Haetae: Mythical Lion Beast of Korea

I finally figured out who this guy is. It’s Korea’s very own horned lion beast Haetae (or Xiezhi in Chinese). He can travel through time, breath fire, prevent natural disasters, and create a lunar eclipse by biting the moon.

According to Wikipedia, “Haetae sculptures were used in architecture during the early Joseon dynasty, as their image was trusted to be able to protect Hanyang (now Seoul) from natural disasters and to give law and order among the populace.” Today you can see Haetae sculptures at palaces like Gyoengbokgung in Seoul, and some homes around Korea. In 2009, Seoul chose Haechi (not sure why they changed the name) as the symbol of the city.

About the photo

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Korea’s Best Subway App: Jihachul

It’s no secret that public transportation in Korea is fantastic. It has to be. It’s one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Horrendous traffic jams in the major cities happen daily. Want to travel by car or bus during the national holidays? Fugetaboutit! Take a plane or train. That’s it. Anything else and you are looking at camping on the highway.

If you’re going to surf Korea’s tubes, Jihachul (a.k.a. Subway Korea) by Broong Inc. is essential. According to their site, the app:

• Provides the latest subway map of Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju
• Has multi-language support: English, Korean, Japanese
• Provides timetable, transfer info, station and area guide
• Helps to find nearby stations from my current location
• Shares real-time user reviews about the area nearby stations using Tokaba

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The Floating Mosque of Kota Kinabalu

I waited days for an epic sunset in KK. Finally, on my last night, I got what I wanted. Like they say, half of photography is just being there. The City Mosque as it’s called, is surely one of the most beautiful in Malaysia. It’s just outside the city and easy to get to. My big inspiration for going to Sabah was Nora Carol. Her photographs of the mosque and Borneo are the best thing the tourism board could ask for.

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Exploring Korea’s biggest bamboo forest: Jungnokwon

Wind blows through the leaves above. Bamboo shoots sway back and forth like giant sea anemone in an ocean of air. I could swear I saw a ninja flying above too. The Jungnokwon Bamboo Garden is a 2.2 square km forest located in Damyang, about 45 minutes drive from Gwangju. There is more bamboo there than anywhere else in Korea. So much so in fact, that there is a yearly festival dedicated to all things bamboo (this year it will run from May 3rd-8th). Damyang is in the province of Jeollanam-do and is really easy to get to by public transportation.

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Busan’s best race: Adidas miRun over Gwangan Bridge

One of my favorite days of the year in Busan is when they shut down the Gwangan Bridge or Gwangandaegyo for the annual road race in April. The suspension bridge, which was recently renamed to the Diamond Bridge, is the second longest bridge in Korea. This time Adidas sponsored the race, so it was called the Adidas miRun. Whatever the name is, it’s always a great time. Actually, I never ran the thing. I just go up on the bridge and take photos. It’s pretty simple to get up. Be at the start – BEXCO – and follow the runners. Even better, if you’re a little early you can even walk on the bridge  before the race starts. Adidas spent some big bucks to bring in 2NE1 to give a live concert at the end too.

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Street art rejuvenates Busan ghetto

Gamcheon 1

Rows of brightly colored ceramic birds with smiling human heads perch along the edge of a roof, welcoming passers-by. Silver dragonflies the size of people cling to a school wall. Three metal flowers resembling dandelions sprout from a sidewalk and tower as high as a two-story building.

Walking the streets of Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, it’s easy to suppose artists were trying to recreate an Alice-in-Wonderland-like world. Residents are betting the village’s future on art. What’s harder to imagine though is that this neighborhood’s history is deeply rooted in war, religion and poverty.

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View from the 80th floor (part 2): Rooftopping at Busan’s Marine City

After posting a photo of looking down from the 80th floor of the Zenith Tower, I got more questions about how I got on the roof. So, I thought I’d talk a little more about rooftopping in Korea. According to the Urban Dictionary, “Rooftopping, also known as Buildering is an off shoot of urban exploring or urbex, which involves climbing onto the roofs of buildings, preferably the higher the better. Done to take pictures or just for kicks.” Like Jason Teale, a fellow rooftopper and friend in Ulsan, I had no idea that what I was doing was a global phenomenon.

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Looking down from 80 Stories: Busan’s We’ve the Zenith Tower

The Marine Park complex in Busan is home to some of the most modern skyscrapers in Korea, if not Asia. Some of the world’s top architects like Daniel Libeskind were hired to design the buildings. Standing on the roof, surrounded by all the modern skyscrapers, feels like you are in a scene of a sci fi movie. Below, European sports cars cruise the streets. Pedestrians sport the latest haute coutre bags and shoes. Executives enjoy their stay at the newly opened Park Hyatt, with some amazing views? Marine City has quickly become Busan’s version of Gangnam, the ultra-rich neighborhood in Seoul.

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39 Hours in Beijing

When I first visited Beijing in 1993 many of the locals looked at me like I was from another planet. Okay, I’m 2 meters tall so that might have had something to do with it. However, it still seemed as if they had never seen a foreigner before. And if I stopped to talk to someone on the street, a crowd of onlookers would quickly gather around.

Beijing reflection

Would you like a Limited Edition print of this picture?

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