A Travellerspoint blog

Mount Dooom!!...

If Hobbits can climb Mount Doom, surely I can do Mount Daecheonbong!!!

If you have seen lord of the rings then you may be aware of the huge mountain they climb and the snow peaks they cross to get there, seemed all easy huh!...Well im here to tell you it was all FAKE! It's not like that at all! Not once did I have inspiring music or the friendly hand of a elf to help me along...but we did see a mountain ninja large_Mount_Daec..ong_039.jpg

I'm not exactly sure why we decided to climb a mountain and it was a question I asked myself many times on the ascent...over...and over...and over again....

But I speak ahead of myself... from where we last left off I was in deep with zen buddhism. Literally just outside the temple grounds we founds a store selling what ended up being the best meal I've had in Korea, it also sold groceries. It looked to be three generations working the store, It's kind of cool for the child to be able to play with her grandmother and parent all day.korea_005.jpg They even had entertainment, in the form of the cutest kid ever! (You can probably see her in the big picture poseing haha) korea_006.jpg She was very proud of her noise making, light flashing hotrod of an automobile. korea_003.jpg

We then catch the bus to Deaugu for a transfer to Sokcho the next day. The only thing of interest I see is the delicious food displays in the store windows. korea_025.jpg
By the time we get to the main terminal in Daegu the next day we have an hour to kill so we search for an ATM as we thought there might not be many in the mountains. Now somehow during my travels I've accumulated more weight and size to where people point and laugh (Paul included) I have to agree, something needs to be done...korea_031.jpg We allready had one close call of what BBS (Big Bag Syndrome) can do to someone, luckily I was there to help him up but he could of starved before being able to get up again..korea_035.jpg Finally we board, it takes only 5 hours and costs like $16.

In time reach snow and have a stop off, the bus is really comfortable. korea_045.jpg
We plan to stay in Osaek on the south side of the mountain, where it is known for its natural hot spring spas. We had thought the place right next to the main city (Sokcho) that we would arrive at but later found out in the taxi that it was 40 minutes away! Happily the taxi driver asked if we like K-pop or Abba and put the mini TV on. This was going to cost us. You see the website for the place we chose was all in Korean (We had the hostel previous call them) so all we had was some paper with Korean on it to show a taxi driver and nothing else.
Arriving quite late we were greeted by an excited lady who was great, the room was traditional (sleep on floor which is heated) with a TV and its own bath/spa! Its amazing what things excite you. Every time I went even close to the exit the owner was on me asking if I'm going for food and that a store she knows is "#1" ! Having previously spied a shop that had a beef sign earlier I said I'm just going for a walk and found the shop closed. Thinking that a recommendation is better than random I head back and ask where the shop is and head off. One over priced meal later and I'm wise to the way things work here, we went to another hotel next to this one which also had a "#1" place to recommend. We survived on rice and tuna the rest of the time...

So the reason we were there as I mentioned was the Seoraksan National Park. korea_mountain_015.jpg We decided that before the tallest peak we should check out a smaller day trek to Ulsanbawi peak. I was excited by even the views from the ground heading in korea_mountain_020.jpg and a few suprises like a huge metal Buddha..who knew and also a temple which the photos don't do justice with the mountain backdrop covered in snow..korea_mountain_028.jpgkorea_mountain_035.jpgkorea_mountain_045.jpg
Along the way we came across a wild boar. korea_mountain_060.jpg Cleets were needed to reach the peak which fortunately I bought at the base. They just attach to the foot over the shoe..korea_mountain_071.jpg The story of Ulsan Bawi ..large_korea_mountain_088.jpg
It was a pretty easy trek as in that there was stairs provided for most of it, which are needed as you can see here...korea_mountain_094.jpgkorea_mountain_108.jpg Getting some height..korea_mountain_097.jpgkorea_mountain_104.jpgkorea_mountain_111.jpg Mountain treking is serious business. korea_mountain_119.jpg
THE PEAK!
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So one down and Daecheongbong to go! The plan was to trek from the other side of the mountain range to the peak, stay at a shelter near the peak then travel down the next day to Osaek. The first part of the trek taking 8hrs and then down the next day 4hrs. We finally decided that 8hrs of what would probably be below par scenery than Usanbawi was not worth it and a shorter but steeper route from Osaek base would be better and still stay up at the shelter over night. Happy with the previous climb I felt I could climb any mountain.
So we let the rangers know where we are going. (We had left our baggage with a hotel we were coming back too the next day so we could travel light). Stocked up on rice, tuna and a can of peaches with a shitload of junkfood for energy we trek off.

The trekking becomes very hard very quickly, it's nothing like the trek yesterday and I wonder what I have got myself into, I have my cleets on and there is a mixture of rock and ice. So on rock it is slippery and ice I need them or I'll slip, so it's a catch 22. The stone steps seem to go on forever and the cleets make it hard work, perhaps saying steps is a bit of a stretch, maybe randomly placed rocks better suites. So the rocks finish and then it keeps the same steep ascent but now it's snow and ice, it's not much of an improvement. Our idle chatter slowly diminished to grunts of dispair especially when you cross the point of it's going to be quicker to continue than head back as we kinda left late, leaving not alot of time to travel before dark...we did not want to get stuck out here after dark. Even in the daylight with the wind the tracks got covered up with snow in no time. If you left the track quickly you fell into deep snow. So we travelled up near vertical hills of ice and snow scrambling up and sliding back down. We did have one stop off and ate some food, some nuts in a can and a drink and chocolate. Paul looked at his can of peaches fondly he was talking about them with a crazy fervour that they would be a triumphant feast for the shelter. It was hard to move along again and the wind was picking up in strength the higher we went up. Finally after %hrs of non stop hell we reached the peak, it was around 6pm and the sun was setting over the mountains, quite scenic really but we did'nt care. We had become slaves to our primal needs of warmth and automated we put one foot infront of the other knowing that there was still a slog to the shelter past the peak. Buuut we made the effort and quickly got in some snaps. So before the pictures I want you to know that it is like -20 degrees (My scarf is frozen solid by the moisture in my breath and i have icicles on my eye lashes) at the peak with gale force winds, I am really trying to hold onto the rock for stability. It's amazing as the photo just shows a nice sunny day lol large_Mount_Daec..ong_044.jpg after our shots we see on the otherside salvation, Paul does'nt waste time (bottom right). Mount_Daec..ong_055.jpg But I hold him up for one more shot i reckon will look good, he does the botox smile as his face is frozen..hahaMount_Daec..ong_059.jpg

So 5.5hrs, 5.6 kms and a height of 1708 Metres.

Arriving to the shelter Paul is allready ordering blankets (He ran ahead energzed of the idea of warmth, his fingers were numb) I have everyone look at me and laugh...I'm not sure why and probably never will but I did'nt care at all as I was in shelter! I think my face was really red and I looked like death itself perhaps. As I warm up I notice that the shelter provides food, the menu is short including rice and tuna, the very things we carted up there! aaannndd to my amusement they also sell canned peaches! haha this exotic can that Paul had used as a source of inspiration all the way up, quite funny.

The morning after is an early rise and it was quite special staying there over night with it so cold outside hearing the winds. If you wanted to go to the toilet it was outside in the cold! Mount_Daec..ong_070.jpg I take a couple pics before the descent. Mount_Daec..ong_075.jpgMount_Daec..ong_080.jpgMount_Daec..ong_085.jpg The way down was infinitely more fun.. Mount_Daec..ong_099.jpg

We take only 3.5 hrs to get down. We stay the night and head out the next morning to Seoul. We race for the bus and it's quite cheap again. I think the price was reduced for the probability of the bus carrering over the edge of a cliff. I may not mentioned this before but Korean bus drivers are CRAZY!!!!! The busses are really powerful for some reason and the bus drivers think they are in a rally car, then add that to winding mountain roads...I still feel you dont understand how fast these guys go, it must be experienced. Somehow I think this may pale in bus trips to come but I expect them to be just slow and dangerous maybe?!?... Anyhow now I'm at Seoul hanging out waiting for my visa news, I'll be here a while. I have found a good hostel, very homely.

Ciao for now.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 03:48 Archived in South Korea Tagged trek mountain summit korea peak korean seoraksan Comments (3)

Kings to Monks

Gyeong-ju, once capital to the Silla Kingdom.

4 °C

Entering into Gyeongju I start to realise that the place is quite sprawled out as different temples are named and directions pointed by our makeshift guide and we are not event there yet. There will be alot of traveling.
Now like us your most likely expecting a city with such a strong historical background to look all olden traditional style huh? Well, like me you would be disappointed, no cool looking areas lost in the ages to see here. It seems that its just a boring looking, not so up market town/city.
Being dropped off out our hostel we head up and get our rooms, passports are asked for so we supply the photocopies we have...nothing is questioned. After staying in our last hostel it has done us a disfavour as we are now used to a luxurious level of service/facilities, it is not long untill we are comparing the two with the current hostel not fareing well. The beds seem ok but the mindset of cleaning the urinal is to just throw on more soap cakes and the toilet has a big puddle right whre your feet are that was not cleaned the stay there nor probably before we had come. The staff are young and promote a "party" every night, maybe twice/three times a week but everynight?! Anyhow it is more of a lets drink and be bored with other people kind of thing, I'm glad that I wait till the last night.

Keen to see all the sites Gyeongju has to offer we ask what can we see and we have enough time to visit the main King Tombs that are pretty much just down the street. The kings in question are from the Silla Kingdom, one of the three kingdoms that Korea had and also the kingdom that conquered the rest becoming the first dynasty which reigned for near on 1000 years. The tombs that we see are not that impressive but it could of been the mood of the day but the fact of the tombs being dated as far back as the 5-6th century was not lost to me. I was not supposed to take a picture of the excavated Kings regalia but it needed to be seen.large_IMG_8441.jpgIMG_8440.jpgIMG_8437-1.jpg270_IMG_8465.jpgIMG_8478-1.jpgDo you think the bird will pull up in time?!!?IMG_8446.jpgIMG_8486.jpg Its a strange thing in Korea, the dead a buried in mounds. Seems kinda normal now but at first this bothered me. I guess it was because I was walking within arms reach of them (literally, if one decided to pop his arm out!)..something I usually dont have to think of back in Australia. The next day was to be the Bulguksa Temple then the Seokguram grotto both built in the 7th century. Some photos of course...large_IMG_8574.jpgIMG_8580.jpgIMG_8504.jpg270_IMG_8534.jpg We came across a little golden statue of a pig, which is said that when you give it a little rub you get good fortune to create a fortune 270_IMG_8564.jpg...I indulged with a bit of polishing..IMG_8567.jpg Though I think Paul had different ideas...270_IMG_8566.jpg Further in we found a cool area that had all these piles of what looked like stone pagoda's..IMG_8557.jpgIMG_8547.jpg Carefully I picked up stones of fallen pogoda's, explained that fallen ones were ok as they are a mercy giving from the person who made the pagoda's the stone was from...here is my masterpiece..IMG_8554.jpg With all this good luck going on I'm sure to be rich when I get back!
The grotto was quite beautiful but I was not allowed to take a picture :(
The next day we hiked up the Namsen Mountain coming across numerous carvings of Buddha that date well past 1500 years ago ( I have photos which I will upload for Namsen later), it was quite nice and had some good views.

Back at the hostel we had been speaking with an American guy we met that had just came back from a temple stay about an hours drive from Gyeongju, it sounded right up our alley oozeing cultural experience! We had the hostel book our stay for two nights by phone as we researched the place, information was scarce though what we did hit was not painting a pretty picture. On one blog we read the guy had been preparing for the temple for six years doing martial arts and excercise, yoga etc. Another blog tells of a woman being absoluetly exhausted and in pain after her stay. Hmmm had we made the right descision here?! Well in final agreement of nothing ventured, nothing gained we set out...... (ready to sneak out in the middle of the night if nescessary)...
For some reason I had envisioned one big temple building but it was a huge grounds climbing a side of the base of a mountain. The temple was very old, some say the oldest in Korea of its kind with a Buddha carving dating back to the 6th century! The first thing we had to do is look and sign off on the rules...this included that if you missed morning chanting you were then subject to 3000 bows. Now I'm not talking bending your back to a 90 degree angle. I'm talking down to you knees, head to floor, palms down then up then standing..that's one. It takes about nine hours if your fast and don't stop :) We also got some funky pants and a what looked to be McDonalds vest.
So lunch was the first thing on the schedule. Gear on we walked to the dining building (its very steep and actually gets you puffing). I knew going in that it was going to be vegitarian, this could be the hardest part ha...though suprisingly I really enjoyed the food it was great tasteing and I think the best part was that I had no fear of there being any fish involoved in someway. When you eat here you serve your own food almost like the army and what you serve yourself you must eat, there is no waste! We see monks and other travellers, next is Sunmudo training.
Sunmudo is a martial arts of the Koreans from the days of the Japanese occupation. It was taught to the Korean militia who would hide out in the temples. Ive done martial arts before in Oz and it was much of a muchness but im sure a toned down version to what the actual monks do but it was enough for me (and my ribs)! After training it was off to bed as it was allready 9.30pm and lights out at 10pm, seems early huh but we realised why as we looked at tomorrows schedule....morning chanting was to start at 4am. Alarms set I did NOT want to do 3000 bows we got up in freezing cold dark of early morning. gear on we made haste up the long long path (There was also a chanting monk with a wooden intrument that was going the length of the temple grounds, I guess some kind of monk alarm). The chanting was very cool and all cermonial, though I'm a TOURIST and I will not miss my photo opportunity even if it is the most religiously significant part of the day for a monk who devoted his whole life to Buddhism. I think it was worth it...large_IMG_9190.jpgIMG_9193.jpg This was followed by meditation, I really tried to not think of anything but all i could do is go to one thought....WHEN THE FUCK CAN I STRETCH MY LEGS!!
We were feeling a bit nervous on the next part as it was a ceremonial meal and we had been shown quickly once what to do :/ Monks lined the hall as did we all further down from them everyone facing each other from the wall crosslegged. Ok, im going to take you through what I had to take in in one quick tutorial.
Recieve Bowls (bowls fit into each other) with lid and two cloth pieces on top, place at right knee.
Lay cloth out infront, be sure longest length being wide.
Move bowls to middle, remove lid and cloth place at right knee. Place bowls at bottom left corner of cloth.
Remove first bowl with thumbs on either inner side as to not make noise and place at top left corner.
Do again for next bowl and place at top right corner, and the last at bottom right.
Remove the chopsticks and spoon from the last cloth piece holding them and place them in the top right bowl. Spoon must be closest to you.
Hold out bottom left bowl to recieve rice portion, it is at this point you can ask for more or return some.
When the soup arrives to be served the bottom right bowl must be brought under the laddel in a scoop motion to stop drips.
When the water arrives this is put into the top right bowl, you MUST twist the bowl when you want the monk to stop or he WILL keep pouring even if it overflows.
Food is laid out in trays full of condements along with the traditional Korean food Kimchi. (This is where I find out it is not pork soup but cabbage with a red kind of sauce paste, it is quite spicy hot with a sour tang. Kimchi is served with EVERY Korean meal). Im must take at least one piece of kimchi as it is an integral part of the cermony later on (I'm stressing out as at this point im confused as to which is Kimchi..I use deduction). The Kimchi and other assorted Veggies are put into the top left bowl.
Once everyone is served and ready the grandmaster begins the cermony with a clap of wood. (no one has been speaking this whole time, the cermony is also a food meditation which requires silence and inner reflection).
Pre warned I eat fast and glad for it as there is not to much time given. The correct way to eat is to not have the person opposite you see you take a bite, so if you can see yourself in the reflection of the bowl your doing well. The kimchi is supposed to be cleaned in the soup (or was it the clean water??) then placed in the side of the rice bowl to be used later as a scrubbing tool for the bowls.
When food is eaten and you are finished you place the chopsticks and spoon in the soup bowl with chopsticks further away and sit.
The main monk decides when enough have finished and claps the stick again. As soon as this is done this means it's cleaning time.
You place the sticks and spoon in the bowl with water and scrub with your hands then return to the cloth.
You then pour that water used into the next bowl in the top left and scrub using your hands and so on untill the last bowl in which you pour with the Kimchi stuck on its side.
Then you drink the water.
Soon a monk comes and offers you water which gets poured into the bowl with the Kimchi in it, you must put your left hand around your right wrist when you want the monk to stop pouring.
You use the Kimchi with your chopsticks to scrub the bowls clean go back through the order we just came, now you had best made sure you ate every last granule of food as when the monk next comes, he has a bucket and you are to pour the water from the last bowl into the bucket (on the wall mind you to prevent bad sounds), now you MUST NOT allow any food to pass from your bowl into the bucket as the grandmaster will inspect the bucket and if there is ANY food in there the bucket is then poured out for everyone to drink (now you can stop pouring before the food passes to the bucket but you must drink/eat that water).
Now the cloth is used to systematically go back and dry the bowls and utensils and all is packed as it was...DONE! So I'll tell you all that in a few minutes and then have you do it with the threat of having your head round house kicked off!

The next day we pretty much went through the same motions but we had a little treat of a tea and conversation time with a monk. Me and Paul eagerly started working on a list of questions.

1. Do you know what I'm thinking right now?
2. Have you ever slayed a dragon?
3. What about now?...
4. Do you think a boy will ever be born that will swim faster than a shark?
5. Are you really just thinking about stretching your legs too when your meditating?
6. How bout... NOW?!
Unfortunately we did'nt get to ask all these questions as people asked questions about enlightenment and finding ones self which he babbled on for quite a while about. Though I did get out of him that he did have to do 3000 bows and it took him 3 days with a trip to the hospital in the middle for a gaul stone I think or a Hernia, then he was back it when he got back.
Finally we left the Golgulsa Temple feeling well enlightened and honed death machines!
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I was also privy to a dance from a woman who may be a nun, I'm not sure but she was amazing to watch.
(More pictures will be uploaded of monks and such, need wifi to do so)
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Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:15 Archived in South Korea Tagged tombs dancing monks korea kings gyeongju sunmudo Comments (0)

Visas, Octopus and 5* Hostels

Busan

So...I'm in South Korea.
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You know, its only dawning on me now that I really didn't believe I'd even leave Australia. Its funny when you get times you think you haven't left, like watching a movie or strangely shopping. I have moments in shops when the layout is just the same as home with the packaging etc. Then I lean in to read and its all foreign, oh yeah...I'm in Korea!

I haven't seen any real worry about North Korea and its current political situation. Actually I was speaking with someone who told me that there was a survey done on South Korean students asking them to list countries that most threaten South Korea, North Korea was 5th on this list. The relationship has been summed up as this, North Korea is the drug addicted brother who you hope will someday get clean.

The ferry was quite good and smooth over to Busan, though their choice of movie could of been a bit more thought out. It was Korean so I had no idea what they were saying but for some reason there was a lot of vomiting...which, on the sea, you don't want to be watching as a distraction ....to throwing up....here are some pics IMG_8031.jpgIMG_8033.jpg

Arriving after three hours on the ferry we enter the port of Busan on the southern tip of Korea.
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Paul the English lad I'll be travelling with for China and India and well anywhere we choose to go to had all ready gone and was at a hostel recommended to us, he'd informed me that it was good and should come. Straight off the ferry I see a "Tourist Information Desk" GREAT! I like it, right at the door. So I head over and ask for a map.....this is what I get, ever wonder why there haven't been any more "Where's Wally" books? He's been doing tourist maps for Korea!IMG_8865.jpg So this perplexed me for a long time and I would take cheap stabs at whoever in government authorised such foolery! It wasn't until later did understanding come....here is a picture of a map in the same place I saw in the museum..IMG_8223.jpg knowing now that it was actually a "Traditionally Korean" map makes it a cultural experience!

So, with no help from my map I make it to the subway and on the train to what I think is my station and then to the hostel. I'm so focused on getting to the hostel I'm not noticing the differences from Japan, to which I have grown fondly accustomed. Finally I make it to the new hostel.
Its great! The pictures on the website are what you get in person. It is brand new and unsoiled by the casual abandon of the weary traveller. I'm greeted by an excited Korean lady who ushers me in, shoes are off and slippers on...they have large sizes that fit, this excites me. The hostel is on the 7th floor by the harbour, a large balcony accessible from the bar/lounge area. IMG_8160.jpgIMG_8049.jpgIMG_8066.jpg At night..IMG_8196.jpg270_IMG_8195.jpg

First day I meet with Paul we decide to have a roam about as the place is buzzing with activity, much different from Japan I hear horns beeped, people push past you and cars nearly run you over. And there is ...rubbish in the streets, something I haven't seen since....umm Australia..haha. Though, to my frustration still no bins! The hostel is right above the Jalmachi Fish Market and I mean literally. Its the first floor and all surrounding. Here are some pics of my roaming...IMG_8174.jpgIMG_8154.jpg270_IMG_8126.jpg270_IMG_8135.jpg270_IMG_8131.jpg270_IMG_8138.jpg270_IMG_8122.jpgIMG_8080.jpgIMG_8084.jpg270_IMG_8149.jpg270_IMG_8118.jpg270_IMG_8087.jpgIMG_8088-1.jpgIMG_8095-1.jpg
You could even get some Nike's and fish, so convenient..270_IMG_8111.jpg Over the balcony there's a big haul..270_IMG_8057.jpg
By now your thinking "Yeah, there is fish, there is Nike's but where's the entertainment?". I'm glad you asked, because a fish market is not a fish market with out a live Korean Mexican Folk singer 270_IMG_8164.jpg
So a lot of my time in Busan has been spent on working out how to get a visa to China. It turns out that you need to be a Chinese national or have an arc card (card saying your able to work in Korea) with six months on it still to get a visa from Korea. So me and Paul have ended up sending our passports home to have family members get our visas in our own country (Thanks heaps guys!xo) I'm going to try and get a Indian one done also to save hassle later.
I'm missing the Japanese vending machines and getting food to eat in Korea is harder as it mostly has fish involved somehow. Though there is a type of restaurant that meets my needs which is the Korean barbecue where you get given all this meat that you cook yourself on a stove built into the table, plus some vegetable extras etc The other places I have lived on is the Paris Baguette bakery franchise, McDonalds. One night we decided to go and try a shop that sold Kim Chi, a traditional food for Koreans. I was told it is a pork soup which ticked the box so off I went, I should mention that me and paul were convinced by another traveller named Jerry. A fella originally from Singapore living in Perth. He was an absolute crackup. Anyhow we went to find Kim Chi and ended up looking thru places we thought were it but ended up being karaoke rooms...again anyhow... we started just walking down a street, well, alley to find another place convinced by Jerry's enthusiasm (Though we were not that enthused as our pot luck shots at places to eat had not turned out so well in the past). As we headed down the alley looking at people eating looking for any sign of what they serve a woman comes out and ushers us to come and eat at her place. Jerry assures us that we will be able to get chicken/beef here, hungry and tired we agree. After we enter in we try to communicate and order but are not to sure she understands, well actually positive she doesn't but its to late now we are seated. Jerry speaks with her and assures us that its chicken, which makes things better. He doesn't know Korean but is familiar with the cuisine.
We sit down and realise the seats are heated, well they have electric blankets covering them (ingenious!), I should mention that pretty much everywhere in Korea you have heated floors! They are the best thing ever, seriously think this should be adopted in Australia. So we sit and watch the preparation that goes on in front of us. A hot plate is brought out and it looks like its going to be Korean style barbecue. The meat looks like chicken wen I glance at it, to assure myself I ask Jerry again who confirms that it is. Soon Paul starts making faces to me exclaiming his doubt that it is chicken as he can see the preparation. I refuse to look (Ignorance can be bliss) and order beer and soju (Korean rice wine) as I realise I'm going to need to have something to wash this down. We have an array of dishes laid out before us, as usual .....and I have no idea what to do with any of them, as usual. Though that's not what has my attention, the lady starts putting ...stuff...on the hotplate which now even through my buffer of ignorance I cannot believe is chicken. But hey I'm in Korea and really why come if your not going to give things a go, so I dig in. Its chewy and mushy, sometimes crispy. Finally the meal ends and after funny conversations with my limited Korean we leave for the hostel. We finally get what the meal was out of Jerry, He happily exclaims that we just ate intestine and heart, he seems quite proud of himself.
It seems the more I tell people I don't like fish the more they order it and I feel compelled to eat it. So in the end I have eaten snail, squid, sushi with wasabi (quite like wasabi and sushi), heart, octopus and an assortment t of fish....so much for not eating or liking seafood. Though my hat goes off to the American that was staying at the hostel who ate the head off an octopus live from the market from the tub!

The next day we thought that we had not seen much of Busan so we decided to be real touristy and take the sightseeing bus. The first stop was the U.N. Memorial. I don't know why but memorials for war and such things always get me a bit emotional. After last nights meal we decided that the pizza store we saw on the way would be a good choice, though we couldn't eat it there we had to do it in real Vagabond style. ALIM0459-2.jpg Here are some pics..large_IMG_8285.jpg270_IMG_8296.jpg270_IMG_8280.jpgIMG_8262-1.jpgIMG_8272.jpg270_IMG_8270.jpgIMG_8302.jpgIMG_8306.jpg270_IMG_8260.jpg

Finally free of the visa issues, we plan our next stop. It looks to be Gyeongju. The ancient capital of the Sills kingdom, with king tombs and carvings dating back at least to sixth century. The hostel owners knowing its our last night give us free drinks and Jerry orders a sushi and squid fish banquet, he really gets a kick out of seeing me eat fish and squid. Here is a pic of us all (That's Jerry on the far right) ...DSC01246.jpg
The hostel owner hears where we are heading a d offers us a lift as he is dropping off his son half way there, we eagerly, I mean humbly accept. The owner will not take payment and shouts us lunch, fish hot dog..great...I can't refuse...
We are nearly at Gyeongju when he tells us of a temple we must see, Tongdosa as it is the largest in Korea, he offers to take us to have a quick look. Again we eag..humbly accept. Apon getting to the temple it is the best thing we have seen in Korea yet and whip out the cameras. 270_IMG_8384.jpgIMG_8382.jpgIMG_8391-1.jpgIMG_8401.jpg270_IMG_8407.jpgIMG_8410.jpg270_IMG_8413.jpgIMG_8426.jpg270_IMG_8429.jpgIMG_8432.jpg
As we exit our host yells out to a monk past the no entry area, they seem to know each other! Greetings ensue and the monk invites us in to his room for tea and chat, we couldn't believe our luck! All giddy we sit as the monk prepares tea for us with the expected precision of a honed weapon. We drink a strange tea which we find out is made from a large variety of herbs and a special herb gathered in a secret area of the mountain, it takes a week to make the tea...this excites me more. Now we need to go but the monk gives us some presents on our way out and a picture opp. IMG_8431.jpg
So onwards to to Gyeongju! Which will be updated soon with a stay in the ancient sunmudo temple of Golgulsa training and living with the monks :)

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 05:03 Archived in South Korea Tagged fish market hostel octopus gyeongju busan Comments (0)

Kyoto to Osaka with a dash to Fukuoka City

Golden temples and night time jaunts

So I had to check out this Golden pavilion for myself and I must say it is quite the sight, I hope my photos do it justice...
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My plan was to hit the pavilion and then walk down to ashiyama where I had been told was alot of monkeys roaming about you can feed n stuff so i head in the direction knowing its going to be a little bit of a walk but there are lots of temples along the way. So I'm walking down the street and Bam! This pops out of no where! IMG_7302.jpg I head up the stairs and meet these fellaz guarding the entry and I aint wearing a collar, but i get in. 270_IMG_7234.jpg270_IMG_7233.jpg So I check it out and its free! Here's some pics of the inner grounds.. 270_IMG_7298.jpgIMG_7272.jpg270_IMG_7257.jpgIMG_7280.jpg270_IMG_7293.jpgIMG_7291.jpg So after that I continue down the street confident that this street will take me most of the way to where I want to go, gradually I start to realise that I'm lost but lets not have that stop a photo opp. Here is a waterfall in just behind some houses on a street with a shrine, why not ..270_IMG_7308.jpg Here's a picture of suburbia in Japan IMG_7311.jpg

I finally give up and wave down a taxi, I'm glad I did because I was waaaay off. I point to the monkey picture on the sightseeing map and name ashiyama, he seems to understand and drops me off pointing down the road. Excited to see the monkeys I head off down the side of the river hoping to make it in time as the day has moved on to about 4pm. I was told it was a bit of a hike so I persist on along the riverside finally coming across a sign saying temple with view and I ask a guy about monkeys and I point ahead and he nods urging me on. I was told there was a shrine of sorts as well so i climb the shoddy stairwell deep into the forested mountain IMG_7368.jpg I finally come to a crest and see a one armed monkey and an old Japanese man having a tug of war with some food. He notices me and walks to the shoebox which says 300 yen on it, sure I was also told there was a shrine fee...though this did look a bit shabby compared to what I'm used too IMG_7381.jpg he ushers me to the shack entrance and that I can enter and gives me a handout on meditation and buddism but I came for monkeys and am not interested handing his leaflet back I exclaim "Monkeys?" He seems a little perplexed then points to the one armed monkey now enjoying the forgotten food and says "Monkey" IMG_7371.jpg I was told there was up to 100 of these critters! I've walked ages just to see a shack in the woods and a one armed monkey! If that's the case then I'm going to definately get my moneys worth and meditate (somehow I think this frame of mind defeats the purpose)! I sat, got bored then took a picture of the view that was mentioned..IMG_7377.jpg. On the way out there is a big bell, usually I don't do the bells but after seeing that it was free and you get 3 gongs (technically 100yen per gong if you ask me but hey) added with the quiet serenity of the place to shatter I indulged. IMG_7385.jpg

Down I head thinking surely I had missed a turn off, the river was quite nice with the lighting which I would not of got had I not came so at least that was nice.. large_IMG_7420.jpgIMG_7344-1.jpgIMG_7324.jpgIMG_7433-1.jpgIMG_7428-1.jpgIMG_7362.jpgThen I hear a rustling above me and to my delight I see a monkey that has two arms!270_IMG_7395.jpg IMG_7359.jpgI finally get back to where the taxi dropped me off and on the right is the entrance to the monkey area I wanted :( its closed now..FML.

Here is a shot of the famed Ashiyama bridgeIMG_7434.jpg So its dark and luckily Kyoto is pretty good to get around in and I have the bus route as Ashiyama is right outside on the edge of the city. As I am leaving the next day for Osaka I want to see the Inari Temple and the thousands gates going up the hill, by the time I get back to the hostel it is close to midnight but when i asked the closing time of the temple he said it was open always so i decide to go and check it out at night rather than the day. I nearly get lost again dropped off from the bus on a dark quite out of the way spot, I head where I think it is and am amazed that as i go down a level from the overpass area I was just at there are lots of people and stores below. I catch a train as that seems to be the reason why there are people here and get off at the temples stop.
When i get there there is an eerie silence to the place and is empty, I soon hear footsteps and a torchlight of a solitary policeman walking a beat. I try not to be suspicious and whip out the camera tourist like and take some pictures.IMG_7451.jpgIMG_7454.jpg270_IMG_7456.jpgIMG_7459.jpg Progressively heading everinward I find the start of the gatesIMG_7460.jpgI'm quite excited as there is no one around and there is that eerie feel of a place empty at night when its bustling during the day like schools at night. I head in...IMG_7468.jpgIMG_7470.jpgIMG_7473.jpg270_IMG_7486.jpg The walk is long and I'm about 40 minutes into it and its only mountain and trees outside my gate tunnel :/ IMG_7485.jpg270_IMG_7504.jpg270_IMG_7506.jpg I get about half way and come across a area of shrines 270_IMG_7547.jpg270_IMG_7514.jpgIMG_7515.jpg270_IMG_7523.jpg270_IMG_7574.jpg Its bitterly cold, here's my dragon breath 270_IMG_7592.jpg So I'm about an hour in andall of a sudden a light flashes on me and I freeze like a stuffed bear, its the sensor of a house and I hear a TV and voices.270_IMG_7541.jpg So if there was ever a time to go Ninja, on the steps of the Inari stairs in Japan is it... so I creep along and dodge the house the people no more that 8 feet from me. I spy a camera sitting above most likely recording all my stupid moves haha.. So now that is passed I feel like I'm getting into an area not allowed or usually paid for during the day, soon a view opens up for me, this will show how far up I am..large_IMG_7556.jpg But this is not the end and I am determined, so i keep slogging along 270_IMG_7565.jpg270_IMG_7568.jpg270_IMG_7544.jpg270_IMG_7535.jpgIMG_7595.jpg Then a glint, a glimmer of light and behold the shrine at the end of the gates!large_270_IMG_7557.jpgNow I'm not into doing worship when i do not believe in it but in this case I made the exception as i heard that the Inari shrine and gates are related to business and prosperity, wealth etc so did a little donation and a prayer. IMG_7604.jpg270_IMG_7610.jpg

Realizing time had flown and I needed to make the last train I left with haste, finally able to take a photo on the train without disaproving eyes..IMG_7632.jpg The trains have heated seats and it can get quite toasty and comfortable, more than once I have had to drag myself off my warm seat to go into the cold with a grumble.

It's off to Osaka for me. I'm not exactly sure what's going on here and that's no rucksack on her back hahalarge_IMG_7637.jpg

I was hoping to see some yakuza but nope :( then again I'm not hanging out at the well to do places and would I really want to bump into them..could I resist taking a photo? Hmmm anyhowz the hostel I stayed at in Osaka was great, a very chilled art funky place with a cafe down stairs and friendly staff. Met a Brit guy Phil and japanese woman Hikaru based in London who are doing a documentary on Love Hotels in Osaka, very cool and interesting people, made my stay there better. Here's some pics IMG_7954.jpg Love Hotels you say??!? IMG_7991.jpg It also came with a rooftop resort getaway1IMG_7949.jpgand heaters that looked cooler than they felt warm270_IMG_7984.jpg

I had lazed around for a day or so, planning my next destination I came across a great discovery. I had another 10 days left on my rail pass, excited I booked to go see the snow monkeys and visit the onsens to the north. I relaxed another day resting my ribs mostly which were playing up a bit, finally I decided to go and see SOMETHING. I chose the Osaka floating garden, it looked hi tech and cool looking to photograph but on my way I thought to book the tickets on the shinkansen to Nagano but found out that my pass runs out that very night! I decided that just leaving as soon as i can and trying to book a hotel was the best bet as i needed to be further south for the jump to South Korea (I have since decided it's silly not to go on my way to China). So two hours to get back to the hostel pack and leave to the station reserve seats on the last train and head out. I arrived in Fukuoka City at midnight last night and got a hotel...such a strange experience being in a hotel with your own shower and bed n all..luxury haha270_IMG_8023.jpgSo today I booked into another hostel close buy and am watching Alien Vs Predator as i type this out, there is a cool little TV room and kitchen looks fair. I will head out to supermarket to stock up on food for the next couple of days. My plan at the moment is to take the "Beetle" which is a hydrofoil jet ferry from Hakata to Busan..should take 2.5 hrs.The ferry actually sits above the water when its going so you avoid all the problems with fast water travel img_main_01-1.jpg Wish me luck :p

Oh and by the way, if you got this far you might prefer to hit the "Subscribe" button at the top and you get emailed when I update the blog :)

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 00:36 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Hiroshima

Peace

Hiroshima was a bit of a last minute thing but I could not go without seeing for myself such a horrific historical place and more importantly feeling it...
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BeforeIMG_7688.jpgAfterIMG_7689.jpg The building was just below the blast point of the bomb and is why it had withstood the blast, it is now preserved.
They even have a tram stop for it, kinda sucks to be reminded all the timeIMG_7643.jpg
I had a guilty feeling when arriving that settled over me right away looking like a foreigner who's country did this to their city. I know that this is not true as they are a great people but it was how I felt none the less. I was glad that I could say Australia when asked where I was from, I would expect that coming here from the united states would be difficult. I mean it is still in peoples lives, a guy here at the hostel, his mother was a victim...
I expected to be really moved and I was but not to the extent I thought, I guess I just could not even imagine what is was like. It was like my brain just couldn't process imagining destruction on that level around me. Here are some more pictures of the A-Dome, the scaffolding is a once every three years thing to make sure the structure is sound (I swear everything is being fixed when i come to see it, I hide alot of it).
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I proceeded to the flame of peace which is to remain lit until the eradication of all nuclear weapons in the world. It seemed that there was something special happening so I went all papparazzi and took photos with the pros ha! It seems that it was the mayor of Hiroshima well that part of Japan and other politicians that were for peace, they had come to pay there respects to the cenotaph for all the victims of the bomb. They all carried a white flower to lay at the cenotaph...anyhow here are my pap pics! IMG_7777.jpgIMG_7784-1.jpg270_IMG_7796.jpg270_IMG_7794.jpgIMG_7764.jpgIMG_7760.jpgIMG_7799.jpg270_IMG_7758.jpgIMG_7759.jpg After paying my respects also (was sad :( ) I proceeded to the children's monument, it is said that a little girl who got sick from the radiation believed that if she made one thousand paper cranes she would live but she never made it. Children all over the country send paper cranes in all different fashions but here are some paper crane peace posters...IMG_7739.jpgIMG_7736-1.jpgIMG_7745-1.jpg270_IMG_7748.jpg270_IMG_7749.jpg
I could not come without ringing the peace bell and was surprised too see Australia on it as i approached, it has the world imprinted. 270_IMG_7813.jpgIMG_7823.jpg Then I noticed the sky... fitting really..large_IMG_7809-1.jpg
So in the end I'm glad I went, the Japanese have really transformed such a tragedy into place of advocating peace in the world. I tip my hat.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 22:05 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kyoto

Laneways and crossing powerlines

After only being here two hours I left the hostel I was staying at to do some night walking and maybe get some food. The thing I love about Japan is its alleyways, when you go past a side street on a main street that catches your eye you can just turn and proceed on... your bound to have this happen on every street you take as there is something of interest just around the next corner. As much as I love getting lost in the alleyways I can't help but think if it would be better knowing kanji or would it lose its magic? The way the light falls on that sign beside that traditional looking building turns into a lavatory with broken lighting...

But really the alleyways are great, here is a picture of an all you can drink place, where you pay a set amount for an allotted amount of time of free drinks. Food is available too mostly in a deepfried fashion on a skewer with a communal soy sauce type of dip. Here is a picture of a place I think is this kind of place
IMG_6767.jpg I may need to break this habit of wondering the streets and alleys aimlessly as really its because Japan is so amazingly safe that it works. Will I be able to walk the alleys of Shanghai in the same manner??

Kyoto feels kind of the same as northern Tokyo. There is a high volume of traditional styled streets to where I have just had to stop taking photos as all the streets look really cool! So i set out to find lanterns, I'm in Japan right, how hard could this be?!?! Well the answer is VERY! I've no idea where everyone gets them! CONSPIRACY!

Went for a walk today and thought I better go see another shrine, on the way getting there is come across a....... yup you guess'd it, shrine (well a pagoda but close enough). Remember when i mentioned your walking down a street and you look down an alley and you see something of interest? Well this is what I saw... 270_IMG_6994.jpg So of course I'm now obligated to check this out! Then the next alley and next and so on.

Along my travels I got lost and what I thought was the temple I was looking for was a cemetery but unlike any I've been to before. It was right up the side of the mountain beside Kyoto with the best view I have seen of the city. The cemetery was huge and multi leveled, here are some pictures...
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Tomorrow I'm going to try and make it to Hiroshima for a day visit. I'm not sure what to expect of such a place and was actually going to avoid it but I think I'll go and see how it goes.

Here are some pics from Kyoto so far...
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Posted by CrackerjackHobo 01:14 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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