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Monthly Archives: April 2009

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Jeongneung (정릉) is an ancient burial ground for two Joseon kings, and one queen. It’s located in the Seolleung area of Seoul. Anyway, last weekend I was bored and decided to take a trip here because of its historical significance.

It was a nice day and I just relaxed on the grass and enjoyed the nearly-500-year-old tomb. I wonder what the bodies look like now.

Buddy is buried in a tomb inside or on top of a huge hill. The picture doesn’t really do it justice… this burial mound is huge:

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Anyway, it was a trip to be sitting in such a historical place.

Apparently this building was used for sacrifices:

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The park is really peaceful and quiet. I spent pretty much the whole afternoon just relaxing on the grass (!) under a cherry tree, with blossom petals falling all around me. It was nice.

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I went to see the cherry blossoms in Yeouido. It was beautiful, but there were way too many people there for it to be enjoyable. I don’t really have much to say about it because I was really annoyed at how many people there were, and how generally rude they are. The flowers were gorgeous though.

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I had planned on renting a bike and riding around a bit, but I couldn’t find anywhere to rent one, although I saw many people riding rented bikes around. Oh, and this Korean guy was riding his bike… one of those guys who wears the biking clothes and stuff… These 2 girls on a yellow tandem bike got in his way and he hit them and went over the handlebars. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t contain myself when I see someone fall. I laughed my ass off. He was really pissed at the girls… good thing he didn’t see me.

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So there’s my post about the cheery blossoms.

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Gwanaksan is officially my favourite mountain in Korea (so far). I got to the top in about 2 hours, and all the way up there were clean streams to drink from. Everything is so accessable there.

I got to the mountain late yesterday, around 1. I usually try to get to the mountain itself around 10 or 11. Anyway, it was about 22 degrees and sunny with a nice cool breeze, so it was absolutely the perfect day for hiking.

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It was a bit difficult to get to the peak. I had to climb steep rock faces to get all the way up there. Honestly it was pretty damn scary. 100% worth it though.

Today I’ll go to Yeouido to see the cherry blossoms. I’m sure I’ll get some awesome photos.

You can see all my videos here.

And my photos from Gwanaksan here.

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There were many people there on that Tuesday afternoon; families having picnics, groups of students playing sports, people running around the track, and me. The park is encircled by a walking/running track. I walked around the track and found an attraction called “Japanese Garden”. I’m in Japan, so might as well check it out. It cost me 250 yen to get in (don’t get me started), but it was WELL worth it. That garden was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Everything was laid out so well. It’s like the park was designed with the rule of thirds in mind. I made a couple of videos from inside the garden, and took at least 100 photos. It was absolutely spectacular. There were brooks and small waterfalls running through it, a zen garden, and all different kinds of trees and flowers. Best of all, I was in the middle of cherry blossom season. I had read about cherry blossom season in Japan before, but it far exceeded my expectations.

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Imagine pink-white clouds hovering about 7 feet off the ground, with millions of petals floating in the calm breeze. I haven’t felt something like that in… well… ever, really. Tranquility. Peace. Calm. This was a stark contrast to the noise and filth of Seoul. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seoul, but that garden gave me a feeling like no other, and I am an avid mountain climber in Korea.

I met a girl eating lunch by the water. I can’t remember her name. Anyway, I asked her where the castle ruins are, and she didn’t know. We talked for a bit and I was on my way.

STOP LOOKING AT ME, SWAN!

STOP LOOKING AT ME, SWAN!

I completed my circle of the park, and decided to head to Nishi Park, which is famous for its cherry blossoms and intricate shrines and temples.

Nishi park was absolutely gorgeous. I can’t stress enough how clean Japan is. The park was filled with white cherry blossoms. They seemed to be ever-exploding fireworks, bursting mid-air, reflecting peace and tranquility. I am really glad that I am a decent photographer. Had I not been able to get good photos of the cherry blossoms, you wouldn’t even begin to understand how beautiful it was. My photos don’t come close to showing the true beauty of the flowers. It’s just one of those things that you have to see for yourself. I wish so much that my family and dog could have been there to see this. I spent about 4 hours wandering the park, and found a labyrinthian convolution of stairs and paths to mini-shrines, each more delicate and intricate as the next. they were impeccably cared for. It was so quiet and peaceful there.

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The sun was going down, and I was exhausted, so I headed back to the subway to my hotel, and relaxed for the night.

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The next day, I woke up at 8 and headed over to pick up my visa. It was ready, but I still only have a stupid single-entry visa. WHY!? Why. Americans get multiple-entry visas. Mine is single, meaning if I want to leave the country and come back, I have to pay something like 50,000 won for a re-entry permit. It’s a pain to have to go across Seoul to get one. I don’t have any travel plans for the future, but if I did, I would need to get a permit, like I did when I came home for Christmas.

I walked around the beach (yes, beach) near the Yahoo! dome, and got a nice soaker when a wave came crashing onto my foot. I went to the mall, walked around a bit, bought an $8 pair of socks, and headed to the airport.

And here I am, waiting for my check-in. I came about 4 hours early for my flight, just to be sure there aren’t any complications like there was in Seoul. I can’t even check in until 2 hours before my flight leaves, so I am sitting on a bench outside of the desk area, waiting to check in. I’m getting a bit hungry, but my butt already hurts from being raped by the yen, so I’m going to try to hold off until I get on the plane. They’ll have a little something something for me once we’re in the air.

Quite the post eh? I should chop this thing up so that people will actually read it. Us Sesame Street generation aren’t used to paying attention for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Here’s a video of the park:

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On my first day here (after arriving), I woke up at 8am and headed to the consulate right after my shower and ‘breakfast’, which consisted of 2 tubular objects that the Japanese consider to be sausage, a blob of yellow mass that I assume is supposed to resemble scrambled eggs, toast, and a roll. Whatever.

The consulate was easy to find, but I am really good with direction. Some may find it hard, so I documented my trip there, complete with pictures. I’ll post my guide to the consulate in a bit. I’ll give it to my recruiter too, just in case others have trouble finding it. The consulate itself was pretty cool looking. The guards were really nice guys. The visa cost me *6,000 yen*, which is 82,800 Korean won, which is $76 Canadian dollars. Wow. And they only take cash. Good thing I didn’t check out any of the restaurants.

After that, I realized I was near the Yahoo! dome, which had a McDonalds. I got a Big Mac, fries, and orange juice. I don’t usually eat McDicks, but I figured it would be familiar food and it was close. There, I spent my last 1000 yen. Realizing that I only had about 300 yen in my pocket, I began to panic. I had no money; only enough to get me to the airport from where I was at that point. Shit. I tried every ATM machine in the area, but none of them would accept any card I had. At this point, I felt real panic gripping me. Was I really going to be stuck? After all, I had to get back to my hotel (250 yen), and tomorrow I had to go to the consulate (290 yen), and then to the airport (another 290 yen). I decided on a whim to go to the airport and see if they had international ATM machines. Bingo. I had money. I never really felt so panicked before in my life. But it was all over.

Money in pocket, I got a big bottle of water and headed for Ohori park, which has to be one of the nicest parks I’ve ever seen. More about that in the next post.

UPDATE:

Here’s my guide to the Korean Consulate in Fukuoka.

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I made the trip to Fukuoka for my visa renewal. Everything was planned… I was to leave at 8am from Incheon airport and arrive in Fukuoka around 9:30. I was then to head to the consulate and apply for my visa.

I woke up at 5am, got to the airport around 6:30 or 7. This is where the real story begins.

Apparently I was too late to check in for my flight. After pleading with the nice lady at the desk, she informed me that it was impossible for me to board my flight, even though it had not left. I asked her again and again if there was anything she could do to get me on the flight. She said no, that I had to buy another ticket.

Brace for shitstorm.

I called my recruiter, who is awesome by the way, and she informed me that I do indeed need to buy another ticket, out of pocket. After 450,000 Korean Won (which is like $20 Canadian dollars), I had a new flight to Fukuoka. I also had to stay another night at my hotel, again out of pocket. It cost about 7,500 yen (which is like $25,000 Canadian).

Fine. This is what’s going to have to happen, and there’s nothing I can do about it now, so screw it.

The flight from Seoul was short… only 50 minutes. Apparently if you’re in Pusan, you can take a ferry over to Fukuoka. That’s how close it is.

I arrived at Fukuoka airport, and hopped onto a shuttle bus to the domestic terminal, where I could take the subway to Hakata station. The subway in Fukuoka is ridiculously expensive. It was 250 yen for a two-station trip, which is $3.16 Canadian dollars. In Seoul, that same trip would be 800 Korean won, which is just under 75 cents.

I got to Hakata station, and I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find my hotel, called Sunlife 2.3 if I am correct. It was actually attached to the station. How convenient.

My room was small, but hey I was only here for 2 days right? The bed was surprisingly comfortable. Firstly, I realized 2 things about Japan. One: It is a VERY clean country. I think I saw one cigarette butt on the ground during my entire time here. Two: It is VERY VERY expensive here. Very expensive. Everything here is at least twice as expensive as in Korea. A bottle of water is about 150 yen, which is over 2,000 Korean won. A bottle of water in Korea is usually 600 won, which is about 50 cents Canadian. So, a 500mL bottle of water in Japan: $1.84. the same bottle in Korea: 50 cents.

I had a chance to walk around and see some restaurants. Everything was at least 1000 yen, which is 13,000 Korean won. I am used to paying 4,500 or 5,000 won for a full meal with a main dish, rice, and usually 3 or 4 side dishes. Needless to say I ate out of convenience stores my whole time here. It’s a shame because I was really looking forward to checking out some real Japanese food.