Tag Archives: Korea

I Have Scaled These City Walls…

Lifted some stones, saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking

The trenches dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart.

“You love this town
Even if that doesn’t ring true
You’ve been all over

A city lit by fireflies.”

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Adventures in Jeju: Don’t Feed the Dragon

The last day found us splitting the party.  I know, it makes things more complicated, but they didn’t feel up to adventuring to Yongduam (용두암 “Dragon Head Rock”) and I wanted to see it.  So my wonderful wife and I took our leave of our companions after breakfast.  I don’t think they traveled very far from where we left them (until it was time to go to the airport).  In contrast, we traipsed along and under streets, through parks, and over streams in the course of our adventuring.

It was quite the walk to Yongduam!  We even passed by part of the airport on our trek.  Eventually we walked along the top of Yongyeon (용연 “Dragon ?”), a narrow gorge.  The stream below was a beautiful teal, but bits of trash drifted down it.  I wish I could be surprised.  Yet my time in Korea (and America) has shown me time and time again that people will litter pretty much anywhere, even in places of beauty, and public places suffer for it (I was writing this in a notebook while waiting for a bus and counted several cigarette butts).  Perhaps something similar to the principles of Leave No Trace needs to be taught in schools starting at an early age as well as encouraging more responsibility.  I’ll stop myself here, as this is a rabbit trail I would run a long ways down.

We followed the gorge to the sea.  The coastal road took us past many seafood restaurants.  It would have been fun to eat at one and sample some of the seafood caught locally but we weren’t hungry at the time.  We knew we had arrived at Yongduam when a viewpoint opened up before us on the seaward side of the road.  Some fishermen were fishing below us.  I know there’s a lot of waiting and downtime involved in fishing, but from where we were standing it definitely looked like one of the fishermen was resting and not paying attention to the poles.

While we could see planes landing at the airport a ways to our left and the massive hotels on the coast far to our right, the view of Yongduam wasn’t the best (it didn’t quite resemble a dragon’s head).  So we hiked down a nearby trail to get a different vantage point.  And then we could see the dragon’s head.  It really does look like a dragon rearing up.  There are several versions of the legend surrounding this unfortunate dragon who was turned to stone.  One has the dragon as an emissary of the dragon king sent to gather the elixir of youth from Hallasan and another has the dragon as grabbing on its flight to heaven the sacred jade belonging to the guardian of Hallasan.  Either way, these versions end with the guardian of Hallasan striking the dragon with an arrow and causing it to become transfixed in the spot where it fell.  Yet another version says that this was a cocky young dragon who longed to live in heaven rather than under the sea (since that is where the dragon king is often said to have his palace).  Despite the dragon king’s warnings against leaving the sea, the young dragon set out to fly to heaven.  But when his head emerged from the sea, his black body turned to stone.

Speaking of black dragons, 2012 was not just the year of the dragon in the Chinese/Korean zodiac.  It was also the year of the water (or black) dragon.  I just recently learned this, but in addition to the twelve zodiac animals (which left out the fox), there are also five elements/colours, making a larger sixty year cycle for each animal and element combination.  So I guess we picked a good year to visit Yongduam.

Besides the trash scattered about the spot where we got the best views of Yongduam, the other disappointing thing was that a Ramada hotel built a fair distance away lined up almost perfectly with the stony dragon.  So several of my pictures have an unsightly monstrosity intruding into them.  After a few shots where the hotel frustrated me with its presence, I decided to frame it in the dragon’s open mouth—they should know better than to feed wild dragons!


After finding an angle to take pictures of Yongduam without the hotel in the background we set out to explore more of Jeju city.  We crossed over Yongyeon on a suspension bridge, passed by a pavilion located on the spot where people in centuries past would come for music and poetry, and wandered through the central waterfront.  We discovered a mural that included a pair of wings for someone to stand between.  So my wife went ahead and did so!  At some point we stopped for lunch, which included mandu.  Mmm… mandu.  Our wanderings then took us along a seawall, though most of it was cordoned off at the time for what looked like repair/touchup work.

One of the places we stopped at was a replica of a Chinese refugee ship.  In short, refugees from China arrived in Jeju after sailing from China and strove to start a new life (I think they were escaping following the communist takeover).  It was a decent exhibit.  I tried to find the bending machine that a sign told me was there.  But apparently it was hidden from vulpine eyes–no bending techniques for me…  And outside of the replica ship were small models of a variety of ship types, which included a Viking ship and the Santa Maria for some reason.

Leaving the ships behind, we wandered up Sanjicheon, where we watched some birds in the stream.  Then came the rather empty covered shopping street.  There were plenty of stores, but there weren’t many people—I don’t blame them, as it wasn’t exactly the warmest of days.  We decided to venture a look down into the underground arcade.  People bustled about the few hundred shops.  At one end we found a small café and ordered honey bread and strawberry smoothies.  They were scrumptious with the honey bread being so soft and sweet and absolutely delectable.  I would have to put that honey bread on the highlights of our trip (it was that good).


The honey bread didn’t last, though we savored every bite.  Once it was fully devoured we set out for the airport.  The bus stop we waited at was near Gwandeokjeong (관덕정), which is supposedly the island’s oldest wooden structure.  Our guidebook says that it was built in 1448 and reconstructed in 1970, so I’m not really sure how old the structure was.  We also could have wandered in the old administrative complex, but as it looked rather similar to the other Joseon-era buildings we’ve seen, we decided to skip it and catch a bus to the airport.  At the airport we met up with our other party members and had a little to eat while waiting for our flight.  Some flights were delayed or cancelled due to the wintry weather, but ours didn’t seem to be affected too much.

The flight back to mainland Korea was pleasant.  When the plane landed it didn’t taxi to the gate because of the snow.  So we waited on the plane for buses to come to take us to the terminal.  It was rather exciting!  After that came the standard baggage claim and then airport limousine to Jukjeon.  I was a little worried that the bus would have trouble getting us home, but it didn’t, though we did have a cold walk at the end of our bus rides.  At least we had some clothes suited for colder weather that we could put to use!

So that was our Jeju trip!  I hope you enjoyed my recounting of our adventures.  Below are some pictures.

Adventures in Jeju: It’s Rainier Underground

Rain poured down on our umbrellas as we went in search of breakfast.  The rain had been expected, so we had already planned to spend the day at a lava tube and then maybe a museum, as that would keep us dry.  But as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft agley.”

Little did we know, as we ate breakfast at Paris Baguette (a Korean bakery chain that doesn’t always have the best-tasting baked goods…), that our plans would prove leaky.  So we ate our bread not worrying about what the day would bring.  (At this point I shall also point out that rainier in the title refers to the adjective and not the mountain in Washington.)

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Adventures in Jeju: Magnets

Our fourth day of adventure found us in transit from one hotel to another. Before we left the hotel in Seogwipo City, we video called my wife’s siblings to participate in the treasure hunt they had set up for their parents.  We had one of their clues, so it was sort of important that we did so, though we also managed to eat breakfast at the same time.

The hotel we were going to was in Jeju City.  But rather than going directly to Jeju City, we took the scenic route.  There is a bus that travels along the eastern coast highway and we hopped on it, as we wanted to stop by Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산일출봉 aka Seongsan Sunrise Peak), which is on the southeastern coast.

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Adventures in Jeju: Climbing out of this World

This was perhaps my favorite day of our whole trip, for we climbed Hallasan (한라산).  Though it wasn’t quite the departure from civilization as other hikes I’ve gone on, it was enough to feed my soul some of what I had been missing surrounded by the towering buildings of urban and suburban Korea.  And the snow-encrusted trees transported me to the worlds within my imagination.


But before we made it to the mountain, we journeyed in search of a bus in the shadowlands.  And that journey didn’t start until after my wife and I had called our parents on their Christmas.  I enjoyed being able to say hello and recounting some of what we had done so far.  Yet the time soon came for us to say farewell and set off to find a bus.

We wandered toward a traffic rotary in the northern part of Seogwipo, since that is where a bus was supposed to be, though once we found the rotary we had to figure out where the bus actually stopped, as it wasn’t at any of the bus shelters lining the sides of the rotary.  Fortunately there were some Koreans who sort of comprehended our English.  They pointed us a little south of the rotary to a bus “terminal” (it was more of a parking lot with a ticket booth nestled against a building).  We managed to find a bus that would take us to Jungmun, which was in the right direction.

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Adventures in Jeju: Chocolate and Seashells

We awoke to a wonderful Christmas morning.  There weren’t many presents, as we were traveling, but it was rather pleasant to have a relaxing morning with my fabulous wife!  One of the presents I will mention is the soundtrack to the recent film of The Hobbit.  I was a happy as a hobbit at an all-you-can-eat buffet.


Once we had our Christmas breakfast (bought the day before from bakeries) and listened to rousing music, we set off on an adventure.  The start of which consisted of asking the hotel receptionist to call a taxi for us so that we could go to the chocolate museum several towns away.  Our party of four assembled, our transit secured, and our weapons, I mean cameras, ready, we embarked to places unknown (to us).

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Adventures in Jeju: Arrival

Just sit right back and you’ll smash my tail, as I tell of a Christmas trip.  That started from this freezing place aboard a heated bus.  My mate is a clever vixen and I am rather silly.  Two others joined us that day for a six day tour, a six day tour.  The weather started getting warm, our travel was done.  If not for the space in our bags, we would have sweated.  We would have sweated.  The adventure on the ground of this pleasant Korean isle with Direlda, his mate too, a history teacher and his wife, the video camera, the notebook and many bags here on Jeju Isle.


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Are There Posts Ahead?

If there are, we’ll all be dead.  But only if you collide head-on. For then your life would be gone.  I’ll stop this rhyming, I mean it.  Could you interest me in a peanut?


Anyways… Riffing off a favorite movie aside, I am here to inform you of the many ramblings I have planned.  Inconceivable, right?  Rest assured, there will be R.O.U.S.’s (Ramblings Of Unusual Size) aplenty in the days ahead.


First up on the course of ramblings shall be my thoughts on the movie adaptions of The Hobbit and Les Miserables.  I enjoyed them, but… I’ll leave that for my rambling.  In conjunction with this I shall be uploading a piece to dA concerning my thoughts on adaptations.  Rather inconceivable that I should do so, I know.


Following that shall be a look back at 2012.  I’ve had quite the year from food poisoning to a friend’s mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam.  I’ve been through heat and cold with some typhoons for good measure.  So you are welcome to join me in my reminiscing on the eve of a new year.  Expect some mention of hopes for the new year.

And then shall follow a six-fingered rambling.  Or is it six ramblings–one for each of the days of my recent adventure?  Either way writing them will take a miracle!  Such things as eating spicy fried chicken wings with chopsticks, Spain’s anvitions, climbing up the Winding Stair into Narnia, magnetic soap, “escaping” the rain in a lava tube, and a dragon trying to eat a Ramada Hotel will be presented for your enjoyment! Inconceivable?  I think not!

After that I shall work on resuming a regular schedule and sticking to it.  I may finally use my round tuit to talk about my novel progress or do some more re-imagining. :creative:

As a parting gift, I leave you with a link to The Red Wheelbarrow, the poem my friends in high school used to send me over the edge of the cliffs of insanity (and yes, I’ve been to the actual cliffs, but it was foggy that day, so that’s one more reason to return to Ireland).  So much depends… ;)

Blessings and peace!

Death and the Dictator with a Helping of Spam

It feels a little weird being in South Korea in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death.  This is a major world event that may have far reaching effects and I’m incredibly close to where it happened. O.O   A couple of my friends actually took a tour of a part of the DMZ just a couple of weekends ago; now such tours are probably put on hold until a little more certainty can be found.  Supposedly the South Korean military has been put on alert, though I haven’t noticed much.  About the only thing that has changed for me, personally, is that my ESL students will occasionally break out into a happy song about the dictator being dead.  The rest of life marches on the same as it has.

I imagine it is quite different in North Korea, where he was the “Dear Leader” and rather revered by his people.  Considering the nature of his regime, it’s no surprise; he had an efficient propaganda machine.  I wonder how many of his people realize that the “Dear Leader’s” policies contributed to the famine in the 1990s.  And I wonder how his son will lead North Korea.  Will there be a North Korean version of perestroika and glasnost?  Will there be more of the same?  Or will “two regimes, unalike in dignity / in fair Korea, where we lay our scene, / from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / where civil blood makes civil hands unclean?” (adapted from the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)

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