South Korea


For winter vacation I took a week-long trip to South Korea. The first night I spent in a 24h bath house called the Dragon Hill Spa, located near the train station in Seoul. Early the next morning I hopped the train south to Jeonju. Train and bus travel is very practical in South Korea. The trains and long distance buses are generally cheap and on time and staff can help you figure out the details. Local buses are more challenging, because the signs might be entirely in Hangul and the drivers are busy. Taxis and subways are preferable.

Jeonju is famous for the Hanok Village, a traditional Korean village with wooden buildings and carvings and such. It's touristy but very pretty.

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The most famous Korean food other than kimchi is bibimbap, a rice bowl dish with a raw egg, some veggies, some kimchi, and beef. The restaurant I ate at served the bibimbap as a set menu that came with a dozen small side dishes. It would have been more economical to bring a second or third person, I think, because I couldn't finish everything. That happened several times on the trip, actually. The guidebook says that people in Korea rarely eat out alone.

It took me a while to figure this out, but on the below schedule, the bus to Buyeo — the bus I wanted — was the 701 bus. The 712 would have worked also. I assume one of the columns is a weekday schedule and the other is a weekend schedule, but who can say. I can't read Hangul. It was fun figuring out the bus information, though!

One of the main attractions in Buyeo is the Baekje Royal Tombs Park. These mounds of dirt are the are tombs for royalty several centuries past. A few of the tombs have been excavated.

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Bukhansan is quite the destination for city dwellers who want to get back to nature for a day. It's on a subway line, and there are around 100 outdoor gear shops between the subway station and the entrance to the park. Some people frowned on my woefully inadequate gear. I didn't want to buy crampons because then I'd have had to check baggage on the return flight to Japan. A few sections of the trail were slippery, but on the whole I was fine without the winter gear.

An old defensive wall runs its way through the town of Suwon. You can walk along it for several kilometers and get nice views of the guard towers and city. There is even a spot to try archery, though apparently it's closed over Christmas vacation. Like much of South Korea, Suwon had notably many churches. Japan has a few, but they are mostly subdued. In Japan, you could see a building and not even realize it's a church. Not in South Korea, though. In South Korea they make the churches nice and large. Very prominent. I didn't photograph or visit any, though.

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The Korean War Memorial in Seoul is disturbing. A careful reading of the texts there suggests that warmongers wrote them. In the first picture there is talk of "peaceful unification", but the two neighboring countries have missiles pointed at each other, so the only unification that could happen in the foreseeable future is violent unification. I think that would be bad. In the second picture, the last sentence ends with, "... the optimal weapon system can be chosen." Don't you think it would be friendlier if it read instead, "... the optimal response can be chosen."? After all, sometimes you don't want to kill people. In the third picture we see the future battlefield that encompasses ... everything ... because ... the internet is everywhere. The battle field is now everywhere, so that means I'm on it, and if I'm not an explicit ally, that probably means I'm a potential target. So are you, and so is almost everyone. What a horrible way to run an army! In summary, the War Memorial was a sad sight and made me feel a little less hopeful for the future.