March 25, 2010

Korean Diaries : A Beat Around Suwon

Yet another weekend off here in Suwon, and decided to check out the tourist places around within the city itself. The plan for the day included going to Namun Market and checking out a part of the Suwon fort. So soon after breakfast a group got ready to leave to this place.

Flagged down a taxi to take us to the Namun Market. Reached there in about 15 mins. Right near the entrance of the market was a huge gate, a part of the Suwon fort, which encircles the heart of the city if not the entire city and is an UNESCO world heritage monument. But apart from the fact that this encircles the city of Suwon there is nothing spectacular about it.
Just to the right of this huge gate (converted into a traffic circle :P) the wall takes a steep climb. We went along this steep climb in order to get a birds eye view of the city of Suwon. And as promised the view provided to us was good.Also we could see the fort wall snaking through the city.

Down we came and went towards the Namun Market. Now this was a traditional market and not malls,as one would expect whenthe word "market' is heard in these parts of the world. There were lots of shops selling traditional korean stuff and also the not so traditional stuff too. Prices were bargainable if you somehow manage to , since English is not spoken at all.The procedure of bargaining involves the seller typing his price in a calculator and we typing our prices .... and soon the bargaining begins.

[A View From The Top]

After a bit of shopping and roaming around we started to feel hungry. Now one would wonder with so many eateries strewn across the entire market , why not jump to one and have some "pet ki pooja"..... but seeing the menu we didnt have the courage to enter any of these eateries. The menu included, lizards, octupposes, and wat not.I think their eating concept is anything with four legs and above is edible :P.

[Namun Market]

So to be on the safer side we went to a known(by others) pizza joint to have a vegetarian pizza. Now the magic word here is "yaachi pizza", which translates to "veg pizza". Also one difference I found in these eateries were the bill came first before the actual food. This probably was to give us a hint that "If you cant pay this, get lost now only ":P. But to be frank the veg cheese pizza was one of the best I ever had . Delicious, soft and not at all chewwy as we find in the Indian Pizza joints.
[Fort Wall Snaking Through The City]

Anyway by this time it was evening we returned back to our guesthouse. Learned a new korean word while shopping, i.e. "Kamsa-midha", which means "thank you".

March 15, 2010

Korean Diaries : Korean Folk Village

On the second week of sight seeing here in Korea me and a group of friends(Rakesh and Girish) had initially planned to go Everland Amusement park, but the weather forecast showed the possibility of rain on the same day (and the forecast is pretty accurate in here, the only margin of error is sometimes as predicted it might rain instead of snowfall :P ). Since for the maximum enjoyment of such an amusement park requires bright sunlight, we decided to postpone the same and started looking for an alternative.

The first thing that came to our mind was the Korean Folk Village situated very near to the city of Suwon. We were ready to leave for this place at around 12 noon, already having our lunch. We took a bus for the folk village after walking 15 mins from our place, for the designated bus stop. (Bus no 37). The bus journey lasted for around halfan hour and by this time we reached the entrance of the Korean Folk Village.

Paying the entrance fee of 18k Won per head we entered the village. This folk village is built in order to show the urban people of Korea how the stuff was done in the older day's. And since they have no contact with the rural side (if at all any exists here :P) this amusement park tries to give them that rural, rustic picture and feel . Well for people from India this sort of experiences is nothing new and we have atleast some or the other relatives in villages. But atleast we were new to the korean rural areas, so that kept us going.

As soon as we entered and picked up the map for this place, the first thing that caught our eyes were the amusement facilities. So we started moving in the direction towards it. The amusement facilities are meant to be enjoyed just before exiting the village, but we had our priorities set :P. On the way we came across the world cultural museum. Here we there was museum home to the culture of nearly 12 countries. It had some popular countries like USA, China and some unknown countries like Papua Guinea. There were artifacts like clothing, food, housing etc i.e. the traditional ones and these were pretty good. But there was no section for India even though there was one for Pakistan and Afghanistan :(.

[Place of residence for mongol nomads]
[Tribal Mask From Papua Guinea]

After this museum we moved towards the amusement facilities. This area was very small and having around 5-6 rides at max. Also the rides seemed to have been installed in the 80's and the technology not have been updated. The first stop was the pirate ship swinging wildly. This was mildly thrilling and nothing new w.r.t. India. Next moved towards the bumper car, again nothing new here, but it is always fun bumping cars to one other :P. By this time it started to rain as predicted. Meanwhile we went for some roller coaster and some simulator(yaaaaawn :( ).

Went to some 3D theatre next and this was screening some 80's animation movie and it was korean. So for both visually and audio wise there was nothing to be taken inside. From there went to the sculpture park having sculptures created from artists around the world. Some were really weird and some were decent.

[With a korean couple in traditional clothing]

We got out of the amusement park section and moved towards the actual village. The village was pretty picture some in the present weather with a small river cutting the village at the centre. There were a number of village buildings in terms of schools, village townhouse, village heads house etc. Next we entered the cultural museum of Korea. There it was showing all the old traditional artifacts of the Korean culture. Within half an hour came out of there and went towards the House of horrors. Now this was an utter dissappointment , even compared to Indian standards :P. Also on if the weather is favourable there is some performance conducted in the open air theatre as well as some traditional wedding. Since it was raining pretty intense all these things were cancelled. Anyway by this time we had done one huge "U" turn and had approached the entrance/exit. We had taken nearly 4 hrs to cover the entire park it was nearly 5 pm and the time to return back.

In short this place has nothing more to offer apart from cultural museums of Korea and some other countries. The amusement facilties are the best part of the entire park even though the tech is kinda outdated . So can be visited if have nothing better planned on a particular day.

[Things to ward off evil spirits]
Snaps Link ->

March 10, 2010

Korean Diaries : My First Brush With Snow

On March 9 2010 the weather gods finally heard my prayers and it snowed very heavily in Suwon. This was the firsttime I had been in a snow-fall and boy it is an awesome sight, also a very chilly place to be. Snowfall in March is a very rare phenomenon here in the city of Suwon and might be just because of me :) . Now people will know why the temperature is hovering at 35 C in Bangalore :P...... Me and my friend went out for a walk in the snowfall to capture some pics and it was the first outing of my SX200 cam.

The temperature was hovering at around -4 C and my hand was paining like hell, even though I had put on a single layer woolen gloves. I had never expected the temperature to drop to such low during my stay hence the unpreparedness.
[With Rupayan]

The entire surroundings was white, as if the canvas was painted with the color white. Felt snow on my bare hands and it felt almost near to nothingness. Dont know whether this is because of the actual characteristic of the snow or becoz of total numbness of my hand :P.

[with the korean lady]

Anyway during the snowfall the only people on the street enjoying it were the Indians, most of them having never seen this sight, with few koreans visible. It is more of common phenonmenon for them in the winter season, except for one very friendly korean lady. She was offering to take a group pics of the Indians :). This scenario of a single lady among complete strangers is far away than being reality in India. For those curious South Korea has one of the least crime rates in the world . After the photography session had a snow fight, even though it was one sided with my friend offering very little resistence :).

Clicked a few pics the next day too, in not so bright sunlight. Had actually planned to go to some ski resorts to feel the snow , where they produce artificial one in the absense of the authentic, thankfully now I am a few dollars richer :P.

[Monkeying around]

Pics Link->

March 8, 2010

Korean Diaries : A Day Out In Seoul

After working nearly for 15 days continuously got my first day off on Mar 7 2010. So had decided to spend the same roaming around the national capital Seoul. In fact Suwon is a suburb to Seoul, which has resulted from constant expansion on the mega city's side. So taking into consideration all the suburbs Seoul has gobbled then Seoul is considered the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet after greater Tokyo (phrase courtesy - wiki-travel :)).

The first destination of the day was planned to be Yongson Electronics Market , and totally 3 guys Rakesh, Bahubali and myself teamed up for this. Bahubali was the experienced person in Korea and remaining 2 of us were virgins yet to be exposed to mainstream Korea ;).

Off we started from our guesthouses at around 11 am , filling our stomach with the staple breakfast provided at the place i.e. cornflakes and bread, since there is 99.99% chance that we will not have proper lunch outside, being vegetarians.Even non-vegetarians in korea become vegetarians after seeing whats in for menu in korean restaurents :P. Caught the bus to the Suwon train station to move towards Yangson. The train network running in Seoul and its suburbs is really very efficient covering so many places in and around the capital. The only problem one might face for the non-residents is the language barrier which doesn't deter the fact that this was built for the locals.

After collecting the ticket from the automated ticket vending machine (thankfully this has an english option- denoted by the american flag)we went to the designated platform. The train arrived but the digital display board was in korean and we were not totally sure whether this will take us to the destination. Anyway knowing that we will never learn anything without making mistakes we boarded the train. Asked a couple of south korean army guys whether we were on the right direction. This resulted in total confusion. At one moment they informing that we were on the wrong train. Anyway in the end it was confirmed that we were in the right train, this was nearly 10 mins since we started the conversation with them :P.

The train journey was pretty boring, with constant stops. We arrived at the Yongson Metro station nearly an hour later.The Electronics market was nothing like one would expect like w.r.t. Indian markets. This market was infact a mall, the name I-Park, and this is in the same building as the metro station. So as soon as exit the train you would get the directions to reach the mall. We went directly to the 3rd Floor which was majorly occupied by the camera shops. In every direction I could see there were camera shops.

I had planned to buy a super zoom compact camera and had shortlisted Canon SX120 IS and Canon SX200 IS. Also Bahubali had plans to buy another camera. So off we started enquiring at each and every shop, to get the cheapest price. The shopkeepers knowing that we were Indians were not at all interested in selling us stuff. Its becoz we Indians always bargain at such a place. Some people might call it racist.... but thats the way how it is. Anyway after roaming around and not getting prices to our expectations(well our expectations were shocking.... to be frank :P ) we decided to leave to come back later in the day.

We got out of the station and came on to the streets. From here the New Seoul tower was visible, hence instinctively decided to move towards it, on foot. Thought we could just walk to this place :P. After a couple of kilometers walk and the destination looking nowhere nearer we decided to take a taxi and reduce the punishment on our feet.

So after hopping onto the taxi, a good 15-20 mins later we reached the place. Also the War- memorial was enroute, so decided to visit this place after coming back from the Seoul tower situated on top of a hill. Also at one point the taxi driver missed an exit and had to take a circuitous route to come back to the same spot. If he had not mentioned about it we would have never known at all :P. He apologized for that and offered to pay 2000 W taxi entrance fee from his pocket , which in fact was supposed to be borne by the passengers. Expect the same honesty from Indian autowalla's..... ????? Well it will be very rare :P.

Anyway after walking uphill for another 10 mins from the drop reached the base of the tower. It was pretty much crowded (In korean standards, not Indian :P ). After roaming around the base where there is some sort of mantaps and all we decided to go up the tower. Paying the entrance fee of 7000 W (1 Re = 25 Won) we climbed on to the lift to reach the observation deck. This deck provided a 360 degree view of the Seoul Mega City. The boundary of which was endless and was as far as our eyes could see. The river Han cutting through the heart of the city and the 63 floor building,the tallest in korea where some of the eye catching landmarks. Expect this place to offer still more beautiful views in the night. After having a couple of fruits we moved from this place to reach our next destination ,the war memorial.

Decided to climb down the hill on foot and it was a nice experience and it took around 20 mins and caught a taxi from here towards the war memorial. By the time we reached this place it was already 5 pm and later we came to know that this place closes down at 6 pm sharp. We started from the outer displays of antique trucks, tanks, fighers, bombers, choppers and all the other weapons of war during the cold war and especially the korean war. There was huge statues erected and the detail with which they were made was really commendable.

By the time we had completed the outdoor displays and started to move towards the inner ones it was already 6 pm and the time for them to close down. So didnt get a chance what was inside. The fellow colleagues say that the indoor displays are equally good, so got to plan again for this place. Since this place is nearer to Yangson Electronics market, will be able to jump in to this place once again and the my tronics shopping list is far from over :P.

From here moved back to Yangson Electronics market to try my luck in buying a camera for the day. Anyway found a friendly shopkeeper and stuct a pretty good deal and bought a Canon SX200 IS camera and the price was nearly 8.5k cheaper than the Indian MRP. So I was pretty satisfied. Also Bahubali got himself a Sony compact camera. But this deals had pretty much left a hole in ur pocket and we were left like 15000 W(Rs 600) between 3 off us to get back to our guesthouses.

After the deal was done we moved to catch a train to Suwon and as experienced in the morning the routes were all in korean and very confusing. Asked a local and he told in detail that we have catch the third train in that platform.When the train arrived it was very crowded (even for Indian standards :P ) and we were able to barely squeeze in.The journey was boring and we got seats midway of the journey. After reaching Suwon we went out to catch a bus to our guesthouse. We saw the number and boarded it and dropped the 1000 W cash in the cash box (everything is automated). But we noticed a bit later that there is small problem..... the bus was moving in the direction away from the guesthouse :P. It then flashed to us that the bus was moving towards the other end of the town. Anyway nearly wasting 40 mins in the round trip we finally arrived at our destination. The driver in fact didnt even bother to ask us to get down at the last stop :D. Thankfully for us :D.

So at around 10 pm reached the guesthouse , pretty tired. Thus came to an end my first outing in a foreign country as a tourist.

Pics Link ->

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