Monday, December 31, 2018

Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy is Max Zhang's show (film review)

Max Zhang with the audience at a screening of
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy that included Yours Truly :)
Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy (Hong Kong-Mainland China, 2018)
- Starring: Max Zhang, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, Liu Yan, Xing Yu, Kevin Cheng, Tony Jaa, Chrissie Chau
Back in 1994, Yuen Woo Ping (now more usually credited as Yuen Wo Ping) directed and action directed a charming martial arts movie about the woman that the distinctive Chinese martial art known as wing chun was named after.  Twenty-four years on, the helmer of Wing Chun has helmed another martial arts movie: this one revolving around one of the chief antagonists of 2015's Ip Man 3, a popular film series about the real life wing chun master whose disciples included a certain Bruce Lee.
In Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy, Max Zhang reprises his role as Cheung Tin Chi, the ambitious as well as talented fighter who challenged Ip Man to a duel in Ip Man 3.  In the wake of his having been bested by Master Ip, Tin Chi decides to abandon the world of martial arts and become a humble grocery store owner and loving father to his young son.  But as pretty much anyone who's seen a kung fu movie will know, it's well nigh impossible for a martial arts master -- especially a righteous one -- to lead a quiet and violence-free life, however much he wishes to do so.  
As the fates would have it, Tin Chi crosses paths one day with two women -- drug addict Nana (Chrissie Chau) and her best friend, Julia (Liu Yan) -- desperately seeking to escape from a bunch of thugs headed by opium den owner Kit (Kevin Cheng).  His immediate 'reward' for rescuing the damsels in distress is to become homeless and jobless after his grocery store cum home were set on fire by Kit's heroin dealer buddy Ma Jing Sheng (Patrick Tam Yiu Man, who also had appeared in Ip Man 3).  
Showing that there is some good in the world, Julia decides to repay her debt to Tin Chi by taking him and his son into the home she shares with Nana, asking her bar owner brother Fu (Xing Yu) -- a guy with a tough exterior but also a heart of gold -- to give Tin Chi a job and also declaring that the quintet were now a family.  But while some happiness does come their way in the wake of this alliance, so does trouble and also tragedy; and this particularly after Tin Chi and Fu attract the attention of more heavyweight and formidable figures like the Kwan (Michelle Yeoh), the Triad leader elder sister of Kit and Owen Davidson (Dave Bautista), an American restaurant owner who can come across like an affable teddy bear but is far more like a mean and greedy grizzly in nature.
What with Master Z's director and top-billed actor having their strengths in the action department, it should come as no surprise that this movie's fight scenes are its best scenes.  In particular, I was wowed by the physical artistry on show in the duels between Max Zhang and Michelle Yeoh (who, incidentally, was the star of 1994's Wing Chun) -- including the one involving a liquor-filled glass -- most of all and also enjoyed seeing Cheung Tin Chi realizing how wing chun is ideal against a physically bigger and stronger opponent. 

Provided with a far bigger budget than 1994's Wing Chun, this offering co-produced by Donnie Yen (who was the 1994 film's lead actor as well as Ip Man 1, 2 and 3) and Raymond Wong Pak Ming still appears less polished than I would have liked though.  In particular, the make up on some of the actors was noticeably rough, and the script has too many evil foreigners in it for my liking. 
Given the circumstances, I thought that Dave Bautista was able to acquit himself well in the movie.  However, I felt that Tony Jaa was ill-served both by having a smaller part in the proceedings than should have been the case and the wirework used in his main fight sequence being too obvious (and, given, his athletic prowess, unnecessary?).  All in all, it says quite a bit when non-action actors and actresses like Liu Yan, Xing Yu, Chrissie Chau and Philip Keung (the last playing a cop whose efforts to uphold the law are often frustrated by his corrupt superior) were able to have their characters make a stronger impression in Master Z than the Thai action star's.  
I have to be honest: Michelle Yeoh is someone else I would have loved to see more of than I did in Master Z.  Still, I think that the film managed to showcase both her dramatic and action abilities.  Ultimately though, there's little question that this movie is Max Zhang's show; and I am watching with interest to see if it succeeds in making him the major star that the earlier likes of Vincent Zhao (aka Chiu Man Cheuk) and Yu Rongguang tried but never got to be.

My rating for the film: 7.5

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Comparative thoughts in the wake of my final beach clean-up of 2018

The sight that greeted my beach clean-up crew at Cheung Chau's  
How a portion of the beach looked in September 2017 :(
 How roughly that same portion of the beach looked
post beach clean-up today! :)

Earlier today, I took part in my final beach clean-up of 2018 at Cheung Chau's Tung Wan Tsai (Coral Beach).  As has come to be usual, the beach clean-up crew consisted of both first-time beach clean-up participants and visitors to Tung Wan Tsai along with those who now are very familiar with the drill and situation at the beach in northeast Cheung Chau.

I found the different reactions to what we saw as we approached the beach (by way of a hike that takes around 45 minutes in hot weather but only took half an hour or so today, during which temperatures ranged from around 12 to 16 degrees Celsius) pretty illuminating.  More specifically, the regulars among us got to remarking how much cleaner Tung Wan Tsai looked compared to the last couple of times that we had seen it -- which makes sense since this past month, no typhoon visited Hong Kong (like was the case two months ago) and it wasn't even all that rainy (after the rain is when one regularly sees the waters of Hong Kong at their most debris filled) -- whereas the first time visitors to the beach were horrified by how much trash was strewn about on it!
One reason for the first timers' shock is that there really is quite a lot of trash on Tung Wan Tsai thanks to this beach having the misfortune of having currents wash ashore garbage from not only other parts of Hong Kong but also Mainland China (we find quite a bit of stuff with simplified Chinese and Mainland Chinese phone numbers on their labels) and Macau (for the record: today was the first time I found empty drinks packets and such bearing "packaged in Macau" labels).  It also can be true enough that, as one woman expressed today, no environmentalist video she saw or news article she read was able to prepare her for the reality of how much trash can be found on a single beach in her home territory.
I definitely remember how horrified I was the first time I went to Tung Wan Tsai to work on cleaning up the beach.  Indeed, so aghast was I at how things looked there that I couldn't bring myself to take any photographs at the beach the first two times that I took part in a beach clean-up there -- and, instead, only felt comfortable taking photos of another cleaner beach in Cheung Chau that my group had gone to do a beach clean-up at in between my first and second Tung Wan Tsai beach clean-up sessions!
Considering that the tides deliver trash daily (and often right when we are conducting beach clean-ups) to the beach, our beach clean-up efforts can seem positively Sisyphean.  At the same time though, I look at photos of Tung Wan Tsai in September 2017, when I returned to work on it (after having taken part in beach clean-ups elsewhere in Hong Kong, including Chi Ma Wan and Lamma), and today and really can see quite a bit of improvement in the overall state of the place, especially at the end of today's beach clean-up.  Consequently, I feel like I've got evidence to prove that we actually are making a difference against the odds! :)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Haenyeo hard at work in the waters off Seopjikoji (Photo-essay)

Remember the haenyeo I wrote about a few posts ago?  I have to admit that after watching their performance in the cove that lies in the shadow of Seongsan Ilchulbong, I was moved to think that the legendary sea women of Jeju had been reduced to being more of a tourist attraction than a (still) seriously active community of working divers.  

After encountering an actual working group of haenyeo the next day at nearby Seopjikoji, however, I got to radically changing my opinion about them -- and being inclined to look about this celebrated traditional community with far more respect, admiration and awe.  For not only were these women going about their business without much hype or hoopla but they went far further away from shore and very noticeably into deeper waters than the ones who had put on what, in comparison, really had been a show at the cove the previous day...

It seems that many -- if not all of -- the haenyeo get to 
their assembly point by the sea via motorscooters!
 From there, it's a short walk over black volcanic rocks to the sea

 For much of the year, the waters off Jeju probably are 
cold enough for wetsuits to be a welcome costume option

Even so, I reckon it takes quite the effort to voluntarily
go into the water and far away from shore...

...which may be one reason why I saw that the haenyeo 
tend to do so in groups rather than solo :S

See what I mean about this group of haenyeo having gone
further away from the shore than the previous day's group?

Yes, these are divers, not "just" swimmers...

It's also worth pointing out that some three hours 
after I saw them go into the water, they still were 
working away far away from shore... :O

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day hike in Ma On Shan Country Park :)

A world away from the Hong Kong most people (think they) know
Luk Chau Shan's Canoe Rock
An old (and, it looks like, ruined) church that I think
has appeared in more than one Hong Kong movie
It's been a while since I've gone on two hikes in three days.  It's also been a while since I've gone up to the Ngong Ping plateau located in Ma On Shan Country Park (and, for that matter, the more famous Ngong Ping plateau on Lantau Island).  But two days after going in search of red leaves in Tai Lam Country Park, I went with a friend along the Ma On Shan Country Trail on what's turned out to be a surprisingly warm as well as humid Christmas Day.
As per my usual procedure with regards to this particular hiking trail, we started our trek from near Mau Ping New Village near Sai Kung town and ended it in Ma On Shan town (where we caught the train back to the more densely populated section of Hong Kong by Victoria Harbour).  Where we departed from the usual is that after climbing up to the Ngong Ping plateau and spending some time taking in the always breathtaking -- even when the visibility levels are not as super high as I would like -- views from there, we decided that we had enough energy and inclination to detour off the official country trail and go up 414 meter high Luk Chau Shan in search of its famous Canoe Rock.
If truth be told, I found that particular rock formation to be on the underwhelming side visually when I finally caught sight of it.  However, I did enjoy the Luk Chau Shan detour since that hill is indeed home to an interesting rocky landscape quite unlike the nearby Ngong Ping plateau.  Also I must admit to some satisfaction is finally having gone up a hill I've passed by quite a few times before, often with the thought that I'd like to go up it one day!
In addition, as we approached the former mining village of Ma On Shan Tsuen, home in the past to some of the workers of the Ma On Shan Iron Mine which was in operation from 1906 to 1976, I also got views that I previously hadn't been privy to.  Thanks to Typhoon Mangkhut having felled quite a few trees in the area, I now got clear views of the village's old St Joseph's Chapel which, if I'm not mistaken, has appeared in a number of Hong Kong movies, including Tactical Unit -- Comrades in Arms (2008), a film in which a team of Police Tactical Unit officers get lost for a time in the wilds of Hong Kong!
More than incidentally, that movie had me a few hiker friends giggling with amusement when we viewed it because it showed how quite a few Hong Kongers really aren't that used to being in the Hong Kong countryside and are liable to freak out over what are some pretty common sights when one goes hiking in the Big Lychee.  And when we later came across a couple of the locations used in the film, we got to laughing even more because a number of the sections of Hong Kong they had supposedly got lost in actually are located pretty close to official hiking trails and not that far away from roads that are accessible to vehicles, never mind pedestrians! ;D   

Monday, December 24, 2018

Golden hour views from a Seongsan hotel rooftop

Another day in Seongsan, another beautiful sunset/golden hour :)
The kind of image that looks Photoshopped but wasn't!
View from my hotel rooftop of Seongsan town and Seongsan Ilchulbong
When I checked into the Seongsan branch of the Co-op City Hotel, I was told that our rooms had been upgraded so that we'd get a nicer view.  At the same time, the receptionist neglected to tell me that the hotel had a rooftop area which was accessible to guests and had all round views of the area.  (In addition, in the warmer months, there are jacuzzis up there that hotel guests can rent by the hour -- how cool is that?!)
Fortunately, I found that out on my own -- after spying a couple of people up on the hotel rooftop on the way back to the hotel from hiking up and down Seongsan Ilchulbong -- and in time to take in some splendid golden hour views the day after I had been treated to wonderful sunset and twilight views from both my hotel room balcony and the edge of the lake in front of the hotel!
Back when I was a Beloit College student, I was privy on many occasions to beautiful sunset views in that old Wisconsin town that were ascribed to the industrial pollution emanating from such as the Frito-Lay factory across the river from the college (whose Cheetos production also was said to be responsible for what was nicknamed "the Cheese Breeze"!).  And I must admit to thinking that air pollution played a part in creating some of the beautiful sunsets I've seen over the years in other parts of the world (including Hong Kong).
At the same time though, it's not escaped my attention that some other places where I've witnessed beautiful sunsets (and associated twilight and golden hours) aren't exactly known for having air pollution.  These include two of the places that I've been treated to fabulous sunset displays this year: Takayama, Japan; and Jeju, South Korea. 

In the case of Seongsan, I find it further interesting that a place which is famed for its sunrises (with it really being quite the thing to view them from atop Seongsan Ilchulbong) also can have pretty gorgeous sunsets; and this especially when they seem to have gone unmentioned for the most part -- unlike the sunrises and the indisputably photogenic sunsets that are very much part of the tourist draw over in the Land of the Rising Sun's Matsue! ;b  

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Red leaves viewing in Hong Kong's Sweet Gum Woods!

Red leaves in Hong Kong! :)

Not maple but sweetgum leaves (and fruit)
The kind of excited crowds that red leaves
can attract in Hong Kong ;D
In many parts of the world (including Japan), red leaves are associated with autumn.  That is not the case, however, in Hong Kong -- where one's liable to see red leaves, albeit usually in a landscape that's largely green, pretty much all year round thanks to the red leaves one sees while hiking in the territory's country parks more likely to be such as the Chekiang Masilus plant's new leaves being red even while its adult leaves are the more usual green.
Recently though, I learnt of a particular kind of tree found in the Big Lychee with a particular red leaf season.  The sweet gum is native to warm temperate areas of eastern North America and the tropical montane regions of Mexico and Central America but was planted in certain parts of this sub-tropical territory.  In particular, Tai Lam Country Park -- over in northwestern Hong Kong -- is home to an area which has been christened Sweet Gum Woods to which crowds flock in early winter for some red leaf viewing and picture taking!
Earlier today, I went with a group to do a bit of hiking -- and, it turned out, quite a bit of red leaf viewing and picture taking too! -- in the area.  Despite the day turning out to be on the damp side, there still was quite the crowd out on the section of trail between Tai Tong Shan and Tai Lam Chung Reservoir where a number of sweet gum trees can be found close to the side of the path.
Early on during the excursion, I was moved to joke to a couple of the people I was with that there might well be more red leaf hunters out in the area this afternoon than actual red leaves.  But the further we hiked away from the country park entrance at Tai Tong and deeper into the country park itself, the more the crowds thinned and the more clumps of red-leaved trees we saw for the most part!
In the section of the Sweet Gum Woods with absolutely the highest density of sweet gum trees that I saw today though, there were plenty of people about the place.  A measure of how photogenic this area was can be seen by it still looking pretty attractive despite there being so many other people about that it was well nigh impossible to avoid photographing them as well as the trees and leaves (unless, that is, you aimed your camera right up above you!).  
As it so happens, I actually recognized this area (with its benches and other sitting accoutrements) from a fall hike I went on seven years ago.  At the time, the red leaves weren't so abundant but I definitely recall thinking that it was a particularly attractive part of Tai Lam Country Park and resolving to return some time.  It took longer than I had thought would be the case for me to revisit the area but I'm glad I did on this day when, despite the rainy weather, the natural beauty of this place was evident once more -- and very evidently being appreciated by many Hong Kongers willing to brave the bad weather to enjoy nature's seasonal glories. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Feasting on seafood in Seongsan! :)

A very large plate of fresh hwae!
 More than one photographer snapping a shot
of the seafood feast-laden table ;b
After watching the haenyeo collecting seafood from Jeju's waters, I think it was only to be expected that the same group of people who already had had eaten a hearty oyster-heavy breakfast/brunch earlier that day would suddenly hanker after a seafood dinner.  And actually, in view of the large numbers of restaurants that specialize in seafood over in Seongsan town, my distinct sense is that feasting on seafood is very much the thing to do in that part of Jeju!
Faced with a raft of seafood restaurants to choose from, we did the tourist thing and opted for an establishment with a bilingual menu with lots of photos and a waitress who was so enthusiastic about getting our patronage that she had cheerily hailed us over from by the restaurant's entrance.  That level of welcome may be not too exceptional in certain other parts of the world but, from personal experience, that's pretty unusual in Korea!  But rather than look upon it with suspicion, we decided to take it at face value -- and it really was nice to feel post-meal that our trust had been yielded dividends.  
Put another way: we proceeded to have yet another delicious, value-for-money feast on an island where it seemed impossible to have a bad meal!  Quantity-wise: just look at the photos at the top of this blog post!  And in terms of quality: like one of my friends remarked upon reminiscing about our Jeju trip after she had returned to the landlocked American state where she resides, if seafood were this good and fresh where she lived, she'd happily eat it every day!
Of the five main dishes we ended up with (along with a slew of banchan), my favorite by far was the large plate of hwae which was part of the assorted set for two (Koreans that would have been fine for three of our party!) that we ordered along with one additional main course.  Consisting of slices of eight different fish and shellfish, some of which (e.g., abalone, mackerel, octopus, prawns, mussels, turbo shell) I could identify and others (sea bream? hairtail fish?) of which I couldn't with absolute certainty, they were eaten dipped in soy sauce like one would sashimi but prepared in such a way that they often had a chewier, crunchier texture -- in the case of some of the fish as well as shellfish -- than one would find at sushi-ya.     
The rest of my dinner party actually preferred the other dishes served -- which was fine by me since it meant that I could feel less guilty eating more of the hwae (which was served raw bar for the octopus and prawns)!  This is not to say that I didn't like the other dishes, which included a seafood jigae (stew), a seafood dolsot bibimbap, a seafood pajeon (Korean savory pancake) and a whole -- well, minus head and tail -- grilled sea bream, though and I also happily sampled all the banchan on the table!      
Considering how large our meals in Jeju were, it's probably a good thing that we ended up having just two meals a day when we were on the island -- that is, if you don't count the snacks (which included the island's famed tangerines, dried persimmons and... maple flavored corn snacks!) we also would have at various times, including while shooting the breeze over a few drinks post-dinner!  All in all, it's a good thing that I also did do quite a bit of walking around, even hiking, on this Korean isle whose culinary offerings may well be as wonderful as its geological sights! ;b    

Monday, December 17, 2018

Haenyeo in action in the shadow of Seongsan Illchulbong (Photo-essay)

When we were planning our Jeju get-together, one of our party mentioned her wish to see haenyeo in action.  I have to be honest here: until she mentioned it, I had no idea that these women divers, whose culture and way of earning a living was inscribed in 2016 on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list, even existed! 

As luck would have it, a group of haenyeo have taken to performing twice daily in a cove right in the shadow Seongsan Illchulbong.  So after our Sangumburi excursion, we headed over there -- to a place whose scenery and geology proved to be quite the draw for me along with the remarkable women whose diving tradition dates back to the 5th century AD and involves their learning how to hold their breath for more than three minutes at a time so that they don't require breathing apparatus when going about gathering seafood underwater...

Early morning view of the haenyeo dive spot
 The afternoon sun turned the water as well as sky a brighter blue
Down in the cove, one finds a volcanic rock surface 
-- with lots of rock pools -- rather than sandy beach
Boats used by tourists rather than haenyeo

The haenyeo wade straight into the water (after offering prayers 
at the waters edge to the goddess of the sea)
  An outlooker got so excited he joined the haenyeo in the water!
The water was on the shallow side in the cove but still yielded a catch!
 Along with octopi, there also was sea urchin -- which I can 
well imagine is best handled with gloved rather than ungloved hands :b

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Transgender drama Tracey is thought-provoking as well as trailblazing (film review)

The first of three posters I've seen for Tracey 

The second poster for the same film

The third poster I've seen for the film

Tracey (Hong Kong, 2018)
- Jun Li, director and co-scriptwriter (along with Shu Kei and Erica Li)
- Starring: Philip Keung, Kara Hui Ying Hung (aka Kara Wai), River Huang, Ben Yuen, Eric Kot, Ng Siu Hin, Jennifer Yu

In the same week that saw a news report about a Chinese homoerotic writer having been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court over in Mainland China, Hong Kong saw its first mainstream movie with a transgender as its lead character being released in local cinemas.  The Sunday before, participants in Hong Kong's 2018 Pride Parade marched along a route that took them from Causeway Bay to Central and, early on, past a building containing a multiplex whose "Coming Soon" posters included one for Tracey which had its lead actor in clothing that clearly alluded to his character's transgender nature.

A popular as well as prolific character actor who was named Best Supporting Actor at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards for his sterling work in Shock Wave, Philip Keung's first ever starring role is one that called upon him to portray a character unlike any he has previously essayed, in more ways than one.  Best known for playing hot tempered men on both sides of the law, it can be quite disconcerting to see him as well-mannered optical shop owner Tung Tai Hung even before it's revealed that the married man and father of two prefers female attire to men's clothes and has long felt that he was female despite having a male body.

I've heard some people opine that Keung was miscast as Tai Hung.  My own feeling is that the choice of lead actor for Tracey helps make it all the more believable that, among other things, Tai Hung was able to convince much of the world, including his two adult children -- one about to enter university (played by Ng Siu Hin), the other married and with child (played by Jennifer Yu) -- and for so long that he was about as much of a regular a guy as one could imagine.  And even while his wife, Anne (Kara Hui Ying Hung), nursed certain suspicions about her spouse, she still was able to maintain the kind of public face and life that got people thinking she was lucky to be in the sort of marriage that she was, with a supportive husband who cared for her welfare and that of their children.

After Anne finds a receipt for women's underwear in one of Tai Hung's trouser pockets, he feels obliged to deny that he's got a mistress and, then, also that he's gay.  At the same time, he is open about not being a homophobe, unlike his conservative spouse -- whose socio-cultural prejudices can be upsetting to see not just because they're so open to view but also so reflective of many Hong Kongers of her generation and upbringing.  (Kudos to Kara Hui for playing such a hard-to-like character with so much sincerity that this (re)viewer ended up feeling upset for her as well as with her.)

If 27-year-old director (and co-scriptwriter) Jun Li had focused only on the Tung family, his first feature film offering could already have been a really thought-provoking drama; this not least since the characters involved -- including a cheating son-in-law -- and their relationships with one another was so ripe with dramatic content.  But, ambitiously, Tracey also features three other characters with tales to tell that could stand on their own but also did further the development of -- and even outright transform -- Tai Hung's persona.  

Of that trio, Bond (River Huang), the Singaporean man who had married a close childhood buddy of Tai Hung, could be said to be the most integral to Tracey since his arrival in Hong Kong serves as a catalyst for Tai Hung to re-consider how he was living his life.  It's too bad then that his actions often frustrated me almost as much as Anne's and their generally not having as negative an effect on others as I feared would be the case actually made many of those situations not ring true as much as I had hoped.

Although he's not given all that much screentime, Jun, the good-natured childhood buddy that the now 51-year-old Tai Hung had stayed friends with all these years, was a far more endearing character to my mind -- and I think that the actor who portrayed him, Eric Kot, had a lot to do with that being so.  Then there's Brother Darling, the Chinese opera-singing gentle soul so wonderfully essayed by Golden Horse Best Supporting Actor winner Ben Yuen.  His scenes with Tai Hung were so evocative that I can't help but think that the admittedly already pretty good Tracey would have been a better movie if there had been more of them.     

My rating for this film: 7.5           


Friday, December 14, 2018

Much to see at Sangumburi beyond its enormous and rare type of crater! (Photo-essay)

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's not every day that I get to view a crater.  But on the same day that I hiked up to the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong (and got to see its circa 600 meter crater that's among its recognizable volcanic features as well as the sunrise), I also ended up going to view a second crater: the even larger (with a circumference of over two kilometers) Sangumburi (Crater Mountain)!

A rare kind of geologic phenomenon known as a parasitic marr or low-relief crater, Sangumburi also is famed for having a photogenic expanse of silver grass (aka pampas grass) in the fall.  To be honest, its main attraction for my group (which included two senior citizens) was that its many sights are easily accessible as well as genuinely scenic.  Mind you, we didn't go down into the crater -- but, then, no one is allowed to do so as the sunken space is akin to a natural botanical garden, full of flora and fauna allowed to flourish undisturbed by humans for the most part.  But with so much to see in the area, this restriction really didn't feel like too much of a deprivation. :)
The painted ceiling of the "Glorious Phoenix Gate" that one has to pass 
through on the way into and out of Sangumburi park

 I drank water from the Lucky Toad Water Fountain
(and survived to tell the tale!)

Three different routes leading up to the crater rim

Take the route on the right and you will find yourself
surrounded at some point by a sea of silver grass
(and with a view of Hallasan in the far distance)!

View of Sangumburi's famed crater

 The side of the crater rim laid out as a 1.2 kilometer-long 
"Korean Fir Trail Healing Course"

 A statue of a deer stands as tribute to the area's wildlife,
and also Hangam, the guardian of Jeju's animals and hunters, 
who is said to reside at Sangumburi

Also within a stone's throw of the crater are ancient graves,
  whose occupants' identities appear to have been lost to time

Thursday, December 13, 2018

An oyster-heavy breakfast post-Seongsan Ilchulbong hike

Korean oyster pancake anyone? ;b

Every one of the main dishes on the table had oysters in them! ;D

After completing our pre-dawn hike up Seongsan Ilchulbong to view the sunrise from atop it and our descent a short time later (which took roughly the same amount of time thanks to our stopping a few times to enjoy the scenery and snap photos of it), my friend who had gone on this excursion and I went back to our hotel to collect the rest of our Jeju party and head off for our first real meal of the day (since a cup of coffee and chocolate bar for energy pre-hike really doesn't really count as breakfast!). 

Although there was the temptation to do so (since it too was (already) open for business), we actually didn't head back to the restaurant just a few minutes' walk away from our hotel where we had had our black pork feast the day before.  Rather, we decided to try a neighboring eatery which turned out to be an oyster specialist whose offerings included oyster pancake, oyster rice porridge, a kimchi jigae (stew) with oysters in it and rice on the side, and a tofu soup option that also turned out to come with oysters in it and a serving of rice.

As with any self-respecting Korean restaurant, we were given complimentary banchan (side dishes) that included a couple of different kinds of kimchi and also raw chili peppers.  The former I found went very well with the oyster pancake I ordered as my main option but was so big that I made everyone else on the table also have at least a couple of slices of; the latter I left well alone after having tried one at dinner the day before and found to be on the spicy side -- way too spicy for breakfast to my mind; and this from someone who has happily consumed curry noodles for breakfast in her native Malaysia!

I'm not sure if this is the norm in Korea but the meal we had at the oyster restaurant looked like it was considered perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Put another way: the restaurant's menu doesn't seem to vary for different meal times and it appeared to be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and any the hours in between.  And for my part, I would be happy to have had our breakfast that day for lunch or dinner on some other day since I found it to be tasty and satisfyingly filling fare -- the kind that I love to have as a reward for my exertions post-hike! ;b