A Travellerspoint blog

January 2012

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)

80s action advice!

Doing it like they did in the 80s, the big comeback! Que music!

I had a dream...

And in that dream there were some men, men's men. HEY! OK Ok so its not what your thinking!

These men don't give up when it gets tuff, they don't cry like a baby and go home...
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Did Frank Dux give up when he got blinded in the kumite??!?
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Nooooooo!!

Did Dutch run and hide when his team was wiped out and he was fighting an alien?!??!
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Noooo!!

Did private Joe.T. Armstrong give up when he came across laser toting ninjas!?!??
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Noooo!!

So its time for 80s action man strength and resolve!! Time to punch up some carcasses!!
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I've cancelled my flight back home and leave for Kyoto tomorrow!
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Thanks Maverick :)

Anyhow, lets see how it goes... so see you in Kyoto!
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Posted by CrackerjackHobo 06:18 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

The battle is lost, but not the war.

Homeward bound

Hi guys,

Its been a gruelling time and after the orthepedic advising rest for 3 weeks I don't think it worth going on in this fashion. Even if I decided to go on it would not be the same kind of travel experience, so I have decided to come back to Australia. This will not be the end of my travels as I am sure I will have many more in the years to come but I have taken my first step which could be said to be the hardest.

Thanks to all the people who read and enjoyed the blog, I feel I have let you down but this is the best course of action at this point for me :/

Regards,
Steve

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 01:43 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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