Trip to Busan (II)

Last weekend we went to Busan. This is the second time I have been to this city (first time was when Annika and Tanja were here), the second biggest in South Korea after Seoul. This time I could go to the Geumjeong Mountain, and visit its Beomeo Temple (범어사), on the north of Busan and where you have a very nice view of the whole city of Busan. Unfortunately the day we went to the top it was raining, so besides ending up completely wet, we couldn’t fully enjoy the view because of the fog. Anyway I hadn’t spent such a nice weekend (going to the mountain, beach, dinner and partying with friends…) since I lived in my beloved hometown Fuengirola.

Fire show in a bar in Busan.

Pablo studying the mountain before going to the top.

At Beomeo Temple.

At the North Gate (북문), on the way to the top of the mountain.

Already at the peak (around 800 meters high), with some Korean friends we made on the way up (in general people in Busan are more open than in Seoul maybe because it’s a southern city with sea where people tend to go out more).

View of Busan at night, from the roof of our building.

Korean “princess” with high heels and mini-skirt Haeundae Beach. This beach is also famous for being one of the most crowded beaches in summer. Besides, given that many Koreans are scared to death of the Sun, this beach also has the Guinnes Record to the beach with the most umbrellas. When we asked our hostel owner about this beach, he said it was a very good beach, but it was already closed… Yes, the beach “closed” on august 20th (it’s kind of hard for me to understand how you can possibly “close” a beach), so from that date Koreans just stop going to the beach and you can only see foreigners there. Obviously when we went to the beach we could swim without a problem and the temperature of the water was just perfect. “Closing” the beach just means that they remove the umbrellas.

We also ate sannakji (산낙지) for the first time. Sannakji is very easy to make. Basically, you just take an octopus (alive), chop it into pieces, add a little sesame oil and species and eat it just like that, while the pieces of octopus are still moving. Another experience to add to the one of eating grasshoppers in Gumi.

And to wrap off, a very nice sunset in Busan 🙂

Trip to Shanghai

Shame on me for uploading the post with the trip to Shanghai with almost two months delay… but well, here is the result:D

We were lucky enough to visit Shanghai during Chinese New year, which is always celebrated some day between January 21st and February 21st (this year it was on februray 7th), depending on the lunisolar calendar.

The result was just awesome. Being the country of gunpowder you can imagine how Chinese celebrate their New Year… in China, not only can anybody buy a firecracker, but they can also buy true loads of gunpowder, children, adults… the point is to make noise, the more the better. As a sample of this, take a look at these videos, taken on New Year’s midnight in any street of Shanghai:

As for the city, Shanghai is full of contrasts, even more than Seoul. As soon as you leave the Bund, which is the “rich” area where all the skyscrapers are, the impression is sometimes that of going back in time like thirty years, poverty, ugly buildings, dirtiness…

I had the chance to meet other two ICEX interns, Alberto (Ho Chi Minh) and Javi (Hong Kong) also on a trip, as well as the local intern, Quique. You can also take a look at their posts about Shanghai (here, here, here, here, here, here y here) much more elaborated than mine (I’m sorry, but my days need more hours…).

Also, I could spend some days with Azusa, a friend from my American days with whom I also spent some days when I went to Japan, and who finally decided to join us in Shanghai. Tanja, also came with us from Seúl as part of her vacation period.

In the subway, from left to right, Alex, Ciro, Carlos, Itzíar, and Jairo.

The typical picture, with the Bund and its Pearl Tower on the background. It was a little cloudy, as it is usual in Shanghai (we were very lucky that it didn’t rain indeed).

One of the communist-oriented commercials that Adidas released for the Olimpic Games. (More of this series at el blog de chinochano.)

The almost-finished Shanghai World Financial Center on the left (492 m.) and the Jin Mao Tower on the right (421 m., although it looks taller becaouse of the perspective). Once finished, the first one will be the tallest building in the world (not including antennas).

Decorations for the New Year in the Old Town. Being New Year’s it was a national holiday, which explains why the lots of heads 🙂

Next to the Old Town, there was the Yuyuan Garden, one of the most popular gardens in China. This is one of its lakes.

The Old Town with lighting.

Having dinner with Azusa.

We also went to Zhouzhuang a city one hour by bus from Shanghai also known as the “Chinese Venice” (in spite of the evident differences…).

Azusa and Tanja. I like this pic:)

You can see all the (many) pictures from the trip here.

¡Happy Year of the Rat!

Trip to DMZ with North Korea

Also with Tanja and Annika, we went to visit the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea.

On the way from Seoul (the bus decoration is priceless:P).

You can only vistit the DMZ with an organized tour. We took the whole package, which included a visit to the Third Tunnel of Aggression, Dora Observatory, Imgingak Park (where left my winter jacket!), Dorasan Station, and (undoubtedly the most impressive place) the Joint Security Area, located in the village of Panmunjeom (판문점).

The first spot was the Third tunnel of Aggression, dug by North Koreans with the intention of surprisingly attack Seoul and discovered by South Koreans in 1978. You have to wear a helmet while you are going down the tunnel, as it’s really narrow at some points.

Going down the 3rd tunnel with Carlos.

After that, we visited Dorasan Station, the closest train station to North Korea. Although the station is brand new (it was restored not long ago), you can’t see any passengers, since the only trains crossing this station to and from the north are those taking materials to the industrial complex in Gaeseong.

“Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North”. Hope some day this become true.

Next to a train at Dorasan Station.

With the security guard at the station.

Also, we went to Imgingak Park, where we met some Korean schoolchildren who had come in a kind of organized trip.

Schoolchildren on a school trip at Imgingak Park. On the background there are messages that South Korean families leave for their relatives in the north with the hope that some day they can read them.

From Dora Observatory you get a good view of North Korea. You can see some North Korean villages and the people living there. Unfortunately, at this place pictures are not allowed, so I can only show you a picture of ourselves.

At Dora Observatory. From left to right: Pablo, Annika, Manolo, Jairo, Alex, Carlos, and Ciro.

After the Dora Observatory came the most interesting part of the tour, the visit to the Joint Security Area, or JSA. We visited the place where the Poplar Tree Incident took place in 1976, almost initiating a war because of a tree. We also saw the bridge of no return, where prisioners of war were exchanged with the north (they call it like that because prisioners who crossed the bridge would never be allowed to return).

South Korean soldier in the room where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed (literally on the border with North Korea).

This was the only soldier watching the border on the North Korean side.

South Korean side of the JSA.

Bridge of no return.

The document everybody has to sign before visiting the JSA.

Overall, the tour is a bit expensive (110,000 KRW), but worth taking it if you visit South Korea. During the tour, rules are strict. You are supposed to dress formally (although I went with a dark training suit and they didn’t complain) and at some points you can’t take pictures.

Trip to Busan

Recently I got a very nice visit. Annika and Tanja came to South Korea and we spent several days toghether. I met Annika and Tanja while I was studing at Indiana State University in the US.

The first place that we went to was Busan, a city in the south-east corner of South Korea, which is popular for its nice weather, fish, beaches, and loud people (just like Malaga!). We spent two nights in Busan, from friday to sunday, and stayed at a youth hostel which was actually an appartment that a guy owned and he rented rooms for backpackers.

I found Busan very similar to Seoul, but with beaches and warmer weather. Appart from that, lots of people (3.7 million in total, and almost 5 thousand people per square kilometer), and lots of buildings everywhere.

The most remarkable spots that we visited were the Jagalchi fish market and the Yonggungsa Temple.

Haeudundae beach is also very popular and it gets really crowded in summer. A girl who is from Busan told us that in summer this beach gets so crowded that you can’t even see the sand, just people everywhere…

At a bar, from left to right, Manolo, Alex, Annika, Ciro, Tanja, and Pablo.

Annika and Tanja.

Yonggungsa Temple.

Yonggungsa Temple (another view).

Haeundae Beach.

Busan at night.

Korean “Ayuma” at the Jagalchi market.