Busan day 2

So after not sleeping and sweating the night away we started our morning with another shower… And then hoped on the bus and dropped our bags back in a locker, had some Dunkin Doughnuts for breakfast and headed to our first stop for the day: Haedong Yonggung Temple. It’s a temple that’s on a cliff side and has some gorgeous views of the beach and ocean. It’s another popular spot and since it was the day after Lunar New Year there were many people there.

We had lunch and then we headed to Gamcheon culture village. I didn’t really have any interest in this particular place but my friend wanted to come here. Apparently it’s a really popular place though I’m not really sure why, I mean the houses are colourful but that’s about it.

Anyway we went there… We some time left before our train back to Soul so we decided to go to Busan tower which wasn’t too far from where we were or from where we needed to go to take the train. In the end it wasn’t much different than Seoul tower, and the view wasn’t that great either but it was ok.

We still had about an hour and a half before our train but that wasn’t enough time to do anything else so we headed to the train station and just sat in a cafe until it was time to take the train home. Unfortunately because it was right after Lunar New Year we only had seated tickets for about 40mins of the ride home and spent the rest of the ride standing so that sucked… I’ll remember that the next time I want to travel during a holiday and book early… Standing for 2 hours after spending 2 days walking wasn’t a great way to end the trip but I had fun nonetheless and got to see Busan. I might have to go again when it’s warmer it is a beach city after all πŸ™‚

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Busan day 1

One of my classmates wanted to go to Busan after the end of the semester and asked me if I wanted to go. It would be during the Lunar New Year so I would also have time off from work, I hadn’t been to Busan yet and planned on going eventually so I said yes. If I didn’t go I probably would have ended up doing nothing for 4 days and then regretting not doing anything by the end of the time off… I did get 2 days to sleep in between the end of term and when we left for Busan, we left early in the morning on Feb 16 the actual day of Lunar New Year. Probably because it was the actual day the train wasn’t too crowded, we got to Busan in about 2 and a half hours (we took the KTX). It is the most expensive of the trains but also the fastest, there is another train that takes about 5 hours.

We arrived in Busan at around 10am and the first place on our list was the skywalk which is a 50mins bus ride from where we arrived. After putting our bags in a lockers at the station we went off to find our bus. The place is pretty easy to find as it is located on a cliff, is a rather popular attraction and is also the final stop on the bus that we took. There were other tourists on the bus as well who weren’t sure where to go and asked us, maybe because we were speaking in Korean, I don’t know. Oh I forgot to mention, my friend is Japanese and doesn’t speak English and I clearly don’t speak Japanese so we can only speak Korean together, so we got a good deal of speaking practice over two days πŸ™‚ Anyway the sky walk was pretty nice, there are some apartment building located here and I would love to live here but it is probably ridiculously expensive…

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Our next stop on our first day was Taejongdae Resort Park, it’s basically a forest path with a beach a few other attractions within including a beach and a lighthouse. Walking the 4+km path took about 2.5 hours if you take your time and take a bunch of pictures everywhere πŸ˜‰ But there is also a little train (it’s not really a train, but it is shaped like one…) that drives around the path that costs about 3.50$ if you don’t want to walk.

After nearly 30,000 steps on day 1 it was time to call it quits for the day, it was also about 7 or8pm by the time we finished dinner and well we were pretty tired so we headed to the jimjilbang for the night. Jimjilbangs are Korean public bath houses, at the bigger ones you can also sleep there for super cheap. It was a holiday when we went so it was a bit more expensive than usual but still just 12,000KRW/person so about 15$ CAD. If your shy or don’t like the idea of being showering with other peopl than I wouldn’t recommend this for you but it’s definitely great for a budget traveler in Korea. It was my first time in one and the nudity wasn’t what bothered me but it was very noisy and the sleeping room was ridiculously hot. It must have been 35 degrees in that room, so I basically didn’t sleep… But it wasn’t expensive at least, day 2 coming up tomorrow.

Battleship Park

On Facebook I have a few pages that I follow in Seoul to know about some of the different touristy thins that take place around town that I may not know about otherwise. I saw a post not too long ago about battleship park. There are three retired ships in on of the Han river parks and this is a fairly new exhibit and so entrance was going to be free until Dec 3rd (it’s only like 3$ even now though so still not expensive). So obviously I was like, I have to go there before then, because I am a cheap person and I like free things πŸ™‚ So last weekend off I went to find this park that wasn’t too far from my place and here are some pictures.

DMZ and JSA

I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t been updating the blog… I went to the DMZ a little while ago and also to the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is in the DMZ. The JSA is the only place in the DMZ where you can actually step foot into North Korea. We were literally right next to North Korea but we only saw one North Korean soldier since apparently the only time the soldiers are present is when they conduct their own tours. Yes, apparently North Korea also gives tours of the JSA. The only way to go to the JSA is to book a tour, the procedures to get into this area are quite strict and everyone’s identity was che

cked with passports and the passenger count was checked both when we entered the DMZ and when we left (in case anyone decided to go to the North, I guess?)

My tour was the whole day and also included a stop at the war memorial of Korea in the morning, Imjingak bridge (where we also had lunch) and the JSA in the afternoon. The tour departed from the President Hotel in Seoul at 9:50, and we were back there around 5pm. There are other tour options including visiting some of the tunnels that were dug by the North, it is also possible to visit some of the towns near the DMZ without a tour as well.

The stop at the war memorial was somewhat useless in my opinion since we only had 1 hour and our guide talked for about 20 mins so we really didn’t have much time to look around. The war memorial is pretty big and I think in itself would probably take a whole day to get through if you really wanted to look at everything. I don’t know if it was a special that day but they also had a free book available about the Korean war at the entrance in both Korean and English, I didn’t want to carry it all day so I didn’t pick one up. Since I plan to go back I hope they will still have the book available at that time. I’ll do another post about the war memorial when I go back but here are some of the pictures I took.

The next stop was lunch and Imjingak park. This park is located 10km from the DMZ and is a place where some of the separated families go sometimes to either tie ribbons to hope for reunification or have some of the ancestral rites as well. There are pictures of both of those places below.

The final stop before heading back to Seoul, was the JSA. On the way to the JSA our soldier tour guide gave us some information on the two only villages which are inside the DMZ. Both North and South Korea are allowed 1 village within the border of the DMZ, South Korea has Freedom Village (if I remember correctly) and North Korea has what is referred to as propaganda village. It is a phantom village in which no one lives and is meant to show off how “well off” the North is, it is in fact a fake village in which there aren’t even any windows. Unfortunately we did not get to see either of these villages.

The South’s village however is in fact inhabited and falls under the jurisdiction of the UN and so the men who live there are not required to serve in the military. This is the reason why women can marry into the village, but men cannot because some may try to avoid their military service by doing this. Most families farm in this village and farm areas much greater than the average Korean farmers and so make about 100k US/year, they also do not pay any federal taxes since they fall under UN jurisdiction. I thinks that’s everything that they told us about th village.

The rules about taking pictures while in the DMZ were pretty strict there were only three places where we could take pictures. The place where we arrived, the UN building which is half in North Korea and half in South Korea and just outside that building. On the bus ride to that location we were not allowed to take pictures. In the actual JSA we stayed 10 mins, I find there was a lot of hype about this tour for what it turned out to be in the end, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Seoul Lantern Festival

After the last day of finals I went with some classmates to the Seoul lantern festival for some much needed R&R. After too much time spent studying this past weekend and the past few days before that we needed so time to do something totally unrelated to school. Here are some pictures. One of the themes of the festival this year was the Olympics so there were a few depictions of the two Olympics mascots in some of the various sports

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Nami Island and Petite France

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Disclaimer… I messed up the settings of my camera at the beginning of the day and have, as of yet been, unable to fix this very annoying mistake. Needless to say when I got home and noticed that my camera pictures looked worse than my phone pictures I was more than a little pissed. Anywhooo, after a little research I did find out what my mistake was and I will not be making it again but it does leave me with some terribly grainy pictures.

One of my level 1 classmates is from Vietnam, lately she is always cold, mainly because where she comes from the coldest it ever gets is 20 degrees Celsius. And even then she sometimes find that cold, and these days the temperature hovers around 5-10 degrees maybe. Personally I like it it’s amazing weather for mid November. But anyway, I digress, since she’s from a warm country she’s never seen the fall colours so 2-3 weeks ago we went to Namsan on a random weekday to see the changing leaves. Well we were very disappointed as the mountain was about 2/3 still green. In her hunt for fall leaves she found a tour package for a day at Nami island and Petite France.

Since the tour took a whole day we had to book on a weekend , which isn’t ideal as there would be tons of people but we weren’t about to miss classes for that. Another of our classmates also joined us for the tour. Nami Island was very pretty and there were a lot of fall colours for my friend to see. We some bunnies, some weird looking sculptures, lots and lots of snowmen and took lots of pictures. We had some Korean sausage, which was a little disappointing and had some delicious Italian pizza.

After Nami Island we went to Petite France, which was a little weird I thought. I meant there was the Petit Prince and that was about the extent of the Frenchness of the place. They were playing some music but it wasn’t French, there were some antiques and some sculptures which seemed more Italian than French. The view however was very nice so I guess that’s why we went?

Yeouido park and the Han river

After finals last week I was really worried about having failed so I had to find something to do during the weekend to keep occupied and not worry too much about it. Thankfully there is a summer festival going on at the Han river, it’s been going on since mid July actually but I haven’t had much free time. It seemed like the perfect place to spend a sunny and hot summer day.

I left home around 11:30 and headed to Yeouido park. It is one of three parks on the Han river and the closest to my place so I opted for that one. This park is actually on an island on the river and there is also another really big park that spans accross the island. The island park was really nice, I didn’t explore all of it since I wanted to go to the river park. I’ll probably go back another time, it’s a pretty big park with a pond and several walking/biking paths. It’s in the middle of a bustling city but the cicadas are so loud that they almost drowned out the traffic.

I knew there were a bunch of events going on at the river since it’s the festival, but much like when I went to the National Palace museum I happened upon a traditional music/dance performance.

A man started talking to me during the performance and wanted to buy me a drink after, so we went to a near by convenience store where he also bought me lunch… Is this weird only to me? People approach strangers and buy them food, must be a Korean thing. Actually it was a little awkward since he could speak Β very little English and I couldn’t understand most of what he was saying. Anyways he was sticking around walking with me along the river so I told him I had to go and he walked me to the subway. I didn’t want to leave quite yet but also didn’t really know how to tell him to get lost politely so I waited in the subway for 10-15 minutes and went back to continue exploring.

I continued exploring around the river and people watching for an hour or two. Around 5:30 the many food trucks all started to set up, and oh my goodness were there a lot of food trucks. You can basically get anything you could possibly want; theres chicken, shrimp, steak, grilled cheese, churros there was even a French crepe food truck. I’ll have to go back again so I can try some of those πŸ™‚

A few things of note about the park; though you can’t swim in the river there are several outdoor pools at the park, people at the pool and hanging out at the river mostly setup tents and hang out (I find this a little odd, but I suppose it’s a good was to get shade…), you can rent camping spots at the campground neat the river (you can also rent a tent if you don’t have one). I was there from about noon until 6 at which time I was a little tired and decided to head home. I didn’t really feel like taking the subway or bus so I walked back home. In retrospect that was a stupid idea… who walks 4km home after spending the whole day walking? Anyway I did get some really nice pictures walking back since I had to cross the bridge.

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One of the many outdoor pools
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You can rent a camping spot here
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View of the floating stage from the bridge on the way home

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The scary cross walk.