Jan 212010

Korea Korea Korea
Korea and wedding photos

We had a more slow paced visit to Korea. The highlight was experiencing a Korean Wedding – congratulations to Kerey and Bora. Otherwise, lots of visiting, tea, and people watching.

The other new experience was trying out a common Korean pastime – spending half a day at Dragon Spa. It was a fun experience, once you got over the fact that you were the only forgiener in the place, and everyone was mildly staring. Staring is not an uncommon thing here, but a bit odd when you and everyone else are nude.

Jun 082009

Seoul, Korea Seoul, Korea Seoul, Korea
Photos of Seoul, Korea

2009.05.01-10 Seoul, Korea – Kerey and friends hosted us in Seoul for a bit over a week. I really enjoyed the city. In many ways it reminded me of the rest of Asia – white block apartment buildings, street markets, temples, and a rush to all things modern or western. In other ways, Korea stands very much apart from the the other parts of Asia I’ve visited – their alphabet, language, food, and culture are all very different. Seoul was very easy to travel in, thanks to the great transit system and a lot of English signs (though we did start to pick up some of the Hangul later). The people were all quite friendly, and as is usually the case in other countries, strangers loved the chance to try out their English words.

I’ll definitely miss the food. It was always easy to get something very fresh, healthy, and tasty. The other thing I enjoyed was an abundance of hikes. While I’m spoiled for easy access to the outdoors in San Diego, Seoul is no slouch. There is great mountain hiking just an hour away by bus from the center of the city. The parks, temples, and palaces within the city offer great walks and are free or cost next to nothing.  If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend visiting Korea. I found it to be a nice mix of easy travel, great food, and interesting people and sights.

May 172009

busan and gimhae busan and gimhae busan and gimhae
Photos of Busan and Gimhae, Korea

Colan and I rode the high speed KTX down to Busan to visit Mike in Gimhae and explore Busan. Much of the country seems to look the same due to identical apartment buildings, but the the smaller cities definitely had a different feel than Seoul. I can see the appeal. More trees, wider streets, and a bit less westernized. Highlights – Climbing Imhosan, crazy monks wanting photos at Heungbuam temple, hiking in Geumjeongsan, and sampling stews with Mike.

May 142009

Danyang Danyang Danyang
(View more photos of Danyang, Korea)

May 4th, 2009 – Bora and Kerey took us on a day trip to Danyang, in Chungcheongbuk-do. The trip consisted of a 3 hour train ride to the South East, and then a taxi and boat tour once we arrived. We first walked through Gosu cave. If you happen to be claustrophobic or obese, this is one stop you want to avoid. You end up being packed in tight tunnels with a lot of other people. The cave itself is interesting, lots of climbing and formations.

After the cave it was time for a quick Namhan river cruise. Danyang is know for its 8 wonders, mostly rock formations. We went by two of the 8 wonders during the boat ride, but I honestly had no idea until I researched more about the area later on. The boat ride was nice, other than stranding myself. Hahah. We docked and an announcement was made in english that the boat was at the dock for ten minutes, and then was returning back. I went to get a drink on board the ferry, but the shop was closed. Figuring I had at least 9 minutes left, I exited the ship and bought some drinks from a vendor. As I was getting my change I heard Kerey yelling from the ship. I turned to see out the shop window that the boat was leaving, not 10 feet away, and certainly not 10 minutes after the announcement. The ship was already too far to jump, but still close enough to talk. I asked one of the crew members if there was another way back and he replied there would be another boat in an hour. No worries, just a hassle.

Our cab driver/tour guide wasn’t too happy about the delay. He came barreling down the stairs from the top deck, yelling at the boat staff along the way. I couldn’t help but laugh, everyone was yelling except me at this point. Apparently he knew someone as the boat was now deciding to dock again. It bounced off the landing and I hopped on. Thankfully everyone seemed to keep in fairly good spirits about whitey missing the boat and referred to me as “troublemaker” for the rest of the ride.

After the boat ride we headed over to another of the 8 wonders, Sain-am, a wedge shaped rock and temple along the river. Our final stop we saw two more wonders, Dodam Sambong – three islands in the river, and Seongmun, a stone bridge formation. Tour complete we were dropped off at the train station where we got liquored up with a bowl of dongdongju (a sweet unfiltered rice wine) for the train ride home. Not a bad day.

May 062009

We are staying in Gimhae, a suburb of Busan. The KTX bullet train to Busan was fast and easy. The bus to Gimhae was not. On the plus side we started to learn a little Hangeul. Our conversations on the bus were mostly trying to figure out if we were going the right way based on the characters. We were, but only managed to figure out a small portion of the stops before the bus pulled away.

May 022009

I’ve been in Seoul for three days. Kerey has been a great guide so far, I feel like we have explored a good chunk of the city. First impressions of Seoul – Parts are much like the rest of Asia, quick buildings and street markets. Some parts feel quite western with malls and the same chain stores. Others feel modern but distintly Asian. The city and traffic can be a bit opressive, but gardens, palaces, and hiking are a quick subway ride away.

The food here has been very good and fairly cheap. Most seems to be pretty heathly as well. I’ve been drinking more tea than water, the vending machines here are making a fortune off Colan and I.

The timing of our visit has been good, Buddha’s birthday and the Hi Seoul festival have made for some great exploring and people watching. Being a minority in a lot of places you are usually people watched right back. Occasionally people with talk with you to practice their english (and finish their homework) or sneak a photo, but most of the time you just catch a lot of people checking you out.

We head out to the east today, I’m excitied to see what Korea is like outside the big cities.