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Monthly Archives: December 2009

As planned, today I went to Hiroshima Castle. Of course, like every other museum or attraction in Hiroshima, it was closed. It took me about a half hour to walk there. It was a really nice day with a lot of sun and flurries. It was about 0 degrees, but it felt a lot warmer than that, until I had been outside for a couple of hours. Then I got cold.

Anyway, yeah. Hiroshima Castle is a beautiful example of Japanese architecture. I can see a lot of differences between Korean and Japanese architecture. It seems to me that Japan uses a lot more dark colours, while Korea uses bright and festive colours.

The castle is located inside a huge moat with massive koi fish swimming in there. These things are seriously about 3/4 the size of me. The area surrounding the castle is also pretty interesting. The walkways are lined with holly trees, and there were a lot of trees that I found to be really characteristic of Japan, whatever that means.

It was a really cool experience, but I would have really loved to go inside. I came at the time when any kind of tourist attraction is closed, including the Hiroshima Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Castle, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I’m trying to pace myself so that I’ll have something to do tomorrow.

Oh, and happy new year.


Side note: Hey, National Geographic, if you’re looking for a young, fit, and brilliant guy to equip with the latest Nikon gear, and ship around the world to write, I’m your man. My blog here is mainly vernacular, in order to reach a more broad range of people. My writing skills extend far beyond colloquial English.

I woke up this morning around 9am, and dragged myself to get outside. It was a nice morning, but a bit cloudy. Anyway, after a couple cups of coffee I headed to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to see what I could see. And I saw a lot.

This is a shot from across the river of the A-Bomb Dome. It is the building closest to the hypocenter that survived the blast. The feeling in the air was solemn, as if the trees themselves knew the horrors of the bombing of Hiroshima. My parents warned me that it would be a moving experience, but I didn’t expect this.

This is the Children’s Peace Memorial.

This part of the park really got to me. This is a burial mound for tens of thousands of people who were incinerated instantly when the bomb went off. Most people near the hypocenter of the bomb were literally vaporized. Those on the oter parts of the blast were burned. This mound is a collection of tens of thousands of people’s ashes that were found throughout the city. There is no official number of deaths resulting from the bomb, but my research shows 140,000. My city has 18,000 people in it.

This clock statue is set at 8:15, which is the minute the bomb was detonated above the city.

This picture shows one of the original street cars that survived the bombing. I can’t remember where I read that, so I can’t cite it, but as you can see, it’s pretty old looking. The streetcars here are easy to use, and relatively cheap. A trip from Hiroshima Station to Kanayama-cho was 150 yen, which is about $1.75 Canadian. Much more expensive than Seoul, where a typical trip is about 1,000 won, or about 90 cents.

So. It’s been an interesting day. I plan on heading to Hiroshima Palace tomorrow. I don’t think I can make it to Miyajima island, because the weather will be pretty crappy. That’s too bad.

Still, I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to experience this. Very few people will be able to see this in their lifetime, which is a terrible shame. I think the leaders of every country in the world should visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

This illustrates one of my favourite things about Japan. Don't be a bad smoker.

I left my apartment around 1pm. I’m at Gimpo airport now waiting for my express train to leave to Incheon airport. My flight leaves at 6:30, and it’s now 3, so I’ve got time. I have to run to the immigration office to get a re-entry permit, since Korea sees it fit to only give Canadians a single-entry visa. If I weren’t to get this, I would forfeit my visa and would not be able to teach. I could get back into the country for maybe 2 months, just enough time to get my stuff.

Anyway, I will be in Hiroshima from December 29th until January 2nd. I am really looking forward to some peace, being on my own in a place I’ve never been before. I don’t have much of an itinerary, since I’m pretty sure that the museums and such will be closed No matter, I am still excited to see a place I haven’t seen before, without any hindrances or things to worry about, aside from finding my way to the airport at 7am on Jan 2nd. My train is on its way now. I will be updating this blog every day during my trip, and will definitely have hundreds of photos of Hiroshima and the surrounding area.

I wrote that last bit on the train to the airport. I’m in my hotel now. I met some really nice people who helped me figure out the streetcars. Although they gave me wrong directions to my hotel, I can’t blame them. I found it easily enough. It’s about 11:30pm now, and I’m gonna head to bed soon so I can get up early tomorrow morning and check out the atomic bomb dome. That’s the first thing I’ll check out. I hope to go to Hiroshima Castle tomorrow.

BTW I should plug my travel agent, who’s been really cool in dealing with my constant questions and changing of plans. His name is Joshua, and he works for a company called Kyobo Travel. His email address is If you’re in Korea and looking to travel, he’s matched every price I threw at him, and he’s been really reliable with following up with me on the phone as well as email. He didn’t ask or tell me to do this, I am doing it on my own volition.

Image from Wikipedia

On December 25th I am heading to Hiroshima, Japan for a 4-day vacation. I decided on Hiroshima because I’ve always wanted to see it, and I feel that I kind of owe it to humanity to see where the first atomic bomb was used against an enemy.

I’ve begun to prepare an itinerary for myself.

I’ll arrive at my hotel around 9pm on Friday. I’ll go to the Hiroshima bomb memorial and see what I can see. I’ll sleep and get up the next morning to see it during the day time.

I will also go to the Itsukushima shrine, which is a shrine on the island of Itsukushima. It is a short ferry ride from the end of one of the tram lines in Hiroshima. It’s considered a sacred place, built around the year 500, and since then, nobody has been born or died there, in order to preserve its purity.

That’s not my image. If it were, it would be straight. I got it from Wikipedia.

I’ll also check out the Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja shrine.

I was inspired to go here by my cousin, Warren, who was attending the Tokyo Game Show, and stopped by Hiroshima as well as some other cities during his stay in Japan. He’s got my dream job, basically. He runs a game promotion and development company.

Anyway, my parents saw Pearl Harbor when they went to Hawaii, and my mom told me to prepare myself for a really emotional time. It’s kinda funny how my parents saw the cause of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, and I’m going there myself.

I got a really good deal on my flight, and my hotel as well. I went through a private agent for my flight, and Agoda for my hotel.

Should be an interesting Christmas.

I woke up at 11:30 today and saw how nice and sunny it was outside. I couldn’t let myself sit around my apartment playing xbox all day, so I decided to head out to somewhere I’ve never documented before. That place is Namdaemun Market (남대문 시장). It’s located at Hoehyeon Station (회현역), right between City Hall and Myeongdong. Myeongdong is another huge shopping area in Seoul, but has a bit more flash and allure.

Namdaemun Market is the largest market in Seoul. To get an idea of how huge this place actually is, check out the map I set up to show you exactly how big it is. What you see is pretty much 90% made up of the market.

You can find anything here. I saw ripoff Louis Vuitton stuff, fish split wide open, dentists, restaurants, you name it, really. I didn’t see much  in the way of electronics though. Nothing can beat my favourite place, Yongsan electronics market.

The place was completely buzzing because of the holidays coming up. I saw this really creepy Santa robot kind of thing that was doing the robot dance. I also saw some great bad Engrish shirts and hoodies, but I’m saving my pennies for my Hiroshima plan for Christmas. I am not 100% sure if I can afford to do it, but I know I will lose my mind if I have to sit alone in my apartment for the 9 days we get off for Christmas. I’d honestly rather work than sit at home doing nothing.

There’s a Salvation Army in this area, too. I went there and found this:

This used to be some kind of bakery with the Salvation Army attached to it. Now it’s being gutted and redone. I doubt the Salvation Army will be back there.  Sad.

Today I went to COEX mall to pick up some new shoes and a couple of shirts.

COEX is located at Samseong station (삼성역), which is also where the Seoul World Trade center is located. COEX is the biggest underground mall in the world, if I am correct. One of the reasons I hate that place is because it’s so huge. It’s hard to find pretty much anything without a map. There’s anything you can imagine there… even an Apple reseller.

Funny I mention that. I was there and I whipped out my iPhone with the cracked screen. You should have seen the faces of the employees there. Since the iPhone just arrived here on November 28th, they hadn’t seen a beat up iPhone yet. Mine is pretty haggard after a year of using it without a case. I’ve dropped it down stairs, on concrete, you name it. I even left it in a taxi cab one night. Luckily I have an amazing friend who spent 2 days of her time to bring it to me.

Anyway, COEX is huge. I’m not talking huge as in Yorkdale Mall huge. I walked out to find a payphone. After walking for 15 minutes in one direction, I realized I was still walking over the mall. There are several hotels built on top of it, as well as the Seoul World Trade Center. There are official retailers for many international companies as well, such as Nike, Adidas, Apple, Sony, Levi’s, you name it. It’s really a paradise if you’ve got a bunch of money and time to spend. As you know, I’m rich, so this is my ideal hangout. All English teachers are rich.

Speaking of the international experience, I went to some “Italian” place at the food court there. They had some pretty decent pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I love Korean food, but it was nice to have some real, greasy pizza, which was almost as good as HD Pizza at home.

The place is called Sbarro. It belongs to HAL/9000 on Flickr.

This is not my photo. It belongs to HAL/9000 on Flickr.

I have been here for 1 year and 5 months.

I have learned to read Korean fairly well, although I have no idea what it means most of the time. I’ve learned to understand some Korean, especially when someone is talking about me, and sometimes I wish I didn’t understand what people were saying about me, although I don’t really care what people think of me.

I’ve paid bills, argued with phone companies, moved across the city by myself, got sick, been rich, been broke, ate some of the most… interesting food I’ve ever experienced, learned how to adapt in a Confucian culture, finally seen the iPhone come (!), climbed mountains, been to a couple of different cities, been to Japan, learned to cook Korean food, taken over 10,000 photos… I could go on.

I still haven’t decided whether or not I am coming home in March, but right now I am 90% sure that I will. This will be my first Christmas not with my family. I made a feeble attempt to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation last night. I didn’t make it through the opening credits. It feels wrong to be without my family on Christmas.

I don’t mean for this to be another of those reflective posts. That’s getting a bit worn. I guess this will be about my next (or last) 3 months in Seoul. 25,000,000 people. Hell Canada has 35,000,000 people in an area bigger than China. One thing I’ve always wondered is how the sewer system here works. At least 20,000,000 people take a shower (questionably), use the toilet, wash their hands, etc. Walking down the street, you can often smell the acrid fumes from the sewer, but that’s to be expected in a city of this many people. Also, many Koreans refuse to drink the water. I myself drink the water often, and haven’t felt any ill effects. I think the issue with the water isn’t whether or not it’s clean, but possibly the presence of metals. Again, I’m not concerned. I did a tour of a water treatment facility with my old school and I was pretty impressed.

For Christmas this year, I am considering going to Hiroshima. My cousin went there this year and took some really inspiring pictures. I would love to see the monument and pay my respects to all those who died there. I’m hoping to find a last minute deal of some kind.

Anyway, this post has kind of turned into a ‘thinking out loud’ thing. That wasn’t really my intention, but it is what it is. I would really love some feedback from you guys in terms of what I should write about, or any questions you might have about my daily life. My email address is at the bottom of this page, so feel free to email me with anything you can think of. I’ve got almost 12,000 visitors now, and I’m sure at least one of you have thought of something you’d like to see here.

I’m doing a language exchange with a couple of businessmen I met at a Starbucks one day. They teach me Korean, I teach them English. It’s actually pretty cool to have a different perspective on things. They work for a really big company. One of them is a high-ranking internet security officer, and the other is a system administrator and trainer for (I’d say) the world’s leading corporate unix systems.

I have to go all the way to Jamsil (잠실) to meet with them every week, but we end up having a great time talking about technology and security.

Anyway, on the way to Jamsil is a station called Gangbyeon (강변). Here is Seoul’s second biggest electronics market, called Teconomart (테크노마트). I usually have a bit of spare time before we meet, so I got to look through Technomart. The salespeople aren’t as pushy as at Yongsan (용산), but from my experience, the prices are a bit higher at Technomart.

After 2 more stops, I arrive at Jamsil station (잠실역). Jamsil is an upper-class part of the city, and from what my friends tell me, one of the most expensive places to live in Seoul. Here there are huge apartment buildings with helipads on top. I’ve heard that a condo here can cost upwards of $5,000,000. That’s a lot of bones. Located here is Lotte World, one of the major amusement parks here in Seoul. I went there in the summer with a friend (see my previous post about it).

Jamsil is a really nice place, but it’s not very central. It’s about a half hour or 45 minutes by subway from the center of the city.

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to stay here another year or go home. I’ve got 3 months to weigh my options. Stay tuned.