Korea images

Slow Train, New Year

 

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On New Year’s Eve Day I pulled out of Busan Station on a slow train to Seoul called the Mugunghwa.  The route takes almost twice as long as Korea Rail’s KTX– five and a half hours versus two and a half– but with views like this, I was grateful for the stretch in time.  Perhaps one of the most peaceful ways to travel anywhere is sitting in a train car, listening to the wheels roll along the track.  The Mugunghwa‘s also close to half the price.  


Bogildo Night (and a rooftop dawn)

Walking at night.  On a tiny island in Korea.

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Bogildo Magic

 

I knew two things about Bogildo Island before pulling up to it on an old Korean ferry: it was covered in pine trees, and compared to the other West Sea Islands Norbert Paxton wrote of in the Rough Guide, it was a ”well-kept secret.”


Jeju Morning: Volcano Crater and a Country Stroll

Rarely do I rise before 10 a.m. 

But the guidebook said Jeju’s ‘Ilchulbong’–a volcanic crater on the East Coast in a town called Seongsan–was the first place on the island to spot the “orange fires of dawn.”  A sunrise sounded good.  Really good.  So after the Busan plane touched down on a Saturday afternoon, I caught a bus from Jeju-city that rolled along the North coast for an hour or so, checked into a minbak, and wandered out to find dinner–with a crater view, of course.

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It was just a light snack.

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Going South (and west, and north, and back)

Back home to my Busan pad after an eight-day vacay into the south of South Korea…land of islands, mountains (okay, this whole country is covered in mountains), volcanoes, trees so lush they appear to burst from the countryside, flat-stone, black-rock, and gold-sand beaches, caves and waterfalls, too much rice, and permed ajummas renting floor mats to stretch out on for the night.  


Knock Knock

I’ve always liked brick.  But sometimes you need an afternoon wander through a big-city village North of the stream to discover doors intrigue you too.  And door knockers. 

Thanks, Bukchon.  You were my favourite part of Seoul.   

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Pinenuts and Pansies: Tea in Seoul

Cup of tea?

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How about a bowl?

Cinnamon, ginger, and three floating pinenuts…

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with sweet treats served on a wooden tray, on a low wooden table…

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in a room made of pine, that leads to a garden…

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Seoul Blues (& Greys)

My favourite colour, in all its shades.

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Dynasty Digs

If you were leading a Confucian dynasty called the Joseon, and it was 1394, and you built a palace called Gyeongbok that housed kings and queens and princes, and hosted foreign envoys and government meetings and royal weddings, and at its peak grew to a sprawling complex of 330 buildings that comprised Korea’s power structure, you might want to consider hiring a few dudes like this to guard it.

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They mean business. 


All Kinds of Business Goin’ On

 

A lot of business goes down on the street here.  Men with little blue trucks set up shop on the sidewalks, unpacking potted cactus plants or bags of puffed rice or piles of plastic slip-on shoes.  Outside my apartment building most evenings, you can find a woman crouching on a stool in her truck, deep-frying squid balls in the light of two paper lanterns than dangle from the roof like beacons.  I’m not sure what anyone pays to rent the sidewalks, or if permits are even required, but the sellers make street-strolling an adventure for the eyes.

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