Seoul to Haeinsa, Korea


I haven’t had much access to a computer for most of the time I’ve been in Korea. After a few days in Seoul, Myung and I went to a nice place in the mountains then another place without easy access. Then we went to Jeju Island and stayed well out of Jeju City. There, one day I imposed on the guesthouse owners to use their personal computer, but only once in the 11 days we were there. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here three weeks already. Finally, we are staying with friends of Myung’s in Yangsan, a suburb of Pusan, also spelled Busan.
I guess I’ll go chronologically and begin with Seoul, which is where I landed on my flight from Hanoi. That first picture is of a river through downtown Seoul that was reclaimed after being buried under city for a long time. From the beginning, this going around in Korea has been very different from almost any other travelling I’ve done. Obviously that’s because I’m with a Korean. She’s basically taking me around to all these nice places. I don’t have difficulties due to the language barrier. Taking buses other public transportation is a snap. Having an authentic experience is easy, as we can relate to the people ever so much easier, not to mention sometimes we are visiting or staying with friends or family.
It occurs to me I should be taking pictures of her friends and family. She has some pics on her camera. Maybe next entry I’ll get hers uploaded onto here. In Seoul she has a couple of sisters. We visited with them, but stayed in a couple of hotels, one very nice one the first night we got back together after I was exiled to Vietnam and one cheay backpacker place.
Seoul isn’t very photogenic, but my impressions are that it’s really pretty nice for a megalopolis of 15 million people. It has clean air and streets, doesn’t sprawl all over northern South Korea because most people live in highrises, doesn’t have a lot of oppressive traffic as most people use public transportation, and the people are nice. It reminds me of Singapore, though it’s not as affluent as that.


I only took a few pictures there, and that one of the little kids was one of them. There are a couple of a changing of the guard ceremony at the palace.



One of the cool things we did there was watch this traditional music and dance program. It’s too bad photography wasn’t allowed, but at least the performers went out front to mingle with the audience after the program.


After that we did some temple visiting and scenic walking. I’m tempted to just insert a blizzard of all my temple pictures now instead of naming the places and all that. Hmm, I think I will do the ones before Jeju, that is, Hwaomsa and Haenam. They do show what a pretty, green country Korea is. Often routine buildings are set nicely in the surroundings. Korea is almost all hilly, and because they build up, the hill and mountaintops aren’t covered with development like in the US.






Originally we thought we might do “templestays” but have so far just gotten rooms in guesthouses or hotels. Those are interesting here. Koreans do a lot of things on the floor, like eat off one foot high tables and sleep on mats which are rolled up and put away during the day. I’m sitting on the floor now, typing on a laptop on a footstool. Traditional guesthouses are just rooms with mats. I’m kind of partial to chairs, but it’s okay. Jeju Island is off the south coast of mainland Korea. There we got a studio with a kitchenette, a regular bed and a dining table with chairs. The cooktop was on the floor, but that was okay too. Few kitchens have ovens. Here is the place.


And here is one of Myung and three members of the nice family who run it. They were having a barbeque and invited us. It was about a 10 minute walk to the seashore.
To get to the seashore you walk on one of several roads like this. This shoreline is about a ten minute walk from our guesthouse and is typical of the 200 km shoreline all the way around Jeju.



Myung and I have been on the road for quite a while, so we have no problem just hanging out. That’s what we mostly did on Jeju. Sometimes we just stayed in our room and watched TV, only going out for little walks or something. There are some touristy sights, like an interesting rock sculpture garden, a botanical garden, traditional village exhibits and various commercial points of interest. Mostly, Jeju is about the scenery. It’s a volcanic island, so everywhere are laterite stones used for fencing and decoration. There is, as I said, 200 km of shoreline. The center is mountainous, the centerpiece being Mt. Halla, a 1900-something meter volcano which hasn’t erupted in 9000 years. It is the highest peak in South Korea. Here are some pictures of scenery.





That last one is on Mt. Halla. As you can see, the wildflowers are wonderful and the 360 secondary volcanic cones on the island are interesting. That reminds me, my leg is getting better. It’s about a 10 km schlep there and back, and I tolerated it fine.

I have three pictures from a traditional wedding a couple was having in one of the mock traditional villages. They had this dancing, and here is the bride.




Again and again, you see the beautiful curving contours of traditional buildings against a background of soft green mountains. Anywhere these buildings are, you can look at the shapes from many, many angles and it almost looks like you are looking at a different place. I wish I could capture it in photos, but I think most of you know what I mean. Well, it’s even better in person.







Those were all taken in Haeinsa, another beautiful temple area. To be sure, some of the most stunning places are theswe temple areas, but that style of building is contemporary also.

From there we went to stay with her friend from elementary school days and her husband in Yangsan. Between this friend and her other two friends from elementary school days who live nearby, we’ve had this nice combination of being made to feel at home and given options of many things to do. I don’t know how long we will stay. Myung basically shrugged when I asked her. Sometime soon I’ll blog again. Meanwhile, as always, be well all of you.


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