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chertop


25 Blog Entries
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Trips:

Japan and South Korea 2010

Shorthand link:

http://www.blogabond.com/chertop


My mother tells me that when I was five and she took me by train from Vancouver to Edmonton, we had barely left Vancouver when I declared "Enough train. Get down now." But, at age 11 when my paternal grandmother took me from Edmonton to California and Disneyland, the trip instilled in me a sense of travel being adventure, living intensely, having pie for breakfast, grilled cheese and pickles in bus stations for lunch, and encountering the unexpected. After my first year of university, I traveled to Rome on an archeology course; I recall that flying through an abbreviated night and landing in Rome at dawn was like being reborn. My travel in Canada, Europe, South American and Asia may have been escape, or finding myself, but always made life "ever so much more so." (The profile photo is of me in Maui, Hawaii, loading images into my computer, apparently dazzling images, judging by the sunglasses).


From Nara's deer park to Ito's O-furo

Ito, Japan


November 20 Saturday
Kyoto - Toothache and itches woke me before dawn. Going down to the kitchen, I discovered it was before 6am. The only two people in the lounge were at the computers. Another man appeared to be crashing, sleeping on the floor at the back and side of the TV (probably couldn't get a bed, as Mary and I found everything booked for the coming Saturday). When Mary came down, we had a "mikan" (Japanese orange) and the two persimmons, using part of the spreadably soft fruit as jam on our remaining French bread left from yesterday. The Australian woman to whom I'd given the night-time cold medication told Mary that had helped alot.
I asked Mary if she'd rather stay and explore more of Kyoto possibly by bike, but she has never been to Nara, so we are off by train for a day trip there. After waking so early with toothache and itch, I slept much of the way there and part way back to Kyoto, reviving me. Arriving in Nara eager for coffee, as well as hungry, we were disgorged into the strip in front of the train station, where we spotted a McDonald's. Mary wisely suggested that we eat as well as caffeinate. She had a chicken carbonara on a bun, I had a McD terayaki which fueled us although it was the least satisfying meal I've had in Japan, and probably a crime against Japanese tradition to have in the ancient capital of Nara.
We walked up the commercial drag Nobori-Oji to the deer park, Nara-koen, which is home to some 1200 deer. In pre-Buddhist times, they were considered messengers of the gods and now are “National Treasures.” Although white-tailed, they have caribou-like faces. Vendors sold shika-sembei (deer biscuits) which people fed to the deer. The most fun was watching children delighting in running after the deer and trying to feed or pet them. The most painful was watching terrified children screaming in hysterics while parents laughed or filmed them, surprising especially because we see parents here normally so loving towards their children.
Within the forested park, crowded with families enjoying and photographing each other amongst the gorgeous autumn foliage, we visited the 3-storey and 5-storey pagodas, dating from 1143 and 1426. Then we walked around the other temple buildings of Kofuji temple and on to enter the enormous gate Naidai-mon of Todaiji temple which houses the Daibutsu (Great Buddha). Fierce Nio guardians, carved in the 13th century, are huge ferocious protectors standing on either side of the gate. Continuing uphill, we came to an open plaza surrounded by temple buildings. We climbed the stone steps to the veranda of Nigatsu-do temple to look out over temple roofs and down to Nara city, then walked around all four sides of that temple admiring the huge globular lanterns hanging from the eaves. Then, running out of time if we were going to make our train, we had to speed up, descending past Sansangatsu temple down several staircases, past the hill Wakakusa-yama miya-jinja of startlingly bare grassy slopes to Kasuga Taisha (Shrine)'s strikingly orange structures. Downhill through Ni-no-Torii gate then Ichi-no-Torii and eventually leaving the beautful park for a busy intersection, we grabbed a taxi and sped for the train station.
We'd agreed to take a taxi from Kyoto station to Khaosan Kyoto, ask the driver to wait while we picked up our luggage, so that we could have a chance of making the 17:05 train. Despite this extravagance, rush hour traffic made it apparent well before we reached the station that we would miss our train... so I had to accept that and be ready to make a new plan once we reached the station. Mary photographed bicycles and other vehicles from the taxi windows, trying to catch one moving at the same speed as we were, with motion blur behind.
At the station, we found a railway information office, where a uniformed employee looked up the next set of trains that would get us from Kyoto to Shizuoka city on the Shinkansen bullet train, transfer to the local Kodama to travel to Atami, and transfer again to the Ito line. With Mary esconced on the platform with our luggage, I went to forage for beer and supper, coming back with bento boxes and a can each of Kirin and Asahi beer. On the train, we admired and then unwrapped the pink tissue paper from our boxed suppers, opened the lid and admired the colorful and artistic arrangement of delicacies for our supper – shrimp and tuna sushi, a slice of egg, a bed of sticky rice, and slice of ginger.
When the third train we rode that evening disgorged us at Ito's small station, we had trouble finding the exit. Once outside, we found the streets almost completely quiet and empty of people. One stylish young woman was coming towards us so I checked with her whether we were on the right street for our ryokan. She genuinely seemed to want to walk with us the 10 minutes to get there, excited to hear we were from Canada as she hopes to go there once she has learned enough English. Vancouver is the magnet, known by most Japanese to whom we tell we are Canadian as they have watched the recent Olympics.
K's House on a quiet street beside the river is the first ryokan we've stayed in on our trip. A beautiful 100-year-old traditional house with alcoves of garden, lovely art arrangements. Up the wooden stairs to our tatami-mat room on the 4th floor where we open the sliding door and gaze out through pine trees to the river below. Mary and I descended to the beautiful pristine "o-furo" bath.and sat on stools to wash ourselves clean before we climbed into the bath which ran the length of the room, and which we had all to ourselves. After relaxing in the hot water and robing ourselves in fresh cotton yukata, we luxuriated (and photographed each other) in the beautiful but simple ryokan room of tatami mats neatly woven, mattresses, sheets, pillows and fluffy coverlet piled for us to make our beds.



permalink written by  chertop on November 20, 2011 from Ito, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Mud Bath and Hells of Beppu

Beppu, Japan


November 15 Monday
Suitcases packed, we headed out to the main thoroughfare for a taxi, Jenn and Arnold continuing for a walk. Taxi to bus station, intercity bus to Busan, an hour away, subway train to the fish market, another hour. We knew we had only 15 minutes for a brief glimpse of the amazing variety of creatures at the fish market, the boats unloading in the harbor... but an intense 15 minutes was better than missing it...plus we got a taxi direct to the very door of the nearby Ferry terminal. There we again went through bureaucratic procedures, including buying the inevitable departure tax. The hydrofoil took us swiftly across blue water, past islands as we again heard Japanese spoken on the intercom and amongst passengers.
Landing in Fukuoka, we now knew to take bus 88 to the train station and how to walk back to the Khaosan hostel. In a convenience store en route, I bought packages of udon noodles in soup, a large beer for us to share, and milk for tomorrow's coffee. So, at the hostel, Mary and I went to the common kitchen on the third floor, added boiling water and enjoyed our supper talking with a policeman from Paris, a dark-haired young woman from the Netherlands, and an athletic young man from Slovenia who wants to go to Canada and ski at Whistler.



permalink written by  chertop on November 16, 2011 from Beppu, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Tokyo with Kyle and Yoshiko

Tokyo, Japan


November 21 Sunday
I wandered around the lovely ryokan early admiring the art, tasteful simplicity, in the alcoves.
A young woman approached Mary and me. She is from Tokyo, wants to be a singer. She showed us where we could access her on Facebook and we gave her our email addresses. Mary commented later how welcoming it is to be greeted enthusiastically by a stranger who wants to be friends.
Mary and I walked out to the river and crossed the bridge to where we could look back at our ryokan, workmen cutting pine branches several storeys up, right outside our window.
The result of our making images of this beauty was that we had to run down the street to catch the second of the two trains that would get us to tokyo, we thought, in time to meet Kyle.
Breathless and sweaty, we collapsed into seats but soon leaped up at the lovely sight of Mt Fuju, blue and perfect pyramid with a band of white snow or cloud across its middle.
The train took longer to reach Tokyo than we'd been told, but I happened to hear the address system mention Yamanote line so we were able to transfer before reaching Tokyo station, the busiest (most people) of any station in the world. (I had trouble grasping, hearing and learning any Korean beyond hello” and “thank you” but I listen to announcements and to conversations around me and feel like a toddler just beginning to grasp the language.)
The usual confusionof streets in a new neighorhood, Ikebukuro, before we find Kimi Ryokan. strange and magical to see Kyle come through the entrance curtain and hug us. kyle took us to harajuku where crowds of trendy young people and chic stalls and shops. Then tokyo's Fifth Avenue (Meiji-dori) with upscale elegance. Suddenly we escaped into a quiet parki and temple. circling the grden we came upon two wedding parties, both brides respendent in white gowns.
Having missed lunch, we bought steamed buns with minced meat, curry or pizza taste inside. Taxi to supermarket where I had a sample – taste of minature delicious mushrooms – and Kyle bought lettuce and tomatoes.
Kyle and Yoshiko live in Nakameguro in a area where buildings are restricted to 4 storeys. entering through clean parking garae and concrete hallways, we rode the elevator up 7 storeys, possible because their building is on a hill, 4 storeys one side, 7 the other providing a marvelous view over the city, especially fro the balcony where they grow lemons, oranges and other fruit. Yoshiko welcomed us. the cats, however, were dubious; a handsome slender Brumese, a tiger striped, and a lepard-spotted with huge golden eyes, they esconced themselves on ledges like living works of art, displayed beside the other art, either elegant or cute.
We sat at the counter drinking champane and eating appetizers – bacon wrapped around prine, prosciutto around shrimp. Kyle donned his executive Chef jacket and began cooking the chicken with shigo, a distinct and invitingly definite taste for our leisurely dining with the lights and night of toyko spread below us.
Kyle walked with us to Shinjuku Station and we saw shinjuku Crossing, when traffic lights let al pedestrians cross in any direction, including diagonally. Lights in every color,
illuminated pisplays storeys high – the pizaazz rivals Times Square.


permalink written by  chertop on November 21, 2010 from Tokyo, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Side Trip to Nara

Kyoto, Japan


November 20 Saturday
Kyoto - Toothache and itches woke me before dawn. Going down to the kitchen, I discovered it was before 6am. The only two people in the lounge were at the computers. Another man appeared to be crashing, sleeping on the floor at the back and side of the TV (probably couldn't get a bed, as Mary and I found everything booked for the coming Saturday). When Mary came down, we had a "mikan" (Japanese orange) and the two persimmons, using part of the spreadably soft fruit as jam on our remaining French bread left from yesterday. The Australian woman to whom I'd given the night-time cold medication told Mary that had helped alot.
I asked Mary if she'd rather stay and explore more of Kyoto possibly by bike, but she has never been to Nara, so we are off by train for a day trip there. After waking so early with toothache and itch, I slept much of the way there and part way back to Kyoto, reviving me. Arriving in Nara eager for coffee, as well as hungry, we were disgorged into the strip in front of the train station, where we spotted a McDonald's. Mary had a chicken carbonara on a bun, I had a McD terayaki. These fueled us for the afternoon, although it was probably the least satisfying meal I've had in Japan, and probably a crime against Japanese tradition to have McDonald's in the ancient capital of Nara.
We walked up the commercial drag Nobori-Oji to the deer park, Nara-koen, which is home to some 1200 deer. In pre-Buddhist times, they were considered messengers of the gods and now are “National Treasures.” Although white-tailed, they have caribou-like faces. Vendors sold shika-sembei (deer biscuits) which people feed to the deer. The most fun was watching children delighting in running after the deer and trying to feed or pet them. The most painful was watching terrified children screaming in hysterics while parents laughed or filmed them, surprising especially because we see parents here normally so loving towards their children.
Within the forested park, crowded with families enjoying and photographing each other amongst the gorgeous autumn foliage, we visited the 3-storey and 5-storey pagodas, dating from 1143 and 1426. Then we walked around the other temple buildings of Kofuji temple and on to enter the enormous gate Naidai-mon of Todaiji temple which houses the Daibutsu (Great Buddha). Fierce Nio guardians, carved in the 13th century, are huge ferocious protectors standing on either side of the gate. Continuing uphill, we came to an open plaza surrounded by temple buildings. We climbed the stone steps to the veranda of Nigatsu-do temple to look out over temple roofs and down to Nara city, then walked around all four sides of that temple admiring the huge globular lanterns hanging from the eaves. Then, running out of time if we were going to make our train, we had to speed up, descending past Sansangatsu temple down several staircases, past the hill Wakakusa-yama miya-jinja of startlingly bare grassy slopes to Kasuga Taisha (Shrine)'s strikingly orange structures. Downhill through Ni-no-Torii gate then Ichi-no-Torii and eventually leaving the beautiful park for a busy intersection, we grabbed a taxi and sped for the train station.
We'd agreed to take a taxi from Kyoto station to Khaosan Kyoto, ask the driver to wait while we picked up our luggage, so that we could have a chance of making the 17:05 train. Despite this extravagance, rush hour traffic made it apparent well before we reached the station that we would miss our train... so we had to accept that and be ready to make a new plan once we reached the station. Mary photographed bicycles and other vehicles from the taxi windows, trying to catch one moving at the same speed as we were, with motion blur behind.
At the station, we found a railway information office, where a uniformed employee looked up the next set of trains that would get us from Kyoto to Shizuoka city on the Shinkansen bullet train, transfer to the local Kodama to travel to Atami, and transfer again to the Ito line. With Mary on the platform with our luggage, I went to forage for beer and supper, coming back with bento boxes and a can each of Kirin and Asahi beer. On the train, we admired and then unwrapped the pink tissue paper from our boxed suppers, opened the lid and admired the colorful and artistic arrangement of delicacies for our supper – shrimp and tuna sushi, a slice of egg, a bed of sticky rice, and slice of ginger.
When the third train we rode that evening disgorged us at Ito's small station, we had trouble finding the exit. Once outside, we found the streets almost completely quiet and empty of people. One stylish young woman was coming towards us so I checked with her whether we were on the right street for our ryokan. She genuinely seemed to want to walk with us the 10 minutes to get there, excited to hear we were from Canada as she hopes to go there once she has learned enough English. Vancouver is the magnet, known by most Japanese to whom we tell we are Canadian... as they have watched the recent Olympics.
K's House on a quiet street beside the river is the first ryokan we've stayed in on our trip. A beautiful 100-year-old traditional house with alcoves of garden, lovely art arrangements. Up the wooden stairs to our tatami-mat room on the 4th floor where we opened the sliding door and gazed out through pine trees to the river below. Mary and I descended to the beautiful pristine "o-furo" bath.and sat on stools to wash ourselves clean before we climbed into the bath which ran the length of the room, and which we had all to ourselves. After relaxing in the hot water and robing ourselves in fresh cotton yukata, we luxuriated (and photographed each other) in the beautiful but simple ryokan room of tatami mats neatly woven, mattresses, sheets, pillows and fluffy coverlet piled for us to make our beds.


permalink written by  chertop on November 20, 2010 from Kyoto, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Nagasaki's simple, elegance evocation for Peace

Nagasaki, Japan


November 17 Wednesday
Another 2 hour train trip begins our day trip to Nagasaki.
Our Japan Rail Passes let us board trains without standing in lines for tickets, to travel freely without evaluating the cost of specific trips, and to return to our Fukuoka hostel in the evening so we don't have to pack up each day and move.

In the shopping arcade attached to Nagasaki station,
we bought, for our lunch, bento boxes of cold rice and various delicacies
that make even the cold meal an adventure.
At the Atomic Bomb Museum and the National Peace Memorial for the Atomic Bomb Victims,
we learned the history leading up to the destruction of Nagasaki. From the entrance of the museum, we first experienced the people of Nagasaki before the bombing, through photos and memoirs... making the tragedy specific to individuals and families. Then we saw the consequences - horrible burns, shadows of people and trees burned into buildings, a rosary melted into a blob of glass, the diary of a survivor remembering two young girls laid out beautiful in death in their special kimonos and light makeup.
The Peace Memorial is a place of simple beauty and elegance, the names of the over 150,000 victims inscribed in volumes that are stored in a tall column, in a high-ceilinged hall with 12 tall skylight columns. On the roof above is a pool quiet with the evening sky above it and the 150,000 tiny lights, one representing each victim, emerging as darkness settles in.
We caught a bus back toward the station but actually rode further than Nagasaki Station, wanting to see the Spectacle Bridge, a two-lobed arch over the smaller of the two rivers. We walked along the river's lovely traditional scene, with so many arched bridges, people crossing each bridge in both directions, herons fishing below in the shallow water.
Trying to make our way back to the station, we first followed a quiet road past old temples, then found ourselves in a very chic covered arcade of shops and trendy restaurants.
A brisk half hour walk brought us into oversize urban architecture and finally to an arcade where we quickly bought 2 bento box for our supper, 2 beer, and Mary grabbed what she assumed were yoghurts for our dessert. After our "cocktail hour" on the train, Hamilton could well have asked his usual question of was I drunk yet.... tired and relaxed, I found the alcohol went right to my head. Mary and I talked, we ate and, when the train spewed us out at Hakata station, we amazingly walked the kilometer to our Khaosan Fukuoka hostel with some vigor.


permalink written by  chertop on November 18, 2010 from Nagasaki, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Sumo tournament

Hakata, Japan


November 18 Thursday
Both Mary and I experienced the tops of our feet itching after the mud bath last night. She washed her hair before going to bed and some of the mud particles also may have got into her eyes, stinging them with irritation like chlorine water does. I woke in the night and finally at 5am with toothache and with itching over much of my body. Tiny angry red spots (pitchae roseata?) over almost all of my chest and belly, around my waist and back, down the insides of my legs making a red battlefield of allergy. Raised welts on the back of my neck.
Mary and I packed up, had a final coffee and Croque Monsieur at Gratie, amidst the Jazzy Christmas music of our favorite Asian bakery. We did photos outside our Khaosan Fukuoka hostel against the poster wall, various combinations of Mary, me, and the Japanese man working there who had helped us with information about Fukuoka and helped us search for future hostel reservations .With thanks and farewell, we headed off with our luggage to Hakata station to park our luggage in the big 500 yen ($6) lockers,
Mary had been anticipating getting to the "100" yen store, which is like a dollar store in North America. Strangely, it was almost hidden away on the 4th floor of the bus terminal, spread out like a department store, all items 105 yen unless otherwise marked (just as "dollar" stores in Canada apparently now charge $1.25 for most items). Mary bought some kids' glasses with mirrors to experiment using as rear view mirrors for a bicycle (they looked truly futuristic on her face), terry-covered toilet seat covers and various other fun items. I found some sunglasses with untinted lenses, set of tiny magnifiers like Barb Hines carries for inspecting tiny flowers and fungus. Mary and I would set a time to meet; 2 or 3 times we met up and then would set a new time, making additional rounds of the store finding more treasures that we hadn't noticed before.
I was seriously fading when we finally escaped and got ourselves to the 8th floor of the bus terminal where all the restaurants were. Too tired and hungry to deliberate, we went for the chicken cutlet that had caught my eye displayed in plastic outside in the window. In that restaurant, we were, at first, the only ones sitting in the Japanese tatami mat section where my legs, aching from so long standing in the store, were grateful to be tucked up under me as I sat on the floor . Approaching being too hungry to function, I felt nothing could be so delicous as the chicken cutlet, especially with the miso soup, sticky rice and various condiments.
All too soon it was time to hurry to the Kokusai where from 3pm the higher ranking sumo wrestlers would be contending. The taxi dropped us into a scene of excitement; a traditionally dressed massive sumo athlete crossing the busy thoroughfare in front of the stadium, together with us, when traffic lights allowed us to do so. Colored flags flapped above the stadium, groups of businessmen arrived enthusiastically eager for entry. Inside the building the carnival of food and souvenir vendors surrounded the auditorium, inside which corridors like spokes led to the central ring, aisles radiating out from the raised circular stage which is apparently built of rice hemp embedded in clay. We learned to place our shoes, jackets and bags in the storage area under the trap door above which was a square of carpet. We sat cross-legged on cushions placed on the carpet. We watched a procession of competitors parade in, each wearing an embroidered apron of rich silk and ornate decoration, each with his hair in the style that imitates a gingko leaf and also helps to protect the competitor's head in the case of a fall. Each bout was preceded by a proclaimer in traditional costume who announced in a voice chanting or singing in a style that reminded me of No theatre. Then a more elaborately gowned MC announced with dramatic gestures of his fan... and the two huge sumo athletes would mount the stage. They bowed to the black-clad elders (sitting on cushions on the ground in front of each side of the stage - north, south, east and west), and to the official MC. They then faced each other and lowered their huge bodies into squats, then would spring into standing on one leg, the other leg high in the air, demonstrating their athleticism, despite their huge size. After that, they would face each other, squat and stare with such intensity until one would turn away and stride with dignity to his corner, and accept, from a minion, a face cloth to wipe the sweat away or a dipper of water to drink. Each would scoop up a handful of salt and throw it in a ritual purification of the ring, then they would resume facing and string. Suddenly the giants would spring at each other, grappling until one stepped or fell out of the ring, or let any part of his body touch the ground. Both would bow to each other, then the loser would leave and the victor receive an official envelope laid on the black fan of the MC who would offer it to the victor.
Once again, a fast taxi trip to the station, where we bought beer and bento boxes on the platform as we waited for the Hikari, the bullet train, whose long white nose is streamlined to allow speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. Its speed was evident from how quickly it carried us from the southern island of Kyushu half way up the main island of Honshu to the central city of Kyoto.
Here, we are staying in a new Khaosan hostel, 5 floors with our tiny twin room filled mostly with the bunk beds, but with a luxurious lounge and kitchen where young people from all over the world cook, eat and talk. A young German is traveling with her two Japanese women friends, all from Keio University in Tokyo. An Australian traveling alone talks with Mary; she has a bad cold and I give her my night-time cold medicine which I've been fortunate not to need.


permalink written by  chertop on November 17, 2010 from Hakata, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Nagasaki's simple, elegance evocation for Peace

Nagasaki, Japan


November 17 Wednesday
Another 2 hour train trip begins our day trip to Nagasaki. Our Japan Rail Passes let us board trains without standing in lines for tickets, to travel freely without evaluating the cost of specific trips, and to return to our Fukuoka hostel in the evening so we don't have to pack up each day and move.
In the shopping arcade attached to Nagasaki station, we bought, for our lunch, bento boxes of cold rice and various delicacies that make even the cold meal an adventure. At the Atomic Bomb Museum and the National Peace Memorial for the Atomic Bomb Victims, we learned the history leading up to the destruction of Nagasaki. From the entrance of the museum, we first experienced the people of Nagasaki before the bombing, through photos and memoirs... making the tragedy specific to individuals and families. Then we saw the consequences - horrible burns, shadows of people and trees burned into buildings, a rosary melted into a blob of glass, the diary of a survivor remembering two young girls laid out beautiful in death in their special kimonos and light makeup.
The Peace Memorial is a place of simple beauty and elegance, the names of the over 150,000 victims inscribed in volumes that are stored in a tall column, in a high-ceilinged hall with 12 tall skylight columns. On the roof above is a pool quiet with the evening sky above it and the 150,000 tiny lights, one representing each victim, emerging as darkness settles in.
We caught a bus back toward the station but actually rode further than Nagasaki Station, wanting to see the Spectacle Bridge, a two-lobed arch over the smaller of the two rivers. We walked along the river's lovely traditional scene, with so many arched bridges, people crossing each bridge in both directions, herons fishing below in the shallow water.
Trying to make our way back to the station, we first followed a quiet road past old temples, then found ourselves in a very chic covered arcade of shops and trendy restaurants. A brisk half hour walk brought us into oversize urban architecture and finally to an arcade where we quickly bought 2 bento box for our supper, 2 beer, and Mary grabbed what she assumed were yoghurts for our dessert (turned out to be fruit drinks, which I enjoyed greatly). After our "cocktail hour" on the train, Hamilton could well have asked his usual question of was I drunk yet.... tired and relaxed, I found the alcohol went right to my head. Mary and I talked, we ate and, when the train spewed us out at Hakata station, we amazingly walked the kilometer to our Khaosan Fukuoka hostel with some vigor.



permalink written by  chertop on November 17, 2010 from Nagasaki, Japan
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Hydrofoil back to Japan

Pusan, South Korea


November 15 Monday
Suitcases packed, we headed out to the main thoroughfare for a taxi, Jenn and Arnold continuing for a walk. Taxi to bus station, intercity bus to Busan, an hour away, subway train to the fish market, another hour. We knew we had only 15 minutes for a brief glimpse of the amazing variety of creatures at the fish market, the boats unloading in the harbor... but an intense 15 minutes was better than missing it...plus we got a taxi direct to the very door of the nearby Ferry terminal. There we again went through bureaucratic procedures, including buying the inevitable departure tax. The hydrofoil took us swifty across blue water, past islands as we again heard Japanese spoken on the intercom and amongst passengers.
Landing in Fukuoka, we now knew to take bus 88 to the train station and how to walk back to the Khaosan hostel. In a convenience store en route, I bought packages of udon noodles in soup, a large beer for us to share, and milk for tomorrow's coffee. So, at the hostel, Mary and I went to the common kitchen on the third floor, added boiling water and enjoyed our supper talking with a policeman from Paris, a dark-haired young woman from the Netherlands, and an athletic young man from Slovenia who wants to go to Canada and ski at Whistler.


permalink written by  chertop on November 14, 2010 from Pusan, South Korea
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Rest and Recovery with Jenn and Den

Ulsan, South Korea


November 13 Saturday
My legs are sore and crippled from yesterday, especially from the climb up Gatbawi. What could be better than a decadent morning starting with my making Green Mountain coffee for everyone! Jenn made us bacon and eggs, I laundered clothes, even my photo jacket.
Almost noon when we drove north through dense traffic heading for Gyeongu and the ancient temple complex Bulgoksa, a UNESCO world heritage site. Vivid autumn foliage had attracted crowds of families and everywhere cameras focussed on groups of family, and friends, the Koreans being photograhed always making the V for “victory” sign. Beautiful children, fashionably chic adolescents even with platinum or bright red hair. Lovely ponds, curved bridges, even the toilet houses had traditional temple tiled roofs!
So did the nearby town's restaurants where we had a late lunch of rice, vegetables and meat in a hot pot that kept everything hot until the last bite. Next door, in the souvenir shop, Mary bought a pair of wedding ducks like the mandarin ducks we'd seen in a pond at the palace garden in Seoul. When I picked up a package of sticks with cribbage like holes, a Korean woman with good English explained the traditional game yut-nori that is played with them.
Evening we headed for Ulsan's harbor where we chose a simple-looking restaurant with tanks of crab outside. One tank held pinkish crabs about 10 inches across. Another held crabs at least 2 feet across and costing $200. Eager to sell us one of the giants, the Korean employee hooked one and lifted it up into the air to let us see the mouth parts working and the long legs. Plopped upside down on the scales, the huge creature could only wave its legs feebly. It was a surreal and sad experience watching these fascinating and very alive but doomed creatures that we were about to eat.
We were shown to a small cabin, the size of a child's playhouse, with walls covered with pink, rose-patterned wallpaper. Sitting on cushions as the floor heated beneath us, we drank beer and ate from the many appetizer and side dishes – abalone, snails, a white fish, seaweed, kimchi, small white sweet potatoes. The main attraction, a platter of four crabs, arrived with a Korean woman who showed us how to use scissors to cut the shell and how to suck out the meat... which was delicate and sweet. We left a table littered with debris and took the four small beautiful abalone shells with us.

November 14 Sunday
Breakfast of bagels, peanut butter, jam and marmalade! Jen, Den, Mary and I, together with their Boston terrier-Pug, Arnold, hiked from their complex of apartment buildings, past small garden plots growing cabbage and huge green radishes that were popping out of the ground, and up the nearby hill. We passed oak and pine, beautifully-tassled grasses, and the web of a 2 ½ inch, vibrantly striped spider.
In the afternoon Jenn and Den went to the Korean wedding of Den's colleague. It was one of some 10 going on in a wedding palace that provides hair salons, dress shops and an overflow area in the open space in the center of the various wedding rooms so that extra guests can mingle and create an excessive amount of noise. Mary and I had the luxury of staying in the apartment, taking it easy, except for throwing the ball dozens of times for Arnold to retrieve. When Jenn and Den returned, the coffee table became the site of a Korean game, in which you build a tower then take turns removing a lower piece and adding it to the top. Eventually the tower is so high and so full of holes that it collapses.
Jennifer made us a delicious dinner of pineapple glazed pork tenderloin, together with the basmati rice that is expensive and difficult to buy in Korea. For dessert, ice cream sandwiches in the shape of sea bream, the fish that is much prized at restaurants.



permalink written by  chertop on November 14, 2010 from Ulsan, South Korea
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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Mountain Temples outside Daegu

Taegu, South Korea



I next got off at Gatwabi temple, together with a young Korean woman, who turned out to be a “salaryman” on vacation from her work in a trading company in Seoul. She is traveling around her country for a month. I knew the famous Buddha statue was a 2 kilometers hike away, but, if I had known that we would climb 800 meters elevation gain, I might have stopped at one of the intermediate temples.
My companion got winded even before me. Stopping to rest, she pulled out a brick of rice cake studded with red beans and offered me some. I brought out my sweet walnut pastry and offered her some but she told me “I don't like bread”. Stripping off my fleece and turtleneck, I was happy to hike in my sleeveless dance shirt. But diminutive Asian women in padded jackets continually passed us heading down and marveled to my companion and me that I “very strong” if I wasn't cold.
Some 50 feet before we finally reached the top, the chanting reached our ears. Then we came around a rock outcrop onto a plateau where dozens of people were praying to the huge stone Buddha, many performing what looked like salutations to the sun, rising and kneeling, while some were chanting, some fingering rosary beads. Between the worshipers and the Buddha was a long glass case where people knelt to light candles and incense; and also stalls where women were preparing and handing out something that looked like small slabs of spare ribs. When I approached, one of them beckoned me over and gave me some of the “spare ribs”which turned out to be freshly made rice paste bars covered with red bean flour and crumbs. Still warm, it became my gratefully eaten lunch and I understood at a “gut” level why my companion prefers it to the easily crushed soft sweet breads available here in Korea.
My companion told me the worshipers come and pray for the success of their children in Korean civil service exams. When I asked whether it was only the mothers who did so, she replied in amazement at my question, that the “fathers are working and don't have the time.”
We'd abandoned any attempt to descend for the bus we'd planned to take and, in fact, had to hurry to even have a chance of getting the next bus. Even so, it took us 50 minutes to descend, and near the end we had to run, barely making it to the bus before it left.
She got off at the stop for the museum while I rode to Dongwasa Temple, a huge complex of temple buildings spread over an area, ascending and descending the mountain. There were buildings being used by the gray-clad monks, buildings under construction, recently-painted buildings with vivid red, green, yellow, and blue intricate patterns and paintings. Dusk had softened the brilliant hues of red and gold maple trees by the time I found the 33 metre high Buddha.
Evening rush hour made the 1 ½ hour bus ride back into the city of Daegu a slow crawl. Eventually reaching the train station, I waited with many other pedestrians for the traffic lights finally to change so I could run across the 8 lane thoroughfare. The #814 bus I could see in the distance had pulled away from the stop by the time I reached it and would not stop for me so I waited for the next, only to find it was headed in the direction opposite from Rozan hotel! Exasperatingly, I had to retrace my steps back across the thoroughfare for a bus headed south to Beomeo district.
After a quick shrimp fried rice in the Home Plus food court, and retrieving my luggage, I caught a north-bound 814 bus for the train station arriving in plenty of time...but finding it nerve-racking sitting still waiting at 8:35 before being allowed to head for the train which would be leaving at 8:40. As soon as the track number is posted, people flood down the stairs and along the track platform; I had a considerable hike to the boarding place for car #14. Finding a woman in my seat, 12A, studiously ignoring me and realizing she and the woman next to her would both be disrupted if I insisted on my assigned seat, I was fortunate to find a double seat vacant before the train picked up speed to some 300 km/hour. It hurtled through the night, getting me to Ulsan in 24 minutes, a journey that would have taken 2 hours by bus.
What a pleasure to see Mary, Jennifer and Dennis all tall individuals who stood out in the crowd of people meeting passengers!


permalink written by  chertop on November 13, 2010 from Taegu, South Korea
from the travel blog: Japan and South Korea 2010
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