Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to Avoid Rude French People

The French have a bad reputation.  

They are known to be rude, unwilling to help you, and snooty. This is absolutely true of some French citizens (especially Parisians) but not all of them. If you can find the nice ones, you will have a much better experience.

I believe if you are armed with some simple French words and a few insights into French culture, you will be able to almost entirely avoid rude French people. Granted, you will encounter some meanies, but don't let them get to you! There are nice people in France, too!

The most important part of talking with a French person is to remember to say three key words: "bonjour" (hello), "merci" (thank you), and "au revoir" (goodbye) in every conversation you have. The French love their formalities. It is extremely rude if you start talking to a person without saying "bonjour" first or if you forget to say "merci" and "au revoir" at the end. If you don't say "bonjour" first, you just insulted your new acquaintance and do you really think they are going to be keen on helping you after that? Probably not. They may even give you wrong directions on purpose just because they think you're rude!

Say "bonjour" first! It can make all the difference!

Also, it will be a huge advantage if you at least try to speak French. If you are trying to speak French, the people will appreciate your effort. They may even take pity on you and start speaking to you in English!

If you know absolutely zero French and are not willing to give it a go, you still MUST learn the three key words mentioned above and one sentence. That sentence is, "Parlez-vous Anglais?" (par-lay-voo on-glay) which means, "Do you speak English?"

If they say "yes", speak slowly and remember to say "merci" and "au revoir" afterwards. If they say "no", say "merci, au revoir" and ask someone else. Someone will help you eventually!

Remember, people who live in Paris tend to have a tougher shell. They are big city people, like New Yorkers, but with a longer lunch and better wardrobe. They live in city that is famous for its beauty and culture, and they know it. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and tourists are ever present. So, please excuse them if they don't have time to talk to a tourist every day of the week. They are probably hurrying off to the next-great-artists' first gallery opening or something.

Tidbits to be aware of...
 Here are a few things to be aware of. If you know about these annoyances before experiencing them, you will hopefully be able to accept them with grace and less stress.
  •  The French don't like to wait in line and will shamelessly cut in front of you if they think they can get away with it. There is nothing you can do about it so I thought I should warn you to be cool and think "whatever! I'm in Paris!" when this happens to you.
  •  When visiting a restaurant, expect the worst service of your life. Sometimes it will be horrendous and sometimes it will be okay but it will never be good. Expect no pleasantries. There will be no, "Hi my name is Pierre and I will be your server today. What would you like to drink?" Absolutely NONE of that. The tip is already worked into your bill, so they don't need to be nice or deliver your food in a reasonable amount of time and you don't have to leave any extra Euros on the table.
  • You will never be instant BFFs with a French person. Friendships in French culture are held very highly. It will take a while before you will become someone's friend but once you do, they will be your friend forever
  • When visiting Paris, don't expect too much; this isn't a movie. Some people get an idea of what Paris will be like in their head before arriving only to discover it's not as glamorous as they thought. Chelsea says it well when she says, "The city will be dirty, crowded, loud, and indifferent -- but it will be beautiful and breathtaking."
Another thing to remember is not every French person is a Parisian and many French people who don't live in Paris, don't like Parisians! I encourage you to explore more of France and see for yourself how kind the average non-Parisian French person can be!

Have you experienced the stereotypical rude Parisian?? Do you think if you read this article it would have prepared you for them? Or maybe you're from Paris yourself and have some insight into the matter--I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beomeosa Temple

While visiting Busan, we found out there was a temple within the city limits and therefore, easily accessible via the metro. Being the temple lover that I am, I immediately wanted to visit!!

In order to make the best of our schedule, we decided to go to the temple and then straight to the bus station to head home. It was the best plan we could come up with at the time but it actually wasn't the best plan at all because we had to carry our backpacks all day.

It was so hot! Also, even though we only planned to be there for two nights, I still managed to pack a full pack. This just goes to show you that if you have the space, you will fill it up! I'm glad I only have a 45L!

Thankfully, Korea is a really safe country and once we made it to a central courtyard, we set them down where we could keep an eye on them. Once we dumped our packs, we were off to explore!

These are roof tiles that people pay to write wishes or prayers on. They will go into restoring or repairing the various buildings. Most of the buildings we say were fully renovated, at least from the outside, but we did see one that was pretty scraggly looking.

The sign says, "KEEP OUT." I think that's where the monks live.

After walking around for a while, we sat down here to relax. We were scared to go in because we didn't want to offend anyone by doing something inadvertently wrong. We'll have to look up Buddhist temple rules before we head out to another one. Lucky for us, there were some plastic chairs on the deck outside so we sat there and listened to the music they were singing. 

I meditated for about ten minutes and it was the best meditation of my life. It must have been the place and the good vibes from all the expert meditate-rs. I felt so good and happy afterwards! It actually inspired me to start up a more regular meditation practice.

Have you ever visited Beomeosa Temple? Do you like temples? Why or why not?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jinju Lantern Festival

It was a beautiful sunny day and the vistas out the window of the train were great. We rode along the tracks passing mountains filled with trees beginning to change in to their Fall wardrobes and valleys full of fields and tiny villages. The train stopped in a little town with a small flower festival to let people on and off. We were headed to a festival that day, but not to walk among the flowers. We were going to the Lantern Festival in Jinju. 

Lots of people come to the festival only at night to see the lanterns glowing but there are lots of things to do and see before the sun sets. After disembarking the train and hailing a taxi to the general festival area, the first thing we did was take a stroll around the fortress. The fortress is located on a little hill just above the river. It feels like a giant walled park with its old trees, temples, grand gathering places, ancient gravestones, and seemingly endless paths. Even without the festival, the fortress would be a great place for a day trip.

Most of the lanterns at the festival aren't what you think of when you first hear "lantern." When I say lanterns, I don't mean big circles made from rice paper. I'm talking sculpture-esque pieces of art. The men below are all taller than me and will glow at night. It's like walking in a cartoon when the sun sets!

From the fortress, you can get a great view of the festival and the floating lanterns on the river.

We saw a few performances at the fortress, all during the day. One was a drumming show performed by some teenagers. There were kids playing on sets of two, sets of three, and traditional hand held Korean drums. We heard the sounds of their drums while walking along a path and followed it to watch them perform. The beat would rise and fall in a dramatic and engaging rhythm and every kid had a smile on their face. It was a great show.

We also saw some dances performed with people wearing masks. We couldn't understand the story they were telling but their masks and movements were entertaining none the less. They were a bit silly looking and their dances were funny but it was cool to see another aspect of Korean culture. 

We found an area where you can help make a lantern by adding your wish to the frame of the animal of your birth year. Thankfully, a kind Korean man translated for me and told me I was the year of the horse. I wrote my wishes on the slip of fabric and glued it on to the big blue horse. He's in a weird position, though... I've never seen a horse do that!

During the day, the lanterns are pretty, but at night, when they are glowing with color, they are truly spectacular!  

It was like a dreamland! Everything was so beautiful and colorful. There was music playing as you walked through the tunnels of lanterns. There was a bamboo grove filled with woodland creature, ladybug, and dragonfly lanterns. There were big floating lanterns on the river, glowing magnificently and casting their colorful reflections on the water. I loved watching the small paper lanterns slowly float down the river in the colorful water.

I can honestly say, the Jinju Lantern Festival was the best non-music festival I've ever been to. It was such a magical experience!

 Have you ever been to a lantern festival?? If so, where was it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hong Kong Museum of Tea Ware and Tea House

We visited Hong Kong in July, aka, the middle of Typhoon season. We knew it would be a rainy, hot, sticky mess but we went anyway because, well, that's when our vacation time was! While strolling through Hong Kong Park a sudden, heavy rain fell upon us. We had umbrellas but they were hardly helping us from the buckets of water pouring from the sky! Luckily, we were near the tea museum so we rushed in to avoid the downpour.

The Museum of Tea Ware is housed in the Flagstaff House, an old colonial building built in the 1840's. It's very old and stately with lots of white columns and black framed windows. It's a very beautiful building with old wooden floors and two spiral staircases leading to the second floor. Although quite small for a museum, it was a nice way to wait out the rain and learn more about one of my favorite beverages. Plus, admission to the museum is free. Win-win! :)

 from the 13th century

There are a few displays of ancient tea ware and even more displays of award winning modern pots and cups. The modern pieces range from subtle beauties to grotesque designs barely distinguishable as tea pots! The latter, not my style at all but equally as engaging and fun to chat about. They are all award winning pieces and definitely worth a look.  

The security guard at the museum was very friendly and gave us a worksheet to fill out while looking around the museum. I'm sure it was made for kids but Spencer really enjoyed it and filled out the whole thing!

Here he is finishing it at the tea house next door to the museum. He's so studious!

Speaking of the tea house, it's fantastic! After looking at all the tea pots and learning about different kinds of tea, it's only natural to want to go and drink some. Oh, and look at that! There's a tea house conveniently located right next door. :)

The tea house serves many different kinds of tea and has a small menu of dim sum and other Chinese eats. We ordered two different kinds of tea from our friendly, English speaking server.

When she brought out the tea, she talked us through the process of how to make each kind and why the little details matter when making a truly good cup of tea. I was blown away at the precision and attention to detail given to every tiny cup. It was far from the tea bag and boiling water I was accustomed to!

gif creator online

After she taught us how to make our tea, she let us alone to try it out for ourselves. It was so fun to make and drink the tea with all the little tea ware. It was seriously like playing tea time when I was little! The cups were so tiny!

The staff kept bringing us more and more hot water. I'm sure we could've stayed there for hours if we'd wanted to! It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon.

What about you, dear readers--do you like tea? Have you ever been to the Museum of Tea Ware and/or a tea house? What did you think??

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Korea Bucket List

Sometimes, when you live in a place for an extended period of time, it can be easy to think, "oh, I have plenty of time to go there/do that/see that later!" while you sit on the couch eating popcorn and surfing the internet (not like we ever do that ;).

To combat this problem, we made a bucket list for our stay in South Korea. I wanted to make sure that we got to see everything we wanted to while we are here. I wrote down everything on a sheet of paper and hung it in our apartment to have a constant reminder that we still have places to go and things to see! Get off the couch!

As you can see, we've already crossed a few things off! :) If you want to read about our adventures, here they are: bamboo forest, Suncheon Bay, Busan, mud festival.

Have you ever been to South Korea? Is there anything we should add to our list??

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Travel Photo: Jinju Lantern Festival

The Jinju Lantern Festival was so beautiful! The big floating lanterns on the river were quite a sight to see reflecting off the water. The small lanterns floating by could be made at a stand and you write your wishes on them before setting them off to float along the river. It was all very magical and surreal. We had an amazing time! Expect a full report soon! :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Victoria's Peak in Hong Kong

If you have only one day or even a couple of hours in Hong Kong, then definitely don't miss a trip up to Victoria's Peak. Of course, something this great is undoubtedly inundated with tourists, but it's worth it--especially if the weather is nice. The line can be murderously long at times so it's best to go in the morning when there are less people.

the line

We showed up around noon and waited in line for a half an hour before we made it onto the tram. The area for the line is very wide and there was some sneaky cutting and light pushing. Thankfully, I had some patience that day and figured we'd just get there when we get there! Also, there are some cool old photos and displays to look at along the way. It made the line more bearable.

waiting for the tram

plaque on the tram

I was originally sitting down but then an older lady got on and she was going to have to stand so I gave her my seat. I stood in the middle where the floor is angled so you can keep a better grip while climbing on the crazy incline but it was still work just to stay standing! It was almost laughable how much I struggled!

The ride up is very steep! It's really fun to see the world from that angle. Also, there are a couple good views of the skyline on the way and everyone says "ooohhhh!" and "ahhhhhh!" It's exciting and made me feel like a kid again, discovering something new for the first time. 

After getting off the tram, we went up about twenty escalators all the way to the top viewing deck. It was a beautiful clear day and we were able to see the harbor and skylines perfectly.  

I was in awe! It's an amazing sight. 

See our Flickr for more pictures from Victoria's Peak and the rest of Hong Kong.
The tram costs HK$65 (about US$8.35) to ride the tram and go to the viewing platform and HK$41 (about US$5.27) to just ride the tram. Click here to go to the official website for Victoria's Peak. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Travel Photos: Everyday Suncheon

Here are some photos I took a few weeks ago while exploring our city, Suncheon.

This smiling horse is so playful and stately all at the same time.

Clock shop--look at those cuckoos! 

I love this new take on the classic red brick wall.