Saturday, November 18, 2006

out of asia

on my last day in korea, after organizing my bags for the final plane trip towards my southern hemisphere summer home, i headed down underneath the streets to travel in style on the seoul subway.
with my frequent rider's card, i cruised all around during my visit: east seoul, west seoul, north and south of the han river, holiday backpackers, traditional restaurants, buddhist temples, and the yo young spa (twice).

user friendly public trans:

photo by mefford williams

my lonely planet guide book (choice birthday present aunt amy and uncle jules. thanks much) had a subway map, and that was pretty much all I needed to get anywhere within the city my heart or stomach desired. 800 Wan per ride < US $1, and you're off. the trains come by each stop pretty frequently; the most i ever had to wait was four minutes; so it's super ADD friendly. with cell phone translators inside the subway tunnels, every other korean on the train would be chatting it up, while the rest were just thinking of who to call next.

on my last day i set off to visit the top of the many peaks that surround and divide the city. seoul is asian for smog; so the granite hill tops loom around the city like grey shadows behind the skyscrapers
up close their natural beauty contrasts that of the noisy metropolis just below:

photo by mefford williams
you can just see some of the trail's railing on the right at the top of the ridge.

access to the hilltop hiking trails comes from various locations around the city, i walked up through a small buddhist temple community off of the "dongnimmun" exit from subway line 3. no photos as i wasn't sure about how respectful whitie photographer would be in this sacred neighborhood.
once beyond the religious quarter, you begin to climb and traverse your way up and away:
stairs and rails make up the steep sections of the trail; helpful signs remind you not to fall off the side:

photo by mefford williams

getting a last look before a hike down to my rapidly approaching departure flight:

photo by mefford williams

i really enjoyed my time in seoul. quite a hustly bustly big city, but an extraordinary place nonetheless.
even in a city of over 10 million, the friendly locals go out of their way to make you feel welcome. so don't think that they don't notice or care as they bump you out of the way getting on or off the subway or ignore your "annyeoung haseo" while cutting you in line at the bakery.
i was even thrown a nice little going away party. cheers guys. pour the saki.

photo by mefford williams

i followed up my last day's hike with a visit to my favorite korean establishment: the yo young spa for the frowski quad: shower, sauna, hot soak, cold soak.
many happy thoughts and best wishes to all members of the blogging family.
more soon from the far south.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

annyeong haseyo

gyeongbokgung palace, seoul.

photo by mefford williams

the title of this blog post "annyeong haseyo" is my korean pick-up line. it's a good one. it means "hello". one of the four things i know how to say in korean.
i don't really know how to judge my line's affectiveness yet: so far if the korean women folk are able to return the greeting over their own laughter, i am pretty darn pleased.
ashley strickland was right: I stand out here. i have noticed the locals doing a bit of a double take when they see me walk by, and that's what i have been doing with most of my time in korea. walking. relaxing in the big city of seoul waiting for my bags to show.
well, they are finally here. i have my korean electrical plug adapter, and now a blog post as i prepare to bolt out of the big city and onto adventures elsewhere in this very new place.

in my cruising around i had a chance to stop by medieval korea to watch a parade. these festivities were taking place within the gyeongbokgung palace: this huge palace takes up about three city blocks right in some of downtown's most valuable realestate. the grounds have quite a storied history, and at virtually every major period in korean history since their middle ages (1400's), this palace has been torn or burned down and subsequently rebuilt.

photo by mefford williams

while touring the grounds of the castle i had a chance to practice my line with the woman in the background. after "annyeoung haseyo", she started to talk rapidly to me in korean, with a smile; encouraged, i spoke back in english. i was gesticulating with my camera in my hand, and a korean man grabbed my camera and gestured. i guess he assumed that i was propositioning the women to take my picture for me.

photo by korean dude bra
gamsa hamnida (thanks) for the photo and good block buddy.

koreans have different rules about personal space than westerners. if i get into a conversation, in english or korean, that goes beyond three interchanges, i get touched on the forearm or shoulder. alot.
the first couple of times this took place i thought i was going to be pick pocketed, but that hasn't happened yet; so i gues i'm touchable.

the other korean adventure of note so far was a trip to the demilitarized zone between north and south korea. a nice touristy field trip in a very up-tight military environment. to make a long story short, that far building and small but serious looking communist dude are as close to north korea as you can get:

photo by mefford williams
notice the south korean soldier on the right, hiding halfway behind the wall; so he is harder to shoot.

that's the love for now. i'm off to the spa and to enjoy some local brews. stay tuned for some pictures of food and life outside the big city.
bring your big won.

photo by mefford williams

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

el segundo

photo by rock and roll magnolia

welcome back. it's been quite a blogging long time since a new post was up. after a hiatus, the adventures continue in new and familiar places.
alot of blog soul searching took place after my last post and time spent in asheville. to blog is to create, and most of all i missed creating a format to share my pictures and my words.
be sure to stay tuned. same blog time. same blog channel.

vote for my mispelled name.