A Travellerspoint blog

South Korea

Sunset in Seoul

War,war and war then DMZ

Sunset in Seoul!

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Heading in the city is much larger than anywhere else, firstly the bus takes us through which seems to be an area with ALOT of appartment buildings. Kinda reminds me of the way I play sim city...people live here...umm people work here...and umm I'll put a fire brigade here..
Entering the city proper we are dropped off at the bus terminal and make our way to the subway and to the hostel. We have a hiccup or two but nothing major, just a lesson in the importance of looking at the directions and not trying to remember. Actually we arrived pretty much right outside our hostel and if it had not been for "helpful" expats we would of arrived with no worries but as it seems we walked in circles with all our bags untill finally coming back to where we were and looked up. So be it.

The hostel is great! You get a single room with tv shower, toilet ...the works and it's only 15,000 won a night! We have issues with the booking and the guy gives me and paul a dorm room to ourselves then single rooms the next night. I had researched the place and the price seemed very cheap, we figure out that it is usually 45,000 won...we try to book more nights at 15,000 won...he was'nt having it. Part of the research was to find a place with a kitchen, which this said it had but ended up being a closet with a sink. Though this did not deter Paul who had a determination to have bangers and mash. Getting back from a grocery shop we managed to get frankfurts and potatoes plus some baked beans, a hearty meal indeed. We had no peelers, no can openers and well pretty much no anything to help but with some English grit and a sharp knife cans would not stop Paul! The debaucle contined but I'll not bore you with the details, but we ate like kings that night...on the floor for some, no seats too.

Seoul is a lot more westernised than the rest of South Korea visibly influenced by American culture. I was hopeful for some non fishy food. The people seem more fashion concious but still drab colours, so I keep my red jacket hidden. In our first venture out we are quickly bombarded with K-Pop as a group of girls are having a show at the front of the shopping mall. The area we are staying is a shopping district mostly, I search for bags as I am in need of lighter bags (see previous post) but find none.

After our stay we reluctantly leave, I have been up a good part of the night reading reviews and scouring the world of hostels, something Paul has no patience for so agrees to what ever I think will be good. The hostel we end up at is run by two young guys that are cousins turning out to be really good. I feel like im boarding with housemates than with owners, the place is very social with a chilled atmosphere (www.bibim.com.kr or bibim on hostelworld if ever here) which works for me as it is pretty much home for two weeks. Staying at the hostel is a group of young singaporean girls which like to shop, drink and party...pretty much in that order. One night I head out with them on the town to a club. We line up and get in and I have never been so packed before in my life, it's rediculous! Not only is it packed but every now and then when the crowd on the right decides they have had enough of shoveing they shove enmass, which in turn gets pushed (insert screams and shouts of people). To get through the throng I have to arms up and shove and push copping and giving elbows a plenty and the heat is crazy plus smoking in club is allowed. But I'm stuck, I have lost half of the girls...the half with the ticket for my jacket. Giving up, I give in...finding a niche and having a boogie with semi easy access to the bar. Finally we find the others and exit and go to another club which is normal, finish up, eat some food and go home.

Now that we are settled for a little while, we go and do some sightseeing. The first thing we hear about is the palace which has a bit of a ceremony reagrding a change of the guard, we are given examples of the english buckingham palace guard where you can take a picture but they did'nt end up being what we were expecting. You can judge... large_Seoul_Palace_206.jpg Nooo, No! How did that get in there, much more traditional, well not that much..loved the beards! ha Seoul_Palace_007.jpgSeoul_Palace_059.jpgSeoul_Palace_117.jpgSeoul_Palace_123.jpg This guy cracked me up Seoul_Palace_027.jpg They were really into it..Seoul_Palace_065.jpg and a few pics outside the palace.
Seoul_Palace_279.jpg This is General Soonshin who is famous as he commanded a victory against the Japanese fleet by enguinity in creating a unique design for a battle ship called the Turtle ship which was effective due to it's coverered decking. The Japanese fleet was 138 strong and the General only had 13 turtle ships which he used to defeat this fleet yet I'm sure there were many other ships but the turtle ship was a big factor in the victory. The strategy was that having an enclosed deck prevented musket fire and arrows aswell as cannons from doing alot of damage along with the covering having spikes to deter boarding. Here is a pilfered picture turb_bg.gif Here he observes over Seoul... Immortal! Seoul_Palace_274.jpg

After this it was visa time again, but I wont bore you with the details (Thank youuu my lovely sister Jasmine and her beloved Katey <3 ). With that somewhat sorted I thought I should do something out of the house as I had been couped up a bit stressed for a few days. So how better than to go to a prison museum depicting all the wierd and wonderful ways the Japanese tortured the Koreans. The prison was for the suspected and convicted of the Korean indepence movement sweeping the nation. It was in working order up until 1945, the liberation of Korea...not so long ago.
Here are some of the prisoner cards they have on display walls.
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It's a strange thing seeing a family of parents and little kids going through something like this (There are lots), I was watching a father have his child read the plaque of an exhibit that is saying quite nightmarish things at an age like that :/ Strange but thats just the way it is in Korea, war and suffering has defined them more than anything. Whether domestic or from a foreign invasion they have been through ALOT!

Paul decided to experience a torture box...He's in there some where... Seoul_1_039.jpg

Oh there he is...LMAO!Seoul_1_040.jpg I decided to do..I dunno..gimp mixed with a hunchback?Seoul_1_043.jpg Give the English a seat of power and it goes right to thier head..Seoul_1_081.jpg Then they become Australian?Seoul_1_086.jpg Oh this is a picture of the tunnel that they would drag bodies through after hangings etc...ominous..Seoul_1_100.jpg

Next we did a brief jaunt down to old Korea town to see some traditional houses and such.Seoul_1_004.jpg You just know a place is disappointing if I only take one photo! Well at least Paul got to have a traditional protection print done Seoul_1_015.jpgSeoul_1_017.jpg( I seriously have Journal envy! He has so much cool stuff in his. If you travel make sure you get a good journal, Japan and alot of places do stamp and caligraphy, characters and such). It is done from these rocks..Seoul_1_018.jpg only found in some place special, I was'nt listening as the other girl was hawt! :)

Recently I went and had a tourist day again seeing the war memorial museum then heading to the Seoul tower hopeing to catch a sunset. Im just going to show you the pictures, but before I do. The UN part of the museum was great because I was finally able to read those cool documents that you wished were not in Korean (Given that the documents were americans this stands to reason, but don't step on my buzz). The documents are from General McArthur who was the first Commanding General of the U.N. (don't quote me on specific titles) his first mission being the military response to aid south Korea in the Korean war. He details his assesment to the U.N. about that state of affairs in the country. I'll do them first so that you can have a read... large_War_Memori..wer_170.jpglarge_War_Memori..wer_171.jpg Here is what he looks like War_Memori..wer_174.jpg And here is the charter for the U.N. if you have not read it before..large_War_Memori..wer_168.jpg Most places you go to do with the U.N. forces you have a tally of dates, number of troops, casualities etc large_War_Memori..wer_173.jpg
Here is Australia's exhibit War_Memori..wer_175.jpgWar_Memori..wer_176.jpg A drum War_Memori..wer_157.jpg U.N. forces that participated War_Memori..wer_167.jpg
There was a cool statue out the front, well statues.. large_War_Memori..wer_024.jpgWar_Memori..wer_040.jpgWar_Memori..wer_047.jpgWar_Memori..wer_068.jpg Like I said war at an early age is apart of life.. War_Memori..wer_094.jpg

Trying to make the sunset I miss timed but got far up enough to find a random spot with a good view. The place I travel through in called Itewon, know for it's American population situated near the U.S. army base. This being the case it also looks to be a bit of a hub for the church, having neon crosses plaguing it's rooftops. with the sunsets though I sieze the photo opp..large_War_Memori..wer_244.jpgWar_Memori..wer_241.jpgWar_Memori..wer_239.jpgWar_Memori..wer_226.jpg Finally I find my way to Seoul tower (Got lost a lil bit) and it's dark, the climb is 20 minutxes or so of stairs..pics..War_Memori..wer_274.jpg I get a Seoul tower with a old to new theme like in Tokyo! War_Memori..wer_286.jpg

There is a stream that runs through Seoul which has been likened to the manhattan park walk for romance, it could work...when it's warmer. Seoul_stream_050.jpgSeoul_stream_024.jpgSeoul_stream_010.jpg

Site seeing is great but the most interesting thing of all is the South/North relationship. I briefed on it in an earlier blog with the anology for the relationship being that of brothers, one is a drug addicted allways fucking up, the other fights and defends thier ideals but still really has hope that they will clean thier act up and once again be family. There is such a strong desire for reunification that it's heartbreaking.

So off to the DMZ (De-Militarised Zone, though it is the most militarised zone in the world :p) and to the JSA (Joint Security Area). Perhaps if I could only speak with some north Koreans I could let them know that Sth Korea just wants to make up?!? The cost for the tour was expensive ($135,00 won) but it is probably the best thing you can do. I mean why come to Korea and not go to the DMZ, then again maybe the signing of the waiver for any liability to the U.N. in the case of limb loss, abduction or death could put some people off (I got to keep the signed waiver as a memento afterwards!). So on the Bus trip your told of many rules, like umm no bare back shoes or faded jeans. No pictures except at points that they say it is ok..this is the checkpoint going into the start of the DMZ...no pictures after this untill we get to the next destination. DMZ_023.jpgDMZ_024.jpg
The first stop is one of the I think four tunnels that the Sth Koreans found going under the demilitarised zone and into the Sth Korean land. They found the tunnel by accident when they were fitting pipes for some other reason, the north koreans excuse was that they were mineing for gold haha. The tunnel has not been collapsed to my knowledge but has three concrete walls with guard windows. large_DMZ_026.jpg It was very surreal being able to look through the last wall and see the dark window of the next knowing that it continued on to North Korea. No pictures were allowed in the tunnel which you were able to go down (I snuck one in with my phone but cannot upload :p). They say with other tunnels they found that a great sneak attack could of been done, just one tunnel could of allowed 38,000 soldiers in about an hour.

Next was the observation tower into the DMZ. There is a central border which is the the real dividing line, then there is two kilometres on either side for it's respective country which is the DMZ. At the observation tower you could only take photos from a certain marked distance so not to gve away positions of defence. I wish I had taken a photo of it but all tourists including myself are standing as tall as possible with cameras held high taking random pictures and hopeing for the best, somehow i was fortunate with some of mine. Here is a border marker at the two kilometre mark for Sth Korea large_DMZ_041.jpgDMZ_050.jpg DMZ guard posts DMZ_045.jpgDMZ_038.jpg Observation tower from the photo zone..DMZ_029.jpg

Next is the train station Gyeongui, I had thought that it was not active but it actually is and runs three times a day bringing everyday Nth Koreans to Sth Korea to work in a factory close by to the station. DMZ_052.jpg The station is also a symbol of reunification, a hope that some day it will be used for mass transit from the north to south, along with opening up Sth korea to a european transit line showed here on the board DMZ_064.jpg They have everthing allready in place, customs, immigration. I mean the train line runs all the way to the capital of North Korea, Pyeongyang. DMZ_059.jpg The soldiers I see are mostly just kids doing thier two year compulsory service. DMZ_056.jpg I somehow get into a situation of national bravado! ha DMZ_061.jpgDMZ_062.jpgDMZ_063.jpg I so let him win!...Ok, well he's a trained soldier...sorry Australia...haha.

Next is the most dangerous place of the DMZ.
JSA...(Spot the Nth Korean!) large_DMZ_092.jpg JSA is for Joint Security Area (Before entering you need to sign the waiver mentioned earlier). That concrete line going from blue building to the other is the border line, from there it's Nth Korea. The blue buildings are the area that Sth Korean, North Korean and U.N. officials meet these buildings that cross that middle boundary 50/50, here is a shot from the window of one. DMZ_073.jpg Meeting room guard duty. DMZ_082.jpgDMZ_083.jpg
This was not always the way though, the buildings used to be divided in a much more random array. Now a certain area of the JSA had a Sth Korean guard post which was effectivelly surounded by three Nth Korean guard posts. The closest other Sth Korean Guard post has sight of the surrounded one but a tree grew in the line of sight and gave a blind spot. The Sth Koreans one day went to chop down the tree which for some reason the Nth Koreans took offence too. Quickly the Sth Koreans were outnumbered and the Nth Koreans butchered the Sth koreans with the axes. It is for this reason that the JSA is now divided by a line down the middle and not just by building. The soldiers are serious here, strictly no arm wrestling! DMZ_093.jpgDMZ_101.jpgDMZ_090.jpg I don't know why I look worried here haha I was a bit upset with not being able to get the shots I wanted. DMZ_106.jpg
On the way back we go past the bridge of no return, at the end of the war prisoners were given the choice of which side to go on, once they had passed there was no going back..DMZ_117.jpg

As for where I am now...BEIJING, CHINA!

So ciao for now and wish me luck in extending my Visa so I can give you a good overview of China.

S.

Posted by CrackerjackHobo 19:23 Archived in South Korea Tagged palace south_korea seoul korea border war guard dmz soonshin demilitarised_zone Comments (0)

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!
large_korea_mountain_141.jpgkorea_mountain_137.jpgkorea_mountain_150.jpgkorea_mountain_142.jpgkorea_mountain_154.jpg and one more pic leaving ha korea_mountain_208.jpg

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)

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