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Published: August 31st 2012
So after my last entry I took a one hour bus journey north to the city of Gyeongju. Gyeongju is a bit of a treasure in South Korea as it is the country's most traditional city. This is because during the 1970s and 1980s, during Korea's boom years, the then President of South Korea introduced height restrictions on anything built near the city centre and passed a bill requiring almost all buildings to have a Korean traditional roof so that the city would remain traditional. For this reason you don't see any of the skyscraping hotels and apartment blocks that you see in cities like Seoul or Busan. More recently the rules have been flaunted and there are now big banks and office buildings but still nothing like in the other cities and on the outskirts there are many pretty traditional homes and shops.
Gyeongju is also famous for its burial tombs, Korea's pyramids. The tombs are huge earth mounds which, as my cousin pointed out, are reminiscent of the Teletubbies set! So on my first day, when, according to the internet, it was 30C but felt like 41C, I walked around the mounds and went inside one that had been excavated. Gyeongju is also quite a mountainous region and due to the lack of high buildings walking around the city you could see mountains in the distance.
Gyeongju is also where I first sampled one of Korea's other treasures, Patbingsu. This is an crushed ice based desert and is delicious. After crushing the ice into a small tub you then add some sweet red beans in a red sauce, fruit, cornflakes, more sauced and then pour milk slowly down the side of the tub. The result is a icy cold and refreshing fruity slush that is more tasty than I'm probably making it sound.
Today I took a bus from Gyeongju back to Seoul, which took about 4 hours. Long distance buses or coaches in South Korea are very comfortable with lots of leg room, reclining seats and foot rest. The scenery was again beautiful. I didn't realise until I got here but Kore is 70% mountains so the entire drive we were surrounded by high peaks and drove through a number of tunnels. As soon as we hit Seoul and the high rises, the mountains disappeared from view.
I'm now back in Seoul in Itaewon, the more central expat area, for my last few days in South Korea.
Today's adventure involved an electronic toilet. I'd seen a toilet like this in the hostel in Busan- looks like a normal toilet but has an 'arm rest' with lots of buttons. Unable to read the Korean I wisely avoided using anyof the buttons. However, in today's hostel a sign on the wall explained that this electronic arm was in fact the bidet function of the toilet. A little diagram explained in English what each button was for. I didn't pay much attention to it until I noticed the ' Ladies only' button.
Now that intrigued me. So I had to press it.
I then watched, transfixed and simultaneously horrified, as a small metal pipe appeared from the back of the bowl and then squirted a continuous jet strem of water at a 45 degree angle. Now remember, nobody was actually sat on the toilet so the pipe was by now soaking the wall opposite the toilet ( including helpful instruction poster) and beginning to soak the floor. I assumed it was timed and would switch off after a while but a few seconds later it was still going. I started to panic, someone had come in to the toilets and by now I was certain water was seeping out from under the cubicle door. So eventually I pressed the button I hoped and prayed was the stop button and the whole drama ended. The floor was drenched, the ink had run on the poster, and I left as quickly and quietly as I could hoping nobody had seen me go in or out.
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