Video: Bangkok – Ayutthaya

The ancient capital of the kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya was a breathtaking day trip! When you find yourself next in Bangkok, don’t leave without seeing this incredible piece of history for yourself.

Enjoy this video the hubs made! I’m so glad for his ever-patient soul, never complaining when his wife runs off to take “just one more” photograph.

Click here to watch a video at Wat Pho Temple!

Click here to read more about adventures in Bangkok!

 

 

 

 

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Video: Bangkok – Exploring Wat Pho

We had so much fun in Bangkok! One of our favorite temples was Wat Pho, home of Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha, the birthplace of Thai massage, and just one of the most breathtaking temple complexes I’ve even seen.

As promised, here is a short video of us exploring Wat Pho! Between my photographs, and the hubs’ video skills, we are unstoppable when it comes to travel documentation.

To read a full post on adventures to have in Bangkok, read Bangkok: Things To Do!

Click here to watch a video of us exploring Ayutthaya!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok: Things to Do

In summer 2015 we took a two week trip to Thailand. It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had, and I can’t wait to share some details with you in a series of blog posts!

Today, let’s talk about Bangkok.  This is a city that gets a mixed review from travelers.  While planning the trip, I was very unsure whether to skip Bangkok entirely and head for the hills (Chiang Mai) as soon as we landed. We decided to give it a chance, however, and I am so glad we did!  Besides the delicious food, bustling street life, and colorful tourist shopping typical of all locations in Thailand, Bangkok offers some of the most astounding temple complexes, interesting local markets, and a large variety of day trips.  Below, I’ll outline three categories of things to do: (1) Temples, (2) Markets, and (3) Day Trips. I’ll detail my favorite example of each category, and then list others you should check out too!

1. Temples

 Wat Pho – Wow this place was insane. When you research Wat Pho, the typical image that appears is a reclining Buddha the size of a cruise ship (not quite, but yeah). A reclining Buddha represents entering into Nirvana, and the ending of all reincarnations. This is one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand, so it’s definitely worth checking out! Maybe the best part of the statue are the feet, which are covered in beautiful engravings and mother-of-pearl inlays.

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After seeing the statue, now you can wander around the temple complex! It was incredible, we spent about 2 hours meandering, and still didn’t see it all!

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Click here to watch a video of us meandering around Wat Pho!

Other temples to check out:

2. Markets

Amulet Market – Another cool place to check out would be the amulet market.  Open every day of the week from 7am-5pm, the amulet market is a great opportunity to get off the beaten path of tourist traps.

Thailand is one of the largest producers, sellers, and exporters of amulets. From warding off sickness, to finding true love, to obtaining monetary fortune, Thais place great trust in these manufactured trinkets.

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Chatuchak Weekend Market – This place was INSANE. Never ending maze of stalls, organized into sections based on product type.  This market was a well-oiled machine.  Grab a map of the market (available on site or here!), otherwise you will get seriously lost in this massive tourist trap treasure hunt. Oh, and make sure to grab a smoothie! Fresh fruit smoothies are a highlight of street food life in Bangkok. At 50 Baht (or $1.50) a pop, I was slurping these down morning, noon, and night.

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Other markets to check out:

3. Day Trips

Ayutthaya – Wow, just wow.  This day trip surpassed all of my expectations. Thailand wasn’t always called Thailand. For a larger portion of its history, this part of the world was known as the kingdom of Siam. On this day trip you will explore the ancient capital of Siam: Ayutthaya. Built in 1351, this city represented the every-growing power of an ancient kingdom. However, ruthless Burmese armies eventually invaded and destroyed the city. The heads of all the temple statues were severed, leaving the once beautiful city a place of ruin.

This trip is an all-day affair, as there are more than a few various temple complexes to explore. Grueling, but so so worth it.  The ancient temples look, at times, almost alien. And the freedom you have to mill around and explore will more than satisfy your inner Indiana Jones adventure spirit.  (Tip: if you’ve spent more than an hour drooling over photos of Thailand during your travel planning, you’ve probably seen images of the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots. This is in Ayutthaya, so keep your eyes peeled!)

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Click here to see a video of us exploring Ayutthaya!

Other day trips to check out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year in Review

It has been a crazy twelve months, filled with new adventures, new places, new struggles, and new joys.  It’s easy to forget the many examples of God’s refining love being poured on our lives throughout the year.  So we’ll use this space to remind ourselves, as much as you, of His goodness towards us in 2015. On a very cold Valentine’s Day morning at the KCI airport, these two youngsters said our goodbyes and headed to our new home: South Korea. Our reasons for moving were many. We wanted to get involved in a ministry overseas.  We wanted to teach ESL.  Finally, we wanted get first-hand experience with the struggles of daily living overseas. Thus far, it has certainly been a challenging experience. But this has been, without a doubt, the most growing year of our lives.

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Leaving for Korea!

Our town is the tiny farming community of Waegwan.  So obscure, Google seemed reluctant to provide us with any information when we first got here.  We teach at four schools. Hannah teaches at a public middle school, and a private boys Catholic middle school. Brady teaches at a public elementary school and a tiny country school outside of town. Life as a foreign English teacher (“Waygook”) is never dull!  Each day in Korea brings new life lessons. Managing a classroom of 30 hooligans who don’t speak your language–and REALLY don’t want to learn it–is a lesson in creativity.  Taste-testing traditional Korean delights–sometimes voluntary, often-times forced–is a lesson in open-mindedness.  Being the only foreigner in your workplace–trying to read memos in Korean, navigate Microsoft programs in Korean, laughing at office jokes in Korean–is a lesson in patience.  Just navigating daily life as the foreigner–figuring out the public transportation systems, paying bills, finding frozen chicken at the grocery store, using a squatty potty and never having toilet paper in public bathrooms–is lesson in humility.

 

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Hannah’s middle school boys

One of our favorite memories of the year was meeting Hannah’s brother Josiah for a Thailand summer vacation!  Our experience in Thailand was incredible.  From jungle trekking with elephants, to snorkeling on coral reefs, to climbing waterfalls, to cuddling tigers, and eating tons of street food, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

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With Josiah in Thailand!

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At year end, we can honestly say life abroad has been an incredible adventure.  We’ve been given so many new experiences. Through His gentle guiding, we’ve gained clarity this year on the passions and skills He’s given us.  More than anything, we’ve gained passion for life abroad, and can’t wait to continue our pursuit of overseas ministry. We are so excited for this new year, and the potential each day brings. We’ll miss our Kimchi family, we’re thankful for the blessing our time here has been.

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These past few months, we’ve been preparing for a new phase of life abroad.  In March 2016, we are setting out on a 2-month hike-a-thon across the length of Israel.  Raising money for Samaritan’s Purse water initiatives, we are raising awareness for the global water crisis. We can’t wait to grow in compassion for those who spiritually and physically thirst. If you’re interested in supporting the cause, you can learn more here!

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We are warm with thankfulness for supportive family, encouraging friends, and our loving Savior.  Many blessings to you this holiday season.

All our love,

B & H

Pure Hike-A-Thon Q&A: Part I

Hello friends! In June, we announced our upcoming fundraiser, Pure!  We are excited to give you more information about what we are doing.  Please read our Q&A below:

Q: What is “Pure”?

A: Pure is the name of a fundraiser we are doing from March to May in 2016.

Q: What are you raising funds for?

A: The support we raise will benefit clean water programs that educate developing communities around the world, providing the infrastructure needed to ensure safe drinking sources. All support raised will go towards Samaritan’s Purse, an acclaimed humanitarian organization pursuing clean water initiatives in over 30 countries.

Q:  Why did you choose clean water?

A:  Every day, 6,000 people die from lack of clean drinking water.  With a few simple tools, villages around the world are able to develop healthy environments through the services Samaritan’s’ Purse provides.  Digging village-wide wells, installing household water filters, and providing hygiene education are the key factors in this organization’s work.

Q: What kind of fundraiser is Pure?

A: Pure is a “hike-a-thon” style fundraiser, similar to “walk-a-thon” fundraisers such as Relay For Life. Donors make pledges to give a certain amount of money for every mile we walk.

Q: Where will you be hiking?

A: We will be hiking the Israel National Trail. A 620 mile trek winding across the length of Israel.

Q: Israel? Won’t ISIS kill you?

A: No. Israel is extremely safe and we are keeping in contact with people on the field to make sure that we will be safe. No hikers, foreigner or Israeli, have ever been attacked on the trail. The trail avoids all areas of the country with a history for causing trouble (i.e. Gaza).

Q: Won’t you just die in the desert?

A: It’s unlikely. About 1/3rd of the trail is through the desert, but there is an excellent support system in place to keep hikers safe and well supplied. First, you have small towns along the trail to make pit stops at. Second, hikers arrange for businesses to drop water and food along the trail to keep you supplied in between towns. These companies will make sure you have arrived at your campsites on time and can pull you off the trail if you need help. Third, it’s a popular trail and we will be hiking in the busiest part of the year, so there will be other hikers on the trail to help us if we need it. Fourth, we are hiking at the end of winter, so the weather will actually be really nice.

Q: What if the situation in Israel changes and it’s no longer safe? Will you change your plans?

A: If we feel Israel is no longer safe, we will change our plans. Our Plan B is to move the hike to the Camino de Santiago, an old pilgrimage that runs across France and Spain.

Q: Why do a hike at all? Why not just ask for money?

A: First, these types of fundraisers are much more effective than just asking for money. It’s exciting to follow along the progress of the trip, the donor is included in the experience, and the person fundraising is given an opportunity to demonstrate their passion for the cause.  

Second, it’s important to use your passions for the greater good. We are passionate about the need for clean water, and we absolutely love hiking. Combining the two is a no-brainer. We hope to inspire others to use their passions in creative ways to help others.

Q: How much of our donation is going towards Samaritan’s Purse?

A: 100% of your donations will go towards the organization.

Q: Who is funding the hike, as in, who is paying for airfare, gear, food, water, etc?

A: Funding for the logistics of the hike is coming from two groups: us and corporate sponsors. We are partnering with a handful of companies to provide gear and trail essentials. Any extra expenses will be covered by us, out of pocket.

Q: Can my company sponsor Pure?

A: Of course! We would love to partner with you! From monetary support, to specific hiking gear, we are welcoming any company to partner with us.  Send us an email at purehike@gmail.com.  We can talk about how this opportunity can be beneficial to both of us.

Q: When can I make a pledge?

A: Soon. We will be announcing more information within the coming months.

Q: In the meantime, what can I do to help you?

A: Thanks for asking!  First, we need help spreading the word!  Please share this post on Facebook. Keep an eye out for upcoming promo materials (photos, videos, etc.) for Pure.

Second, we are still actively seeking corporate sponsors.  If you or someone you know would be interested in partnering for a good cause, contact us at purehike@gmail.com.  

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Have additional questions?  Please comment below!  We will answer new questions in Q & A Part II.

5 Best Things About Korean Food Service

As we prepared to move here last year, whispers of Korea’s innovative dining experience had drifted across the ocean.  However, the full extent of the creativity and convenience behind Korean food service cannot be understood outside of first-hand experience.  To give you a taste, here are five things that have impressed us about food service in Korea:

Call Buttons

Almost every restaurant table has a nifty call button to alert your waiter if you need something! Sometimes, there are even multiple buttons requesting different services (food order, more beer, more water, bill, etc.). call buttonThemed Cafes

Korea has a huge variety of themed cafes!  Mostly located in and around Seoul, these cafes offer a large range of entertainment, from animal snuggles to Lego building to photography practice.

Here are some examples:

||Cat Cafes||

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For around $8, visitors can purchase a coffee and spend the afternoon snuggling with felines.

||Sheep Cafes||

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Same idea, minus cats, plus sheep.

||Hello Kitty Cafe||

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Perhaps the most iconic cafe in all Korea, Hello Kitty Cafe is on almost every Seoul tourist’s bucket list.

||Photography Cafes||

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Cafe’ra in Incheon offers a unique experience for aspiring photographers. Customers who bring their personal DSLR cameras are allowed access to the cafe’s wide array of lenses to try out in the shop! All this while sipping away on a caramel macchiato.

“Service” = Free Stuff!

Often times restaurants, as well many stores, will add complementary items to a customer’s original order.  For example, we purchased pizza the other day and were given a 2 liter of Coke for free.  At a coffee shop sometimes you get lucky and the owner gives you a free pastry to go with your coffee!  You never know when it will happen, but you will find yourself automatically and perpetually fist-pumping the air when it does!

Fast Food Delivery

Just when you thought fast food chains’ low prices and huge servings couldn’t get any more dangerous or tempting!  Almost all fast food chains deliver here in Korea!  With no additional charge, McDonald’s offers “McDelivery” to almost any location.  It doesn’t even have to be your apartment!  Taking a stroll through the park, you often see a family setting up the picnic blankets on the grass, waiting for the McDonald’s delivery bike to bring their feast.

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No Tipping

Last, but not least, is the total lack of tipping in Korea!  Although this aspect is not exclusive to the country, as an American, no tipping has made life a lot simpler.  Also, sales tax is built into the menu price.  So, what the menu says is what you pay, that simple.

What are some of your favorite service experiences from travels abroad?

Packing For Korea: Do’s & Don’ts

Having recently experienced the anxiety a move abroad can inspire, I thought it would be a good idea to pass on the wisdom I have gained in deciding what to pack for a successful 1+ year experience in Korea.  Hindsight is 20/20, and I hope this knowledge keeps your move from becoming a pull-your-hair-out experience.

The existence of Costco in many of Korea’s major cities can be a game-changer in your living experience, depending on your ability to access said store.  Click here to see a list of Costco locations in Korea.  The list below, however, doesn’t take into account what can be found in Costco.

If you have anything to add, please comment below!

BRING

Rain Jacket || Up until a year ago, I had never owned light-weight, water-proof outerwear.  Now, a week doesn’t go by where I don’t drag out my NorthFace Resolve Rain Jacket. It has rained a couple times every week this spring, and we aren’t even in Monsoon season yet.

Comfortable walking shoes || Let me just say this, girls: if you’re loosing sleep over which pair of heels to pack, or opting to forgo packing essentials so you can squeeze in those cute strappy wedges, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.  No judgment here, I packed my favorite pair of heeled booties, refusing to give up on the hope that I would get chances to wear them.  Now I regret not bringing the extra camping gear I left behind instead.  Although you won’t be called to give up every sense of fashion in your new life, you must keep in mind that you will be walking everywhere.  Like, EVERYWHERE.  And in all types of weather.  Also, keep in mind that you will be constantly pulling them off and on.  Korean households, and most traditional Korean restaurants, require you to leave your shoes at the door, as do all temples. Here are three pairs of go-to shoes that have made life in Asia easy:

Chacos || I shouldn’t even have to tell you.

Columbia Omni-Heat Insulated Pull On Boot || Waterproof.  Insulated.  Great tread. Easy to pull off and on.  Super warm and cozy.

Nike Free 4.0 Flyknit || Fit like a glove.  Crazy light-weight.  The only pair of shoes I own that don’t leave even the slightest tinge of ache at the end of a long day of site-seeing.

Slippers for work || I guess this could have gone with the list above, but I felt it was important enough to get its own bullet.  EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL I know of requires both students and teachers to keep a pair of shoes reserved solely for wearing inside school grounds.  Many schools have a closet full of “community” slippers, shared by the group of us fools who forget to bring our own to work.  So don’t be that guy who’s wearing stinky old used slippers.  Because I would like to maintain a look of professionalism and color coordination, I wear a pair of black Crocs ballet flats.

Jeans || Finding the perfect pair of jeans is hard enough in your home country.  So obviously, it becomes close to impossible in a foreign country.  Save yourself the grief and buy a pair or two extra to keep on hand.

Underwear || I’m not saying it’s impossible to find well-fitting bras, but the general consensus among expats is that this is not a battle worth fighting.  For larger women, it’s almost impossible. And for anyone else, it’s a practice in frustration.  Do yourself a favor and plan ahead.

Deodorant || You won’t be able to find any here.  I brought 5 sticks with me, praying it will be enough!

Feminine Hygiene Products || Tampons are few and far between.  When you do find them, they are crazy expensive, and come in tiny packs.  Pads are easy to find.

Makeup ||  I think the only issue here would be finding liquid and powder foundations to match your skin tone.  Bring a couple extra of your tried-and-true favorites with you!

Comfortable daypack || After teaching English to a herd of crazy students all week, you’re going to be aching for Friday afternoon when you can race to the train station and begin your weekend adventure.  Just make sure to bring a day pack that won’t leave your shoulders aching.  My North Face Big Shot is super spacious and comfortable, I wear it every day!

Power converters and adapters || Learn the difference between the two here.  Laptops and iPhones usually have a built in converter, and just need an adapter to function.  For almost every other Western-made gadget (electric razors, curling irons, hair dryers, etc.) a converter will be needed.

Sheets || This is one item that I failed to bring, and deeply regret.  Sheets in Korea are usually not 100% cotton, and are incredibly expensive. 

Full-sized bath towels || You won’t be able to find them anywhere in Korea.  The biggest they come are a hand-towell size.

LEAVE

Hair dryer & Curling Iron || Don’t waste your packing space!  Koreans dry their hair too, I found my hair dryer at my local grocery store for $13.  If you bring one from home, you must use a converter (see above).  The same can be said for curling irons, although they are a bit more expensive.  I found some inexpensive ones on Korea’s equivalent to Amazon: GMarket.

Toothpaste || This is a subject up for debate.  Almost everyone else will tell you to pack a year’s supply.  Although Korea offers a wide variety of toothpaste flavors that will leave you with eyebrows raised, they DO have a classic mint flavor.  It may not be as good as my beloved Crest 3D White Toothpaste, but it does the trick.  You can also find a few basic American brands if you look hard. 

Cooking Spices ||  I bought rosemary and a blend of Italian herbs at a major grocery store the other day.  I couldn’t find basil, nutmeg, or liquid vanilla.  Some avid cooks will tell you to not take chances and bring your own stock.  I say chance it, your odds of finding what you need are pretty good, and what you don’t find will force you to become a more creative cook.