All posts by Florentina

I am Media Student from Berlin, voulenteering in the student organisation AEGEE-Berlin and most important addicted to travelling. I love exploring new cultures, experience other live styles, meeting people from all over the world and exchange stories.

Burned money in Vietnam

I learned why people burn money, bought a Lottery ticket and took a motorcycle tour which ended literally in hell.  Furthermore, I visit Russian holiday paradise Nha Trang and learned more about egg spas.

Da Lat is the capital of Lam Dong Province and carries the nickname “City of Thousand Flowers”. It is seven hours away from Saigon by bus, although it’s only around 300 km (186 miles) away. I took a sleeping bus over night. These busses are actually quiet comfortable (at least in my size) with padded leather seats which recline to around 80 degrees, on two floors. I was actually happy that I caught a seat on the bottom but there are actually safety belts on every seat as well. The feet go under the chair of the person in front of you which allows you to strech out your body, just moving around seems a bit difficult. But back to the ride. The next morning at 4.45 we arrived in Da Lat and the driver woke us up by honking and shouting. Oh man, I really wished I just could stay in my bed – but no chance.

DSCN0308In the beginning, I was actually quiet disappointed from Da Lat. All the nice sightseeing spots I herad about were not in the city but in the hinterlands and the public transport is not sufficient. I know many people rent a scooter and drive around. But I never drove a scooter before and didn’t drove a car for a few years. Maybe not the best time to start with it again, Vietnamese traffic is crazy ;).
Funny thing, in the end, I kind of coaccidently booked a motorcycle tour. Acutally, a man asked me if I’m interested doing a tour. But it was 30$ for places I didn’t want to see, so he started haggeling. I know, here people can be really persistent if they wanna sell you something. But in the end he acutally offered me a really good deal, the places I wanted to see for less money. Perfect!

Just one last thing was difficult. According to him, he was part of a really famous motorcycle company in Vietnam. But his papers looked really unprofessional and to be honest I was really not sure if I should take the ride. But luckily the concierge of my hostel – Tabe – also did some tours for that company and recognised my tour guide. I was really happy and the tour could start.

 
 
 
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Crazy House
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What means heaven and hell in Buddhism?

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In the next morning my driver picked me up from my hostel. Unfortunately,  I don’t know his name, cause when I asked him he just answered with ‘Yes’. I believe his English is as good as my Vietnamese. Our tour started at a tabaco shop on the street where he bought some cigarettes. He asked me a few times in a row if I also want a cigarette and in the end we were smoking together – I also didn’t want to be rude.

DSCN0186Da Lat has a few nice spots to visit as the different waterfalls, which are definitely one highlight, but also architecture and temples. For me an absolutely must seen is the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. The buildings there are designed with help from little mosaics made of broken pieces of glass and porcelain which make it unique and really pretty. The temple was built in 1949 and finished around three years later. The temple is ornated with different kind of dragons which are everywhere. Some crawl up the pillars, some just sit on the little roofs or frame the temple. The longest dragon is 49m long and is made out of 12,000 bottles.

DSCN0245I took a lot of time to explore all the ways and hidden corners, followed the spiral stairs and walk around the roof, notice all the little details and ornaments, visit the main hall with the golden Buddhas and different monks made out of wax. Next to the Pagoda is a room with different wooden furniture, a souvenir shop and heaven as well as hell. In one room are more wax figures of monks in green light with nature around, in the centre are three statues of Buddha. To complete these idyllic picture music boxes played the sound of a wood and the spalshing of a stream. But downstairs waits the hell guarted by an ox and horse with red flimmed eyes. Me and DSCN0255another guy (his girlfriend was to afraid and wanted to wait outside) went the stairs down and folowed a small labyrinth which gives an impression of the idea of the Buddhism hell. There were different scary scenaries behind bars which showed skeletons or human figures tortured by demons. The music boxes in the corners played a mixture of human screams and demonic laughter. Even if it was kind of surreal to me and remembered more to a ghost train in a theme park (and I really don’t like ghost trains), the thought that this scenario could mean the reality to beliefers made it in some ways even worse.

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Burn your money

At my last day in Da Lat I found a 100 US Dollar banknote on the street. Of course, my first thought was that it will be fake money but just in case I had to take it with me. I showed the banknote to the concierge of my hotel. Tabe was in my age. He laughed and said “No one can be that lucky and find a real 100 US Dollar banknote on the street.” (Two weeks later in Cambodia I had a real 100 US Dollar banknote in my hand and had to admit the fake was really obvious). Finally, he explained what the matter about the fake money is. In Vietnam and also other East Asian countries people sell and buy fake money (Joss paper) and burn them after someone dies. It is a way to send money to their ancestors for their after life but also to show respect to the dead ones. – And of course no one would ever burn real money.

Another thing I was really curios about were the little colurful papers which older women sell in the streets. When I asked Tabe about it he didn’t know what I was talking about. So there was no other way then to buy one of the papers. The woman laughed a lot when I bought the little ticket which made me even more courious. When I showed it to Tabe he explained me that I bought a Vietnamese lottery ticket. The jackpot are 2 billion VND (ca. 86.000 USD) and Tabe meant I could buy two houses and one car from that money – but yeah of course my ticket didn’t win ;).

Egg spa and Religion – Nha Trang

My stop in Nha Trang was more by accident than really planned. I wanted to go from Da Lat to Hoi An but the bus didn’t go straight. That’s why I decided to stay one night in Nha Trang. The city is full of tourists, especially from Russia. Nha Trang is directly at the seaside and offers large beaches. So in my opinion this city offers less cultural spots but more relaxing places, water parks and spa for Tourists. A little bit extraordinary seems the egg spa. But just because of its name it does not mean that one swims actually in eggs. The pools there are filled with all kind of mud and minerals to take a bath in, peelings, tubs full of herbs and essential oils, and jacuzzis.

 
Po Nagar Cham Towers
 
 
 
 
 
 

DSCN0490I arrived in the evening and enjoyed a relaxed night at the rooftop bar at my hostel with backpackers from all over the world and free beer. The next day, I started a sightseeing tour around the city with Dave from Canada. My day in Nha Trang was very hot but cloudy and grey – so not really the perfect beach day. But a little walk along the seaside was still one of our plans. We had a small list of spots we wanted to see, mostly religious buildings. The most famous spot is probably the Po Nagar Cham Towers, a Hinduism memorial site from around the 8th century made of sandstone. In the end of the day I ended in a inspiring photo gallery with impressive black and white photos of Vietnamese people. And thanks to a translation app I could ask a seamstress on the street to repair my bag. In the evening, my bus was leaving for the next stop – Hoi An.

A few minutes in North Korea – JSA & DMZ

The borderline of Korea is one of the best-guarded ones in the world. Between peace and freedom village, blue houses, soldiers, conflicts and secret tunnels lay a tourist attraction between North and South Korea.

Korea was over 35 years the colony of Japan before it got independent in 1945 after the Second World War. But only a few years later the Soviet Union and the United States divided the country into South (Republic of Korea) and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) in 1948. Two years later North Korea attacked the Southern part during the Korean War (1950-1953) which recessed the separation. Afterwards, the countries worked for a peaceful reunification which did not occur until today.

JSA and DMZ

Since I was more than four months in South Korea, of course visiting the borderline of its only neighbour country was on my bucket list.
The DMZ is the Demilitarized zone, four kilometres long and de facto the borderline of North and South Korea. In 1953, both countries signed an armistice agreement which says that soldiers are not allowed to cross the line and do not attack each other.

“Don’t worry the man in the back is here to protect you!”

JSA is the abbreviation for Joint Security Area and is directly at the borderline. First of all, we got an introduction to the JSA and it’s mostly Don’ts from American soldiers, who are still based at the border from South Korea. Actually, before I went on the tour I already got a whole list of clothes which are not allowed to wear at JSA. Forbidden are shorts, ripped jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops or also sportswear. They really pay a lot of attention that North Korean soldiers don’t find a reason to feel provoked.

First, we crossed the freedom house in rows of two on the South side. Our tour guide led us to one of the blue houses. These are conference rooms who are used by the two Korean countries to negotiate with each other. In the middle of this room is a long table who markers the exactly borderline. The room has two entrances, one on the South Korean side, one on the North side. A Korean soldier guards the door to prohibit that North Koreans can enter the conference room. Tourists are allowed to go on the other side of the table. Yeah, I was at least for five minutes in North Korea. The American soldier who guided our tour told us that the people on his side of the table are still in South Korea – and save. But we others would not need to worry, the soldier on the door would protect us. To be honest, I wasn’t worried before he told me this. But this sentence really emphasized the seriousness of the situation. It feels kind of surreal. The poor Korean soldier next to the North Korean door was our favourite background motive for the next twenty tourist photos. But he looked really so cool with his sunglasses (all South Korean soldiers were sunglasses – and yes, even if the sun isn’t shining).

Souvenirs from North Korea

North Korean Soldier

We were only allowed to take photos from the North Korean side with the Panmun-gak (the building of North Korea) but not from the Freedom house on the South Korean side. This is kind of ironical since I heard that you can also visit JSA in North Korea. There it’s only allowed to take photos from the South Korean side. Along the blue houses stand the soldiers from North and South. At which the North Koreans mostly hide in the building. But we were lucky and could see one North Korean in front of the other building. I used my zoom to take a look at some North Korean soldiers. It felt a bit crazy to stand there and observe them. But the American soldier assured us that they also observed us from the other side and made probably some photos from us. – Weird thought.

After the visit of the directly borderline, we went to a small museum and a souvenir shop. There you can buy souvenirs from North Korea. They sell different things, among other things also money and alcohol. I bought an old 100 KRW banknote with the face of Kim Il-sung on the top, the father of Kim Jong-un, the actual leader of North Korea. I heard that if you visit North Korea you never get the North Korean money but pay everything in US Dollar to your guide who pays for you in the local currency. So it is really interesting that you can buy North Korean money here in South Korea.

Panmunjeon and Bridge of No Return

Former Panmunjeon was a village in Korea. Today there is the inter-military complex of JSA. Almost 65 years ago North Korea, China, and the UNO signed the armistice agreement to end the Korean War in 1953. The building where the agreement was signed is still preserved and today stands in a province of North Korea. The borderline and JSA kept the name and is still called Panmunjeon. Close to Panmunjeon is also the Bridge of No Return which is a bridge between the two countries and has its name from the former Korean War. The bridge was used to exchange the prisoners and prohibit them to return ever in the other country.

Freedom vs. Peace

View to the Peace Village

A few people still live close to the border. On the South Korean side is this the village Daeseong-dong, also called freedom village. There live mostly farmers who already lived there before the Korean War or are directly progenies of the former residents. The village also has its own school. The inhabitants profit by special benefits as the exempt from taxes. Soldiers guard them and they have a curfew which forbids to leave their houses after 11pm. On the other side in North Korea is the closest locality Kijŏng-dong, also called peace village. Our US-soldier and tour guide explained to us that they call it propaganda village because the houses would only be dummies and they do not believe that people would live there. North Korea claims that families live in the peace village and there would be also a health center, kindergarten, and schools.
In both villages are flagpoles. After South Korea built its flagpole, North Korea also built one. This flagpole was higher and until a few years the highest in the world.

German history meets Korea

Our group also visited the last train station Dorsan in South Korea right infront of the borderline. Theoretically, Dorasan connects South Korea with North, practically, there are no trains leaving the station from here. But a big sign in the entrance hall says “To Pyongjang” and we could buy train tickets for around 1 Dollar. We also could go to the tracks. Our tour guide told us that the station was built to connect both countries in case of a reunification and could immediately send trains to North Korea’s capital. From this station, we could also listen to some music from North Korea coming out of loudspeakers. That felt really weird.

The station of Dorsan also represents some history. There is a piece of the Berlin Wall. On both sides are boards. On the left side with the dates of the German reunification (41 years, 4 months and 11 days), on the right side an electronic one which counts even in seconds the division of Korea. Our guide told us that they would stop the counting immediately if Korea would become one country again. A small wagon shows old newspaper articles and photos of the reunification of Germany plus some relicts from the former DDR (German Democratic Republic, East Germany). The German reunification reminds the visitors of the train station that also the reunion of Korea seems possible.

Peace and Destroying (3rd tunnel)

Also part of the DMZ-Tour is the visit of the 3rd tunnel. This tunnel was built by North Korea together with three other tunnels which cross the DMZ. In the beginning, they denied that they built them but the walls proof that dynamite blows up the earth from North to South. The 3rd tunnel was discovered in 1978. South Korea believes that North Korea built these tunnels to send their men fast to South Korea in case of another war. It is evaluated that around 30,000 soldiers could walk within an hour from North Korea to Seoul to start an surprise attack. But the tunnel was never finalised. The UN charged North Korea for breaking the agreement between the two countries.

We got a yellow protective helmet for visiting. First, we needed to go downstairs. The tunnel is around 70 metres under the earth and at some points so small that even I needed to move in my head.  Nowadays, the tunnels are blocked by cement blocks but visitors of the 3rd tunnel can walk forward until one of the blocks and look through a window until the next one. It was a weird feeling to walk in this narrowed tunnel system under the earth and so close to the border. South Korea believes that they are probably more than the four secret tunnels underground just they did not find them yet.

 

 

Daily Life in South Korea Pt.II

High-tech toilets, smileys which look like a butt, life jackets in water parks, funny holidays with black noodles and teaching videos in the metro, which show you how to use the escalator in the right way – that’s South Korea with part II. 

 

 

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Rarely items: tampons, sunscreen, and deodorant

That is actually a tip for whole Asia. Especially when you are “Westerner” you shouldn’t forget to bring tampons, sunscreen, and deodorant. Because it is hard to get and in most cases really expensive. Of course, I forgot my deodorant and had to buy a bottle in Korea. Funny thing, it was German deodorant. I was lucky and got a discount but still paid five times more than I would have paid at home. Most Asians don’t use deodorant since they supposedly don’t sweat as much as the rest of the world. Another thing you should know: the perfect beauty ideal is white skin in Asia (for Asians: the perfect beauty ideal in Europe is to become brown from the sun, I know really ironical). That is also a reason why you have whitener in many beauty products but also in sunscreen. Furthermore, the sun protection factor (SPF) is really high and the cream extremely expensive. You should be aware of it. So if you are more the type of “I want to become brown in my holidays” you should bring your own.

 

The silent place of Korea

Actually, that’s a German thing. We call toilets “stilles Örtchen”, what means something like a “silent place”. Nothing is more ambivalent in Korea as their toilets. On the one hand, they still have some really simple toilets with a hole in the ground and flush like they have almost everywhere in South East Asia (but then most times without a flush). On the other hand, they have this really luxurious toilets with an extra remote control. There you have different water flushes and shower. Once my toilet also had a button for water sounds what is really crazy, but also kind of useful. In some public places as restaurants or hotels, Koreans have extra toilet shoes for the general use.

 

Frodo, Ryan and Apeach – the first friends you’ll have

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Con and Muzi

I felt really often that Korea has from everything kind of his own company, product or version. Everything I bought seemed to be “made in Korea” what is really impressive how one country supports itself. Korea has also his own messenger app for cell phones to chat with friends. It’s called Kakao Talk and has its own smileys which are really famous here. You can also buy merchandise article from the famous Kakao Talk friends. There are seven and a half characters, a half because Con the small Crocodile is actually always stuck with Muzi. Muzi is a yellow radish in a rabbit-looking disguise and according to the official page was magically brought alive by Con – seriously, I’m not kidding.

Other Kakao Talk friends are the fashion-conscious cat Neo and the city dog Frodo (I believe the favourite movies of the creator of Kakao friends is Matrix and The Lord of the Rings), the choleric duck Tube and according to the creators a “stylish secret agent” called Jay-G, I would say it’s a bear with an Afro and sunglasses.

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Ryan – the lion as toy

Furthermore, there is Ryan, the lion, which looks (sorry Koreans) totally like a teddy bear. According to the creators, it is a lion without a mane. To be honest, I thought first that my Korean friends thought it is a lion since the “L” and “R” is really similar in Korean or actually for them it’s kind of the same letter. So when they say “Ryan” it’s more called like “Lyan” – but I took a look and unfortunately, the creator thinks really he drew a lion.

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Apeach

Oh yeah, and the last Kakao friend I want to introduce is “Apeach”. I think I’m not the only foreigner who thought (again, I’m sorry Koreans) that Korea has a pink butt as a smiley. But according to the creators, they draw a peach which actually likes to show its butt(s). But also the creators had to admit that especially the backside of this funny fruit reminds of something else than a peach.

 

Instructions in the subway – or how to use the escalator

I have the feeling Koreans really love to instruct others. A really good example is the videos on the screens of the metro stations in Seoul. There the government shows in little videos how to use an escalator in the right way – pay attention to your shoes, don’t run but use the handrail. Furthermore, you learn how to wash your hands correctly, what happens if you don’t buy a ticket, why it is important to pay attention when you leave the train (don’t hear music, sing and dance and fall in the gap between the  train and the kerb), what a pregnancy seat is, how to leave the train correctly or also how to stand on the train without being in the way of others. In my opinion, some of the videos are really funny but some also have a really important message as against suicide and for situations of emergency.

 

The secret of the fountain of youth Koreas

The last secret I share with you is the one about the fountain of youth Koreas. Many people think Koreans look in general younger as they are. Especially, Europeans and Americans think it is hard to estimate the age of Koreans. Okay, one of the reasons will be probably that Koreans are older in Korea than in (almost the whole) the rest of the world. In Korea age starts already by one when you are born and continues counting with every New Year after the Chinese calendar. This different system makes you one to two years older than you actually are in the rest of the world (of course, there are some exceptions in East Asia as parts of China, Japan, Mongolia or Vietnam).

By the way, the argument “I’m older” is a really important one in Korea and can help you in almost every conversation. Elderly people enjoy a really high reputation in Korea and have some advantages over young people. Besides, Koreans always talk really formal to older people.

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Kimchi

Furthermore, South Korea is really famous for its many beauty products as anti-aging-creams or also some plastic surgeries. But the mother of a friend told us she learned about the real reason by googling it. And Google says the secret of Korean women is the really healthy Kimchi which Koreans eat every day.

 

Click here to read part I:
Daily life in South Korea Pt.I

 

 

 

Daily Life in South Korea Pt.I

High-Tech toilets, smileys which look like a butt, life jackets in water parks, funny holidays with black noodles and teaching videos in the metro which show you how to use the escalator in the right way – that’s South Korea.

 

 

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I had the chance to live four months in Korea when I studied abroad. I already learned a lot about the huge differences between the Asian and Western cultures in my first week, or to be more specific between South Korea and my home country Germany. Here I want to share my experiences with you. Maybe you already went to Korea and find yourself in the stories. Maybe you are just curious, or you want to go and find one or another tip for your travels. If you’re Korean – you will see how I saw your country and what seemed funny to me (so funny I wrote a blog entry about it). Don’t take it too seriously because I love your country a lot.

 

Koreans love endings

Gu, Dong, Si, Gil, Do – Koreans use endings to describe places. First of all, it seems really complicated if you are not aware of the meanings. But if you know them, it is actually quite useful since it describes which places are “what”. The ending “do” markers the province you are in. South Korea has eight provinces and one special autonomous province. The ending “si” describes a city in this province. For example, the capital of the island Jeju has the same name as its island. In this case, Jeju-do describes the whole island as one province, Jeju-si is only the capital of the island.

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Jeju-do

Bigger cities have different boroughs with the ending “gu” (towns and the countryside have the endings “eup” and “myeon”) or rural districts “gun”. One level below is the district marked with “dong”. Villages are labeled with “ri”. Last but not least, is “gil” which tagged streets.

 

Special holidays

Koreans love to celebrate and give each other gifts. The biggest holiday is Chuseok (추석) which is equivalent to Thanksgiving and is a celebration with the whole family. The holiday is about three days and around autumn. Furthermore, Koreans celebrate a special New Year called Seollal (설날) after the Chinese calendar. This holiday is in the beginning of the year. Valentine’s Day is always on the 14th of February and a famous day in the whole world. In Korea, it is the day where women have to bring presents for their lovers. But Korea also has the “White Day” which is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It’s exactly one month later and at these days women get the presents from their partners. But Korea also has a special day for singles.

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Jajangmyeon

On the 14th of April, it is “Black Day”. All single persons wear black clothes and meet each other in restaurants to eat Jajangmyeon, Black bean noodles. Another commercial and unofficial holiday is “Pepero Day”. Pepero (빼빼로) are little sticks with different flavours as chocolate, berries or green tea. It is supported by the big company Lotte and celebrated on the 11th of November since 11/11 reminds to the pepero sticks.

 

Overnight in libraries

Since I studied in Seoul I already know Koreans are really diligent and have to learn a lot. Especially before midterm and final exams, the libraries are full of students. Some of them are so into their learning period they even sleep in the library. My friend accidentally stayed overnight in our library at my university. She didn’t know the doors close at midnight and since a lot of other students also stayed beside here she didn’t think of the closing hours. When she wanted to leave the doors were closed and she was forced to stay until 5 o’clock in the morning to get out of the library. The students told her that they stay by their own choices in the library to concentrate fully on their exams. If necessary, they take some naps or bring blankets to sleep overnight in the library to start learning early in the morning.

 

Free time in Seoul

If Koreans don’t study all night and stay in libraries they of course also enjoy some free time in Seoul. One of my favourite stories is my day in a water park in Seoul because I felt like I learned a lot about small differences that day. I went with three other friends to a water park in Seoul. We are all from Western countries, so for us, it was pretty in common to wear a bikini. The thing is wearing a bikini seems not so famous in Asia. In general, I also felt Koreans don’t wear low-cut tops (miniskirts are no problem). This is the reason why I felt a bit uncomfortable in my bikini. Most Koreans wore swimsuits made out of neoprene or long shirts. In general, I was really surprised how many people wore just normal clothes as jeans, shoes, sunglasses or shirts for riding a slide. I am pretty sure in Germany they wouldn’t be allowed to wear street clothes in a water park.
Another fact is that many Koreans (but also in other countries) can’t swim or aren’t the best swimmers. That is why many people also were lifejackets. Actually, that was another fact, why we attract attention. I wondered about the girls in the water park who wore nice makeup and lipstick. Because for me a water park wouldn’t be the spot where I would wear any makeup. But my Korean friend told me the water park is also a possible flirting spot so it is important to look beautiful even there. Furthermore, people had little transparent and waterproof pockets where they carried really expensive cell phones, makeup or credit cards. More stuff I wouldn’t bring in a water park so I really had to think about the difference. Another interesting fact is that in Korea it is totally fine to be naked in front of the same gender. In Germany, we have single changing rooms and most people would not show themselves naked not even under the public showers. On the other side, German television is more open showing naked people in movies or series. Whereas in Korea naked parts in movies and series are rare.

 

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A game place in Seoul

One other thing I really loved for our free time are the game places. There you find a lot of nice games you can play by yourself or with friends. Really famous is the Baseball game where the player plays the role of the Batter and hopefully hits a home run. Also famous are the machines with soft toys you have to grab in one shot with a crane to get the toy.

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Noraebang (노래방)

The most important free time activity is: Noraebang (노래방) – Korean Karaoke. It is a good opportunity to meet with friends and sing favourite Kpop music, but als hits from Japan and China and of course world hits in English. Every group gets its own room with big screen, microphones and party lights. Noraebangs are sometimes also a good opportunity to bypass the time until the first metro is running again.

 

 

Click here to read part II:
Daily life in South Korea Pt.II

 

 

 

222 days of Asia

Snorkeling with fishes, kayaking, Street Art, a lot of Buddhist temples, eating insects, public bath, vulcanos, motor rides, meditation with a monk, Full Moon Party, dolphins … 

 

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First of all, don’t get killed

“Oh, you really want to go to South Korea? That’s brave since North Korea has atom bombs and will for sure use them soon.”, “My uncle went to Cambodia but he died six months after this trip since he got cancer from there and the doctors couldn’t help him anymore.”, “I heard a lot of women get kidnapped in Vietnam.”, “Oh, you have really to pay attention. I heard a lot of stories where people got rob out in Indonesia.” Well, I heard a lot of stories like this when I told people from my plans to travel through Asia. I really don’t get why people can not just wish you a good time instead of trying to freak you out with the worst travel stories. Whatever, it couldn’t stop me and I’m glad I ignored most of the warnings and just enjoyed Asia.

Furthermore, a lot of – especially Asians – told me I am very brave because I travel on my own. But actually, I didn’t feel I’m brave at all at least not because of my travels. Nonetheless, there is a point where you need to overcome yourself and make the first step for your travel plans all by yourself. But fortunately, the curiosity was always bigger than any fear.  And in the end, most people were really friendly and helpful. I found people who hosted me, invited me for food or gave me a ride. It’s incredible and most places were not scary at all.

 

 

 

In 222 days I saw thirteen different countries. All started with my exchange semester in Seoul, South Korea in End of August. During my semester I traveled for four days to Tokyo, Japan and also visited different places in South Korea as the borderline to North Korea, the island Jeju, the second biggest city Busan and an island in a river – Nami Island. One day before new years eve I took a flight to Beijing and from there I started my travels through South East Asia – to Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapur, Indonesia and on my way back from Korea to the United Arab Emirates.           

But I will tell you more about all places piece by piece. So hang on and read about all my crazy, funny and adventures stories.

 

 

 

Tears in crazy Saigon

How I arrived in Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh-City) and realised I am a multi-millionaire. I learned about the Vietnam War, visited a theatre where puppets dance over the water and took a boat in the jungle.

 

 

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My flight was from Hong Kong to Saigon (Sài Gòn), or how it is called nowadays: Ho-Chi-Minh-City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh). DSCN9530Both names are still in common but the official name is Ho-Chi-Minh-City since the reunification in 1976, named after the further president of the Northern part of Vietnam. It is the biggest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million habitants and was until 1975 the capital of the Southern part of the country when Vietnam was divided.

My first impression when I arrived in Saigon was: The city is crazy. There are cars and especially motorcycles everywhere. The latter replaces the family van. Parents and three children fit easily on one motorcycle. It’s loud, it’s crowded and especially for a Westerner as me, it is confusing. When you want to cross the street there are often no traffic lights and if there are some there are still motorcycles which ignore it (They sell shirts in Vietnam with “Red means I can still go”). Especially Rush Hour is horror. People told me the trick – as pedestrian – is: Keep walking.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oops, I am multi-millionaire

One other overburden thing is the money. The lowest banknote in Vietnam is 1,000 VND (circa 0.04 US$), the highest 500,000 VND (circa. 22.18 US$). So when I first came to the bank I took 2,000,000 VND (circa 88.70 US$) from my bank account – I never felt richer. If it is your first time in Vietnam, the money could be probably a bit confusing. The banknotes are high, all notes are colourful but have the same person (Ho Chi Minh) on it. A nice idea is to install an app for currency translation to make sure how much money you spend for something. A helpful rule of thumb is around 20,000 VND are one US-Dollar. Don’t get into a rush by paying because unfortunately, there are people who try to utilise the situation and get more money from you by not telling you that you paid one zero too much or giving the wrong change. But do not worry you will get used to it pretty fast.

 

Tears at the Sightseeing Tour

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The Old City Hall

In my opinion, Ho-Chi-Minh-City does not offer so many Sightseeing-places. They have some nice buildings in the French colonial style as the post office (built by Gustave Eiffel the engineer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris), the Reunification Palace or the old City Hall with a little park and a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the front. All the places are nice to see but you can not really spend a lot of time there. I would recommend the War Museum and the Water Puppet Theatre.

The War Remnants Museum costs only 15,000 VND (circa 0.65 US$) and shows different photos, articles from newspapers and some videos about the Vietnam War (1955-1975). They tell some really TitelbildWMpersonal stories about different people who got killed in the war or even crueller through war crimes as massacres. People, who were born in the last 35 years (some of them are in my age or younger) and have to live with worst deformation of their bodies as consequence of the toxic of Agent Orange. But also of victims of the war who lost their legs and/or arms and who are top athletes or painters today. I have to admit that I had more than once tears in my eyes. Tears because of the incomprehension how so many people can protest all over the world against this war but can not do anything against it. Tears because of the never ending possibility of the cruelty of people in killing, destroying and torturing others which make me feel sick and so angry. But also tears for the hope the people in these stories can give you about living a successful and happy life whether they have to live with diseases.

 

 

Dancing puppets on the water

One other highlight was the Water Puppet Theatre to me. The 20170115_191108tradition of the theatre goes back until the 11th century and is from Northern Vietnam. The show in Saigon was around 45 minutes long, cost 200,000 VND (on a Sunday evening, circa 8.90 US$) and showed several little stories about animals and humans in the water combined with traditional live music, singing and sometimes speaking (in Vietnamese). The puppets are made out of wood with lacquering and dance, swim and walk through a small pool. The puppeteers are hidden behind a drop.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shipping through the dschungl

Many hotels and travel offices offer different kind of tours. Really famous are one-day-tours to the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi DSCN9796Tunnels. I decided to do former. Some agencies already offer group tours for 10$. The Mekong Delta is a region in Southern Vietnam. The Mekong is a huge river which extend over six countries: besides the Vietnam also China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I would guess most Mekong Delta tours offer a similar programme. We went to a little temple on our way and at the Mekong Delta we took a boat, tried some tea and domestic fruits. We went to a coconut farm, rode in a horse-drawn carriage and of course the highlight – taking a rowing boat along the different canals.

After a few days in Ho-Chi-Minh-City I went on to Da Lat in a sleeping bus – travelling while you’re sleeping, that’s a nice one.

 

 

 

Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II

After waterfalls, new fruits and a visit of the famous Seongsan Ilchulbong, I travelled to the Western side of the island. At the third day, I visited the Hallim Park and the Hyeopjae Beach.

 

 

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Day 3: Sea, K-Dramas and museums

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The Oedolgae Rock

At the third and last day of my trip on Jeju, I wanted to use my time to visit the Western side of the island. I met a Korean a day before and we decided to travel together. On our way, our first stop brought us to the Oedolgae Rock. From there one has a nice sea view. Different loop roads guide along the rock cliffs. The setting is really nice which is the reason why it is not surprising that this background was also used for some K-Dramas. In general, Jeju is one of the favourite places for shooting programs. Oedolgae Rock was also the setting for the K-Drama “Daejanggeum”. The TV series were broadcasted in 2003.

 

 

The second, really short stop, brought us to the “Jungmun Tourist Complex”. Here are several museums as Ripley’s “Believe it or not! Museum” which is a chain from the US and shows different curiosities, wonder of nature and records. Furthermore, there is a Chocolate Museum and a Teddy Bear museum. Visitors of the “Alive Museum” can make funny pictures and play with optical arts and  “Play Kpop” is a museum about K-Pop music with hologram- as well as 3D-concerts. But I don’t want to make too much advertise here. If you like museums, have a bit time and/or rainy days, this place is perfect for you.

 

At the Oedolgae Rock
 
 
 
 
 
Ripley's "Believe it or not - Museum" at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex" - already the building looks a bit crazy.
 
The K-Pop museum at the "Jungmun Tourist Colplex"
 
At the  Hyeopjae Beach
 
 
 
 
 

Hallim Park – palms, caves, and tropical birds

Hallim Park is named after its location near to the Hallim-eup. The park was founded in 1971 and is a famous tourist spot next to the popular Hyeopjae Beach. Hallim Park reaches almost 100,000 square meters and has many different gardens with plants, animals, and caves.

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Feeding the small parrots

After the “Palm Tree Avenue”, visitors can see the “Wild grass & Flower Garden”, the “Jeju Stone & Bonsai Garden”, the “Stone Exhibit Hall” and the “Water Garden”. The “Hyeopjae & Ssangyong Caves” are known as the only two-dimensional caves in the world. The “Jae-Am Folk Village” dscn9745includes several traditional houses. Visitors get the chance to feed small parrots, see beautiful peacocks and ostriches in the “Bird Garden”. Here some birds are also allowed to walk freely through the park. In the “Subtropical Garden” live different types of animals as turtles, snakes, and lizards. I liked that the birds had the chance to walk freely. But – and I don’t want to start a long and tiring discussion now- but I had the feeling that the terrariums in the “Subtropical Garden” were a bit too small for the animals. And I think that’s a pity because the gardens are really beautiful but, in my opinion, visitors can enjoy their visit so much more when they have the feeling that the animals feel well in the park (whereupon I also do not want to impute something).

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Besides the listed gardens, there are also smaller ones which are open in different months as the “Cherry Blossom Garden” in April. We dscn9618were almost three hours in the park, I really underestimated the size of it. The entry fees were 10,000 Won ( ~9$). I would recommend the park, it was really beautiful and fun to see all the plants and animals. My highlights were feeding the small parrots, the avenue with the little Grandfathers at the beginning of the “Wild grass & Flower garden”, but also the “Bonsai Garden” with little trees which were several hundred years old, the “Palm Tree Avenue” and the little houses of the “Jae-Am Folk Village”.

 

White sand beaches and clear blue water

Our last stop for the day brought us to the Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장). I already wrote in my last article about beautiful beaches with crystal clear blue water which look like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine. Yes, with this sentence I meant the Hyeopjae Beach on the Western part of Jeju. I don’t know how full the beach is in high season since we were there in mid of October. There were still several people relaxing at the beach. The coast is around nine kilometres long, has beautiful white sand and lava rocks. The water is for a long time very shallow when you walk in. I think swimming is only allowed with a life guard in high season.

 

Click here to read part I:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. I

 

 

 

Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. I

Three days in the vacation paradise of South Korea, the island of the little grandfathers, the hallabong fruit and beaches which look like they were stolen from a high glossy magazine.

 

 

Facts about Jeju

Jeju (제주, or actually Jeju-do, because the abbreviation “do” stands for province) is an island and the southernmost place of South Korea. Furthermore, it is one of the nine provinces of the country. The capital of the island has actually the same name, it is Jeju-si (“si” stands for city) or simple Jeju City. The island is built up of volcano rocks from the mountain Hallasan, which is with 1,950 m also the highest mountain in South Korea. The mountain is a dead volcano with a crater lake and located in the centre of the island. Nowadays the mountain and its environment are a national park. The island has subtropical climate and is a really famous vacation destination for Koreans. A few years ago, it was also the most popular place for honeymoon travels. Nowadays Europe is also a favoured aim for newly-married couples.

 

 

 

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From little grandfathers and new fruits

dscn9270Dol hareubang  (돌 하르방) is the Korean name of the stone figures which are everywhere in Jeju. Rather the word “dol” (돌) stands for stone and “hareubang” (하르방) for grandfather, so they are the (little) grandfather stones. And of course, they sell this little dscn9106sculptures also in any variations of souvenirs. Those versions remember me actually a little bit to the little trolls from the Disney movie Frozen. However, originally the figures are considered to be gods and should bring protection and fertility.

I think hallabongs and tangerines are the most sold fruits in Jeju. dscn9510Hallabong is a variety of mandarin and orange. The more widespread name of the fruit is “dekopon” and it is a hybrid fruit. But in South Korea, the fruit is named after the mountain Hallansan in the centre of the island, where it is primarily grown. Besides the fruits, the markets also offer freshly squeezed juice, chocolate and pastries made out of hallabongs and tangerines. Also, popular fillings for chocolate are blueberries, green tea and cactus fruit.

 

 

Day1 : Seongsan Ilchulbong and U-do

Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산 일출봉) is one of the must-see sightseeing points. dscn9033It is a volcanic tuff cone formed by an eruption. Seongsan Ilchulbong is also called “Sunrise Peak” because it is located on the eastern side of Jeju, so the view of the sunrise is perfect. The ticket office opens one hour before sunrise. However, the public transport doesn’t run before 6 am. That was also my problem why I couldn’t see the sunrise at the peak. Seongsan Ilchulbong is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, beside the mountain Hallasan and the lava caves Geomunoreum.

dscn9184Close to Seongsan Ilchulbong is another small island, U-do (우도). The island was also created by a volcanic activity more than 2.1 million years ago. U-do is named after its shape which remembers reputed to a cow, that’s why it is also called “Cow island”. The island is easy to reach by ferry. Many Koreans feed the seagulls with shrimp crisps. Some of the birds ate them out of their hands, others caught the crisps the Koreans throw to them out of the air. The seagulls seem to like the crisps a lot. So if you want to see them from near you should buy one package in the convenience store and give it a try. Actually, it gave me the chance to make some good photos of the birds.   dscn9160
Many people also bring their (rented) car to the island. Though the island is much smaller than Jeju it is still too big to walk everything by foot (unfortunately, I speak from my own experience). If you want to visit the island and don’t have a car or don’t want to bring it, you should at least rent a bike or better a quad. Otherwise, you won’t have the chance to visit the real beautiful places of the island. If you don’t want to rent a vehicle I wouldn’t recommend a visit.

 

Seaside in East-Jeju
 
 
On the way to the Seongsan Ilchulbong
 
View from the peak of the Seongsan Ilchulbong.
 
The stairs to come to the Seongsan Ilchulbong.
 
The try to make a nice picture - but it was a little bit windy...
Seongsan Ilchulbong
 
Korean women sell fresh sea food.
 
 
From the ferry to U-do.
The famous cow of the island U-do.
Beach on U-do
 
 
 
U-do is famous for its horses.
 

Day 2: Many waterfalls around Segowipo

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Jeongbang Fall

Segowipo is the second largest city of Jeju and takes the whole southern part of the island. Near the centre of the city is also the Cheonjiyeon (천지연폭포) and Jeonbang Falls (정방폭포). I visited both falls at the same time. Unfortunately, it rained the whole day, as you will see in the photos. Most Koreans wore rain capes which are, in my opinion, really useful, but still you feel like seeing the Teletubbies everywhere ;). To visit the two waterfalls, you have to pay 2,000₩ (~ 1.82$) for each.

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Cheonjiyeon Fall

The Jeonbang Fall is the only waterfall in whole Asia, which falls directly in the sea. Furthermore, some ajummas (older Korean women) sell fresh sea food at the waterfall.  The other waterfall, Cheonjiyeon, is near by the Saeyeongyo Bridge (새연교). A loop road guides the visitors to the waterfall. You also see other smaller falls and can cross the river by using flagstones. The translation of Cheonjiyeon is “sky connected with land”, so the waterfall falls from heaven to earth. In warmer seasons there is also the possibility to go to the Donnaeko Valley (돈내코유원지) and swim in the clear water under the Wonang Pokpo Waterfall. The water is ice cold because it comes from the Hallasan Mountain.

 

The Soeyeongyo Bridge at the harbour of Seogwipo.
 
The Jeongbang Waterfalls
Korean sell fresh sea food directly at the waterfall.
 
On the way to the Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls.
A little Grandfather
 
The Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls
A Mandarin duck
 
 
 
 
 
At the harbour of Seogwipo.
 
 
The loop way around the birds island.
Big spiders in the coppices.
 
 
 
At the Donnoeko Valley with the Wonang Pokpo Waterfalls.
 
The harbour of Seogwipo
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Saeyongyo Bridge is at the harbour of Seogwipo and lead to the Saeseom Island (새섬). The translation is simple, dscn9236“Saeseom” means “bird island”. Saeseom has a warm temperate forest consercatiom zone. A loop way guides around the island and offers beautiful spots. But be warned, if you have a spider phobia this way might not be the best for you because a lot of big spiders (the body has the size of your thumb) live in the coppice around. But of course the spiders are not poisonous and actually also stay in their cobwebs, so don’t worry. The bridge is illuminated by night and the major tower, which is designed after a sail from a ship, changes its colours.

 

Click here to read part II:
Jeju – The vacation paradise of South Korea Pt. II

 

 

 

Traditional Korea

South Korea is still full of traditions and folkways. Seoul by oneself has five old King Palaces and different Hanok Villages, where the old Korean traditions are still alive.

 

 

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Hanok Village

The different Hanok Villages offer the opportunity to visit old traditional Korean houses, to take  a look at the architecture and also a look inside of the rooms. The houses are preserved from the past and more than 100 years old. dscn7868We were in the Namsangol Hanok Village. The entry is free. This village shows again the combination out of traditional and modern life in Korea, around the beautiful houses are skyscraper. I was really surprised, how small the rooms and houses were. At the entrance gates are everywhere warnings that you should pay attention because the gates are so low. Even for me, it was a problem (and I really don’t know many people who are smaller than me). The architecture is totally incredible and beautiful. You will feel like you travelled back in time. The location is so nice that also many fresh married couples come to the Villages to take their wedding pictures.

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Samul nori

In the village, they also had little straw huts which remembered to tipis. In the past the function of the straw huts were to keep the Kimchi (traditional Korean food made out of Chinese cabbage), I was told, it worked similar to a fridge. In the center of the village, they have small games. At one game you have to throw arrows in a vase. – Really not so easy. But if you succeed the reputation from all bystanders is safe. We were also lucky and watched an old traditional dance, Samul nori. I already wrote a lot about this traditional music and dance in my last post (click here to read the article My first week in Seoul). But this time they also had headgears with long white ribbons and when they moved their heads the ribbons danced around their heads. That was really pretty.

 

In the Namsangol Hanok Village
Girls wearing Hanbok
 
 
 
 
 
Dancers of Samul nori
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The straw hut for Kimchi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the village of Bukchon
 
 
 
 

Feel like a Korean princess

Hanboks are the traditional Korean clothes. In Korea, you can borrow these clothes and wear them. To borrow the clothes you have to pay between 10,000-20,000₩ (circa 9-18.20$). Depends on which dresses you want to wear and how long you want to borrow them. dscn8051One of the most important holidays in South Korea is Chuseok (추석), it is a family celebration. And at these days the whole city was full of Koreans wearing beautiful Hanboks. Chuseok means loosely translated autumn evening. It is equivalent to Thanksgiving and takes about three days.

 

 

 

King Palaces

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Deoksugung Palace

In the Joseon Dynasty Seoul had six palaces. Today five of them are still preserved: The Gyeongbokgung (the biggest), the Changdeokgung, the Deoksugung, the Changgyeonggung and the small Unhyeongung Palace.  In my opinion, visiting a Kings Palace is a must-see in South Korea. The entries are really low (between 1,000-3,000₩, ~0.90-2.70$), Unhyeongung Palace is for free. Also, the architecture here is really beautiful.

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Me with the Aekjeongseo Sayak (key master) and the Seungjeongwon Juseo (delivers the King’s orders)

The roofs are painted in vivid colours. Furthermore, the Gyeongbokgung and the Deoksugung Palace offer free little shows for tourists. There they show the changing ceremony of the royal guards. There you can see the different persons of the king guard and get a feeling for Korean history. If you are a big fan of the Korean architecture and palaces you should think of buying the “Integrated Palace Ticket” it offers the entry to four Kings palaces including the secret garden and the Jongmyo Shrine. The ticket costs 10,000 Won (~9$) and is valid thee months after purchase (you save around 4,000 Won when you use all tickets). Furthermore, people who were a Hanbok get always free entry.

 

 

The king guard infront of the Deoksugung Palace.
The main entrance of the Deoksugung Palace.
 
 
 
 
 
The colourful roof of the palace.
 
Western architecture in the midst of the traditional Korean houses. The Seokjojeon Hall, you need to register before if you want to visit the rooms.
 
 
The Deoksugung Art Museum
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The king guard march to the main Gate.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

My first week in Seoul

South Korea and Seoul itself are full of new experiences, differences in culture, language script, food and even the everyday life. It’s a country full of opposites. The new-age Korea with all of its high modern technic versus the old traditional Korea with all of its Palaces and Hanbok .. This post is about my first week as an exchange student in Seoul.

 

 

Facts about South Korea and Seoul

The official name of South Korea is Republic of Korea. The official language is Korean and the official script is Hangul. In 1910 Korea was ruled by the Imperial Japan and after World War II it was divided into North and South Korea. Since then, North Korea is the only borderline to South Korea. The capital of the Republic of Korea is Seoul. It is also the largest city of the country and the 16th largest city in the world. Circa 50% of the population from South Korea live in the metropolitan area of Seoul.

 

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My first week in Seoul

Finally, my semester in Seoul started. I arrived after 18 hours with a little stop in Abu Dhabi in Seoul with seven hours time difference to my home country. Lucky me, I hadn’t to fight with a jet lag since I am in Seoul and the weather is also very nice. Something between late summer and early autumn.

I am studying at the EWHA Womans university which is really beautiful and even a little tourist attraction in Seoul.  dscn7825Rents and especially deposits are really high in South Korea, which is why I am happy to stay in a dormitory (if you want to read more .. click here to read my post Curfew. Woman’s University. Visa. And lots of preparation.) The running costs for a living are really high in Korea what makes the country so expensive in the relation to Germany (and many other countries in the world). Also, the food prices in supermarkets and Convenience Stores are high, especially, fruits and vegetables (for example, 5 apples cost approximately 6,000 ₩, these would be 5.45$). In my opinion, some restaurants are not so expensive in Korea and I love that you always get free water and can refill it as often you like. The cheapest way to eat is properly the street food (you pay something between 1.80-4.54$). Also really in common is to order food. Even McDonalds has his own delivery service. At public places as Han River it is easily possible to get 40 flyers for different delivery services. But I will write an own post about food in Korea.

 

 

Learning a new language script

Hangul (한글) is the official script in Korea. Although it looks really complicated, it’s not so difficult to learn. My university book for Korean classes said it’s the 12th widely used language in the world and ahead of Italian and French (sounds unbelievable, I know).

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King Sejong who invented Hangul

Hangul was invented in 1443 by King Sejong, the fourth monarch during the Joseon Dynasty. The new language script should help ordinary people easier to write and read. Because before Hangul, Korean was written in Chinese characters. One says a wise man could learn Hangul in one day, a stupid man could learn it in ten days. I have Korean classes twice a week, so I learned Hangul in seven days ;). The modern Hangul has 24 letters and 27 digraphs. But also if you don’t speak the Korean language, especially Seoul has many English speaking people who will try to help you and the metro signs and the station announcements are also in English.

 

 

The view from my university to the city
On EWHA Campus
 
 
 
 
 
At the Han River (Hangang)
We got 41 flyers for ordering food at the Han River.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The City Tour Bus of Seoul
 
Soju is the most popular alcohol in Korea, one bottle of it is even cheaper than a can of beer.
 
 
The pavilion at the Namsan Tower
 
 
An underground museum explains the story of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sunshin. This statue shows the Admiral.
In the underground museum
 

Cultural Day in Korea

Since 2014 Korea has the cultural day every last Wednesday in the month.dscn7426 Then is the best time to visit museums and cinemas, because the cultural day offers discounts, sometimes even free entries and extended opening hours. Since I arrived in End of August, we have been using this day already to visit the Seoul Museum of History. The museum shows the history and culture of Seoul from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) to the present day. It represents the living of the people in Korea, also during Korea under Japanese Control until the late 90s.

 

Seoul Museum of Histroy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Samul nori – Traditional Korean Dance and Music

Samul nori is a genre of traditional Korean music and dances. Me and my roommate were lucky to see such a dance performed by Korean students at our university. Samul nori uses four different percussion instruments. They have a small gong (Kkwaenggwari), a larger gong (Jing), an hourglass-shaped drum (Janggu) and a barrel drum (Buk drum). The students were dressed in beautiful Korean dresses, called Hanbok. They had two students, which were dressed differently from the others. They had the small gongs and provided the rhythm.dscn7540 Some students from the audience ran to the dancers and clipped some banknotes under their hats. There was also a little ceremony in the beginning. We didn’t understand what they were saying (because it was in Korean), but one girl had a mask of a pig. Pigs count here as lucky charms. Some girls stand in a row, got something to drink, then they kneeled down and after standing up they gave some little papers to the pig mask. Perhaps they wrote down their wishes or something similar.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Namsan Tower

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Namsan Tower

The official name of the Namsan Tower is N Seoul Tower and it is one of the most famous attractions in Seoul. It’s a TV tower and has its name from the hill Namsan. When you go to Namsan Tower you can choose between using a cable car or many, many stairs. I would recommend the stairs because of the view. The tower is circa 237 meters high and gives a nice few over the city. For people which try to save money, I think it’s not absolutely necessary to get up the tower because the view is already really good from the bottom of the Tower. There is also one viewing platform which is adorned with many love locks.Actually, there is a little shop for love locks in the Tower.

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The view from Namsan Tower.

The entrance for adults is 10,000  (circa 9$), but the viewing platform is just inside and around the windows are many bright shining stalls which make it really complicated to make a good picture. I liked that the windows have flags from different countries which show how far away the capital of the particular country is. Nonetheless, it was a really nice view from the Namsan Tower and I didn’t repent to spend the money.

 

Deposit and free trips for foreigners

Why is it good to be a foreigner? South Korea is really interested in introducing their country to foreigners. They want to make K-Pop more famous in the world. So as a foreigner, you can visit some concerts which are especially (and actually only) for foreigners and (that is the best) for free.dscn7810
I was lucky to join a free trip to Jeollanam-do Provine deep in the South sponsored by the Korean government. It was a free trip also just for foreigners, two busses full of exchange students. We went to the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival and the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings (also a section with erotic paintings). But the best was the trip to the little island 가우도 (Ga-u-do). It is really near to the mainland and connected by a bridge. We saw fisher boats and at the beach were beautiful shells and tiny crabs.
Sometimes foreigners also get deposit for free time activities. So that is the reason why it is good to be a foreigner in South Korea.

 

Free trip for foreigners to Jeollanam-do Province in the South.
At the Great Battle of Myeongnyang Festival
Many stalls with food and spices.
Beondegi (번데기) is a typical dish for Korean cuisine. Beondegi are steamed and  boiled silkworm pupae.
The bridge with thousands of flags of the Battleship Festival.
 
 
 
 
Traditional Korean music
 
In the Korean Minhwa Museum with traditional Korean paintings.
The tiger is one of the favourite motives of the Minhwa paintings.
A modern Minhwa painting.
 
 
At the islands of 가우도 (Ga-u-do). One bridge link the island with the mainland.
 
 
Fishing in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
 
Tiny crabs between the stones at the beach.
 
And an important message in the end.