A Travellerspoint blog

South Korea

Busan - Cauldron Mountain.

South Korea. 2009.

Visiting Busan

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Hubbie in Yongdusan Park.

For our holiday in Busan we stayed in the Novotel Ambassador Hotel. The Novotel Ambassador is located right on Haeundae Beach. From the airport you can reach Haeundae Station by bus (1500 won) or go straight to the Novotel Ambassador by express limousine (6000 won). The Novotel Ambassador is a very easy 10 minute walk from Haeundae subway station exit 3 making it a good location for getting around Busan. The staff at the hotel were helpful and friendly. You can change money there at a reasonable rate. The rooms are comfortable and modern. They have an in room safe and tea/coffee making facilities. You have to pay to use the internet. There are quite a lot of sports facilities at the hotel. We frequently used the swimming pool which was open till 10pm. There was also a hot pool, gym and saunas. Bars, restaurants and room service in the hotel are pricey, but if you don't want to use them there should be no problem, there are many restaurants and bars nearby. There are also lots of convenience stores for stocking up on resources. Directions: Go to Haeundae Subway Station exit 3 then walk straight ahead towards the ocean for 10 minutes. When you cross the main road in front of the ocean, you'll see the hotel on your left.

Busan has several interesting sights ­ a colourful, bustling fish market; some interesting temples and some beautiful beaches. It is an easy destination to get around with a very user friendly underground system and an extensive bus network.

Our hotel was located on Haeundae Beach which is apparently very, very busy in the summer. It was still popular in October though mainly with strollers, not swimmers. It's a very pleasant area to wander around. There is a tourist office, an aquarium, boat trips and lots of restaurants/bars in this area.

One of the best sights in Busan is Jagalachi Fish Market. Jagalachi Fish Market is the largest fish market in Korea and it's an interesting place to spend a couple of hours. We started at the dried fish market then wandered past a row of fish vendors and had a look at the indoor parts of the market. The most interesting area was just past the indoor market. There is a long line of stalls selling just about every weird and wonderful creature found in the ocean. Get behind these stalls and you can watch the fish being unloaded from the ships and then loaded onto lorries to be taken off and sold. There was more cuttlefish than I would have believed existed being unloaded as we wandered through. This is a busy area with lots of cars and lorries.

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Jagalachi Fish Market.

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Jagalachi Fish Market.

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Jagalachi Fish Market.

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Jagalachi Fish Market.

We travelled out to see Haedong Younggungsa. This is a beautiful Buddhist temple located a bus ride away from Songjeong Beach. Apparently most Korean temples are located on mountains so this one is unusual as it is set next to the sea. When you arrive at the temple site, you will see a line of vendors'stalls. Then there is a row of statues leading up to the temple's main gate. Walk down the stairs and you will see more statues and a lucky red bridge to your left. Stand on the bridge and listen to the noise as the incoming waves throw the stones around on the rocks below you. The main temple buildings are to the right of the stairs. As you cross the bridge to the main temple buildings, you can join the locals in trying to toss a coin into the bowls the statues are holding up in the gully below. There are two golden pig statues and a laughing golden Buddha as well as a statue of the goddess of mercy within the temple complex. The temples beautiful wooden buildings are decorated with paintings of dragons and Buddhas.

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Haedong Younggungsa.

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Haedong Younggungsa.

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Haedong Younggungsa.

We also took an hour long cruise to the Oryukdo Islets from Haeundae beach. The trip is at 18000 won per person but it's fun. As the boat sets sail, it is surrounded by hungry seagulls as passengers frequently feed these birds. Some parts of the trip were a bit like starring in a Hitchcock movie. On the trip you'll get good views across Dongbaekdo Island at the end of Haeundae Beach, Diamond Bridge at Gwangalli Beach and the Oryukdo Islets. There are 5 or 6 islets depending on the tide. They are large lumps of rock sticking out of the sea. They are uninhabited but popular with people fishing. One island has a lighthouse.

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Cruise to the Oryukdo Islets.

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Cruise to the Oryukdo Islets.

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Cruise to the Oryukdo Islets.

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Cruise to the Oryukdo Islets.

We went to visit Beomensa . This is a 1300 year old Buddhist temple and located on Mount Geumjeongsan. I found the setting of the temple very beautiful. There were lots of forest trails around it. The walk up to the temple from the bus stop takes you past lots of stone pillars, some are longevity pillars with tortoises at the bottom, others are covered with inscriptions. The first building and the pagoda are quite beautiful but unfortunately the area they are set in doubles as a very busy car park which spoils it a great deal. Through the main gate of the temple there is a bell tower and many shrines. I liked the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil Buddha statues. This temple is worth visiting just for its setting.

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Beomensa.

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Beomensa.

We also enjoyed visiting Taejongdae. This is located at the tip of Yeongdo­gu Island which is connected to the Nampodong/ Jagalchi area by bridge. When we arrived at the park, we saw many people lining up to take the miniature train round the park. We decided just to walk. You can go off the main path to the right and take a boat round to the lighthouse, cliffs and rock formations. There is also a pebble beach off to the right. We did not visit either of these. The walk to the lighthouse is quite long, always uphill and with few sights. You will pass a small temple and the observatory. From the observatory you can sometimes see one of the islands of Japan. It was not clear enough to do this on our trip. When you reach the lighthouse, you go down lots of steps. There are lovely coastal views and you can see some of the weirdly weathered rocks that line the coast. These are worth seeing. If you don't fancy the walk you can get here on the miniature train.

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Taejongdae.

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Taejongdae.

We took transport to Geumjeong Fortress On Mount Geumjeongsan. There is not much of this fortress left; just a few gates and some stretches of wall, but you can go on an enjoyable cable car ride with good views over Busan to get here. When you get off the cable car (6000 won return) there are various paths through the forest that you can follow. We were lucky enough to be here in autumn just as the trees were looking their best. Directions: Oncheongjang Station exit 1. Go left and cross at the green man, go left, you'll come to a major road on your right with a sign post for Geumjeong Park. Walk down this road for about 15 minutes to the cable car (ropeway).

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Geumjeong Fortress.

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Geumjeong Fortress.

We visited the Seomyeon area of Busan in the evening. It is filled with lots of shops and restaurants. Roads are lined with bright neon signs. We enjoyed having a look at the many food carts. We had a very good, very cheap meal in one of the restaurants near the food carts. The restaurant had an English menu and clearly marked prices. Unfortunately the name of the restaurant was only written in Korean, so don't know what it was called! Also visited the Lotte Department Store in this area. We loved the food hall. The sales assistants are into hard sell and call out to the passing customers making it more like a market than a food hall.

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Seomyeon area of Busan.

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Seomyeon area of Busan.

We walked to Yongdusan Park. This park is in the Nampodong Area. It is also the site of Busan Tower. As we were here on a hazy day, we did not go up the tower, but on a clear day it should provide good views over the harbour. There is an escalator from street level up to the park. There are good views from the park. The park has a pavillion ­ Balkagjeong Pavillion, a floral clock and a statue of Admiral Yi. This is a pleasant place to stop for a picnic lunch. There are some exhibitions at the foot of the tower. When we were there, there was an art exhibition and an exhibition on model boats. The street at the bottom of the escalator had some fun statues. There is a small temple off to the left about halfway up the escalators. Busan theatres and walk of fame is nearby, though we did not go there. Directions: Subway to Nampodong. I think we took exit 10. It's marked on subway walls which exit to take and the park is sign posted just past the exit. Go up the escalator.

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Yongdusan Park.

We visited Gwangalli Beach And bridge at night to see the diamond bridge lit up. The bridge is very beautiful and slowly changes colour. The buildings lining the beach are brightly lit and turn the sea many colours. It is well worth a look. There are several restaurants and bars in this area. Directions: We took the subway to Gwangan Station exit 3. Turn opposite direction when you come out of the exit, then walk down the first road on your left. It is about 5 minutes walk to the beach.

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Gwangalli Beach And bridge.

Overall I thought the people in Busan were lovely. Very few people speak English, but they still go out of their way to be friendly. We had the driver and several passengers go out of their way to make sure we got off at the right stop and headed the right way when we visited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. In Yongdusan Park I found an old lady's walking stick in the toilet and returned it to her. I was almost cuddled to death in gratitude. On one bus ride a man changed seat so my husband and I could sit together. Koreans don't hassle you, but if they can help, they will.

Busan was also very easy to get around. The subway in Busan is very user friendly. The ticket machines have an English language option. A day ticket cost 3,500 Won. Stations are sign posted in English. There are 3 subway lines and interchanging is easy and straight forward. Download a map off the internet before you go and you cannot go wrong. Exits list sights and bus routes in English.

Buses in Busan were easy to use. Pay the driver on entry. We paid a flat rate of 1000 won per person per trip. No idea if this is correct. It was the price of our first journey and we just stuck to it. We were never asked for more or given change so assume it was OK. Subway stations will indicate where bus stops are located. One strange thing was the front of the buses indicated the stop they were arriving at rather than the destination, so it helps if you know the number and destination in advance.

Posted by irenevt 05:43 Archived in South Korea Comments (2)

Sensational Seoul.

South Korea 2008.

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Visitors in traditional clothes at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

We have been to Seoul twice. Our first visit was in winter. There were a few scattered patches of snow; it was very cold; taking our gloves off to look at the map was very unpleasant; the sky was brown; the buildings were brown; all the trees had shed their leaves. We explored tourist sights on our own without many other tourists. We enjoyed it but would not visit in winter again. Highlights of this trip were lunch in the revolving restaurant in the Seoul tower and a day trip to Suwon.

Our second visit to Seoul was in October 2008. It could not have been more different from the first visit. Autumn colours, lots of activity, people in traditional dress. We visited palaces, temples, watched shamanistic ceremonies, criss-­crossed Seoul's new stream, strolled around markets. We loved it.

One thing both visits had in common was great food and drink. Plus very helpful, friendly people. Our favourite things about Seoul were as follows: it is really easy to get around on the underground; it has excellent food and drink; there is lots to see; it has friendly helpful people (though not much English is spoken); there is lots going on; we saw lots of traditional clothes; Seoul was an interesting mix of modern and traditional.

On our first visit to Seoul we lived in the very posh Hilton Hotel which overlooks Mount Namsan so it was the very first place we explored. The first time we visited we walked up, stopping for refreshments in the little cafes, purchasing coffee from the machines, passing shrines and historic look out posts.

We enjoyed watching people playing traditional Korean games near Namsan Tower. We revisited by cable car later and ate lunch in the revolving restaurant. The food was excellent and good value, plus there were great views.

On our second visit to Seoul we revisited the tower by bus. The revolving restaurant seemed to have increased in price. The whole place was busier than before. We ate sausages in a restaurant at the foot of the tower. We visited the teddy bear shop and had a look at all the padlocks people had attached to the rails for luck. I would recommend Mount Namsan for its views, walks in green surroundings, places to eat and hustle and bustle.

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Mount Namsan.

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Traditional games.

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More traditional games.

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Cable car up the mountain.

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Me in the revolving restaurant.

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Padlocks are everywhere.

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Teddy bear shop at the tower.

Namsangol Hanok Village lies at the foot of Mount Namsan. It is made up of five traditional Korean wooden houses. There were people wandering around in traditional Korean clothes. Brides and grooms come here for their wedding shots. There were some displays of traditional craft and people playing traditional Korean games. The grounds of the village also include the Seoul Millennium Time Capsule. To celebrate Seoul’s 600th anniversary as the capital of Korea, 600 typical Korean items were buried here and are not to be opened until November 29, 2394, which will be the city’s 1,000th anniversary. I look forward to going to that.

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Namsangol Hanok Village.

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Namsangol Hanok Village.

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Namsangol Hanok Village.

We also visited the Biwon Secret Garden on our first visit to Seoul. It was necessary to go round on a guided tour ­unfortunately. It was pretty, but winter is not the best time to visit a garden. I did, however, like the frozen pond. I would go back here in a different season. Spring or autumn would definitely be lovely. The gardens are the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace.

Changdeokgung Palace means The Palace of Prospering Virtue. It is at times referred to as the East Palace. It is said that Changdeokgung was the favourite palace of the many kings of the Joseon Dynasty. The secret garden of biwon has many pavilions, ponds and woods.To get there: Take subway Line 3 to Anguk Station

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Biwon Secret Garden.

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Biwon Secret Garden.

When I was researching for our second trip I came across pictures of a fairly new attraction ­Cheonggye Stream. I was not over interested as it was just a stream and its surroundings looked concretey and artificial, but to our surprise when we visited we really liked it. The stream was at one time badly polluted and covered over by an elevated roadway. As part of an attempt to beautify Seoul the stream was cleaned up and the roadway removed. Walkways were build along each side of the stream. When we arrived at the stream, we found a large proportion of Seoul's population had headed there, too. The walkways were lined with families, business men, groups of friends and young lovers out for a pleasant stroll or sitting down to a picnic lunch or simply taking a brief nap and enjoying the sunshine. Several bridges cross over the stream and at various points you can cross by leaping over paving stones. The locals were so excited by this prospect that we watched several people, mainly children, fall in and get rescued. Points of interest along the stream include man made waterfalls, fountains, plastic flowers with giant eyeballs in their centre, a water powered gramophone repeatedly playing the same note over and over again and a display of brightly coloured stripy umbrellas suspended over one area of the stream. This is a pleasant spot to bathe your feet in the cool water and watch the world pass by.

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­Cheonggye Stream.

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­Cheonggye Stream.

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­Cheonggye Stream.

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­Cheonggye Stream.

A second outing we enjoyed was a visit to Inwangsan Village located one stop past Gyongbok Palace on the underground. This village is famous for its shammanist temples with their brightly coloured wall paintings. At one point these temples were located on Mount Namsan but then they were banned during the Japanese occupation and secretly relocated to Inwangsan. The village is reached via a steep hill with a brightly coloured temple gateway. One of its temples is famous for its large bronze bell. We were fortunate enough to see a shamanist ceremony in one of the temples during our visit. Attracted by the music and chanting, we watched from a distance as the shaman repeatedly changed her brightly coloured robes and swirled around waving brightly coloured pieces of cloth. We didn't go too close as we did not want to be a nuisance and this turned out to be a wise move as part of the ceremony involved hurling handfuls of rice and eggs through the temple doors much to the delight of the local bird population which swooped down on them within seconds. This area also has several oddly shaped rocks and small rock carvings of Buddha. There is also a section of restored city wall winding up the mountains which looked interesting but on this occasion we did not have time to follow it. This area is well worth a visit.

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Oddly shaped rocks.

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Shamanistic Ceremony.

After that we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. This palace was one of the highlights of our second visit to Seoul. There was just so much going on. We began by watching the changing of the guards ceremony just outside the main gate. You can watch this without paying the palace entry fee if you want. The ceremony was carried out in traditional costume. Inside the palace they were rehearsing for the anniversary of a huge historical examination. More traditional clothes. In addition during our visit they were filming a TV show here. Traditional costumes and music. Also people are paid to wander around in traditional clothes re-enacting scenes from palace life. As if that were not enough Koreans dress up in their own traditional clothes to have their photos taken here. There are some lovely buildings and a beautiful pagoda on an island set in the midst of a scenic pond. This palace was constructed in 1394. It was the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910). It was founded by King Taejo and is the grandest of all five of Seoul's palaces. Make sure you see the imperial throne room of Geunjeongjeon or Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, which stands on forty-­eight granite pillars towering over a lotus lake. Other highlights include the tall pagoda of the National Folk Museum of Korea and Hwangwonjeong Pavilion, which sits in a beautiful pond. You can get a great photo of this pavillion and its reflection. To get here: Take subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station and proceed to Exit 5. The palace grounds are open from 09:00~18:00 (March ~ October) and 09:00~17:00 (November ~ February). Gyonegbokgung Palace is closed Tuesday. Admission is 3,000 won.

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Changing the guards.

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Changing the guards.

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Re-enactment of Palace Life.

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Making a TV show.

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Making a TV show.

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Pavillion.

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Pavillion.

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Throne Room.

We also visited Tapgol Park. Tapgol Park is a crowded city centre park. It is not so green, but has some interesting historical sites. Tapgol Park is built on the former site of Wongak Temple which was destroyed at a time when Buddhism was being repressed. In the late 19th Century John McLeavy Brown, an Irishman working in Seoul, suggested that a park be built here. Tapgol Park was the first modern park in Korea. It was opened to the public in 1913. It was in this park on March 1st, 1919 that the Declaration of Independence was recited. This event marked the start of the independence movement against Japanese Rule. In the park there is a tower with the 1,762 word declaration of independence inscribed on it in English and Korean. it is protected by a glass cover and cannot be viewed well. There are also statues of the independence leaders such as Byung Hee Son here. Near one corner of the park there were many people playing chess. Tapgol Park is open everyday year round from 06:00 – 20:00. Admission is free. To get there take line 1, 3 or 5 to Jongno 3 (sam)­ga station and leave via exit 1. Head straight. Or take line 1 to Jonggak station and leave via exit 3 and head straight.

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Chess players.

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Protests outside the park.

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Plaque.

Near Tapgol Park we visited Insadong. Insadong is a neighborhood in the center of Seoul. It has wooden tea houses, boutique galleries and street vendors selling traditional snacks. There are many souvenir shops here. Parts are pedestrianised on Sundays.

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Insadong.

Near this area there is an interesting arty area sometimes called the area between the palaces. This area had views, wooden houses and art works dotted around. It was very pretty.

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The area between the palaces.

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The area between the palaces.

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The area between the palaces.

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Art in Seoul.

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The area between the palaces.

We visited Deoksugung Palace on our first trip to Seoul. It is right in the centre of the city. Some of the palace buildings are traditional Korean, others are European. Deoksugung Palace originally belonged to Wolsandaegun (1454~1488), the older brother of King Seongjong (1469~1494) of the Joseon Dynasty. On passing through the main palace gate visitors will cross a stone bridge. During the Japanese invasion of 1592, all other palace buildings were destroyed by fire so King Seonjo (1567­1608) established a temporary residence here. King Gwanghaegun (1608­1623), his successor, named the palace Gyeongungung in 1611. Deoksugung Palace is the only palace in Seoul that also contains western style buildings. Seokjojeon is one of the western­ style buildings that remain in Deoksugung. It was built by a British man. Then in 1905 the property rights of this building were transferred to Japan. This building was completed in 1910. At one time Seokjojeon was a Japanese art gallery open to the public. When Korea became independent, the American ­Russian joint commission was held here in May 1946. The east wing of Seokjogwan building now houses a Palace Treasure exhibition, and the west wing is part of the National Modern Arts Center. Opening Hours: Closed every Monday. Open from 09:00 – 21:00. To get to Deoksugung Palace take line one to City Hall Station and leave via exit 2. Or take line two to City Hall Station and leave via exit 12.

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Deoksugung Palace

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Deoksugung Palace

Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs Museum Shrine was built in 1967 on a site where many Korean Catholics were killed in a series of fierce anti­-catholic persecutions which took place between 1866 and 1873. The Shrine­ Museum contains historical documents and photographs. In total there have been over 10,000 Korean martyrs. 103 of these were canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. This canonization ceremony which took place in Seoul was the first ever to take place outside the Vatican. We enjoyed looking at the shrines and statues. We got here by underground.

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Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs Museum Shrine.

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Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs Museum Shrine.

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Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs Museum Shrine.

We also visited Bongeunsa Temple. Bongeunsa Temple is located to the north of the COEX building. It was built in the 10th year of Shilla King Weongseong’s reign (794). 3,479 Buddhist scriptures are stored here. The Buddhist ceremony Jeongdaebulsa, is held here every September 9th. During this ceremony monks march while carrying the scriptures on their heads and reciting the Beopseongge (Buddhist rites). We enjoyed looking at the beautiful paintings on the outside of the buildings. There was also a huge statue. A Buddhist ceremony filled with chanting monks and worshippers was taking place as we left. Open: 03:00~22:00. Admission Free. Directions:Exit Samseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 6. Go 600m forward, and turn left.Then go 150m forward, and cross the road to arrive at Bongeunsa Temple.

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Bongeunsa Temple.

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Bongeunsa Temple.

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Bongeunsa Temple.

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Bongeunsa Temple.

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Bongeunsa Temple.

We also visited the Seolleung Royal Tombs. The Seolleung Royal Tombs house the burial mounds of King Seongjong (1469­1494), his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong (1506­1544) of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 - ­1910). The burial mounds are surrounded by small sculptures called Japsang. These are carved in the shape of animals and were believed to exorcise evil spirits. The king's burial mound is surrounded by sculptures of sheep and tigers. These act as guardians for the dead King. The queen’s tomb is simpler, but it also has stone sculptures. The area around the tombs is green and wooded. People come here to relax and enjoy nature.

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Seolleung Royal Tombs.

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Seolleung Royal Tombs.

Seoul has several excellent night markets. We visited the Namdaemun Night Market. We especially enjoyed all the bustling food stalls.

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Namdaemun Night Market.

On our first visit to Seoul we did a day trip to Suwon on the underground. We found people here really helpful. At the information stand near the station they wrote me down bus information, gave me maps and free postcards. None of them could speak English but they called out to passers­by until someone who could speak English came to help.

We walked from the station to Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress. We walked right round the fortress walls. We were the only people there. It was peaceful and pretty. The fortress has stretches of wall, gates, a picturesque pond and a bell tower. Hwaseong Fortress was built by Jo Sim­tae. He was the county governor of Hwaseong. The construction of the fortress was based on the theories of fortress design of Yu Hyeong­won and Jeong Yak­yong, scholars of the Practical School. The fortress is made of stone and mud bricks. The construction of the fortress was completed in 1796. Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Cultural Heritage at the 21st General Meeting of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, held in Naples on December 4, 1997. Before leaving Suwon we had an excellent Korean BBQ meal.

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Suwon .

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Suwon .

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Suwon .

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Suwon .

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Suwon .

The new international airport is far from Seoul, though you can get to the centre of Seoul easily by public transport. As we arrived late on our second visit, we stayed in the part of Incheon one stop away from the airport. There are lots of hotels, restaurants, shops here. There was also a pleasant walk over a recreation area where people dried food in the sun.The trees in this area were beginning to turn pleasant autumnal shades. We were stupid enough to think it would be really cool to book a Korean style bedroom in the hotel here. Actually Koreans sleep on mats on the floor. It was so uncomfortable. We also had a tiny bath. Koreans sit on a raised platform in the bath and shower themselves rather than sitting in the dirty water like westerners do. Plus everything in the room was worked by one remote control with Korean characters. We had no idea how to use it and accidentally put the room lights on a timer. They came on repeatedly all night. It drove us crazy. One thing we found astonishing about this room was that the fire escape was a rope you used to abseil down the burning building. Thank God there was not a fire. When we checked out next morning we passed a normal western style room and almost wept that we had not booked that.

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Korean Style hotel room.

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Hotels near Airport.

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Hotels near Airport.

I don't know if it really is traditionally Korean or not but on our first visit we stayed in the Hilton Hotel. It was winter and the grounds of the hotel were decorated with things made of straw. Some were very pretty.

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Straw Craft.

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Straw Craft.

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Straw Craft.

Posted by irenevt 02:06 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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