Japan – Day 17 – To onsen egg or not to onsen egg

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We had an early start so we got up at 6:15, this was painful. Breakfast was much more exciting than advertised ‘Some bread and eggs’, although it wasn’t massive it was tasty and had a good variety. We had decided to knock off the first two hours of walking so that we could get to the finishing onsen town ryokan earlier to enjoy the experience for longer. To do so we needed to catch a bus early. Unfortunately there was no-where to buy food that early and the inn didn’t provide a lunch box so we had bought lots of non-perishable snacks the day before. It turns out the self-guided tour was completely wrong and the inn did provide lunch boxes which we could have asked for. We were not pleased.

Breakfast was more exciting than promised, although the cut up fruit was beautiful In San would have prefered the whole banana.

Along the way we picked up some other guests from the inn we were staying at, they were winging it with only accommodation booked and no maps and no plans. They didn’t even know the bus was an option. In the end they decided to stay on the bus all the way to the onsen town and do a circular walk there instead of walking there as we did.

Unfortunately there was a typhoon in 2011 which destroyed a chunk of the trail that we would be walking so there is an official detour that takes you round it. Unfortunately <editor’s note – or fortunately> it means that you miss out on 7km of the trail.

Even more unfortunately our self guided tour detailed instructions and map hadn’t been updated. They had only put a small note in the day by day itinerary (which normally just details the accommodation you would be staying) after the accommodation entry so it was impossible to find unless you had read the whole booklet. We felt it wasn’t too much to ask to not give us instructions and a map that was wrong given that they had had six years to fix it. Even a sticker to say ‘don’t follow these instructions go here and read this instead’ would have been better. We were a little vexed when we realised. Worse their instructions had sent us the wrong way so we were 45 minutes behind schedule before we realised and backtracked. Because of the detour we had an unexpected super steep multi-km long climb ahead of us instead of a gentle ascent. Fortunately our rage at the tour guide fueled us to scamper up at speed. So angry we didn’t even realise we had climbed so high <editor’s note – we were quite raged particularly as it was quite lazy of them and it was made worst by them indicating a bento lunch box was not available, this was the first time we have tried a self guided walk and we think we are better off sticking to organising them ourselves so that we can do all the research and have all the information even if it does take us hours>.

It was a lot sunnier today so we got a better view of the mountains as the mist burned off. The detour due to typhoon meant we missed out on a few monuments.

Once we were back on track we could enjoy the scenery, it was very beautiful and remote. It was a big change for us as we normally do day hikes near to a city or similar.

As we got deeper into the mountains everything become more majestic and magical.

There was bit of excitement when In San almost stepped on a snake, it probably wasn’t on the deadly vipers we saw warning posters about everywhere … but we decided to be extra stompy to be sure they heard us coming. If only we had splashed out for the walking sticks with bells on.

This far from civilization we were forced to use less advanced loo technologies. The signage on the detour wasn’t quite as extensive as the main route so someone had helpfully added extra information.

We were not able to source lunch (because the guide was wrong) so we had gathered many snacks which we ate along the trail, pacing ourselves out.

There was no-where we could get lunch we we needed to have a large selection of snacks to compensate. Dorayaki and trail-mix to the rescue <editor’s note – I chose walnut covered in maple syrup, this was a far superior choice>.

These shrines in the middle of no-where were very interesting, many of them had fun stories like an old man dying from fatigue and hunger with a coin in his mouth, or a mother leaving her baby by the road and a wolf looking after it. Interesting times, it was obviously a more hardcore route back in the day.

Some of the shrines were a bit out of the way and didn’t get the regular servicing that the major shrines got. This made them interestingly decrepit and increased their score on our magical-scenery-ometer (units are Ghiblis of course). This overgrown bus shine looks like an ancient forest bus stop gaining it a value of 0.7 Ghiblis. You can almost hear the Cat Bus coming.

When we got to a restpoint at the top of the mountain we had our ‘main lunch’ In San had a red bean bun and I had a chocolate souffle, maybe not the wisest choice but it was delicious and seemed like a good idea when I choose it.

When we got to the rest-point at the top of the mountain we decided to have the main part of our lunch.
There was a settlement in the middle of the forest, tending to people’s needs as they walked the trail for hundreds of years. However in the 1940’s so few people were remaining that they were forcibly relocated to a nearby village and the area abandoned.
The hidden village originally had a series of farms here that were abandoned, they have been cleaned up and trees planted.

Rather than going directly to Yunomine onsen town we decided to go an extra 2 hours onto Hongu, luckily we had enough snacks to fuel this.

We had to break out the snacks mark II, crunky and ancient rice cakes (chewy and fermented) for me and weird mini pringles for In San. I took lots of photos of her enjoying the crisps as she looked so happy. I have never seen her so happy apart from other times she was eating new kinds of crisps.

Walking through the little villages was really interesting, they grew most of their own food, and had little honesty shops which had random things like home-made charms or ginger/tea/snacks in them with a money box inside a little shed <editor’s note – it was cute but not what we needed so we didn’t purchase anything>.

It was getting hotter and hotter and we were running lower of water (we still had sufficient because we had packed two litres). We saw a vending machine and we went for it. This powered us up and allowed us to make up the time we lost early with some high speed downward running <editor’s note – James opted for a weird barley drink, he was meant to get a tea but didn’t want to get the same as me>.
The little villages along the way were very lovely and integrated with nature.

Because of our starting mis-adventure we were behind schedule and had a choice, give Hongu the time it deserved or blitz through and catch the bus that we had been running for the last hour to arrive in time for (the next would be over an hour and a half later). We managed to see most things at speed but didn’t get a great look at the largest Tori Gate in Japan (it was massive so we saw it from a distance). We did however catch the bus so success of a sort.

We arrived at Hongu shrine, it was the major shrine along this part of the trail and has Japan’s largest Tori Gate. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to appreciate it fully as we had to catch a bus. 

Because we arrived so early (other travelers on the trail were not as focused as us) we arrived before anybody else in the Inn and therefore had first dibs on the private onsen. Success. We also had welcome biscuits and tea to put us in a more relaxed mood.

On arrival at the ryokan we were greeted with Japanese biscuits and tea. We also picked up some dango (pre-packaged not fresh sadly) at the village shop to tide us over til supper. I also had a cheeky beer from the vending machine, it was a local Kumado Kodo beer <editor’s note – James said it tasted nicer the more you drank, I think it was a little too flavoursome>.
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The ryokan had an indoor group (gender segregated) Onsen and a far superior outside private one (pictured) because we arrived on the earlier bus we got first dibs. It was awesome but too hot for In San (it was 43 degrees or more).

After cleaning up we went for an explore around the town, there wasn’t a lot of town apart from the other ryokan (and randomly a j-hoppers hostel) and a free public onsen.

We went for a wander along the trail that we wouldn’t be taking tomorrow then came back and were faced with a dilemma, to onsen egg or not to onsen egg. It was too close to supper to eat it now and we were not sure we could safely keep it til tomorrow. The decisions were difficult and we obsess about weird food things. After a long time (too long) we decided to go for it and cooked the eggs in the hot onsen water for tomorrow lunch <editor’s note – the shop said to cook for 13 minutes and separately outside it said soft boiled was 9 minutes but hard boiled was 15 minutes, we stuck with the instructions from the shop>.

After our cleansing we debated whether to cook our own onsen eggs, we felt like we should to supplement our ‘lunch’ tomorrow.

We cooled them down in the sink (to preserve them in the perfect jelly state) and handed them to our confused host to store over-night in the fridge (initially he thought we wanted them for supper). Hopefully he understood and we will not get them as extra breakfast.

Sadly there were no Royal Milk Tea (Hot) left, obviously the most popular drink. We hadn’t noticed the giant tanuki outside our ryokan when we first arrived. The hot water tank outside was massive.

Supper was very tasty, I will let the pictures do the talking.

Food was extremely elaborate (if slightly less so than our first ryokan) and very delicious. It was a little less traditional and little more inventive. The sashimi was particular decadent I took a photo but In San hasn’t included it (maybe she is too sleepy).
The world’s smallest gyudon, and the centerpiece, a steam your own giant prawn and vegetables in a steamer similar to the mushroom dish we had had yesterday. A whole melon slice to finish made In San very happy. Interestingly we had a clear dashi soup rather than the usual miso. 

We are sitting here in our traditional room, full of delicious food and content. Our legs are not too sore and although the start was a little flaky we came through in the end. Tomorrow our walking continues with the most intense day yet.


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


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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



Soup-er pumpkin power


It was the eve of Halloween and James’ final day on call (meaning he can’t be more than 15 minutes away from a computer with internet access) so we decided to carve pumpkins and being one not to waste, use the flesh to make pumpkin soup.

The pumpkin carving was quite straight forward, James put a lot more effort into his into making it scary whilst I tried to make mine look friendly.

I sent James on an adventure to the Bake-haus and he purchased some of their delicious yoghurt bread although he only went and forgot to get a bloody stamp on the loyalty card. It made me a little sad but the tastiness of the bread quickly cheered me up.

20161030_201754-collageIngredients (serves 4)

  • Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Onion – 1
  • Pumpkin flesh – 750g chopped
  • Vegetable stock – 550ml
  • Double creme – 100ml (although you can probably use creme fraiche instead)
  • Bacon lardons – 180g packet
  • Cumin and chilli powder to taste, potentially try nutmeg as well



  1. Put olive oil into pot and add onions, cook for 5-10 mins on low heat until soft
  2. Add half the bacon lardons to pot
  3. Add pumpkin and cook for 5 mins
  4. Add vegetable stock, cook with lid on for 10 mins
  5. Add double creme
  6. Add cumin and chill powder
  7. Use a hand blender and puree the mixture
  8. Pass through a sieve
  9. Pour into bowls
  10. Heat remaining half of lardons and top the soup with these
  11. Eat with some delicious bread!