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The Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony

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Korean Tea

As we were saying goodbye, the instructor continued to praise our skills. “You did so very good! Very talented at pouring tea, the traditional Korean way!” We sheepishly accepted her acclaim, but I knew what she was really thinking. “Get these clumsy oafs out of my sight, so that I can finally start laughing my ass off!”

Traditional-Tea-Ceremony-in-Korea

The Tea Ceremony Experience is offered for free, three times a day (except Fridays and Mondays), in the Busan Museum’s Cultural Center. Our instructor, who was geared up in a hanbok (a traditional Korean dress), motioned for us to take seats in front of trays on the ground. Sitting Indian-style doesn’t present a problem for me, but Jürgen’s 6’6″ frame and lanky legs always require a couple minutes of painful twisting. The instructor looked on patiently while he arranged his body into the correct position. “Clearly”, she must have been thinking, “this lesson will present more of a challenge than usual”.

For the next twenty minutes we learned the procedure of a traditional Korean tea ceremony. Every movement is completed very particularly, from raising the napkin off the tea set and folding it, to pouring the water into the teapot. We were expected to be very calm, very exact; our instructor told us that the whole process is a form of meditation. While pouring and drinking the tea, you remain silent and still, concentrating on nothing but the simple tasks at hand, trying to complete them as perfectly as possible.

After three rounds, we were almost able to complete the ceremony without a mistake: grabbing the cup with the wrong hand, pouring out too much water, or laying the napkin on the floor upside-down. Our instructor was pleased enough, and after the torturous spectacle of watching Jürgen disentangle his legs and stand up, we said our goodbyes. I doubt I’ll be working a tea ritual into my daily schedule, but I can certainly appreciate the moment of collected quiet that it provides. And the tea wasn’t bad, either.

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July 27, 2012 at 1:56 am Comments (4)

The Dadaepo Sunset Fountain of Dreams

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Home Fountain Show

I’m not sure which is more audacious — billing yourself as the “world’s best and biggest fountain”, or calling yourself the Fountain of Dreams. Big words, Dadaepo, and you’ve set the bar high. Would your musical show of color and water be the “magnificent and dynamic banquet of light” which your website promises us? We expect no less!

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Actually, the show was pretty good. I’m not saying it was life-changing or anything, or that I was whispering under my breath, “Finally I have found the fountain of my dreams“, but I was reasonably entertained. And one can’t expect much more from colorfully-lit water splashing to the beats of Andrea Bocelli.

Around the huge, circular fountain, 60-meters in diameter, all the seats were packed full. Mostly, it was families with young kids, like the group seated next to us. The mom was pestering her son to practice his English on us, which was fine with me, since he kept giving us his potato chips for another instructive exchange of “thank you”, “you’re welcome”.

Before the show began, we had a chance to check out Dadaepo Beach: a beautiful stretch of sand overlooking a peninsular park. This section of town, on the far southwest of the city limits, is a lot more popular and interesting than I had figured during the interminable train ride here, and we promised to return.

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June 14, 2012 at 9:20 am Comments (4)

Open-Air Foot Spa in Oncheon

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Relaxing Foot Bath At Home

Walking around the Oncheon neighborhood toward the north of Busan, we happened upon a curious little pond where a bunch of Koreans were soaking their feet. A dragon’s head was mounted on the wall of this open-air foot spa, like the prize of some mythical hunter.

Busan Outdoor Spa

Looked like fun, and we wasted no time in removing our shoes and sweaty socks, while the locals apprehensively monitored our oafish intrusion into their peaceful world. The mineral water was piping hot at around 104° (F), and by the end of our 20-minute soak, our feet were bloated and red as beets. And they felt great.

There are a ton of spas around the Oncheon area, which is well supplied with natural mineral water from the nearby Mt. Geumjeongsan. So far, we’ve been a little too nervous to try a real spa (jjimjilbang), so this free foot-soak was a good, and very literal, way to put our toes in the water.

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June 11, 2012 at 10:51 am Comments (0)
The Traditional Korean Tea Ceremony As we were saying goodbye, the instructor continued to praise our skills. "You did so very good! Very talented at pouring tea, the traditional Korean way!" We sheepishly accepted her acclaim, but I knew what she was really thinking. "Get these clumsy oafs out of my sight, so that I can finally start laughing my ass off!"
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