Friday, December 28, 2012

Asian Eyes' Korea - Dokebi Road

Hotel Robero at Jeju City,
a 3 star hotel, cater mostly 

to package tourists 
           Day 3 - Nov/19/12, 8 am: Today we started early and by 8 am we were at Hotel Robero's level 3 for  breakfast. Breakfast was a Korean style buffet breakfast of abalone porridge, noodles, fried rice, bread and butter, fried konjac, kimchi, buns, sauteed vegetable and meat, eggs, fish, tofu, juices, fruits, and coffee. After breakfast the first destination for the day is Dokebi Road, a mysterious or ghost road. I wrote about such similar slope in one of my earlier blog. A gravity or magnetic hill is a place where a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope due to the layout of the surrounding land, creating the optical illusion that water flows uphill or a car left out of gear will roll uphill, among others. Many of these sites have no specific name and are instead often simply referred to as "Gravity Hill".
           Our bus arrived at a seemingly gentle uphill undulating road called Dokebi Road, also called Mysterious or Ghost Road, and cut off its engine. The bus rolled forward steadily and slowly gaining speed while going "uphill". This is just an illusion. Actually the bus was going downhill instead of uphill. Due to the lack of a true horizon, subconsciously our judgement of a slope is misled by the false horizon in that area. This is not unique to Jeju alone but the Koreans have done a great job marketing this Mysterious Road or Ghost Road into a tourist spot. The bus rolled about 300 meters until it reached a sign that marked the end of the mysterious road and the driver roared the engine back to life and turned into a parking spot nearby. According to Kent, our tour guide, this road was spotted by a taxi driver who was giving a newlywed couple a driving tour around the area in 1980s. The wife needed to take a leak and since it was a deserted area, she eased herself on the road, and then came rushing back to the taxi to informed her husband that her leak actually flow "upstream".  
            We get down to inspect the road with close proximity. We did a couple of experiment like pouring waters on the road, running forward and reverse and gawked at passing buses or cars did what our bus jsu did moment ago. We saw a lot of water marks on the right hand side of the road, and bus load upon busload of tourist arrive and go. This Dokebi Road had been transform into a big tourist attraction. After 30 minutes later, we boarded our bus to the next destination - another museum, but along the way we stopped at a farm for tasting of Jeju's most famous fruit - Jeju oranges. There are a lot of oranges trees in the farm where we were allowed to roam and take our pick of the fruits from the tree freely. Little M and big M had their fill, but Middle M had his eyes on Jeju orange chocolate cracker, a kind of rice cracker with orange and chocolate filling, at the farm souvenir shop. We bought 3 boxes for snack later in the bus, and they tasted really nice. Little M also loaded with a lot of Vitamin C that were laid out as samples. We bought 2 boxes and maybe that explained why we did not catch any cold during the entire trip.
            Here are a couple of pictures I took at the Ghost Road and the Jeju tangerine farm:
Location: Hotel Robero, 57-2, Samdo1-dong, Jeju International Airport/ Jeju City, Jeju-do, South Korea.
Location: Dokebi Road, Jeju-do, South Korea
Mysterious Road of Jeju-do. The surrounding area on this stretch is actually littered with cemeteries. To the left of this road sign over the fence is a cemetery. We did not realized what  it was until I tried to go over the fence for a  better location to snap pictures, and I had a  very good view of the cemetery indeed. Spooky! 
Tourists walked down Dokebi Road to feel the "anti-gravity", but would not be able to feel it on foot.
Tourists by the roadside waiting for passing cars or buses to witness the "anti-gravity" feat.
Traffic was busy, and it gets dangerous as tourists did experiment to try to get the the "anti-gravity" feeling. They can be spotted running to and fro backwards, or rolling Evian water bottles on the road or simply pouring water on the road and seeing it runs. Honking of cars or buses were common and we witnessed near accident twice for the short time we were there.
A big blue tuna statue is being erected at the parking space beside Dokebi Road.
Tangerine trees laden with ripening fruits at Jeju-do famous Tangerine farm. We had our hand, mouth and pocket fulls of these tangerine.
A basalt stone statue of a Jeju woman straddling a basket in front of the tangerine farm caught my attention. Also on the trees, I saw green tangerine and orange ones, but on closer look the orange tangerine were actually decorative plastic orange. I got fooled!
Big M and Middle M enjoyed a short excursion in the farm, stuffing the tangerine until they were full.
Little M enjoyed a "swinging" moment at the tangerine farm.
Thanks to the Vitamin C on sale at the souvenir shop at the tangerine farm. We bought many packs and they repaid them self as it prevent us from getting cold during our entire trip.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Asian Eyes' Korea - Yongduam Rock

I thought I saw a lion, not a 
dragon, in Yongduam Rock
           Day 2 - Nov/18/12, 6.00 pm: Next stop - Yongduam Rock.  It was already dark when we arrived. The steps leading down towards a viewing area are steep and narrow but the area were teeming with tourists. Spotlights were aimed at the rock to give it a majestic aura. Yongduam Rock is a volcanic rock, created from a volcanic eruption that took place million years. It is 10 meters in height and about 30 meters in length and had a unique shape, said to be like a dragon. This spot is especially attractive during the sunrise and sunset. Per Kent, our tour guide, the story associated with the name of the Yongduam Rock is the legend goes that an envoy was sent by the Dragon King who lived in a huge palace nearby to gather the elixir of life from Mount Halla. When the dragon envoy came and tried to gather the elixir, then the guardian spirit of Mount Halla got angry. In a fit of anger, he shot down the dragon and when the dragon was fleeing it fell into the sea. It immediately turned into a rock with its head still surging towards the sky. The shape of the Yongduam Rock in Jeju resembles the shape of the dragon and the part of the rock that used to surge up towards the sky was regarded by the locals as the head of the dragon. During a heavy storm a few years ago, the rock was hit by lightening and the ‘head’ part of the rock fell off to the sea. Thus nowadays you can not see this special feature of the Yongduam Rock, Jeju. 
           We spend only half an hour viewing the Yongduam Rock. The temperature had dropped and our stomach started to growl. We left for our dinner at a nearby restaurant. The dinner was a traditional Korean dinner with rice, fish, egg, pork, salad, anchovies and an assortment of kimchi. All the dishes were free flow except the fish and egg. As I bite into the fish, the taste was similar to salted queen-fish taste. So, no loss there even though it was not a free flow dish. We piled up on the kimchi and the meat that were layered and ate with salad. After having filled up our tummy, we headed to our hotel for check in for our night stay in Jeju-do. 
          We stayed at Hotel Robero, a 3 star hotel in the middle of Jeju City.  The service here was not great and the staff did not interacted much, probably because of the lack of communication in English. Before we alighted from the bus, Kent informed us that we were still not done yet for the day. The last agenda -  shopping at a nearby shopping complex. 20 minutes after we were assigned our rooms, we re-grouped at the hotel lobby to walk to Jungang Shopping Market, an underground shopping complex selling clothing, accessories, bags, shoes, toys, food and beauty care. Since it was winter, all the clothing were more to winter wear, so we did not find anything worth buying. At the end of the underground market, we went above ground, to a fruit market - Dongmun Market Place. There were many kind of fruits for sale here - Jeju oranges, persimmons, grapes, apples, pears, melons, etc.  Since Kent was not with us, the bargaining process was a little bit hard. At first we do not know it was a wholesale market, meaning they only sell large amount but we only wanted to buy some small amount. After realizing they sell wholesale, we decided to pool together with other tour members to buy a big box of Jeju oranges to be shared out. Everyone went back to Hotel Robero happily with some 2 kg bags of oranges. 
          Here are some pictures I took at the last agenda for that day:
Location: Yongdamroteo-ri Yongdam-2dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea.
Tel:  +82-64-728-2753
The signboard of Yongduam Rock, welcoming visitors at the head of a fleet of steps that were built along a cliff that leads to an area where visitors can view the Yongduam rock with awe. 
Visitors climbed down the steep steps, about 100 steps, to an open area to have a better view of Yongduam Rock. Many were seen clicking away for a lifetime memory.

Yongduam Rock - the dragon whose head had fell off into the sea. Frankly, I can't make out the dragon, imaginative or not. I thought I 
saw a lion that was usually used in lion dance. However, the lights that shone on the rock makes Yongduam Rock more remarkable when viewed at night.

Jeju oranges for sale at the souvenir shop near Yongduam Rock. They were not cheap though - A plastic bag containing some 6 oranges cost about US$5.
Dinner tonight was Korean fare - rice in a steel bowl, steam egg, meat, fish, salad, soup and kimchi, kimchi, kimchi and kimchi! All were free flow except the fish and egg.
"This is the way to eat Korean meat", said Sheryl, wrapping a piece of the pork meat in a salad leave, applying all sort of sauces and plopped it into her mouth in one go. "Yummy", she said and reached out for another salad. 

Jungang Shopping Market, a underground shopping complex at exit 12, or is it 19? This funny lettering was spotted at the exit, about 2 minutes walk from my Hotel Robero. The next exit number is 11, meaning this is how they write 12. Hmm, interesting!

Mummy M at the entrance to Dongmun Market, delighted with the tangerines on sale there.
Dongmun Market place where Jeju oranges were abundant. It's a wholesale market and we were having tough time communicating with 
the proprietress.
More fruits at sale at Jeju city's Dongmun wholesale market place. Even though it was cheap we would need to buy in large quantity. In the end we bought 10 kilos of Jeju Oranges at about US$10, to be shared among our tour members.
Back at my Robero hotel, waiting for the lift to go to my room. Finally, a relief after a long long day on the road. A decent 3 star hotel, the only 
slack thing was wifi only available at the lobby.

A stone sculpture at the lobby which I cannot make out what it is, but it's shape is humanly.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Asian Eyes' Korea - Jejudo Folklore Museum

          Day 2 - Nov/18/12, 5.00 pm: First stop in Jeju-do was the first of Jeju-do's lots and lots of museum. According to our tour guide, Kent Fang, the museums in Jeju-do numbered nearly 300. There are Teddy Bear Museum, Sex Museum, Ripleys Believe it or not, to name a few. The sun was disappearing fast when we reached Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum. At the entrance there was a couple of exhibits of something that is readily available in Jeju - Volcanic rocks. We hurried along after Kent bought the entrance tickets.
 The fading evening light 
gave a cut-out statue
 of Dol Hareubang 
outside Jeju 
Folklore Museum 
very nice silhouette
           We spend some 1 hour in the museum, going through the lava rocks upon lava rocks, 3D model of Jeju-do, replica of Jeju landscapes, flora and fauna, scaled down buildings and statues of ordinary farming and fishermen communities in Jeju as well as an ancient paganism society exhibits. As Jeju-do is an island, there are exhibits of marine life such as a whale skeleton, a taxidermy specimen of a bony fish called Sunfish or Mola-mola, many sharks and sting rays, and abalone. There is also an interactive video and light image on a special exhibit floor projecting a school of fish where one can step on the water and the fishes will hurriedly swim away, as if they are real. We spend some good laughing time trying to catch the "fishes" for dinner.
            Along the way Kent related to us the tale of Jeju's gate with 3 poles and related them to the 3 of Jeju i.e. the 3 lacks of Jeju (Sanmu - No thief, no beggar, and no gate), the 3 abundances of Jeju (Samda- more winds, more women and more rocks) and the 3 treasures of Jeju (SaAmryeo and Sambo - imply the beautiful nature, folklore, and native industries of Jeju, or three resources : edible crops, marine products, and tourism. Or generosity, beautiful nature, and special industrial structure). Some of the exhibits in this Jeju Folklore and Natural History museum are similar to those in the Korean Folk museum that I visited early in the morning in Gyeongbokgung Palace.               
           Here are the pictures I took at Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum.
Location:  996-1, Ildo 2-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea.
Tel: +82-64-710-7708
A Jeju Island map being displayed at the entrance to Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum. 
Jeju island is made of lava rocks, so these rocks are being displayed to remind us of its abundance and usefulness.
At the entrance to Jeju Folklore Museum.
A signboard welcoming us to Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum. Also there is a notice to reminds everyone that Jeju Island is a "Special Self-Governing Province", emphasizing its autonomous status.
Statue of a woman pouring water from at the center of the museum compound. Womenfolk contributed the majority workforce in Jeju olden times.
A "Dol Hareubang(stone grandfather) carved from a block of basalt, guards the entrance to the museum.

Kent briefed us the time to meet up again at the entrance to Jeju Folklore Museum building.

Jeju Island is built from a volcano that erupted in the ocean. Some of the lava was cooled at different rate, resulting in many types of lava rocks. Above is a basalt rock, a lava that was left to cooled over a longer time.
Another lava rock on display, this one is black and shiny, had been cooled more abruptly and at a much shorter time.
Fauna exhibit of birds that are found on the beach in Jeju-do.
In olden times women in Jeju-do outnumbered men 8:1. During that time the women folks did all the hard work at the farm or at home while the guys lived like a king.
Statue of newly wedded couples greeting each other. I noticed In Jeju-do the bride had only red spot on both cheeks but not on the forehead, unlike the one I seen in Korean Folk Museum in Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Tale of the gate door with 3 poles in place -  3 poles are in place meant house owner not at home. 1 pole not in place meant the owner not around but will come back soon. 2 poles not in place meant owner not at home but is around the corner. 3 poles are not in place, it meant the owner is at home, so welcome in. 
Replicas of reeds house found in Jeju-do in ancient time. Some of these buildings are still around, but they are built more as tourist attractions now.
Daily wear items on display in the museum. Some of the daily items were make of exquisite materials such as horse hair from the short stock workhorse brought in by the Mongol during Kublai Khan's reign when he tried twice to invade Japan during the China's Yuan dynasty period. Both attempts lost to typhoons and then they aborted any further attempts thereafter, leaving all the legacy horses behind in Jeju-do. 
Replica of Haenyo, or Jeju-do sea women. They earned their living from free diving, often all year round in quite cold water, without scuba gear, 
in order to harvest abalones, conchs, octopus, sea cucumbers and a myriad of other marine products. It is thought that women are better 
at spending all day deep-water diving because they resist cold better. However, because of rapid economic development and modernization, 
few haenyeos are still actively working today.
Replicas of abalone being left at the fire to be cooked by Haenyo for a quick meal after free diving in the sea.
The short stocky Mongolian horse now being used to plow the lava land in Jeju-do.

The waters around Jeju-do are teeming with sea creatures. Sunfish (or also called Mola-mola), a bony fish with a peculiar tail, are abundant in waters here.
A section of the museum is paid tribute to paganism and ancient beliefs in Jeju-do. This section is called "The land of gods".

Image of gods in Korean paganism society. God had a face and shape??
Witchcraft, sorcery and paganism are still very much alive in Korea but little of it was known outside Korea. This replica is a shaman in a chanting process to dispel evil from a sick person body. 
Clay caricatures of brides and bridegrooms caught my attention in the souvenir shop inside  Jeju Folklore Museum. I took note of the red dot on the cheeks of a bride. The other bride without red dot on the cheeks is not first time bride, according to our tour guide. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Asian Eyes' Korea - Gimpo

Gimpo airport, 2nd 
largest airport
in Korea
        Day 2 - Nov/18/12, 1.30pm: After lunch we departed to Gimpo Domestic airport to take a 3 pm flight by Jeju Air flight to Jeju Island. Gimpo International Airport, commonly known as Gimpo Airport, is located in the far western end of Seoul and was the main international airport for Seoul and South Korea before it was replaced by Incheon International Airport in 2001. It is now the second largest airport in Korea after Incheon International Airport. 
        As we walked into Gimpo airport, the security was tight. Many policemen were about, and we saw a policeman walked towards our way with an Alsation dog leading the way, slinging a M16 machine gun across his shoulder. He just look ahead as he walked with a stony face. As the dog came to us, Little M tried to reach out to pat the dog, as he will always do when he saw a dog, but I quickly pulled him back. We looked around but could not see any commotion or raucous in the airport.  Maybe it was just a routine exercise. Anyway, as we are waiting for check in, little M pulled me to a nearby Dunkin' Donuts chain, his favourite snack. We bought half a dozen and snacked on it as we waited for to board Jeju Air flight, to Jeju Island, also spelled as Cheju Island and also known as Jeju-do. Jeju-do (Korean for Jeju Province, short form of Jeju Special Self-governing Province or Cheju Island) is the special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on the nation's largest island. Jeju-do lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, which it became a separate province in 1946. Its capital is the city of Jeju.               
           At the Gimpo airport, there were a couple of exhibits on display. Among them that caught my attention was a colourful Korea drum and a Palanquin (Korean - Gama) that was placed strategically at the centre of the airport, complete with description what it is, what it the use and who used it. It is a good way to educate the public and tourists alike. The flight to Jeju-do took about 1 hour and we arrived there at about 4.38 pm. Jeju was a little bit warmer than Seoul, about 12 degree C. Once we exited Jeju airport, we saw Jeju-do's famous tree -  Jeju tangerine trees, everywhere. As it was its fruits season, the trees were laden with yellow and orange coloured fruits and they looked mouth watering. Welcome to Jeju-do, the honeymoon land. 
           Here are some information and pictures I took on the way to Jeju-do:

Jeju Air Website:
A policeman and an Alsation dog patrolling Gimpo airport building. Policemen in Korea are always stern and stony face. May be they are being trained to be such.

Kent and Jeff, our tour guide and tour lead, helped us check in for our Jeju Air flight, a low cost carrier, to Jeju-do. I saw many other low cost carriers like Jin Air and T'way

Samsung's brands are everywhere in Korea. Here its product provides large LCD screen that displayed all flights information in Gimpo Airport.

Security screening check is standard fare before entering the boarding area.

Colorful Korean big drum (Dagu) and small drum in display in the airport exhibition hall between the security area and the boarding area. 

A palanquin (Korea - Gama), was olden days taxi carried by 2 or 4 human carrier. Now we can see Palanquin in many old Chinese Kungfu movies.

Plaque explaining the what and the use of the palanquin in Korean, English and Japanese language.

Salted fish for sale in an airport?? I had never seen one for sale before in an airport. This picture was taken in a convenience store inside the boarding area at Gimpo Airport.

A lovely Jeju Air stewardess demonstrating the pre-flight procedure before we took off to Jeju-do.
Jeju city from the air

Finally we arrived at Jeju-do after an hour in the air. 
Jeju-do's most famous tree - the tangerine, which was in its fruiting season when we came a visiting. The tangerines grew well in the dark rich but porous lava soil of Jeju-do.
Taxis lining up outside Jeju airport waiting for passengers. Business were good as Jeju-do, nicknamed "honeymoon island" stemmed from many years of poverty in the 1960s, resulted in government banning outbound travelers to saves on forex. Many young peoples, especially those who had just married, turned to Jeju-do for their honeymoon, resulting to many tourists flocking to this island.
Jeju International Airport, which also caters for flights from China and Japan, apart of domestic flights from Peninsula Korea.
Our bus that will take us round Jeju-do for 2 days, also another big 42 seats bus for the 16+2 of us.