Happy Year of the Rabbit

Tomorrow February 3rd Koreans will celebrate their New Year (the Lunar New Year). This new year it will be the year of the rabbit. In Chinese astrology this animal represents kindness, sweetness, and beauty, characteristics that all this year’s newborns will (supposedly) share.

In Korea the lunar new year means three holidays in a row, and it’s a time when many Koreans travel back to their hometowns to visit their parents. Seoul becomes a dead city and its impossible to travel by road inside the country due to the traffic jams. Hence, for foreigners living here, the best alternative is to leave the country by any means… Tomorrow I’ll be lying down on some beach in Boracay, so I’ll greet you the new year now.



The Seoul Fringe Festival 2010

For those who are in Seoul these days, there is an event you cannot miss. The Seoul Fringe Festival, which takes place every year in the area near Hongik University will be taking place from August 12th to the 28th.

This year’s festival poster.

Hongdae Area, or just Hongdae, is the area surrounding Hongik University, and one of the most vivid areas in Seoul. Being Hongik a university manly for art-related studies, the area surrounding it is full of art galleries, street markets, coffee shops and other interesting places. Hongdae is where Koreans try to scape from its Confucianist rules and become free. Many Korean alternative music groups (like 10cm, Crying Nut or Deli Spice) started playing for free in the streets of Hongdae.

Any weekend you can see performances in this ares, but during this festival there will be many more, and also during weekdays. There will be lots of live performances in the streets, and art centers. Outdoor performances are free of charge. Indoor ones range from 5,000 KRW ($4) to 15,000 ($13).

To give you an idea of what you can find during the festival, here is one of the promotional videos with images from last year’s festival.

Boryeong Mud Festival

The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of the most popular events of the summer in Korea among the foreign community in the country. This festival started in 1998, when the city of Boryeong decided that it would be good to have a small mud festival to promote the products based in the mud that the city produces. After some years, the festival attracts millions of people every year and its popularity keeps growing year after year. After missing this festival the last two summers, this time I could not miss it, so there we went to spend the weekend in this city in the west Korean coast.

Andoni was one of the first ones to jump into the mud.

Group picture on saturday. Even though it rained a little, it was not cold at all and we could enjoy the mud.

Of course, we couldn’t miss a music band in the festival. If was funny to see them struggling not to get dirty with mud.

Although there were also quite many Koreans in the festival, the truth is that more than half of the people in this festival are foreigners living in Korea, among whom the festival is quite popular.

During the night there is also quite a good atmosphere in the festival, there are concerts, lots of beach-bars open, fireworks, etc.

After the rain on saturday, on sunday we were lucky enough to enjoy a great sunny day.

As the pictures that I took were not as awesome as I would have liked to, here you have somebody else’s much better ones.

Korean Music: Super Junior

I wanted to recover a section I had quite abandoned to show you a group that… “surprised” me quite a bit. It is “Super Junior” (슈퍼 주니어), no less than ten (yes, ten, and they used to be 13!) that have become Asia’s teenagers’ idols. I say Asian because they are succeeding not only in Korea but also in countries like Japan, China or Thailand.

Super Junior, when they were 12 members, apparently all of them in love with pink color.

I also wanted to show you one of their last songs, “No Other” (너 같은 사람 또 없어) where you can see how different the Korean (and Asian in general) musical culture is compared to the west. To tell the truth, it is quite difficult for me to imagine this kind of song succeeding in the west, but on second thought, the style does not differ much from a song that became a great hit in Spain not long ago, “Amo a Laura” (I love Laura) 🙂

Yellow Dust Storm (Hwangsa)

The Yellow Dust storms (or hwangsa, as they call it in Korea) are a phenomenon quite common in countries like Korea, Japan, or China. These storms are basically dust clouds coming from the Gobi Dessert that are brought to Korea by strong winds. This dust, on its way to Korea is mixed with sulfur, ash, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants released by Chinese factories, and passes over to the two Koreas, and Japan as a yellow fog which makes you not feeling like going out at all.

View from my window, on a day with hwangsa.

During days with hwangsa, it is very common to see people in the streets wearing these surgical masks to protect themselves from the dust, from children to the elders. These masks are usually sold in the street or in the subway stations, and there are a lot of different models to choose from (someday I will make a post about those too).

A child protecting himself from hwagsa with a mask (and from the cold with his bear hat.