Petite France in Korea

Yes, in the Gapyeong County (province of Gyeonggi-do), at about two hours from Seoul, there is a “Little France” in Korea. We went there with my coworker. To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed with this place. First, when I heard “Petite France” I thought of a neighborhood with lots of French restaurants, French people… like a little China, little India or those places that you can find in some big cities. It wasn’t like that at all. To get in this place, you have to pay 8,000 KRW (around $6), and there isn’t really that much to see. Anyway, here are some pictures that we took so that you can judge for yourself.

The entrance to the little village.

This is one of the nicest places. This plaza with its fountain and everything was perfect for having a cup of coffee and feeling like being in Europe for a while.

In some houses, the had also little exhibitions, like this one, devoted to French marionettes.

Would you say this is Korea?

Another view of the village in the middle of Gyeonggi-do mountains.

Trip to the East Sea

For the Children’s day, we took a trip to the East Sea of South Korea. As opposed to the west side, where most of the beaches are just mud (as we could see during our trip to Oido), this coast does have actual beaches with sand as we know them. We decided to take this trip with an organized tour, which I didn’t like very much at first, but turned to be a very good idea and we got to see many places in just one day.

The first stop was the Odaesan National Park (in the Gangwon-do province). Being spring, everything was quite green and pretty.

The entrance to the National Park, inside of which there is also the Woljeong-sa Temple.

These two kids came with us during the whole trip. On Children’s Day (which is a national holiday in Korea) many parents go on trips with their children, and many families from Seoul choose the west coast.

Jiwon on a bridge with Buddha’s birthday‘s typical decoration.

All Buddhist temples have this kind of fountain where people can wash their hands and refresh themselves.

Another view of the lanterns on the bridge.

In Gangneung Station (강릉역), there is a train that goes all along the east coast. As opposed to other trains, in this one the seats are oriented to the windows on the sea side. This puppet was greeting children as they went onto the train.

And what could be seen during the trip? Well, at least during a great part of it, this is what you could see. A fortified coast with netting and guard posts. The proximity to North Korea can be felt specially on the coasts and on the North part of South Korea.

According to a sign, this North Korean vessel was intercepted when it was coming “too close” to the coast. Now they expose it as if it was a trophy.

One of the beaches without netting.

Even on children’s day, this poor kid had to work.

Basically, he had to watch that nobody got too close to the boat while the pushed it towards the sea with that forklift truck.

Yeoju Ceramics Festival

Some weeks ago we went to a county called Yeoju. It’s located in Gyeonggi-do, the province that surrounds Seoul. Yeoju is mostly know for its ceramics. And the reason to go there was the Yeoju Ceramics Festival, that takes place every year and was being held at that moment. Here you have some pictures of the event.

A sample of what you can see at the festival. All kinds of ceramics from tea cups to object I couldn’t even tell what they are…

One of the activities that you can do is ceramic painting. You can choose the object you want to paint and after paining it, they will finish the work (it has to be in an oven for some hours) and send it to your home for 10,000 KRW.

Right next to where the festival was being held, there is the Buddhist temple (called Silleuksa Temple). As Buddha’s birthday was close, it was decorated with lots of lotus lanterns. You can see this decoration at many temples and typical streets of Korea when Buddha’s birthday is close.

Another nice view of the decoration.

Children were also having a good time and taking pictures with their cellphones. It’s interesting that in Korea cellphones seem to have replaced compact cameras. People who really like taking pictures use reflex cameras. Those who really don’t care, just use their cellphones, which at daylight can get a very similar quality than that of compact cameras.

This buddha is what that child was taking a picture of.

The festival poster was flying in the air like this.

And of course, the mandatory group picture.

(Second) Trip to Tokyo

As I had to leave Korea in order to get my working Visa, we went to spend 5 days in Tokyo. Also to visit Jairo, Peque, and Satomi, whom I didn’t see since last year. This is actually my third trip to Tokyo, but still, this city is always worth visiting. Here you have some pics I took 🙂

Jairo is in Tokyo… and he has a scooter!!

One of the many impressive things in Tokyo is its absolute cleanliness. Here they were polishing the yellow lines on the subway station floor.

With Jiwon, Jairo, y Celia in an izakaya right under the Shinkansen railways.

Everybody knows that interest rates in Japan are not very generous… Well, it seems sales aren’t much better.

In Takeshita Street (Harajuku Station) it’s easy to find characters dressing like this (cosplay). This is also something you can see more and more in Seoul nowadays. Specially on weekends at the Hongdae area.

With Jiwon at Yoyogi Park, near Takeshita Street.

The day we went to see the Tokyo Tower was the only day the sky was clear, perfect for taking this kind of pictures. I don’t know why (pollution??), but in Seoul the sky always has a pale tone that makes it appear totally white in pictures 🙁

Right next to Asakusa Temple (a must-see spot for any tourist in Tokyo) there are these gardens.

Even though it’s still a bit early (festivals usually take place in late april), we would see some cherry blossoms in Ueno Onshi Park.

Another place I hadn’t been before is Odaiba Island. I recommend you to go at night, as you will be able to enjoy these views (if you go in winter on a windy day, be prepared to get cold…).

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Of course, we also went out at night. Here we are (from left to right) myself, Jiwon, Elena, Peque, Jairo, and Satomi at a bar in Roppongi.

On our last day in Tokyo, this is how the sky looked like (I didn’t use Photoshop in the picture). Surprisingly enough, it didn’t even rain at last.

Trip to Nami Island

Nami Island (Namiseom, 남이섬) is a Korean island on the river Bukhan (Bukhangang, 복한강) on the border between Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do (approximately one hour and a half drive from Seoul). Although this place is very popular among Koreans, and can be seen in most Korean dramas (specially in romantic scenes where the boy declares his love to the girl), it’s not usually visited by foreign tourists.

The island is small, but quite pretty, perfect to relax for a while and spend the afternoon walking around a beautiful scenery. Now there is a shuttle bus that goes directly from Insadong to Namiseom for around 15,000 KRW the round-trip (more info here), a bit expensive, but probably the most convinient way to get there for tourists, as it is not easy to get there by conventional bus or train (for instructions, check here).

The red star is where the island is located.

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With Jiwon, taking the ferry that took us to the island.

They sell all kinds of Korean souvenirs, from mirrors (a must-have accessory for any Korean woman) to musical instruments.

In the island you can also see performing shows. I really liked this one in which the artists mixed traditional Korean instruments and dance with modern techniques and styles.

One of the funniest restrooms I’ve ever seen. The walls were made out of soju bottles which had been previously melted down to make them flat.

These is one of the spots that always appears in Korean dramas. The trees change according to the season of the year (winter is not the prettiest one).

Another nice view of the montains surrounding the island.