Tuesday, August 23, 2011

See you in 4 months, world.

Tomorrow's the last day of my contract and I haven't time to type anything elaborate. It suffices to note that I'm ecstatic to be leaving this job behind me. I'll be back in the USA around Xmas. Here's the plan:

(remainder of) August: Japan
September: Philippines, China, Laos
October: Vietnam, Thailand
November: India
December: England, Spain, Holland

I doubt I'll be updating this blog. I've hit my image storage limit anyway.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jeju: Hallasan

Hallasan is the center of Jeju Island and, properly speaking, it is Jeju Island, being the highest bits of the volcano.  It's the tallest mountain in Korea and I wasn't going to leave without climbing it.

I rose early and boarded a bus to the park surrounding the mountain.  On board I met a Dutch tourist who was also planning an ascent, so we went together.  We climbed up the Gwaneumsa trail (8.7 km, mostly stairs) and down the Seongpanak trail (9.6 km, mostly uneven chunks of basalt).

The Gwaneumsa trail begins in a forest that looks like this.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jeju: Seongsan Ilchulbong and Udo

On the east side of Jeju there's this antediluvian volcanic thing called Seongsan Ilchulbong, which name means something like "Holy Mountain Sunrise Peak," so it sounds like kind of a big deal but in practice it just means the village next to it has a lot of overpriced guest houses.  It's customary for tourists to wake real early and heave themselves up the rock to greet the dawn.

Seongsan Ilchulbong:  prepare to be mounted directly on the morrow by yours truly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jeju: Loveland (not safe for work)

Jeju is an island south of the Korean peninsula sometimes called the Hawaii of Korea.  Both islands are shield volcanoes (Jeju is dormant) with economies based on tourism and exporting fruits (mostly tangerines and oranges in the case of Jeju).  Jeju has always been sort of independent from mainland Korea.  Locals speak a unique dialect and have historically had a somewhat different culture.

Jeju was on my list of places to see before leaving Korea behind.  It's conveniently only an hour by plane from Seoul, so I flew over and spent 3 days doing the tourist thing.  My first endeavor was a visit to Loveland, an erotic sculpture park outside Jeju City and the most infamous tourist trap in all Korea. 

Funny story:  Loveland is literally right next to the official, classy Jeju Museum of Art.  I took in Loveland first and browsed the Museum of Art afterward.  There's no bus stop to get back to the city and Loveland is the more popular attraction, so I needed a taxi and they were all waiting in Loveland's parking lot.  On my way to the gaggle of cabbies I was hailed from behind in English by a well-dressed young Korean man who turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness who hangs around outside this local monument of sinful prurience and struggles to press copies of the Watchtower into the hirsute, sweaty palms of debauched foreign tourists.

My frolic through Loveland is obviously a story best told in pictures.  Here some of them are, but a warning first:  this is definitely not safe for work and if you find erotic statuary distasteful these definitely are not the pictures for you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sokcho and Seoraksan

Seoraksan National Park is home to, and named after, Korea's most popular mountain.  It's on the east coast, 3 bus-bound hours from Seoul, next to Sokcho (a city).  Seoraksan is so dang famous I wanted to climb it before splitting Korea for good.  My lovely companion and I made it so one magical (highly arduous, actually) Saturday.

Yep, still funny.