Beautiful Korea

Beautiful Korea

Monday, April 27, 2009

Playing catch-up from early April!

On the week of March 30th, I didn't have any classes on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, because the students were doing testing. (Testing is a big feature of Korean schools.) Although I had to come to work, and did in fact get quite a bit of work done planning for future lessons, I was allowed to leave early on Thursday and Friday. So Thursday I left early to hike up Gwanaksan, the mountain directly behind the school.

Last time I was here, another teacher at ENI and I hiked to the top of Gwanaksan from Anyang. From that side, parts of it were steep, but most were not too bad (until we went down a different, and steeper, path!). From this face, though, the trail is quite steep. It reminded me of Hallasan in Jeju-do, where the trail was almost all stairs. Here is Hallasan:

And these are the stairs on Gwanaksan, going down on my way back. Most of it was stone stairs like these:

And part was wooden stairs like these:

but almost all of it was stairs of some kind! Koreans hikers are in good shape, believe me. I hiked for about 40 minutes, but then something was making me sneeze and making my nose run, so I turned around before it got worse and headed back down. Regardless of that, it was a nice hike and a lot of exercise.

On Friday I left work early and went into Seoul. First I went to the Kyobo bookstore to look for books for learning Korean. I wanted to look for English translations of Korean literature as well, but the frequent fate of foreigners in the English section of Kyobo befell me -- a Korean came up and wanted to practice his English with me. I don't mind that when I have time to spare, but this day I was planning to go to Changdeokgung, a palace which has English language tours, and I needed to get there before the last tour of the day started. So I didn't have enough time to find the books I wanted, and had to hurry off to the subway toward Changdeokgung.

Fortunately, I arrived with ten minutes to spare before the 3:30 tour started, so I bought a ticket and sat down for a bit. It was sunny when I left Gwacheon, but now it had clouded over, and was getting cooler, with a chilly wind. Unfortunately, I had not brought a warmer jacket than the blazer I wore to work, so I started to get kind of chilly. I was hoping the tour would warm me up, as it involved walking 2.7 kilometers altogether, but it moved too slowly to keep me warm, so I was rather cold the whole time. One other difficulty was that I had forgotten to change the battery on my camera, and now it was a bit low, so I had to be sparing with taking pictures. Those of you who have seen the full extent of my Korean pictures know how much I love the Korean ornamentation and decorative brickwork, so you know how disappointed I was to have to limit my picture taking. Still, I did get many lovely pictures of Changdeokgung and its "secret garden".

Here are a sample:
This is the main palace gate, taken from the side. Check out the little forked prongs standing up from the figures on top. I haven't seen those on any other palace.

This is the throne room:

Changdeokgung was the last palace in use in Korea, lived in by the Joseon monarchs into the 20th century. As such, it was modernized to include a driveway for the king's motorcars.

This one is my favorite building at the palace.

I have nothing special to say about this building, but I love this picture:

As you can see from the bare trees in the background, spring had not yet sprung, but the garden behind the palace was still lovely. This is a pond, symbolizing the earth, and the circular island symbolizes heaven.

There are a few more pictures of Changdeokgung at my Flickr page if you want to see them.

Things I love about Korea: heated floors

Please send: Western sheets



  1. You know, I've heard about the heated floors in Japan but I don't think we ever got to experience them. Do you have them in your apartment?

    Great photos--I eventually wound up changing my camera settings to take larger ones so that I could make desktops/wallpapers out of my own photos (since I have wallpaper rotation on and it changes every couple of minutes). You might want to do that too, when you go somewhere scenic. I see potential! :D

    By the way, when I was looking through my old LJ from Taiwan, I noticed an entry indicating that I also had issues with towels in Taiwan. I apparently wound up buying a beach towel with Pikachu on it because it was the only way to get a towel that wasn't the size of a hand-towel. :P I bet Japan is the same way. But what's the deal with the sheets? You might have told me already.

  2. P. S. Maybe you should learn how to say "SORRY, I'M GERMAN. I'M LEARNING ENGLISH TOO."