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Taiwan4
March 5th - 1 April 2017


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October 16th - November 11th 2016


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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 for the second time - Incheon - Daegu - Busan - Gwangju - Seoul - March 2015 - Page 6

Day 16 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Rain panic

No mountain, raining.
It better stop tomorrow, forecast says it will, cause theres a mountain nearby with my name on it, and I am raring to go.

Instead I went to look for the 5.18 memorial. 5.18 also known is the Gwangju uprising, was in 1980, and involved the South Korean dictatorship, at the behest of the United States government, killing off a heap of students protesting in Gwangju after a General had seized power preventing democracy.
The Americans didnt want democracy, because they would be thrown out. So they sent in the Korean special forces. This all came after the previous puppet was assassinated, after 18 years of power, by the CIA.
Yes, true facts.
The result of this incident was a lot of American cultural centres were subsequently burnt down across the country, and in true Asian fashion, students committed suicide by pouring petrol on themselves and setting themselves on fire in crowded places whilst screaming insults about Ronald Reagan.

The net result was the South Korean army killed somewhere between 606 and 2000 people, mainly students.
The park that is a memorial for this is very nice, and in the centre of town. I thought there was a museum, with photos of dead students, but I couldnt find it despite walking a full lap in the rain. The monuments were quite nice though.

So it did stop raining briefly, and I started to make other plans, but then the real rain started, and I got soaked. Korean rain panic is similar to that of Japanese. You would think rain is sulphuric acid.
The look of horror on peoples faces as they look out of shop windows into the street and realise that they might get a few drops of rain on them surely matches that of the piles of dead students from 1980.

The look of horror on shopkeepers faces when I wandered in, slightly damp, and at least one person telling me off or suggesting I was an idiot (in Korean so I have no idea) meant that it was probably a good idea to get lunch from a bakery and eat it in my hotel.
The bakery people seemed less than thrilled that I entered their store whilst it was raining. They had no other customers, but I detected a high degree of FILTHY BIG NOSED DOG IS IN OUR STORE WITH WET BOOTS.

Update: this afternoon I was doing some reading on the CIA and USA involvement in the Gwangju massacre thing, it seems theres some letters from the US ambassador at the time which recently became unclassified. I tried to open those, heres where I got redirected to -


So now I am waiting for the National police agency to knock down my hotel room door. Better put on some pants, they probably come with a live tv crew.

One of many small temples in the park.

This emart is where I sheltered from the rain, and almost bought some really fancy mountaineering technology pants from Korean brand RED FACE.
Only they wouldnt let me try them on. Other people were trying stuff on. So what if I was slightly damp. No sale.

This is the main monument, I assumed there would be a museum, there wasnt, but you can go under here to a small cave.

And in that small cave, is a list of the names of people who died campaigning for democracy that America didnt want them to have. Really, this is not made up.

Yellow blossoms.

Pagoda, obviously I had to go to the top.

I am assuming my mountain is somewhere going up through the clouds on the horizon of this photo.

And here is the downtown region, with all the ridiculous hotels, with their lights off. In the day they look like cheap Chinese low cost temporary mega city ghost town concrete blocks.

I thought this might be the museum, no, art gallery.

It started raining so I went to another store. These are air purifiers. They are 6 feet tall and cost $3500 AUD. Cool.

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! A porsche racing lego set.

Now properly wet, I thought I might as well climb up this overpass and photograph the rain. People under shelter watched on in disbelief. They thought I was going to jump.

And now, a photograph of my toilet. You might notice that it has a white light in it. Theres no way to turn this off. It is a permanent beacon in my room.

And finally, due to rain, my lunch. Which was delicious. I think I am 5kg heavier now. Awesome. MORE CAKE.

Rain annoyance

I have not been arrested by the secret police yet, but it is STILL raining, which is getting annoying.
Further issues arise with short asian people running with umbrellas, however I have made it home with both my eyes remaining unpunctured.
I dont think it has stopped raining since 10am, enough for very large puddles to form. It is due to stop tomorrow morning, but I am not sure if I wil be sloshing through knee deep mud tomorrow or not. I guess we will find out.

For dinner I had pizza, because it was on the top floor of a 14 level shopping centre, I thought I would go up all the escalators to dry off before seeing what the top floor food court had on offer.
Pizza was the best option still open. It was actually good. But I was still hungry afterwards. There are hundreds of pizza shops around, most specialise in being ridiculous, incorporating fried chicken, hot dog sausages, kimchi, ice cream, you name it.
They are also expensive, and make pizzas designed to share. This food court authentic Italian place is the first non comedic pizza place I have seen.

Other than that, I tried to dodge the rain, and failed. Not many photos as unlike my phone, my camera is not water proof.

First I played some classic games at the arcade. 20 cents a game! It hardly mattered that I sucked badly at each one I tried. I probably would have stayed longer if I had more change.

The delicate flavour of the cat is accentuated by the hand ground single origin coffee. Together they form a flavour alliance that cannot be beaten.

I found a street full of multi level coffee shops. The one on the left is larger, but the one on the right is Bono themed. Theres a little bit of Bono in every cup.

Massage chairs are plentiful. Heres 9 of them. People here use them though, actually pay the money and enjoy the massage, rather than just occupy them without paying.
Theres only one person in Australia who pays to use these, using my money!

And finally my pizza, with a pickle. I was offered ground pepper, half a grind only.

David on 2015-03-19 said:
@Jumbo Thai - I am not a woman.
@JT Fan - No, thats what the internet is for
@mother - what would I buy to entertain myself with? This city is cool, like Daegu. I am staying in the wrong bit though, as my bit is under heavy construction. I dont have enough time here to fully appreciate it, off to Seoul tomorrow. The rainy day prevented full exploration of Gwangju.

Jumbo Thai on 2015-03-18 said:
You know you could just close the toilet seat to block the light!

JT Fan on 2015-03-18 said:
Did you buy the lego set?

mother on 2015-03-18 said:
If it keeps raining you might have to buy something to entertain yourself. What do you think of this city so far?

David on 2015-03-18 said:
Mudeungsan

adriana on 2015-03-18 said:
You got the history part right. You are also right about there being a museum there somewhere. Should have lots of photos and stuff. What is the name of the mountain for tomorrow?

Day 17 - Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rain gone, mountain time

I woke up excited, mountain day! I leapt out of bed and felt minor pain, in my ribs. My bed is so hard I believe I have bruised ribs whilst sleeping! I found this amusing.
So whilst confused as to what was going on with my ribs, I raced over to the window, pulled the curtains, no rain! Still low cloud, but streets look like it hasnt rained for a while.
Next I immediately checked the weather forecast on my computer, it stopped raining at 6am, no more rain, by 11am sunshine, awesome, to the mountains!

I meticulously planned a route starting from the back of the mountains, going up the side where I didnt expect there to be anyone, over the top of the various peaks, and then down to the main park gate where there would be thousands of buses waiting.
This worked perfectly, and paid off, except when I came up out of the subway I saw the right number bus coming, so I ran and got on it. And looked out the window. And saw familiar things. Things nearer my hotel than I expected. Yes, I had got on the bus going in the wrong direction.
So I crossed the road and got on the right bus, and we went around the back of the National park, whos mountain peaks are collectively called, Mudeungsan. The rear park gate is the last stop, and surprisingly, only 5 of us were on the bus.
Then the other 4 went to the nearby temple, so I was on my own, perfect!

I went overboard on photos.

It was very quiet around the back of the national park, and still cloudy / foggy, but it burnt off fast.
There was a small shop, selling me blue powerade, pocari sweat and calorie balance bars. Everything one could want.

This rock is the grave of a famed sword maker, whos handywork armed everyone in the region in the 1600's to repel the Japanese pirates who had made their way from Busan to here over the wall.

The path to the top was great fun. First I had moss covered rocks, very slippery. I enjoyed several near death experiences.

Then the path turned into a stream. I guess thats what happens when it rains all day and night, the water has to go some place.
This was no match for my excellent boots, and it actually served a purpose of cleaning all the caked on mud from the lower sections of the climb.

Things got a bit ridiculous when I had to climb up a waterfall covered by fallen branches.

If you look near the top, theres a cell phone tower, I thought this was my destination, turns out it wasnt.

Those rocks would be my destination. I was excited.

By now I was already quite high, and breaking out of the trees to enjoy the excellent view.
In all honesty, the climb was quite easy, even compared to a couple of the other climbs on this trip. It was longer, but not steep.

And now some shots of the view from one of the lower peaks. I would head down over some of these parts later.

Gwangju, and the previously mentioned cell phone towers.

The valley I had come up.

Panorama 1 for today, I think its a good one.

I still had a bit more climbing to do.

And now, kind of at the top....

The real top, some 50 metres higher apparently, is military only.

It was a little annoying to not be allowed up the top. Throughout the day I could hear machine gun fire, and periodically loud speakers were shouting out something from up there. So probably not a good idea to ignore the sign.
If you look closely at that photo you can see a camouflage checkpoint.
Also, military jets fly overhead constantly, which is pretty cool.

As high as I could go.

Panorama number 2 for today, they will be available in hi res from the link on the menu at the left.

Back the other way.

Here I am, look how happy I am!

My journey down had no backtracking at all. First I went through the giant rock garden.

Then I went over yet another sea of boulders.

Then I took another panorama....

So clear today. I was complaining about the rain, but its the reason for my excellent photos.

So clear, a record 4th panorama!

Looking back the way I had come down, from here on I would be back in the trees.

Eventually I got to the bottom, or near enough, to a temple under construction. Total walk time was about 5 hours. Internet said 6 would be required for my chosen route for experienced hikers.
I must be fast.

There was a much larger temple, but it was blocked off. This sign suggests to me the monks must be having a sleep in.

The boot cleaning station. I enjoyed cleaning my awesome boots which did their job with aplomb again today.
I like to use words like aplomb.

Then to my surprise, you come to a mini hiking city. With brand name hiking shops, LOTS of them.

It was quite surreal, all new and shiny, so blue today.

Yes, that is a coffee shop. One of 3 or 4 similarly sized ones.
This place is very popular in summer, the car park was huge, and the town a bit further down had really expensive looking homes.
Probably the nicest area I have ever seen in Korea, perhaps they are all time shares for rich people.

You dont have to wait long for a bus. These are all regular public buses to take you back to town for about $1.

Once I got back to town, with the clouds now gone and such a clear day, I realised the mountain I had been up really does tower over Gwangju, when you can see it.
I think todays hike was the best one so far! It wont be the last, but I suspect it may be the best.
Strangely, I think yesterdays rain was the main reason. And I was complaining about the rain yesterday.

So many socks

One simply cannot underestimate how many socks a Korean person might need, underwear too. Shops selling socks and undies come in many forms.
Lady sitting on the street with stuff laid out on a tarp, lady with a trolley, mobile truck, kiosk in mall, boutique store with a theme, regular store for your upmarket brand name socks, and finally giant city block store located near every apartment complex.
More on that later.

I probably should have had an extra day in Gwangju, as I feel I didnt see enough of it. This is mainly due to the rain yesterday. Tomorrow I am off to Seoul.
Whilst the city is very compact, like most Asian cities, it is dense to its very edge, there are no outer suburbs, you dont start to get single houses on large blocks of wasted space. Therefore the transport, facilities, hospitals etc. can all be provided to everyone. I have another rant coming on.

Tonight I had a very long, unwanted conversation with a guy whos job is to stand by the subway gates and make sure no one tries to go past without scanning their card.
I scanned my card fine, and just walked past... WHERE YOU ARE GOING? he asked.
Sangmu - I knew the name of the station I was going to at least.
I show you the way, please, follow.
I tried to tell him I know the way, I dont need help, why are you escorting me?
He kept looking back to ensure I was following him, down 2 sets of stairs and standing by the yellow line, I thought that was the end of it, no.
Then he decided to explain to me what I might experience as the subway train arrives, the doors will open, you will get on, you will find a seat, you will hear beeps, the doors will close, you will go 4 stops, you will get off at Sangmu.
By now I was just looking at him like I might throw him in front of the train, 20 or so Koreans were looking at me like I might be special.
But still we stood there, until the train came, and then he stood in the doorway of the train until I got on and sat down, then finally, yelled HAVE A SAFE TRIP!

Apparently this is a famous food street, favourite of foreigners, famous for only serving fried chicken in buckets.

I was impressed by the size of the Porsche dealership, so I wandered in, acted like I owned the place.

This Audi driver thinks his base model A4 needs 2 spaces.

And here they are, at last, KOREAN SALT N PEPPA, P-PUSH IT REAL GOOD, so urban.

Then I saw a place advertising authentic Korean style Ramyun. So that will be the same as Japanese style Ramen then.
I did however get some extra vegetables to add, and there was a bonus ingredient of wood ear fungus. I think thats what my extra 1000 krw got me, I ordered the most expensive thing they had.

And now tonight, the anti neon! This is a pedestrian street, but its dark and closed.
Closer inspection reveals it to be wedding dress street. So my top tip, if you want to buy a wedding dress, go before dark.

Now some ridiculous pizza, left to right we have king prawns on top of tofu squares, then prawns wrapped in potato string and deep fried, then bacon and kimchi, and finally pastry wrapped hotdog sausage.

And now, heres a shot of the inside of the socks and undies shop you can find near every apartment complex, open until midnight.

They really are a whole city block, and only sell socks, underwear, pyjamas.

OK, above was the anti neon, so I had to balance it out.

adriana on 2015-03-19 said:
So much excitement. Must be something in all that fresh clear air. YOu are right about the photos being nice and clear today. Make the most of it as the yellow sand from China will be covering you by Saturday.

Day 18 - Friday, 20 March 2015

Last stop

Now I am in Seoul, it will be my last stop on this trip. Well except for my 6 hour stopover in Hong Kong airport due to a flight being changed on me after I booked.
Anyway, getting from Gwangju to Seoul involved the bullet train, the slow bullet. It took 3 hours. A new line between Dajeon (the one big city in Korea I am not visiting) and Gwangju is due to open next month, which will make it 300kmph the whole way, until then, it goes much slower for 2/3 of the trip.
Next to me on my train I had a serious business man, he had solid gold cuff links, and when his phone would ring, he would bark 2 words, then put his phone down without hanging up assuming whoever is on the other end would, then he would go back to dying of lung cancer. Seriously, he was having issues breathing. He had a cool watch though, diamonds floating in it. I should have robbed him.

Getting to my hotel in Seoul was no problem, its just 50 metres from a subway station, however the hotel is dated. The rooms predate electricity. What powerpoints they do have, have been retrofitted, hanging loose from a hole in the wall, finding them was another story.
The room is setup so that you cannot access any powerpoint at all apart from the bathroom. Not to worry, I dismantled the furniture to get behind it and unplugged a useless lamp.
When I leave, I will make sure I do not plug that back in.
Fast wifi though!.
Not a lot of photos today, because no one wants to see photos of trains and train stations.

The Gwangju high speed rail station is under construction. Its only half built, even the tracks were being laid in the station area.

Which means this is all the retail there is on offer. Mister Donut though. I bought some mixed nuts from the convenience store. The packet showed real nuts, inside were those processed peanut ball things and sesame crackers.

Heres my train. I took this photo a day after yet another rapper died making his debut superstar video for youtube on the train tracks. 2nd in a month. Luckily I did not fall in front of the train.

The station in Seoul is much much larger, and its the secondary station, just a few hundred metres from the main Seoul station.

It is called Yongsan, I went here on my last trip, I didnt have much to photograph today and I was too early to check in, so I walked down the street to take a photo of this concrete cube building.

This is my room in all its powerless glory. I have an extra bed in case I want to invite someone over for a happy fun sleepover, Korean style.

Bathroom looks better in pictures than in person.

My room may be underwhelming (but its very cheap!) however, the key makes up for it.
The holes in the room key are the tumblers for the lock. When you slide it in the door you can hear the pins falling through. I had so much fun with this I went in and out 3 times just to use the key.

Tourists everywhere

I found the tourists. And yes I realise I am one.
Before coming to Seoul I think I saw only 5 people who were clearly foreigners. There might have been a few Japanese or Chinese I assumed were Korean with my racist eyes.
However all that changed tonight, as tourists in Seoul are everywhere.
Of the white people I heard talking, most were French, although there was an English guy trying to chat up a Spanish girl by telling here how much he appreciated her accent.
In addition to us white people, there were also lots of arabs with women in the full mesh covered eyes burkahs, some Indians, and quite a lot of what appeared to be Phillipino girls trailing Korean families. Do they have servants in Korea like Hong Kong?

I did go up the hill in the middle of town with the tower on it, so naturally that is where tourists would be, but I also saw a lot of backpacker type places, and people wandering around the enormous shopping area.
On top of the tourist hill, I was nearly killed by a number of selfie sticks, and amusingly, one persons phone fell off the end of it, over a railing. Although I think they were able to retrieve it.
The tower on the hill may be the number one tourist area in Seoul, but its a nice place to go, and much like the airport shops, I think the stores and restaurants up there are government run or regulated, because they were very reasonably priced. You can of course take a cable car up here if you want to, I ran up because I was feeling guilty from the crap I had eaten all day.
Right now I am drinking a horrible hot drink called 'Daily nut tea'. I expected it to be sweet, but I think its all the salt washed off nuts into a sachet, with a few chunks of nuts they swept off the factory floor.

When I returned to the hotel just now, at 9pm on a Friday night carrying nut tea and coke zero, the hotel concierge asked if everything is ok, and do I need a doctor? I was puzzled, and asked why I would need a doctor. And he basically told me because its Friday night, and I appear to be home for the night at 9pm, rather than out on the town enjoying beer, therefore I must be ill.
I told him I like to go to bed early for good health and dont drink for religious reasons.

I went for a brief walk in the late afternoon in search of water and fruit.
My hotel is very well positioned in the main Myeongdong area. This is the pop up clothing market, just setting up at this time but already very busy.

No mountain today, just a hill. So I ran up it.

View at dusk. Be aware, the Seoul metropolitan area stretches further in the other directions, it is constrained here due to the mountains in the background, mountains I plan to be up soon.
According to Wikipedia, Seoul is the most populated metro area in the world after Tokyo. The numerous ways to measure these things is quite confusing though.

Panorama time! Mountains behind mountains! Time to study.

Tower. I took the same picture in 2011 I believe, however that time I was there in the morning, this time, night.

The view the other way. I believe thats Gangnam where the tall buildings are nearer the right edge. Gangnam is quite far from the original centre of Seoul.

The skypark area provides plenty of free spots to sit and enjoy the view. Paying to go up the tower seems a silly idea to me.

Night view from the top. I think night view from half way down is better, stay tuned.

Night view from halfway down.

Now I didnt think this would work, but it appears to have come out ok. Night time panorama! ISO3200.
All my night shots are handheld no flash, but as I have discussed before my camera does something called frame stacking, where it takes a heap of pitch black 1/60 ISO100 exposures and stacks them on top of each other, aligning them as it does it, to produce a single properly exposed picture.
When I explain this to people, even camera afficionados, they dont understand, and think its HDR. It is not, ALL the frames that are stacked are grossly underexposed, and all are high shutter speed, sometimes its 3, other times its 6, the camera works out how many pitch black exposures to take.
..........however, that doesnt work in panorama mode, hence ISO3200.

Myeongdong is the centre of the global neon industry.

This is the lucky dip shop for grown ups, or Korean girls anyway. $10.

Now ladies, you might have applied face masks before, but you are doing this half assed, theres a mask for everywhere! I have one on my stomach now, I dont think its working.

At first glance you might find that to be a pizza. But its a kimchi pancake. Very good!
I added lots of chilli flakes and pepper.
Also this place prided themselves on the self serve side dishes, which were HUGE thick bits of kimchi, and even HUGER bits of daikon. The scissors sticking up are for you to cut them into manageable pieces with.
The daikon in particular was very crisp and spicy.

Last photo, thats a police line do not cross, and there were police there. But I am not sure if it was a peaceful protest or a radio competition, because there seemed to be a super star radio DJ there trying to get everyone excited.
Also theres banners with LG and South Korean Telecom as sponsors. So I have no idea.

David on 2015-03-20 said:
There are none over 2000m, and the tallest is actually on Jeju island off the south coast which is quite tropical.
The bigger ones are in the north east, quite remote, and all clumped together without any real standout peaks to climb as such.
South Korea is hosting the next winter olympics, but will rely heavily on snow machines.
The air is generally too dry for it to snow much, similar to Siberia, where as Japan has a lot of moisture in its air for snow.
I think I told you recently, 8 out of the 10 snowiest cities in the world are in Japan, but none of them are anywhere near the coldest cities in the world.

jenny on 2015-03-20 said:
Question, does Korea have actual real mountains like Mt Egmont and Fuji? Do they have any that you go above the tree line?

adriana on 2015-03-20 said:
Well, cant say you haven't had interesting hotel rooms

Page 7 is all stuff in and around Seoul.

Contents

Hi Resolution Panoramas

Latest Update

Day 1 - Tuesday, 3 March 2015
  Sydney is nowhere near Korea
  As per schedule
Day 2 - Wednesday, 4 March 2015
  My ears are cold
  I bought a hat
Day 3 - Thursday, 5 March 2015
  Both ends
  Get Pho
Day 4 - Friday, 6 March 2015
  Multipeak
  Where did everyone go?
Day 5 - Saturday, 7 March 2015
  The hilarious hotel room
  Overwhelmed
Day 6 - Sunday, 8 March 2015
  Getting down to business
  Shabu xiabu jiabu
Day 7 - Monday, 9 March 2015
  Recovery mountain
  Random nonsense
Day 8 - Tuesday, 10 March 2015
  Wrong buddha
  Last night in Daegu
Day 9 - Wednesday, 11 March 2015
  Short train ride
  Peak neon
Day 10 - Thursday, 12 March 2015
  Great wall of Korea
  Subway retiree fight
Day 11 - Friday, 13 March 2015
  Both beaches
  Worlds biggest
Day 12 - Saturday, 14 March 2015
  Mine zone
  The docks
Day 13 - Sunday, 15 March 2015
  Pirate cove
  I shrunk my pants
Day 14 - Monday, 16 March 2015
  Last mountain in Busan
  Barbecue zoo
Day 15 - Tuesday, 17 March 2015
  On the bus
  Ridiculous hotels
Day 16 - Wednesday, 18 March 2015
  Rain panic
  Rain annoyance
Day 17 - Thursday, 19 March 2015
  Rain gone, mountain time
  So many socks
Day 18 - Friday, 20 March 2015
  Last stop
  Tourists everywhere
Day 19 - Saturday, 21 March 2015
  Going to jail
  Almost the airport
Day 20 - Sunday, 22 March 2015
  Yellow sand day
  Much fashion
Day 21 - Monday, 23 March 2015
  The other half
  No dinner
Day 22 - Tuesday, 24 March 2015
  Rockfall
  Fashion food
Day 23 - Wednesday, 25 March 2015
  Boring stuff - part 1
  Boring stuff - part 2
Day 24 - Thursday, 26 March 2015
  The end of boring stuff



Hi Resolution Panoramas