Sunday, September 22, 2013

In Which We Stand in (And Bypass) Some Really Long Lines

So, this week was the Chuseok holiday here in Korea. We only had to work on Monday and Tuesday and had the rest of the week off, and from what I understand, it's basically Korean Thanksgiving. We didn't really feel any need to celebrate this holiday, and so we decided to take a trip to Seoul. We actually decided this a while ago, but we finally went this week. We arrived in the morning, and our first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace. We had hoped that since Chuseok is supposed to be some kind of family holiday, tourist sites wouldn't be totally packed. We were wrong. This place was crazy crowded, maybe because they were giving free admission today. Part of the palace complex (which, by the way, was huge) had a museum with a sweet pagoda, and we checked that out, too, and got some free traditional food. Here are some pictures:

Main Gate. Notice the crowds of people.

These guys stood totally still. I was fairly impressed. Also, the guy in red's polearm is cool.

Second gate.

Main palace building. There was a bit of a line to look inside. Turns out there really wasn't a lot to see. I would have looked for a while if I didn't have to fight so hard to get there and had people fighting me to move.

Cool painted screen.

Us in a gate in a different part of the palace. The place was huge! I'm thinking
that the JoSeon kings really liked their space.

Cool pagoda at the Korean National Folk Museum

This is probably the coolest palace building. Nancy and I decided that our house needs to be built like this someday.
After the palace we headed to our guest house and checked in, because I was getting tired of carrying my backpack everywhere. After that, we went to an area called Myeongdong to eat lunch. We got a kind of spicy barbecued chicken, as shown:

This is the North Seoul Tower as seen from Myeongdong. Pretty cool looking. We went
there that night.
After lunch we went to the Hanok Folk Village, which is this place they've put together with authentic old buildings to show what it used to be like to live in Korea. It was kind of cool, but there wasn't a lot that was really worth taking pictures of, except for this:

That evening we went to the North Seoul (Namsan) Tower. The first step in getting up there is to take this inclined elevator. My camera isn't very good at taking pictures at night, so here's what I got:

It actually had some kind of malfunction when we were almost to the top, so we had to go back down and then back up.
You can take a cable car up to the tower, but when we got in line, a guy told us that there was an 1 hour and ten minute wait. We decided we'd better take the stairs. I thought they were awesome. Nancy disagreed, but that's okay.

Stairs! I've decided that if I were to make a list of things to be aware of if you're coming on a vacation to Asia, the number one thing would be stairs.

North Seoul Tower! Once again, my camera doesn't do well at night.

This picture of the ticket counter worked pretty well, though. We had to wait an hour and ten minutes before we got on the elevator, so we got Coldstone (which we don't have on Jeju) and then waited a little while.

Us on the observation floor. It was pretty cool!

View from the observation floor. It's hard to get a good picture at night through a window.

I took this picture with my camera in night mode from the stairs going back down the hill. Much cooler. It was still worth going up in the tower, though.

Seoul at night!
On our second day in Seoul, we went to the temple! Back in Utah, we used to go to the temple once every two weeks, and we've really missed it. It was awesome to get to go and feel the special spirit that's in the house of the Lord, even if we did need translation devices. Many of the temple workers spoke English, though, which was nice. It was a great experience, and we think that we'll probably be heading back to Seoul again for the express purpose of going to the temple.

That evening we met up with some of Nancy's mission companions. We had dinner together and then went and got bubble tea, which I think is awesome. Seriously, it's a drink that you chew! It was a fun, and while it was mostly Nancy and her friends speaking in Korean, I know enough words and Nancy uses enough English words in Korean for me to generally understand what was going on.

For day three our plan was to hike to the highest peak in Bukhansan National Park. It's called Baegundae. To preface this a little bit, I should mention that hiking is very popular in Korea, and that Bukhansan National Park is the busiest national park in the world. Knowing that, I still wanted to go for it, because it was reading about this national park that was the first thing that made me realize that I could actually be okay with living in Korea, because they have some outdoor stuff. So, to get there we took the subway to the bus stop we needed, came up the stairs, and were greeted with this line to get on the bus:

Nancy asked someone what they were waiting for and they said, "The bus to Bukhansan! Go to the back of the line!"
Two buses came and went while we tried to figure things out. Two people got on the first one. The second one didn't even stop, it was so full. Naturally, we did the intelligent thing: we walked about ten minutes to the preceding stop (where no one was waiting) and got on the bus there! Then we made sure to wave at all the people who would likely be waiting in line for about four hours to get on the bus as we went by the stop at the subway station.. We were actually really surprised that no one else thought of that, except for one old guy who got on the bus with us, and were also pretty pleased with ourselves. We eventually made it to the park and commenced our hike. Nancy was suffering from some pretty nasty allergies, but she did awesome anyway. Here are some pictures from the hike:

A cool fortress gate.

Of course, I had to go on top of it.

Looking at a peak in the park. The mountains here are pretty cool. They're very different from Hallasan back on Jeju, which is volcanic.

Most of the trail looked like this. If you don't like stairs, you shouldn't do this hike.

Taking a rest.

There were a lot of other people on the trail.

Waiting our turn to go through a bottleneck near the summit. You may have noticed that Koreans know how to dress when they go hiking. We were definitely in the minority wearing shorts and t-shirts. They also carry pretty large backpacks, which we discovered when we got to the top, were full of food. They take full meals up on their hikes.

Summit! Note how crowded it is. It was still cool.

One of the views from the summit.

Us on the summit. you can see part of the city behind us. But then it gets lost in the air pollution.
We could see this temple from the summit and I almost wish we had gone there (except we got pretty tired of hiking. That Buddha looks ENORMOUS!

I shot this video after we ate our lunch. I got a little excited about using the phrase "seething mass of humanity" and I also didn't realize that my camera doesn't pick up sound when it's zooming in and out. I also think my voice sounds a little funny. Still pretty fun, though.

At any rate, that about describes our trip to Seoul, though I am pretty pleased about the fact that I found myself a pair of Korean hiking pants for only 10,000 won. I'm totally wearing them on our next hike, though I think I'll look weird without a matching shirt. I'm going to have to find one of those, too. Anyway, that's all I've got for this post. This is Captain Danger out.

In Which We See Some Neat Things

So, I don't have a lot to say about this, I just want to put up the pictures of our olle trail hike we did on Saturday. I actually have a few stories from our trip to Seoul now that are more interesting, but I managed to grab some sweet pictures when we hiked that olle trail, so I want to write a post about them. I'll make this one good, too, though, because I'm awesome like that. At any rate, Wednesday was the first day of our vacation. We weren't flying out for Seoul until Thursday morning, because flights on Wednesday were too expensive. So, we went hiking! I've wanted to do more of these olle trails for a while. They are a network of trails that are there to let you see the different things on the island, and it's pretty fun. They hit all of the major landmarks and also go through neighborhoods and everything else. This one was trail 17, and it goes right through Jeju City. I figured we'd start with the closest one. This one had a lot of neat things along it, including running right along the edge of a canyon that definitely has some technical stuff in it. It also went up a hill right next to the airport, so we could watch the planes landing and taking off, as well as giving us some great views of Hallasan. It was an unusually clear day, so the views were excellent. At any rate, here are the pictures:

Canyon! The ledge in front of me is definitely a rappel.

Flowers on the bridge.

Signpost! Olle trails are very well-marked.

More canyon!


This puppy sneaked up on us after we walked by his house. Nancy really liked him. He was really cute.

The safety signs are funny here. But then, I guess they warn you a little better than impersonal stick figures.


Looking up river. the big mountain in the background is Hallasan.

I was thoroughly pleased with how this photo turned out.

Wind surfers at Iho Beach. Pretty awesome! I'd totally like to give that a try, though I'm fairly certain that I'd suck at it.
Plane coming in for a landing.

Looking across toward Iho Beach. There was even a kite surfer out there and I thought I got a picture of him but I can't find it.
Found it! He was doing all sorts of cool jumps out there. 

Fish bridge!

Cool observation platform looking out over the ocean. Usually there's a huge bank of clouds about a mile out from the coast, but today you could see all the way to the horizon.

Plane taking off!

Cropped shot of the plane taking off. It was fun being so close to the airport.


Jeju City in the shadow of Hallasan.

Notice how my hair is getting long enough to develop fantastic wings.

Sun reflecting off the ocean.
So, overall it was a pretty good hike! I we caught a bus before we got to the very end of the trail, but we figure we'll go back and finish it some morning before school. At any rate, that's about all I've got for this post. I'll get up the post about Seoul soon. This is Captain Danger out.