Top 10 Travel Photos of 2014 #9

2014 was my most traveled year yet.  I had the good fortune to bring in the New Year in the Philippines before returning to my job in South Korea.  Summer vacation was spent backpacking Vietnam and Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) brought me to Japan.  I ventured to Shanghai before heading back to America for the end of the year holidays and all along these crazy adventures my camera followed me.  Tens of thousands of pictures were narrowed down to roughly 30 finalists before I selected my top 10 travel photos of 2014!

#9 comes to you from the top of Namsan Tower in the heart of Seoul, South Korea.  I had the good fortune of visiting this tower with my students on a field trip touring famous sites around Seoul.

_DSC1508Check out #10 here!

Check out #8 here!

 

Philae has landed!

You may know I’m a nerd.  You might not but that doesn’t change the fact that weird sciencey things intrigue me.  Perhaps you’ve seen it in the news recently.  The European Space Agency (ESA) just landed a probe on a comet.  67p/churyumov-gerasimenko (a uniquely unmemorable name) looks slightly like a duck or perhaps a swan but either way its the crowning achievement of the ESA and they deserve all of the commendation they are getting (and more!).

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Philae’s “selfie” as it descends to 67p (about 3km away)

2 months ago Philae was a nobody.  11 months ago you might have started to hear “Rosetta” in the mainstream media as it awoke from a 3 year hibernation getting ready to make final maneuvers.  In August, Rosetta’s fame reached its peak and may even have become a household name when had finally reached its goal.  Rosetta’s 10 year journey was over and Philae was about to steal the spotlight!

Its crazy to think that 10 years ago I was scouring the internet from my dad’s computer.  The ESA announced a mission to send a probe to land on a comet.  The first of many hurdles was delayed by mother nature and the launch took place a few weeks behind schedule.  Every space mission is complex and with unique variables and thousands of chances for everything to go horribly wrong.  Even R&D training missions can be catastrophic (as we just learned with SpaceX’s August explosion & Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo’s tragic crash) so it made sense to make safety the number 1 priority.

The fact that Rosetta successfully reached and orbited 67p is a huge achievement  A milestone in space exploration that opened the door for an even crazier mission.  Philae’s landing!  Last week in anticipation of Philae’s landing attempt I showed my students this video.

The landing had practically infinite chances for failure and at one point the world stood in silence.  A tweet went out that Philae’s harpoons failed to deploy.  It was speculated that Philae bounced off the asteroid after being unable to latch on.  Hours of nervous waiting crawled by and mixed media reviews said that Philae landed while others reported solely on the harpoon malfunction when suddenly this picture began surfacing!

Philae's Touchdown!

Philae’s Touchdown!

Philae made it!  We may or may not find out the exact circumstances of the landing but tomorrow I’ll happily show them this picture and we’ll give a little cheer for the ESA’s success.  With any luck they’ll be as curious as me and start asking questions that I won’t know the answers to!  Things like “what will we find on 67p/churyumov-gerasimenko?” and “are there aliens there?”

Many space enthusiasts are hopeful for the prospect of the building blocks of life or some new element.  For me the exciting part is that we did it.  The bar has been set; the world knows that comets and potentially asteroids are within our grasp.  I can’t wait to see how the future unfolds and what we continue discover as my students grow into scientists and experts who answer new questions and seek out crazy new adventures!

 

4th grade overnight field trip to Gongju – Buyeo

Field trips are great.  They can be exhausting for students and teachers alike but its a welcome reprieve from the classroom and an exciting opportunity to see a different side of each other.  Last week we embarked on a 3 hour bus trip to Gongju for my first overnight field trip as a teacher.  Each of 4-36 student classes had 2 tour guides, an English teacher and Korean counterpart to chaperone.

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After arriving and eating lunch we stopped at historic sites and Korean bounced off my ears in a complete lack of understanding the significance of the region.  At least it was a gorgeous fall day!

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Next up was a series of museums and a revitalized Korean palace where I took out my camera.  I was excited to snap some potential panoramas to play with on a recently downloaded editing program.  Click away for some stunning panoramas shots of Baekje’s history UNESCO palace.

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Baekje Palace Panorama

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Busan with Seoul Hiking Group – Yonggungsa Temple

Last week I jumped a midnight bus with Seoul Hiking Group and went to Busan for my first time!  Busan is famous for being a wonderful beach town and also historically important since it was the last stronghold the South had before international (aka USA) forces arrived.  Even though the weather was overcast with spots of rain we still had a blast!

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Arriving at 5am we were dead tired and began our mini-vacation with a nap on Haeundae Beach.  Once everyone was settled we could go our separate ways but I opted to stay with Warren and a small group headed for the Yonggungsa Temple._DSC4662 _DSC4659

Approaching the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple we are greeted with an array of authentic Korean food and goods.  Everything from silk worm larvae to ginger root with buddhas in all shapes and sizes among vast quantities of jewelry and knicknacks lines the narrow paved path.  Eventually the vendors are replaced with stoic guardians from the Chinese Zodiac before we pass through a golden gate.

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Soon we can hear the rolling waves of the magnificent Pacific Ocean when all at once the canopy clears and staring right back at you is the Yonggusngsa Temple.  The ocean’s melody brings in a calming feeling even before Buddhist shrines and prayers provide an aura of peace for everyone present.

 

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We relaxed at the temple for a little over an hour before jumping back in the bus and checking into our hostel.  We took a quick shower/nap break before heading to the famous fish market!  Strolling through the fish market can be overwhelming; and I’m not just talking about the half delicious, half ocean, half dead fish smell.  But those pictures are still under development so you’ll have to check back next time!

 

Night hiking Inwangsan

Inwangsan, the destination for Seoul Hiking Group’s latest night hike, boasts one of the best views in all of Seoul!  From the top you can see Gyeongbukgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and the Blue House (president’s house).  We met at Dongnimnum station and were immediately greeted by a crescent moon!

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Hiking to the top went smoothly.  We followed an ancient wall taking frequent breaks to take in the view below!

_DSC2172 _DSC2185Nearing the top we saw frequent “No Photos” signs with regular guard towers.  This view was overlooking the president’s house after all!  I was able to secretly snap a few of the cityscape below.  The massive shadowed square with a few temple like structures is Gyeongbukgung Palace.  Behind it, Changdeokgung’s massive shadow sits adjacent to my new apartment!_DSC2199 _DSC2202 _DSC2207

The walk down brought us through a wonderful wooded path.  This quick hike only took about 2 hours so most of us decided to grab a 7-11 beer before parting ways.  Brian and I decided to walk home from there and were rewarded with some amazing night shots of Seoul’s famous palaces!

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

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Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Gyeongbukgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Changdeokgung Palace main gate

Seoul at night

Seoul at night