Sunday, 19 February 2012

Beomeosa Temple, Busan


So last weekend I went to Busan for some sightseeing, and decided to take a look at Beomeosa Temple (범어사). I didn't know where it was, but checked my subway map and saw Beomeosa Station at the northern end of line 1. Coming out of the subway, I followed a trail of Sunday hikers up past a local bus station, through some scrubby allotments, and onto a trail at the base of the mountain. After walking for a while through the woods, it didn't look likely that the temple was anywhere nearby. Coming to a signpost with no mention of the temple on it, I was even more doubtful and decided to turn back. I almost decided to just skip the temple altogether, but I'd come a long way on the metro and it would be a shame to waste that time, so I sat down in a coffee shop and tried to find where I was on a map.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Two Days in Busan

This weekend I finally visited Busan, Korea's second city. How did I get there? I took the FREE bus. Yes indeed, it's possible to travel between Seoul and Busan for absolutely no money at all! The free bus is for passport-holding foreigners only, as part of a tourism boost for Visit Korea Year. There is also a service that runs between Seoul and Jeonju.

Thanks to the free, comfortable, 4-5 hour bus ride, this ultra-low-budget weekend away cost me less than 60,000 won in total, which is probably less than I'd spend in a weekend if I stayed in Seoul. Fabulous.

My first impression of Busan was that it is just as busy and hectic as Seoul, perhaps even more. On the subway or in the shopping centers, it's almost impossible to distinguish between the two cities, yet in other areas I felt like I was in a different country. The city is really large, and tourist attractions are spead out across it, so I spent quite a lot of time traveling.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Suamgol Painted Village

Hidden away in Cheongju city, Chucheongbuk-do,  is a painted village where every wall is an artwork. This is Suamgol (수암골), a run-down area of town that was given a new lease of life in 2008 by a posse of painters and art students who banded together to bring colour and charm to the neighborhood.


Surprising Bathrooms

I have, frequently, been rather suprised by some public bathrooms in Korea.

1. The first surprise, of course, was the squat toilet. If you've traveled in Asia before, you may have encountered this type of toilet. It's usually only found here in public bathrooms such as those at the subway, while homes and businesses have Western-style sitting toilets. Often you will find a choice of both styles, and a sign on the door of each cubicle will indicate what kind of toilet is inside. The squat toilet has pros and cons - On the plus side, your arse never has to touch the seat, but on the downside, you have to consider the splash-factor when peeing.

2. The second surprise bathroom I encountered was at a club in Seoul. I walked in, and there was not one, but two toilets, next to each other. I presume the idea is that you can relieve yourself at the same time as your friend, perhaps over a conversation.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Seongbuk-dong

Snow on the ground, sun in the blue sky, a perfect day for exploring the city by foot. I got off the subway at 한성대입구역 (Hansung University) exit 6 and took a stroll along 성북로 in the north-east of Seoul.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

속리산

Songnisan (속리산)  is a mountain and National Park in Chungcheongbuk-do (충청북도), with beautiful scenery all year round. I visited in Autumn as there are many maple trees which turn bright red in the fall, but unfortunately most of the leaves had already fallen when I got there. Nevertheless I found this mountain to be one of the most scenic and tranquil places to visit, and a perfect day trip away from Seoul.