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nomadnorrie From Sydney to the formula 1 grand prix in Shanghai, Beijing, South Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine and Europe. Final destination by train is London. Hopping on a flight to Finland, then on to Japan and finally back to Sydney.

Around South Korea, on the buses

SOUTH KOREA | Tuesday, 27 November 2007 | Views [5209] | Comments [1]

Shilla dynasty (~600AD) crown in Gyeongju shilla dynasty burial park.

Shilla dynasty (~600AD) crown in Gyeongju shilla dynasty burial park.

I got the early bus to Sokcho, after 4 hours on the express from Seoul I had a further 20 minute bus ride to the Seroak national park. The express buses are cheap, really comfy and have lots of space (there were only three seats in each row on my bus). Also at this time of year they were practically empty, I was sharing my trip with four nuns, a couple of others and a bus driver. I walked straight to my hotel, past the fish tank with plastic fish dangling on coat hanger wire in the otherwise normal tank, dropped my stuff off then went for a wander.

The next day I started with the relatively easy hike to the two waterfalls (Buryongpopko and Yukdampopko). On the way back, just after passing the four nuns, I stopped for a coffee at one of the track side restaurants near the start. The Korean owner showed me lots of stuff in case I might want to buy something, thankfully as soon as I said no she just looked sad and left it at that. Business must have been slow because she discounted everything when I paused before answering and she looked dejected when I said no. I did in the end buy a potato pancake with onions in. She threw her arms in the air and said yay. I spent about an hour there and left knowing how to say hello and thank you in Korean.

Seorak National Park waterfall

The park itself used to have tigers and bears but the Korean war killed them all off, the only big thing left is wild boar and deer. I didn’t see any wild boar but I did see lots of birds, chipmunks and a deer. In the afternoon I had a look around the temple just inside the park then decided to go to Ulbangawi (the big rock as it was labelled in English). The big rock was actually most of the way up one of the park’s peaks so it went up and up for ages, it is actually a big rock that weighs some 18 tonnes and can be rocked by a few people pushing at once. It didn’t move for me.

The next morning I was woken by a loud and rather lengthy in-room tanoy announcement at 6.30am, it was probably for breakfast but who knows, I only understand hello and thank you. I decided to go back into Sokcho for a look around, first the beach then the port and finally the market. At the port I saw one of the four nuns at a stall in the fish market, I had deep fried squid there which was delicious.

I was meant to get up early enough for the first bus to Gyeongju but I over slept. I threw my things together and just hoped the 8 hours of walking the day before didn’t leave me whiffing too badly. Despite my meaningful attempt at running with a full backpack I missed the bus. I took an alternate route and once again the bus was fabulous. I arrived in Gyeongju later that afternoon and headed straight for the Shilla era monuments. I managed to see lots in only a couple of hours because many of the attractions are within easy reach of the town centre. The first thing I came across were the burial mounds. The bigger the mound or the higher it is on a hill the higher the status of the person buried underneath it. At the bottom of each mound is a wooden burial chamber, that is covered with rocks and then dirt is placed on top.

Shilla burial mounds

Ancient observatory

Ice store (an old fridge)

I asked for my room key when I got back to the hostel and disturbed the owner in the downstairs shower. The shower door burst open and he quickly leant out leaving me to suddenly admire the ceiling décor.

In the evening I went to eat at a place recommended by the hostel owner. I sat down on the floor and ordered Bulgogi - a sizzling beef dish. It came with almost a dozen side dishes: pickled whole garlic cloves, pickled cabbage, lettuce leaves, melon in mayonnaise, whole anchovies, greens plus a couple of others. I watched the men at the table next to mine placing food in the lettuce leaves, wrapping it then eating it so I did the same. Food was tasty and there were so many vegetables, I just had to scoff the lot. When I finished eating one of the men opposite my table came over to me and said something in Korean. I told him I don’t speak Korean. The next thing he said got me wondering where the conversation was going, he said "Single?". I replied yes then he said "What jab?" I didn’t get it at first but then told him I work on computers and he was satisfied. Then he made a phone call and used the person he was calling to translate. After a few minutes he found out I was in Korea for travel he finished his phone conversation said "Thank you", got up and walked away. Perhaps he just wanted to be friendly I don’t know. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

The following day I got up and started with a Korean breakfast. Plenty more side dishes again, this time it included fish. I’ve been using chopsticks for a while now but using them to eat fish with the bones still in is no easy task. It was the last thing that I ate because I was too hungry to fiddle (I tried sweet and sour fish in Beijing and it took me almost an hour to eat it all). I even munched through the anchovies with head and tail still on before getting to the fish. I planned to go and see some more historic sites and then the worthwhile local museum. The first sight, a temple built into a hillside, had lots of school kids on a day trip and one group sang hello to me as I passed them. One kid even stepped out of his class’ line and stood in front of me, bowed with hands clasped together and said hello in Korean. I hiked 3.4km up the hill to the next sight and found that I had beaten the kids. So I whizzed round in case they arrived soon and made my way back to town. While waiting for the bus to the local museum I was accosted by a monk, I could see he was following me because I didn’t know which bus stop to wait at and got it wrong, I turned around and went back on myself. The monk did exactly the same. I was tempted to go in a circle but resisted. The first thing he said to me was "I am a problem monk". I thought it was a bit odd for a monk to be carrying a large tube of Pringles and just after he spoke to me I could smell the beer on his breath. I had no idea what to say so kept quiet. He said to me "Are you a good boy?" and I asked him "Why are you a problem monk?" Apparently he was a musician and he chose to become a monk. All of that took the whole ten minutes that I stood waiting for the bus. Just before the bus came along he asked for a pen and wrote down on my piece of paper "I wan’t friend". I am now friends with a problem monk at Bulguska temple.

For dinner I went to the market where I saw pineapples for sale the day before. I wanted a pineapple for a fruit salad with yoghurt for dessert. On the way out from the market I found a pancake stall and ordered a couple, I couldn’t tell what was in it but watched several people buy them before I ordered two. They were made from a gooey cake mix shaped into a ball, then some powder was put in the centre, the ball was then placed on the fry pan and flattened. On walking away I took a bite and realised that the pancakes were filled with cinnamon, they were fantastic. I went straight back and got another couple, so cheap and so good.

Declicious cinnamon cakes

I split my next day by stopping off in Daegu to have a look at the medicinal herb market, the only problem was that it wasn’t on. I hopped on the next bus going back north to a place nearer to Seoul called Gangchon. I ended up spending most of the day on a bus while the weather was perfect. The Gangchon youth hostel made me feel a bit like I was in the film Day of the Triffids, the lights were on, doors were left open, the TV was blaring away but nobody was in. I waited and then used the phone to call them, the phone just next to me started ringing. I called a hotel and the lady picked me up in a few minutes, in contrast her hotel was quite literally full of frills.

GangchonI spent the morning on a bicycle I had hired and cycled to a waterfall that was starting to form ice from top to bottom. Cycling around in this sort of cold weather left my hands feeling num but I still managed to get much further by cycling. I finished the morning with a hike to a local village and then cycled back to Gangchon where I had an excellent and not too spicy Dakgalbi. I finished the day by heading back to Seoul for my last full day in South Korea.

Back in Seoul
I had run out of money so I had an early morning task of finding the ATM that worked with my card before I left Seoul. I joined the first guided tour of Chandokgung Palace, which is in fabulous condition. After that I finished up with a second UNESCO world heritage site for the day and went to Suwon to see the Hwaseong fortress. Both places I fully recommend if anyone is going to South Korea. I can also reiterate what I said in my last post, the ladies in South Korea are gorgeous.

UNESCO world heritage site listed Hwaseong fortress

Tags: The Great Outdoors



Omg, those cakes were wonderful!! I had them when I was in Korea as well and now I really want to be able to find a recipe or something. Any chance you know what they're called?

If you do, message me back on my blog, http://yoshikitty.blogspot.com/


  Stephanie Mar 31, 2009 6:57 PM



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