Adios, Ciao, Sayonara, Salam, Auf Wiedersehen, Aur Revoirs, Aloha, Shalom, Adieus, Annyeong, Bye

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15, 2009 by rickyfartin

This is going to be the 94th and final post on this blog. As a tour blog that morphed into a catch-all travel blog, this site has mostly run it’s course. I don’t play in a band anymore, and I’m moving to Alaska in September, which means I likely won’t be traveling much for a while. I apologize to those of you whose time I wasted with inane drivel, but deep down you know it was your own fault. You should have exercised more discrimination in the websites you bookmarked.

Here are all the places that got covered on this blog:

map

And here’s that new blog I said I was going to make.

Goodbye in Korean

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by rickyfartin

I’m home now.  Here’s a wrap-up of sorts:

-Pay attention to the news from North Korea, but don’t freak out about it. Newspapers in South Korea don’t treat the subject as sensationally as American media, and I’m inclined to adopt the more casual observations of the people who’ve been living under North Korea for 60 years.

-Koreans are ridiculously resilient. There’s no reason that their culture should still be intact. It occupies a tiny sliver of the Far East that had been conquered and occupied for centuries. At one point while they occupied the country, the Japanese even went so far as to ban the public use of the Korean language. Still, Korean food and language is far more distinct from Japanese or Chinese than I could have ever imagined. That said…

-Architecture in Seoul isn’t very interesting. The city is distinct only in its size, which, having visited LA, New York, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, and Chicago, is a trait that isn’t all that striking anymore. The difference in Seoul is that it all looks like it’s happened in the last 20 years (I guess that’s mostly true for Tokyo as well), and it wasn’t until maybe 10 years ago that they realized that all that modernizing could erase what they were. Giant swathes of real estate are defined by giant apartment buildings built to look exactly the same, while the push to restore and preserve ancient palaces and whatnot is a fairly recent development.

-Seoul does have mountains, which I suppose is distinct, but they’re better in the countryside. And Koreans are very serious about their hiking, a cue I should have taken since my shoes are now totally done for.

I forgot my camera on the last hike I took, so these are all shot with a cell phone:

Fortress wall in Seoul

Fortress wall in Seoul

Serious hiker

Serious hiker

Anyeong Haseyo, pt. 6

Posted in Uncategorized on June 24, 2009 by rickyfartin

Yesterday I had my feet sucked by dozens of tiny fish living in a warm foot spa. It’s called Dr. Fish. You drink coffee, eat free bread, then stick your feet in. If your feet are ticklish, like mine, you giggle.

Dr. Fish

Dr. Fish

Ticklish

Ticklish

Anyeong Haseyo, pt 5

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2009 by rickyfartin

The day before we went to Suwon, I took a solo trip to Ganghwado Island. There’s an old temple there from when the region was under the threat of the Mongels and some huge rocks called dolems that were placed in various locations around the island by ancient people living there. I didn’t see the dolems because I was lost for a long time and found where they were too late to catch a bus. The town was surrounded by farms, while little old ladies brought their crops into town to sell them on the street. When they stand, their torsos are parallel to the ground from decades of breaking their backs in gardens and fields. If I lived here, I’d hope to never be okay with seeing that.

Walking at night in certain parts of Seoul means trying not to step in puddles of vomit. Koreans are some of the drunkest people I’ve ever seen. Sometimes grown men here hold hands, but not necessarily in a romantic sort of way. Originally I thought this a cultural thing. Now I believe that they hold hands because one or both of them is too drunk to walk. Korean men drink copious amounts of soju with dinner. Soju is a type of rice liquor, and Koreans are often the first to admit that it isn’t very good, but they don’t care because they’re just trying to get hammered.

This weekend was spent in Seoraksan National Park, which is a 3 and a half hour bus ride from Seoul to the east coast. The park is criss-crossed with hiking trails going up and down mountains. We walked 12 miles of those trails. I couldn’t keep the flies and gnats off my head for the final two because I’m sure I resembled a corpse. I was proud of myself yesterday, but today my body has humbled me. My legs are on strike.

None of these pictures are going to do this place justice.

Hotel room

Hotel room

Seoraksan entrance

Seoraksan entrance

Trail 1 ended with 808 steps to the top.

Trail 1 ended with 808 steps to the top.

Eye-level helicopters

Eye-level helicopters

I might look much more exhausted, but at least I didn't buy a stupid hat.

I might look much more exhausted, but at least I didn't buy a stupid hat.

The last picture was taken from here

The last picture was taken from here

Kevin and Johnny

Kevin and Johnny

No rail slides

No rail slides

Graffiti, Buddhist-style

Graffiti, Buddhist-style

Trail 2: mountaintop cave

Trail 2: mountaintop cave

Inside cave

Inside cave

Outside cave

Outside cave

Trail 3: waterfalls

Trail 3: waterfalls

Water, falling

Water, falling

Anyeong Haseyo, pt. 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 by rickyfartin

A couple days ago we went to Suwon to see the Hwaseong Fortress, which was built in the late 1700s. According to Wikipedia, the fortress was built “by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty to honour and house the remains of his father Prince Sado, who had been murdered by being locked alive inside a rice chest by his own father King Yeongjo having failed to obey his command to commit suicide.” The wall and buildings are still intact while a modern city has sprouted in and around it, which looks like this:

Korea0609 195

But, as you may have heard, things on the Korean Peninsula have been a little tense as of late. Even within this fortified city, few left their homes. Not even to play on the safest tennis court in the world.

Korea0609 208

Unfortunately, news that the fortress had been penetrated by an invader had spread. As you can see here, women and children risked their lives crossing the river to safety

Korea0609 217

I stayed behind to defend the fort. At first things didn’t look good for the city.

Korea0609 188

Korea0609 189

But the battle shifted inside the northern gate.

Korea0609 198

I wore gloves to clean up the blood in order to decrease my risk of contracting swine flu.

Korea0609 202

To celebrate my victory I treated myself to a squid dinner, but the enemy reappeared.

Korea0609 224

I was forced to defend my meal.

Korea0609 225

In the end it was all just a big misunderstanding, so the next night we made ammends playing video golf and going to a batting cage.

Korea0609 274

Korea0609 229

Anyeong Haseyo, pt. 3

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16, 2009 by rickyfartin

Spent Monday wandering around the Gyeongbokgung palace grounds, which is much bigger than I expected. It was originally built in 1395, then burned during the Japanese invasion of 1592, rebuilt in 1592, and torn down again during Japanese occupancy in 1911. Even though this peninsula got tangled into some Cold War business and U.S. soldiers have been here ever since, the Japanese are still far less popular than Americans.

As an American, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have at least 10 children a day say “hello.” I’m told they just want to hear English spoken back to them. When you say hello back, they’ll ask whatever phrases they might know. It’s usually “how old are you?” The only Korean phrases I know are anyeong haseyo (hello) and kamsamnida (thank you). Kevin says the kids’ favorite game is rock, paper, scissors and that they will play for 30 minutes straight.

I went to Itaewon, which is the Westerners district of Seoul. Immediately after leaving the subway station, a group of people asked me to fill out a survey. It was about interracial marriage, and I gleaned that they have issues with American soldiers taking Korean wives.

Entrance to the palace

Entrance to the palace

Korea0609 130
Korea0609 144

Guards

Guards

Is kudzu Korean or Japanese?

Is kudzu Korean or Japanese?

Itaewon

Itaewon

Anyeong Haseyo, pt. 2

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 by rickyfartin

I know I’m not the first to be on a subway in Korea and announce that I’m on the Seoul Train, but it’s still funny.

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