Sri Lanka—tea, tuktuks, and monsoon rain


Waking up to the beach

I started the first day in Sri Lanka waking up before my alarm, big surprise. I am very determined not to have a repeat of South Korea where it took almost the entire vacation to not want to sleep at 6pm and wake up at 2am.

I may have been a little aggressive with the AC once power was restored halfway through the night, so it was chilly in the room, a stark contrast to the high 80s F that assaulted me when I opened our sliding door to the beach. The fact we were on the beach made the temperature more bearable. We nommed a breakfast on the beach and then were picked up by Suminda, who will guide our chariot down the wrong side of the road ( Sri Lanka is a former British colony) over the next 8 days ($360). Our Uber in Hong Kong yesterday was the first time that Katy had ever been in a car that drives on the left side of the road, and Katy remembered that she will have to drive on the left hand side while in New Zealand. It was a distressing thought, but a happy one, since that day, Katy had finally received her official job offer after 4 months of waiting.


A portion of breakfast on the beach

We then set off on our 3-4 hour drive to Kandy, a town in the hill country of Sri Lanka. Something I noticed shortly after the drive began was that everyone on a motorbike had a helmet on, which Suminda informed us was the law and that unlike in India passengers need to wear helmets too. Another item of note was that almost all the roads are one lane in each direction without a paved shoulder, but the centerline is a mere suggestion, as there are often 3-4 vehicles (a combination of tuktuks, motorbikes, bicycles, cars, buses, trucks, and the occasional ox), abreast on the road. Most of the time the direction of travel was not mixed. A third thing was that the sides of the street are pretty free of trash. I would put the level of litter as comparable to the US.


During our drive we rarely went faster than 40mph while darting amongst the buses and tuktuks. Katy’s stomach held up surprisingly well but was starting to feel a little unsettled by the time we stopped at a tea factory. Of course it was a tourist trap, with overpriced tea, but I found the tour incredibly interesting.


Tea being dried via a giant fan. Some of the leaves are pretty huge in this batch making me think it is not the highest quality

We then headed to the botanical gardens outside of Kandy. Katy rallied and put on a game face, even though she was starting to feel pretty miserable. After our amble around the park, we stopped in the obligatory coffee shop in the gift shop, and I had my double macchiato while Katy had an iced latte.


We then formulated our plan for the rest of the day which included lunch, a Buddha on a hill overlooking Kandy, and the Temple of the Tooth, which houses one of Buddha’s teeth (don’t worry it is not on display, but you can view the area where it is stored). Unfortunately our plans were waylaid by rain, or monsoon, depending on your perspective. We decided to head straight to the hotel which was less than 5 weeks old and only had 80% of its rooms in service thus far. It had a great view of the lake and was only a five minute walk from town. The issue lay in the fact that it was raining too hard to see the other side of the lake 300 yards away… Katy by this point starting having chills and body aches and was not feeling well at all, while I had not eaten in the past 10 hours so I was ravenous. We came to a compromise that we would pay for a tuktuk to deliver us to a food establishment, which cost $2 (we overpaid, but if I tried to bargain more Katy would have not been happy).

I was served a giant platter of food, and Katy got some fried rice which she ate a few bites of, while I destroyed my entire plate without a second thought. We then took a tuktuk back, which was Katy’s second tuktuk ride ever (with her first being the ride to dinner). She enjoyed the first one, since it had its side cover buttoned up tight to prevent any rain from coming in, but the second one did not, and she was able to see that her feet were 8 inches from the ground, which unsurprisingly did not fill her with joy.


A morning view of Kandy lake and the Temple of the Tooth with some residual clouds. A lot of the lakes in Sri Lanka are man made

We then prepared for bed with Katy distraught that she couldn’t use the rooftop pool because of the rain. I did an amazing thing and did not go to bed before 830pm.

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Sri Lanka Bound, but first Hong Kong



Hazy Hong Kong from the Peak Tram

Katy and I had a couple weeks blocked off to travel for a medical rotation for her residency; unfortunately that fell through,  and we were forced to come up with a plan b of where to take a quick vacation. Our requirements were beach, inexpensive, not guaranteed to rain everyday, and having airline award seats available. Our long list got narrowed to Sri Lanka which actually has two opposite monsoon seasons for different portions of the island.


Katy getting crushed in Catan on the plane

Katy enjoys getting passport stamps in her passport, and when she discovered we could have a Hong Kong layover from 7am to 8pm she jumped on that option. We were able to find business class award tickets from DEN to LAX to Hong Kong on American Airlines and then Cathay Pacific to Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Caffeine boost needed

We arrived in Hong Kong about half an hour early after a 15 hour flight and breezed through customs and immigration, dropped our bags off, got Hong Kong dollars, and visited a priority Pass arrivals lounge to change and freshen up in less than an hour and caught the express train downtown. The only pouting came when Katy discovered they do not stamp your passport in Hong Kong, instead electing to just keep electronic record of your visit. I am actually traveling on an empty passport since I realized that I did not have enough room for the anticipated number of stamps I would accumulate over the next 18 months and didn’t want to have to worry about getting a New Zealand Visa in a second passport so I renewed early.

Since Katy loves all forms of novel transportation, our first stop was the Peak Tram. We decided to wander there in not the most direct fashion with a stop for some coffee on the way. We both thought that the topography of Hong Kong was very much like San Fransisco, hence the need for a tram to go up the hill.


The Peak Tram. The floors are scalloped to prevent people from falling over with the steep incline.

We then decided that we were starting to feel a little peckish and started ambling to Tim Wan Ho, one of the cheapest Michelin Star restaurants for some dim sum. To be fair the original one has closed down a couple years ago, and it has since sprouted into a small chain, but it has still maintained its Michelin Star unlike some other dim sum restaurants.


Assorted dim sum


BBQ pork buns, they were pretty amazing

We got there just in time and only had a 20 minute wait, but by the time we left, spending less than $30, the line had just about tripled. The BBQ pork buns were my favorite thing and Katy’s was the “slippery thing with shrimp”.


Good thing that total is Hong Kong dollars which is really just 30USD

Katy learned that we could take the Star ferry to Kowloon, and so of course that become our next non negotiable objective. We were lucky it was not a weekend so the fare was $0.40, and we didn’t have to pay the $0.10 weekend surcharge.


Katy buying a custard

We then started to feel a little tired and started to wander around Kowloon with no clear objective in mind, discovering along the way the flower market, the jade market, a traditional Chinese temple, and an otherwise nondescript neighborhood where every shop turned out to be a pet store (which Katy also loved).


By the time 330pm rolled around we found ourselves probably a 30+ minute walk or multiple subway rides coupled with 10 minutes of walking to get back to the airport express station. Both seemed insurmountable in our state of tiredness so we called an Uber. $4.50, ten minutes waiting, and 10 minutes in the car, and we were magically deposited at the airport express entrance to the station, win.

It took less than 10 minutes to go through security and immigration, and we were on our way to the Cathay Pacific lounge to take a glorious shower. I realized that of the 4+ lounge options I had not picked the giant flagship one, and before we were completely depleted of momentum we strolled down there.

We departed on our final leg, a 5 hour flight to Colombo. Cathay Pacific breaks their business class into two sections, and we had elected to sit in the smaller back one. We were asked to move to the front one, since we were the only people in the back section, so we missed out on having our own cabin. The front cabin was still less than half full and the service was great with multiple people memorizing our names. I was exhausted and passed out shortly after entering the plane and after dinner which seamed like assorted meal number 7 of the (nearly 48 hour long) travel day.


Hong Kong like Beijing is a mix of older buildings just like the movies butting against skyscrapers and Prada stores

We hit the easy button and spent an extra $3 to have someone with a sign meet us at midnight at the airport and deliver us to our hotel. We unfortunately discovered upon arrival to our hotel that the power was out and was expected to come back on in 2 hours. Did I mention Sri Lanka is hot and humid (during our decent is was 52F at 9,000 feet…)? Luckily for us the power did come on about 3 hours later and awoke us both from an exhausted sleep when it did.


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Taipei: The Land of Rain


A random electric box in Taipei

Day number 2 started surprisingly well. I had forgotten to take a sleeping pill to night before and still got 7h of sleep which is not typical of my (ask Katy about sleeping in Korea). I rallied and was out the door around 8am heading to an area that had some older architecture. Older is very relative since a lot of the city is newer (destroyed in WWII and modernization). I did bring a backpack with me today, which I really really don’t like to do. A backpack makes me feel more like a stereotypical American tourist and is uncomfortable/obtrusive). I was 4/5ths the way to the subway station when it started to rain and I was even thinking positive thoughts.


Breakfast #1, hot sticky rice pounded flat with meat, onion, spices, fried something for crunch, dried flaked sweet beef (not my favorite) added and then rolled up into a rice bun


Breakfast #2

I walked through that area and then went to a tea store. One thing that is different than mainland China is that the prices are set and there is not bargaining. I proceed to spend about an hour chatting with the tea guy and buying 3.5+ lbs of tea (which to Katy’s respond was where is it going to fit, I think that is a hint a bike might need to be moved). Luckily I decided to bring to a backpack since I was anticipating rain and almost filled it with tea. I really don’t like traveling with a backpack, it makes me feel like a stereotypical American tourist and they are uncomfortable. I guess I am not going to blend in no matter what I do since I haven’t seen a person taller than me yet.


This is a Chinese unicorn. I think we have different opinions on what a unicorn is.

I then went to a temple complex that had very friendly staff and it started to rain for real. It was the heaviest/most rain in over 20 years. Many parts of the city got over 20 inches of rain. It started to rain heavy at 9am and continued until I went to bed.


Farmers Market, hipster.

After the temple complex I went to get on the subway and it was an elevated subway stop and I was able to see something that looked interesting so I left the subway stop and went to a farmers market. I would say it was more of a Boulder Farmers market than a real farmers market. It was pretty interested.


Leaving the National Palace Museum. Lots of umbrellas.

Detour aside I went beck to the subway and took it to the stop for the National Palace Museum. I hopped on the right bus and successfully got to the museum. When Chiang fled mainland China he had a lot of their relics shipped to Taiwan and they are displayed here.

Near the end I was getting hungry and thirsty so I decided to go to a fish market. I was so hungry I first got a Calpis and 6 piece sushi for 5USD and that took some of the edge off. I then went to the sushi bar proper where you order ahead of time and then you are called in. It is standing room only and I had some fancy tuna.


5USD. About three times as thick as US takeaway sushi



The 6 are tuna. The ones in the back are the fancy ones.

After exploring a fruit market I called an Uber, benefits of having wifi while it is raining 20 inches, and went to the Shilin Night Market. I was looking for gloshes. I never found them. This place is the busiest tourist night market and it was empty. I guess rain does that.


Fruit Market


A little rain

I did not do a good job hydrating today and got thirsty again and ended up at a chain, LATTEA, and I ordered the name sake drink. I had no idea if I was getting coffee or tea. I ended up with what I first thought was butter beer. It has the same toffee flavored stick to your lips cream that butter beer has. I did later discover that it was on top of green tea.



I wandered around some more and found a food court in the basement. The vendors were pushy and annoying, something that is not normal for Taiwan. Overall the lack of crowds, not being able to find galoshes, the mediocre food, and a little rain made this my least favorite market I went to.

After stopping by my place to dry off a touch I went to two beer bars and had a couple Taiwanese birthday beers. I called it a night with a steamed bun on my walk home. This has been published without proof reading before my flight



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Taipei on Wednesday? Why not!!!!!

I am currently in Taipei. This might have been my most last minute trip so far. It started by randomly looking online for a long weekend I had coming up in a week to see if their were any cheap award seats to Japan on United and there were, but they were 80k miles each way. I then remembered that All Nippon Airlines costs way less roundtrip, 85k miles, and checked if there was availability and there was. I tried to see if I could convince any family to take a trip with me and was systematically declined. I then told Katy what I was doing and she urged me to take a long weekend trip. I then opened up the flood gates and discovered that I could leave after work on Wednesday and get to Taipei at 530am on Friday and then leave Taipei at 730pm on Monday and get home at 920pm on Monday for 95k miles + $132. I decided to pull the trigger and that is how I ended up flying EVA Air from San Francisco to Taipei.


I like the free flowing $150/bottle champagne, but I am afraid that it is a little lost on me. The $200/bottle scotch was not.

The benefit of booking via ANA is that for 95k miles I am flying in the front of the plane (United charges 80k for the same flight in coach). When I boarded the plane I was addressed by name and offered beverages which I partook in some $150 per bottle champagne. They then handed me my pajamas, amenity kit, and about six menus. They came back and confirmed that I pre ordered my meals and what I wanted to drink with my dinner and breakfast. Keep in mind it is 210am in Denver at this time, but a late dinner isn’t the worse thing ever. Dinner consisted of 4 courses with the main course being lamb and everything was surprisingly good. After dinner I switched into the pajamas and let me tell you, wearing pjs is the best way to fly, although they come in sizes made for Taiwanese so the sleeves were a touch short…


The seat was more complicated to operate than I imagined. You

I have ended getting about 7 hours of sleep in my pod before I woke up and read the guidebook to figure out exactly what I was going to do in Taipei for the next 4 days. I went for the Chinese option for breakfast and ended up with a giant plater of assorted foods. I abstained from alcohol with breakfast, but did have a cappuccino and espresso. The last time I was in Asia with Katy I had a terrible time adjusting to the time zones and am trying to be proactive and fortify myself with caffeine.


This was breakfast

We landed at 530am Friday morning (14 hours ahead of MST) and by 730am I was on the train with a wifi egg (unlimited data and $8 total for 4 days), a metro/bus card (like the Oyster card in London, you preload it with money) and three crisp 1000 New Taiwan Dollars (I hate just getting large bills, $30=1USD) after the third ATM I tried accepted my card.


$2 per day and unlimited data. It really makes traveling easier and eliminates some of the planning /logistics.

I arrived at my hotel a little after 8am and couldn’t checkin, but was able to leave my bag. I tried to pay extra money to checkin early, but that didn’t work. I then asked if the attendant thought it was going to rain. The streets were wet and the forecast said 100% chance of very heavy rain, but I thought that the rain might be over. The attendant said it wasn’t going to rain so I chose to take the advise of someone who lives in Taipei, but doesn’t really speak English over the internet and leave all my rain gear behind.

I then left the hotel (hostel might be a better word, it is a private room, shared bathroom, $75 total for my entire stay) and walked to a temple. I found a 7-11 and was able to buy a water for $20 and pay with $1000, change!!!!! The temple was full of locals chanting/singing and I was the only western tourist in site (talking with Taiwanese I have gleamed that most of the tourists are Asian and there are more Europeans than Americans in recent years). I then went on search for non airplane breakfast. I ended up at a stall and did the old point and hope technique and ended up with a tasty breakfast and if a line didn’t form I would have had a second.


The one temple photo I will up load.

My nourishment restored I headed back to the subway and headed to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall which is a pretty impressive complex to say the least. What I remember learning about CKS is that he was with the Nationalists against the communists and was a good guy who ended up having to flee to Taiwan when he lost against the communists. Well I have now learned that while he was in control of mainland China he was responsible for the White Terror in Taiwan (killing thousands of people/leaders after the escalations of tobacco tax issues) and was a strong dictator. The politics of Taiwan are not what I would have guessed. They are pretty progressive (same sex marriage is legal, plus or minus a couple weeks), but have only had directly elected leaders for ~20 years.


Breakfast. It was an omelette then put in a tortilla like wrapped. Really good.



Changing of the guard


All the selfie sticks!!!!

While I was walking around the grounds I discovered that it is better to listen to the internet than someone that doesn’t really speak English when looking for weather advice. It started to RAIN. I mean RAIN. I mean RAIN that has caused bridges to be washed out, the levy walls to be closed, and has been compared to typhoon rain. Lucky for me I listened to the person who didn’t speak English (he still spoke more English than my Chinese) and didn’t bring any rain gear. The gift shop was selling umbrellas for $300, that is 10USD, RIP OFF. Of course I didn’t spend 10USD on an umbrella so  I strategically listened to the rain while learning all about Chiang and when it abated I headed out to get some coffee (I have been up since 230am local time) and bought an umbrella for $99, 3USD, affordable. The issue with getting coffee is that I had a particular place in mind that was owned by a dentist turned Taiwan history collector nut and was located on the third floor of a building and you had to walk down an unmarked doorway to find it and google, my map app, and Lonely Planet all had it in a different location on the map……………….


The not very obvious entrance to the cafe

After my coffee the rain had become RAIN again and I headed to a place famous for beef noodles. Well I went to the wrong place for first lunch and for second lunch (4 minutes later) went to the right place. It was now only noon and I headed to learn some more Taiwanese history and then for a craft beer (not very good porter). I then headed back to the hotel and checked in and took a 1hr nap that turned into almost a 2hr nap, but I rallied.


Lunch one


Lunch two. The beef was super tender.

I headed to a night market, the wholesale garment district, COFFEE, and then a craft beer bar. I then called it a night around 11pm which is a win in my book for adjusting to the slight time zone difference.


Pepper bun. Really good.


Bubble tea in a bag


Night market with some rain


Stinky tofu, I last two bites. It was a struggle.


The microbrew scene in Tawain has taken off in the last three years. This was used to rinse the taste of stinky tofu out of my mouth.


A little flooding….

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Renting a Car in South Korea


Renting a car in Korea was something that I was really nervous about going into the trip. I had to go to AAA before we left and get an international drivers license which is a confusing book thingy with a passport photo in it. I also read a couple blogs that mentioned the craziness which is driving in Korea and booked a one way car rental with a company affiliated with Hertz. The couple days we spent with Nicole and Matt in Pyeongtaek I was able to pick up some traffic tips.

  1. Drivers do what they want and only obey traffic signs if there are cameras.
  2. The police do not enforce traffic, CCTV cameras and remote speeding cameras enforce traffic.
  3. If there are no cameras red lights are suggested stops
  4. Traffic moves like a slinky speeding up after the speed cameras and slowing down before them.
  5. If there is an accident a percentage blame is placed on each driver by an arbitrator.
  6. You cannot turn left on green, only a green arrow, unless there is a blue sign on the light.
  7. Google was not allowed to map South Korea so no google maps.
  8. Highways are toll roads


That is the insight I took into renting a car, along with hopes of getting a GPS in English. We were able to get a GPS in English which was a life saver. The GPS is way more advanced than the GPS in the states, including playing live TV.  The GPS also tells you when there are speed traps and lights with cameras in them. We did discover that they are not always big fans of tunnels and will occasionally forgot to tell you to get off the highway when you should.


You can tell the popular color of car. Ours is the first tiny one

We rented a Kia Morning which is basically a mini clown car and might be smaller than a mini. I wanted the smallest vehicle possible and sure did get it. It get over 40 MPG as a positive with gasoline costing $5 a gallon (our total gas bill was $24).

When we rented the car they went around and recorded scratches and tried to setup the GPS, but couldn’t get the mount to stick. We ended up with Katy holding the GPS and tell me the directions which would shut off if she brushed the power cord. Needless to say this was not a very sustainable arrangement. The second day using a massive amount of spit I was able to get the suction cup to stick to the windshield.


Overall renting a car worked out very well and it was realistically easy to get around with the GPS. We would not have been able to see all that we did between Haiensa and Gyeongji without the car. My tactic driving was to be the slowest car in the smallest car and it worked out way better than it sounds.


Full service gas station, about $6 a gallon.

When we went to return the car we had a hiccup with them saying that there was a new scratch on the bumper. I was able to convince them with a random photo I took picking up the car that the truck parked in front of us prevented us from seeing the scratch and was not charged for it after a couple phone calls and 30 minutes. They even drove us to the train station and we literally made the train with less than 2 minutes to spare. We will wait and see how many speeding and traffic light violations I racked up in three days in the coming weeks.


Please notice how small the Hertz sign is compared to everything else

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Korea: Land of Tombs and Kimchi

We stayed busy our second half the trip and I did not right any blogs.  Our trip home was stressful to say the least and left a little sour taste in my mouth and now after being back a month I am writing some blog I should have written while we were traveling.


We left Haiensa and started heading to Gyeongji which the GPS said would be 2:30 and 6 dollars in tolls (1,100 won is equal to $1 so it is easy to convert as 1000:1 mentally). Somehow (I blame Katy) it took us off the highway and decided we wanted to drive straight through Daegu which is the third or fourth largest city in Korea. By the time we reached our next accommodations I was stressed to the max after a knuckle grinder 3:15 drive sans highways.


A little hipster coffee shop

I quickly (my opinion) regrouped in Gyeongji and headed with Katy to caffeinated. Korea takes it coffee seriously with coffee shops all over the place and prices being pretty westernized at $3.5-6 for a latte. Katy says that some of the coffee is good, but a lot is weak and sub US quality. I am not doing the best at adjusting to the time zones and Katy has taken to feeding me evening lattes so I stay up to an “acceptable hour”.


Our “bed” at the Happy Village

We stayed for two nights at the Happy Village Syebol which was located right next to some tombs in Gyeongji.   Gyeongji and Haiensa are two places not on the typical tourist path, but they are not really removed from them either. The locations and how spread out Gyeongji is make it harder for independent backpackers to visit things other than the main sites. Gyeongji was the capital of the Silla rule from roughly 0-1000CE. The Silla rule adopted Buddhism as the state religion around 650 (these dates are plus or minus 100 years) and has a ton of temples, tombs, and palaces scattered around the area. Gyeongji is now a city of 250K, but in it’s zenith had over a million people living in the area.


After being caffeinated we wondered around the sites in town for a couple hours and then came back to the Happy Village.  We then went to dinner which was a $17 for the two of us and contained about 15 small plates.  After dinner we got some fish waffles which are waffles shaped like fish and filled with either custard or red bean paste.  They are either 2-3/dollar depending on your filling.  Katy’s attempts to keep me caffeinated did  not have the desired impact and we drank some of the alcohol we bought at the convenience store, played Settlers and then I promptly fell asleep.



Please note the bowl of broth like liquid next to Katy is really an unfiltered rice beer.


We got an early start to the morning and hopped into our clown car and started the day driving by driving to one of the most important temples in Korea, Bulguk-sa.  We got there pretty close to opening time (even after a detour driving around a random town looking for an open coffee shop, for some reason coffee shops in Korea feel no reason to be open before 1oam) and shortly after we arrived we met the hoards of tourists that were dislodged by the tour buses.  In this area most of the tourists were Korean.  One thing that noticed in the entire country was the lack of American tourists and a plethora of French tourists (the 10ish other people at the Happy Village were French).  We (this means google searches) could not come up with a good reason for this other than they get more vacation than us.  After that temple we then drove to a grotto where a buddha is displayed.  At this point we were really close to the east coast of Korea and Katy wanted to see the backwards Pacific.  Unfortunately the weather was kinda overcast and we couldn’t see the ocean.  After a few minutes in the car trying to figure out what were doing using a combination of the car’s GPS (which is not as user friendly as you would guess) and cell phones (using our wifi egg) we decided to head back towards town and go for a hike and get some lunch.


Kimchi stew and a seafood pancake

We somehow managed to locate a place in the guidebook that is known for their three year old fermented kimchi  soup.  We have discovered that kimchi is actually a way of fermenting veggies and have had a wide range of kimchied (I made that word up).  This meal ranked as one of our favorites and we discovered that they use tofu completely differently than us in the states. They use it in conjunction with meat instead of a meat substitute.  This has resulted in Katy being a trooper and having to pick around in a lot of dishes.


Katy trying to get caffeinated with vending machine coffee. Discovered it tastes a little worse than it sounds.

After lunch we went for a hike where we were severely under dressed since we didn’t have hiking poles or assorted neon athletic wear on.  Since the area was the center of culture for hundreds of years there were tombs and shrines all over the hike which was pretty interesting.


Required pre hike stretches


Just in case you start a forest fire while out hiking

After it got dark we went and wondered more of the city and discovered a few pedestrian only streets and somehow ended up at the noodle place we were trying to eat at.  Katy and I had a slight miss communication on where we wanted to eat which had her thinking I was leading her down assorted side alleys.  We ended the night with some fish waffles and called it another good day in Korea.


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Why Not Rent a Car and Drive to a Mountain Temple in Korea


A lot of Korea is like back in the states, but a bunch of it only 90% like back home. Examples include they have food that tastes like banana runts, but instead of being a candy it is an alcoholic beverage. You can buy single servings of milk at the confidence store, but flavored like banana, strawberry, green, chocolate or coffee.


Banana runt alcohol

After our previous train “adventure” sitting on the floor of the area between cars Katy went online and prebooked us tickets to our next city which we would use as a launching point for the next 4 days.

We got to Daegu and began to look for our rental car company (more on that later). The issue was our directions had us leaving an exit from the station that was closed for construction. We found the exit and began to look for the rental company, but the issue was that somehow Katy thought we were looking for a subway line not the car rental company. We eventually found it, sporting only a 4X8 sign in English on the first floor of an office building. After a rental process that involved a lot of confusion and 45 minutes we were shown to our car and proceeded to drive to Haiensa which is a Buddhist mountain temple where we were planning on spending the night. We got there with only one navigational hiccup.


Haiensa temple stay schedule

The main parking lot for Haiensa is 3/4 of a mile downhill from the site and due to not being able to read the signs and some caution we decided to walk there from the main parking lot (we later discovered you could drive right up to where we were staying, but we would not have found it without walking down the road).

We checked into the temple stay and were given our temple outfits/costumes to wear. We were then assigned rooms and normally men and women are segregated but since there were only six of us each couple was given their own room. The rooms were traditional rooms with mats to sleep on and a heating system built into the floor. Like all things in Korea each room in the temple did have its own wifi router… The issue with the heating system in the temple was two fold, it was set at “sweltering” without a control to decrease it and since you sleep on mats on the floor it makes your sleeping surface really warm and it hard to sleep.


Temple clothes and steep steps


We then walked around the temple and each time we came back to the room I put on another layer since it was cold (read so cold that ice formed overnight) and we had on thin cotton pants. We were then given an orientation of the temple and went to dinner. You were not suppose to talk during dinner and you were suppose to finish every last grain of rice on your plate. Dinner was purple rice (good), a mushroom root vegetable stew (good), turnips (bad), potato pancakes (good), bland soup, and lotus root (fair).


We then went to the evening ceremony which started with three monks playing the drum and ringing the bell. We then went to the main temple and participated in the chanting ceremony. There were only two monks there since it is the time before the monks winter retreat and a lot are “on vacation”. We then went back to our room (read sauna) and I promptly fell asleep 7pm, not before opening the door and putting my mattress right in front of it. We woke up at 3am (I got a full 8 hours of sleep) and bundled up and ventured out in the sub 30* weather to hear them play their before ceremony drums. We then went to the temple and there were about 20 monks and the chanting was pretty magical in the cold morning. Luckily neither Katy nor I was the person who fell over transitioning during their prostrations. After additional sleep and breakfast which was very similar to dinner we attempted a hike, but below freezing temperatures combined with a more than stiff breeze stymied our attempt to reach the top of the mountain 100 yards in.


Our rental car in the mini one different than all the others parked next to where we were staying

After walking around some of the extended complex for a bit we headed to tea time with a monk. Which was less about tea and a lot more about talking with a monk for an hour. We then ate lunch and got back in our trusty rental car and started toward our next destination Gyeongji.


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