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Korea and Kyushu (plus Melbourne)
Old 07-01-2008, 07:25 AM   #1
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Korea and Kyushu (plus Melbourne)

My wife and I went on vacation to Korea (South) and Kyushu (Japan) in April. This was a last minute change of plan after our trip to Tibet had to be canceled due to the political strife there.

We spent a week traveling down the peninsula from Seoul to Busan, then took the hydrofoil ferry over to Fukuoka on Kyushu, spent a week on the southernmost island of Japan, and then back to Korea for another week working our way back up the peninsula.

When we tell people we went to Korea, most make the lame joke "North or South?". Which indicates how little Americans really know about Korea -- they know there was a war, and that the country is still split in two, and little more. The image of Korea in the US is totally overshadowed by its neighbors, Japan and China.

People in Korea were generally very helpful and friendly, in several cases going out of their way to give us a hand. Hard to hold conversations with most of them, of course, which was a particular shame in the case of a guy who gave us a ride in his car for 20 miles when we'd missed a bus by 5 minutes.

Highlights for me include:
  • hiking in Seorak-san National Park in Korea
  • hiking Aso-san volcano on Kyushu
  • hot sand bath on the beach in Beppu (Japan)
  • the statue of the Buddha outside Imcheon (Korea)
  • seeing a Shinto wedding by chance at a shrine in Fukuoka, 2 hours before catching the ferry back to Busan
  • listening to and watching Buddhist monks chant during a ceremony at Tongdo-sa temple (Korea)
Various collections of pictures are available at our website:

Also, I recently went to a scientific conference in Melbourne AU and a few pictures from that trip (including a 2 day road trip with 2 guys named Elliot) are at
Australia-2008 . Even in winter, the city and its surroundings are very pretty. And of course the Australians are almost pathologically friendly and outgoing.
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Old 07-01-2008, 02:04 PM   #2
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thanx for sharing. gorgeous pictures. the pine temple is mind blowing. i'm having trouble figuring out the shot though. it looks like a wall coming up to a ceiling but then i think i see tree trunks outside a window so the shot turns me upside down a bit even without the kaleidoscope effect of the building itself.

the colors are great & i could get lost for hours in the detail of the architecture. they must be a complex people to have produced such art. but also, with all those surfaces, they must have a lot of time to dust.
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Old 07-01-2008, 09:45 PM   #3
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Congratulations on your adventurous travel! My Japan visit last year was also off the beaten path. After staying with a Japanese friend and her family for a week in Kyoto, myself and a friend traveled for two weeks in Tohoku, the rural area in northern Honshu. Funny that I seem to also prefer the rural areas when roadtripping in the States. Once again, your choices of Kyushu and Korea are inspiring.

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Old 07-02-2008, 03:00 PM   #4
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...Excellent PICs. They brought back fond memories of my time in Korea. The country grew and rebuilt enormously from my first year there starting in 1977-78 to my last in 1986-87. From your PICs I see much more growth since then. I did lots of sightseeing in Korea. The trains were cheap and efficient though oftentimes extremely crowded. The food was great and very cheap.
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Old 07-02-2008, 03:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by jclarksnakes View Post
I did lots of sightseeing in Korea. The trains were cheap and efficient though oftentimes extremely crowded. The food was great and very cheap.
We traveled mostly by inter-city bus -- there are a lot of them, they go to relatively small places not served by trains, and are pretty easy to take. Trains worked out for us once, too (we were in Suncheon in the south at 5:50 pm and wanted to go northwards, so took a 6:00 pm train to Daejon on the spur of the moment, rather than spend the night in Suncheon).

Things are not so crowded now as you remember (save at the Lunar New Year festival, I understand). Korea is much more prosperous, and has a good highway system now, too, so more people drive.

One nice thing about traveling around S Korea is that is is pretty compact, so a few hours on a bus/train will get you to the next place -- China is so big that the cities you want to see are usually a whole day apart by these cheaper modes of travel.
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Old 07-02-2008, 04:03 PM   #6
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Nice pics! the landscape there is gorgeous - amazing mountains contrasted w/ the rice paddies and the sea...also contrasting with Seoul which is crazy crowded and high tech...
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:21 PM   #7
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In 1977 most of the buildings in Seoul were less than 5 stories high. Some days you would see thousands of older men and women carrying A-frames with bags of gravel and cement to construction sites where they were building 5 story apartment buildings using intricate bamboo scaffolding. I was told that 5 stories was as high as they could go using bamboo scaffolds and on-site mixed concrete. The taller buildings required more high tech methods. 10 years later the Daehan Life Insurance building was 63 stories high IIRC. Another big difference in those ten years was the trees. The Japanese had enslaved Korea overharvesting and overusing almost all Korean assets including the lumber from 1910 thru WWII. When they saw they were losing the war they burned what forests were left. Through the sixties the Korean government had worked endlessly on reforestation projects. In the 10 years from 1977 to 1987 a bunch of those trees grew big. This also made the entire country much less muddy and less vulnerable to flooding. The most important change I saw during that time was that in 1977 there were sick looking children begging in the streets. By 1987 the entire population looked pretty healthy and beggers were not as commonly seen.
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