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25 Oct - 30 Oct 2012

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27 Aug - 13 Sep 2012

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1 Mar - 22 Mar 2012

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Korea mainly but also Hong Kong - September 2011 - Page 2

Day 4 - Tuesday, 6 Semptember 2011

Shenzhen Again

Today I embarked on an adventure to mainland China to the Shenzhen special economic region.
I last went here in May 2010, getting in can be an adventure.
Today I had no problem getting in, the visa part took seconds for me, but some Canadians seemed to get a few extra questions and one girl (a 20 something girl) burst into tears and exclaimed 'I just want to get out of here!' which led to one of the female visa workers to come around and console her.
There were also a heap of Australian backpacker students who seemed to have taken the cheap flight from Hong Kong which really leaves via Shenzhen on Xiamen airlines. They were fairly confused as to why they needed a Visa to get their flight.

Once I had my Visa, which costs nearly $20 now, You still have to go through customs, the lady there said 'you have long hair' to which I said 'yes I do' she typed something into the computer and let me through.

Thats enough text for here, onto the pictures, I did my best to not add 1000 pictures of cool looking buildings.

Last time I came here, I walked about 100 miles, its hot today so I am going to ride the shiny new metro. Wikipedia says you can use your Hong Kong octopus card on it...wrong. They are still planning that.
So now I have added to my collection of RFID train cards.

The metro is extensive, all brand new, very clean and has English signage. This seems to be largely for the 2011 Universiade games, whatever that is, which has the tag line 'it starts here, make a difference'.
Universiade 2011 advertisements are absolutely everywhere.

I stared at this for a while before I realised it was an actual map. I thought it was an ad for a new version of the game sim city.

This is the dongmen shopping district, I am on the lookout for any dong men.

Very quiet I thought, I went back later in the day and it was quite busy. The main sales tactic is still to stand out the front of your shop and clap your hands slowly.

I caught the metro to the Futian area, which is near another border crossing. It has this giant mall which was all but abandoned.
Strangely, it has a Costa Coffee store.

I tried to order food in a few places, but failed!
The main food courts you needed some card thing I didnt have which they scan at the store, then you take it to the cashier. There was no English signage at all in the food court.
I was dying of thirst by now, so I found a supermarket in the basement for a huge bottle of pocari sweat. This supermarket had not only a KFC but a Dairy Queen and an Orange Julius in it.

As far as lunch goes, it was starting to look like fast food or something out of a packet from a convenience store, none of the stands selling pickled duck tongues could understand a word I was saying, no amount of pointing seemed to help.

The actual picture here is of a restaurant that seems to sell only rabbit!

By now I needed a rest, so I ended up back at Costa Coffee. The coffee was really good, but even better there was a German man arguing with a Chinese woman in English about how she had ripped him off over 100,000 euros!
It seems she is his financial advisor and an intermediary in investments in Shenzhen. They were very loud.
It was fairly apparent his business was not totally above board, cause when he told her from now on he was going to ask for invoices for everything he deposits with her, she said 'you want invoice, I give invoice to the money police!'

Theres plenty of rich people in Shenzhen. Overall it seems quite a bit nicer than Hong Kong, everyone seems a lot more stylish, less conservative. Of course I didnt go beyond the limits of the metro system, my visa doesnt actually allow me beyond a certain point.

An impressive huge new building, 100 storeys.

It was very clear today, but strangely quiet. I think most people were escaping the heat. I didnt suffer too much, but most locals were fanning themselves ferociously and carrying umbrellas.

Deng Xiaoping is keeping an eye on us.

Turns out giant new building isnt finished yet. I of course wandered over to check on the construction style. It seems they dont use bamboo here like in Hong Kong.

Nearby is this huge park with fake ancient chinese architecture and a big artificial lake.
The gardens were really impressive, and there was an army of old people forced to clean it non stop. They should be proud of their work.
My photo didnt turn out too well, shitty lighting.

One of a few solid gold buildings off in the distance.

An example of apartment housing. The bars on all the balconies dont look too inspiring.

Back at Lo Wu checkpoint running the gauntlet of prostitutes and pickpockets. The pickpocketing world championship is staged here every year.

I have leftover Yuan to spend, so I rewarded my day of walking with my 2 favourite things. There is no Pepsi Max in Hong Kong.

This shopping centre joins onto the border control point, and its hilarious fun to walk through here and get followed by people trying to sell you dvd's.
Who still actually buys dvd's? They might as well be selling beta videos. They need to get with the time and start selling USB keys with 200 dvd's on each one.

Another guy tried to not only sell me an iphone 5 (not released at time of writing), but also an iphone 6, which led to the guy from the stall across the hallway to laugh and yell in English 'look at him, he knows iphone 5 not out yet! hahahah'

On the train on the way back, it was clear enough to see the tops of some of the impressive mountains in Hong Kong. I dont know if you can climb up there, but I would like to.


I got back pretty late from Shenzhen and was pretty exhausted.
As such I just wandered around the local area for a couple of hours.
Since I have stayed here and done that before, I dont have many photos worth showing, so bad luck.

I had to stick a couple in so I dont break my web page, whoever designed the content management thing (me) is an idiot, I also have to rememer to escape single quotes or the entire thing breaks.

Tomorrow I am going to Korea. I feel as though I could have spent a few more days in Hong Kong, I used the entirity of each of the 3 days I was here and theres lots of places I didnt get to.

Seriously, I ate the exact same meal in the same place in the same seat that I have sat in before. Once I decided thats where I was eating it then became a mental challenge to remember what I ate and where I sat last time.

Heres a random shot of my street.
Tomorrow I am travelling all day, first Hong Kong airport, the Taipei airport, then Seoul airport.
You can expect a new world record for number of boring airport photos!

Day 5 - Wednessday, 7 Semptember 2011

Hong Kong Airport

Today is a day full of travel.
Most people dread the thought but I love it. I wake up early, excited, cause I am going to the airport.
At the 'in town check in' in Kowloon, the first class check in lady proudly tells me they have managed to change my flight to one 3 hours earlier direct to Seoul. She seems very pleased with herself to offer such great service.
Unfortunately for her, I have deliberately picked flights that will see me arrive at the airport 3 hours early, and transit via Taipei with a 3 hour stopover.
When I tell her to change it back, she is extremely apologetic and tells me she hates airports. I thought to myself she has a very strange job if thats the case.

Onwards to the airport on the express train, and I had to stop and do some urgent secret work before I could go through to customs, luckily their free wifi even in the departure hall is excellent.

Going through customs, I again had to explain why I look so different to my passport picture, the girl asked me what my diet secret was. I told her 'stop eating', of course she looked like a 10 year old boy anyway so I dont know what she needed to know for.

Waiting for my flight was pleasent, with the full dim sum buffet, view out the window and wandering around checking out the planes waiting at the gates.
I have tried to keep photos to a bare minimum, cause I know that NO ONE CARES (stop emailing me to tell me no one cares).

First course, just some fruit and a crossaint.

The view out of 'The Wing'. I actually dont like this place as much as the business class lounges, cause in here you have to ask a waiter for everything rather than have self service.

Second course, cake, chocolates...more fruit. The chocolates are great. I had a few more than whats pictured.

My plane to Taipei, Airbus A330. On the inside it was very old, still had ash trays in the seat dividers. Had the front row in economy again, and the cabin staff manager fussed over me non stop (must have been the only high status passenger on board). She kept bringing me things from the business class cabin I might like, wines, spirits etc. Eventually I asked for a diet coke having declined one off the cart, and when it came, in a real glass with ice instead of the can like I would have preferred, there was also a bowl of hot nuts and an after dinner mint I didnt ask for.
This perplexed not only me but all the passengers around me. When the plane landed all the staff thanked me by name. Very annoying!

Taipei Airport

I spent a relaxing few hours in the airport, glad with my decision to route my flight through here.
The first class lounge is shitty compared to the business class, its just very quiet, you have to exit back to business for food and bathrooms etc. There is also a noodle bar, where I can get Taiwanese beef noodle soup! My favourite thing in the world.

I wont crap on too much here, I will do that with the pictures.

My beef noodle soup. This is made inside the Cathay Pacific lounge. Its not the best I have ever had, but I was still very very happy.
The best I ever had in Taiwan is just the other side of customs in the other terminal, I seriously considered going out and back in customs just to get soup, but thought the border guards might find that a strange answer to the question of why did I enter Taiwan for 30 minutes.

Taipei airport seems to go for miles, it just keeps going and going, past various flow exhibits, art shows, design institute things, hello kitty world etc.

Here I am, proof I was there, still amazed that I havent found the end of the terminal.

And now the amazing thing. I assumed the 2 terminals werent joined, as theres a train that runs between them, but they are, its a giant square, I estimate its 5 miles around.
Im sure you know what I did, it took over an hour, and I had to walk fast or miss my flight (or get the train, which would be a failure)! It was great fun.

Near the end of my walk is an e-library, with all sorts of tablets set up for free use. Except none of them are working at all. Not a single one, not the apple, not the samsung, not the motorola. All have different errors on the screen in Taiwanese. And it wasnt just me not being able to read Taiwanese, because some locals couldnt make them do anything either. Tablet failure.

Last photo of Taiwan is of course of my plane. This time a Boeing 777. I had the best seat ever, first row of economy, so much legroom I couldnt reach the bulkhead with my feet. Also they go for 2,3,2 seating rather than 3,3,3 or the dreaded 3,4,3 so it was very spacious.
The flight had a decent meal, chicken with rice, and a nice black forest cake dessert and also a small pineapple cake (national cake of Taiwan) which was amazingly good. I wanted the plane to turn around so I could buy some more.

I also got annoyed some more by the Cabin Manager on this flight, again I couldnt get a can of drink, just half a glass full of ice. Give me the can like everyone else damnit!

Seoul Arrival

The plane landed on time, and customs was easy. The only time I have ever had to wait for customs or immigration is at Heathrow, and there its been every time, one time it took 2 hours! Of course I havent been to the USA.
The train takes an hour to get into town, its a long way as Seouls airport is actually in a differnt city, Incheon.

I am tired so havent seen much besides the subway stations (I had to transfer twice), and my Hotel, and the 711 out the front.
My hotel seems to be in amazing location, the internet works, the rooms fine, I can get cash out, I bought the subway / convenience store smart card etc.
I get USA military tv channels, which have hilarious ads reminding soldiers not to shake their new born babies to death and to respect Korean women.

I will probably re edit this tomorrow cause I typed it really fast and I doubt it makes sense.

Arrivals hall, my bag was first off, as it should be!

After a series of travellators over bridges, you arrive here, which seems to be a giant building to house an escelator that heads underground to the airport train.

On the train, it has 3 competing wifi services, I got my laptop out and played with them, they all cost about $1 for an hour as best I could tell, only one of them had English. Interestingly (I have read about this), they only support Internet explorer, and needed to download an active x control to login. Apparently IE is the only browser supported in Korea.

Day 6 - Thursday, 8 Semptember 2011


Let the epic walking begin.
Decided to head out with no plan, which equates to the best plan ever. Right near my hotel, and in the very centre of Seoul is Namsan, a mountain park with a tower on the top.
There are numerous cable car options to get up it, but I decided (of course) to walk.
A great feature is wherever there werent steps they had a padded walkway, like an athletics track, my toes appreciate this.
It is a very impressive park, and strange that a giant city was built around a mountain. Just as impressive, a blind man who must have been 80 years old climbed all the steps (takes about 45 minutes) without stopping. As soon as he got to the top he turned to climb back down again.
I went down a different way, which joined back up with the steps, when I got back to where I started there he was, turning to climb back up again!

There were many older people exercising at all levles in the park, with different areas with great views set aside for people to do different exercises, including the favourite of the old people, the giant steering wheels.

This is the view out the front of my hotel. It is the Lotte department store. Behind me is the Myeongdong alleyways which are high end shops and lots of decent looking asian restaurants in amongst usa fast food joints, korean versions of the same and at least 200 coffee shops.
Below me, theres an underground shoppinig centre, not just one mall, but a grid of them, all selling secondhand goods, literally 100 secondhand camera shops.

The view back towards my hotel from the base of the mountain. Its a grey day, with some misty rain, perfect for walking up thousands of steps.

First we go up an inclined elevator. I have no idea what was wrong with an escalator, this thing is painfully slow.

Some sort of old looking building at the start of the trail, I dont know if it actually is old or not, I tend to doubt it.

Steps. I rate this trail as equivalent to walking up to the peak in Hong Kong, but not as good as the one at the end of the massive cable car in Taipei. That one was much better because I was the only person there and the views were slightly better.
Hong Kong probably has the best views, but theres a lot of people at the peak at all times.

Expect lots of pictures of the view, feel free to scroll.



almost done, SCROLL!!!!

Not sure what this is, it seems to be the summit, blocking the view! You arent allowed to climb on it. Lots of Koreans seemed interested in it.

On top is a mobile phone tower (2 actually). You can pay to go up it, I didnt, as its not much higher than the mountain, and the weather was so nice standing outside. I enjoyed a pocari sweat from a vending machine to celebrate my conquest.
There are many more mountains in the greater Seoul metropolitan area, all bigger than this one, I am excited, my toes are not.

If you look on websites about Seoul, you will see this. Young couples who come up here attach a lock to symbolise their love.
I am alone, and despise myself, so no lock for me.

Artistic lock photo. Enjoy your blur.

OH GOD NO, more boring view photos, looking the other way.

I deleted more than I uploaded.

One of the exercise parks, the old folks get to enjoy the view whilst they exercise.
Also, photo 100!

Here I am keeping an eye on the 'geographial centre of Seoul'. The entire city rotates around a pole inserted in the ground at this point on a giant plate. Hyundai built it.

On the way back I got lost on purpose, this area seems to be all textiles and beads.

The big Korean brands dont just make what we know them for. Hyundai have drinks and food, Samsung has fashion. I bought a stunning Samsung boy leg support brief with matching girly tee. Scroll down for pics of me modelling my new ensemble.

Din Tai Fung Korea

My toes are destroyed. I have just finished inserting things into them to drain the fluid, scroll down for pics.

In other news, 20 metres from my hotel down an alleyway is Din Tai Fung, my favourite restaurant. I didnt know this, imagine my surprise when I turned down there to get off the street so I could type an email on my blackberry.

The armed forces network tv continues to provide amusing ads to remind US soldiers about not putting their babies in the microwave for fun, or how meth amphetamine is illegal, or how hand grenades are not to be removed from the base without orders, or how posting secret militarty plans on facebook is probably a bad idea. Then you get an ad for the various activities workshops they are running, my favourite is 'Learn how to do cool stuff to cars' which is running every third Saturday.

The basement of the lotte department store, as well as a million varieties of moon cakes, they seem to have shrink wrapped decorative packages of partially rotten fish, which cost a fortune!

Would you eat Taiwanese food in Korea a day after being in Taiwan? Of course you would.
My usual order of Xiao Long Bao and braised beef noodle soup.
The quality is amazing as usual, the service of the waiters however was not up to the same high standards as the other countries where I have eaten in the same establishment. My tea was never refilled and I had to wave to get someone to take my order etc.
However they might have been distracted, because at another table, a Korean couple seemed to be on a first date (at 1pm on a Thursday?) and he ordered for both of them, a huge amount of food, and it seems he ordered something she didnt like or is allergic to because she went into an insane panic and so the guy started abusing the waiters.
I am pretty sure it was his fault though, cause I watched him order (trying to get the attention of the waiter to take my order) and he got what he ordered.
After some shrimp and pork dumplings were removed from their table they calmed down and ate everything else.

The outside of the building is very plain, but it has excellent decor on the inside, I forgot to take a photo of the whole room and the lab coat chefs making the dumplings behind the glass lit with spotlights.

This is a new feature of central Seoul, it used to be an open sewer, now its a linear park that goes for miles. It didnt seem to still smell like a sewer, at night its all lit up with different colored lights apparently, so you can get drunk and pass out in a stream and drown in neon colored water.

Todays ridiculous building photo. This one seems to be an impressive waste of space. Its pretty much wafer thin past half way up until you get to that thing on the top, which I am not even sure is habitable.
More confusing is theres no signage, normally you construct a ridiculous building like this to mount a giant advertisement on.

My afternoon snack reward for walking up many steps, CRUNKY. It seemed to be chocolate coated popcorn. I didnt enjoy it very much.

Yongsan and Itaewon

This evening I visited 2 different yet geographically relatively close regions, however getting between them required multiple train changes.
Yongsan is the site of the wholesale electronics markets. It is a series of stores with boxes piled high.
Prices were nothing special...where they had prices. This isnt a real wholesale market, its advertised as such but the only buyers are regular people. It would help if they put prices on things.
The guys in here all look disinterested and are busy watching baseball on their cell phones that have in built tv tuners (all korean phones seem to, they watch regular broadcast tv, not IP streaming tv.

Itaewon is near the US base thats closing soon. As such its full of tourists and fast food restaurants. This was my first ever real experience with loud groups of large excited african american women who were basically on the set of oprah whilst they were walking down the street. It was hilarious watching them get excited at everything.

I only saw maybe 2 actual US soldiers here, other than the tour groups of Americans, it was mainly Indian guys, most of whom were dragging all their luggage and enough shopping to last a life time.
Also, I have never seen so many donut shops in my life.

This is the very impressive Yongsan station. As well as being a metro station its also a KTX bullet train station.

An example of a bustling street corner in electronics town. The main types of electronics seem to be cctv setups, anything that vibrates and sends out ultrasonic waves, possibly built into a chair, netbooks that cost more than they do in Australia, those weird pocket organizers that are sold only in asia despite smartphones eliminating the need for them 10 years ago.

Between electronics town and the station is this urban wasteland. Amazingly you can walk right down there in amongst the tracks and trains.

Looking back to electronics town, you can see the stairs coming off the overpass I just walked across where you can get right down into the shunting yard. Seems very dangerous but there were people down there just wandering about.

Then I stumbled on a few hundred teenage girls all armed with the latest dslr cameras and big lenses. In Korea the girls have the cameras pointed at boys rather than the way it is here. There was a lot of screaming and signs being held up....

And the reason, album release by k-pop sensations 'Super Junior', they are pretty well known I think, because I have seen posters of them in Korea Town in Sydney.

In Itaewon now, home of American fast food, so what did I have? Would you eat taco bell in Korea? Would you eat Taco Bell ever? To be honest I wasnt sure...but I am feeling pretty brave.

I opted for 2 x 'lite' soft tacos. They seemed to have real meat in them. They were not too bad, a bit like I would make at home but a lot less spicy and with no avocado or yoghurt or capsicum etc.

The seating areas were spread over 2 floors, completely segregated! Level 2 was Americans only. Level 3 was Koreans only. I sat with the Koreans. There was a hushed tone when I arrived on the scene.

Back near my hotel now, this is a typical street in Myeongdong. This place is huge, it reminds me a lot of Shibuya Japan. I think each street is about a kilometre long, and theres a 10x10 grid of streets as busy (or busier) than this.
Theres some big multi storey malls on some streets, and the entire underground thing too, its just an enormous place. Has to be 500 restaurants alone in the area.

At night they fill the middle of each street with street food stalls such as this. Mainly deep fried things on sticks like Taiwan, but a bit less terrifying than there, except of course for the dog.

There is now a page 3, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.


Latest Update

Day 1 - Saturday, 3 September 2011
  Adelaide to Brisbane
  Brisbane airport
Day 2 - Sunday, 4 September 2011
  Hong Kong Arrival
  Tsuen Wan
  Causeway Bay
Day 3 - Monday, 5 September 2011
  Repulse Bay...yes
Day 4 - Tuesday, 6 September 2011
  Shenzhen Again
Day 5 - Wednesday, 7 September 2011
  Hong Kong Airport
  Taipei Airport
  Seoul Arrival
Day 6 - Thursday, 8 September 2011
  Din Tai Fung Korea
  Yongsan and Itaewon
Day 7 - Friday, 9 September 2011
  Gyeonbok Palace
Day 8 - Saturday, 10 September 2011
  War Memorial
  Love Hotels
Day 9 - Sunday, 11 September 2011
  Dos Tacos
Day 10 - Monday, 12 September 2011
  Seoul Zoo
  Taking it easy
Day 11 - Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Day 12 - Wednesday, 14 September 2011
  Walk until lost
Day 13 - Thursday, 15 September 2011
  Korean National Museum
  Times Square
Day 14 - Friday, 16 September 2011
  Incheon Airport
  Tokyo Narita Airport
Day 15 - Saturday, 17 September 2011
  Sydney Airport