Art, architecture, history, travel

Four Days in Korea 1979

Thursday Hong Kong/Taipei/Seoul

Another transfer day. Left Hong Kong at 8:50 and got to Taipei at 11:00 am. We did the impossible. After we left Hong Kong our plane stopped at Taipei Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport. Distance from Singapore to Seoul about 3000 miles NE. The time change is one hour.

Chiang Kai-Shek Intl(TPE) in Taipei the capital of Taiwan. PRC AND Taiwan on the same trip. It is supposed to be forbidden to visit both China and Taiwan on the same trip but we did it. Saw the waiting lounge of Chiang Kai-Shek Intl Airport(TPE). Arrived in Seoul; 13:30. Same day.  Although it is really only the communists who care. They consider Taiwan to be their sovereign territory even to this day.

Things to do in Seoul the capital of S. Korea National Assembly Building Seoul. Blue house. Great south gate (Sungnyemun Gate). Seoul is now the world’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. Mexico City is third at just under 20 million. New York City is fourth.  Seoul has the same subtropical climate as Japan with cold winters and about fourteen hours of daylight in the summer with sunrise at 5 am. Seoul means capital in Korean.

The Russian Empire lost its entire fleet in the straight of Korea in the war with Japan in 1905. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 until 1945 when the Russians took over the Northern half and left the South to the west making Korea the divided country it is today. There has never been a peace treaty signed ending the Korea War. Germany has been reunited, since 1989.

People we met at the airport asked if we had visas. We did. If not they were prepared to issue them on the spot. They wanted to know if we were Mormons or military when we said neither they were very impressed especially that we had come to Korea on our own just to see it. We had chosen Korea over the Philippines. They couldn’t believe we were three brothers traveling together on our own. Korea was not a popular destination for backpackers at the time. This is the second time Mormons have come up on the trip.

Did some sightseeing: City hall, Toksu palace and the Plaza Hotel. Had bolgogi for dinner, a traditional Korean dish—brazed meat marinated and cooked right at the table. Another traditional Korean dish spicy hot kim chi. Made from cabbage. Every family has is own recipe. They even have little refrigerators to store it in. I had it for breakfast one day. I don’t recommend that. accessed 9/6/09

Saw the famous restaurant of snakes. Right in the window hundreds of black snakes crawling in a basket. Fresh, pick the your own and they will cook it right there on the spot for you. The heart is the choice part. accessed 9/5/09

The next day I went to have a traditional Korea breakfast. Unable to read the menu I just pointed to what the other men were having. It turned out to be some kind of alcoholic beverage at 8:00 in the morning. CULTURE SHOCK I was so horrified the owner took it back and didn’t charge me a thing. I thought I’ll try anything once but I can’t drink this first thing in the morning, YUCK! Soju accessed 8/4/2009

Talked to a very nice man at the tourist agency. We are staying at a Yokwan, a Korean style inn—no beds just mats. It is very nice. They serve Bori cha(보리차) or Korean barley tea in the room. Served chilled, very refreshing on a hot day. It has a nutty flavor.

Friday Seoul

Today we toured the major palaces of Seoul, starting with Changdok Palace in the morning and the secret gardens. A wonderful addition to the palace is the beautiful Forbidden Garden, the private garden of the king that was closed to the public. The former residence of the emperors of Korea, members of the royal family still live in parts of this palace. Home of the Chosun dynasty.

The secret garden is Korean style—resembling that of the English. Natural style, hills, wild and woodsy.

Met an American-Korean family at the palace, whom we joined for lunch. A man and his teenage daughters from Minneapolis. He tried desperately  to instill an appreciation in Korean culture and history. They were more interested in talking to the three of us .Then went to Kyongbok palace and the national museum. The collection ranged from Neolithic to Silla to Yu dynasties. Some of the pieces were on loan to a Museum in San Francisco. Tried to see President Park’s residence, the Blue House. Got through all the security but still couldn’t see it.

President Carter is coming to Korea soon on a state visit June 29-July 1. Park Chung-hee 박정희 朴正熙 He was assassinated by a trusted aide in October that same year (1979) Got the official friendship cigarettes from one of the guards. Didn’t have dinner. Packed for the trip to Kyong ju.

In the ancient Silla Dynasty lasted almost one thousand years (57BC – 935AD).

Saturday Seoul/Kyong ju

Left Seoul for Kyong ju the capital of the seventh century Silla Kingdom It took 4 ½ hours by train and cost W2700.

Took a bus tour to most of the important monuments. Saw several burial mounds, the local museum, star tower, pagoda and the Emille bell.

It was a good tour. Most of the monuments were reconstructions of structures from the 8th century. Even saw the tourist resort, complete with golf course.


Seoul Great South Gate Sungnyemun

We’re staying in another Korean Inn. Had Chinese food for dinner. There was a power failure at 22:00.

Sunday Kyong ju

Spent the morning at the Bulguska temple, a beautiful reconstruction of an 8th century temple. One of the best things of the trip.

Also went to the Sokkuram grotto shrine. A large Buddha carved in granite and placed in the grotto of the mountain.

After lunch we went to the Kwaenung tombs. Similar to other tombs, but here the stone statues still remained.

During the long walk back to the inn about 8 km we stopped at a brewery that made Korean rice wine. The lab technician showed us around, answered our questions and gave us a sample. I was more prepared this time than with the Soju.  accessed 9/11/11

 Gyeongju Gyodong Beopju (경주 교동법주)
Gyeongju Gyo-dong Beopju (경주 교동법주)Gyeongju Gyodong Beopju liquor has been brewed for many generations by the Choi family living in Gyodong, Gyeongju. This 300 year old alcohol was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset no. 86-3 in 1986. The liquor is brewed using glutinous rice and does not have any added chemicals. Its alcohol content is about 17% and the end product is a clear transparent liquor that is yellowish in color.
Like many grain-based types of liquor, Beopju’s unique sweetness spreads fragrantly inside your mouth. The main characteristic in Beopju’s brewing process is that after making the base liquor, it is then put through a second fermentation process. Thus, it takes about a hundred days to brew, and bottles that are available for sale have generally been matured for over a year.

Monday Korea/Japan

Today we transferred to Tokyo. See now let’s get to Japan.


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