May 302015

2015-05-16 Banner Lantern Parade 042A couple of weeks ago, we went to Yeon Deung Hoe (연등회), the Lotus Lantern Festival for Buddha’s Birthday.  It moves around a bit, partly because so does Buddha’s Birthday and partly due to when it’s getting dark.  It was quite a bit before Buddha’s Birthday this year, probably because it would get dark too late if they’d waited.

2015-05-16 Lantern Parade Give Video Time To LoadBefore we get to the pictures, note that I’ve embedded a number of videos here — this is my most video-laden post yet — as  I thought it would really give a better sense of the event.  But the videos (though short) are fairly large… I found that clicking on on the video image (to start it) and then immediately clicking on pause to let the video load gave better results.  I’ll play around with reducing their size and replace them (and this paragraph!), and I hope my next ‘video blog posting’ will be better.

We walked down through Jogyesa Temple (조계사), down through Insadong to where the Lantern Parade was going to be.  We had seats in a little viewing stand, full of ambassadors & Buddhist monks, although looking across the street I do think most people had a very good view.  We were sitting next to our friend H.E. Kiat Yip, the Ambassador from Singapore, which was nice as well, and just down the row from H.E. Mark Lippert, the US Ambassador, & his wife, of which more later.

The start of the parade was mostly people, as the illuminated lanterns look much better as it gets darker, some groups in costume & some not, but pretty much all carrying lanterns, unless they were dancing musicians (see video below).  Sometimes, the parade marchers would spot Mark Lippert, and then there’d be a flurry of people waving, shaking his hand and (only once, surprisingly) taking a selfie with him.

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Here are some pictures after it got darker…

… and a few more videos

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Finally we went back up through Insadong and through Jogyesa, which was quite a bit brighter & livelier than before!

The End

 Posted by on 30 May 2015
May 122015

2015-05-09 HanGwa varieties

2015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 0072015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 001On Saturday, I joined CICI for a day-trip to the Hangwa Cultural Museum (Hangaone) (한과문화박물관 한가원) [Gmap link] and the Pyunggang Botanical Garden (병강식물원) [Gmap link].  They’re quite close together, around 55 km north-east of Seoul.  It seemed a fairly rural part of the country, and again I’m struck by how densely forested Korea is now.


Display of 5 main types of HanGwa

Display of 5 main types of HanGwa

2015-05-09 HanGwa with CICI 018The Museum is dedicated to “HanGwa”, a traditional Korean sweet.  First, we watched a couple of short videos about HanGwa, and a short talk by Kim Gyuheum, the Master of HanGwa.  We were offered a bit of tea and some HanGwa to sustain us during the videos; well begun is half done.  There are two basic kinds of HanGwa, and, of the type he makes, over 250 variations, of which Mr. Kim has mastered 170.  Next, we had a tour of the museum, which was very interesting, followed by the main event: making HanGwa.

The sweet is made from rice flour, which comes in hard, pressed little sticks, about the size of a piece of Trident gum (I think my audience will understand that ;-)  First, the stick is dropped into oil at 100C and then is transferred directly to a vat of oil at 150C.  The first bath softens up the HanGwa, and if puffs up a bit, but then in the second bath it blows up like a balloon.  In turn, we were taken to look at a demonstration of cooking HanGwa.  Indeed, the process must be correct:  just 100C isn’t enough; just 150C even worse (like the lonely HanGwa stick in the middle photo below – it never had a chance).  Letting the HanGwa cool is a bit better; but, as predicted, only a quick transfer from 100C to 150C will give the desired result (as in the 3rd picture).  How, traditionally, did they know it was 100C & 150C?

After it’s cooled, the HanGwa is dipped in a sweet rice syrup, and then rolled grains of various kinds, for the outside coating.  After the HanGwa is coated, you roll it gently between your fingers, to press the coating into the surface.  That coating gives the HanGwa it’s texture, color and a bit of a different flavor.  If you want, you can then add a dab of syrup to stick on some decoration.

Up in the workshop, we were divided into three tables, where we did the last step, dipping & rolling the HanGwa.  We had white, green, yellow and pink coatings to work with.  We all tried one- and two-coloured hangwa, but I also went for a three-color “Irish Flag” HanGwa (it came out, so I stopped while I was ahead).  It was a lot of fun, and not too much fresh-made HanGwa was eaten in the process ;-).

A few awards were given out, and then we headed off to lunch.  Lunch was very good — it was my favorite: a good selection of side dishes, with whatever the main course happens to be (a spicy fish stew, in this case).

After lunch, we went to the nearby Pyunggang Botanical Garden.  It’s divided into a 12 pistes; we did a short circuit of just 3 or 4 of them:  the Alpine garden, the


 Posted by on 12 May 2015
May 062015
Coffee afterwards

At coffee afterwards

2015-05-05 Lunch in SBD 06

Me, at lunch

A few pics from lunch with A in Seongbuk-dong yesterday.  I’d been the restaurant before, but the menu had changed — maybe new owners?  Anyway, it was a gloriously sunny day, and a nice time.

The guys in the 2nd picture were having lunch after a hike in the mountains, and were having a fair bit of Makgeolli (막 걸 리) with their lunch.  Makgeolli is like near-beer made from rice… on a hot day like that, after a hike, it probably hit the spot!


 Posted by on 06 May 2015