Seoul, South Korea
One of the travelers at the hostel, Wasif, and I took a day trip to Suzhou, on a very smoky, standing-room only train trip. This city is known for her gardens both flower and stone. We went to two of them which were both nice to go through, with my favorite being Benevolence Garden.
Then we took a short tour of Suzhou after grabbing lunch. We tried to order with our phrasebook because we were given Chinese-only menus, which was an adventure. We also ate a whole bunch of doughnuts at a desert store. In Suzhou, there was a large temple to visit and I also got a pair of $2 pants before making it back to Shanghai. There is a small place to eat on the sidewalk next to my hostel. It is a good place to eat, and it looks like everything is cooked through.
|Suzhou, China is known for her gardens, both flower and stone|
My flight today was from Shanghai to Incheon, South Korea on a short flight and then on to Seoul via a bus. The safety instructions on the airplane were animated like Pokemon or Yogiman or whatever there called. Arriving in Seoul, I tried to organize a combination ticket for the train to Pusan, ferry to Japan and train to Hiroshima. Buying a packaged deal is supposed to be a savings. This was surprisingly difficult as it took me an hour to find the travel agent even though it was next to the train station. Then I tried to pay by credit card but they would only accept cash, which is troubling. I tried going to an ATM and withdrawing 200,000 but couldn’t. I eventually figured out that you must enter in multiples of 10,000 so I had been requesting to withdrawal 2,000,000,000, which was beyond my approved daily spending limit.
So I didn’t see much of Seoul. Fortunately, I have a couple of days here but I would have liked to see more than what I did. I did get to see a few of the palaces north of my hostel. The subway is very well developed and easy to follow so I should be able to get around quickly tomorrow.
I went into three of the four Joseon Dynasty Palaces. In one of the palaces, they were shooting a movie and it had a bunch of people dressed up as warriors. Another palace was located next to the National Folk Museum, which includes a lot of stone figures and scarecrows. As for the palaces themselves I had gone through the Forbidden City and things like that so it wasn’t as interesting as it would have been had I not visited China.
I also went to the one remaining Japanese prison remaining from the time of Japanese control that lasted between 1909 -1945. There is one main building and several smaller ones that are not as detailed as the main one. There are about 90 people who died here and it shows how many others were tortured. This was an extremely nationalist museum and illustrated the ongoing tension between the Japanese and Koreans. The two countries are jointly hosting the World Cup next year (2002) so this may help to help ease the reconciliation process.
|The National Folk Museum includes stone figures and scarecrows|
I returned home and tried to reconfirm my flight on Air Japan. I was a bit surprised when I found out that there was no flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis on the day it said on my ticket. Apparently, they cut back on flights post-September 11th, but they made arrangements for tickets on the day before.
I went down to the ex-pat section, Itaewon, and hung out there. There are areas here that are dodgy as it was where a lot of American soldiers went to have fun. There is still a lot of Americans here because of the military and American teachers. I had some food down here, which was cooked on a small grill in front of me. A lot of meat combined with lettuce and onions. Itaewon is also a good place to shop and people watch.
I had some street food, which was eggs and carrots on toast with mustard, cheese and sugar. After this breakfast, I went to Busan. The train to Busan was an express train with reclining chairs. Also, when the man who checks the train tickets is done checking the train car, he will bow to everyone in the car as a sign of respect. The ride is interesting as mountains surround the city. The city seems poorer than Seoul and has a lot of concrete, but it seems like a good place to stay for a couple of days.
I found the school where one of my friends from Chicago, Rodney, works. He just got done with school and then we went out at the university area. It was a nice restaurant where we ate; we had a huge plate of sweet and sour chicken and ate on a sofa. We went to a couple bars, Soul Train and Crossroads, where Rodney knew a lot of fellow teachers. There are many people out even at four in morning including us. People were just hanging out on the street and talking even though the bars are closed.
Rodney and I eat at a place, which was really good. He’s been here long enough that he knows what to order and we tried quite a few things. It’s nice to be able to order food here in Asia without it being a complete surprise. It’s also nice talking to somebody I actually know.
|Many people dressed up as warriors outisde one of the Joseon Dynasty Palaces in Seoul|
I finished off with Korea by going to the ferry station and taking the ferry to Japan. This was second-class, which means sleeping on the floor with sleeping bags and pillows. I also had to take my shoes off. The boat ride was about six hours but then they dock for a few hours, which is the best time to sleep, as the boat is not rocking.