Trip to Ganghwa Island

Soon after the North Korean bombing to the Yeonpyeong Island, we decided to take a trip to another island also very close to North Korea, Ganghwa, and see in person the situation there after the bombing. The truth is that we were surprised to see so few soldiers in the area, specially taking into account the situation of maximum alert in the whole country.

Screen shot 2010-12-23 at 4.09.46 AM
Map of the geographic location of the island. The white dotted line is is border with North Korea. The distance between the island and North Korean territory is about one and a half mile.

They say that around fifty percent of dolmens in the world are located in the Korean Peninsula. One of the tourist attraction of Ganghwa is this dolmen, the biggest one in Korea, measuring 2,6 x 7,1 x 5,5 meters.

This picture shows a completely deserted scene, with a fence and an empty gard post, the only South Korean defence against the communist threat.

Another cheerless scene.

This guy is one of the few soldiers we could see during the whole trip.

One of the empty guard posts, right in front of some North Korean hills.

One of the many bunkers available all over the island.

A trench with its (closed) window. The distance from here to North Korean land is only one mile and a half.

These two tanks are in exhibition at the “Peace Observatory”.

At the ground floor of the Peace Observatory there is this room with an exhibition of pictures and notes left by visitors whishing the reunification of the two Koreas. Unfortunately this reunification seems more unlikely every day…

Trip to Camotes and Cebu, Philippines

During the Korean Chuseok, we have spent nine days in the Philippines, specifically in Camotes Islands, Mactan, and Moalboal, in Cebu Island. Some days off that have been perfect to disconnect from work and come back to Korea with my batteries fully loaded.

It seems that we happened to go during the low season, which is a bit rainy. But because of the low season, we had the chance to be a little more on ourselves (at some resorts we were the only clients), enjoying cheaper prices, and luckily enough, it only rained during some nights, although so strongly that rain even woke me up.

As soon as we landed in Cebu, we took a cab to North Bus Terminal. From there, we took a 40 minutes bus ride to Danao Port, from where we took the ferry to Camotes Islands.

Camotes Islands is a group of four islands on the east of Cebu. We were only in Pacijan Island, where among other stuff, you can visit this cave (I forgot to write down the name, I can only remember that it was at the north) which has a lake with crystal-clear water where many locals come to swim far from the burning heat in the island.

The island was quite peaceful (maybe too much), there are several resorts spread all over the coastline, but there wasn’t any area with restaurants and/or bars, so it is basically not worth it to leave your resort. Also, because of limitations on the electrical generator in the island, everyday there is a power cut from 6 to 7 PM, meaning that the whole island is completely dark during one hour.

San Miguel beer, one of the many good things that the Philippines gave us Spaniards 🙂

Jiwon, who is used to live quite far from the sea, had a great time looking for crabs.

The only thing that brought work to my mind was the constant feeling of having a Windows desktop background image in front of me.

To go back to Cebu City, we took a jeepney from Danao Port to the city (a true adventure). On the way we could see the true Cebu, which is more than wonderful beaches. I got the feeling that Cebu City is still quite far from being a developed city, and chaos was in every corner of the city.

After that, from Cebu City, a bus without air-conditioning would take us to Moalboal city. It was an over five-hour trip, during the night, and including a stop to fix some problem in the bus’ gearshift system…

When we arrived in Moalboal (after 10 PM), the first thing we did was finding a place to stay overnight. Next morning, this is what we found 🙂

Moalboal is a quite well-known city among divers. We only did some snorkeling, but still we could see some turtles like this one.

During our last night in the Philippines, already in Lapu-Lapu, near Cebu Airport, we could glaze at Philippines’ sky for the last time. Such a sky is impossible to see from Seoul.

Trip to Hong Kong

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong, a city which is famous for its awesome skyline, shopping malls and cheap electronics 🙂

When you arrive in Hong Kong, the first impression you get is that of a developed city, but still with many characteristics typical of China. I thought Seoul was a city of contrasts, but in Hong Kong contrasts are much, much more exaggerated.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and you can feel that just seeing some of its apartment complexes, true swarms of people.

Of course, one feels proud seeing Spanish brands so far away from home 🙂

The sea is one of the things I miss the most in Seoul. It definitely gives any city lots of life, and mixed with a great skyline… it’s just a perfect place to stay.

Hong Kong is also popular for its martial-arts movie stars like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. Here is Bruce Lee star.

The view from our hostal was probably the worst I have had to deal with, but it was cheap, the room was clean and there was hot water, so we decided to just keep the window shut.

During my trip to Hong Kong, I could meet my friend and former internship colleague Javier, also known as Chicharrero por Hong Kong. He also visited Seoul not long ago.

It seems that they also eat Jamón in Hong Kong.

Filipino women gathering on their day off. There are around 140,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong. Most of them are women who came to work as maids or nannies. On sundays, they gather together near Statue Square to socialize. We could see groups of Filipino women doing all kinds of cultural activities, traditional dancing, praying, playing cards… not a bad way to spend your day off.

Indonesians in Victoria Park. In a similar way to Filipino servants, there are also many Indonesians in Hong Kong. We could also see their gathering place, and I can assure that there were many, many of them.

But probably to see the most impressive Hong Kong, you have to see it during the night. The skyline, the lights, the life of this city made us forget how tired we were after walking around all day long.

The skyline light show takes place every night from 8 to 8:15 PM. It is recommended to get there in advance, as there are a lot of people and it is not easy to get a good place to see the show.

Street markets in Hong Kong are quite similar to those you can find in Seoul, selling all kinds of fruits, some of which I had never seen before.

Jiwon and Nuria at a street market near Central.

Hong Kong street market.

Awesome view of Hong Kong from the Victoria Peak.

View of  the Bank of China Tower at night, undoubtedly one of the most representative skyscrapers of Hong Kong.

During our last day in Hong Kong we decided to visit another attraction of Hong Kong, the Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha, located in Lantau Island.

Nuria and Jiwon in the cable car that goes to the Big Buddha.

We were not very lucky, and happened to go on a very cloudy and foggy day, so we couldn’t see the Buddha from very far away, which is one of the best sceneries.

Jiwon with the Big Buddha.

Udo Island

Udo is an island located at about 10 minutes by boat from Jeju Island. It is a very small island (6 sqare kilometers) inhabited by around 1,700 people who make a living from tourism (mainly Korean) and fishing.

mapa udo
Udo Island location.

From Jeju Island there are ships going to Udo very frequently. It is possible to take your car if you rented one, but given the size of the island, I wouldn’t recommend it.

With Shienna, already in Udo.

View of the coast.

Pablo ready to rock on his quad.

The most fun way to see the island is on these quads (ATV) that you can rent for 40,000 KRW (20 thousand per person). It is also possible to rent a bike for only 5,000 KRW.

Despite being a very small island, Udo has some of the most beautiful sceneries I have seen in South Korea.

The quads made seeing the island a really fun experience. In the picture, from left to right, Luis, Manuel, Marta, and Juan Carlos.

The island’s beaches are not made of sand, but volcanic rocks like these.

Another thing that seems funny to me is that Koreans from the islands look quite different from those from the peninsula. These two brother and sister are a sample of this (don’t miss the boy’s earrings!).

Jiwon in an artificial beach made with white coral.

The owner of one of the many restaurants in the island, seeing how many people we were, and how hungry… did not hesitate to take us to his restaurant on his pick-up.

And after seeing the island, here is our reward: sea urchins and all kinds of raw fish for lunch 🙂

Trip to Jeju Island

All Koreans are so proud of this island. And truth be said, they can be proud of it. Jeju is a volcanic island of about 1,800 square kilometers located down south of Korea. Now that I have visited this island, I regret I didn’t do it before, and almost for sure I will go again next summer 🙂

mapa jeju

Jeju has many characteristic things, nice people, fresh fish, black pig samgyeobsal, you name it. Also, on the island, a kind of Korean dialect is spoken. Even though the do use Hangeul as writing system, this language is so different from Korean that not even Koreans from the peninsula are able to understand it.

Hallasan soju (soju is the Korean national drink) is undoubtedly the best I have ever drunk. In Seoul it is quite difficult to find it, and even I heard that it is forbidden to sell it in Seoul since some local soju brands complained about it (I don’t know if that is true or not, but what is clear is that Jeju soju is quite better than that from Seoul).

The Seongsan Ilchulbong, o Sunrise Peak for foreigners. It is a crater that during sunrise is considered one of the most beautiful scenes you can see in Korea. You can see much better pictures than this one here.

From Jeju you can take this ship (you can take your car if you rent one) which in about ten minutes will take you to Udo, another island even smaller and prettier (I will talk about this island in the next post).

Jeju is also the preferred destination for many in-love and just-married Korean couples. When these couples travel, it is a must to wear these couple-t-shirts.

Jeju’s black pork is delicious! One of the things that makes it different from the samgyeopsal you can eat in Seoul is that in Jeju it is eaten with the skin.

Of course, we couldn’t leave the island without livint its nightlife. Thanks to Shienna and one of her uncles, we could go for free to one of the biggest clubs I have ever been.

In our last day in Jeju, we went to eat pheasant, another typical meal of Jeju. This is the restaurant where we had lunch. Like most restaurants in Korea, you have to eat on the floor and with your shoes off.