Japan – Day 11 – Failed UFO abduction and cubicle dining

On to Japan! We were sad to leave Korea as we still really liked the sites, food and people but we were excited to be going to Japan. We had a tight schedule so we got up with speed and efficiency. After a few rounds of the snooze button.

IMG_20170919_221458
We had a more exciting selection than usual, from Gamcheon Village (fish bakery) and a trendy Haeundae bakery (that tasted amazing fresh). We were sad to leave the whimsically decorated room even if one of the windows didn’t close. 

Previously we had been considering an early morning flight ‘oh we can make that no problem’. Fortunately we saw reason and booked one at midday which allowed us to be a little more relaxed. We remembered the sad sandwich which was all the food that was available after security so we made sure to have an extended brunch beforehand to keep us going <editor’s note – James got very excited by the soup in a bread bowl so he insisted we get one each rather than sharing>. Also claim some sweet sweet tax refund money for our glasses purchase (conveniently in JPY) <editor’s note – my reclaim was in JPY, James’ amount was much smaller so could only be refunded in USD>.

IMG_20170919_221640
With our memories of poor post security food to warn us we eat early, mushroom soup in a bread bowl should tide us through till we can get more food.

We got some snacks as well to finish off any remaining KRW change we had and also in case we got hungry.

In San went for her usual crisps, in this case unexpectedly she was lured into buying a small packet of super high quality crisps rather than the usual giant bag of flavoured foam and sawdust. I went for the intriguing ‘conch shaped snacks’ what they actually were was a mystery as no other description was given so I went for it (they tasted like extra sugary Frosties cereal so could be considered yet another extension of my breakfast) <editor’s note – my choice was clearly far superior to James’ and even he will admit it>.

IMG_20170919_221840
We had some tasty snacks on the plane and then then after a short flight (only one episode of a TV show for In San) we landed and picked up our trendy ICOCA cards for transport.

On arrival we decided to dump our bags in the locker (no high tech options like Korea, only coin locker operated key jobbies… disappointing Japan we expecting better) so we could get straight into exploring.

We walked through Tennoji park then up to Nipponbashi and explored this little corner of geekdoom and electrical stores. Then on to Kuromon Ichiba Market for some snacks, everything was very expensive and high end (but delicious looking) we cracked and bought some squids on a stick <editor’s note – I suspect the prices haven’t increased, more that the weak is seriously weak still due to the Brexit vote>. We were passing the cheap Korean street food. Then we saw some cheap and tasty dango (similar to mochi but chewier and grilled with either a sweet and soy salty sauce or just sweet) and our spirits raised (I love dango so much) <editor’s note – plus at JPY 120, it was a good value filling skewer>.

IMG_20170919_225159
Tennoji park was interesting but mostly full of the zoo which we did not want to visit.
IMG_20170919_221944
We wandered a around the park and up through Nipponbashi (geek central) then into Kuromon Ichiba Market where we picked up some snacks.

The snacks would keep us going but after our lack of lunch we were hungry for more. So on to Dotonbori for food. There are so many great options, so we got some takoyaki (octopus filled pancake balls) while we waited. In San wanted ramen and I am always up for ramen so we went for the tastiest place we could find Ichiran Ramen (it also had the longest queue).

IMG_20170919_222103
We were starting to get hungry so we headed up to Dotonbori for food, it is a magical place.

There was a 30 min queue so we were settling in for a long wait, when a member of staff came up to us and asked if we spoke Chinese and then when we said English she whipped out a sign (in English) explaining that there was a sister restaurant we could go to that was already the same and was much larger so less of a queue. As we had been considering whether or not it was worth checking out the other restaurant anyway we agreed. Importantly the new restaurant still has their most fun feature, you are served in an individual cubicle and your food arrives via a little curtain at the front. Added to this you order via a vending machine before you sit down and order extras via paper. So you don’t need to interact with anybody at any point even the people you go to the restaurant with, perfect! You also get to select exactly how rich/umami/firm you want your ramen to be. In San maxed out the garlic but put everything else to minimum, ‘I want something subtle’. She declared that there was an acceptable amount of garlic and that it was lucky that I didn’t have a garlic allergy or she would have chosen garlic over me. I take this to mean she enjoyed the ramen <editor’s note – James said that if I had a chocolate allergy which meant he couldn’t eat chocolate then he would choose chocolate over me>.

IMG_20170919_222202
We decided that we wanted ramen for our first meal in Japan so we headed to Ichiran Dotonbori, we had heard good things so we were intrigued <editor’s note – we had also been reminded of a youtube video we saw from strictlydumpling where he visited this place>. There was a massive line but a helpful member of staff suggested that we follow her (and her flag) to their new second restaurant round the corner, which had no queue.
IMG_20170919_222238
It was amazing, the broth was rich without being greasy, the meat was tender and full of flavour and the noodles were chewy and delicious. In San maxed out the garlic (as far as possible without paying extra).

In San declared herself too full to eat anything else, I however had room for a cheeky melon bread I had seen that they were selling from a stall. It was really fresh, soft and crispy (of course In San suddenly had room for several bites. Nice. Then we went into a weird tax free shop that sold everything from plug converters (useful for us as we had entered for the intention of sourcing and purchasing this) to dyson vacuum cleaners and hello kitty rice scoops.

IMG_20170919_222357
Fresh Melon bread (delicious) and weird and wonderful things, magnifying glass for nail clippers … of course.

We had been resisting the UFO machines successfully but In San cracked. She was unsuccessful but I did not let her put all our life savings at risk and pulled her back from the brink <editor’s note – James agreed I could spend JPY 500 for 6 plays, I felt this was reasonable and did not try to pursuade him for more as even I understood our chances were low from watching the previous people try multiple times and not succeeding and it was clear they had spent much more than me>.

IMG_20170919_222421
In San is still addicted to UFO machines, there was too much temptation to resist. She traded her snack money for 6 goes. She failed. We had fun living vicariously through others watching them (almost) win their prizes.

We had a relaxed first day and we are excited to explore more tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

South Korea – Day 10 – colour, culture and cats

We started the day slowly as we were feeling a bit tired. For breakfast we had melon bread which tasted of melon so that was interesting, the streusel bread and a chocolate walnut stick which James insisted on buying the previous day and it turned out to be dry and not very chocolatey – fail  <Editors Note – firstly I can write and EN in the first paragraph, also while it was not the moistest. It was still acceptable. Just. However it may not have been the best choice. Also the melon tasting melon bread was particularly exciting for me as I was previously disappointed when first trying Melon Bread to find out it didn’t taste of melon all those years ago>.

IMG_20170918_212446
This time breakfast had melon bread which which actually tasted of melon, a first in our melon bread experience.

We took a tube to Haeundae station and then a bus (1-1, 2-2 or 2) to Gamcheon culture village, this place is so colourful and we didn’t do it on our previous trip to Busan when it was winter and we were glad to see it on a sunny day. How to get there : http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=1998211 .

There was a place to buy a map which led you around the village collecting stamps, this was a great ploy to get money from us (KRW 2k) and for us to be lured into the shops.

There was plenty of art work all around, lot’s of trickeye and the whole place is very instagrammable if we were on instagram but we are old and not with the times so we are not. <EN – all in all it felt like a heartfelt and interesting way to get tourist trade and let the locals express themselves/make money rather than a cynical cash grab.>

IMG_20170918_212538
Gamcheon culture village, very colourful and some modern art which we weren’t sure how to interpret, e.g. the room of darkness
IMG_20170918_212651
When buying socks James got distracted by a pikachu pencil case which a giant zip.

With all the wandering around, we had to find lunch. We did try to enter one place where the door was open but no one came out so maybe they were out for lunch themselves. Instead we had to head back to the start for some pork cutlet and shrimp rice (the bulgogi James wanted was already sold out).

IMG_20170918_212757
The lunch was simple and effective.

IMG_20170918_212848

After lunch, we walked past a gif shop which we hadn’t noticed previously. Turns out they turn an 8 second clip into a mini flip book and you get to choose the background. It was surprisingly fun practising what we would do and the book was made in only 3 minutes. It wasn’t cheap for KRW 10k but we couldn’t resist and our only goods purchase (apart from glasses) on the holiday so far had been a fridge magnet.

IMG_20170918_213250
The photobook was fun to make. <EN – In San seemed a little too keen to attack me with boxing gloves, method acting is dangerous>

We walked down the main road some more before the heat got to us and we stopped for ice cream (only KRW 3,500). This particular machine was unlike any we had ever seen before as we usually don’t buy soft serve, this one pushed it out using sheer force. It meant the shape wasn’t great but we were impressed by the individually wrapped waffle cones which meant they stayed super fresh.

IMG_20170918_213140
The soft serve ice cream required the use of a machine to press it out of a cup, different to mr whippy and a lot nicer in texture and taste. We opted for blueberry yoghurt.

IMG_20170918_213051

IMG_20170918_213202

The whole area was trying to make a claim to fame as Busan’s version of something i.e. Busan’s california and Busan’s macchu picchu.

IMG_20170918_212931
There was cat alley which was marked on the map, there were only a few cats and I didn’t bother staying long to capture them as I’m not fussed about them.
IMG_20170918_212618
There was an option to post the post card back in a year’s time so we opted for that for only KRW 500. There was also the option to rent out hanbook (Korean traditional clothing) or school uniform costume, we did not opt for either.
IMG_20170918_213511
The egg installation was broken due to a backlog of eggs but a long stick and some bashing soon fixed that. <EN – In San refused to leave until she had fixed it by hitting various parts with a stick at arms length. She managed to unblock a few runs and get it running in a pale shadow of its former glory to the amazement of some other Korean tourists. >
IMG_20170918_213602
Kiwi juice – yes please. Also, we were impressed that the sign had specifically been created for the hard rail.

IMG_20170918_213904

IMG_20170918_213414
The hands were a bit creepy, I stepped in first and they were sensor controlled so only started moving and making noises when I got into the room. <EN – In San screamed … so loud. It made the room much more impressive for me>
IMG_20170918_213652
There were plenty of plastic people around, the lady at the counter was particularly convincing. <EN – from a distance we thought she was real, she also looked just like the real lady manning the counter behind … spooky>
IMG_20170918_213714
One of the stamps was hard to spot in it’s innocent little wooden stamp cage.
IMG_20170918_213738
There were plenty of narrow paths for us to weave through and get lost, unfortunately the hilliness of the place meant that our legs got quite a work out.
IMG_20170918_213803
We were tempted by the magnets of the houses but decided against it as it only looks good when there are lot’s together.
IMG_20170918_213832
A few hours later and we completed the stamp collection, we weren’t sure whether there was an option to collect a prize for getting them all and we didn’t fancy walking all the way back to the information centre to check, especially as any prize was likely to be another postcard. <EN – It was definitely a postcard they told us at the beginning but In San wanted to believe in more.>

For dinner we got the bus back to Hauendae and we weren’t sure what we wanted so we headed to An-ga which was a BBQ place I had marked up when I was researching restaurants in London. Unfortunately when we turned up it turned out it was shut on Monday. Instead we wandered around and decided that maybe an Indian might be better, that was until we got a waft of BBQ from a restaurant and that was enough for us to decide to go in without even looking at prices. It was okay though, the restaurant was reasonable and really good value for money although the soju probably helped with that. We fancied beef as we had a lot of pork recently and it didn’t let us down. The lady cooked the meat for us but she did it so quickly that the meal was over quicker than I’d like.

IMG_20170918_213924
Trendy bread place in Haeundae, that’s breakfast sorted 🙂
IMG_20170918_214040
Dinner was Korean BBQ, yes we have a problem but that’s because you can’t get Korean BBQ like this in London.
IMG_20170918_213943
We obliged with some soju, the first time during our whole trip.
IMG_20170918_214022
The beef was pretty premium, can’t complain given the whole meal was only KRW 50k

We were amateurs and didn’t order rice with the meat, James also indicated it would come with vegetables <EN – All the pictures in the menu had veg with the meat so I think it was a fair assumption> but it never did so we were full of protein and needed some card. Wandering the streets, we could not see many dessert cafes which was annoying as we felt we had walked past so many earlier in the day. We finally stumbled upon a shop and looking interested, the lady gave us a chestnut sample to try. We cracked and got 9 for KRW 3k and she was very nice and gave us an additional one as service.

IMG_20170918_214104
We supplemented the dinner with some chestnut snacks. See also the socks I couldn’t resist.

Heading back, we have been happy with our time in Busan and need to mentally prepare ourselves for Japan which means not saying kamsahamnida anymore and no more Korean BBQ.

 

South Korea – Day 9 – Detective work, dioramas and dirty dirty chicken

PIC01428

This morning we got up and enjoyed our breakfast and tea in our new AirBnB flat, no lovingly made home cooked breakfasts here, just Paris Baguette. There was a high possibility of rain in the morning so we decided that a) Today was the day we would go look at miniatures (In San was very excited) b) We would take rain gear ‘just in case’.

IMG_20170917_212152
I decided to conceal carry my camera under my coat … just in case.

We arrived in Centum City along with hordes of other people, they were all going to the Busan International Film Festival (to see Jennifer Lawrence who was attending), we of course were there to go to the diorama museum. Much more important.

IMG_20170917_222029
Not just models there was also a high tech advert from their sponsor. Said sponsor was trying to imply the point of the museum was cars. It wasn’t, it was alllll about the trains and inappropriately posed miniature people.

After creating In San as a racing driver (with customer paintjob and wheels) we entered the museum proper. My expectations were modest (In San was very excited by all the small things <editor’s note – James mocked me for suggesting this place but it was an ideal rainy day activity even if most of the other people in there were children>).

IMG_20170917_222854
Ignoring the thousands of hours work on the miniatures we were immediately sucked into an interactive advert. But you can now see In San and her dream machine.

We explored the rest of the museum and were amazed at the level of detail and little stories the creators had put in everywhere. There were binoculars and checklists to keep the Korean children entertained for hours.

IMG_20170917_212322
It was like a 3D Where’s Wally, there were lots of little stories all happening at the same time within each diorama. We found the workshop where the magic happens, so many many tools and patience was involved in creating this museum <editor’s note – the person in yellow pants was so small that we didn’t notice he wasn’t naked until we zoomed in with our cameras>.
IMG_20170917_212433
There was a slightly whimsical air to many of the displays, here are just a few of the many many weird things we saw (that were safe for publishing).

When we had eventually had our fill of miniatures, we headed out looking for food. Ending up in the Shinsegae food court across the road (hunger and rain inspired swiftness) we ended up in a Pizza place, it was decent but nothing special. It was however pretty pricey at KRW 45k for both of us.

IMG_20170917_220705
It was still raining (which made In San sad), so we headed over to the nearby Shinsegae department store to peruse their food-court. We ended up with pizza as the line wasn’t too long and we were craving something bready.

After that we headed onto our main event Haedong Yonggungsa temple. We were going to buy a hotteok when the gas burner underneath the giant hotplate of oil started billowing black smoke. Everybody backed away as a man ran up with a fire extinguisher, sprayed everything, poked it then turned it on again <editors note – the man said something along the lines of blah blah blah gas blah blah blah, at which point we all stepped back>.

We still got a hotteok but make sure it came from the non fire extinguished end. It was surprisingly good given its difficult birth.

 

IMG_20170917_220746
Old man that I am (I have gone down with a cold) I took a tactical nap on the bus from Haeundae Metro to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. I am a simple man, when I see hotteok I eats hotteok. There was a bit of drama when everything caught fire.

The temple was very interesting as one of the rare Buddhist temples in Korea on the coastline rather than the mountains. Unfortunately it was raining a lot.

IMG_20170917_220846
Arriving at the temple we started to look around (slightly dispiritedly) until the increasing rain drove us indoors. It did mean we got plum green tea which was tasty.

When the sun came out suddenly it was a different story and was much more impressive.

IMG_20170917_220907
Suddenly with no warning the sun was out, so we quickly explored, ignoring the gaping and twisted remains of the safety fence.

On our walk along the coast the rain came back and we had to find some shelter, what would we find?

IMG_20170917_221009
The national institute of fishery science had a surprisingly good museum despite the propaganda and videos of pregnant fish being gutted alive, well worth a visit if it is raining and it was free.
IMG_20170917_221100
It even had an aquarium and fishing boat simulator! Fun for all the family (it was still raining).

After our fill of museum fun we headed out for dirty dirty fried chicken. We were trying to find our favorite Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant from our trip almost three years ago. Unfortunately all we had was vague memories and a blurry photo in our previous blog to go on. After some detective work and image comparison we narrowed down the restaurant, then all we had to do was find it which was surprisingly hard. We finally found one (it is a chain) but it was closed for good. We were so sad, on our sad walk back to the main area to find consolation food something caught my eye… could it be. Yes it was. Mubanna Chondak was right there. This time with google map picture so anybody can find it. It isn’t quite as crispy as the Korochon chicken but it has much tasty sauce and delicious chewy batter with succulent chicken. Plus you can go half and half with the flavours. It was amazing.

IMG_20170917_221138
After many trials and tribulations we finally found our favorite fried chicken place from our trip two years ago. This time In San was happy with the amount of garlic (about three cloves per piece of chicken crushed and rubbed in raw)

We rolled home, very full. Stopped off in the E-Mart (it was huge) to check it out then turned in. In San is sleeping while I write this so she can’t add any Editor’s Notes so I can say what I wish. The power is intoxicating. <editor’s note – I was resting my eyes as James was so slow, all notes added>.

 

South Korea – Day 8 – Let’s go sea the art

PIC01296

It was our last breakfast with our host and today we got cake, it had red bean and chestnut and was quite sweet but we enjoyed it.

IMG_20170916_213634
There are angel wings on quite a few walls and they are usually busy with people taking selfies.

On the way to the Gyeongju express bus terminal, we got distracted by a McDonalds. I had previously looked up it was doing a limited edition choco pie and this felt like the right time to try it. It was surprisingly okay, they had to fry one from scratch as were clearly too early for it.

IMG_20170916_213912
I had read about a choco pie and it was a limited edition that was still available, hooray. <Editors note – It was ok but nowhere near as good as the chocolate poo pancake from Insadong>

Turns out the bakeries nearer the bus station sell the Gyeongju bread for even cheaper than near the historic centre, 10 for KRW 7k, James couldn’t resist purchasing some as we waited for our bus to Busan <Editors note – I resisted for a long time, it turned out that they were pretty tasty and we relied on them to perk us up later>. The bus tickets were only KRW 5k each which is pretty good for a 1 hour bus journey.

IMG_20170916_213952
The buses are pretty comfortable, lot’s of legroom. <EN – They see me snoozing, they hating … >

En route to our AirBnB, we changed at Seomyeong and it turned out there were lockers there so we dumped our bags with the help of a volunteer who pointed us in the direction of the big lockers still available and helped with using it.

We then went in search of the food alley for lunch.

IMG_20170916_214020
Seomyeon station has lockers, very handy.

First we headed to Bujeon market which turns out is very different to food alley. This one mainly has ingredients, all very fresh.

IMG_20170916_214108
The market had lot’s of fresh fish but we were looking for cooked food and not ingredients.

We did however see a pork cutlet stand so had a blueberry one and a parsley one to keep up going. They were cooked super quick and did the trick to tide us over.

IMG_20170916_214221
Pork cutlet was cooked in just a few minutes, I’m not sure how much blueberry was in the blueberry cutlet.

We finally found food alley (turns out you should take exit 7 from Seomyeong station and it’s obvious from there. We headed into a restaurant for some pork soup. Nothing too special but for KRW 14k for two meals we weren’t expecting too much. <EN – The massive spoonful of hot chilli miso paste was optional>

IMG_20170916_214452
The broth for pork soup was cooked in a big vat outside the shop, hygenic…

By the end I was pretty full.

IMG_20170916_214519
After having a pork cutlet starter at the food market, the pork soup pushed us over the edge.

It was then over to Dadaepo beach for the sea art festival which started today. We were worried as the weather was starting to look rainy and lot’s of people were holding umbrellas but luckily it stayed dry.

IMG_20170916_214614

IMG_20170916_215031

IMG_20170916_215133

IMG_20170916_215340
<EN – In San is too sleepy, I am putting a note on a massive sculpture/bonfire that the artists were going to set fire to at the end of the festival, to jazz things up they also set off random fireworks. I think they were just bored rather than making art>

 

IMG_20170916_215236

PIC01355

PIC01309

PIC01339

After having fun with the art work, we headed back to the Seomyeong area for dinner. We wanted Korean BBQ but didn’t know where to go to figured it would be obvious if somewhere was good. We wandered around and eventually stopped somewhere that was obviously a BBQ, unfortunately when we got in, it turned out they didn’t have an English menu and there was only one staff member who had good enough English to explain what we needed to order. It was a good thing too as we were about to order intestines and managed to only get pork belly and pork ribs.

IMG_20170916_215451
There was certainly a lot of choice for dinner but it was difficult as we had no idea which would be tourist traps and which was be extremely delicious

To go with the meal, James opted for ice noodles which came with far too much chilli which he had to try and take out before it got mixed in with the soup. I was sensible and went for rice.

IMG_20170916_215522
The sketchy yellow water turned out to be weak tea.

 

The BBQ itself was really good value, we spent ages deciding whether it would be rude to ask for new coals as ours weren’t cooking the ribs and turns out it’s a straight forward request and there was no need for us to agonise over how to ask for about 5 minutes <EN – It was more like 10 minutes of sweaty sweaty indecision>. We had thought the skewers would be BBQ’d however it wasn’t until we saw the group next to us put the whole bowl with soup on top of the coals. We then copied them. <EN – The meat was noticeably lesser quality than before, however for KRW 30k for the whole meal including drinks it was super value>

IMG_20170916_215606
More Korean BBQ, this time with some street food skewers as well.

Our AirBnB didn’t send the instructions for finding his flat until after the check in time and we hadn’t thought to look for more messages. We found it in the end but it did involve asking someone at e-mart for directions and then being led to the elevator by a porter.

IMG_20170916_215642
It was difficult finding our place as the guy only gave us directions to the e-mart, we found it in the end.

When we got to the room, it was pretty clean and spacious however there no instructions for the washing machine or boiler. At this point we had got pretty good at using google translate which does a decent job, it’s not perfect but works well enough to be able to work out what is going on.

IMG_20170916_220910
There were no instructions for the washing machine or boiler either, luckily we have google translate to help. <EN – as you can see it is fairly good for the boiler, there were some issues with the washing machine. We still felt we were living in the future>

 

 

South Korea – Day 7 – Making a splash in the ghost town and a rock concert on a tomb

Vital information before you get down to the fun:

This is the most vital map you can have in Gyeongju :

IMG_20170915_215704
See bottom for a full map

Bomun Tourist Complex Tips:

Take the no 10 bus there and the no 11 back, assuming you’re staying at Gyeongju historical centre.

The botanical gardens are nice.

Go to Matdol Soonbooroo in Bukgun Food Area

The area by the hotels is somewhat boring.

Now pictures of food and poor puns:

We woke up excited to face another day and visit the fabled Tourist Complex. Wolfing down our breakfast we readied ourselves, dismayed to find that somehow I had managed to get bitten several times. So the first stop was to 7-11 to get plasters and coffee.

IMG_20170915_164206
In San sneakily (in so much as I didn’t notice her doing so) managed to get some shots of breakfast. It filled us up for our adventures.

Arriving at the complex it all seemed a bit … empty. There was a lot of hotels and restaurants and cafes (closed) but no people and not much lake either.

IMG_20170915_164240
After arriving we noticed a certain lack of people … and things … and pagodas. Lots and lots of empty hotels though.

As we wandered around this empty 70’s Korean Butlins (UK resort like Center Parks) which was obviously built for thousands of people, we noticed two things a) the main feature being the massive lake had evaporated so it was a tiny puddle meaning no pedlo b) all the many many restaurants we walked by were closed.

IMG_20170915_164345
It was so empty. No pedalo for us, the lake had evaporated. We like the lights disguised as tree trunks though.

Starting to be concerned we headed to the ‘food village’ convinced it would be disappointing as our previously food market experience was an old lady with a sad looking hotdog wrapped in fishcake. On arrival (after running across a motorway with no crossing) we saw a few restaurants that might be open, but no people inside. This did not bode well. We followed some people who looked like they might know where they were going eg. Koreans. They let us to a delicious place (and full to the brim with people eating with gusto), Matdol Soonbooroo. We ordered the (not spicy) bean curd soup (with free side dishes that included a whole fish) and pancake with spring onion and octopus inside. Everybody else in the restaurant ordered the super spicy soup.

On leaving everybody was grabbing something from a big pot. We did so too hoping it was something sweet for dessert, weirdly it was just the same bean curd we had in the soup. How odd.

IMG_20170915_164459
We followed people who looked like they knew where they were going until we reached this delicious restaurant which was the only place that seemed to have any people in it. It was a little out of the way so we have included pictures of the big red sign by the motorway and it is by the red sign in the distance.

Revived and our hope in The Complex renewed we headed over to the Gyeongju East Palace Garden which was a lot of fun. In San was convinced she had found her favourite drink again, despite it not having the same Hangul, she seemed to enjoy it none the less [editor’s note – this drink tastes even better in winter>.

IMG_20170915_164621
Much revived by lunch we decided to visit the Gyeongju East Palace Garden
IMG_20170915_221743
The Botanical gardens were well laid out with a nice variety of plants with exciting walkways and waterfalls to keep us amused

After wandering through the grounds and amusing ourselves watching the waterworks  <editor’s note, this was a half hour water display with very loud music, the water display itself was kind of naff but it did play barbie girl which amused us> we had a waffle and drinks to tide us over. Unfortunately In San’s insistence on visiting the house of 10 thousand tomatoes (all the tomatoes had gone) meant that we missed the bus <editor’s note – James was actually more excited about this area, it was the hide and seek garden I wanted to see but it was clearly designed for children>. It did give us 20 minutes getting good at using Google translate though that came in handy later.

IMG_20170915_164729
There was a rather exciting (and splashy) water-show with music that ran every hour. We didn’t go to the Bird park as it was an extra KRW 14k too rich for our blood.

On getting back we went round the Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond and then Gyochon Hanok Village. There was some weird stuff there including a ‘dog experience’ involving a lot of dogs in cages …

IMG_20170915_211627
After getting back we went round the Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond.
IMG_20170915_211710
We also went round the Gyochon Hanok Village, it was a slightly strange mix of tourist shops, fancy houses and weird ‘museums’

We went to 잔치집 (Janchijib) as recommended by our host. It didn’t have any English but our Google translate foo was strong so we prevailed. More soya soup (this time no sugar) with noodles (KRW 7k) and some tasty noodle/dumpling hybrids (KRW 10k) were tasty and affordable.

IMG_20170915_211746
On our host suggestion we went to  잔치집 (Janchijib) there was no English menu but with judicious use of google translate we made do.

Then we headed out to downtown to a snacks and a rock concert.

IMG_20170915_211834
Our host told us that there was a weekly rock concert that happened in the downtown area on top of the largest and oldest burial ground. So we went to check it out, there was snacks and music so we were happy <editor’s note – James found the statues amusing, especially the left most one>.
IMG_20170915_221825
Rock out Gyeongju style!

We will be leaving tomorrow which will make us sad as we have enjoyed our time here.

Full resolution map for you to enjoy:

20170915_215603
This high resolution map should cover all of your buss based needs.

South Korea – Day 6 – Bulguksa temple, bendy bus ride and brownie

PIC01228

Useful info <Editor’s note – don’t worry there is fun stuff after this> :

The Gyeongju national museum only took around an hour to walk through although we only looked around the main exhibition about the history.

Bus from Gyeongju national museum to Bulguksa temple is number 11, this is on the main road and only took about 30 minutes. It wasn’t clear how often the buses were, we waited 15 minutes for it to turn up. It was KRW 1,250 using the T-money pass. The stop was called out in Korean and English so it was pretty obvious when to get off.

For lunch, eat at the restaurant if it’s a weekday as there won’t be street food options <EN – on the road up to the temple> apart from a sad hot dog.

There is a shuttle bus from Bulguksa temple to Seokguram grotto, it was only about 15 minutes although beware, it was an extremely bendy road. James and I aren’t used to being in cars so it did make us feel a bit queasy. See pic below for times.

From Seokguram back to the city centre, we took the number 10 bus which was smooth and easy.

Entry price to Bulguksa and Seokguram was KRW 5k for each person.

Fun stuff

The day started off with putting a wash on and of course being South Korea, our host’s washing machine was a Samsung one. She was very friendly and made breakfast for us which I forgot to photograph, essentially french toast, cabbage salad (with a variety of dressings to choose from) and some frankfurter sausages. This was served up with just one fork so we tried to eat it as gracefully as we could. James even got coffee from freshly hand ground beans <EN – It was pretty tasty>.

With our stomachs full, we headed out to the Gyeongju National Museum. We wandered around as it turned out the museum exhibitions didn’t open until 10am and we got there at 9.40am.

IMG_20170914_202939
The divine bell of King Seongdeok weighs 18.9 tonnes +/- 2kg

Whilst waiting, we were amused by the large ordering queue of school children. Of course, when we were inside we were less amused by the amount of noise they made.

IMG_20170914_203059
There were many many school children visiting and they did form an orderly queue

The main exhibition had information in Korean, Chinese and English. It may have had Japanese as well.

IMG_20170914_203232
The mini figurines looks primitive however they were from 500 CE.v<EN – They reminded me of the figurines we saw in Jeju>

There were many artifacts to look at, we didn’t manage to get pictures of the spearheads, daggers of jewellery. We learnt about the three kingdoms being ‘united’ under one dynasty (once Silla had conquered the other two) and how the Silla capital of Gyeongju became known as the golden city, famous for the gold ornaments adorning the nobility (or Bone Caste). This all came from the local mines that also provided the iron to outfit their armies to invade their neighbours (and once allies).

IMG_20170914_203432
James practising the Asian squat but not succeeding.

Once we were facted up, we went to Bulguksa temple. From our planning, we knew this involved a bus and then on arrival we were sure to check the bus timetable for Seokguram.

Of course when we arrived it was lunch time. There weren’t many options and we looked at a coffee shop and walked away when it only appeared to be selling beverages. We then walked back to check for any buns it might be selling to find out on the other side was a self service restaurant. Luckily there was a sign in English saying you had to pay first (KRW 6k), so we did this and started to help ourselves. We decided to go for the make your own bibimbap and had some soup as well. It was a pretty good selection given the price and we were surprised by how alright the food actually was given the restaurants in these areas know they have a captive market.

IMG_20170914_203507
The self service lunch was actually quite satisfying and meant we could add what we wanted. <EN – It even had noodles and a different soup you could combine for variety>

We headed off up the hill to the world heritage site and wandered past lots of stalls which weren’t open that day, the ones that were open looked a bit sad so we were happy we made the decision to eat in the restaurant rather than go looking for stall food.

IMG_20170914_203630
There were many unoccupied chairs up to Bulguksa temple, we assume they would normally be busier during the weekends.

Once we got into the grounds it was clear why this is a must see for the area. The scenary is so pretty and the buildings had been well maintained.

IMG_20170914_203749
The whole of the area at Bulguksa temple was beautiful and the sunny weather enhanced the surroundings.

The temples were rebuilt after being destroyed (several hundred years ago) but the stone foundations are original as are some of the stairs.

IMG_20170914_203843
As usual, the temple had been burned down and rebuilt on it’s original stone foundations.

Given the beating heat of the sun, we treated ourselves to an icy snack, we were expecting ice lollies and got some delicious frozen slushie instead. Not bad for KRW 1,200 each.

IMG_20170914_203914
We assumed these were ice lollies and were pleasantly surprised it was like a slushie when it got warmed up.

We came across the standard stones on stones so I managed to build a tower of five which James was carefully photographing.

IMG_20170914_203952
Stones upon stones upon stones, also James’s second attempt at Asian squatting, he was still unsuccessful.

From the top of the temple we could see lot’s of people taking selfies. It was amusing people watching and it inspired us to take some of our own.

IMG_20170914_204215
We thought we’d better try and blend in by taking selfies.

James is admiring one the pagodas. He also wanted to stroke the golden pig.

IMG_20170914_204032
I told James to rub the gold pig for luck, it’s not clear why he decided to do it so seductively.

We wandered around and really enjoyed the sites, it was a sunny day and we must have spent 2 hours walking around.

IMG_20170914_204255
The Gyeongju bread was filled with red bean paste, it was nice but it didn’t blow us away.

We got the 3.40pm bus to Seokguram and we were not expecting such a crazy bus journey to the top. The driver certainly didn’t slow down for the corners and as we aren’t used to cars/buses, we didn’t feel great when we got to the top.

The view was pretty nice, it definitely felt much cooler at the top. We made our way to the grotto to see the Buddha at the top, it was in great condition because it was sealed off. It didn’t feel like we had got as much value for money compared with Bulguksa temple.

IMG_20170914_204524
Seokgurum itself was near the top of a mountain so it had some lovely views. <EN – No photos were allowed in the grotto itself however. There was a stern old lady enforcing this and as we know … we can not outrun them> 

Given our feelings towards the bus, when we saw there was a 2.2km walk from Seokguram to Bulguksa, we decided to take it down. It was down all the way and wasn’t easy on the knees but at least it was shaded. I certainly admired the people taking the walk up.

IMG_20170914_204558
We took the 2.2 km walk from Seokguram to Bulguksa as we wanted to avoid another bus journey with so many bends.

Feeling abused, I wanted a simple dinner. Unfortunately most of the options for the area would be full banquets. James did however find a noodle place called Gyeongju Wonjo Kongguk  at 113 Cheomseong-ro, Hwangnam-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do according to Google maps. We approached and there was no English on the outside, it also looked like it was full of locals on the inside. James hesitated and said we could still seek out Korean BBQ but I wanted something less meaty so we headed in.

We got to sit down Korean style (aka on the floor) and were glad to be handed an English menu. We both went for a soybean soup with glutinous rice doughnuts. We wanted to order a seafood pancake as well but the lady snatch the menus away from us so quickly that we took it as a sign that we had ordered the correct amount. The food arrived quickly and we tried the soup, it didn’t have much taste and I saw a small pot on the table so gave that a sniff. It wasn’t clear what it was but the lady turned up again and informed us it was sugar, she also made it clear we needed to stir our soups as there were all the flavours sitting at the bottom. This made it much nicer. For KRW 11k for both soups, it felt like good value and a completely different type of meal. It was sweet so might not be to everyones taste.

IMG_20170914_204711
Dinner was surprisingly sweet. Essentially a soybean soup with glutinous rice doughtnut cut up.

We went for an evening stroll and then headed back to our room with some sneaky snacks. Of course James couldn’t resist the chocolate brownie, he chose poorly as he was interesting in my ‘boring’ biscuits later on which I kindly shared with him.

IMG_20170914_204900
Our choice of snacks for dessert, James got sucked in by the brownie and I went for some plain biscuits which turned out to be just the right sweetness.

 

 

South Korea – Day 5 – A Korean Cornucopia

As we were scared of missing the train (and not making it to Gyeongju) we booked tickets on the train this morning. It was very easy we just went to : http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfTicketSearch.do

As we always forget to actually put in any useful information :

We decided to take the high speed KTX train from seoul to Singyeongju Station just outside Gyeongju, it was KRW 49k which was only a little bit more than the high speed bus but significantly faster (only 2 hours). You can buy it online then get them to re-issue you a ticket at the station.

Getting into town was easy, any bus from the station but 51 will take you in. We took the 61 straight to 5 mins from our AirBnB.

All the staff at the train station spoke English and there were maps and a tourist information.

Now back to your usual programming of lots of pictures of food.

IMG_20170913_212412
For variety we had a chocolate streusel bread for breakfast as well as the standard streusel. We finished packing, then re-packing as I forget that I had packed all my socks … rookie mistake <Editor’s note – James is a slow packer and makes many rookie packing mistakes including putting heavy items at the top of his bag>. Then we waved goodbye to our convenient (if slightly mouldy) abode.

We were sad to leave Seoul so soon but excited to explore the next location, I suspect In San was happy to escape the mouldy shower that disturbed her greatly <Editor’s note – I suspect it disturbed James too, he just wasn’t as vocal about expressing it>. We had to climb the steep steep hill one last time with our bags, this kind of daily training was why the Korean old people were so speedy on the mountain (we struggled to overtake one this morning).

IMG_20170913_211047
We headed out, managing to catch the end of the little TV short that we had seen playing in disjointed sections every time. Stashing our bags up in a convenient locker (there was one in Myeongdong station and only cost KRW 4k) and clocking metro snacks for later we headed out.

Once again we saw (and smelled) the delicious DeliManjoo baked goods but couldn’t partake as we had things to do and already had planned things to eat.

IMG_20170913_211117
Stage 1 – Pick up glasses, I picked up my new pair (due to uni-sex glasses I got a stylish bright pink (on the inside) glasses case with a weird lady bear on the outside. I can see clearly now.

After picking up my glasses (and In San’s 3 pairs of glasses <Editor’s note, technically we only picked up 2 pairs as the sunglasses were being posted and the other frame only was picked up the day before>) we headed out for an early lunch, to make sure we had time to get to the train. We shouldn’t have worried as service was super fast, we were in and out in 25 minutes. There are only four things on the menu, dumplings, noodles, spicy noodles and soya milk noodles. We got a set of dumplings and a big bowl of noodles to share. It was as delicious as we remembered. Definitely worth a visit here or one of the others around the area.

IMG_20170913_211150
Myeongdong Kyoja Main was so good we remembered it from last time (as recommended by our Air BnB host), previously we had gone in the evening and had not been expecting the sheer efficiency of lunch. We sat, a minute (or less) later they asked for our order, were told to pay immediately and had our food about thirty seconds later. Speedy and delicious!

As we had some time to kill before our train, we decided to explore Bukchon village but didn’t actually make it there.

IMG_20170913_211404
After eating our noodly fill we decided to wander round Myeongdong and pick up some tasty tea. We asked for hot tea but they gave us cold brew tea, it was still delicious (and from Jeju).

After exploring and drinking tea we decided to wander up to Insadong. We got a little distracted and ended up getting green tea ice cream. It was delicious. Then we saw something … unusual.

A poo pancake.

Of course we wanted it <editor’s note – James insisted on getting one, I was not an enamoured by it>.

When asked whether we wanted a plain poo or a chocolate poo there was only once choice. It was actually really delicious and not at all just a gimmick.

IMG_20170913_211431

IMG_20170913_211533
We went to another of the Osulloc tea houses for some jeju green tea ice cream and a poo pancake. What a world we live in.

Replite with snacks we headed back to Myeongdong.

IMG_20170913_211625
We didn’t have time to visit the Seoul tower this trip but we took a blurry picture which is basically the same thing. Then I went skipping over a man made river. Joy.

And more snacks, this might be my last chance to get DeliManjoo and I was not going to take that chance. the mechanism was ingenious and mesmerising to watch.

IMG_20170913_211648
I had already eaten too many other snacks but some things just need to be done. In San amused herself photographing me like Gollum huddled over my golden precious.

The train journey almost didn’t happen as it turns out you can’t use a digital copy of the ticket, you need to print it out in hardcopy. Lucky we had arrived with time to spare and could go to the ticket office to get them to re-issue our tickets.

IMG_20170913_211752
No photo of train, it was amazing though. So spacious and smooth. In San did take a photo of the drinks available on the train though.

We had arrived safely and the helpful person at the information office gave us a map and told us which bus to go on with the stop written in Hangul. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it on the bus map. We showed it to the bus driver and he waved at us when we needed to get off. Which is good as we still couldn’t spot it on the display.

Then we just needed to find our AirBnB based on the cryptic comments other people had made about how they got lost finding it and some Korean instructions. Plus google maps which is 50/50 in Korea.

IMG_20170913_211820
We found it after some urban exploring, it is lovely and our hosts have some very energetic pets and children. Both are adorable.

Our host recommended a nearby traditional Korean restaurant for us to eat at. There was only one kind of food they served, FEAST!

You could have a pork feast, a beef feast or a spicy feast. We needed a whole large table to fit all the side dishes on. It was glorious excessive as we cooked our own Beef Bulgogi. Soooooo many side dishes. They were all delicious, it was a collection of every side dish we had every had in Korea before, it was wonderful.

IMG_20170913_212018
Sooooo much food, it was all so tasty and only for KRW 17k each which was worth it for the sheer amount of washing up they would have to do afterwards.
IMG_20170913_211942
We ate it all. All of it. And to finish was delicious pumpkin soup that was a sweet treat.

 

IMG_20170913_212048
Afterwards we went for a walk around the local burial mounds of ancient kings

20170913_212716

After our walk we came back to this lovely home to sleep (In San)/ write this blog entry (Me) while a slightly sinister penguin watches us.