Category East Asia

Postcard From Jeju Island, Korea

YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL where you are in Jeju from where the mountain is. And you always know where it is, and you always know which mountain. Though Korea’s largest island is home to many peaks, only one might be called “the” mountain — Hallasan, the tallest in South Korea. It is the centerpiece of […]

The Korean DMZ: Look Ma, a North Korean’s Spying Me

IT WOULD BE AN EXAGGERATION to call the DMZ tour a waste of time, but the fact that I knew anything about North Korea beforehand definitely, surprisingly, diminished my enjoyment of the experience. One would think that, having seen the acclaimed film Joint Security Area and read the excellently crafted Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, now seeing […]

Everyone in Korea Must Visit Ulleung-do (Before it’s Too Late)

THE ANCIENT VOLCANIC SEDIMENT that rises up alongside Jeodeong’s coastal walkway is a reminder of how tiny and insignificant we are on, my God, this island alone, not to mention the world or its history. The bilingual leaflet that describes the island’s jagged edges is too overwhelmingly scientific to be educational to anyone without a […]

Photo Essay: Old Korean Men on Bicycles Staring Confusedly at Rock Music

LAST WEEKEND WAS THE Busan International Rock Festival. I checked it out, as did several old Korean men who seemed surprised to have their usual Friday afternoon bike ride interrupted by heavy ska mosh pits and headbanging punk fans. In the spirit of true culture clashing, I present the following photo essay, “Old Korean Men […]

Notes From a Mountain: Sleeping Beside the Loudest Snorer in South Korea

THERE’S LITTLE TO BE SAID about hiking in Korea that I haven’t before tried to write about; instead of struggling unprepared with my girlfriend in the bitter midwinter snow, this time we were four sweaty dudes in midsummer humidity suffering from sore feet and comically rosy sunburns. Our particular route up Jiri-san, South Korea’s second-tallest mountain, […]

Tokyo, Japan: Impressions in 36 Hours

THERE IS SO MUCH already written about Tokyo, and so much more that needs to be, that my paltry two days (not even!) feel too preposterously short to scribble down anything that could meaningfully add to the canon of Tokyo lit. Who can know this city? The high-speed train plows on from Narita International, at […]

Notes From a Giant Post Box: Looking For Bingsu; Finding a Monkey in a Diaper

BEFORE I INTRODUCE THE MONKEY LASER CAFE — which is, to clarify, a cafe along a rural patch of Korean coast with a pet monkey and a laser strobe light — it’s important to start with the fact that V and I were looking for a particular mythical patbingsu, a.k.a. the lovely East Asian dessert of shaved […]

Photo Essay: Two Days in Tokyo

IN WHAT WAS PROBABLY the most expensive weekend of my life, V and I took a trip to Tokyo in March. Good ol’ reliable Air Asia had just opened its Busan – Tokyo route, which meant absurd sales in the area of $100 round-trip. I took this to mean we might be able to do […]

Notes from Namhae: Where Cabbies Refuse Our Money Because They’re Too Honest

NAMEHAE IS NOT DIFFICULT TO REACH, but once you’re in, it’s surprisingly difficult to get around. It is the kind of rural island where every day must feel like a weekend, where shop hours are unpredictable and if someone doesn’t know your first name they don’t know you at all. Taxis swarm the bus terminal […]

A Postgrad’s Travel Tale: The Aimless Twenty-Something Life

IN MAY 2011, I was sitting across from four editors in the startlingly modern private boardroom of the Chronicle Herald newspaper in west end Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’d prepared for this job interview all week. The Herald isn’t an especially well-regarded publication (it’s locally nicknamed “The Chronically Horrid”), but holds the distinction of being one […]