ceiling
Suleyman mosque had one of the most well preserved carvings, colors, the ceilings. My neck started to get a crimp as I found myself constantly looking up.   Another beautiful ceiling.     
Suleymani ceiling
My hotel was right near Sultanamet. I thought to look through the SUltanamet through one of the iron wrought gates. Perhaps this is how some people of olden days were only able to see Sultanamet?
Turkish bath...definitely worth it. Be prepared to at least spend couple hours there. It is good to pamper. Being able to walk into 300 year old bath is unlike any experience I ever had.
The eggplant dishes were my favorite. I suppose I loved all the salads and puffy bread too. Apple tea is a must!  
Istanbul fare
I walked into this completely by accident. This is underground cistern for really old days. There were fresh water still there with some fishes underground Istanbul!
Underground cistern
Another Suleyman mosque inside. I wanted to sit and enjoy, but there were so much to see and walk to!  
Suleyman mosque
Books about Istanbul:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Korea - Seoul

Insadong Streets
Seoul has so many treasures to offer.
You'll find beautiful palaces of Yi dynasty, busy market places, and serene temples.

Temples in the city are only a brief walk away and the serenity surrounds you there even within the city.
Insadong is simple a little section of town where you can get all sorts of goodies. Many shops sell anything from souvenirs to real antiques. You can also get traditional meals and find traditional tea houses here.         
More Information on Insadong:
Official Korean tourism on Insadong
Wiki about Insadong

Insadong street is very popular among tourists for its quaint little coffee and tea houses, weekly performances and re-inactments and the funky stores and the street vendors.
Insadong street
If you have in mind to experienced the modernized and easy to reach old charm, this street is worth is even though it is somewhat over rated.
Insadong Street Vendor
Changdeokgung in Seoul has the secret garden of the royal family of Yi Dynasty.
This garden contains a large man-made made gardens and ponds. Only Royal family members were allowed in here.
Changdeokgung & the secret garden of the king
These rooms are where King's Concubines lived. There were many hundreds of women in the palace serving him in various ways...anything from laundry, mending to just every day palace rituals. The ones who caught King's eye would be house here. Most of the King's women were from the noble families.
More information about Changdeokgung (UNESCO world heritage site):

Wiki entry on Changdeokgung
Official tour site on Changdeokgung
Concubines' quarters
This is Where much of administrations happened. It is very relaxing to simply walk the grounds of this palace. In the middle of bustling city of Seoul, these lone sanctuary of old stands...somehow you hear none of the noises and see only the trees and surreal background of the tall modern buildings...
Overlooking the entire palace grounds. One could walk hours here. I could very well imagine all the concubines, the queen, the noblemen, even the king who might have walked these paths. 
Other features of different palaces
Every year there a re-inactment of what might have happened here. There's the place where king ruled and the noble fighters and literary men stood outside in their post. Ones closest to the king's ruling seat were the higher rank members. 
Re-inactment of palace celebration
Where the king ruled and the noblemen served him. This is inside the structure where king rules. You can see the intricate designs on the ceilings.
Palaces of Yi Dynasty in Seoul:
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
    Info from official Korean tourism site
    Info from wiki
- Deoksugung Palace
    Info from official Korean tourism site
    Info from wiki
- Changgyeonggung palace
    Info from wiki
King's throne
It is impossible not to end up in Namdaemun in Seoul.
It is a flea market full of vendors of all kinds.
I would definitely suggest going with someone who knows the place or take a map. It was little difficult for tourists to penetrate only several years ago, but now things are changing. There are tour info offices everywhere to help guide you.
Just be sure to Haggle!
More on Namdaemun 
Namdaemun Flea market flower vendors
Korea has many treasures of different Dynasties.
Most of these are displayed at the National Museum of Korea near Seoul
More info on National Museum of Korea
The intricacy and the beautiful shades of Celadon pottery of Goryo Dynasty...
The pottery was baked in extreme temperature over and over to give off such color and intricacy.
Goryo Celadon Pottery
Alas the technique of such colors and design were lost to the modern pottery makers.
There can never be more of such beautiful artifacts...
Goryo Celadon Pottery
Gold and Jade crown found at the mound tomb of Shilla Dynasty rulers  
Shilla King's Crown
This is temple somewhat close to our house...literally on the very top of a very tall mountain. I think it takes at least 40 min to walk down from this place, so I can't imagine walking up this incline. Nowadays, one can ride a car up, but I can't even imagine how people would have managed to go up during the time of unpaved roads and no cars.
This is apparently a very special Buddha, the importance of which escapes me at the moment.
Jewang Buddha at Do Ryun sa
This temple is another very rich one. There is a very special Buddha made by cutting rock embedded on the mountain itself. You will find many people kneeling in prayer in front of this structure.
Do Ryun sa
The temples, like the catherals are a very peaceful place. Perhaps this is the reason why people go to cathedrals and temples. They find people here where they would normally not find anywhere else.  
Do Ryun sa
Every day around 6 or 7 depending on the time of the sunset, the famous and wealthy temples play the drum (But Go) and rings the Bell. We sat to listen to one such ceremony. It is strangely affecting sound...something about it seeps into your soul.
Do Ryun sa, Bell and Drum
I am exceptionally fortunate that my home in Korea is so close to the mountain and because of it, so close to so many Buddhist temples. This one in particular is small, and situated on one of the hiking paths, but due to its size, it is possibly more sublime of the several that I have seen. 
Baek Un Sa (temple)
This temple might only have few structures, but the nature that is seamlessly integrated into its grounds make it seem far grander. It is always surrounded by vibrant mountain flowers year around then there's the snow in the winter. 
Baek Un Sa (temple)
Buk Han San is the mountain range that surrounds northern part of Korea. It is quite possibly one of the most beautiful mountain I have seen during all my travels. The bad thing is that I had never appreciated as much as the credit was due. I did live in front of it half of my life and one tends to take these things for granted.
Buk Han San (the mountain)
The mountain range continues from I don't know which little town, but some people are known to hike from one end to the other spanning few days.
One sad thing of note is that this mountain is constantly subjected to more and more development. One of the presidents had decreed that this should be a region no one should develop, but over the years the bribery, change in power structure has loosened the protection against the mountain.
More on Bukhansan National Park
Buk Han San
Buk Han San
Korean National Flower (Moo Gung Hwa)
Hwagyesa temple became famous because of an American scholar who decided to become a monk there. I would not say it is one of the most peaceful temples, but rich and well known.
If you ever need to find a way to my house in a taxi, all you need to do is go to Hwagyesa and walk a bit from there.
More on Hwagyesa Temple on KBS site
Hwagyesa  temple
Hwagyesa  temple
Hwagyesa  temple
Hwagyesa  temple
Hwagyesa  temple
Namsan is a mountain in the middle of Seoul.
Although it is often a tourist site, I am not really sure why it is so interesting. On top, there are really over-priced restaurants and few shops.
I guess one plus side is that you get an areal view of Seoul city.
More information about Namsan
View from Nam San (mountain in the middle of Korea)
Food in Korea is so incredible that I don't think it is possible to really "recommend" any one place or even dozen places. Depending on what you like to eat, there is a place for everything.
Equipment to make rice cakes (Duk) of different shapes
Food prepared for the holiday occasions
made out of real flowers
There are also museums devoted to some of these food items.
One is rice cake museums I went to which also has Gimchee history and display as part of its collection