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Archive for August, 2009

Island in The Sun

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 29, 2009

August 8, 2009

All Pictures

Muuido

A day at the beach with no water

It was a nice sunshiny day. There was fun. There was sand. There were even lots of little naked kids running around. The only thing that was really missing was the water. The tide goes out really far on the east coast of Korea leaving behind brown sludge. Someone said that the sand on most Korean beaches is imported from China. That seems plausible because the sand under the sea was not sand at all.

Beach – Water = This

This was another trip planned by William. When William plans a trip there is lots of food, specifically grilled food. William has a Costco card and can get his hands on fine American cuisine like burgers and nacho cheese.

Grill Master William

But if you don’t have a Costco card and a William to carry all the food to the beach for you and cook it too, you can simple eat at the restaurant at the beach. They serve seafood and galbi (갈비). If you want to grill your own, the corner store in the park sells raw samgyeopsal (삼겹살) and mini grills. They also sell anything you would ever need except tents, so don’t bring anything that would make your backpack too heavy.

“I went horseback riding in Korea.” Now that is a true statement.

Look, Horsies!

There were dune buggies to rent and ride, but they didn’t seem like much fun. The area designated for riding was very restricted. Maybe when the beach isn’t so crowded they let you go further.

We heard rumors that there were horses at the beach and set off looking for them. At first we couldn’t see them, but we could sure smell them. They stunk!

If you ride horses a lot this wouldn’t be worth it for you. I just wanted to get on a horse to get my picture taken, to say that I rode a horse in Korea, and so that I could have something to blog about.

It cost 10,000KRW for the short ride and 20,000KRW for the long ride, though the long ride wasn’t very long. I took the short ride which involved the owner running along with the bridle of the horse in hand.

The 5 minute ride was totally worth 10,000KRW. Maybe…

They don’t need no stinkin’ tent! We’ll just sleep around this chair.

Island in The Sun

The next morning when I woke up, I saw all the people who slept at the beach without shelter. They didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects from roughing it the night before. In fact, they slept in later than I did. But it might have been because they were still pretty drunk.

Brittney and I were the only 2 awake/sober women on the beach that morning. We noticed that William left a lot of food from Costco at the beach. There were hot dogs, hot dog buns. and soda cans everywhere. We felt that since the people from our group left them and they were now gone, it was our responsibility to clean it up.

As we were cleaning up we noticed an unopened jar of salsa sauce. Then she found an unopened jar of cheese dip. Then I found a jar of dill pickles. Then we found more salsa and cheese dip and cans of soda; all unopened. My first thought was how to get this stuff back to William; he left before sunset the previous night. But then Brittney said that it was too much trouble to give it back to William, besides he left it here. He wanted us to have it. Since we were the only ones to clean up, we should divide it between us and keep it.

Her logic seemed sound to me.

All Pictures


South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Muuido
(무의도)

How to get there:

  • 37°23’06.6″N 126°24’32.0″E

From Seoul:

Go to Incheon Airport. To get to the airport you can either take an airport limousine which costs about 8,000KRW depending on where you get on or take the subway and transfer to the airport line. The airport line is a bit more expensive than the other subway lines. It costs about 4,500KRW to use. You can use your T-money card on both the airport subway line and the airport limousine for a discount.

In the future Incheon Airport will not be the last stop. They are building a new parking lot and the line will someday end there. But until they do, you will have to get off at Incheon Airport and walk over to the departures and arrival area.

Go to the 3rd floor and stand between sections 5 & 6. You can use your T-money card to take bus #222 to the Jam Jin Ferry Terminal (잠진도산작천). This bus comes by once an hour and it will be beyond packed during the summer.

There is heavy traffic during the peak season so if when you get to the little bridge, the bus isn’t moving much, get out and walk. You’ll get to the ferry faster.

The Ferry to Muiido

The ferry to Muuido cost 3,000KRW for individuals and 20,000KRW for cars. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the car. The trip is free coming back.

Make sure to have a 1,000KRW note for the bus ride to the beach and another one to come back to the ferry. The bus on Muuido island doesn’t give change and you can’t use your T-money card.

Cost:

To enter the beach it costs 2,000KRW for an adult. If you bring your own tent you have to pay an extra 5,000KRW per tent in addition to the entrance fee. No one checks that you’ve paid your tent fee once you get in though. (I am in no way condoning skipping out on paying the tent fee, but if you manage to get in without paying don’t freak out.)

Heated Bungalows for rent

There are bungalows for rent along the beach. They are very small and seem to be worth it more in the spring or fall since they have heated floors. Most people who did not have tents just slept under the stars on nice summer nights. Well, most of the foreigners did… well, mostly the drunk ones.

I don’t know how much the bungalows cost.

There are showers that cost 2,000KRW to use. They’re not that bad. It seemed to me that most of the people there used the free foot washing area to do all their bathing. If you are not Korean and you plan to do this be prepared to be stared at.

Hours:

There was a time when the gate was closed and no one new could enter the park, but I don’t know what time that was.

Notes:

The bus on Muuido Island does not give change or use T-Money cards. You need to use exact change for each ride. It cost 1,000KRW per person per ride. You will need a 1,000KRW note going and another one leaving.

Maps:

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Posted in Incheon, Muuido, South Korea | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Wishes for All

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 28, 2009

June 27, 2009

All Picures

No T-money, but you get tokens for the subway

The Buddha that makes wishes come true

I was talking with some of my co-workers in my English teachers’ English class about all the things I had seen in Korea. I lamented that there was nothing interesting left in the country to see, when they told me about Gatbawi.

They said that if I climbed all the steps up to the stone Buddha that I would be granted whatever wish I made. They guaranteed it. That’s when I planned this trip and sent out invitations to my friends.

High Tech Fingerprints Lockers

Fancy Shmancy Lockers

When we got to Daegu we put our bags in a locker at Dongdaegu station. There were only vague instructions in English. After about 10 minutes of fighting with them we managed to get all our stuff into 2 lockers. Taryn’s fingerprint was used to lock both lockers so we had to make sure that she returned safely from the hike to get our stuff back.

All we did was to ask for directions.

Please officer, can you tell me where the bus stop is?

Getting to the bus stop to catch the bus to Palgongsan from Dongdaegu station is easy once you know where to go. But, it isn’t so easy to explain. We asked a few people for the directions to the bus stop for the #104 bus, but no one could help us.

We stopped a cop and asked him. He didn’t know and went back to ask another police officer. When he returned he seemed quite flustered. He tried to explain, but his English just wasn’t good enough. He then told us to, “Wait here.”

He returned with a squad car. He got out and ushered half of us into the back seat. There were too many of us for one trip. He would come back for the other three. He drove us to the other side of the subway station and dropped us off right in front of the bus stop.

Tractor guy and my friends

Tractor Guy

We hiked up the mountain to meet the stone Buddha who would give us our hearts’ desires. The two guys practically ran up the slope while the girls used the time to schmooze and chat. For us the hike in not about the destination; it’s about the journey. Plus we’re a bit out of shape.

On one of our many breaks we bumped into some Korean guys who seemed very social. They shared some of their iced coffee and tea with us and chatted for a bit. One of them was the proud owner of a tractor.

He was travelling around Korea in his tractor… or is it on his tractor? I’m not sure. I think he even sleeps in the thing sometimes. His next mission is to take his tractor to Mongolia.

I asked him if he was planning to drive it to Mongolia, ie driving through North Korea. He said, “no.” He will have the vehicle shipped to China and then drive it from China to Mongolia.

He is now spending his time blogging and raising money for his big trip. Maybe He’ll make it all the way to Europe someday.

Ashley among the wishers

Hiking to Wishes

When we finally got to the top there were many people praying. They were doing the stand, knee, bow, routine that is involved in Buddhist prayers. Everyone seemed to be praying feverishly. I looked at all the people and wondered what their wishes were.

I made my wish, but I pretty much have or am getting most of what I need or want. I thought more about Taryn who was having a hard time. She was nursing a broken heart and I knew exactly how she felt. I have been in her shoes many times. I hope that the hike and visit to the stone Buddha with friends who care about her helped her in some way.

Smiles after wishing

A night on a hard floor

When looking for a place in Daegu to stay, I came across a recommendation for a jimjjilbang (찜질방). It was offered as a cheaper alternative to staying in a hotel. I had never been to a Korean spa before and wanted to try it out. It was interesting.

We checked in and after everyone in my party was showered and changed, we went to the basement. Taryn and Ashley got late night massages, Mark played on the internet, I went to sleep, and I’m not sure what happened to the other two.

I found an open space on the floor and went to sleep. I woke up when some kid laying next to me started poking me. I gave him a dirty look and he went away. I couldn’t go back to sleep because of a snoring man in the room that sounded more like a chainsaw. The night was pretty miserable, but I did enjoy it on some level.

In the morning we did some more exploring of the spa. I like that it had rooms of different temperatures, from the snow room to the “oh my god I’m melting” room.

I didn’t take any photos of the jimjjilbang because it would be like taking photos in a gym. No one wants to be photographed at the gym.

All Pictures


South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Daegu
(대구)

How to get there:

  • 35°52’35.3″N 128°35’46.1″E

From Seoul, go to the Express Bus Terminal subway station on lines 3, 7, and 9. I think you go out exit 9, but I’m not sure. Just follow the vague signs or ask for directions.

Website

Cost:

There are three types of buses, general, excellent, and midnight excellent, each varying in price. We took the most economical choice at 15,500KRW. Check the bus company’s website for times and prices.

Hours:

The first bus out of Seoul leaves at 6:00 and the last leaves at 23:55. The return trip has similar times. The website says the trip is about 3:40 hours long, but it’s actually more like four. (Again, another 4 hours bus ride!)

Notes:

  • This is one of the few cities in Korea where a T-money card will not work.
  • There is also a train you can take. According to google it’s faster.

Gatbawi on Palgongsan
(갓바위)         (팔공산)

How to get there:

  • 35°59’15.0″N 128°44’19.6″E

From the bus station at which the bus from Seoul will stop:

  • Go to Dongdaegu station. It’s on the main road and across the street. Anyone you meet can tell you where to go.
  • Getting to the bus stop for the #104 is a bit difficult to explain, so you might have to ask for directions anyway. Don’t think that you are in the wrong spot when everyone tells you, “I don’t know.” It’s a bit difficult to explain in a foreign language. Just keep asking for help.

Here are the confusing directions anyway:

You will need to walk around the station. Do not go inside. Go to the designated area for taxi pick up. You will see a very tiny convenience store. Look beyond the railing behind the store and down to the street. You want to get a bus that stops at the bus stop you see to the right. Walk down the stairs. Do not cross the street or the bridge.

Cost: Free

Hours:

I don’t think that there are closing hours, but you might not want to climb the mountain in the dark.


Life Spa
(수목원생활온천)

How to get there:

Go to Jincheon subway station and take a taxi. Write down the address or print the map from the spa’s website.

You can walk to the spa from the station.

  • Go out exit 3 then take a right on the intersect.
  • Go 4 block until you get to a really big intersection.
  • Then turn right at the intersection.
  • Keep walking pass an SK Telecom until you see the spa on a side road parallel to the main road.

Phone:

  • 053-641-0100 (No one there speaks English.)

Cost:

I don’t remember the exact price, but it was less than 10,000KRW for one night. Just don’t leave the spa.

Hours:

It is open 24 hours a day and you can check in at any time. The gym on the top floor is not open on weekend though.

Notes:

  • If you have an inflatable pillow, you might want to bring it along. The pillows at jimjjilbangs are slight softer than bricks.
  • If you have a mat, bring that along too. Although most jimjjilbangs give you a mat, this one doesn’t. Here you sleep on the floor.

I would have pictures of the jimjillbang, but I would feel really creepy trying to take photos of people in a sauna.

**** UP DATE ****

I’m not sure if Lifespa is still in business. I cannot find any information on it online anymore.

******************

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Daegu, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Lonely Island

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 28, 2009

June 20, 2009

All Pictures

Taken by William

Sa Seung Bong Do is my favorite place in Korea.

What I heard is that the island belongs to some lady who wants to keep it undeveloped. She does, from time to time, allow people to rent the island for camping purposes. There is a care taker there who stays in a little cabin, but other than that the place is deserted. You can rent tents, but you have to pick them up from Seung Bong Do, the island you go to before going to Sa Seung Bong Do.

Sa Seung Bong Do Loves signs

Mark and I were not among the people who rented tents. I had seen a nice 2-person tent at Lotte Mart a few weeks earlier and bought it. It’s a lovely blue tent that’s pretty easy to set up and tall enough for me to stand in.

The first day of our trip we found our spots and set up our individual tents and the community tent. It was a very beautiful island, but we could not see it. It rained all day creating a heavy fog. It gave everyone a feeling of awe at being in such a wonderful place and misery because everything was cold and wet.

starting fire in the rain

Fire

The rain also made everyone a bit moody. Mark decided that he had had enough with just sitting around and being wet. He talked a couple other guys into helping him build a fire in the rain. Everyone else said that it couldn’t be done. “You can’t make a fire with wet wood.” I think that even Mark didn’t believe it was possible. He was just too bored not to build a fire.

They started out with paper cups and chopsticks for kindling. They drowned it in lighter fluid then added wood to it. They, one by one, ran off into the forest to get more wet wood for the fire. In just one hour they had a roaring fire going.

Fire for the people

The fire seemed to draw people out of their tents and the great cooking began. We had burgers, hot dogs, and Hobo Stew. The stew was the idea of Susan. You make a pocket out of foil paper, add water, vegetables, meat, and whatever else you would like, season, fold up shut, and place in the fire to cook.

At night many people got drunk and sat around the fire singing songs and playing a guitar. Things can get crazy on a lonely island and several people got hurt. It wasn’t anything serious, just a bruise here and a cut there; nothing a good first aid kit couldn’t handle.

The next day there was no rain, just sunshine and happiness. I was one of the first people up and one of the first to see the mess left after a night of drinking. As I, along with a few other people, cleaned up we found cameras, flashlights, and underwear sticking out of the sand.

People looking for their stuff

The rest of the morning was spent frolicking in the water and running way out to sea. The tide goes out very far on the east coast of Korea. It leaves interesting ridges on the sea floor which feels really nice on the feet when you walk across it.

A Funeral for a Pancake

We did have a lot of fun goofing around while making breakfast after the clean up. Our horse-play resulted in a casualty for one little pancake. We couldn’t just throw it away; we had to make a whole event of it!

Sa Seung Bong Do

Island in the Sun

It was sad to leave. Although I had only been there for about 24 hours I really fell in love with the island. I must get an island of my very own someday.

All Pictures


 

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Sa Seung Bong Do
(사승봉도)

How do get there:

  • 37°09’14.5″N 126°19’18.1″E

The easiest way to get there is to join meetup.com, find William, and beg him to organize another trip to Sa Seung Bong Do. I don’t know who William called to arrange a stay on the deserted island, but I do know how to get there from Seoul.

From Seoul

  • Take the line 1 subway to Incheon station. That’s Incheon station, not Incheon Airport. Don’t get the two confused; they are not near each other at all. Once at Incheon station take bus #720 to Yeonan Budu Ferry Terminal. It’s a blue bus.
  • Another way is to take bus #1600 from Seoul station. This one is a red bus. You can get to it by going through exit 2 of Seoul station and walking to where all the red buses stop. This bus also stops near Hongdae Subway Station.

 

From the ferry terminal in Incheon

  • You can get a ticket for a 2 hours boat ride to Seong Bong Do (승봉도), another island off the coast of Incheon. Now, this is where William worked his magic. He hired a couple of boats to take our group to the island of Sa Seung Bong Do.
  • According to a sign on the island you should call 017-344-4089 to reserves a boat. I think the boat ride costs 15,000KRW for adults and 5,000 for kids. So give that a try.

Website:

Websites that might be helpful in getting you to Sa Seung Bong Do

Website that might be helpful in getting you to Seung Bong Do (the adjacent island)

Cost:

I have no idea. William set everything up and he priced everything to include food.

Hours:

There might be seasonal restrictions on when people can stay on the island.

Notes:  Camping Equipment in Korea

If you are buying camping equipment in Korea during the summer, you are in luck. Every halfway decent grocery or department store (Lotte Mart, E-Mart, Home Plus, etc) will have a camping section. They will sell both name brand expensive stuff and the store brand cheaper stuff. They’re all good, so don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money for good equipment. I bought a decent 2-person tent (that could actually fit 4 people) for about 40USD.

If summer has just passed or it’s not quite summer yet, too bad. The only places that sell camping things at these times are camping stores. They only sell high-end camping gear for hard-core campers with lots of money. My advice is to just not camp until summer. Stay in love motels or rent your equipment when possible, until you see the camping gear in the department stores.

Honestly, it would be cheaper to order your camping stuff from Amazon.com (use the global shipping option)  than to buy most things for sale at any of the camping stores in Korea.

Map:

Click for Google maps

Posted in Incheon, Sa Seung Bong Do, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Free Bikes in Seoul

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 28, 2009

Free Biking along the Han

We ♥ Free

From time to time my friends and I like to get free bikes, find a river or stream, and bike alongside it. We all get so excited that we are using really nice bikes without paying for them that we forget that what we are doing actually counts as exercise. Anytime we do remember, we stop and get some ice cream, subs, or samgyeopsal (삼겹살).

Which bike should I pick?

Mmmm samgyeopsal…

There are other free things to do in Seoul, but many aren’t worth mentioning. Lot of them are one time deals.

What a workout!

Free exercise equipment for old people in parks

Well, they aren’t just for old people. No one will yell at you if you use them. But, the exercise equipment in parks tend not to have very much resistance so they will only benefit the old and weak.

There are many types of machines. Some are hard to figure out. Like the one above, who’s only purpose seems to be flipping people upside down.

You can go to any given park in Seoul in the morning or evening and see herds of old folks twisting and swinging themselves as they gossip and complain about their grandkids.

He’s sooo strong.

I don’t speak Korean well enough to know for sure that they are talking about their grandkids. I just know old people and they’re all the same really.

Some parks do have more serious gym equipment like weights. You might see a bench press just out in the open. Some have the barbells chained to the bench press. Others have the weights in an unlocked shed near by. No one seems to use them except for curious foreigners like my friends and me, looking for a photo-op.



South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


How to get there:

There are many spots along the Han River that lend out free bikes. There are also places that will rent them for a fee. You just have to know where the free places are. I know of three.

You may think that the free bikes would be old crappy bikes, but your assumption would be wrong. Most of the free bikes are quiet nice and many of them are new. The ones in Nowon still had some of their plastic wrapping on them when we went there.

#1. Jamsil Phone # (02-3431-3480)

It’s near exit number 1 of Jamsil station. It’s across the street from Quizno’s and it looks like the picture on the right.

#2. Nowon-gu.

You can go to either Junggye station or Nokcheon station and follow the map below to either bike place. These bikes are newer than the ones in Jamsil. One of the bike houses was just built in February (2009).

Here are some others. I don’t have any first hand information about them, but here is what I found out online.

Websites:

Cost:

Just bring a photo ID like your ARC or a driver’s license from any country and a phone number for a cell phone that you should have on you in case they need to call you. At Nowon, Tom found that sweet talking will do if you have forgotten to bring an ID card. But unless you’re as charming as Tom, don’t count on it.

Hours: It depends on the bike rental place.

  • Jamsil:   9:00-17:30 everyday except rainy days
  • Nowon: 9:00-18:00 everyday except rainy days
  • Both Jamsil and Nowon places allow you to use the bike as long as you like provided that you bring them back by closing time.
Notes:
  • The bikes are first-come, first-served.
  • Not many people use these free bikes, so there are usually many to choose from.
  • The free bike place in Nowon near Nokcheon station had bikes for handicapped people too.

Maps:

Click for Google maps

Posted in Jamsil, Nowon, Seoul, South Korea | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Penises and Caves

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 27, 2009

May 23, 2009

All Pictures

comfy?

Wanna see some giant penises?

Around April, I heard that there was a park in Korea filled with penises. I looked it up and found that spring would be a good time to go. I called some friends and we planned the trip.

We bought our bus tickets about a week before we left. I wanted to get cheap tickets and didn’t want to take a chance on them being sold out. If you plan on riding on the more expensive bus, there is no need to buy your ticket ahead of time unless there it is around the time of a big holiday.

I’ve been on both the general and excellent buses. The difference is that the general bus has four seats to a row, two on one side and two on the other. The excellent bus has three seats to a row, two on one side and one in the other. The midnight excellent is as it’s name suggests, an excellent bus that runs late at night.

Do they know each other?

The park of giggles

We were all hungry when we got to Samcheok, but everything seemed to be closed. We first found out the time for the next intercity bus to Haesindang Park then started to look for a place to eat. We had about 45 minutes to catch the next bus but it took us a while to find a kimbap shop. We did manage to have lunch and get on the next bus.

When in Korea…

The bus dropped us off at our stop and we walked about 10 minutes to the gate of the park. The park provided us with many interesting and giggly photo opportunities.

What’s going on in there?

There were many ajumas at the park and they seemed to really enjoy the… figures. They had a great time pointing at things, giggling at things, and yanking on things.

Save me! …or build a park filled with giant penises when I die!

The Back Story

I can hear you ask, “Why is there a park with huge dildos all around?” I’m glad you asked. Some time long, long ago there was a lovely young sea weed gathering maiden who lived in a fishing village. She was engaged to be married and therefore a virgin.

One morning, on what happened to be her wedding day, she went out to collect seaweed. Her betrothed was to come by later to pick her up from a rock off the shore and row her back in.

Swim Harder!

Unfortunately a storm came in and the current was too strong for the man to row out to the rock. Instead he stayed on the shore and yelled words of encouragement to his beloved. The words did not give her enough strength to swim back or the ability to hold onto the rock. The girl was never seen again. She died a virgin.

Doing it for the village.

From that time on, the fishermen in the village were not able to catch any fish. It didn’t take the men in the village long to figure out what was wrong and what they needed to do. The fish went away because the girl died a virgin and the remedy was to masturbate into the ocean, clearly. So that’s what they did. The villagers also began erecting many statues. Sorry for the pun.

I don’t know how well the fishing went after the mass masturbation.

This is what we normally do at the beach

Beach Watch

My friends, Tom and Momo found us a nice hotel along the beach. That night we walked on the beach in the dark. Tom made us a cocktail he’d discovered recently at a party. He called it yo-ju. It’s a mixture of the little yogurt drink and soju. It was good.

The next day we had some more fun on the beach posing for pictures and just acting goofy. Tom made a really great video based on Baywatch and our time at the beach. It’s really good. Enjoy!

cave color

A mighty fine cave

We took a taxi from the beach to the Samcheok Intercity Bus Terminal. By the time we got there it was past 12:15. The bus we took was not a direct bus to the cave and we had to change buses along the way.

There are two caves. One comes with a monorail that takes you to the mouth of the cave the other comes with one hell of a hike. To get on the monorail you need to have bought a ticket online before showing up. We begged and pleaded for them to sell us monorail tickets, but it was against the rules; the tickets have to be pre-bought. We sadly trudged up the mountain to the cave.

It was amazing!

All Pictures


 

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Samcheok
(삼척)

How to get there:

  • 37°26’24.4″N 129°10’08.5″E

From Seoul:

Go to the Express Bus Terminal subway station on lines 3, 7, and the new line 9. I think you go out exit 9, but I’m not sure. Usually you can just follow the crowds of people pushing and shoving their way to Express Bus Terminal. If all else fails, you can just follow the vague signs or ask for directions.

Website

Cost:

There are three types of buses, general, excellent, and midnight excellent. To Samcheok they cost 15,900KRW, 23,400KRW, and 25,700KRW respectively for an adult one way ticket. Check the website for times and prices.

Hours:

The first bus out of Seoul leaves at 6:30 and the last leaves at 23:30. The return trip has similar times. The website says the trip is about 3:30 hours long, but it was actually about 4 hours. (Every bus ride in Korea is about 4 hours!)

Notes: 

There is a rest stop during the bus ride to Samcheok. Remember which bus is yours.


Haesindang Park/ Penis Park
(해신당공원)

How to get there:

  • 37°16’03.7″N 129°19’36.3″E

From Samcheok’s Express Bus Terminal:

Go to Samcheok Intercity Bus Terminal (right behind the Samcheok Express Bus Terminal where the bus from Seoul drops you off) and take buses #20, 90, or 90-1. It takes about 50 minutes to get there and it’s very easy to miss. Make sure to ask the bus driver or someone on the bus to tell you where the stop is. It might look like you were dropped off in the wrong spot until you go directly in front of the sign that welcomes you. When going back to Samcheok, stop any bus that passes by and get on. Buses don’t come by very often.

Address:

Gangwon-do Samcheok-si Wondeok-eup Gallam2-ri 301

Cost:

  • It cost 3,000KRW for one adult ticket.

Hours:

  • Mar – Oct 9:00-18:00
  • Nov – Feb 9:00-17:00

Phone:

  • +82-33-1338

Hwanseon Cave
(환선굴)

How to get there:

  • 37°19’31.5″N 129°01’01.0″E

From Samcheok’s Express Bus Terminal:

  1. Go to Samcheok Intercity Bus Terminal (right behind the Express Bus Terminal where the bus from Seoul drops you off)
  2. Take bus #60.
    • Bus fare is 2,700KRW and the ride is 50 minutes long.

Address:

Gangwon-do Samcheok-si Singi-myeon Daei-ri San (Mt.) 117

Cost:

It costs 2,800KRW for one adult ticket.

Samcheok Cave Bus Schedule

  • You need cash. You can’t use your T-money card.
  • The first direct bus leaves Samcheok at 6:10 and the last at 12:15. After that there are no direct buses to the cave.
  • The buses leaving Samcheok after 12:15 will drop you off at a corner store. You will have to buy another ticket and wait for another bus.
  • Also if you leave after 12:15 make sure to bring change and small bills. Sometimes they aren’t able to give change.
  • There is no point in going after 17:10 since the cave closes at 18:00 the latest.
  • The first bus from the cave leaves at 6:50 and the last at 19:30. All these buses go directly to Samcheok.

Hours:

  • Mar – Oct 8:00-18:00
  • Nov – Feb 8:30-17:00

Phone: +82-55-1330

Notes:

  • There are two caves, one you walk through (Hwanseon) and one with a monorail (Daegeum Cave).
  • There is a long hike up a mountain to get to the cave in the picture above, Hwanseon cave.
  • Daegeum Cave (대금굴) (The one with the monorail)
    • 3,000KRW one-way
    • 5,000KRW round-trip
    • Phone: 033-570-3257
    • You need to buy tickets for the monorail online in advanced. You cannot buy them at the cave.
      • Unfortunately the website is in Korean and the writing is in picture form, so google translator isn’t much help. Maybe that will change in the future.
      • Try to get a Korean friend to help you, or quickly learn the language.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Samcheok, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A close-to-Seoul Getaway

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 27, 2009

April 25, 2009

All Pictures

Biking off into the sunset

It’s like being in the country.

I did not plan this trip. Every so often I like to be a non-planning traveler. I joined a meetup.com group and whenever they do something interesting I join them. The organizer for this trip was William, an American-Korean living in Korea. He does a very good job planning trips. If you live in Seoul and are a member of meetup.com I recommend going on some of his trips.

The Pension

We left Seoul in the late morning and got to Gangchon in the early afternoon. The first thing we did was to check into the guest house. Unfortunately since William did all the planning, I don’t have any information on lodging. There were about 10 people in our room. I’m not sure about the exact number because people came and went. I was never sure about who were visitors and who were part of the group. We all slept on the heated Korean floor called an ondol.

Eat Dokbokki in our room

Cook Off

There was a tteokbokki cook off for lunch. We got to sample two or three types of tteokbokki and picked a winner. There was one with spam and one that was plain. I liked the spam tteokbokki best even though I like neither spam or tteokbokki. Somehow putting 2 things I don’t like together makes something I somewhat like.

If you don’t know what tteokbokki is, let me explain. First off let me tell you what dok is. In Japan they call it mochi. You take sticky rice and pound it beyond recognition. It will become doughy and moldable. In Korea this is called dok.

You then take the dok, mold it into long tubular things, cut it up, and put it into a red pepper sauce. You can add stuff to it like cheese or odeng. I don’t like tteokbokki, but I don’t hate it either. I think it would taste better with a tomato based sauce and then I would add meatballs. That would of course then make it a pasta dish.

Mark going for a swim

Biking and hiking

After lunch we set off to see the sights. We rented some bikes for the day. William talked to a bike rental place and they came to the guest house to pick us up. The cost of the bike rental was ridiculously cheap, but I don’t remember what it was. One website I looked at says it costs 2,000KRW per hour.

Wheel of funness

A Fantastic Ride

While we rode through the town we came across a small amusement park called Gangchon Land. When I say small, I mean it had 3 rides. We got on 2 of the 3 rides. The third one was closed for some reason.

The first one was a round seated wheel thing with no straps and very little to hold on to. The ride operator’s job was to get us to fall off. He would do this by spinning the wheel and making it jump. He would also talk to us to distract us. I really liked this one. I laughed so hard during the ride my stomach muscles ached afterward.

The other rides were forgettable and not worth mentioning.

What a huge waterfall!

Waterfall

We biked all around town and through the woods. When we were finish exploring Gangchon we decide to head up the mini-mountain in the middle of town. There is a bike path to the base of the mountain.

We parked our bikes and headed up the mountain trail on foot. It was pretty easy going compared to any other mountain in Korea. At the top there was a waterfall and a guy trying to make a buck taking photos of tourists in front of the waterfall. I don’t know how much money he could possibly make since everyone in Korea owns their own expensive digital camera.

Speed Demon

Motor biking

The next day we got up late and did not have time to check out the neighboring towns, but we had a couple of hours to kill before our train ride back to Seoul to see the Buddha’s Birthday parade.

We decided to rent ATV’s. There was a place not too far from the train station that was renting them for about 30,000KRW. Mark and I shared one and raced William on the obstacle course.

When we got back to Seoul we saw Buddha’s Birthday Parade. Some of the floats were… interesting. My favorite ones where the fire shooting floats.

All Pictures


 

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Gangchon
(강촌)

How to get there:

From Seoul:

Go to Cheongnyangni Train Station, which is very close to the Cheongnyangni subway station on line 1. Buy a ticket to Gangchon. It takes about two hours to get from Cheongnyangni to Gangchon and visa versa.

***UPDATE***

Now, I think, you can take the Seoul subway to Gangchon. There is no need to take the railway.

**************

Cost:

A seated ticket costs 4,700KRW for an adult, one way. Standing tickets are a little cheaper, but not worth getting on weekends or at crowded peak times. If you have a standing ticket you may sit in any unoccupied seat, but you will have to get up when the ticket holder for that seat boards the train.

Hours:

  • The first train leaving Seoul is at 6:20 and the last train leaving Seoul is at 20:15.
  • The times leaving Gangchon are similar.
  • The trip takes a little over an hour and a half.

Notes:

  • You can rent bikes, scooters, and ATV’s here.
    • Here are some average prices:
    • Bicycle (built for 1): 2,000 won/Hour
    • Bicycle (built for 2): 6,000 won/Hour
    • Motorized Bicycle*: 15,000 won/Hour
  • I think the Seoul metro now goes all the way to Gangchon.

Gugok Waterfall
(구곡폭포)

How to get there:

  • 37°48’54.8″N 127°39’11.6″E

From the train station you can just walk to the falls. Just follow the road and ask people for Gugok pokpo.

Address:

Gangchon 1-ri, Namsan-
myeon, Chuncheon city, Gangwon-do

Phone: 

  • 033-261-0088

Downloads:

Cost:

Technically there is a fee to enter, but they don’t always have someone to collect the fee. It’s 1,600KRW if they do.

Notes:

  • You can rent a bike or a scooter and ride to the base of this mountain.
  • It’s not a very big mountain. It would take about 45 minutes to get to the top.
    • Height = 50 meters
  • There is a restaurant at the entrance, but it is not always open.
  • There used to be a place in this area where people could go bungee jumping at a very low cost, but that was closed years ago.

Gangchon Land
(강촌랜드)

How to get there:

  • 37°48’40.6″N 127°38’06.8″E

Just walk along the main road from the train station and head east. You can’t miss it.

Address:

252-2 Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon gangchonri Street

강원 춘천시 남산면 강촌리 252-2번지

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00

Maps:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Gangchon, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Suwon Song

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 26, 2009

March 29, 2009

All Pictures

falling on the Suwon Wall

A Day Out of Seoul

I wanted a day away from Seoul, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or to sit on a bus for four hours. (For some odd reason bus rides in Korea are always four hours long, no matter where you go.)

Ring for Wishes!

Most of us took the line 1 subway to Suwon. Taryn, who lives in a ritzy part of Seoul, found a red bus in her neighborhood that went to Suwon. We met up at the Pizza Hut near Suwon Station for lunch. I wanted sushi, but everyone else wanted pizza. If only there was some sort of compromise

We could have taken a bus. That would have been the easiest and quickest way to get to Hwaseong Fortress, but it was a nice day and we could take more pictures if we walked. We followed the road signs and got there, eventually with no problems.

The girls love the yellow hair. (Except the one at the end.)

The girls love the yellow hair. Well, most do…

Along the wall we ran into a bunch of junior high kids. Two of the little girls were infatuated with Raines and his “yellow” hair. They followed us for a little while and begged for us to take their pictures, though they only seemed interested in posing with Raines.

The third and unhappy girl in the photo above couldn’t care less about Raines or his beautiful yellow hair. Before she even introduced herself, she made it perfectly clear that she already had a boyfriend and that he was quite handsome.

Mr. Homer-shirt followed the girls trying to get their attention. When we asked the unhappy girl if Mr. Homer-shirt was her boyfriend she was quite upset. “I told you, my boyfriend is handsome!”

I wish for more wishes!

Along the wall there is a bell. If you ring the bell it will grant you three wishes. One is for your family, one is for your family’s health, and the last is for you. It cost 1,000KRW to ring the bell three times.

We found a song etched in stone. Raines is a musician. Taryn loves to sing and Mark has an abnormal obsession with 노래방. So I made them sing the song. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I did.

All Pictures


South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Suwon (수원)

How to get there:

  • 37°15’56.7″N 127°00’00.8″E

From Seoul:

There are many ways to get to Suwon.

  • The easiest way would be to find a red bus in your neighborhood that goes to Suwon.
  • The second is to use the subway. Go to Suwon Station on line 1. Make sure to get on a train heading in Suwon’s Direction or you’ll end up in Incheon when line 1 splits. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Suwon from Yongsan Station.
  • You can also take the KTX to Suwon from Seoul Railway Station. It costs 8,100KRW, but there are slower, cheaper long distance trains that are around 2,500KRW.

Websites:


Hwaseong Fortress
(화성)

How to get there:

  • 37°16’38.6″N 127°00’42.8″E

From Suwon Station:

  • You can walk to the fortress by following street signs and asking for directions.
  • You can also take city buses no. 2, 7, 7-2, 8, or 13 and get off at the Jongno 4-geori intersection.

Cost:

There are places that cost 1,000KRW to get into, but it is possible to walk around those areas for free. There are also activities to take part in. Some are fun, some are not.

Website:

Hours:

  • Closed on Monday
  • Summer hours – 9:00-18:00
  • Winter hours – 9:00-17:00
  • But most of the wall is out in the open and can be see at any time.

Video:

Map:

Click for Google maps

Posted in South Korea, Suwon | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Underwater Communists

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 26, 2009

February 28, 2009

All Pictures

Spy Sub

Commie Curiosity

After staring at North Korea for a few minutes at the DMZ and watching tons of videos about North Koreans and their spies, I wanted to see the DPRK spy sub that was captured in 1996. It’s on display at Unification Park in Jeongdongjin on the east coast of Korea (that’s South Korea… the good one).

Look, a Spy!

We went to Express Bus Terminal (lines 3, 7, and now 9) at 10:00 am and bought tickets on the next bus out to Gangneung. If you want to make sure that you get the most inexpensive bus tickets available you should check out the bus schedule at the Long Distance Bus website ahead of time and purchase your ticket in advanced. Our tickets cost less than 20,000KRW each.

You’ll need a hard hat for this!

Once we got to Gangneung we were told to take bus #109 or #112 (2,300KRW), but first we needed to take a taxi to bus #112’s bus stop. We should have just taken the taxi all the way to Unification Park since it was very cold. It would have cost 8,000KRW, but we were hungry and thought that we would buy some burgers and eat them while we waited for the bus. We ate our burgers in the freezing cold while the local ajimas (old ladies) gathered round us to gawk at us and talk about us in Korean.

It costs 2,000KRW to enter Unification Park in 2009. There are no tour guides, just arrows on the floor and explanations on the walls. There are English translations for most of the information.

It’s very cramped.

Little Black Submarine

Back in 1996 the DPRK sent some spies to South Korea in a submarine. A few spies left the sub and headed for land. When it was time to go back the spies couldn’t swim out far enough because the sea was rough. They asked that the sub come in further to get them. This was when the submarine got stuck on some rocks that tore it open.

At this point going back to the DPRK in their little sub was impossible. They would have to walk back home. Along with the spying soldiers, there were 11 crew members on board. Before the commander left the sub he shot and killed the crew, so they wouldn’t be tempted to defect, or so we’re told, and got his soldiers on land. A taxi driver passing by saw the sub and called the authorities.

They’re coming to get you.

In the end, one man was captured; He lives in Seoul today and he now helps train ROK navy seamen. The rest were killed. This was followed by a formal apology by the DPRK, the assassination of a ROK diplomat in Russia, and an unrelated capture of a U.S. “spy” by North Korea. News of the “spy’s” capture was withheld by the DPRK for about two months to divert attention away from both the Gangneun incident and the murder of the diplomat.

The “spy”, a guy by the name of Evan Hunziker, later turned out to just be a drunk man with a habit of  making really bad life choices. While drinking in China near the  Yalu River Hunziker, on a dare, decided to swim over to the banks on the North Korean side. He fell asleep on the North Korean shore and was found the next day by a farmer.

Bill Richards, a congressman from New Mexico and later governor, talked the North Korean government down from a ransom of 100,000 USD to a “hotel fee” of 5,000 USD. The Hunziker’s family paid the fee and he was released.

The DPRK officials claimed that Hunziker tried to commit suicide while in their custody as a way of explaining the bruises on Hunziker’s body. This seems quite likely since less than a month after his release back in Tacoma, Washington, he shot himself in the head and died.

On the former USS Everett F. Larson/ current ROKS Jeong Buk (DD-916)

In the Navy

The boat is not as interesting to read about as the sub is, but the ship was more fun to play in. It’s like a playground for adults. Mark and I started to climb on things to take more interesting pictures and in regular human fashion, once people saw us climb on stuff they started to climb on stuff too.

In the ship’s gift shop there was a map of the little town we were in. It showed all the cool stuff to do in the area. Most of the cool stuff involved the beach, but it was too cold for swimming. There was also an art park call Haslla. I may not like art museums, but I LOVE Korean park art!

We left Unification Park and stood at the bus stop.

Hello ma’am

Park Art

Since buses pass by at a rate of about 1 bus per hour and it was really cold, we decided to take the first bus, taxi, elephant, or sedan chair that passed by. It costs 4,000KRW each to get into the art park the day we went.

After wandering around and frolicking amongst various artistic stuff, we wanted to see the huge sandglass downtown. We asked the guard at Haslla to call us a taxi or to at least tell us where to stand to get the bus. He called some guy from the art park and the Haslla shuttle drove us to town free of charge.

We then saw the one year sandglass and walked near the beach. We ate spicy fish soup at a restaurant by the beach. This is where I ate a fish eyeball for the first time. It was squishy and flavorless, but not terribly gross; just a tiny bit gross.

Fish heads fish head rolly poly fish heads…

The people at the restaurant spoke no English and we spoke no Korean. I can go into just about any restaurant in Seoul and order food from a Korean restaurant because I know the names of several dishes that I like. But I’m helpless in a restaurant that serves only fish because I barely know the names of fish in English much less in Korean.

In the middle of the zodiac

A fish is a fish is a fish…

Cham-Chee = Tuna is all I know. As for English I know: tuna, salmon, sardine, big colorful fish, yucky stinky fish…

We did manage to place an order after Mark whipped out his cell phone’s English to Korean translator. The waitress responded by taking out her cell phone’s Korean to English translator. We had a little conversation going that resulted in a big pot of spicy fish soup with many heads.

We took the train back to Gangneung, but not before doing some Korean style drinking outside the GS25 (Korean chain of convenience stores). Mark had a beer. I get drunk very easily so I just had some chocolate and iced tea.

I know… how can I live with the people if I can’t drink with the people?

Have you seen my ship?

It’s not easy to get back to Seoul.

Once again we didn’t take a taxi and I have no good explanation for that because with 2 people the taxi is cheaper than the train. It just seemed like the most fun option at the time, I guess.

We took a bus back to Seoul. This involved missing our first bus, Mark yelling at the poor counter lady, the lady calling Mark a liar, and me saving the day with my mad Korean speaking skills.

Okay, it didn’t actually happen that way. We bought our bus tickets back to Seoul on the 9:00 pm bus. We had about 10 minutes to kill. We went downstairs where the buses were parked, figured out where the departing buses parked and where the bus to Seoul should be, saw that the spot was empty, and waited for the bus to show up. We did use the bathroom, played with a blood pressure machine, and complain about how cold it was outside. But every minute we peeked through the glass doors to see if our bus was there.

It never showed up; 9:00 pm came and went. No bus.

cold beach fun

No big deal… we just went up stairs to exchange our tickets for tickets on the next bus. We asked for new tickets, since no bus showed up and the woman started to yell, in Korean, at Mark. Mark yelled back at her, in English. I stood there wondering what the hell was going on. Why so much yelling?

There was a lady downstairs we were talking to earlier. She spoke English, so I ran downstairs to get her and ask her if she would help us. By the time I got back upstairs Mark had the new tickets in his hand, but he and the counter lady were still yelling at each other. The English-speaking Korean told us that the ticket clerk said that we were lying and we better not miss the next bus.

The 9:30 bus left at 9:25. So if you ever need to catch a long distance bus out in the countryside of Korea, make sure to get there way ahead of schedule.

All Pictures


South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


Jeongdongjin
(정동진)

How to get there:

  • 37°41’29.8″N 129°01’59.1″E

From Seoul:

There is no direct way to get the Jeongdongjin from Seoul. You have to go to Gangneung (강릉) or Donghae (동해) by long distance bus or train then take a local bus or cab to Jeongdongjin.

The train to Gangeung takes about 6.5 hours. By bus it only takes 3 hours. This is because there are no train tracks that go from Seoul to Jeongdongjin.

Phone:

  • 033-640-4604 (Office of Gangdong-myeon)

Website

Notes:

You can use your Seoul T-money card on the buses in this town.


Unification Park
Tongil gongwon
(강릉통일공원 통일안보전시관)

How to get there:

  • 37°43’12.9″N 128°59’53.2″E

From Gangeung take bus #111, 112 or 113 (2,300KRW). Go to tourist information to get directions to the bus stop.

Or

Take a cab. Cost = 8,000KRW

Address:

Aninjin-ri Gangdong-myeon Gangneung
강원 강릉시 강동면 안인진리 산 45-49번지

Phone: 033-640-4469

Website:

Cost: 3,000KRW

Hours:

9:00 – 17:00 or 18:00 depending on the season

Open everyday

Videos:

Books:

Haslla
(하슬라아)

How to get there:

  • 37°42’23.8″N 129°00’35.2″E

From Gangeung – The directions are the same for Unification Park. (take bus 111, 112 or 113)

From Unification Park – There is a bus stop right outside the park. Stand on the south bound side of the road. Stop any bus or taxi heading south and tell the driver to take you to Haslla.

I would recommend calling a taxi from Unification Park before hand, if you plan on taking a taxi,  since not too many taxis randomly pass by. If you plan on taking a bus, check the bus schedule when you first get to the park. Buses are rare too.

From the beach – There is a free shuttle, if you can find it.

Cost: 8,000KRW

Notes:

  • This is a park of art.
  • From Haslla you might be able to get a ride into town by asking about the free shuttle.
  • Shuttle bus service is available on weekends only (08:50-13:50)

Maps:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Jeongdongjin, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Korea’s DMZ

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 26, 2009

February 14, 2009

All  Pictures

Getting our official passes

Being briefed: The Un-nice Neighbors to the North

The DMZ is the closest to North Korea I will ever get, unless I manage to somehow raise Chinese-official-bribe money.* But I get the feeling that even if I were to cross the DPRK border I would still have no idea how the average North Korean lives. There is a huge cloud of mystery around this “communist” country because they have closed themselves off from the rest of the world.

* In May 2013, I actually visited North Korea. No Chinese officials were intentionally bribed.

North Korea: What I know…

1. They are not actually Communist.

What North Korea has is a dictatorship. You’ve all heard of Kim Jong Il, the dear leader and president of the DPRK. Well… actually the president is the dear leader’s father Kim Il Sung the Great Leader, the late Kim Il Sung. (There’s no rest for the wicked!) He is the only person to ever preside over a country from beyond the grave.

North Korean Building (A few years after this photo is taken, I would stand at that same door.)

2. They’re starving over there, or at least they were.

Japan, China, the United States, the United Nation, many European aid organizations, and the Republic of Korea (the good one) regularly give aid to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At least they did until North Korea kicked most of them out the country and pissed off the rest.

North Korea was quite prosperous back in the 60’s but the 80’s brought a recession, the 90’s brought the collapse of the USSR,  and now their few decades of living high on the hog are long over.

They had a famine in the late 90’s in which as many as 3 million people may have starved to death. Even before the famine the DPRK was secretly receiving aid from the USSR. But, once the Soviet Union changed their political stance and started trading with South Korea, because unlike the north the south could and did pay their bills, North Korea shut them out too.

Then in 2006 there was a flood that destroyed a large percentage of their crops. It is still unknown how many people have died from starvation because of that flood or what the population of North Korea is now. It is very hard to get accurate information from North Korea.

3. The DPRK has the most Human-rights violations in the world.

In South Korea I’ve seen people protesting against China and its policy of returning North Korean defectors. North Koreans sneak into China for jobs. Their goals are to send money back home and sometimes to save up enough money to get to South Korea where they will be safer. North Koreans who are returned to their country are sent to concentration camps and stay there for a few months to a few years. Some are just shot, but that does not happen often.

The same is true for political prisoners, some abductees, some people who have known relatives in South Korea, and family members of anyone returned to North Korea. People in these categories are more like to never leave the camps. However those in the gulags for dissension are there for a few years or decades for “re-education” and have some sliver of hope of leaving one day. For more information about life in a DPRK prison camp, I recommend “Aquariums of Pyongyang” by Kang Chol-Hwan. The book shows what could be described as “a fate worse than death”.

The Bridge of No Return

4. They have Nukes.

When I lived in Japan the first time, North Korea launched 7 missiles into the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea as it is called in the Koreas). They also tested a nuclear device within their borders in October of that year. They wanted to get the world’s attention, like a little kid whom everyone has ignored.

You might wonder, “Who builds their nuclear weapons for them?”

The answer: Prisoners. This kills two birds with one stone. One, they have a never-ending supply of political prisoners that would better serve the state by dying. And two, there is no need for any expensive safety precautions with prison labor. Plus, the secrets of bomb building that any of the prisoners know don’t go far. Radiation poisoned prisoners tell no tales.

North Korean soldier

5. Most of them are in the military. 

Both men and women in the DPRK are required to complete mandatory military service. From what I’ve read the country is crawling with military personnel. Well maybe “crawling” isn’t the right word, since there aren’t that many people, but a large percentage of their population is in the military. Most songs and movies from North Korea are about the military.  The people, the ones not trying to get out and not the ones being tortured, are very patriotic, but it’s hard to tell how genuine that patriotism is. Oh… and joining the army means more food rations.

6. Electricity is sporadic. 

At certain times of the year, when North Korea is closed to tourists and other foreigners, the electricity will go out. It’s usually turn off in the evenings. It can get very cold there in the winter at night.

North Korea: Propaganda Village

7. They have propaganda galore.

TV and radio programs are filled with great news about crop production, glorification of the Dear Leader, information on how evil the West is, and how great it is to be North Korean. Movies are about how great the army is and how soldiers are so willing to give their lives for the country while singing praises to the Great and/or Dear Leader.

One of the many groups trying to help the North Korean people, sneak in videos of South Korean soap operas, to show the people how things really are in the south. North Koreans who watch the South Korean soaps are surprised that South Korea has so much and that they are not the lackeys of the Americans like the propaganda says.

Above is a picture of “Propaganda Village” which was erected to show South Korea how good the people of North Korea have it. They play speeches and music from loud speakers and mostly taunt the South Korean soldiers nearby. We’re not sure if anyone actually lives in Propaganda Village.

The Pre-DMZ tour Video

8. They have, from time to time, kidnapped people from South Korea, Japan, and other countries and lied about it.

In 2002 North Korea wanted more aid from Japan. Thinking that it had a great plan to convince Japan to give more generously, the Pyongyang government admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens between 1977 and 1983. Up until that point they had denied any accusations of kidnapping.

They thought that Japan would be so moved by North Korea’s honestly that Japan would shower them with gifts. It actually had the opposite effect. Japan not only stop any aid that was headed to North Korea, it also stopped trade and eventually shut down its borders by way of  the one and only ferry between the two countries.

When Japan asked why North Korea kidnapped ordinary Japanese citizens, North Korea said that they needed someone to teach them Japanese. They would abduct people who were walking by themselves along beaches and streets in Japan.

Though many of these victims were Japanese, they have also kidnapped Europeans. There is speculation that some of the abductions were done so that the non-Korean defectors could have wives.

South Korean fishermen get taken by the DPRK all the time. But the most famous of the abductees are Shin, Sang Ok, the director, and his movie star ex-wife, Choi, Eun Hee. This kidnapping was done by order of the Dear Leader himself, a man who LOVES movies and who is credited as executive producer in many North Korean films.

Shin Sang Ok’s book along with other personal items on display at a South Korean film studio

Mr. Shin worked in a Gulag for about 4 years before being called on by Kim Jong Il to make some films. Mr. Shin and his wife later escaped to an embassy of the United States while at a film festival in Vienna. Years later they returned to South Korea and wrote a book about the experience called Kingdom of Kim. The book has yet to be translated into English and is out of print in Korean. You can read A Kim Jong-Il Production if you are interested in the story.

9. North and South Korea are still technically at war

They may have stopped the bombing and the shooting but the war is still not officially over. I have no idea what they’re waiting for. It might be something as silly as “You haven’t lost the war if the war isn’t officially over. So whatever you do DON’T sign a peace treaty!”

He’s ready for anything!

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

This Year for Valentine’s Day a couple of friends and I signed up for a USO tour of the DMZ. It cost $44. Don’t ask what that is in KRW because I cry myself to sleep at night when I think about how badly the won is doing. At the USO you can pay in good old US dollars or in sinking Korean won.

There are some rules for going to the DMZ on the South Korean side:

  • You can wear jeans, but they have to be nice jeans lacking holes or visible English writing.
  • You must wear something with a collar, either a shirt or jacket.
  • You cannot wear anything that has English letters on it. (I assume French and German letters are banned too. I only wish I had a nonsense Japanese t-shirt to wear, something that says “I ‘Heart’ pachinko”.
  • You can’t wear open toed shoes.
  • They recommend wearing sneakers, though they must be clean, in which to walk around the tunnel.
  • You cannot point at, wave, gesture, or in any way communicate with any North Korean soldier or person standing in North Korea. They weren’t too clear on what would happen if you did. I got the impression that nothing would really happen but that they want you to think all hell would break loose and that you would personally be responsible for the fall of democracy in South Korea and the western world if you say… winked at someone on the other side.
  • You may only take pictures when the military escort says it is okay to do so.
  • You are not allowed to bring any bags near the North Korean border. North Koreans assume that bags carry bombs or worse, capitalism.
From what I hear, there are no rules like this when visiting the DMZ from the North Korean side. In fact, you are encouraged to wave to the South Koreans and even yell at them. This is supposed to be proof that North Korea is freer than South Korea.

The border of the two Koreas

To go to the DMZ with the USO you have to be at Camp Casey by 7:00 am. That way you can stand around for an hour and a half to complain about how horrible it is to be up this early on a Saturday morning just to stand around and complain. The bus actually leaves the Yongsan area at 8:30 am. The journey to the DMZ takes about 2 hours. You have to go with a tour to see the DMZ. You cannot go on your own. The USO is just one of the many companies that offer DMZ tours.

We stopped for a bathroom break when we were almost there. Then there was a passport check before entering Camp Bonifas. Bonifas was one of the guys who was axed to death while trying to trim a tree that was blocking the US and ROK army’s view of the DPRK army’s building. Because of this incident they rename the camp after him.

Once at Camp Bonifas we left our bags on our USO bus, actually it was a Hanna* Bus, and boarded one of the Republic of Korea army’s “secure” buses, constantly referred to as  a “ROK secure bus”. We were then deposited to the building where we were briefed.

* Hanna is one of the major companies in Korea. They own banks and other things.

on the ROK secure bus

Tae Kwon Do Rock Ready

We were told the mini-history of the ending of the Korean War, or the ending of the fighting, and how the DMZ came to be. There were some problems like the axing of US and ROK soldiers, the North Koreans who kept moving their buildings closer and closer to the South Korean border, and the one DPRK soldier/defector who ran into South Korea and was shot at by the North Koreans. Then we all signed a paper that said that neither the US, UN, nor ROK are responsible if we got shot and, or captured by the DPRK.

Then we got back on our secure ROK army bus and were taken to a building that was constructed for families who were split apart by the war to be reunited in. It was never used for its intended purpose because North Korea did… something evil; who knows?

I don’t remember the exact details now. But there was a lot of tension towards North Korea on the tour.

The blue building of tension. The ROK soldiers are having an intense stare down with the DPRK.

Then we stood outside in the cold and peered into North Korea. There really wasn’t much to see, just one building. I only saw one North Korean. He looked well fed. The South Koreans on the other hand were pimply faced scrawny teenagers, but they were are really tall. (Only soldiers 2 meters or taller are allowed to patrol the DMZ.)

I noticed that the ROK soldiers had very noisy shoes. When I asked about it, I was told that it wasn’t their shoes that were noisy, it was their pants. In the cuffs of their pants they have ball-bearings and springs to make noise. This was used in the Korean War to make the army sound like they had more soldiers than they really did. At one point I asked Mark, one of the guys with me, if he thought the soldier would let me see the stuff in his pants if I asked nicely. But he told me that I’d better not ask that kind of pervy question here.

Tae Kwon Do Joe

We then walked to the blue building of tension where North and South Korea meet. Half the room, the building is just one room, is safely in South Korea and the other half is dangerously in North Korea. This is where we met tae kwon do Joe, whose tae kwon do “rock ready” stance protects us all from the Red Menace. Here, I got to wander around the packed room and stroll in and out of North Korea as I pleased.

Me in North Korea

After this, the tour got a bit boring. We boarded and de-boarded the bus countless times to look at parts of North Korea. We saw Propaganda Village, the bridge of no return, and North Korea’s giant flag that is so big that it would take hurricane force winds to make it flap.

heading off to the tunnel where no photos are allowed

Evil Beneath our Feet

We then went to one of the tunnels after being forced to watch a quite forgettable South Korean propaganda video about mines… or unification… I don’t remember. But it had a crying Korean 3-year-old wandering in a mine field.

We entered the 3rd tunnel which was dug by North Korea in an effort to spy on South Korea by getting under Seoul. If only those North Koreans knew how much money that silly tunnel they were digging would rake in for the South Korean government. I’m sure they’re all spinning in their graves now.

I assume since they were caught that they were shot by either the South Korean government or the North Korean government. There’s really no safe place for a caught spy, especially if you are a mere digger.

Even the mannequins in South Korea have guns.

Its Dangerous, no really… Why are you giggling?

I would describe the whole DMZ experience as comically serious. Everything is secure, like the “secure” ROK army bus we rode in. Everything is done for your protection, like the ROK soldier’s rock ready tae kwon do stance. They say not to point at anyone or “Don’t take any pictures here” but when we looked around there was nothing but bushes to be seen and no one at which to point. Nothing felt really serious. Maybe I would have gotten shot if I had waved to that one North Korean guard… but I feel that it was a tour and the ROK and US armies put on a good show and played up the dangerousness and childishness.

There were lots of stories about how the ROK put up a flag and the next day the DPRK put up an even bigger flag. The DPRK would trash the blue building of tension and the ROK would have to clean it up. The DPRK used the US and UN flag to clean their shoes and the ROK replaced them with plastic flags so that could not happen again. I felt like I was listening to a 5 year-old talking about how bad his little brother was. “And you know what else he did…?” And I don’t for one second believe that the ROK and US armies have not done anything to taunt the DPRK soldiers… especially since I know that most of the ROK soldiers are about 19-26 years old.

***UPDATE***

When I visited the DMZ from the other side, I was hoping to once again see the Blue Building of Tension. But alas, I could not. The North Korean soldier showing us around the DMZ told us that South Korea locked the building and well, North Korea doesn’t have a key of their own.

***************

But I do know, in all seriousness, that the North Korean government is quite brutal to its own people. I would not want to live there or be trapped there at all. But, I still want to visit. I hear that the North Korean people themselves, like people everywhere, are actually very nice.

All  Pictures


 

South Korea
(대한민국)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
    • You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
  • Use common sense and you will be okay.
  • Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.

Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.


DMZ Tour 

There are many tour groups that you can take to see the DMZ. This is the one that I recommend. At the time of this blog entry it was the cheapest.

USO (Seoul)

How to get there:

  • 37°32’27.7″N 126°58’21.4″E

Go to camp Camp Casey by way of Samgakji or Namyeong station. Before you exit the station look at the subway map. You will walk towards Samgakji if you go to Namyeong station and visa versa. The camp is halfway between the two station. You can’t miss it.

Website

Cost:

45USD (at the time of this blog entry). This can be paid in US dollars or Korean won; South Korean won!

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • You need to bring your passport to go on the tour.
  • You must wear clothes that have no rips, tears, or holes.
  • Your clothes must not have any English writing on them.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • ROK = Republic of Korea, South Korea, (the Korea I live in)
  • DPRK = The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea, (The one to stay out of)
  • USO = United Service Organizations
  • UN = United Nations

Maps:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in DMZ, North Korea, Panmunjeom, Panmunjeom, South Korea, Yongsan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Time to go Home: USA

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 26, 2009

June 28, 2008

Do I remember how to get home?

I Need to Travel Like People Need to Breathe

At the end of this trip it had been about a year since I was in the US. The plan, when I left Korea, was to start a new life in the US, the country to which I belong. I would get a real job, buy a car, get a mortgage, and get all the other trappings that come with being a rooted non-wanderer.  I even started applying for jobs before I left Korea. But somewhere in Vietnam I realized that I would not be happy here.

I love traveling and I cannot live anywhere for too long without feeling boxed in. I crave seeing new places, finding new ways to live, and getting immersed into new cultures. I must travel to live, like people need air to breathe.

SMOEs week-long orientation at the Hyundai Center in Seoul, South Korea

SMOE

While stuck in Mongolia during this trip and searching the internet for ways to leave Ulaanbaatar, I came across a job ad for S.M.O.E., the organization that places native English teachers in the Seoul public schools. I applied for the job and sent in my resume, covering letter, and references; all before entering Russia.

Shortly after that, while in Finland, I got a reply and set a date and time for a phone interview. Luckily for me my mom had an international cell phone on which they could call me, or else I would have had to call them from a payphone somewhere. An S.M.O.E. rep called me while I was waiting for the Eurostar back to London. By the time the call ended I knew I had the job. The next day I was e-mailed an official letter stating that they were offering me a job and a list of things to do to get a visa.

Within months I was packing my bags again to head back out into the world. She never said it, but I think my mom was hoping that I would live in some other country so she could come visit me. She’s already been to Korea. My mom is a traveler too.

Nomads

My family (years before I was born) moving from Panama to Grand Cayman. The little boy is Malcolm.

A Reading Rainbow Kid

I love to read. So let me recommend some books about traveling. These are books that I have read, loved, and enjoyed at various stages in my life.


The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Florida, Miami, United States, The | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

 
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