Incheon Airport, Last flight for the night

24 07 2009

Ah, at last. Its time to leave Korea, for now at least.

We are on the last flight of the day out of Incheon, bound for Istanbul on TK091. A 11.55pm departure with a wonderous 5.50am arrival in Istanbul. Yurgh.

Turkish Flight TK091, 11.55pm

Man is this place boring. For the so called “Hub of Asia” its terrible at night. Everything shuts here at 9pm, so no food other than a crappy snack bar (yay, W18,700 for 2 drinks, a sandwich, 2 donuts and a muffin). Even the duty free shops are mostly closed with a meagre selection available in whats left open. Really really disapointed in Incheon Airport.

Still, chance for a few odd pics in a ghostly terminal. Just messing around putting the camera down on the travelators etc.

Incheon Airport, Ghost Terminal

Incheon Airport, Ghostly travelator

But, at least all of this means that tomorrow morning, probably in about 12 hours we’ll be in Istanbul.

EPIK teachers trip to YoungIn MinSeok Cheon (Korean Folk Village)

15 07 2009

I hate early mornings. I hate even more the early mornings for no good reason, and 6.20am is just evil. Still, that was the assigned time to meet all the other foreigners, pile on a bus and drive 3 hours west to the YoungIn MinSeok Cheon, or Korean Folk Village for our day trip (aka, keep the foreigners happy time).

It all began bizzarely. At 6.30am most people want sleep, or failing that, coffee. Warm beer isn’t high on my list of desirables, but it is what we were given.

Beers on the bus, at 6.30am???

While some partook, others tried catching up on sleep.

Sleepy for some

Eventually we arrived, wasted some time waiting and headed into the village which was to be our next 8 hours.

Here we have a large stone mound covered in ropes with attached paper wishes. You write your wish on the slip of paper and attach it in order for it to come true.

Making a wish

(Just a note, some of these pics are a bit ghostly. I was playing with a new super dark camera filter so that should explain everything)

These totem-poles are decorated and placed in villages to protect the villagers and prevent bad spirits etc from attacking.

Korean totem-poles

A traditional Korean game where the aim is to throw the stick (maybe 60cm long) into the metal rings. I think the centre ring is best.

Ghostly games

Next were the performances. The traditional farmers twirling dance with gongs and drums was loud but spectacular. They have ropes or ribbons attached to their heads and spin around and around.

Whirling ghostly dancers

Whirling farmers dance

Bang that Gong

Ancient break dancing?

Then on to the tight-rope walker. I didn’t get an explanation of why but it certainly looked painful, bouncing down onto your crotch and then back up again. Oouch.

Tightrope walking

Sitting down on the job?

Believe it or not, but one of the highlights was the “haunted house”. Not a very good one but more giggles than not. Besides, its not everywhere you get a severed head out the front.

Severed head?

More scary things were to come, with Jessica determined to try to scare me after I scared her, making her fall backwards (sorry Jessica).


How can any trip anywhere be complete without cats? We found 3 wild kittens sleeping in the sun. Soooo cute. I think everyone wanted to take them home.

Sleepy sleepy.

Making a pot the traditional way was also included in our day.

Pottery monster

Some however let the warm beer and festivities get to them.

Take that!

While others just did the more modern traditional Korean things, cutey photo’s

The lovely couple

Overall a great place to visit to experience old Korea, but having been there almost 3 years ago (huge hangover an all), it wasn’t worth getting up at 6am for. Still, if you are only visiting Korea, its well worth the trip.

Coffee time

6 07 2009

Its been a few days since a post as I’ve been more than busy enough (amazing but true).

So, its time for a coffee break!

First, a nice espreesso. In Shanghai no less. Delicious.

Illy Coffee, Shanghai style

But, where does this bean I so love come from? This is coffee, straight from the plant, drying out in the sun, in this case in Laos.

Coffee cherries, Lao style

The farmers take these cherries and process them. Not in a factory but on the side of the road. (Vietnam in this case)

Vietnamese Coffee Farmers

Vietnamese Coffee Farmers

Then, its off for sale in the local markets. (Laos again)

Lao coffee sellers

Geez, now I feel like a coffee, vietnamese style I think.

Day 3 continued. Textiles and “downtown Jodhpur”

25 06 2009

After the photographic ramblings of the previous post, I felt the need to trim and compose the latter half of the day. I promise, short and sweet. No, really.

Previously we had been to the Meherangarh Fort, and the Jaswant Thanda. Now it was time to head into town. Being an old town our bus couldn’t fit, so we abandoned it on the outskirts and tuktuk’d it in.

We almost died only a few times in the traffic, Indian drivers have this amazing ability to know exactly what is going on around them all the time (something Korean drivers really need to learn).

Still, we arrived at a (very famous they say) textile shop. 4 or 5 floors of mountains of fabrics. They claim to have had many famous people buy from their store as well as selling lots of “overruns” of things they make for high end western fashion houses. How true is it all? No idea, but all the girls got excited and shopping commenced.

Ignoring the textiles, it was time for a brief wander into town. The old town is a maze of tiny narrow streets, bustling with all forms of commerce.

Delivery drivers are not quite the same here as back home, more of the pedal powered vareity.

Delivery Driver

Also nice to see are the locals just going about their daily business. This lady was just having a laugh with her friend in the house over the road.

Stopping for a chat

Not everything was bright and cheerful. Being an ancient place, the water supply was not what we expect in a city. Many people are still serviced by pump well’s in the town squares, sending their kids down to collect water for the family whenever it is needed.

The Water Boy

Getting late, so we headed back to the textile shop. Girls still shopping (another central theme of any Indian trip). Lucky for us the owners took us up onto the roof, gave us delicious chai and let us take sunset pictures. A perfect end to a day.

A Jodhpurian sunset

The next day is a big travel day, so back to the hotel for dinner and bed. Delicious food, shame about the 90 minute wait for it 😦

Next, the amazing moustache, Jain temples and cute village kids.

Day 2, an Indian Beginning

23 06 2009

Day 2. It begins for real today. Our first day touristing around.

The itinerary states :

Day 2 Delhi
Dive into the heart of India’s capital to explore both Old and New Delhi. Visit Delhi’s famous Jama Masjid, or walk through Chandni Chowk, one of India’s oldest and busiest markets.

Sounds a bit ambitious and it was. Still an amazing day out, if not frustrating.

We began at 11.30am. Why so late? Nobody knew. Most of us wanted to dive in a bit earlier than that and see as much as possible. Not to be. Looking back I believe Anna, our tour guide, wanted a sleep-in.

We Jumped on the metro and headed downtown into the Old city. Even more chaotic than Mumbai if that is at all possible. Absolutely crazy place.

Our first visit was to a large Sikh temple. We were shown around by an elder but by far the most interesting was the food hall behind the temple. Here they feed the people with food that is prepared or donated by the people. Amazing place.

The people working in the kitchen spent hours on end making chaparti breads for the people.

Making the Chapartis

Cooking Chaparti's

A young boy enjoys his lunch.

Boy at Lunch

Next stop was the Jamar Masjid mosque, a short(ish) walk through the market district of Old Delhi.

An amazing blend of old world shops, transport, etc.

India Shop

An amazing number of deliveries are still done by old fashioned means, in this case a modified bike loaded beyond what would be expected (not uncommon in this country).


Cockbrand Fireworks?

Mentally exhausted we arrived at the Jama Masjid Mosque.

Jamar Masjid

Built between1644 and 1656 by Shah Jahan, it has a fantastic view over Old Delhi, down to the red fort.

Red Fort of Delhi viewed from the Jamar Masjid

We came in a side entrance, but the royal gate is the main entrance, opening onto a large 90mx90m square.

The Royal Gate, Jamar Masjid

Detail of tower at Jamar Masjid

Part of the walls, Jamar Masjid

Just to prove I was there, and because some people say there are not enough pictures of me here,

Me at the Jamar Masjid

After all this, it was truly lunch time. Some of the group went back to the hotel and a restaurant near the hotel. We on the other hand headed deep into the markets to a small local place, so small that you would never consider going into it. Great food, bizarre atmosphere.

Following all of this, we headed back to the hotel for yet some more waiting, and then off to the train station for our overnight sleeper train to Jodhpur, and Day 3.

One more photo, possibly one of my favourites. An old bike that had been chained to the wall so long it had become part of the atmosphere.

Indian Bike

India, Oh India. Day 1 of many

23 06 2009

Oh India. Again we visited. Its just that kind of place.

Last year we had travelled for our winter vacation to Mumbai and down through Goa and Kerala. Fantastic and difficult all at the same time. Some of the best travel memories as well as some of the worst. How can any country be so split?

Anyhow, we arrived in New Delhi for our second Indian attempt. This time was a 15 day tour through Rajastan, Delhi and Agra.

Day 1 was the usual of this kind of tour. Meet the group and leader, maybe have dinner together, but no actual activities. Why this is called Day 1 and counted as part of the tour is annoying. Probably in order to make a 13 day tour sound like a 15 day tour. Oh well.

Death of a Video Game

9 06 2009

What do you get when you have a bunch of drunk people on a beach at night?

A big fire.

What happens when these people discover a video game cabinet close by?

An even bigger fire. And sadness in the hearts of retro gamers the world over.

Awaiting its fate

It all started so innocently. A birthday party held on the beach, with grand plans of bonfires, dancing and good times.

The arcade cabinet was sourced, readied and unceremoniously dumped into the flames. Within minutes it was consumed.

Death of a Video Game

Video Arcade Cabinet, comsumed by fire

Soon all that was left was a pile of burning scrap.

The burning remains

Strangely it wasn’t long after that when the army turned up. Apparently the beaches are supposed to be under lockdown after nightfall. Something to do with North Koreans invading.

Korean army party poopers

2 scared looking soldiers rocked up and was communicated to us, non-verbally, that we couldn’t continue. Oh well. What a night.

Just a real shame to see a decent condition cabinet burned just for fun. I know what these are worth to some people, but meh, the flames must be fed, the gods sated, and the army called.

Abandoned Amusement Park of Naksan

5 06 2009

Korea is full of strange wonderful places, and the beachfront at Naksan, near Yangyang is no exception.

Sandwiched between the 1980’s special that is Freya Condo, and the beach is what was once an amausement park / fairground. Unfortunately it appears to have been completely abandoned for at least 10 years, just left to gracefully rot away.

Naksan Pirate Ship

More impressive is how intact everything still is. No vandalism, hardly any graffiti. Still intact windows and equipment lying around. This kind of this certainly couldn’t happen in Australia or the US. There would be more damaged caused overnight than has happened here since closing.

As a result its an amazingly creepy place to visit. Even during daylight it is a bit scary.

Hurricane of Death

Spin me right round

It has the feel that it just closed as normal one night and that was it. Never to reopen. Everything left behind, ready to be turned on in the morning.

Stop!!! Push the Red Button

Flick the green one

Tickets here

This isn’t the only one if its kind either. Dotted all over the coast are these dated beach resorts. Well worth a visit, just not for the fun of a pirate ship and some fairy floss.

Ah Bull

3 06 2009

Ah Korea, land of Sparkling.

What could be more Korean than 2 bulls head-butting each other into submission? Stubbornness and a love of beef? That’s the Cheong-Do Cow Fighting Festival. Korea vs Japan in a cow fighting festival.

Simply put, they drag two bulls into a ring and try to motivate them to “fight”. The first one to turn and run is the looser. Some fights went on for a few minutes, some didn’t even start with one or both bulls refusing to fight.

Head to Head

Korean Bull Fighting

One of the more peculiar festivals I’ve visited in Korea, but certainly very entertaining.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Kaesong, North Korea. Part2.

31 05 2009

Part 2 of our Kaesong Adventure.

Following our lunch at Tongil Restaurant it was time to recommence tourism duties. We piled back onto buses, us up back, minders up front. Another lecture on not taking photo’s of normal everyday street scenes, and off we went.

First stop (of the afternoon at least) was the Sungyang Seowon, a Confucian shrine and academy. Well, what used to be a Confucian shrine and academy. Now a museum to show to foreign tourists.

Sungyang Seowon crowds

Our tour guide around here (no English of course, but we had bits of it translated for us). They do say that North Korean women are more beautiful than those from the South.

North Korean Tour guide

Looking down into part of the academy, this guy seems to want us to not go up. Shame I was already at the top 🙂

Stop! You shall not pass

Confucian Insect?

Insect and Confucianism

Following our (brief) visit to Songyang we moved on again. This time no matter what our guides did they couldn’t avoid the classes of Elementary kids looking, waving and smiling at us. Unfortunately no pictures (sense a trend here?), but really they looked and acted much like South Korean kids, except for the red neck ties.

We moved on to another famous Kaesong sight, the Sonjuk bridge and Pyochung Pavilion.

Sonjuk bridge was built in 1290. It is famous for the assassination of a famous Confucian scholar called Jong Mongju, apparently on the orders of the Kings son, Yi Songgye. They claim that you can still see Jong Mongju’s blood where it stained the bridge red. Even if it is a small bridge it is one of the National Treasures of North Korea

Sonjuk Bridge, Kaesong

Of course being a national treasure, it deserves a “kimchee” photo.

Sonjuk Bridge, Kaesong

Just over the road from the Sonjuk bridge is Pyochung Pavilion which was built during the Joseon dynasty. A small wooden pavilion is home to 2 enormous stone stele standing on the back of huge stone turtles.

Entrance to Sungyang Lecture Hall ?

Wikipedia tells me that one stele was erected in 1740 by King Yongjo, the other by King Kojong in 1872. Both commemorate Jong Mongju’s assassination.

Turtle and stele, Kaesong North Korea

Drawing towards the end of our day, our final stop was the Goryeo Museum. A museum which which a bit interesting with old pottery and the like, was much more interesting on the outside, and within its gift shops.

A seven storied stone pagoda in front of much more modern communication towers.

Seven storied pagoda with more recent towers

A stone lantern.

Stone lantern in Goryeo Museum

And more interestingly, a dragon head jumping out of the sand infront of a pavilion.

Dragon Head in the Goryeo Museum, Kaesong

Following our visits to sights of Kaesong, it was time to head back. Not quite back to the South yet, a small drive through the Industrial Complex that is a join North/South venture. Interestingly it looked straight out a game of simcity, with large city blocks, a perfect traffic light network but no traffic, wide streets and footpaths with no pedestrians etc. Very much like the artificially constructed city that it is.

North Korean immigration was interesting, with specialised photo police who scan all your pictures and demand you delete any they don’t like or deem to be inappropriate. Guess nobody has told them that it aint rocket science to recover photo’s.

Returning to the South through the DMZ is a bizarre experience, back to the relative safety of South Korea, the country we call home.

Since we visited, relations between the North and South have disintegrated to the point where the tours are all stopped, the Industrial Complex is “on hold” and missile tests are happening 😦

Still, if you get the chance to visit, 100% recommended.