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Trips

Taiwan4
March 5th - 1 April 2017


Japan6
October 16th - November 11th 2016


Europe
May 22nd - June 13th 2016


Japan5
November 2nd - November 26th 2015


Korea2
March 3rd - March 26th 2015

Even
More
Trips

HongJapWan
March 6th - March 28th 2014

Sichuan
March 23rd - April 10th 2013

Tokyo weekend
October 25th - October 30th 2012

China again
August 27th - September 13th 2012

Japan and Taiwan
March 1st - March 22nd 2012

China
November 1st - November 18th 2011

Korea, mainly...
September 3rd - September 17th 2011

Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore / ?
March 25th - April 11th 2011

London, for the third time
June 25th - July 17th 2010

Japan and Hong Kong
May 2nd - May 18th 2010

London again and Hong Kong
February 26th - March 25th 2010

London
September 5th - 22nd 2009

South East Asia
December 3rd - 18th 2005

Korea mainly but also Hong Kong - September 2011 - Page 4

Day 10 - Monday, 12 Semptember 2011

Seoul Zoo

The zoo is but one attraction in the Seoul Grand Park, which is actually outside of Seoul in a place called Gwacheon, there is also a forest bathing area, a hobby museum, museum of contemporary art, rose garden, botanical gardens and a roller coaster theme park to name a few.
Throughout many of the photos below you can see some big mountains nearby, I am planning to climb the biggest one tomorrow, weather and toes permitting.

Before I got to the zoo, I was amazed that the normally clogged streets around my hotel were completely abandoned apart from rubbish blowing around and a few zombies. I feared this may be the case all day however when I came back in the afternoon they were more clogged than ever. It seems everywhere is just opening late for the national holiday.
Unfortunately, this included starbucks and all other coffee places, and once I got to the zoo there was no coffee. Given the density of coffee shops throughout the city I found this weird, there was a kfc, lots of Korean saussage on a stick places, 10 family marts etc. But none had real coffee, just the stuff in a tin. I had one of those but it still took me a while to wake up. I think I have a problem....

The zoo itself was great, admission was $3 (more than Taiwan), and it is huge. They dont have any pandas and there is a focus on big cats. The few Koreans that were there at this time have no problems banging on the glass and clapping their hands to try and annoy the animals, I saw a kid lob a rock at a monkey and his parents didnt seem to mind.
Getting here at 9AM had its pros and cons, there were very few people about (as I was leaving the stream of people coming in was mind boggling), but also some exhibits were still shut as I walked past.

All in all I rate this the second best zoo I have been to, Taipei > Seoul > Singapore > Tokyo.

The abandoned streets of Myeong-Dong.

Here I am, in my camo shorts, ready to take over. Lots of kids in camo gear doing military service filled the trains, seems they are allowed to go home for the day. Which makes me wonder, who is guarding the border? Maybe today is the day I can escape to the glorious north.

That mountain sure does look enticing, theres some sort of structure at the top and plenty of rocky outcrops for me to plummet to my grisly death.

You have to ride on many themed things in the zoo, here I am on the electric elephant train.

The pink flamingoes were really quite pink, I thought the photo came out well.

I was also pretty happy with how this giraffe picture turned out.

This asshole monkey is poking his tongue out at me. I returned the favour then mooned him for good measure.

A baby chimpanze, theres heaps of baby animals in the zoo, and they let you look at them all, even some in incubators I couldnt photograph properly.

Its quite a hike to the top of the zoo, and no one else seems to come up this way, theres a few abandoned areas near the top, and a lone wolf I forgot to photograph.

These are baby tigers, as small as a regular kitten. That one climbing the fence almost got over about 10x whilst I watched.

Slightly larger baby tigers, I thought they might have been dead for a while, but I was joined by a Korean family who were happy to bash on the glass with great ferocity.

They have a few different kinds of bears, some were hiding, some were having their bile drained.

These cougars were playing about just like normal cats.

Tiger drinking from a pond

Clear shot of a tiger, there were also elephants but they were a long way off for some reason, perhaps they move them into another area later in the day?

I stopped for a snack from family mart, tim tams. Made in Indonesia and nothing like Australian tim tams at all, there was no cream layer and the biscuit part was a regular malt biscuit.

Entrance to the zoo gets you a ride on one segment of the cable car (but not both, and buying the extra segment is $10, remember entry was $3).
Getting on it was a bit of a challenge, I dont know how old people would manage.

There will now be shots of the cable car, the net below looked enticing for a snooze.

Looking down on the zoo.

Last shot from the cable car, ride lasts for maybe 15 minutes.

Theres the other segment of the cable car ride, goes about another 10 minutes, it seems most people paid the extra, I was happy enough to walk.

Hobby world, seemed to be shut, a tribute to transformers. Koreans love Gundam much like the Japanese, I suspect they hate transformers as it is inferior to Gundam!

Kraze burger! Korean up market burger chain. Expensive meal cost $8 for the 2 burgers and a drink. Its all made fresh, takes about 15 minutes, they have signs advising you of that, and the chef put some real effort into making them.
I must admit, it was pretty nice. The photo makes them look huge but they were quite small. You can get 1 regular size burger or 2 small ones for the same price.
There are also signs in English everywhere explaining how healthy their burgers are...I dont know about that. Not sure when bread, cheese and bacon became healthy.

Last pic for the day, doing my washing. All praise a hotel with excellent free wifi and a laundry room with a big screen tv and vending machine.
Also, the detergent cost 50 cents, the washing machine cost $1 and the dryer cost 50 cents. So all up, $2. In London I paid 9 pounds to sit on the cold floor and fight with people to get a machine.

Taking it easy

For two reasons, I didnt do much tonight.
1. I plan to climb a mountain tomorrow, researching is confusing, some people say its a near death experience and they turned around less than half way up. Others say its ridiculously easy and only takes 3 hours for a round trip. 2. Lots of stuff is shut for Chuseok, including most restaurants. The places that are open are mainly chain stores. All the little market stalls are closed. The place I wanted to have dinner is closed, yet theres literally a million people wandering around outside looking for something to do.

This kitten just sat and watched people go by.

It is slightly amusing seeing a little girl in traditional costume playing a nintendo ds.

The army of people that keep the streets spotless have the day off. This is dramatic, there are huge piles of rubbish everywhere. If they arent back at work tomorrow (its actually a 3 day holiday, but today is the main day) then there will start to be health issues as there are massive piles of food outside restaurants.

Welcome to Seoul, drowning in a sea of detritus.

As I had 2 hamburgers for lunch, dinner was from smoothie king. I have no idea where this brand originates from, but they have lots of giant stores. The menu is very healthy, with a big smoothie not even having 200 calories.
It cant be a direct copy of a USA menu if it is a USA chain, as my smoothie contained soy protein, fructose syrup and ginseng, along with strawberries, bananas and low fat yoghurt, and that wrap thing had kim chi in it.
Update - it is a USA franchise.

Day 11 - Tuesday, 13 Semptember 2011

Gwanaksan

Today I climbed over the mountain that seperates Seoul from Gwacheon called Gwanaksan, it was fantastic.
The internet doesnt have too much information on the best route to take, and is full of conflicting information that climbing it is either easy, or death defying.
I had my route planned the best I could, and got on the train after drinking a huge coffee and a gallon of water.
For the trip I planned to take a large bottle of Pocari Sweat and 2 museli bars, as I have no backpack.
At this time of the morning on a holiday, the train was pretty much full of people in full on mountaineering gear. All their shoes were 'K2' brand, they all had huge back packs, ropes, gps, poles etc.
The internet did mention this as being complete overkill, so I wasnt too concerned.
My plans were changed when the station before where I planned to get off, everyone with mountain gear got off...so I followed.

Turns out these guys were serious mountaineers taking the longest most difficult route, I didnt know this at the time, and I am glad I followed them.
Its a bit of a hike to the start of the trail, with the streets lined with shops and carts selling more mountain climbing gear. Most of the climbers were sucking on gel packs like tour de france riders eat during the race.

The climb to the top took 2.5 hours, when I say top, I believe I climbed over 3 peaks to get to the main peak, had I have gone to the station I planned I would have gone straight to the top of the main peak, but then I would have missed all the rope lines and pulling myself up chains whilst carrying my drink bottle!

There is actually a cable car that gets very near the top with a proper walkway to it, so on the top there were a few USA soldiers in their 'going out' clothes, but other than that I didnt see another westerner.

Unlike the rest of my holiday, quite a few Koreans chatted to me in good English, most saying its surprising to see a westerner out on the trail, most just take the cable car and have an ice cream.

At the bottom there were lots of older people, still in lots of gear, but after a few hundred metres they were stopping for a rest and tea etc. So I was thinking how hard can this be.
Turns out they dont go past the first rocky area, theres trails around the bottom of the mountain they stick to.

I also saw signs warning about taking children up this route, and info on what gear to have, but I assumed that meant for winter, I still dont really know.

My fitness levels surprised me, I passed lots of people and never really felt the need to stop, I was mainly stopping to take photos.
The few tricky sections where you could easily plummet to your death required all my concentration, especially since I didnt want to lose my drink bottle.

The walk down the other side was far easier and shorter in comparison, being mostly steps and a few boardwalks with buddhist temples every now and then.

All up it took me right on 4 hours to go up, over 3 peaks, and down the other side. Once down, I had no idea how to get to the station, so that took another hour, I went completely the wrong way!

I dont seem overly exhausted now, I want to go again!

Because I took so many photos, I havent put them all here, if you want to see lots more - go here.

I took a photo of the map at the start of the trail in case I get lost, too bad its only in Korean.

First sign of rocky outcrops.

My only provisions, I felt left out of the fun by not having a backpack with a built in water bladder and hose system.

First summit, closest to Seoul, there are no guard rails anywhere, its a long way down off that rock. Getting to this part seemed to have no path at all, I just followed people.

Looking down in the other direction, you can see some people up a lower rocky outcrop.

Its me, crouching down, I didnt really want to set the camera timer and step backwards off the cliff like so many idiots have done.

I passed at least 5 such helipads.

Its me again, I made sure I wore my oldest clothes.

There are quite a few of these foxholes left over from the Korean war.

Looking down a tricky part, at this stage I thought that might have been the hardest bit and was glad to have made it to the top.

On top of another summit, check out everyone else in their fancy gear.

Random photo of view.

Most of the way up a rope section, it was obviously hard to take photos whilst hanging off a rope.

Risking my life to take this photo.

Looking up another difficult section.

The view back down, there were chains in some parts.

View to the summit, still have to climb another cliff face.

On the summit, people drink a rice wine thing to celebrate. Or have some noodles, or a cup of silkworms....pass.

From here you can see the radar station, the tv towers and the cable car station.

Me at the summit, a Korean guy took the photo for me and since he YELLED smile, I tried really hard.

Coming down the other side, heres one of the temples.

Looking back up from the bottom of the other side...if that makes sense.

Like I said, theres a heap more photos here.

Hongdae

The hipster district for university students with fixies, black rimmed glasses, acoustic guitars and retro grandpa hats is called Hongdae, which is around a big university.
The place is full of cheap restaurants that allow smoking on the inside that sell even cheaper beer, love hotels, starcraft cafes.

I chose one such restaurant that seemed to be authentically Korean, full of students smoking. I ordered one thing, and got something completely different.....

From the photos the streets look like any other, but theres a lack of adidas, nike, uni qlo, giordano and other name stores here.

There was a huge line in the street, at the head of the line is this guy making a sort of Korean style hot dog. I wanted to try one but I hate lines.

The line, I estimate there to be 50 people in the line, lots of idiots are photographing the grill man just like me.

Now, I ordered from the part of the menu that wasnt a hot pot, and I ordered some sort of chicken, grilled in a chilli looking sauce, with various interesting vegetables, I pointed at the picture, there was no mistake!
I think my waitress decided I cant have that cause im not Korean, so I got some battered deep fried chicken, on some lettuce, with wait for it, a scoop of ice cream on the lettuce.
Is it common for americans to eat ice cream with their fried chicken? I can only assume the waitress thought I was american and can only eat fried chicken, lettuce and ice cream.

The outside of the restaurant, note it doesnt look like an American fried chicken and ice cream place.

A common site in Seoul is sparks. This is the charcoal heating that they put on your table in the metal dish for bbq.

The place specialises in battered deep fried vegetables of every kind.

Day 12 - Wednesday, 14 Semptember 2011

Insadong

Today I had to do shopping for various demanding people who expect shirts that say I heart korea, souvenir pickled dog meat, photos of Kim Jong Il looking at things etc.

I actually first intended to go to the national museum in the morning, but it was shut today, instead of Monday, which is a little bit confusing.

First I went to the Shinsegae department store, mainly to check out their fresh food basement, which was very impressive.

Next up I headed to Insadong, which is where many antique shops and art gallerys are. Lots of I heart korea tshirts are made in china and actually say made in china on the label. I dont know why they dont just pay the chinese to print made in korea like we make them print made in Australia.

I also managed to get a real Korean lunch here.
It probably seems as though I didnt do much, but I left at 8, and im only back at the hotel at 3:30.

The closed museum. It appears to be enormous.

Nearby Yongsan park, I read on wikipedia that the US Army owned the area where both the park and the museum are. They gave the area back to Korea on the condition it kept its football field. It did for a while but then Korea built the Museum on it. America got angry.
I find it a strange concept that America owned a large part of downtown Seoul and can tell people to maintain their football ground for them.

Lots of stores have identical setups to this, I am not sure what part of a pig it is, looks like an alien creature.

Basement of the Shinsegae store.

Which also has a roof garden which is pretty nice, but they try not to let you look over the edge...

I found something to stand on to take this photo. As soon as I had got down, a child climbed up in exactly the same spot I did.

Blurry photo, but theres a couple of variations of the portugese egg tart here, chocolate and caramel I think.

Restaurant I had lunch in looks authentically Korean, I asked if they serve ice cream, they said no.

Beef galbi, with the various side dishes, was delicious. Metal chopsticks make your life slightly difficult though.

A nice area of Insadong with lots of little stores selling expensive Korean paintings, carvings, tea etc.

Walk until lost

This evening I did one of my favourite activities. Pick a direction and walk that way, until you are completely lost.
The path took me back through Dongdaemun, via a street full of mainly stores selling ladders and pipes.
I then came across a wet market, where I had one last attempt at catching bird flu.
In a shopping area near a university I was approached by a girl to answer some questions about Hyundai, her friend video taped it, I put my hands in my pockets in case it was an elaborate scam to steal from me even though thats unheard of in South Korea.
It seems it was the girls job application for when she graduates, at the end I had to was given something to read on a clipboard, and I realised on the back it said 'I LOVE HYUNDAI!', so if I turn up in an ad I am going to sue.

I also managed to find real Korean food for dinner, so thats 2 proper Korean meals in a day, Korean food is nowhere near as good as Taiwanese food, its much more like Japanese food, largely flavourless.

I had planned to take the bullet train to Busan at some point, tomorrow is my last full day here, the 3 day holiday has stopped that from happening.
Even tomorrow getting back from Busan on the bullet train seems impossible, I couldnt book online and at the station there was some mention of standing room, or the slower 5 hour train back.
Given that the train is 2.5 hours in each direction already, I think I will give it a miss.
Thats OK, I still have lots of things to do in and around Seoul, so much that I could easily stay another week.

Not many pictures tonight sorry!

Seouls finest, to protect and to serve, on 3 wheeled idiot scooters.

There are at least 10 different competing chains who have signs that say CHICKEN & BEER. I went in here and asked for beef and a coke.

I am not sure whats going on here, the statue of liberty is an interesting inclusion.

A wet market, if I get bird flu now I probably wont have full symptoms until I am on the plane home. Patient Zero.

My dinner, a differnt kind of Mandoo dumpling (pretty average, they should stop in at a shanghai or taiwanese dumpling place!), and vegetaria bibimbap in a hot stone pot.

The outside of the restaurant where I ate, just cause I didnt have many other photos tonight!

Sign photos are the theme today, do you think they are a licensed part of burger king or are ripping it off entirely?

There is now a page 5, it will be the last page, use the navigation thing below or the index thing at the top left.

Contents

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...no
  Repulse Bay...yes
  Kowloon
Day 4 - Tuesday, 6 September 2011
  Shenzhen Again
  Repeats
Day 5 - Wednesday, 7 September 2011
  Hong Kong Airport
  Taipei Airport
  Seoul Arrival
Day 6 - Thursday, 8 September 2011
  Namsan
  Din Tai Fung Korea
  Yongsan and Itaewon
Day 7 - Friday, 9 September 2011
  Gyeonbok Palace
  Dongdaemon
Day 8 - Saturday, 10 September 2011
  War Memorial
  Love Hotels
Day 9 - Sunday, 11 September 2011
  Incheon
  Dos Tacos
Day 10 - Monday, 12 September 2011
  Seoul Zoo
  Taking it easy
Day 11 - Tuesday, 13 September 2011
  Gwanaksan
  Hongdae
Day 12 - Wednesday, 14 September 2011
  Insadong
  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