Seoul, South Korea


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Asia » South Korea » Seoul
August 14th 2011
Published: August 19th 2011
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Seoul pretty bridgeSeoul pretty bridgeSeoul pretty bridge

One of many seeing it is built on islands and creeks.
Tue 9 Aug Fly day lost
So, firstly, can anyone explain to me why I used up all my USD that I got at about $1.10 when their credit rating dropped – that’s right, because if someone does bad with their money, you think it would be worth less right – wrong! Our Aussie dollar has dropped below parity. Anyway – just whatever I do with my investment money – don’t do it, or wait a week until the ass falls out of wherever I put my money and you’ll at least get it at a 20% discount. Nice sleep in today, woke just before alarm (which was 9.30am). Had time for physio and stretches which was good and needed. Then checked out and walked down a few blocks to train. Was only $3.75 each which is cool. Then checked in quickly, got through security quickly and had $9.63 to spend. Had to ask the lady at subway like a big kid what I could buy with that (still can’t work out what percentage tax I will be charged let alone adding it on. She says any $7 subway. I asked if there were any footlongs and she says, yeah, the $7 ones. They were $7.99 which I would call $8 but anyway, got that and Joanne got some cookies and coke. She was still rich with coins though and after eating one of her cookies, went to spend the rest of her change - $6.35 or something. Now still an hour early for checkin. I have had to rush sometimes because of queues but this is cool. Will checkout if there is free wireless here to amuse myself. Played on net for an hour and then had to load up. Was cool with a boarding board with green and red lights for what rows were boarding. Watched 4 movies in the over 10 hr flight, Win Win, Rango, Rio, started Kung Fu Panda II but didn’t get into it, then Lincoln Lawyer. Seats were quite squishy though (even though I noticed Asians in seats over with plenty of room to spare), every time I moved the control in the side of my seat would pause or forward the movie or some other thing. Got off plane quickly (after about a 5 hour taxi after landing) and through immigration in about 2 seconds, then had to wait probably 10 mins for
Haan River military guardsHaan River military guardsHaan River military guards

North used to sail up the river and spy before all this was setup.
my bag. That was an interesting time, one of my bug bears is people who think their stuff will come quicker if they push in in queues. The line is there, just move forward that last metre when your luggage comes, but nooooo, I was standing back about 30cm so someone had to squeeze in in front of me, without any qualms at all. Went through customs quickly, even though I had to explain that I marked ‘carrying for others’, because I had my 2 litres of Malibu where duty free was only 1 litre, so I said I was carrying for Joanne. He kind of laughed and smirked I am sure with a knowing of what we were doing. Asked at info how to get to hotel and guy wrote hotel name in Korean and phone number, told us what bus stop to go to, bus number, where to get ticket and then what stop we had to get off at in Korean. Very lovely and helpful. Train was only 10,000 won each (about $10 each), then after about 1.5 hour trip had to get taxi to hotel. Asked first driver, no English and didn’t know hotel. Second driver, no English and didn’t know hotel but spotted phone number and called up. Was less than 1km down the road and only 2,400 won. Got to hotel and guy was lovely at checkin. Grabbed some tour brochures and got to room about 9.30pm (5.30am Vancouver time). Noticed flying in, how many little islands ae here, and driving in was like little creeks on flood flats half the way, so I would have to call this the place of islands, creeks thus bridges. Joanne went down and booked tours because I had undressed in this 23 degree heat! Bed was like a rock, but after back aching on plane will probably be a good thing.
Wed 10 Aug Hotel Mare Dongdaemun Seoul
This was lost fly day from yesterday. Well we loaded in Vancouver on Tuesday and got here late Wednesday night
Thu 11 Aug Hotel Mare Dongdaemun Seoul
Woke 6.30am for another wee but then didn’t go back to sleep. Must say, this hotel is quite big (even compared to some huge rooms/even apartments we have had on this trip). Bathroom has a spa, a shower that sprays from top, handheld or even all round like a car wash. Toilet is a bidet with enough buttons that I am not game to touch just in case I get a wash and blowdry unexpectedly. And then hand basin I can’t find out how to pull the plug. Got up and had shower though and played with all the buttons and then brekkie. Very nice, with Korean rice again – have to work out what makes it taste so yummy. Ended up asking a few locals and they just thought it was normal. I did come up with maybe sesame oil or maybe some sort of fish that I tasted in it? Oh well, will just have to go back to Korea to have it again 😉
Went for a wander around to get money and waste some time before going on tour. Bank staff were cool and keen for a chat. Saw a family of three on a bike with the kid in the middle with a live vest on – I suppose it would say saves lives on the info, probably a helmet would be better value for money for a road trip though. Another copule of bikes, lots were set up for moving carpet rolls, the area seemed to
North Korean flagNorth Korean flagNorth Korean flag

With propaganda village below and South's flag just off to right.
be redeveloping buildings everywhere, some had huge gloves taped to the handlebars, good setup for winter, one had a rain shelter over it – would be hard to handle in the wind. Trucks were loaded to the hilt and even with the tray down and loads on that as they were driving along – yes, including eggs.
Got picked up for tour 10 minutes early, which was already 10am, an hour early pickup for tour. Finally off on tour, saw lovely parkside along Haan River, area for sports (baseball, soccer), camping cycling and walking – was very lovely to see amongst 40 thousand acres of high rise. Drove past Cedar Gate – the entrance to Palace we will see tomorrow. Then on way north to Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) all along the Haan River was barbed wire with often manned guardhouses. Was weird to see a couple of places where you could see North Korea driving along. Saw the unification observation point, South are so keen to join with North and make one country again. A short history is, there was Joseon Dynasty which was ruling Korea from about 1395 until 1910 when Japan invaded. Then Japan bombs pearl harbour. Koreans
Dorasan Station - never used :(Dorasan Station - never used :(Dorasan Station - never used :(

Motto is "Not last to the North, but first from the South"
are happy about that, otherwise, no one would’ve taken an interest in them. 1945 end of WWII USSR and USA have taken back Korea and agree between themselves (as superpowers do) to split Korea into North and South basically along the 38th parallel. North ends up communist, south Democratic. Then US stayed in South for a few years and basically as soon as they left, North invaded South and within a week had reached Seoul and ended up with 4-5 million casualties in 3 years. From about 1998 to 2007 South’s president had the sunshine policy which was to help out North with money and supplies, so things were pretty quiet for a while. Then in 2008 President Lee stopped the sunshine policy, while South were helping out, North had been successfully working on a nuclear policy, so things have gone a bit ‘south’ can we say since then. You’ve heard on the news North says South sank their ship, so they fire on South’s civilian island killing a few people. I asked guide if she generally felt safe and she ummed and ahhhed and said ‘recently’ there was another failed missile attack on that island. Another guy on tour told me later that ‘recently’ was yesterday! I said later in the day that South were too nice and guide just said, we are all Korea. Anyway, North has about 20 million people, south about 50 million. So we stopped at Imjingak Park, there is a steam train here that was bombed in the DMZ during the Korean war, it has more than 1020 bullet holes. The park though is at the site of a Peace Bell which commemorates 2100 years of peace and mainly the memorial bridge. 17,000 POWs were swapped. There is also a memorial altar for people who escaped from the North and still have families over there. As an Aussie I can visit North Korea, but South are not allowed. Reminded me a bit of Berlin where overnight families were split up. Then off to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. Is so named because it was the 3rd South have found, they have found 5 now, one as late as 1990s. So defector from the North said he had planned 20 tunnels though. All tunnels are leading to Seoul and huge numbers of soldiers were expected to be able to pass through the tunnels. We had a
Crouching Tiger - Hidden BaconCrouching Tiger - Hidden BaconCrouching Tiger - Hidden Bacon

A yummy half loaf of bread with bacon and cheese wrapped in - yum.
stroll down the tunnel, 350m down a fair grade slope, then 200m across the flat. My knees nearly died on the way down and my heart/lungs/legs on the way up. I can walk Castle Hill which is 3km up about the same grade and not have that much trouble, and felt air conditioned underground compared to outside heat. I don’t know, but carrying army kit and hunched over (ok Koreans are probably shorter too), you couldn’t pass too many thousands of me through there in an hour  This tunnel is 1634m long and was found by drilling pipes and filling with water to see how quick the water disappeared. They confronted North and they said, oh no, wasn’t us. Then they found explosive drilling holes pointing toward Seoul, and the rise to entrance being at North’s end they go, ‘oh, maybe it was our coal miners looking for coal’. They had even painted some coal on the walls of the tunnel to try and make this story feasible. All around this area are unexploded mines as well that South are always working on to remove. They were dropped into DMZ by UN by memory. Went to Dora observatory where you can see North’s flag on one side of DMZ and South on the other and the river running between. There is a propaganda village at bottom of North’s flag to prove how rich they are, yet was quite happy for South to pay for a village they live in only a few kms away. You are not allowed to take photos from this observatory from in front of a marked yellow line and if you do, soldiers will stand over your shoulder until you delete it. I saw this as I was showing up and wished I’d taken a photo of that. North does not have many trees, they use them for fuel as well as wanting to have a clear view of anyone trying to leave. Then off to Dorasan Rail Station that was built and never allowed to be used. I still don’t understand how North stopped it because it is on South’s territory? Stopped at unification village (read gift shop) but there is a little South village in the DMZ growing crops. Got myself a little tin cup for less than $3 which is pretty cool. For those interested, I asked who ‘owns’ DMZ, but it
Buddhist TempleBuddhist TempleBuddhist Temple

The Past, Present and Future
is 2km north of border and 2km south and apart from few people living there, it is a haven for wildlife and plants. On our drive back out, passing through all the road blocks and military check points we were told that South has 2 year compulsory military service for men only, North has compulsory as well but females 7 years and males 20 years. Had visit to Amethyst factory as it is the national gem. So basically that was end of tour. Got dropped in town and left with messages of how to catch subway back. I must say, I have been on 3 busses now and all have nearly made me sick with nearly bunny hopping at all speeds. Accelerate, decelerate, accelerate, decelerate – and this process gets repeated every 5 seconds of so??? Is bloody hot here too, well 30 degrees, but muggy and after last few weeks in cold and home having a bit of winter before that, I am not looking forward to summer. Looked for food before heading home and ended up getting stuff from a bakery, had some Crouching Tiger Hidden Bacon, basically a half loaf of bread with bacon and cheese mixed
Blue HouseBlue HouseBlue House

Same theory as whitehouse only blue.
through it, and some Japanese curry roll and coffee scroll. After Joanne finally decided what to eat, catching subway home was pretty cool. Was making things up ok and on right track trying to find out which direction train was running. Guy asked us if we wanted help and had a chat, he said he just liked to talk with people. He walked us completely to the platform and then handed us over to some guy carrying a little sign (like a professional helper), however, on the way, he gave us his business card and said he was a conductor/baratone singer, hence we got sung to while riding the escalator. He was very good and I was very embarrassed. Still have to google him to see how famous he is. He said he is coming to Sydney and I couldn’t work out probably or hopefully playing at the Opera House. He said to email and he would send a cd to us  How lovely. I was aching so basically took tablets and went straight to bed when we got home. My poor shoulder had a few creaks and cracks again through the night.
Fri 12 Aug Plane
Woke with a headache still, shoulder killing, thighs aching, knee/ankle sore, took some more tablets and had to checkout before breakkie and 8am pickup. As usual though, prompt/early and left at 10 to 8. Got to start of tour ½ hour early so checked out Buddhist Temple by ourselves. There is a Lacebark Pine here that is the only one in Korea. There were bugs around chanting ‘wha wha wha wha whaaaaa’, reminded me of the Ghanains chant at last years world cup stirring us Aussies. Headed off and drove past the Blue House which is the President’s house. Security was tight around there and was raining and overcast. Looked at Phoenix fountain, phoenix is symbol of the president. Then rest of tour was basically Gyeongbokgung Palace which was pretty cool. No changing of the guards today because it was raining – hope North doesn’t hear that – they’ll just wait for a rainy day and know their odds are up  There were only 2 buildings left after Japanese destroyed the palace, but is now nearly 40% rebuilt. There is an area of grass patches where buildings were, because the Japs knew the Korean mindset of not having grass because it
Gyeongbok Palace guardsGyeongbok Palace guardsGyeongbok Palace guards

They didn't do changing of guards in rain - hope North don't find out, they'll just walk in, in the rain.
was only used for gravesites, so planted grass where they had destroyed buildings. Had a quick look through a cultural history museum which was good. Couple of main things, Korean’s celebrate their 60th birthdays because it was a full cycle of some calendar, and when they die, families used to mourn for 3 years, now it is only 3 weeks or something more attainable. After a visit to Ginseng factory where I got in trouble for taking photos of their demonstration. Basically is only grown in hillsides and is cheap for first few years, then you won’t find 5 year Ginseng because it is only one more year for the best 6 year ginseng. After that the roots start deteriorating. So were were pretty comfortable about getting around subway today, but still a guy stopped for a chat. Didn’t understand and then he started speaking in Spanish, so we had some sort of conversation with my limited Spanish. Subway is only KWN1000 which is just under $1. Cool hey, but you had to pay a KWN500 deposit which you got back at end of trip. Still can’t work out why they didn’t just use some disposable paper? Stopped for drink on way home at Dunkin Donuts and then still had 750 won and family mart I got 2x200ml drinks for 35c each. How cool and cheap. Caught taxi down to bus stop, between $2 to $3 for about 5 minutes – couldn’t nearly talk to the driver for that much at home. Then bus to airport which was just under another $10. Had a little nap on that to try and start feeling better. Checkin wasn’t up on board, but after a while Joanne went to ask at desk because nothing had updated and we went to check in. Lady tried to do our self check in but it never works then she spent another 10 mins finding that out for us. Queue through normal check in and arrogant guy and grandma in front, Vietnamese Joanne said. Apart from being a fart in a pickle bottle, making me nervous as to what he had to keep changing around in his luggage, then at one stage he dropped something and I noticed it go under another person’s bag. Moved and got it back for him and he did not even acknowledge at all – wish he dropped something else and I
Gyeongbok PalaceGyeongbok PalaceGyeongbok Palace

Grassed area where Japs destroyed buildings.
would’ve kicked it further away for him. Security and immigration was quite quick but Joanne got caught up somehow. Then had a curry before heading down to gate to settle in. Joanne went back to spend the last of her money, I got on Skype and with terrible connections (about 50 times) got to chat to Brad Rhiley and Raelene for a bit.
Loaded onto plane, drugged up again and had another 4 day taxi to takeoff, and luckily was on the right hand side, after flight into Korea was on the left, because that wouldn’t dig into the bruise I had from the tv controller I already have. Was on moveable armrest too so didn’t end up pausing or fast forwarding every time I moved. Watched Source Code, then turned on Beastly but slept after first ½ hour, then watched Just Go With It. Went to go to toilet once and was a bit wobbly getting then, then as soon as I opened the door the seatbelt light came on, lucky I wasn’t any more busting, or even luckier, didn’t just sit down in there! Just before landing was terrible aches all over so got tablet off one of the hostesses. How good is that – Australia now I probably just could not have any.
Sat 13 Aug Home
So all up, flight was ok. Got through immigration ok with e-passport, but Joanne’s didn’t work and had to re-queue. I didn’t know this, so busting and then ending up with both our luggage after waiting ages, she only just got through immigration. Customs was cool though, some guy checked out our cards in line and said to go through some other queue. Looked at panadol at some shop but was way too expensive, even with my headache. Caught bus over to domestic, dug through my luggage to get out some more painkillers, then checked in quickly. Had a sausage roll at airport which was bloody expensive, I would’ve thought that before the last few cheap weeks, $6.20 for a sausage roll! Was nice though. Then basically slept the whole flight home. I remember a couple of times the service ladies kind of standing over me asking if I wanted to buy some food or whatever and still with eyes closed shaking me head and mumbling no they kind of stood there for a second waiting to make sure I had given right answer?
Got picked up by Dad Rhiley and Bradley which was nice.


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