Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seoul, South Korea: January 11 to 14

Hello to all and welcome to Alison and my 2012 return trip to India via Seoul and Bali.  Last year it was a lot of trouble to place pictures in between the text so this trip I will have most of the pictures at the end of the text.  We might post additional pictures on Google + \, but if we do there will be a mention of it and hopefully a link from these blogs.  So here goes our 2012 trip.........

We had a very nice 11 hour flight from Vancouver to Seoul, S. Korea. We took off at 1 PM in Vancouver and followed the sun, seeing a great sunset just before we landed at 6 PM in Seoul the next day. The sun had never gone down in the interim! We ate, slept, and watched movies on the flight so were relatively ‘normal’ when we arrived. The Incheon Airport is about 1-1/4 hours outside downtown Seoul and is a new and super –efficient facility.

We breezed through immigration and customs and encountered a very helpful young woman at the bus information counter who saw us onto the right bus and arranged for a person from the guesthouse to meet us at the destination bus stop in Seoul. We walked just 3 blocks to the Yoos Family Guesthouse where we were staying for 2 nights.

Our cute room.
Even the trees have coats on!

It is COLD here in Seoul this time of year so luckily we both had our light down jackets, gloves, and hats when we arrived. After we settled into our room, a traditional Korean guesthouse room, about 8’ by 8’ with no furniture, we found a Korean Restaurant and had a nice meal. Returning to our room, we set up our bedding which was pads on the floor with a duvet and pillow… and the floor was wonderfully heated so we were comfy in our camping-like bedding. Never mind, we were so tired that we slept through the new night and awoke refreshed. The bathroom was across a small courtyard, so it was a bracing introduction to the day, with the early morning temperature being below freezing.

Seoul is a very modern city.

The Gyeongbokgung Palace (say that fast 3 times)
I wonder if the guards from the Wizard of Oz came from Seoul?


The next morning we had breakfast at a nearby coffee shop and walked the 6 blocks to the Gyeongbokgung Palace and National Folklore Museum. (One of the reasons we picked the guesthouse was it is VERY centrally located in downtown Seoul.) We spent most of the day walking through the palace and museum. It was chilly outside and clearly the local inhabitants are cold as well. Everyone is bundled in winter gear and still shuffling along huddled against the chill. When we initially entered the museum we were met by a docent who proceeded to give us our own personalized hour + tour of the museum. Very nice, and free! This was one advantage to visiting Seoul during the winter.

Later in the afternoon we walked away from the palace toward downtown, and by a very large outdoor ice skating rink in Seoul Plaza. There were two skating rinks and lots of people rented skates and were zooming or stumbling around on the ice. We carried on to the Namdaemun Market, a neighborhood of small crooked streets lined with small shops and filled in the middle with carts and tables of various commodities. If you need something, whatever it is, you can find it at the market. However, it was predominantly women’s clothing, with relatively little household goods as far as we saw. These must be somewhere else. The most notable difference between this market and others we have walked through is that we were never pressured or followed to buy something. A very pleasant experience.

On the return walk we walked along a sunken man-made stream with a waterfall, stepping stone crossing bridges, a frozen ice fountain, and a large tiled tribute with music to the king’s 60th birthday. Alison read in the tour book that this was a reconstruction of part of an early moat around the city. Back at our rooming house, we thawed out by sitting on our sleeping pads on our heated floor and reading and doing Sudoko and taking a nap.

Today we awoke to a clear day so decided to take a taxi to the Seoul Tower to get an over view of this city of 10+ million people. We took the Namsan Cable Car up instead of walking the stairs, and then took the elevator up to the 2 storey observation deck for a great 360-degree view of Seoul in the sunshine. It stretches for as far as the eye can see, with vast areas of tall closely-spaced apartment buildings, the beautiful and wide Han River bisecting the city, and lovely little ridges and mountains topped with walls and temples. Both Anchorage and Vancouver, amongst other cities of the world, with their distances were marked on the observation deck windows facing their direction. Sorry, Palmyra and Carrboro were not marked…. It is amazing to read that the population of Seoul was only 150,000 in the early 1900s, then 500,000 after WWII, and now over ten million. No wonder everything in this city looks new and western, quite unlike some of the other large Asian cities we have visited.

So now we are at Incheon airport again, waiting for our flight to Bali…. We were upgraded from business to first class for this flight: oh, darn! However, it arrives in Bali at after 2AM so we anticipate sleeping through most of our first class experience!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Days on the Siklis Trek: Part 3

On day four we again head down valley through terraced fields and villages. 
At one place we saw the possibility for an infinity pool. 
Everywhere the bounty of harvest is evident. Corn husks and wood piled high,
corn kernels being cleaned and stored,
wheat and other grains being ground into flour at the water powered mill,
vegetables and papayas galore in the terraces close to the houses,
and the straw piled high in preparation for monsoon.

A village girl models her woven sun screen as she heads out into the terraces. 
A farmer plows his terrace while his wife plants the seeds behind him. 
Oh no!  Dean tries his hand at plowing.  No one is hurt……but I’m sure the crooked rows had to be redone.

Butterflies on thistles,
and long suspension bridges were seen and crossed. 
At one village a group of kids led us over the bridge and one of the girls posed for us to see her interesting braids. 
The rooster under a woman’s arm was soon to be dinner that evening.

The path signs showed walking time not distance to the next village.

Along one part of the path we saw the results of a very large landslide from the prior monsoon season. 
The outflow had blocked the river for several weeks.  When the dam broke, there was a lot of erosion downstream from the high water. 
The trekking path was lost and
cultivated terraces chewed away by the raging water.

We saw a stone cutter
and his piles of cut tiles along the path. 
A short distance down the path was the donkey train that carried the tiles to the nearby road to go to market.

In the early afternoon we arrived at the end of the trail at Sabi
and enjoyed a swim in the river.

The final morning the porters packed up our site early
and after our last breakfast on the trek, we were off down the trail. 
At a very unusual round house we were invited inside to see the layout of the first floor beds and kitchen.
We finish the trek going down a beautiful stone staircase,
look back at the mountains we were traveling in the past five days,
load up the bus,
and head back to Pokhara.
We end the trek with our last candle light ‘camp’ meal prepared by the trek staff. 
Afterward we all dance
and celebrate by eating our decorated ‘trek’ cake.

If you want to see a map with some of the places we visited in India and Nepal, click on this: