Monday, December 12, 2005

Hammy's 2005 Trip To Korea And Japan - Nov 29th

My alarm went off this morning and I got up. A little while later I realised that it was my 5:50am alarm from home and not the 6:30 alarm that I had set. It's the first time in nearly two weeks that I have heard that particular alarm. Went back to sleep and consequently missed the 6:30 alarm.

Had breakfast with Jon and said, "Anytime you are in New Zealand we are only a 7 hr flight away." He thanked me for the invite. [Editor's note - His plan is to retire to NZ.]

Following breakfast Yu-Jin and I jumped on the subway to Myeongnyeong-dong. A halmoni (grandma) beckoned Yu-Jin sit next to her, insisted in fact, and proceeded to hug him. She was a Buddhist and was dressed in hanbok. She kept talking to Yu-Jin and gave two prayer books, Buddhist in nature. I handed a koala for Yu-Jin to give to her. Then she handed over a folded up 1000 Won note. I thought that I'm not going to up the ante here. Later on I pointed to her buddhist beads to show Yu-Jin that is what they wear and she wanted to hand them over. Thanks, but no thanks.

Alighted the subway at the East Busan Bus Terminal. Or, at least, what used to be the East Busan Bus Terminal. The girl at the information desk wasn't in a hurry to provide any information so I asked a fellow subway traveller and we worked it all out in Korean. At the end of the conversation he said to me, "You understand?". So, I wasted another 900 Won. At least the subway is quite cheap.

Korean girls are noticeably larger (fatter) than Japanese girls. People are much louder in Korea also. The drivers don't have the patience shown by the Japanese. People are more refined, or have more class, in Japan. Business is conducted in a much more structured manner, not find an uninhabited street corner and set up shop. Japan had no real markets to speak of although we did see a secondhand market outside the craft display in Nagasaki.

The bus ticket for me to Gyeonju cost 4000 Won and Yu-Jin's ticket was 2000 Won. Only 14 adults on the 1 hr 10 mins ride and I can't believe that they are making money [Editor's note - I can't believe that I can read your handwriting from the bus trip]. The bus still has to pay for the Expressway toll, fuel, a ticket collector, bus driver, maintenance etc. The ticket collector made me sit next to Yu-Jin and her reasoning was "Dangerous!". Why? We both had seatbelts on. How much safer can he possibly get by me sitting next to him? The Expressway was quite busy for a weekday morning, I thought. Bus ride was less than 50 mins.

Tourist info ladies were very helpful for English maps, bus numbers and accommodation. Mr Park was very accommodating and offered us a room for 15000 Won [Editor's note - I'm sure that Miky and I stayed in the same yeogwan in 1998!]. Yu-Jin and I jumped on a bus to Bulguksa - the largest Buddhist temple in Korea.

Entry was 4000 Won for me. There were quite a few students there and the scenery was lovely. Some girls wanted to have their photo taken with Yu-Jin and then he took their photo and that of the Korean Jim Carrey. Yu-Jin built his own stone balancing temple to go with hundreds of others and then swept some leaves up. Must be some Buddhist-values rubbing off on him.

Even the bus stops in Gyeongju have the tiled roof. I believe that there is a law that buildings in the district must have tiled rooves as it is a sort of living museum and the historical look is to be preserved.

I love the information signs in Korea - so classy.

Near the entrance of Bulguksa. Lovely leaves still on show.

Yu-Jin at the entrance to the temple. Bulguksa dates back to the year 751!

Lovely pond with bridge.

Close-up of the bridge.

Keep those evil spirits away. That ukelele really is scary.

Bit of scenery.

Picture postcard stuff, this.

There's going to be a few pictures of this taken along the way.

More leaves and stuff.

Not too many people take the time and make the effort to get a photo from this angle. Not really surprising though, eh? She is a majestic building, eh what?

Inside the complex.

Another angle of the front section. They even gave names to the bridges leading up to the temple and both of them are national treasures.

Korean Jim Carrey. At least that is who he proclaimed to be. I'll give him his five seconds of fame.

Some girls who insisted on Yu-Jin having his photo with them. He then proceeded to take their photo.

Seokgatap - National Treasure No. 21.

Big drum. Rather ornate.

Eaves detail.

Dabotap - National Treasure No. 20. Built in 751.

Dae Ung Jon - Great Enlightenment Hall which was originally constructed in 681.

Rather a lot of woodwork has been utilised for this building.

Moo Sol Jeon - No Word Hall. "Impossible to express and reach the essence of the Buddha's teachings as the depth of Truth throughout means of language."

No, they're not bodyguards. They appear to be a couple of businessmen enjoying a day out of the office.

Nice little gate.

What danger do the stairs present exactly?

Eaves and autumn leaves.

Sarira Pagoda. Treasure No. 61 (what, not a National Treasure?). Looks like a lantern. This was taken by the Japanese but retrieved in 1933.

Yu-Jin's rocks - dol tap (stone tower).

Dol tap everywhere. Must be a scarcity of rocks in the vicinity.

Doorway dol tap.

Wall dol tap.

Nice walls around this place. Could do with some of these around my garden at home.

Yu-Jin just couldn't resist doing some sweeping. Wish he was like this at home.

More autumn leaves.

Toilet sign.

More autumn leaves. Love them, me.

One large donger.

Everybody has this photo but how many have no people in the shot?

Flagpole pillars. Must have been some flagpole.

Looks a little bit like a cold war outpost.

After Bulguksa we had a quick lunch followed by a bus trip (1300 Won) to Seokkoram Grotto - 석굴암(entry fee 4000 Won) where it was only 5 degrees C. Three busloads of students rocked up at the same time as we did so we decided to beat them as they would take ages. I just had to take photos of them filing through before we went for another look. They, the students, don't have any time to experience anything. Just the [limited] experience of been there, seen that. Took the bus back to Bulguksa but got off at the top instead of the bottom entrance and so missed the next bus into town. Didn't matter too much but I would have preferred that bus as it took a different route.

Students going to Seokguram Grotto. Bloody lot of them.

Here the students are filing through and only get a couple of seconds to see this major tourist attraction.

This is the building housing the stone Buddha. Not allowed to take photos inside unfortunately so I had to buy the postcards instead. It's the only statue of Buddha overlooking the East Asia Sea, or something.

Groovy Tree. (Don't faint Megha)

How to save 1300 Won on a bus fare.

Got off near the train station and walked through some back streets to Tumuli Park. Came across a white dog called Minky and it's owner thought it was very funny when Yu-Jin told it to be quiet in Korean. The entrance to Tumuli Park was some distance away. I decided that we should look at Cheomseongdae before Tumuli Park as we could do that on the walk home. Sounded like a good idea. Probably wasn't a bad idea as my camera battery went flat just as I was about to take my first photo of Cheomseongdae. And I had paid to enter the grounds as well! At least it would be open until 10pm so we could return once my battery was charged. We walked all the way home as I didn't know which bus to catch.

One of the mounds in Tumuli Park. There are some 40 kings and queens buried in this area. Pity I didn't get more photos during the day.

Tractor travel. The guy gave me a wave once he realised that I was taking his photo. Although Korea is very densely populated you still see farmers getting around by whatever means.

Men's toilet - very classy sign.

Women's toilet sign - also very classy.

Smokers get looked after too much in Korea.

Cheomseongdae - 첨성대- closed. Oldest observatory in East Asia. Built some time between 632 and 647.

Cheomseongdae - using the zoom at night.

Set the charger going and we went out to find somewhere to eat. That was a mission in itself as a lot of places didn't advertise or sell bibimbap which is what I wanted. Finally found a place and we had chamchi kimbap (tuna sushi), odeng (fishcake) and bibimbap. All that for 7000 Won (less than 10 bucks). Took some back streets to get home. Once back at our yeoinseok we met Wendy and Alice from the Gold Coast. Alice was adopted about 17 years ago from Korea and it is the first time that she has been back. She is searching for her mum but has only found an old address at this stage. They had some good stories to share. Wendy sells motor homes.

Wendy told me that they had hired a taxi for six hours and seen all the sights. It cost them 100000 Won (A$130) after the taxi driver had offered his services for 120000 Won initially. I had had two drivers ask me if I needed a taxi to sightsee when I arrived. We talked until midnight. Wendy is quite an artist and had started a great picture of Bulguksa that she planned to paint. Yu-Jin was very interested in the picture. She plans to come to Perth in March for a bike ride from Albany.

A very busy day with lots of walking, let me tell you.

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